Saturday saw the finale of series 9 of Doctor Who broadcast to the nation. It has been a series of two halves for me. It seems as if everything is settling into place now. Capaldi is more sure of who his Doctor is, Jenna Coleman has been putting in great performance after great performance and the writing team have had some really great ideas in the episodes although they are sometimes not executed properly which I will get to later on in this blog post.
However, on the flip side, as everything seems to be falling into place albeit slowly, I feel the series has been overshadowed by its stars. Jenna Coleman’s decision to leave this series left fans waiting each episode for the inevitable. Maisie Williams joining the cast and appearing in multiple episodes has had excessive publicity and to be honest I was slightly disappointed in her performances after all the hype surrounding her casting.
Also, from an audience view, I have felt somewhat detached from this series despite it being much better than some of the most recent series on the whole. I think this may be because some of my friends who are fellow Doctor Who fans have stopped watching the programmer after finding series 8 disappointing and not exciting enough for them. Despite claiming that I will continue to stick with the programme, negativity from fans may have had a slight impact on my perspective and viewing pleasure.
Click continue reading to see my brief reviews/thoughts of the episodes of series 9
Episode 1 – The Magician’s Apprentice
Thought the ideas behind this episode were good but it wasn’t executed well enough for me. It was all a bit stop-start and bitty. This is mostly due to camerawork and direction which has been my main issue with this series. The writing has generally improved but the directing could have made many of the episodes brilliant rather than average. That said, the planes stopping narrative plot which was then discarded annoyed me especially as it involved Missy who is not one of my favourite characters. I loved the reveal of Skaro – interesting that Skaro and Gallifrey bookended the series! I also loved the reveal of the young boy as a young Davros. It was refreshing to have such a reveal, an unexpected secret that had not been spoiled by publicity ahead of the series.
Episode 2 – The Witch’s Familiar
The poor points of episode 1 were rectified in this episode. Missy was less annoying and I actually understood her unpredictable character as she navigated the sewers of Skaro, helping Clara and then the Daleks. Clara being stuck inside the Dalek reminded us of her first appearance in the series and was extremely well done! The parallels between the Doctor and Davros were nicely conveyed and Capaldi provided humour when taking over Davros’ chair. Overall, a good dalek episode which offered some backstory for Davros.
Episode 3 & 4 – Under the Lake/Before the Flood
My favourite episodes of the series by miles! Interesting concept, great characters and the Fisher King not included, the monsters or ghosts were different and intriguing rather than the grey, shapeless monsters that have plagued the last few series. It posed many questions and kept viewers guessing until the resolution in episode 4. I liked that a deaf character was a superior figure in the episodes as it is a great representation of disability. I also loved the Doctor introducing the bootstrap paradox in Before the Flood with the Beethoven references!
Episode 5 & 6 – The Girl Who Died & The Woman Who Lived
Underwhelming considering all the hype surrounding Maisie Williams’ casting. The first episode contained a lazy explanation, in my opinion, of why Capaldi’s Doctor has Caecilius’ face and made Maisie Williams’s Ashildr immortal, thus foreshadowing her dominance in the series. The second episode was slightly more bearable thanks to Rufus Hound’s comedic turn – not something I thought I would write! The character Ashildr/Me becomes boring and indicates why you shouldn’t give a child immortality.
Episode 7 – The Zygon Invasion
I have moaned since the 50th about how they abandoned the Zygon subplot, thinking it was going to be left unresolved. Luckily, this episode and the next rectified this. It was a bit risque at points as it was not at all subtle in its intentions. If viewers didn’t like series 8’s Kill The Moon allegory for abortion because it was obvious, then the Zygon Invasion’s blatant comment on immigration, refugees, extremism and terrorism was 10x less subtle and in your face. It made me feel uneasy at points as it was so prominent even in details such as cyber propaganda and the colours used for the Zygon’s logos.
Episode 8 – The Zygon Inversion
I loved Jenna Coleman’s performance as the evil Bonnie juxtaposed against Clara’s goodness. One of her best performances for definite. Capaldi also put in a stellar performance in the scene when Kate and Bonnie are deliberating over the Osgood boxes and delivered a speech about peace in ways both captivating and wacky.
Episode 9 – Sleep No More
A fairly good standalone episode. The lack of title credits, though clever for the episode, left me disorientated and on edge. Whilst I have despised the shaky, jumpy, handheld nature of directing this series, it completely worked for this episode as it fit the style of a retrospective ‘found footage’ horror video. Although I didn’t find any of the crew very likeable, it was nice to see Asian representations as if I remember correctly from some studies I did in uni, asian nationalities are the most underrepresented demographic in most forms of media.
Episode 10 – Face the Raven
I couldn’t suspend belief and see it as London despite Rigsy’s reappearance and the insistence of the narrative. However, this is probably only a problem for me due to the familiarity of the locations in Cardiff. The chronolock was an interesting motive to get Rigsy involved in the episode but he was underused in my opinion. I liked the trap street containing all sorts of aliens who are not visible at first but I didn’t like Ashildr as the mayoress. In opposition to the supposed outrage about the violent death of Clara as reported in the tabloids, I thought it was done well even if it was a bit tame. It was beautifully done with Clara ready to die and the slow motion of the raven hitting her and the exhalation of black smoke.
Episode 11 – Heaven Sent
Capaldi’s one hander episode did not disappoint – what a performance! A really good episode, the chamber being both a puzzle for the Doctor and the viewer to work out together. I really enjoyed trying to work out what was happening without the narrative becoming too complex and irrelevant, an example of how good the writing in this programme can be. The use of the chalkboard to ask questions and remember Clara was clever – reminiscent of Listen in series 8 – and overall the episode was a good metaphor for grief as a cycle. Thought it would take longer (serieswise not the Doctor’s lifetime!) to get to Gallifrey but I must admit I did get excited at the sight of it.
Episode 12 – Hell Bent
I liked the set up of the episode as the Doctor recalls Clara and the story of his visit to Gallifrey to diner Clara. It was slightly sad later on to find out that his memory had been affected and he didn’t remember Clara vividly, upsetting given that she has shaped this Doctor and he has become fairly dependent on her help and friendship. Some Gallifreyan aspects of the story were a bit confusing but I thought it was a really good finale episode and swansong for Clara.