Tag Archives: Doctor Who

Doctor Who Series 11 Premiere: A Round-table Conversation

There’s a lot of regeneration in the Whoniverse these days. With a new doctor, Jodi Whittaker, and a new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, Whovians have expressed feelings both of excitement and of trepidation going into the long-running British science fiction program’s 11th series. With so much change happening at the start of the new season, Movie (P)Review Show has gathered a diverse panel of science fiction journalist, fans, experts, writers, and publishers to discuss Sunday’s premiere. The panel was generally impressed with Whittaker’s performance, which reminded many of David Tennant’s portrayal of the titular character, and excited by the potential of the new direction in which the show seems to be headed, although it was somewhat more critical of the episode’s story and of its villain.

For this round-table, our TARDIS was piloted  by our own A. A. Rubin (@TheSurrealAri) who was accompanied by the following companions:

Ariba Bhuvad (@watchwithreebs), WatchWithReebs (www.watchwithreebs.com),

Travis Czap (Twitter: @CzapProductions, IG: @travisczap), CBR (https://www.cbr.com/author/tczap/),

Gene Hoyle (@genehoyle), Nerd Nation (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nerd-nation-radio/id423840697?mt=2),

Adrian King (@adrianhasissues), Adrian Has Issues (http://adrianhasissues.com/),

Sophia LeRoux (@thesophialeroux), Kyanite Publishing (http://www.kyanitepublishing.com),


David McAllister (@Dgundersen), The Gallifreyan Buccaneer Blog (https://gallifreyanbuccaneer905439277.wordpress.com).

Their trip through time and space went as follows:

Movie Preview Show (MPS): Describe your previous experience with Doctor Who. Are you a long-time whovian? A fan of new who? Classic who? New to the program entirely?

Ariba Bhuvad (AB): I started watching Doctor Who back in 2014 and immediately fell in love with it. Being a fan of new Who, I became completely enamored with each doctor’s journey and time on the show, and loved the many, many episodes that inspired me and lifted my spirits on the toughest of days.

Travis Czap (TC): I’m pretty new to the show- I’ve seen a few episodes from various seasons.  I’m most familiar with David Tennant’s seasons on the show, but also have seen a few of Eccleston’s and various others throughout.

Gene Hoyle (GH): I came in late to Who fandom. The 11th Doctor was my first.

Adrian King (AK): I’ve watched the bulk of Doctor Who seasons since its revival in 2005, but I couldn’t call myself a Whovian. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to invite me out to Doctor Who trivia night.

Sophia LeRoux (SL): I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several different Doctors in action, but Matt Smith and Christopher Eccleston really stood out the most for me.

Dave McAllister (DM): I grew up with the Sylvester McCoy era and when I was old enough started to watch previous Doctors. When the show came back in 2005 my love for the show started all over again.


Movie (P)Review Show(MPS): Let’s get the big one out of the way early. What did you think of Jodi Whittaker as The Doctor?

AB: I absolutely LOVED her! She carried on the torch effortlessly and fit right into the crazy world of The Doctor. She’s funny, intelligent, and exudes an enthusiasm that encompasses everything about this iconic character.

TC: I really enjoyed her portrayal and the opportunities presented within the writing. While there is that familiar ‘Doctor’ in the character and in the writing, it was clear that we were treading new ground, and I was definitely on board for the ride. There was some great comedy, and Whittaker took on the idea of a traditionally male character being in a female body and relearning her identity very well.

GH: She was fantastic. She embodied everything that the Doctor should be

AK: Jodi is a phenomenal actress with a dynamic range. Even though the first episodes of a Doctor’s run often deal with the character struggling to get their bearings after regenerating, Jodi’s confidence in the role is what immediately won me. She is always in control and is clearly having the time of her life.

SL: Honestly, I have mixed feelings. I think I’ve grown so accustomed to having male a Doctor that a female one feels strange, almost like straying from tradition. Still, it may be a good thing; she’s a great actress. We’ll have to see.

DM: As soon as Jodie appeared on screen she convinced me she was the Doctor. The mannerisms and fizzy excitable energy were spot on.


MPS: I always look for elements of previous doctors in the current Doctor, especially in their first few episodes. To what extent did you see any aspects of previous Doctor’s performances in Whittaker’s performance? If so, which doctors did you see and when?

AB: I got a hit of David Tennant’s corky humor, Peter Capaldi’s swag, and Matt Smith’s uplifting personality. She definitely had hints of these three who were all my favorites, and seeing the best parts of them come together with one character was absolutely amazing.

TC: I definitely felt a bit of Tennant’s Doctor in Jodi Whittaker’s portrayal—particularly in her interactions with the characters who seem set to become her companions in this season, the humor and genuine concern for their well being echoed Tennant very much, I think.

GH: There was a lot of Tennant in her performance—in all the best ways.

AK: This is tough to answer, as I always try to see each Doctor’s performances for what they are without adding any undue comparisons. With that said, I noticed that there’s a level of whimsical recklessness often seen in Tenants run yet like most incarnations of the Time Lord, there’s an underlying layer of intensity especially in her confrontations with Tim Shaw–Shaw–er, Tzim-Sha.

SL: In this episode, I can honestly say she seemed to have a personality as the Doctor that was one in its own

DM: The first thing that jumped out at me was how big an influence David Tennant’s Doctor was on Jodie’s portrayal. We may get hints of other Doctors as the show goes on, but for now DT was the touchstone—no surprise really given Jodie’s close friendship with him.


MPS: Much has been made of the fact that Whittaker is the first female doctor since the announcement that Whittaker would be the new Doctor. Now that it’s happened, how did you react to actually seeing this change in a full episode?

AB: I thought it was great to finally see the shift from male to female! It was such a welcome change, and while it takes some time for it to truly sink in that there is a female Doctor, the entire episode was just a blast to watch with Jodie Whittaker taking the lead in this role.

TC: I think it went very well. The show didn’t suffer in any way from the change, and I think it was an interesting new element- not only is the Doctor learning a new identity, but now is learning this new identity in an unfamiliar body type. Considering that the Doctor is an asexual genderless Timelord, I never understood why anyone would have any issue in the first place, but Jodi Whittaker’s portrayal should silence any doubters, I’d think.

GH: It was no more jarring than any of the previous Doctors.

AK: I think that the full reveal of the new Doctor was handled brilliantly by having Jodie be dropped right in the middle of the fray instead of a long, drawn-out entrance. It was as if to say, “Boom! She’s here. She’s awesome. Let’s get right into this!”

SL: Again, it’s strange. It almost feels like a different show, but it could still pan out. I am a creature of habit and tradition.

DM: Gender played very little role in this story. It just felt new like any other new Doctor has felt in the past. Kudos to Jodie for embodying the Doctor so well.


MPS: Although much of the discussion in the lead-up to the episode was about the new doctor, that was not the only major change for the program: Chris Chibnall has replaced long-time show runner Steven Moffat. Clearly, he has a different vision for the show than Moffat did. In what ways did the show feel similar to—and/or different from—The Doctor Who with which you were familiar previously?

AB: There were definitely a few shifts in the show’s overall feel from Moffatt to Chibnall. The most noticeable difference is seeing a group of people who seem like they will be the Doctor’s companions. We’ve only see the character work with one other person and I’m digging this change because it gave the episode more substance and excitement, and I think that will carry on during the course of the season. I like that the show still feels like Doctor Who, and there wasn’t some drastic difference that made us feel like it’s not the same show anymore.

TC: Well, there were certain elements that are almost always going to be there in a new Doctor’s first episode- the energy leaving the Doctor’s body, for example. In that way, I think this premiere satisfied longtime fans of the show and character, but beyond the changing of the Doctor from a male to a female, that there’s now several companions, and a new sonic screwdriver built from scratch- these seemed to be symbols of the show taking some new directions and departing from tradition a bit.

GH: It appears that we will have a Doc without a TARDIS for a bit. That of course makes me think of the third Doctor.

AK: This new season feels like a true follow-up to the previous seasons, but also a bit of a reboot and I think that that’s smart. As we’re seeing with long-standing franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek, the series has to evolve and make it accessible to new audiences if they intend to continue. It was a smart decision to see the Doctor in action long before revealing the Sonic Screwdriver or even the TARDIS.

SL: As weird as this may sound, I feel like it has more dramatic elements than fantasy elements; as the prior ones did.

DM: It felt very different than Moffat for me. A lot of dark textures and seemed to focus on real world drama more than it has for a good few years. It made me feel like I was in Sheffield witnessing an alien invasion with real people.


MPS: During Peter Capaldi’s run as Doctor, the show felt very nostalgic. There were many references, Easter eggs, etc to Classic Who. This episode seemed to break from that, and try to establish itself as a new beginning. How do you feel about that change in attitude?

AB: I think it’s nice to break away from that so people who haven’t seen the Classic Who episodes can enjoy the show without missing out on references. I think it’s nice to take a break from that so everyone can enjoy it together, versus the references that others can miss out on. And the new beginning feels fitting due to the fact that we have now have a female Doctor and things are taking an exciting, new turn.

TC: I’m open to it, personally. Nostalgia is great, but I also think that too much similarity and parallelism risks feeling too familiar. I’d rather see something completely new than something that just echoes the same old thing.

GH:  It’s important. Change is the key word. Many little girls will start here. This will be their Doctor.

AK: Capaldi’s run, in my opinion, was a deconstruction of not only the idea of heroism but also the legacy of the franchise. Even then you felt like there was a change in how the series approached new concepts. In other words, the rules had to be reestablished before they could be broken in order to bring about change.

SL: I’m not sure how I feel about it. When it comes to a show like Doctor Who, I like consistency. New isn’t always better.

DM: I was a huge fan of Moffat and to my mind he’s one of the best writers there is. But I think it was time for a change. Doctor Who has always been about change. Once everything is established I’m sure we’ll get a few Easter eggs. For instance it’s easy to imagine this series ending with the appearance or even just a hint of the Daleks or Cybermen.


MPS: I’ve often thought that while everyone focuses on The Doctor, a large part of the success of each season depends on the quality of the stories. How would you rate the story in this episode? Why?

AB: I would give the story a 7/10! This is because while I was invested in Jodie Whittaker’s first episode as the Doctor, I wasn’t all that into the actual story and villain they were trying to take down. That sort of felt messy to me and I didn’t quite enjoy that aspect of it. But she did so great that it made up for the mediocre storyline. However, I loved the way it ended which also brought me in by the episode’s end.

TC: The idea of the Tzim-Sha’s species and contest seemed pretty familiar- it’s basically the plot of Predator, right? Alien warrior species sends hunter to Earth on a rite of passage to kill a human? In that respect, I was a little disappointed, but Doctor Who always does things a little differently, and it’s those extra elements that set it apart. The tentacle biomech creature was neat, the confrontation on the crane at the end as pretty solid. I’d say the story gets a 7 or 8 out of 10.

GH: As it’s a set up, a lot has to be accomplished. I feel that they did an excellent job.

AK: The story was very engaging from a character’s perspective. They did an incredible job of establishing the relationships of who would eventually be the new companions before jumping into the story of Tzim-Sha, which I felt wasn’t as strong but our leads needed a central conflict.

SL: The story was good, but in some ways it felt more like an action movie than a Doctor Who episode. I know that there can be a lot of action in Doctor Who, so this is hard to describe—but that’s the best I can do.

DM: The alien hunter story wasn’t particularly strong for me. But I don’t think it was intended to be. It needed certain elements to introduce the characters and to establish the new rules for this series. In that respect it was perfect.


MPS: The companions have always been a major part of Doctor Who.  How would you rate their performances, and to what extent did you connect with them?

AB: I think they all did fairly well but I’m not quite invested in them just yet. I think with any new companion(s) it takes some time to establish a connection and given that we have multiple people this season, it will definitely be a few episodes before I could truly answer this question.

TC: So, I really liked Graham. His nervousness and desire to avoid danger made him a bit of a comical character while also being the voice of reason, which I really appreciated. I feel like Ryan didn’t have much of an opportunity to develop or contribute to the episode’s plot as a whole, while Yaz was really the one actively helping the Doctor throughout. I imagine we’ll see Ryan successfully ride a bike before the end of the season, though, right?

GH: I really like this set of companions. I see enormous potential.

AK: The companions were among some of my favorites of the franchise. I think giving them both a literal and figurative familiarity with each other was a smart move. Though, if I must say, at times they were almost too “okay” with dealing with the concept of benevolent and malevolent aliens.

SL: I think their performance was fine and that they had a diverse cast. I have yet to really connect with any of them though.

DM: I liked them all. It was obvious to me that something bad was going to happen to Grace because we’ve not seen her in the promo material/trailers. It made me smile when it was revealed almost immediately the connection between Ryan and Graham and then later between Yasmin and Ryan. I’m interested to see how they developed as a group.


MPS: Doctor who has a notorious rogues’ gallery. From Daleks, to Cybermen, to weeping angels, the monsters have become cultural phenomenon in their own right. How did you think ‘Tim Shaw’ and the Stenza rate, and would you like to see them again?

AB:  I didn’t really enjoy ‘Tim Shaw’ at all, especially for the first episode of this season. It was certainly nowhere near the level of Daleks and Cybermen, and I think that if I saw it again in the future, I wouldn’t really care as much.

TC: I liked Tzim-Sha. The design was simple but effective. The idea that an alien race was brutal enough to embed the teeth of their enemies in their faces as trophies is pretty morbid and evil. It really upped the threat level almost instantly with that visual. The armor was intimidating enough, but when he took off that mask, it really raised the bar.

GH:  Maybe a return down the line would be fun. I was not terribly invested in this villain.

AK: The resolution of that conflict ended entirely too neatly for my liking. I did appreciate “Tim Shaw” as a callback to popular aliens like The Predator, but there were holes in his story. I’d be willing to see him return as either a recurring adversary or even a reluctant ally.

SL: I think Tim Shaw/Stenza rate okay so far. It felt a bit different from previous seasons, and definitely did not feel as epic as the Weeping Angels or as nostalgic as the Daleks, but I’ll have to see how it pans out.

DM: The Tim Shaw gag made me chuckle every time. I don’t think we will see him again. I don’t think they were particularly strong but my young children were terrified, so you know, in Doctor Who terms, job done.


MPS: There were some ‘meta’ moments when the dialogue seemed to straddle the fourth wall and address the ‘big change’ of featuring a female doctor for the first time. Some quotes that stood out to me were, “all this is new to you, and new can be scary, but stick with me…” and “We can evolve while still staying true to who we are. We can honour who we’ve been and choose who we want to be next.” How did you react to the this piece of dramatic irony? Did you find it clever, for example, or did it take you out of the story?

AB: I actually picked it up on it too and I loved it. The fourth wall type of dialogue is super exciting as the viewer because it make you feel a part of the story and a part of what’s going on. It always brings me into the story when this happens and I feel like I get to take part of something that means a lot to me.

TC: To be honest, I didn’t think that was too on the nose- it seemed like the same kind of thing that any other Doctor could have said in that situation, which is why I think the new female Doctor worked so well. Yes, they obviously had to mention that the Doctor is now a woman, but they didn’t make that the focus of the show, which I think is what some people were afraid of, for some reason.

GH: It was great, and as I said earlier, important to the show’s theme.

AK: The Doctor’s big speech may come off as heavy-handed to seasoned vets of the series, much like the similar messages in let’s say The Last Jedi, but necessary for those who may be reluctant to the many new changes to the series. The new changes hit hard and fast and sometimes we just have to be shaken out of our comfort zones and deal with things in a real way. I appreciate the show’s attempt to do this without belittling the audience.

SL: It took me a bit out of the story because I felt like the obvious was thrown in my face a bit. I get she’s a female Doctor, and that’s great, but emphasizing on it wasn’t necessary.

DM: These ‘meta’ m moments were the highlight for me. It spoke directly to anyone having doubts. As I said before, Doctor Who has always been about change. This is arguably the biggest change in the shows history. That it got mentioned in the episode itself was quite clever and well done.


MPS: Overall, how would you rate the first episode? 

AB: I would give it a 7/10! There were some elements I wasn’t thrilled about but overall I loved Jodie Whittaker and I loved her presence on the show and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

TC: This was a solid first episode. There are some season premieres that are better than others, I’d say this is one of the better ones: great acting, great special effects, a decent story, good characters.

GH: At Nerd Nation, we have a 5 pocket-protector scale. This episode was a 4 out of 5 for me.

AK: If I had to go on a 1 to 10 scale, I’d rate this episode an 8. It’s a strong debut for Jodie and I loved how the writers made a point of showing just how keen she is on being handy and inventive, especially in the scene where she reconstructs her own Sonic Screwdriver and explained its purpose to the viewers unfamiliar with the significance of the item. The antagonists felt lacking, but they really served to give the companions some great interactions. I especially loved how Ryan, his grandparents and Yaz felt like a family and not just in relation to each other but also The Doctor. This is a great jumping on point for new viewers, and I feel the new direction is a nice change of pace. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Capaldi so soon, but Whittaker made such a great first impression that I was engrossed from the jump.

SL: It was good, but it didn’t stick with me like the first episode featuring Matt Smith did.

DM: As first episodes go this has been my favourite since Rose. I felt quite ill after ‘Deep Breath’ thinking that my love for the show was dying. I grew to love Peter Capaldi after that false start. But this new episode was very, very strong. 9/10,

MPS: Is there anything else that you want to add, that hasn’t been addressed in the above questions?

AB: I don’t have anything specifically but I am excited for the rest of the season and for where the story is going to take the new Doctor. I think she is off to a great start and I know it’s only going to get better from here on out.

TC: Who wants to lay money down on Ryan having to ride a bike to save the world in the season finale?

GH: I cannot wait for more!

AK: With any big changes to a long-standing franchise, it’s understandable to be a bit hesitant and even a little worried. I would argue that this season is well on its way to being one of my favorites. Whittaker’s enthusiasm, charisma, and energy are infections. It’s no wonder that Ryan, Yaz and the crew had very little problems following her. She’s that awesome.

SL: Nope, you were very thorough.

DM: The soundscapes created throughout by Segun Akinola and that new theme music. Sounded very much a mix of the old and the new. Can’t wait to watch again next week. I suspect we are in for quite a journey!


MPS: Thank you to all our round-table participants. Let us know your thoughts on the new series.


The Doctor Who Christmas Special: Twice Upon a Time—An Allegorical Reading

The Whoniverse is about to change—we all knew that. Peter Capaldi’s run as the titular character is ending, show runner Steven Moffat is leaving, and Jodi Whittaker will become the first female doctor in the show’s long history. This last bit, you may have heard, has been the subject of much discussion among the Whovians, many of whom have been, to put it more mildly than the 12th incarnation of the doctor would, worried. Moffat sent a message to these folks in his and Capaldi’s final episode: These “worries” are unfounded, and antithetical to his vision of the long-running science fiction program. Thus, in addition to nostalgically looking back to the past, Twice Upon a Time cleverly sets up the show’s future.

Twice Upon a Time picks up where the last season ended. The Doctor is dying, but refusing to regenerate. He ends up at the South Pole where he encounters the First Doctor (who is masterfully played by David Bradley). The two doctors have to solve the mystery of glass-like avatars who are stealing the memories of the dead to unfreeze time, and return The Captain (Mark Gatiss) to World War One, his proper place in the timeline. On the one level, it is the perfect vehicle to send off Capaldi’s doctor: The aliens’ ability to access anyone who has died allows for sentimental appearances from old companions, and the presence of the First Doctor—and his Tardis—invites the kind of allusions to classic Who one would expect from Moffat’s swan song. On another level, however, Twice Upon a Time can be read as an allegory for the state of the Whoniverse, and Moffat’s final statement about what it can and should be.

This allegory is accomplished through the juxtaposition of Capaldi’s doctor with the original doctor. Throughout his tenure, Capaldi has been compared to Hartnell’s version of the character. He was older, grayer, darker, more alien than his most recent predecessors, and his episodes were replete with more classic Who references than theirs, as well. And, indeed, when seen next to each other, they are indeed similar. They have both arrived at the same place with the intention of stopping their regeneration.  Both are considering dying rather than letting someone else become The Doctor. However, when presented with the mystery of The Captain, they are forced to at least temporarily postpone this plan and work together. It is in this partnership that the differences between 1 and 12 are revealed.

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Despite the episode’s nostalgic tone, the humorous banter between Capaldi and Bradley carries much of the episode. From the opening sequence, where the two doctors argue over who is THE

Doctor, the subject of the Doctor’s identity is hinted at at the forefront. Is the original the best? Or is the latest version, the culmination of years of experience and growth, superior? At the beginning, it seems like 1 is in charge. He gets the better of the exchanges, and seems to be more comfortable in the role of leader. He identifies himself as “The Doctor” and calls 12 his “nurse” in one particularly funny scene. As the show goes on, however, 12 ascends to the leadership role. Ultimately, it is he who solves the mystery, and it is his plan that provides satisfying, Christmassy resolution to the Captain’s predicament. The first doctor fades into the background and Capaldi is left alone on screen, first for his teary reunion with certain past companions (spoilers) and then for his powerful final monologue and regeneration scene.

The shift in power in the Tardis is accomplished through the progression of the above-mentioned banter. While the First Doctor seems to be getting the better of the battle of wits early on in the program, as it progresses, his jokes begin to fall flat. His views on women, and their role in the Tardis, are at best anachronistic, and at worse offensive. He professes, among other things, that the women are fragile (made from glass) and that it is the female companion’s role to “tidy up” the Tardis. These comments are met with rebuke from the 12th Doctor, as well as from Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), who makes her return in this episode. As the First Doctor’s worldview is revealed to be out of place in time, the 12th ascends, representing what The Doctor does and should currently believe. The First Doctor’s anachronistic sexism echoes that of a certain segment of the fan base who would reject the 13th Doctor, the first female incarnation, without giving her a fair chance. The First Doctor may not be happy about the upcoming change—either in the context of the show where he is about to regenerate for the first time or in the context of the allegory where his refusal to regenerate reveals his reluctance to progress—but then he would not have been happy sharing the Tardis with Rose, Martha, Donna, Amy, Clara, or Bill, none of whom would be doing his housekeeping. Imagine how he would have felt about Captain Jack Harkness, then consider if you’re being close minded about The Doctor’s gender.

After Capaldi’s regeneration, we get our first, brief glimpse of Jodi Whittaker as The Doctor. Though she is on screen only briefly, she appears comfortable in the role. Her only line of dialogue recalls the 9th Doctor, and her fall from the Tardis into open space may symbolize the endless possibilities that come with a new doctor and new show runner.

There are no monsters in this year’s Christmas episode—no Cybermen, no Zygons, no Weeping Angels. The only Dalek who appears is, nominally, on the Doctor’s side. Even the glass avatars of the dead—the supposed antagonists of the episode—turn out, to The Doctor’s consternation, not to be evil. What, then, is the doctor fighting against? In the end, it is his fear of the future, his fear of change and the unknown, things the whole Whoniverse encounters every time the Doctor regenerates. These fears are cleverly alluded to in Capaldi’s final speech. Early in the monologue, he says (and perhaps it is Moffat speaking through him), “Yes, yes, I know they’ll mess it up without me,” and then implores the new doctor to “wait a moment. Let’s get it right.” He then offers his advice for being a successful doctor: “Never be cruel, never be cowardly. And never ever eat pears! Remember – hate is always foolish…and love, is always wise. Always try to be nice and never fail to be kind.

As long as The Doctor is able to, “Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind,” everything is going to be ok.

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A. A. Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif MagazineScrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. His debut graphic novel will be released by Golden Bell Studios next year. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .



Doctor Who Series 10 Premiere: The Pilot—Just What the Doctor Ordered

Doctor Who took off Saturday with The Pilot, the premiere episode of the show’s tenth season. The episode effectively introduces a new companion, Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), whose character’s development dominates the episode, and returns the long-running program to the type of smaller-scale personal stories that marked Matt Smith’s early episodes, tinted with the signature darkness of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

Much of the episode is told from Bill’s perspective, as the viewer is re-introduced to the Whoniverse through her eyes. This choice by writer Steven Moffat and director Lawrence Gough allows long-time viewers to reset their relationship with Capaldi’s doctor (like they would have with a new character in a “pilot” episode for a new show—get it?), experiencing both the joy and terror involved with meeting The Doctor for the first time. Those who already loved Capaldi get to see him from a different angle, while those who never really connected with him over the past two years get to reset their relationship with him as he begins his final season.

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Pearl Mackie is excellent as Bill, playing the role with a wide-eyed quirkiness that belies an incisive mind. She comes off innocent and vulnerable at first, but she soon shows the qualities which have caused The Doctor to take an interest in her even before the episode’s monster appears. She raises some interesting questions—ranging from The Doctor’s obsession with Earth, to the location of the bathroom on the TARDIS—many of which The Doctor is uncomfortable answering. She also banters well with Capaldi, a fact noted by Nardole (Matt Lucas), reinforcing that she won’t accept The Doctor’s BS at face value, as well as adding levity to the dialogue that has been largely missing from the past two seasons of the show.


Bill is also the Doctor’s first openly gay companion, and this aspect is handled very well in this episode. Her sexuality features prominently in the episode’s plot and is an essential part of her character, but, like previous portrayals of homosexual relationships in the show’s long history – from Vastra and Jenny, to Captain Jack Harkness distracting male guards—Bill’s orientation fits seamlessly into the diverse Doctor Who universe.

Speaking of The Doctor, Capaldi is excellent in this episode, which opens with him as a university professor who gives lectures about whatever he wants. Playing the professor is a good role for Capaldi’s Doctor. The university lectures give him a platform for the grand speeches that have characterized his tenure as The Doctor, and this job seems a natural progression from the little lectures he has given the audience using the blackboard in his TARDIS over the last two seasons. Capaldi seems to relish his role in the mentor/student relationship with Bill, and the fresh start with the new companion, along with the aforementioned banter, makes him seem funnier and warmer than he has in past seasons.

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Perhaps the most welcome aspect of The Pilot was its return to the paradigm of the Doctor saving a single person, rather than saving the entire world or universe. The poignancy of Bill’s personal relationship with this particular monster is reminiscent of early Matt Smith episodes, and reveals a compassion and empathy in Capaldi’s Doctor that reminds the viewer of Christopher Eccleston’s run, as well. Yes, Capaldi still displays his signature darkness, but that darkness is balanced by his human-like emotions. His empathy allows the viewer to empathize with him.


While there is much new about The Pilot, there are also plenty of allusions to seasons past. From the pictures on the Doctor’s desk in his office at the university (spoilers!), to the variety of sonics used throughout the episode, there are plenty of nods to the past to satisfy long-time fans.

The new monster in this episode also seems to look backwards, as it clearly has been influenced by the Tennant-era episode Waters of Mars. It is, as the Doctor explains, more hungry than evil, is scary nonetheless, but, thanks to its personal connection to Bill, it evokes a sympathy not commonly found in a mindless predator.

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Not everything in the show, however, was integrated as smoothly as the references to the past episodes. Nardole’s presence—while seemingly necessary to set up plot lines that will be explored in future episodes—seems largely superfluous to this particular story, as do the Daleks, who don’t contribute much during their brief time onscreen.

Overall, The Pilot is an effective re-introduction both to the Doctor, after a long hiatus, and to his new companion. The chemistry between Capaldi and Mackie, as well the return to smaller-scale storytelling, both bode well for the rest of the series. Hopefully, Moffat has finally found his stride writing for Capaldi, and this season, which is the final one for both the lead actor and the long-time show runner—will prove to be as strong as its first episode.

Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio—Good, But Not Quite Super

Look up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a Tardis? Doctor Who returned, after a full-year absence, with its annual Christmas special, a rollicking superhero-themed romp through the streets of—and skies above—New York. The episode is fun, and is one of the stronger in 12th doctor Peter Capaldi’s run, although it is not quite “super” enough to be considered an all-time classic.

The episode opens with The Doctor hanging outside the window of a young boy who is obsessed with superhero comics. Through the usual Doctor Who hijinks—escalated by the comic book-y idiom of this particular episode—that young boy eventually becomes “The Ghost,” a masked vigilante who protects New York City. Many years later, the two cross paths again, as The Doctor and The Ghost battle brain-swapping aliens intent on taking over the world.

The episode is replete with superhero references, both subtle and overt, and these allusions reflect both the strengths and weaknesses of this particular Christmas special. The story is essentially a Superman parody, and some of the Superman references, both in the dialogue and visually, are extremely clever, but some of the other allusions—especially to Spider-Man and other well-known comics that really have nothing do to with the comic-book source material that directly influenced this particular story—stick out. It’s almost as if writer Steven Moffat doesn’t entirely trust his audience and wants to make sure his viewers know how clever he is.


The episode is strongest when it deals with what Moffat calls the “superhero love triangle for two,” between The Ghost, Grant (his secret identity), and Lucy Fletcher, a reporter for The Daily Chronicle. Justin Chatwin, who plays The Ghost, and Charity Wakefield, who plays Lucy, have excellent chemistry in both halves of their relationships, and the scenes between them crackle with the perfect amount of romantic tension and dramatic irony.


Peter Capaldi’s performance is, predictably, strong. He excels as the “older mentor” and “third wheel” in this episode, and the script is perfect for this version of The Doctor who plays better as the crazy old guy than he does as the brooding old man who has been featured in the majority of his tenure as Doctor. Now freed of the darkness of Clara’s denouement, Capaldi is able to fully embrace The Doctor’s alien nature. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, who, although eccentric, were passable, relatable humans, Capaldi’s Doctor’s maniacal otherness allows for a resolution that none of the other “new Who” doctors would have even considered. The most significant development of this year’s Christmas special may be Capaldi finally finding his Doctor’s true personality.

The extreme alien nature of The Doctor makes the companion’s role even more important than usual, and in this role, a new star has been born. Matt Lucas reprises the role of Nardole, who has, in the year since last year’s Christmas episode, been “reassembled” by The Doctor. Lucas plays the role with the perfect blend of humor and psychological insight into The Doctor’s character. He shines as the humanizing element, and his very presence foreshadows the episode’s resolution. I won’t say anymore because, well, spoilers.

The new monsters, however, are a bit disappointing. While they do possess a certain creepiness, they don’t have the screen presence of either the Tennant era Weeping Angels or the Smith era Silence. While the episode forebodes a role for them in the upcoming season, it is unlikely that they become the 12th Doctor’s signature addition to the program’s rogue gallery.

Similarly, the episode’s resolution is a bit underwhelming. Everything turns out about how it should to tie up the superhero story and prepare the viewers for the next phase of the Doctor’s journey, but this feels predictable for The Ghost and Lucy, and the big reveal for The Doctor relies heavily on prior knowledge from past episodes rather than being contained within the universe of this Christmas special. The necessity to call in UNIT to clean up the mess at the end of the episode reflects some major plot holes beyond those one would except in a typical Doctor Who episode, even one which lampoons the superhero genre.

Overall, this was a strong episode, even if it is not quite super. The excellent performances from the principal actors, along its full embrace of the superhero oeuvre, make it a lot of fun to watch. Fans will likely remember it fondly, and look forward to “The Return of  Doctor Mysterio” each year as it re-airs as part of the marathon leading up to the year’s Christmas episode.

Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine, Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.com and on twitter as @thesurrealari .

The Power of the Daleks Animated: A Lost Classic Regenerated

It’s too bad that there isn’t a real TARDIS lying around some vault at the BBC. If there was, someone (a doctor perhaps) could go back in time and save the now-destroyed 60s and 70s episodes of Doctor Who, many of which are considered lost classics.

Among those episodes stranded in the void are the six that comprise the 1966 series’ fourth season serial, The Power of the Daleks. This serial has been reconstructed (regenerated?) using the original 1966 audio and newly commissioned animation. The recreated animated episodes air Saturday nights, (8:25 PM Eastern Time/7:25 Central) on BBC America.

The Power of the Daleks has long been considered one of the most important of the lost serials, as it features the first “regeneration” (called “renewal” in this serial), from the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell, to the second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, along with an early appearance of the titular monsters, the most famous in the show’s history.

Any attempt to reconstruct a seminal lost serial would be a big deal in The Whoniverse, bound to cause both excitement and controversy amongst the show’s fans – and there is plenty in the new animation, produced and directed by Charles Norton, to do both.

The very fact that the show exists in any watchable format is amazing, and makes the serial compulsory viewing for all Doctor Who fans. Not only does it contain the aforementioned original regeneration scene, it also gives fans a complete story featuring Troughton’s Doctor. The destruction of the 60s and 70s BBC tapes (one pictures a bunch of trashcan like monsters gliding around the BBC offices screaming, “exterminate”) hit the second Doctor particularly hard, as none of his complete serials have survived. Fans should jump at the chance to watch a complete story arc featuring this influential Doctor, who established the premise that has allowed the show to survive and adapt for over 50 years. He has also been cited by Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and Matt Smith as their favorite version of the iconic character.


The reconstruction uses the original sound recording, which survived even though the video was destroyed, so the viewer listens to Troughton’s acting, along with his companions, Polly and Ben (Anneke Wills and Michael Craze, respectively). The music and soundscapes are original, as well. What the viewer sees, however, is entirely new, and it is from there that most of the discussion—and controversy—about the reconstruction will most likely arise.

The animation, which is a combination of computer generated and hand-made elements, is decidedly low-budget. The character designs and 3D renderings, designed by Martin Geraghty and Adrian Salmon, are beautiful, and the black-and-white-retro aesthetic perfectly matches the vibe of the surviving Classic Who episodes (through a color version is available for download at the BBC store website). It is when the characters start moving, however, that the issues caused by the small budget manifest. The stop-motion-style of the character’s movement, along with certain basic animation errors that should have been caught in editing, initially takes viewers out of the experience, and provides a barrier they must overcome to fully immerse themselves in the story. For a program like Doctor Who, which already heavily relies on the willing suspension of disbelief, anything that takes its watchers out of the experience, and reinforces the idea that what they are watching is not real, is an even more serious problem than it would be for another, more realistic program, and a segment of the viewers will likely reject the recreated series right off the bat because of these flaws.

For another group of viewers, however, the simple, quirky animation will be an endearing call-back to the original, low-budget, live-action, classic Doctor Who episodes of the 60s and 70s. Let’s face it, Doctor Who—especially in the early years—was never about fancy visual effects; rather, it was about character and story. The lack of bells and whistles, slick modern animation, and anything that can remotely be considered fancy, is, in its way, true to the source material, and fans of the original program may appreciate the quirks in the animation as an authentic nostalgic throwback (whether the producers intended it that way or not).

I tend to lean toward the second reaction. After the first 10 minutes of the first episode, I stopped noticing the animation, and was able to focus on the acting and the plot. The animation did, however, hinder my focus for the first 10 minutes, and I sympathize with people who see it the other way.

The story itself is a strong one. It begins with the above-mentioned regeneration scene. The companions’ reaction to the “new” Doctor is one of mistrust and confusion. They do not know exactly what has happened (remember that this is the first regeneration in the history of the show), and the new Doctor’s propensity to refer to the old Doctor as “the Doctor” and speak of him in the third person as if he was someone else does not help their comfort level. Fans of the “New Who” shows will find much familiar here, as every regeneration in the new program echoes this original regeneration in some way. Polly and Ben’s confusion and inability to initially accept a Doctor with such different physical and personality traits reminded me particularly of Clara Oswald’s initial reaction to Peter Capaldi’s Doctor in the show’s most recent regeneration.

In the midst of this discomfort, the TARDIS has landed on Planet Vulcan (no pointy ears: apparently, Doctor Who and Star Trek both had the idea of naming a planet after the Roman fire god independently), where the new Doctor assumes the role of a recently murdered inspector from Earth. He discovers that the residents of Vulcan have found a very old space pod, and are unsure about whether to open it. Eventually, they do, and it contains—spoiler alert, but not really, since it’s in the title of the serial—Daleks. The story makes brilliant use of dramatic irony as the Doctor and the viewers know the true intent of the Daleks, while the human colonists of Vulcan do not.

The script, by David Whittaker (with an un-credited assist from Dennis Spooner) is strong, especially considering the age of the program. It is considered to be one of the strongest—if not the strongest—Classic Who serial by many fans, and it is easy to see why. It is well-plotted, suspenseful, and speaks to universal themes about human nature. Troughton is excellent as the Doctor, and the ensemble cast holds up its end of the bargain well. Of course, some of the nuances of the performance are necessarily lost both because of the animation and because there is little surviving footage on which the animators could base the lead character’s facial expressions and movements.

The pacing, however, is much slower than a typical modern television program, let alone a “new” Doctor Who episode, where the storytelling style is “don’t blink” or you’ll miss something. For fans coming to the classic material for the first time, this will necessitate some adjustment. The excellent score and soundscape helps, and, by the end of the first episode in the serial, viewers will likely get used to the “dramatic” pauses in between the dialogue.

Overall, there is a lot to like about the animated reconstruction of The Power of the Daleks. While it isn’t perfect, it is a welcome addition to the Doctor Who Canon, especially during a lean year in The Whoniverse.

Ari Rubin lurks in the shadows. You may have thought you saw him in the back of the bar, or going into the subway station, but when you looked back, he was gone. His fiction has appeared in Pif Magazine,Scrivener’s Pen, and The Hopper Review. His short story “White Collar Blues,” which originally appeared in Skyline, was nominated for The Carve Magazine/Mild Horse Press Online Short Story Anthology Award by the editor. He can be reached at: birdman33@gmail.comand on twitter as @thesurrealari .