Doctor Who 08:12

It’s funny. If you had asked me going into this season if I was going to like it, I would have told you that I was guardedly optimistic. I mean if you read all of my posts on the back half of Series 7, I had little faith in the showrunner and the current companion. And while I will be the first to admit that those complaints about Stephen Moffat still stand, I have to eat my words a little bit as he’s done the impossible; he addressed the criticisms leveled at him head on and created a shockingly good season. So good in fact that – when all is said and done – this season will probably be listed as one of the best seasons of Doctor Who since the relaunch. And while this season finale had a few problems, it still delivered a wallop of an ending.

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Because there are so many great things in this episode, I’m going to plow through my complaints first. Once again, Moffat returned to a few of his well-known writing crutches such as “true love conquering all”, a plot twist involving someone sacrificing themselves for the Doctor (which begs the question – Whatever happened to the Doctor’s cry of “No one dies today!”?), an audacious event that has implications that are glossed over (think about it; everyone on Earth not only saw their deceased loved ones rise from the grave and become Cybermen but then saw said resurrected loved ones blow themselves up), people taking actions that are stupid (RIP poor Osgood) or completely out of character (let me get this right – so in the middle of an alien invasion, all of Earth is going to turn control of the entire planet over to a different alien?!), and a few scenes that went on way too long (the entire plane sequence could have used a bit of a trim).

All of that said, there was so many good things that to tackle them all, I’m going to have to do this in bullet point fashion:

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* The ladies of U.N.I.T. showed up and were bosses; from Osgood getting the drop on Missy to Kate (Lethbridge) Stewart’s “You left this last time you were here” (dropping the head of an old style Cyberman, and once again calling back to “The Invasion”). It’s always a treat to have Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver back in the story and I like the new, slightly snippy relationship between the Doctor and the house that the Brig built.

* “So now that I have your attention, welcome to the only planet in the universe where we get to say this: He’s on the payroll”

* “Oh, don’t salute. You look like you’re self-concussing, which would explain all of military history, now I think about it.”

* “ Hang on a second. The President? We don’t want Americans bobbing around the place. They’ll only start praying.”

* “We do have files on all our ex-prime ministers. She wasn’t even the worst.”

* These lines go to show one thing – even in the midst of all of this horror there was some hilarious lines being delivered.

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* Speaking of horror, kudos to the makeup team for showing us what a recently deceased corpse would look like in a Cyberman body. And kudos to Samuel Anderson for showing the collateral damage of the Doctor and his companion’s trek across time and space. It was a stinging moment as Danny got some well deserved digs in at both the Doctor and at Clara. But the thing is, unlike most times when someone takes a swing at the Doctor and their companion it’s usually some dumb ancillary character that has no agency within the story. The reason Danny’s jibes sting is because his current state is a result of the Doctor and Clara’s actions.

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* And while we’re on the subject of horror, with Missy’s “death” we hope that this isn’t the end of Michelle Gomez’s fantastic work on the character. By turns hilarious, aggrandizing, and batshit crazy, Gomez took the idea of a female regeneration of the Master and turned it into something magnificent. Her scenes with the Doctor were spectacular; whether making him admit that they are alike, to the shocking reveal of the “birthday present,” to Missy admitting that she misses her best friend, Gomez took the insanity of the character and made it sing. It also helps that her chemistry with Peter Capaldi is off the charts, so let us find a way to bring her back.

* Speaking of that death, while it was a cheap emotional ploy, I did get choked up a bit when the Doctor saluted you know who. That was an earned moment.

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* Ultimately this story came down to a tale of an idiot and a control queen trying to control each other and ultimately they brought out the worst in one another. Moffat used this season to show the consequences of the sometimes co-dependent relationship between the Doctor and his companion; and how that relationship, while good for the most part, can often exacerbate the worst parts of their personality. And god bless Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman for going there and delivering the tricky moments that Moffat asked of them. All of which culminated into that final heartbreaking scene in the cafe where two expert liars were lying to each other to soften the blow. Both Capaldi and Coleman have been on fire all season long, and if this is the end of Clara, then it goes out on a win.

NEXT TIME: Well, now we have to wait for Christmas as teased by that ending…

Photo & Video Credits: BBC

Originally Published 11 November 2014 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile

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