Television: Doctor Who (Series 9, Episodes 1 – 6)

Posted 26 November, 2015 by Lianne in Entertainment / 6 Comments

Peter Capaldi returns as the Doctor alongside Jenna Coleman and guests including Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams. Now that the Doctor and Clara have established a dynamic as a partnership of equals, they’re relishing the fun and thrills that all of space and time has to offer. Tangling with ghosts, Vikings and the ultimate evil of the Daleks, they embark on their biggest adventures yet. Missy is back to plague the Doctor once more, the Zygons inspire fear as they shape-shift into human clones, and a new arrival moves in cosmic ways.

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Alrighty, Doctor Who is back! I admit, I wasn’t really thinking much about the show leading up to its series 9 premiere despite enjoying series 8 immensely and Peter Capaldi’s Doctor (see tag for my thoughts on previous episodes) but I think it was for the best as I would probably go nuts waiting despite all the books on my TBR queue to keep me preoccupied and other offline matters. I put off posting my reviews just to coincide it with Sci-Fi Month because it just made sense 🙂

The first six episodes of series 9 will be covered in this post. Contains MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!

Episode 9.01 – “The Magician’s Apprentice”

Oh my goodness, this series premiere! Really hit the ground running, this one. You kind of have to be familiar with what happened in series 8 to get some of the references and what Missy was up to, but otherwise it did a good job in setting up what the Doctor is facing in this episode. I’m surprised that they opted to go with a Davros story to start the series off and to go in deep with the idea of encountering a young Davros and the ethical dilemma there on what to do with him. It’s interesting to see this Doctor confront Davros because it’s such a contrast to the Fourth Doctor and what he was saying in that little clip we saw. (Speaking of which, I love the references made throughout this episode to previous Who episodes and story arcs outside of Moffat’s era: the Shadow Proclamation, the Time War, the Doctor’s references to him in a bow tie and a long scarf. Good times.) I’m cautious to see how things play out in the second part of this story arc–Davros won’t really die, let’s be real here, lol–but however it turns out it should be interesting for the Doctor, this Doctor.

Speaking of which, I loved how the Doctor didn’t show up until a good while into the episode (barring the opening, of course), leaving the other characters to establish themselves and figure out what’s going on with the planes on their own. Clara’s pretty comfortable and competent in handling the Doctor at this point, which is great. I’m not too happy with the way that Kate was portrayed here, not thinking about the fuel as problematic, in efforts to show how Clara is more keen as to what’s going on, but it was nice to see UNIT. As for Missy, hah, I wasn’t expecting her to show up so early in the series but she’s as biting as ever (“How’s your boyfriend? Still dead?” That was cold, yo). I actually enjoyed her and Clara working together, it’s an interesting chemistry and I look forward to seeing more of that.

And when the Doctor finally shows up, omg, best entrance ever. I had seen some of the promo pictures of this and was excited because I knew he played the guitar and stuff but to actually see the character come in playing the guitar–on a tank–and cracking jokes that don’t quite hit the mark, it was brilliant.

I’m probably missing a lot of other thoughts I want to mention here but suffice to say I really enjoyed the opening episode for series 9 and am looking forward to where the series is heading 🙂

Episode 9.02 – “The Magician’s Familiar”

Oops, my comments for this episode are going to be really brief because I actually didn’t get around to writing up my thoughts until much later :3 Hands down my favourite moment had to be the Doctor in Davros’ chair. Hahaha. And Davros giving the Doctor the only other seat available on Skios. Haha. Otherwise, it was an interesting continuation from the first episode: for a while I was sort of left thinking, “Omg, is this really happening, this exchange between the Doctor and Davros?” but in the end it devolves into Moffat’s usual who’s outwitting who so that left me sort of unimpressed.

Of course Clara and Missy didn’t die 😛 which once again leaves me wondering about Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who where death has been treated rather lightly as a kind of derailment in getting characters to certain places in the story. I did however appreciate how it ended up to be Missy to helped get the Doctor out of a tight situation (heh, pun intended?); I haven’t seen this happen very often in the last few series (that time with Clara in series 7 would’ve been a great example if it wasn’t for Matt Smith’s Doctor saving her at the end and jumping into his own time stream in the process -_-;), the last fantastic example being series 4’s “Midnight” (such an excellent episode, one of my favourites). But anyway, I thought Clara and Missy’s adventures together and underground were also interesting; how cold was it that Missy turned the tables in the end and tried to convince the Doctor to kill Clara who was in a Dalek.

One thing that did stand out for me that I think might carry on later towards the end of the series (because it seems blatant that this isn’t the last of Missy that we’ll be seeing of this series, I think): the Hunter. Who or what is it?

In retrospect, this is one of the better series openers I’ve seen by Moffat, it really hits the ground running and of course we see Peter Capaldi in his element again, expanding a bit with his character now that he’s played the Doctor for a series. I can’t wait to see where this series goes!

Episode 9.03 – “Under the Lake”

Brilliant, brilliant episode! I admit, I came into this episode a wee bit sceptical despite really liking the writer for this episode and his previous Who episodes (perhaps it’s because the trailer doesn’t say much? That and the last time we had an underwater episode it wasn’t as fantastic as I thought it would be?). But yeah, this episode doesn’t disappoint, it really felt like earlier Who episodes, classic or new, with a monster of the week and the mystery. Unlike Moffat’s episodes, I really felt afraid for these characters and was at the edge of my seat wondering whether they will all make it through or not. I also really cared for this little group of people as they figure out what the ship is and what exactly is going on with the ghosts they were seeing. I thought it was pretty smart without being over-the-top-“Look at me, I’m clever” how the inscription on the wall is a message, making all who look at it into a potential transmitter.

The Doctor is in top form in this episode. He really reminded me of David Tennant’s Doctor at times when he called the ghosts “Hello, beautiful” but he is wholly is own Doctor too. On a related note, it’s been a while since the TARDIS has randomly dropped the Doctor off somewhere and been acting queasy (in this case, afraid); again, I can’t help but remember David Tennant’s Doctor and the series 2 episode “The Impossible Planet.” But anyway, my favourite part had to be the cue cards though, omg, how hilarious was that?! I also like that he had a quiet moment with Clara before all hell broke loose, addressing Clara’s state of mind and present situation. It wasn’t really addressed in the season opener and I was wondering where Clara’s headspace is at post-Danny, post-Christmas episode.

If this commentary is short, it’s not because I didn’t like it–I loved it!–but because it’s just really an episode you need to watch and see for yourself. I don’t think I’ve felt so invested in everyone making it through this episode since…Well, regardless, it’s a fantastic episode, creepy and intriguing and funny in all of the right places. Can Toby Whithouse pleasepleaseplease come back next series to write more episodes? 😀

Episode 9.04 – “Before the Flood”

Alrighty, second half of this story arc! Firstly, hah, I thought that was an interesting opening for this second half, starting off with the Doctor giving a little introduction to the Bootstrap Paradox (yes, it’s on Wikipedia 😛 ) that sets the tone on how it will be incorporated in the episode. It’s a bit of a giveaway, as my family and I were talking about how the episode was going to work out (what happened to the Doctor, about the symbols on the wall and why the other dude (whose name escapes me at the moment) wasn’t killed last week when the ghost cornered him), but it was still entertaining to watch. Speaking of which, is it me or did this episode just go by way too quickly?! I was expecting a bit more to happen on the Doctor’s end when they went back into the past but yeah, I guess so much just happened over the course of the 40-something minutes.

I can’t say what my favourite parts of this episode was. Probably the Doctor’s confrontation with the Fisher King, if only because I really wished there were more scenes with the Fisher King. He was hella creepy, not to mention the interaction was very interesting because the Fisher King knew all about Time Lords and everything. But again, I wish his scenes were longer because he seemed like quite the nemesis for the Doctor, especially with the themes of time and life and death and the use of souls as transmitters. Oh! I did enjoy that opening sequence though, with the Doctor once again donning the electric guitar. Pleeeeeease tell me they’re keeping the electric guitar opening with the credits, I really liked it.

Other random notes: was very sad when O’Donnell was killed by the Fisher King. I had a feeling she was going to die just because of the way she was so enthused by the Doctor even in episode 9.03. But still, she was cool and I missed her for the rest of the episode. And Bennet was so 🙁 afterwards. I wished we had a bit more of a wrap-up there at the end, the way he was looking at her ghost…On an unrelated note, once again we have the story highlighting Clara and how easy it is for her to get people to do the hard things, in this case sending [name] to retrieve the iPhone when there’s ghosts all around. She has a point, but those ghosts are clever as we soon realise, and she’s really exhibiting characteristics similar to the Doctor. Again it just reinforces in my mind that things are not going to end well for her this series, look what happened to other companions that either wanted to stay with the Doctor forever or started exhibiting characteristics similar to the Doctor…

On a side note, that comment O’Donnell made about the Minister of War: something tells me this will crop up again later this series. Why else lump it with Harry Saxon, and we know how that turned out in series 3 😛

Anyway, another excellent episode! Definitely a standout so far for this series, and it worked a lot better than the opening two-parter because it really harkens back to older-school Who, not to mention I was just invested in everyone getting through. Episode 9.03 still feels the stronger of the two if only because the second half was a bit more predictable/confirms all the thoughts we were angling about over the week, but nonetheless it was a fantastic pay-off.

Episode 9.05 – “The Girl Who Died”

Is it me or are these episodes feeling really short lately? 😛 This time around the story was interesting enough but done too soon–the Mire was intriguing and the episode could’ve worked as a one-parter with Maisie Williams’ second episode appearing later in the series instead of right after–and in retrospect it did feel a little all over the place, as if they were trying to cram as much story and character moments as possible (hence the episode feeling really short overall).

So things I did like: again, the humourous side was great, the Doctor was on fire in this episode with the one liners and the zingers. The yo-yo, the catastrophe training the remaining Vikings in the village, giving the men new names because he doesn’t have time to remember their names–it was great. I would’ve appreciated the more dramatic moments a lot more–and don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it, it’s always interesting to see this Doctor still sort of figure himself out and what he can and can’t do–if, again, this episode was split up into two rather than the way they had set it up. Interesting that they decided to mention the whole “Why this face?” business now. I understand why in the context of this story that they chose to reveal it now, but after all of the hype and the talk about it in interviews, it wasn’t really a big reveal or anything, which was disappointing. On the plus side we got little flashback clips of the 10th Doctor and Donna so all is well 😛

Again we’re getting hints of Clara becoming more reckless, more Doctor-like in some instances, and the Doctor’s growing concerns about her. It just reinforces again in my mind that her exit might not be a great one given this show’s track record for what happens to companions when they stay a little too long…

Overall, I liked the episode enough, it was still entertaining to watch, but it just felt a bit much for a one-parter. I’d rather they had spread the story from this episode into a two parter and then moved the next episode later into the series, but what can you do? I really hope they keep up the storyline though with the Doctor’s decision to save Maisie Williams’ character at the end (we were calling her Arya throughout the episode, oops. Also, did the soundtrack sound more like the Winterfell theme? 😛 )

Episode 9.06 – “The Woman Who Lived”

Hmm, what can I say about this episode? It’s another solid episode for the series, but once again I feel like they should’ve moved this episode further down the viewing list, having the Zygon two-parter after episode 5 and then revisit Maisie Williams’ character after a while, just to feel the progression. I mean, obviously it’s been a while for both her and the Doctor but for the viewer it’s only been a week and we don’t quite feel the same measure of “Oh, hey I haven’t seen you in a little while!” or the passage of time quite as much.

Thematically I liked the episode, from that standpoint I see why it followed up the last episode, to follow the train of thought of the consequences of the Doctor’s actions and the notion of immortality, of time and people fleeting around them as they live on. It’s an interesting discussion and Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams shone with these dramatic moments, this struggle about Maisie’s character joining him or not (sorry, can’t spell her Viking name, and Lady Me just sounds weird). It’s funny, my family wanted him to just take her and I was like “Nooo! It’ll be terrible, they’re too similar, she’s too detached from her humanity already, they’ll become Timelord Victorious times ten!” xD But something tells me this isn’t the last time we’ve seen her.

Speaking of immortals, Captain Jack got a mention!!!

The actual plot was all right, though her betraying her and working with that alien was pretty predictable and silly on her part (of course he was going to betray you!). But the themes were great, I enjoyed watching Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams’ scenes–it was a bit more engaging this week than last week, probably because it was more about these characters this week whereas last week was more plot–but I think the feels for me came in the last ten minutes, starting with their last scene between the Doctor and Maisie’s character, followed by the Doctor with his electric guitar (so this is the kind of person he is now, a man who plays guitar every chance he gets), followed by that tiny little exchange between him and Clara that says so much. It’s like the big glaring death sign when the companion says that they aren’t going anywhere/will never leave the Doctor *le sigh*

Also: I accidentally called Sam the Swift Sam Smith. Oops. Freudian slip? 😛

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And that’s about it on my thoughts for the first six episodes of series 9 of Doctor Who! What did you think of this first half? The rest of my thoughts on the series will be going live on my blog in early/mid-December 🙂

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6 Responses to “Television: Doctor Who (Series 9, Episodes 1 – 6)”

  1. Great responses/review, Li, very in-depth! I wasn’t too fond of the first two episodes myself, too many Moffat-style thematics etc. But the others I very much enjoyed!

  2. YAY! I’m so happy that you did these again^^ I loved reading them last year ♥ This season started out REALLY strong, and I loved all of these episodes SO MUCH! The two part premiere might just be my favorite of the Moffat-era. Twelve’s entrance in ep.1 was excellent but yeah, my favorite was him in Davros’ chair in ep.2 XD Missy is such a highlight too, I wish she would be in more episodes – she’s just brilliant! Under the Lake and Before the Flood were amazing too, much improved as an underwater adventure over the last one. I adored the cue-cards and I agree that Capaldi really does remind me of Tennant at times – but I agree that he’s entirely his own Doctor too 🙂 Bootstrap Paradox FTW 😀 And finally, The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived were pretty solid too…if I remember correctly, I prefered the second part to the first one but they were still quite good as a whole. I already can’t wait for your part 2 discussion of these!! ♥

    • Aww, thank you! I’m glad you enjoy my DW posts :3 I was pleasantly surprised at how strong this first half was (despite me still wishing for episode 5 to have been split to two). I love how, despite the fact that we’ve established the Twelfth Doctor last season, he still continues to surprise us this series (like with the cue cards and showing up in episode 2 in Davros’ chair, haha). I can’t believe it’s already the season finale on Saturday! Seems like yesterday the season started airing…

  3. The episodes with Maisie Williams, particularly the 2nd, were definitely my faves of these six. I honestly found the opening two-parter so so dull! And the ghosts one was quite cool, but again, it dragged on too long…

    • It was amazing to watch Maisie Williams and Peter Capaldi together on-screen, facing off or otherwise. Definitely a standout in those episodes!

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