Old Friends Die Hard

“Clara, be my pal. Tell me… am I a good man?”
“I… don’t know.”
“Neither do I.”

– from “Into the Dalek,” by Phil Ford and Steven Moffat

They were the central questions of Series 8 of Doctor Who. What kind of man is this new Doctor? Is he a hero? Does he still care? Is he even capable of caring anymore?

It’s to the show’s credit that it dared to ask those questions, to explore the darker sides of life with, and as, the last Time Lord. Asking those questions gave us stories like “Listen” and “Flatline.”

And it’s to the show’s credit that in the end, it found a way to answer them.

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If This Is Paradise, I Wish I Had A Sonic Lawnmower

Since I’ve committed to life as a Doctor Who blogger, I’ve often surprised myself with the connections I’ve made. Not so much within the show itself – it’s easy to find traces of a past story or a past Doctor in the current series. It’s Doctor Who – there’s always going to be at least a piece of its past in its present.

No, the surprise comes from the connections I find outside of the series, the things an episode reminds me of as I’m watching it. Last week’s episode is a perfect example. I didn’t go into “Flatline” looking for a Bourne Identity parallel, but once I found it, it just made perfect sense to explore that.

With all that in mind, you really have to wonder about the kind of mind that goes from Doctor Who to Talking Heads…
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Look At What They Make You Give

One of the many assets of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity (spoilers ahead) is Clive Owen’s character, called the Professor. Like Jason Bourne, the Professor’s one of the Treadstone program’s assassins, a laconic piece of work who says nary a syllable until he finally catches up with his quarry. And once Bourne has gunned him down, he uses his dying words to reflect on the terrible bond they share:

Look at us. Look at what they make you give.

Bourne himself will repeat those words in The Bourne Ultimatum. It’s a commentary on the way Treadstone has leached the good from them both, in the name of a supposed higher purpose.

And after seeing the latest Doctor Who, the road from the Professor to the Doctor might not be as far as you’d think. Or hope.

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It’s Complicated, But Does It Really Have To Be THAT Complicated?

One of the many things that’s made Series 8 of Doctor Who so different from past seasons is the nature of the arc that informs the stories. In past years (especially since Steven Moffat became showrunner), those arcs were plot-driven, grounded in twists and turns and reveals of mixed justification and mixed success.

But this season, the arc is almost entirely character-driven. It’s about relationships. It’s about Clara’s relationship with the Doctor. In a way I’m not sure the show has really attempted before, Doctor Who is exploring what it means to travel with the Doctor. And it’s exploring that relationship from both sides.

And so, it’s not altogether surprising that the last two episodes have effectively changed the status to “It’s Complicated.”

But it’s still great viewing.

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Growing Up With A Space Dad

We’re halfway through Series 8 of Doctor Who, and I’m beginning to think that this season is as much about Steven Moffat learning from his mistakes as it is about the Doctor learning from his.

This last week’s episode is a perfect case in point. “The Caretaker” explores a theme Moffat covered just last season in “The Power of Three”: what it’s like to try to live an ordinary life when the Doctor’s in it. But that episode never quite succeeded, while this one succeeds quite well.

The difference?

Consequences.

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Listen Closely…

One of the great hopes I had for series 8 of Doctor Who was that we’d see the show step back from its plot-heavy storytelling of recent seasons, and focus more on exploring the characters. With a new Doctor (and especially with THAT actor playing him), I hoped Steven Moffat would seize the great opportunity before him: the opportunity to craft stories that are less about what the Doctor does, and more about who he is.

But I thought it too much to hope for an episode as inspired as “Listen.”

Maybe I should have aimed a little higher…

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Why I’m A Sucker For Unlikely-Hero Narratives

When it comes to Doctor Who, sometimes silliness is a bug, and sometimes it’s a feature.

It’s important to keep that in mind when you’re talking about this week’s episode. “Robot of Sherwood” is a mostly ridiculous story, but it’s so by design. On its surface, it’s little more than an excuse to have fun with the tropes of both Robin Hood and the Doctor.

And I pretty much loved it.
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