Thoughts on a Revolution: Mockingjay

hunger games mockingjay part 1 katniss everdeen jennifer lawrence revolution haymitch abernathy effie trinket

So I went to see Mockingjay last week, with some of my (great many) friends. Great day out, really. I might even be persuaded to leave my room more often.

It’s an excellent film, to say the least. Remarkably well acted, and similarly well directed. I’m actually pretty glad they split the film into two parts, because it meant that they could fit a lot of smaller details into the film which would otherwise have been cut. One of my favourite things, in fact, of the whole film, was the fact that Katniss kept playing with a little pearl. It was a very subtle, understated callback to the last film – because Peeta gave her that pearl, the last time they saw each other – and it was quite poignant in and of itself.

What was interesting though, I think, is that there’s been a sort of a complaint that not much happened in this film. Which, I mean, technically that’s true; a lot of what goes on is set up for the next film, because this is only half a book. This is the build up part of the plot, after all. (It’s something like 180 pages of a three hundred or so page book, if I recall correctly.)

If it wasn’t for the fact that Mockingjay was an adaptation of a book, they wouldn’t actually be able to get away with something like that. If this was a film based franchise only, with all new characters, this isn’t how you’d structure the film. A lot of things would have to be changed.

The pearl that I liked so much? That’d have to be changed. It’d have to be explained, at the very least – and it wasn’t in this film. It was expected that the audience would get it, because the pearl was a moment from the book. There’s quite a few other bits like that – scenes and images that were kept it for no other apparent reason than the fact they were in the book. A few of them were stretched a little, like the cat and the torch sequence – something like that, which is meant to be quite introspective, worked a lot better in first person prose than it did in the film, which needed a few lines of slightly clunky dialogue to explain it.

Those are both moments that made their way into the film more or less solely because they were in the book. You can make a solid case for the pearl having some dramatic weight, I think, but the fact is that the majority of people wouldn’t notice it. Same goes for the cat – that really only works, I think, if you’re aware of where it comes from.

It’s worth mentioning then, in case it wasn’t already obvious, that Mockingjay was an extremely faithful adaptation of its source material. Certain things were cut for convenience – a lot of stuff about District 13s routine, and Dalton the cattle farmer, but even that was hinted at (in certain scenes you can see the schedule tattoos on their arms). The only other big change was to bring in Effie rather than the three stylists – which, I think it’s fair to say, was an entirely sensible decision.

Other than that, it was basically a straight adaptation of the text. I’d actually be willing to bet that a large amount of the dialogue was lifted word for word.

Isn’t that interesting? I find it pretty interesting. (That’s why I’ve written so much about it.) This represents a shift in the selling point of movies that have been adapted from novels; it’s not trying to be a movie in it’s own right, the whole point is specifically to be an adaptation of a book. Or, no, not an adaptation – a retelling of a book, as exactly as is possible. It’s a revolution, if you will – a revolution of ideas, and the way we interact with them in different forms, as well as the way we want to interact with them.

I mean, up to a point, that’s always been part of the motive – if a movie studio can guarantee a pre existing audience, then yes, they’re likely to find the prospect to be a little bit more lucrative. But I think it’s fair to say that now it’s not about generating another audience alongside the one that already exists; studios are making films where they can bank on the fact that most of their audience is familiar with the text, and the text is exactly what they want to see.

A few years back, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief got fairly lukewarm reception from the fans, because of quite how different it was from the book. (Personally, the changes didn’t bother me, and all made a fair degree of sense, but I understand the annoyance.) Now, I haven’t seen the second film, though I believe it was significantly more in line with the book – you can see from the trailer they changed the minutiae only fans care about, like the hair colour of Annabeth – and I’d be willing to bet that was because of the reaction of fans. (I’ve not looked that up or anything, of course, so if I’m wrong, do correct me.)

I wonder, actually, to what extent that’s a good idea. There’s differences between books and films as a medium, obviously, because they’re pretty different things. There’s stuff you can get away with in a book that you can’t in a movie, and vice versa; ways for things to be presented, or information conveyed, emotions shown, plot developments to occur, that sort of idea. What makes a good book won’t always make a good movie.

So, practically, I’m a little bit dubious. And yet, equally, I really did love Mockingjay, and the way it adhered to the book quite so strongly. My favourite books ever, the Skulduggery Pleasant series, would probably be highly impractical to adapt straight, given the length of them  – 9 books, quite a few all over 500 pages? That’s going to work out at something like 14 films, given the length of them, and there’s no way at all that’s viable, or a good idea. But… as much as my practical mind says no, I’d love a series of movies that are faithful to the letter.

And movie studios seem to recognise that. Before Mockingjay came out, if you’d asked me, I would never have expected the pearl to be in the film, nor for the cat and torch sequence. Because they don’t seem like the sort of moments which would get priority, if you’re trying to tell the story like it’s new.

But if you’re trying to retell a story to a group of people who already know what to expect, and know exactly what they want to see… then yes, that’s the sort of moment you include.

And I find that absolutely fascinating. Where will this go? I mean, with Mockingjay, it worked. It absolutely and unreservedly worked. The longer run time supported this sort of thing, the inclusion of little moments. The actors could all support that sort of thing, and imply a lot of the emotions that had to be left unspoken, because of the nature of what was being adapted.

But it can’t always work, surely. There won’t always be books that can rely on the audience knowing the source material by heart, and there won’t always be times where a direct adaptation is possible.

So I wonder how these things will change next. And I really hope that, when they change next, the films will still be as good as Mockingjay.

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Film Trailer Thoughts | Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star wars the force awakens milennium falcon official teaser trailer jakuu tie fighter

Brand new Star Wars trailer!

I am in two minds about this.

It is a little bit underwhelming, frankly. I’m not a fan of the “mysterious” voice over; without context, it doesn’t really do much to up suspense or anything. Vaguely worried, in fact, that it indicates they’re setting up some sort of Darth Vader substitute, complete with a distinctive voice style. I mean, I’m obviously extrapolating a lot from essentially nothing, but I do think that this film should try to be a little more it’s own thing than imitating previous installments. That’s a general sort of idea, mind you, which is independent of “oh my god there’s a voice that’s kinda like Darth Vader but not”.

But… I mean, look, this is brand new Star Wars. Before Doctor Who came back in 2005, Star Wars was pretty much my main obsession. And this evoked a lot of that. It was right on point, in terms of the visual style, and it had all of those things I used to love so much. Stormtroopers! TIE Fighters! Tatooine! X-Wings! The Millennium Falcon!

This is all of that, all of the things that so many people remembered, and it’s new, and there’s enough there for a pretty amazing story. It’s impossible not to be impressed by it, and have feel even a little excitement.

And so, Star Wars has awakened, and we all have… a new hope.

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Doctor Who Review: Series 8 Overview

doctor who series 9 review overview peter capaldi jenna coleman steven moffat era logo twelfth doctor vortex title sequence clocks clara oswald

So, with another series over, I wanted to take a bit of a look back across the whole series, seeing how it fitted together, talking a little bit about the arcs involved, and generally the overall quality of the episodes.

Here I’ve got links to my reviews of each episodes (some of which were, uh, posted quite late, meaning you may have missed them). Quite proud of most of them, although it is obvious in quite a few that I was running short of time, because they’re a little bit on the shorter side. Still, nothing wrong with being concise.

  1. Deep Breath | Steven Moffat | 8/10
  2. Into the Dalek | Phil Ford & Steven Moffat | 9/10
  3. Robot of Sherwood | Mark Gatiss | 7/10
  4. Listen | Steven Moffat | 5/10
  5. Time Heist | Stephen Thompson & Steven Moffat | 8/10
  6. The Caretaker | Gareth Roberts & Steven Moffat | 7/10
  7. Kill the Moon | Peter Harness | 3/10
  8. Mummy on the Orient Express | Jamie Mathieson | 9/10
  9. Flatline | Jamie Mathieson | 9/10
  10. In the Forest of the Night | Frank Cottrell-Boyce | 6/10
  11. Dark Water | Steven Moffat | 10/10
  12. Death in Heaven | Steven Moffat | 8/10

And presented here as part of a handy-dandy graph. I do love a good graph.

image

I’ve seen this series described as having had consistent quality levels since 2005, when the show came back. It’s interesting actually, because I would have said the same myself, before looking at my handy dandy graph.

In terms of numbers though, it got a total of 89/120, which works out as 7.417/10. Given that people were harking back to the 2005 series, that’s a rather useful point of comparison (even more so because it’s the only one I have mathematical date for). When I reviewed that series, it got a result of approximately 8/10 as an overall average. (You can see a very nerdy breakdown of the scores here. It wasn’t so popular, which is why I changed the format a little for this overview.)

What it is perhaps fairer to say though is that, barring a few mis-steps, the series had a much higher level of consistent quality than the last two Matt Smith seasons. I wasn’t really a fan of series 7, on the whole, and I felt that this was a massive improvement on largely every count.

In terms of Steven Moffat’s writing, this was another massive step up (Ignoring Listen, of course). Of the four series’ he’s been in charge of, this one is certainly the best since Matt Smith’s first. Perhaps the best altogether? I’m not entirely sure, but it may well come close.

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Something I think that series 8 did particularly well with, better than most others, was the way it treated the role of the companion.

Around the time of Asylum of the Daleks, when Jenna Coleman first appeared, I said something along the lines of “I think she’s going to be my favourite companion”. Words to that effect, anyways. Obviously this turned out to be not quite the case, given that Clara wasn’t quite in the spotlight in her own right throughout the rest of series 7.

But after series 8, I am actually quite prepared to hand Clara back that position.

It’s difficult to talk about the arc that Clara had throughout the series, because I really keep wanting to jump right to the end, because the way in which she developed still excites me so much. This is possibly one of the best uses of the companion role ever, and the best possible extension of the idea that the Doctor changes his companions.

Flatline was one of my favourite episodes of the series (making me a little sad my review is quite so short) and that’s because of what it did with the Doctor/Clara dynamic. Honestly, there’s just so many clever things about that episode I want to pick out, but the one that needs mentioning is the idea of lying, I think. You can see that being developed across the series, picked up on, examined, and looked at through all these different lights. It culminated in my favourite scene of the series – the Doctor lying about Gallifrey. How fantastic was that? Absolutely fantastic.

Now, none of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for Jenna Coleman, who really showed how brilliant Clara could be. She absolutely deserved top billing at the end of the series. “Clara Who” is a show I would watch, let me tell you right now. (Though it needs a better name than that!)

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On another note, writers and directors. Some new ones this year, which is nice; as part of series 7 last year there were, I think, too many writers that had more than one episode, and had worked on the show before. It’s always good to get new people in (like me) though, to be fair, this year there was something of a mixed result in terms of new writers. Jamie Mathieson, absolutely fantastic, needs to return. Peter Harness, probably best forgotten about. And Frank Cottrell-Boyce… well, maybe? He’s the only one I have no particularly strong feelings about, for or against.

Normally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to directors, which I probably should, but I’ve been really impressed by a lot this year. Douglas MacKinnon did another great job, and I was impressed by Ben Wheatley. Nice to see female directors on the team – I realise everyone else has said that, but it’s true. And, obviously, the fact that they were female directors wasn’t the only important thing – Sheree Folkson and Rachel Talalay are both very, very good.

(Mind you, still not that fussed about the possibility of Peter Jackson turning up. The fact he’s such a massive nerd makes me laugh, but there’s nothing that really makes me think “woah we need him here right now”.)

doctor who review series 8 kill the moon planet earth turn the lights off peter harness

There were certain things I wasn’t mad keen on, of course. I’m not sure if I’m becoming a bit more socially aware, or if there were more mistakes made this season, but a few things stood out to me as being a bit on the not-so-good side of things.

The abortion metaphor of Kill the Moon I already spoke about a fair extent, and the same goes for the medication stuff in In the Forest of the Night. Those were both things which should have been picked up on, and removed, but unfortunately… weren’t.

Something I didn’t mention at the time, but I still wasn’t sure about was this weird racial undertone in The Caretaker. Strange one really; it was clear the production team was trying to show a diverse, multi-racial set of students, but it fell down a bit flat since quite a few of the truant/miscreant kids were coloured. That can be written off as an accident, but I’m surprised no one took pause with the fact that the Doctor mocked Danny, suggesting he was only competent at physical tasks. Bit odd really, in terms of the way it could be read.

Also, speaking of the Doctor and Danny, where did that distaste for soldiers actually go, in the end? It all seemed a tad aimless. You can make a case, I suppose, for it having been set up for the finale, but even then… it wasn’t great. The set up with Missy wasn’t amazing either, I think it must be said, given that they were little more than sporadic “remember we have an arc guys” moments. Could probably have been replaced by “this is a mystery” cue cards, perhaps.

doctor who review series 8 mummy on the orient express peter capaldi twelfth doctor you still have to choose jamie mathieson

So.

A final word on the Eighth Series of Doctor Who?

I think it was, honestly, quite brilliant. It had no shortage of misfires, that’s fair to say, but that’s not to say it wasn’t very, very good. You could really see the work that went into it, making each idea fresh and new, offering us some of the best character drama we’ve had in years, as part of a remarkably stylish, wonderfully written television program.

And, on today of all days – the start of our 51st year – Series 8 is worth talking about.

Because Series 8 shows us why Doctor Who has lasted quite so long, and why it is still kicking.

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Doctor Who Review: Death in Heaven

doctor who death in heaven review steven moffat rachel talalay cybermen missy michelle gomez peter capaldi samuel anderson

Love is not an emotion. Love is a promise.

So actually, when I first watched this, I didn’t like it all that much.

I had problems with the second half in particular. It felt discordant, really, and rather sloppy. “Tonally inconsistent” is what I went for, I think. To an extent, I’d stand by that still.

But when I came round to rewatching it, with a little bit of distance and having had some time to ruminate on the episode a bit more, I did enjoy it a lot more.

I mean, it’s not perfect, and that’s a little bit of a shame, because I’d really been hoping for that. Probably unwise, admittedly, but still, that’s what I wanted. There are a lot of good ideas here, that’s certainly true, but the worry I had was that they weren’t really executed very well. Some things were better than others. Certain things were not executed as well as they could have been; others should have been left out entirely.

Admittedly, that paints a pretty negative picture of my opinion, and that’s not quite true, because there’s a lot of things I really did enjoy. Like, for example, Michelle Gomez. Wasn’t she just fantastic? Quite possibly the best Master of the new series (sorry John Simm) and I’d wager she beats out quite a few of the classics too. I get the feeling I’d end up just listing each and every one of her scenes if I were to start to pick favourites – but weren’t each of her scenes, especially with Peter Capaldi, just really, really compelling?

doctor who death in heaven review michelle gomez missy the master graveyard I just want my friend back steven moffat rachel talalay

But, hey, there’s nothing wrong with listing. The death of Osgood was a pretty wonderful moment (though I will miss her) and I totally agree with Moffat’s decision there – killing Osgood sets Missy up as a villain in a way that all her actions couldn’t really. We’re invested in Osgood, and the audience likes her, in a way that we wouldn’t be with Colonel Ahmed. It reminds me of this thing called a “pet the dog” moment actually – the idea being that if a character pets a dog, the audience will like them, because generally the audience will like dogs. Here, then, Moffat had Missy kill the “dog”.

Quite a lot of wonderful humour in there too; a favourite line of mine was, probably surprising no one, “Kill some Belgians, they aren’t even French”. Lots of very funny lines; but all ones which could have fallen flat, I think, if it wasn’t for the strength of Michelle Gomez’s performance. She really did hit every beat it was fantastic.

The characterisation there was absolutely on point. I realise a lot of people are accusing Moffat of getting it wrong, but no, they’re mistaken – elaborate schemes simply for the Doctor’s attention, and constant attempts to get their friend back (wasn’t that so sad?) have always been part of the Master’s MO, right from day one.

It also lead quite fantastically into the culmination of one of this series’ quasi-arcs – the question of whether or not the Doctor really is a good man. It’s been one of my favourite parts of this series, in fact, and I’m quite pleased with the resolution of it. Indeed, I’m hoping to do a full post on it soon (though with my time management skills, that could end up being closer to series 9 than to now) so I won’t comment on it much, but still, it was fantastic.

The use of the Master as the Doctor’s mirror concluded that thread quite well, and indeed rather poignantly; Missy’s attempts to get her friend back only confirmed to him that, despite his doubts, they really were pretty different. Dramatically, I think it has a lot of weight, and it was possibly the smartest way to draw that aspect of the series to a close without getting oppressively bleak.

And, of course, you’ve got to love this moment of realisation. Peter Capaldi is so wonderful:

I’m not a good man! I’m not a bad man! I’m not a hero! I’m not a President! And no, I’m not an officer! You know who I am? I am an idiot –  with a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out. And I don’t need an army, I never have.

And I mean, that’s to be expected, isn’t it? Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor, the highlight of every scene he’s in. Absolutely wonderful.

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Same goes of course for Jenna Coleman. And in this case I’d also say Samuel Anderson. The scenes they had together were… they weren’t poignant, that’s not quite the right way to describe it, because that implies a level of serenity I think. Their scenes were a bit distressing sometimes. In a good way, I mean; they were all very emotional moments, and certainly quite impactful ones.

The writing of those scenes was generally pretty good; nice bit of dramatic irony (I know technical terms!) where the audience knew who Danny was, yet Clara didn’t. I quite liked that; on the whole, that’s not the sort of thing I find that impressive, but here it’s clear enough that Danny would be a Cyberman, so those scenes where Clara finds out where made more effective because the audience already knew.

Really gotta love their acting though, don’t you? I mean, again, I find myself at a loss for words because I’ve used most of them already. Regardless, they both absolutely sold each moment; Danny’s final speech and sacrifice, Clara’s anger at Missy, and their goodbye as Danny lost his emotions. It all lead into a pretty wonderful ending…

As endings go, it was very melancholy, wasn’t it? I actually really liked it, for the most part. The Doctor and Clara, lying to each other, trying to make the other happy, not realising that they were both as miserable as sin. I’d go so far as to say actually that the Doctor lying about Gallifrey, and intercutting the Doctor’s scenes with Clara against the silent anger of his “finding” Gallifrey is quite possibly one of the smartest things Steven Moffat has written. The final moment with Clara simply walking away was wonderful, and I think it would have been a pretty appropriate place to leave Clara, if not a happy one.

(At the minute, I haven’t watched the Children in Need clip, although I am aware that it makes it clear this isn’t quite the ending. It’s a shame, admittedly, because I really did quite like this idea… but I do trust them to still make it work. Possibly.)

doctor who death in heaven review cybermen danny pink the brigadier rain steven moffat rachel talalay graveyard

Now, while there were plenty of other brilliant things in the episode (the Cloud base! Skydiving into the TARDIS! UNIT!) the ending was also where the episode began to dip in quality, so it makes sense, I suppose, to segue into my own criticisms of those moments.

Going in chronological order then…

I wasn’t impressed by the Brigadier. I know, I know, but hear me out here. Ultimately, his appearance was superfluous – we all know that the Master is coming back, so the Brigadier didn’t save the Doctor from any hard decisions or realities there. When the Master does come back, it’s simply going to make this moment look a bit rubbish, and the Brigadier ineffectual. And, also… where does that moment actually work, in terms of the plot? How does it work, in terms of the logic and the rules? Why didn’t the Brigadier fly away and explode with the other Cybermen? Perhaps more importantly, where is he now? The thing is, other than being kinda sad and touching for a few short moments, the whole thing really does just fall apart if you think about it, and doesn’t quite work as what it was meant to – a salute to the Brigadier. The inclusion of Kate really is enough.

Clara’s “Two weeks later” moment, Danny’s potential resurrection, wasn’t handled all that well I thought. Part of it was time restraints, I think, and it seemed like there might have been another draft which worked better. A lot of exposition was delivered by Clara, and very quickly, and then the glowy portal talking and the boy emerging happened faster still. Certain aspects of that were a bit contrived as well – it was pointed out on another site that it would have been better if the explanation was not that the bracelet was running out of power, rather that it could only take one person at a time in one direction at a time. Maybe then if that scene was longer, perhaps there’d be a little more time to process things, and for them to be better developed, meaning one would get the full impact from it, if that makes sense. (Mind you, I did like the Doomsday parallels, that was a nice touch.)

As well as that, not entirely convinced the boy had enough set up for his moment to work. He was, after all, entirely mute, and didn’t have a screen time totalling more than a few minutes across both episodes. There’s also the fact that, you know, he’s a very young child, probably doesn’t speak English, his parents are almost certainly dead, he comes from a war torn country, and he himself has been dead for a least a good couple of years – what exactly does Danny expect Clara to do here? Now, admittedly, I can’t quite think of a way to make it work better, which undercuts what I’m saying a little. The scene struck me as off, regardless.

doctor who death in heaven review samuel anderson danny pink clara oswald jenna coleman child boy antonio bourouphael

Final complaint, and perhaps an obvious one.

I didn’t like Santa Claus.

I know, I know. It was just… I think it was a mistake, to place that post credits scene there like that. It was tonally inconsistent to say the least, and completely at odds with the ending we’d just had for Clara. The problem isn’t Santa Claus himself – the Christmas special looks fantastic! – but rather the placement of his appearance was very, very jarring. In The Writer’s Tale, there’s a discussion between RTD and Ben Cook wherein they talk about the merits of having Cybermen turn up at the end of Journey’s End, after Donna’s goodbye moment. The decision in the end was to leave them out, because they’d distract from the emotion of the moment; a trailer at the end would do the same job of looking forward to the future.

It seems odd to me that a similar choice wasn’t made here, because the same arguments apply pretty much exactly. Even to the point that they played a trailer as well! Very odd. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but it did detract from the quality of the rest of the episode.

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Okay then so.

Death in Heaven.

In a nutshell?

Some excellent ideas. Some excellent execution of those ideas. But also, similarly, some flawed execution of those ideas, which ultimately brought it down a bit.

A mark out of ten is… difficult, I think. Really, it’s an 8.5 out of 10, but I dislike giving half marks. So I will, I think, round down to 8/10, because I don’t think it’s quite good enough for a 9.

(On another note, apologies for the lateness of this review. Real life got in the way, I’m sure you know how it is. Across this week, I am hoping to write pieces about the series as a whole, and the character arcs of the Doctor and Clara – I’d expect those to be up at some point around the weekend.)

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Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Doctor Who Review: Dark Water

doctor who review dark water steven moffat rachel talalay samuel anderson michelle gomez jenna coleman peter capaldi cybermen

Don’t cremate me.

I haven’t seen the episode yet actually.

I’m writing this at about ten to one on Saturday, so there’s still… uh… 7 and a quarter hours until the episode begins, give or take ten minutes. So, obviously, I’ve not seen any of the episode, bar the odd clip and trailer. I have nothing to go on, but for a few last minute theories and expectations…

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect. Whilst Clara will possibly have some sort of villainous role in proceedings, I’m fairly certain that it won’t be as obvious as portrayed in the trailer – because, you know, it’s the trailer, you wouldn’t put your surprise twist in the trailer. But Steven Moffat would definitely put in a bit of misdirection, and something that might be part of a bigger plot twist. So we’ll see really. I do hope that Clara’s character development across the series isn’t undone, because that’s been my favourite aspect of series 8.

The other big thing to comment on is Missy, I think. I’ve not really said anything about her so far, because there’s been little to say – we don’t actually know much in concrete, after all, and I’m generally unwilling to speculate much. (Mind you, all those corpses in the trailer, and that “Who would go to so much trouble to keep the dead?” line – I’d bet that they’re dead Clara echoes. Or at least some of them anyway.) I did always sort of assume she was going to be a new character, but I have recently been thinking about the possibility that she’s the Master, and… well, I’m coming around to the idea, certainly.

But enough of that. Time to talk about the episode proper! (I wonder what I think of it.)

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Damn.

That was a mighty impressive piece of television right there. If nothing else, I admire Moffat’s gall. And his panache, because he pulled this off… masterfully. 

I was just bowled over by this, to be honest. Really struggled to form any sort of coherent comments for quite a while afterwards – I don’t think I’ve been this impressed by an episode since The Day of the Doctor, and even then I was impressed for different reasons. This was simply astounding.

But I’ve jumped the headline a bit there. Start at the beginning, obviously.

Right from the off, this episode was amazing. Properly, honestly, really dramatic – these are the scenes that would mark Doctor Who out as one of the best dramas on television, not just ‘some science fiction show’. Danny’s death whilst talking to Clara – “I love you. Those three words from me are yours now, forever” – was remarkably poignant. That’s going to stay with people, I think, and it’s going to sit with them for a very long time. In years to come, when we’ve reached the 17th Doctor, the people running the show will point to this moment as what inspired them to be writers. It is honestly that good.

And, of course, just like Moffat of old, once the bar was raised high – it was raised higher. The confrontation between the Doctor and Clara was tense. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a companion fight with the Doctor like that, but this was absolutely note perfect; every beat of that confrontation, and the eventual explanation for it, worked perfectly. (I’m going to run out of synonyms at this rate, honestly.)

The reason it all worked so well, I think, was because of the confidence of the piece. This was a dark subject matter, there’s no two ways about it. Death is a fixture of Doctor Who, that’s true, but it’s rare for the show to deal with it head on like this, and to acknowledge the effects of it. To show Clara grieving, and the way she dealt with it, or Danny meeting the boy he killed, or the dead feeling their own cremation, were all quite mature themes and ideas – but they weren’t avoided, they weren’t hidden with euphemisms, they weren’t obfuscated with metaphors. They were dealt with head on, and done with real panache. That was one of the most impressive things about the episode; not just the strength of the writing, but the confidence of the writing as well.

doctor who dark water review peter capaldi michelle gomez missy the mistress the master twelfth doctor cybermen steven moffat rachel talalay

As per the usual, all the cast were amazing. (I’m probably going to have to invest in a thesaurus actually, that would probably be a useful purchase.)

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman were fantastic throughout; the confrontation scene between them, as I’ve already mentioned, was just electric. The Doctor, taking control, intimidating Clara and trying to talk her down. Clara, not listening, not moving, not losing any ground. One of the best scenes of the series, frankly, because of just how brilliant these two are. Please, please, let them both be around for series 9!

And speaking of series 9, I also want Samuel Anderson to stick around. Join the crew full time, even. He’s not just a replacement Rory, or a replacement Mickey; Danny Pink is a properly established character now, because of just how fantastic Samuel Anderson is. His performance is wonderfully nuanced. The final “I love you” to Clara was excellent, because he was deliberately pushing her away. He didn’t want to say anything else, because he didn’t want her to follow him. Fantastic.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the final revelation (after all, I’ve skipped so many brilliant things – the Cybermen, Chris Addison, Rachel Talalay’s direction) because it really was masterful. Oh, as if you didn’t see it coming.

The actual moment where Michelle Gomez (who is fantastic) said it, where they finally confirmed that, yes, Missy is the Master (not the Mistress, no one will call her that, she’s the Master) was one of the most impressive moments of the episode. I’ve said that about a lot of things. It’s true of them all! But really, I got chills there. I didn’t quite think they’d do it – but no, they did. Amazing.

Obviously, it’s difficult to judge what this Master will be like, because she really only got 15 minutes or so screen time here. The deciding factor is next week, really.

The same goes for the episode as a whole really. Difficult to give it a proper mark, because of course it wasn’t one discrete story, it’s going to be continued. But based on the skill and the confidence on display… I am entirely willing to give this episode 10/10.

Just… damn. It was that good.

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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