In the first half of this season, there was a good, fun episode (“Robot of Sherwood”), a bunch of okay ones, and a couple of stinkers (sorry, I still think “Listen” was a load of junk.) So how did the second half turn out?
Mummy on the Orient Express — One thing Doctor Who usually excels at is “Base Under Siege” stories, and this one stuck to the formula well. The monster was sufficiently creepy, its motivation was interesting and poignant, and Capaldi got to really get going. While nothing amazing, I think this episode is more of what I’d like to see. Not surprisingly, it was also one with not-so-much Clara in it, though what we did get of her was more of this tedious, “my boyfriend doesn’t want me doing this what should I do” wankery that I don’t in the slightest care about.
Flatline — Without a doubt, the best episode of the season. The monsters are especially creepy, even before you see them. The nervous system on the wall was chilling. And despite liking the resolution to the previous episode, I also like that sometimes the alien invaders are just plain bad and need to be smacked. The size shenanigans were fun as well. A solid episode that shows what we could be getting in this series.
In the Forest of the Night — Wow, this season is really picking up! I can’t wait for the next episode, it’s gonna be…oh, dear. Especially on the heels of “Flatline”, this one was just plain dire. There’s invisible pixies, there are sentient trees looking to save humanity, the solar flare that’s brushed away because trees oxygen something something, there’s Danny Pink not wanting to even look at the Earth from orbit because he’s seen the amazing beauty of Afghanistan, there’s Danny an Clara showing that under no circumstances should either of them have been put in charge of children. We have the child who doesn’t need her brain medicine, she needs to be open to the magical language of the trees! And then the trees return her lost sister who’s been…I dunno. Living in a shrub? This dumpster carnival was everything that people who don’t remember “The Doctor’s Daughter” think “Fear Her” was.
Dark Water/Death in Heaven — And then it got worse. Not only can I point to the exact line where I groaned in disgust, I can apparently buy it on a t-shirt. But we’ll get to that.
I cannot find the words to really express how much I hated this thing, how much of a waste of time it was. I knew going in who Missy really was. I also knew there were Cybermen involved, which should have been a giant red flag because when we last saw the Cybermen, they could suddenly move SUPER FAST, which they never could before and which they stopped doing about 15 minutes into THAT SAME EPISODE because everyone on the show forgot they’d just said they could do that. Oh wait, no, that wasn’t the last time we saw the Cybermen. THAT was when the Cybermen, in order to infiltrate the village of Christmas, decided that making a Cyberman out of WOOD was a viable strategy. Heavens me, I got my idiotic Cybermen moments all mixed up.
This time the Cybermen are involved in a plot that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The Cybermen now have “cyber-pollen” (their term, not mine) that turns organic material into fully fledged metal-encased Cybermen. Like, sprinkle this on you and bam, Cyberman.
Just add water.
Okay so let me explain the plot. Missy (the Master, back as a woman) has been somehow grabbing the minds of the recently deceased (including hit-by-a-car Danny Pink, which gave me some hope) and storing them in a Nethersphere, a sort of Time Lord mental hard drive. The Cybermen all fly (they fly now) into the atmosphere and explode, releasing this cyber-pollen over graveyards. The dead bodies (including an apparently well-preserved one from the 18th century) all then turn into Cybermen, which crawl out of the ground.
Meanwhile, Danny Pink — now a Cyberman, but still with his emotions — takes Clara to one of these graveyards, but I don’t know why. The Doctor turns up and says he needs Danny to go full Cyberman so he can know what the plan is. Note that at this point there are literally dozen of Cybermen stumbling around at arm’s reach who are not hostile yet because they’re essentially cyber-toddlers. Yet only Danny going cyber can reveal the plan. So Clara does that and they find out the plan which is: make it rain cyber-pollen on the alive people and turn them into Cybermen too. Thanks, Danny, we never would have otherwise figured that one out. So why the dead people? So you can have minds in the dead bodies to run the Cybermen, except we only want no-emotion minds. Why we didn’t just skip all this nonsense and cyber-up the living people in the first place is a question never asked, along with the question of, if the Cybermen can do this pollen jazz, why did they need Missy’s help for this plan? Why hide any of it? The only thing that gets the Doctor to them is Danny getting hit by a car, and there’s no mention of that being part of Missy’s weird scheme. So what’s the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed point to all of this?
Missy then comes in and gives the Doctor a bracelet to control the Cybermen. Now he has an army he can use to right all the wrongs and then he’ll be like her. She says she’ll make the army go against live humans unless he uses the army to go after baddies and prove he’s really just a bad guy or something. He refuses and it turns out Danny still resists the controller. Danny leads the Cybermen into the air and they all explode, which gets rid of the clouds of cyber-pollen, saving the day.
Along the way UNIT showed up, led by Kate, the Brigadier’s daughter. Apparently every nation on Earth has decided that in case of a full-scale alien invasion The Doctor will be declared “President of Earth” and this happens. Just roll that around in your mind for a bit, I’ll wait. So they’re on Earth Force One or whatever and Missy blows out the door, which sucks out Kate, the TARDIS, and the Doctor. The Doctor skydives into the falling TARDIS, and Missy’s lackey does this:
That’s the actual line. Someone wrote that and someone approved that. This was seen as a thing that needed to be included in a Doctor Who episode about, essentially, cyber-zombies. I grabbed that image off Tumblr, you won’t be surprised to know. That was the line. This is one of the many shirts.
At the end of the episode, Kate shows up alive and it turns out a Cyberman saved her, which is implied to be the cyber-animated dead Brigadier. Cyber-Lethbridge-Stewart shoots Missy, who I’m sure is really most sincerely gone.
Oh and Danny could somehow come back from being cyber dead with the bracelet but only one person can do so and instead he sends back some Afghani kid he killed when he was a soldier, telling Clara to find his parents.
Clara and the Doctor break up, each lying to the other, and go their separate ways.
Then Santa Claus shows up. I’m not kidding. That’s the lead-in to the Christmas special, which I haven’t felt inclined to watch.
Why so serious?
So The Master is back as Missy, except he hasn’t regenerated into The Mistress, he’s regenerated into The Joker. “Bananas!” is her catchphrase, referring to her mental state. She’s full of cockamamie ludicrously intricate plans that only come about due to blind chance and has no motivation except to screw with the Doctor and show him he’s just like her. The Master was always the Doctor’s Moriarty. Given what Moffat did with Moriarty in Sherlock, I shouldn’t be surprised here.
This is my frustration with Doctor Who. I don’t know what’s worse, when the rest of the season before Moffat comes in and Moffats all over the show is dull and unremarkable, as in season five, or when you have moments like “Robot of Sherwood” and “Flatline” taunting you with glimpses of a better show before it all comes crashing down. I’d heard things were better this season, and in general I suppose they were, but it’s all relative when you have garbage like seasons 6 and most of season 7 to compare it to. I’d really like to get someone at the helm who didn’t have the power to put trash nonsense like “Dark Water/Death in Heaven” on the screen without anyone being able to tell him it’s not very good. For season nine, will there be enough good episodes to make it worth enduring the onslaught of bad ones?
PS: look at that, I didn’t even mention how Gallifrey is still “lost” even though they went there at the end of “Listen”.