Doctor Who
Doctor Who Review: The Doctor's Going to Some Dark Places

Elizabeth Harper | 25 Aug 2014 05:00
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Androids in Search of the Promised Land
One sign these droids are a bit off: their leader proclaims, when asked, that they're searching for the promised land. When the Doctor confronts him in the escape pod -- which is actually just the restaurant he and Clara were in earlier -- he sits calmly at a table and pours both of them a drink, saying "I've got a horrible feeling that I'm going to have to kill you." But instead of making good on this threat, the Doctor simply asks the droid -- who he argues is now more human than machine -- what he thinks of the view.

It's certainly a dark turn for the Doctor, but probably not the darkest -- that still goes to Tennant's performance in The Waters of Mars -- and it's much more understated than what we would have likely seen from Tennant or Smith in the same position. Still, there's something very dangerous in the way he says it that makes you think the Doctor just might follow through. And when he follows up with: "Don't make assumptions about how far I will go to protect them because I've already come a very long way and unlike you... I don't expect to reach the promised land."

Yikes. That's some scary stuff. But the show leaves the question of whether the Doctor would or wouldn't hanging... at least for now. Instead of showing just what happens, we only see the two of them grappling in the doorway of the ship, and then the droid having fallen. We have no idea whether he fell, jump, or was pushed... and with this new Doctor, anything seems possible.

So What's the Final Judgement?
This episode was decent, and perhaps one of the better ones of the past few seasons -- but it's definitely not the best. Though it had its fair share of plot holes, the episode overall held together better than the recent Day of the Doctor or Time of the Doctor, in large part because it was trying to tell a single, straightforward story instead of stretching to tie together many disparate plot points like both Day and Time did.

Beyond that, the pacing in the episode was odd, featuring lots of domestic scenes with Vastra, Jenny, Strax, and Clara around the Paternoster household that were all entertaining -- but rarely tied into the main plot. All in all, they felt like filler designed to help the episode reach its just-over-90-minute running time, and though these moments weren't unwelcome (every interaction between Clara and Strax is pure comedic gold) it seemed like time that could have been spent fleshing out the plot or the character of the new Doctor.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman both gave stellar performances this episode, and though we've seen little of the two together so far, what we have seen could be the basis for a fantastic season of Doctor Who. However, we've also seen some of showrunner Steven Moffat's trademark crypticness, with hints and references to a much bigger story -- and sometimes those big stories can turn out to be more confusing and less entertaining than the relatively small story he told in this episode. Right now, things are up in the air: the season might get better or it might get worse.

Still, I'm enjoying Capaldi and Coleman enough that I intend to hang on for the ride.

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