A Thing Is Not Beautiful Because It Lasts

Everybody knows that everybody dies. And nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark if he ever, for one moment, accepts it.

-River Song

That’s been the constant theme in Series 9 of Doctor Who. He’s the Doctor, and he saves people.

He’s the one who spends all his lives raging against the dying of the light. He’s the one who would tear the entire universe apart to save just one friend.

But what would happen if he really had to?

The answer takes up three episodes, and it brings an incredible season to a beautiful finish.
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Found and Lost

In retrospect, this episode might have been doomed from the beginning.

Any episode that came after Peter Capaldi’s classic performance in “The Zygon Inversion” (which I’m still thinking about today) was going to suffer by the mere fact of its juxtaposition. So you can’t fault Doctor Who for choosing such a radically different episode to follow it.

But radically different doesn’t always equate to good. And “Sleep No More” suffers less from the juxtaposition than from one fatal gimmick.

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Peter Capaldi’s Master Class

Every Doctor has those moments that define him. That reveal him, his values and ideals. That show he’s worthy of the name.

Of course, they’re also the moments where the actors prove themselves worthy. William Hartnell letting go of his only family. Tom Baker asking “Do I have the right?” David Tennant wrestling with his conscience so many times.

Peter Capaldi’s first series, of course, gave us a perfect I Am The Doctor moment with that speech in “Flatline.” It was that stand-up-and-squee moment we’d been waiting for all season, and for a little while it might have been the Twelfth Doctor’s defining moment.

Until now. Until a scene so powerful, a performance so perfect, that Capaldi needs only three words to break your heart.

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I’ve Just Seen A Face

There are times when it’s very hard to write about Doctor Who.

Especially this season, one of the best in YEARS. A season when most episodes have been so good that it’s a real challenge to come up with a review that doesn’t consist almost entirely of “HOLY CRAP” and “OMG” and “SQUEEEEEEE!”

But episodes like “The Girl Who Died” make that a great problem to have.

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On The Hazards Of Reviewing Part 1 Before You’ve Seen Part 2

You’ll remember (especially since it was only last week) that I was disappointed in Doctor Who‘s prior episode, “Under the Lake.” After the fantastic opening that was “The Magician’s Apprentice” and “The Witch’s Familiar,” the storytelling in this Part 1 just didn’t seem to measure up by comparison.

But it’s been a long while since we Whovians have seen a season built entirely on multi-part stories, as Series 9 has promised. When a narrative is allowed to unfold over two or more episodes, you have to look at the parts in the context of the whole. And when you do, things that might not work in the beginning make a lot more sense by the end.

Which is to say that I appreciate “Under the Lake” a lot more now that I’ve seen “Before the Flood.”

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Speechless, But Speaking Volumes

I wanted to like this week’s Doctor Who much more than I did. It’s not a terrible episode ([insert random snark about “Let’s Kill Hitler” here]), but after Twelve’s rock-idol return in “The Magician’s Apprentice” and the beautiful character scenes of “The Witch’s Familiar,” any story would have to be really special to even hope to measure up. And this one wasn’t quite there.

But even if the great moments of “Under the Lake” didn’t add up to a great episode, they were still great moments.

Especially one.

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A Game Of Old Men Who Have Lived Too Long

It’s relatively minor, I’ll admit, but one of the things I enjoyed about this week’s episode of Doctor Who was that now I don’t have to be so circumspect about what happened in the season premiere. So, spoilers away…

When we last left The Doctor, he was in another very dark place. Trapped on Skaro by his ancient nemesis Davros, with his three closest friends seemingly exterminated before his eyes, he looked truly broken, desparate enough to throw away his greatest rule: the rule of compassion.

Exterminate?

And so ended “The Magician’s Apprentice,” a dazzling beginning to Series 9. But this was a two-parter. And we all know how hard it is for the second part to live up to the promise of the first.

Except this time, it was even better.

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