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.
And I’m back with my thoughts on the last six episodes of series 9 will be covered in this post; my thoughts on the first six episodes of this series can be found in this post. Contains MAJOR SPOILERS ahead!
Episode 9.07 – “The Zygon Invasion”
I have to say, this season has really been hitting it out of the ballpark with the episodes. This was another episode where, by looking at the trailer, I wasn’t terribly excited for, especially as this directly ties to the 50th anniversary special (which left me 50/50; review). But a) Moffat didn’t write this episode *whew!*, and b) the trailer left out a lot of the good stuff. Which is good; I hate it how nowadays trailers pretty much give away the whole thing.
I can easily draw a lot of parallels from this episode to current events, which I won’t list out here. Suffice to say the peace between the Zygons (who curiously disappeared off the story in the 50th anniversary with the shift of storyline focus) and the humans are breaking down. The re-emergence of the Zygons allows for the character of Osgood, whom we saw died under the hands of Missy last series, to return, as well as UNIT. Bonus awesomeness for Rebecca Front to guest-star as the hardened UNIT officer as reuniting with fellow The Thick of It cast mate Peter Capaldi 😀 I sort of saw where the story was heading early on, and thought it was really freaky how everyone sort of split up, especially Kate Stewart without backup, but it did add to the tension when the Zygon plans were fully revealed.
Also, that reveal of Clara/Bonnie at the end? Chilling! Jenna Coleman must’ve had a kick playing bad!Clara for a change.
The “hybrid” comment popped up again. It’s like “spot the reference!” this series with the whole hybrid thing. Not subtle at all -_-; Nonetheless it does raise questions as to what this prophecy is, who is involved, who from all the candidates we’ve seen so far will show up in the finale? Kind of the same goes for Jenna Coleman’s exit; every episode I find myself asking if this is the episode that Clara goes because, honestly, she’s been in a number of especially precarious situation this series and it all points to a very bad end…
The 12th Doctor all rockstar and going on the presidential airplane cracked me up big time. He was on point this episode again, from playing “Amazing Grace” on his electric guitar at the beginning of the episode to that comment he made about the Zygons taking over the UK and pinching people’s benefits (very biting comment there, Doctor, but subtly delivered). I came into this episode not terribly excited but now I’m greatly looking forward to the second half!
Episode 9.08 – “The Zygon Inversion”
So this episode picks up more or less right after the events of the last episode. The pacing continues to tumble along towards the final showdown, learning more about what the Zygon fraction is after and how they planned on achieving their goals. I enjoyed watching Jenna Coleman as Bonnie, commanding the fraction, facing Clara and the Doctor. I guess it’s because we get to see Jenna work with a different role within the show for a change. Also, lmao at the Doctor and his browser (he’s gotten quite tech-savvy over the seasons/regenerations) and his Union Jack parachute “camoflage.” The continued interaction between Osgood and the Doctor was also interesting, and Osgood wearing classic!Doctor outfits with the question marks seemed fitting with the Doctor’s continuous questioning of “Who are you? Human or Zygon?” and Osgood evading the question.
While the acting was great, gosh, guys, the last fifteen minutes of the episode was absolute cringe-worthy to watch. Like, yes, the Doctor is prone to giving little speeches every so often but unfortunately a) this was waaaaaaaay too long, I swear Peter Capaldi looked positively drained at the end, and not because his character was at the end of his attempts to get Bonnie to back down, b) I could absolutely tell that Steven Moffat wrote that scene =|, and c) ugh, the references to the 50th anniversary episode. I get the intent behind the speech, and the message that Moffat is hitting us over the head with, but I have not reconciled myself with that episode. So no. A whole lot of nope. And I feel terrible because I could see the actors giving it all there, but that scene was absolutely difficult to watch. In a not-so-dramatic way.
Also, wtf, enough with wiping Kate Stewart’s memory already! The woman is a badass and is keeping things together when the Doctor’s not around, there’s no need to constantly wipe her memory. Not to mention continuously using her merely as a stand-in for the military force segment of the argument. If the Brigadier were only there…
So yeah, the episode was a good enough a conclusion to the two-parter but the last fifteen minutes could’ve been written differently, done differently. I’ve seen it all before, and yeah, it was just, no (which then goes without saying that I’m not looking forward to the finale). But anyway, next episode looks great!
Episode 9.09 – “Sleep No More”
Well, hmm, this was an interesting episode. Its format I can imagine turned some people off but it’s different, which I can always appreciate (as an aside, I read somewhere that episode 11 this series is also quite experimental. I’m rather curious about that too). On top of the shaky cam, the dark lights and hallways, the back-and-forth zooms between characters, it was also a pretty creepy watch, which I really appreciated (if I was a kid watching this episode I’m sure I would’ve had difficulty falling asleep!). The idea of minimising the hours you spend sleeping through this Morpheus machine was interesting, and again creepy, and the Sandmen that emerged from the scientist’s ongoing experiments to the machine were creepy.
The episode wasn’t the best–there were some weird moments like why weren’t the soldiers trying to shoot at the Sandmen earlier and characters standing around for a bit before acting (but only when things got really bad). It also ended rather abruptly, which probably confused viewers. On the one hand I understand why it ended the way it did, since we were watching the episode in a found footage format. On the other hand, it felt a lot like series 7’s “Hide” where the episode ends abruptly and you’re left sitting there thinking “Well, o-kay…The Doctor was able to stop him though, right?” Like, it didn’t seem quite so cathartic and you’re assuming that the Doctor went off and stopped the transmission and stopped the station from reaching Triton.
Despite of these little quibbles, it was still an enjoyable episode in that it succeeded in freaking me out and keeping me concerned for all of the characters involved. The Doctor was amusing as always (he once again reminded me of the 10th Doctor at one point–is it maybe a Scottish thing?) but also pressed to getting some answers. Clara’s imminent departure is once again hinted at in this episode, albeit subtlely. But yeah, the final act didn’t seem quite so cathartic as it could’ve been.
Episode 9.10 – “Face the Raven”
So after weeks of speculating, this is it. Clara’s final episode (alive) as the Doctor’s companion. I think I mentioned it before but I knew this was the only exit as this point for Clara’s character; there was no way she would be able to, at this point, walk away from the Doctor after everything she’s been through and what she’s been able to experience during her time with him. She had plently of opportunities and exit routes over the course of two and a half series to leave (the time she was angry with him in series 8 and the big one being last year’s Christmas special, which would’ve been a perfect time to leave, actually, however sad that would’ve been). Coupled with her increasingly reckless behaviour and her line of thought more or less running paralle with the Doctor at this point, yeah, it was coming.
And it was sad. Unlike Amy & Rory’s exit, which had its problems, this one seemed final and the set up made sense. Alas that the actual story sort of went to the background as a result of all this–namely Clara’s exit and secondly who sprung the trap–but Clara went out on her terms, saving Rigsy’s life (despite of what the ruse turned out to actually be). It wasn’t so much a swan song as Matt Smith’s exit as the Doctor, which is good too; my only quibble is that her final goodbye with the Doctor was a bit too long (raven was taken its sweet time there. Also: did Moffat write this bit?!). Despite of my cautious enthusiasm over the years on how the character was portrayed and handled, her characterisation improved significantly in series 8 and I will miss Jenna Coleman as the Doctor’s companion. I’m also glad that she got a bit of a tour de force in this series, whether it was working with Michelle Gomez’ Missy or playing Bonnie, Clara’s Zygon double. I look forward to Jenna’s future work.
Ooh, my favourite scene in this episode had to be when he confronted Ashildr (hey, finally used her name–sort of) and he was raging that she take the tattoo off Clara or he would rain hell down on that street. I think you guys know that I always found the Timelord Victorious complex fascinating and chilling, and David Tennant was pretty good and intense with that but omg at that moment it felt like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor was going into full-blown Timelord Victorious mode to save Clara. And I mean, yes, he’s trying to save her and is desperate at this point, but with his timelord abilities and everything it felt like he would bring hell at that moment. It was terrifying and it was just amazing to watch Peter Capaldi at that moment. You could just feel it. And what he said at the end to her, for her to stay out of his way and for them never to cross paths or else…He didn’t even have to raise his voice and you knew, you just knew. If I wasn’t so bloody annoyed by Ashildr I would actually want her to come back next series just to see how the Doctor would respond (“Human Nature”/”The Family of Blood” anyone?)
Also, interesting how this episode feeds in to the final two episodes of this series. I wasn’t expecting that. I admit, seeing this episode and vaguely knowing who/what was behind this trap that was sprung on the Doctor, I reckon the Doctor is going to be very very angry in the last episode. And I’m looking forward to it 😛
Briefly, it was nice to see Rigsy again, sad as these circumstances were. And how cute was his daughter? (And the Doctor’s response to her :P) The story was interesting, maybe a little too fast-paced but it was intriguing how it devolved for a moment into a procedural type show as they were trying to get Rigsy out of his situation. Alas, I hope he was able to go home safely.
Episode 9.11 – “Heaven Sent”
I mentioned this in the other episode but I was looking forward to this episode because I heard it was quite experimental. And talk about experimental when I first saw the trailer; Peter Capaldi is pretty much alone in this episode with almost no one else to interact with. This doesn’t happen often–if at all–in this show so I was curious to see how it was handled, what the atmosphere was like, not to mention the additional case of the trap that was sprung on his in the last episode and the fact that Clara is dead at this point.
Having watched it, I really liked it despite again Moffat using a few familiar tropes of his (how is it whenever his Doctor is by himself sans companion on an unknown place massive amounts of time goes by? *sorry, I can’t help but point this out) but overall the ambitiousness of this episode does pay off. It’s creepy with that strange veiled creature dragging itself around and you can see where it is at through the monitors. One of the jump scares were a little obvious but it was nonetheless entertaining; this episode is definitely up there with “Under the Lake”/”Below the Flood” in terms of suspense factor!
The episode of course highlights Peter Capaldi’s acting range, which was brilliant as always, perhaps moreso as he’s in this fish bowl of a strange and personalised puzzle trap. The castle definitely highlights the Doctor’s secretiveness and some of the things he’s long kept close to his chest, which again is channelled through Peter Capaldi’s superb acting. I can only imagine how exhausting this episode must be not only in its physicality but also for the theatrical nature of the episode but he pulls is off quite superbly and once again shows how much he can really carry the show. As an aside, I’m not sure how I feel about the Doctor’s “thinking” moments in the TARDIS and Clara writing on the blackboard only because it reminds me of BBC Sherlock and Sherlock’s mind palace. But it was very useful in conveying what’s going through the Doctor’s head as he’s figuring out a way out of the castle.
By the way, Murray Gold was soooooooo on point in this episode: I have to re-watch it again but I think we got something of a variation of the “Trenzalore” track, which would’ve been a hint of what exactly was going on if you didn’t get spoiled from the epsiode description of the last episode, but I love the variation on Mozart’s “Requiem” running throughout the episode. Sometimes the music was perhaps a little intrusive when the Doctor was talking, but otherwise it was brilliant. The music was a standout in this episode from the whole series.
Also, the castle they used to film this episode is gorgeous <3 I loved the ornate rooms he was racing through as he was figuring the place out 🙂 They really made good use of those narrow hallways too... Overall I have to say this has to be the first Moffat-written episode in a long time that I've actually enjoyed. Last series had its moments but they weren't quite as fascinating and as nuanced as this one. Or maybe because it was Peter Capaldi who drew me in from start to finish. I don't know. Nonetheless I'm now very curious to see how the final episode will go down...it could go either way, really...
Episode 9.12 – “Hell Bent”
Okay, I had to give myself a few days before I could write a coherent note here about the series 9 finale because my initial review I think did not explain very well why I felt the way I did about the finale. What do I mean? Well, this was my general, PG reaction to the episode:
Not my gifs. Miss 9 and 10 *tear*
PSA: If you enjoyed the finale, you may want to turn away now because I’m about to go into a lengthy discourse here 😉
So no, compared to the majority of the fandom/professional reviewers, I did not enjoy the finale. Moffat has managed to undo all my good faith and excitement about this series as a whole in the span of 60 minutes–actually, less, when I realised where things were heading in the episode. Now, I don’t mind when a story or a finale veers from the epic to the personal as long as it makes sense and the build-up warrants it. The problem for me is, Clara’s story was done. Period. She miscalculated, her recklessness and Doctor-like behaviour came to a head, and she faced the consequences of that miscalculation when she accepted her death. It was sad and it was brave, it was for the most part well-executed as an episode, the acting was solid (as it has ben all series) and while it was sad that this was it for her character, I felt satisfied enough in that the character arc was capped. Finito. I knew she was going to appear in the finale in some form, but to pull her out a second before her death–well, okay, fine, it does highlight how far the Doctor was going off to save Clara and breaking all kinds of personal codes of conduct and laws of the universe–but the resolution…Argh, okay, I was expecting for her to remind the Doctor that she made a decision (which she reminded him, I should add), and I was anticipating that she would be the one to somehow reverse/correct the Doctor’s mistake, and walk back to her point of death. It would be that final reminder as a Companion to the Doctor about how you can’t save everyone all the time when the time has come, that humanity and that fragility of time and importance of life to the fullest until it ends…
And instead she’s taking the long way around back to Gallifrey with her own TARDIS, a Companion (of sorts–more on that), and stuck in that moment between life and death until then but in the meantime will continue doing what she’s been doing all along. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it. It’s not satisfying. Yes, I know that her death is still inevitable, and yes it’s natural for us as humans to try to cling on to life as much as we can through whatever exit sign is available, but this loophole (let’s call it that) undoes all of the build-up and the emotional impact of “Face the Raven” and that initial realisation of what she’d done. The consequences of her actions and her behaviour prior just suddenly becomes inconsequential even though the final moment will still happen…eventually.
And Ashildr’s her companion? I believe I noted it in my previous review that I was against her and the Doctor travelling together because they were too much alike; she would not balance the Doctor’s eccentricity and alienness or ground him in some “human” measure of mortality, compassion, etc. And I don’t think she’ll be able to do the same with Clara because at this point Clara’s become too similar to the Doctor–willing to put people in the line of fire to figure things out, sort of losing touch with what other people are feeling (“Under the Lake”/”Before the Flood” was a good example of this where other people have pointed this out to her)–that I can foresee a whole universe of trouble rather than adventure and girl power. Additionally, Ashildr since episode 6 has become something of a strange story problem: what do you do with her? The Doctor obviously has committed yet another boo-boo by leaving her to her own devices, so he has some fault there, but what else/where else can you do with such a character? Not to mention I can’t help but I feel her characterisation hasn’t gone forward or changed since for me to feel like she would be a suitable companion to Clara, but I’m probably reading too much into the companion dynamics at this point.
Oh, and while I adore Peter Capaldi and Maisie Williams’ scene at the end of the universe, I was expecting a bit of this:
Not my gifs. Gosh, where’s Malcolm Tucker when you need him?
Actually, correction, I was expecting the whole episode to be that gif
I also feel like this episode was a massive series of missed opportunities to move the story forward instead. The return to Gallifrey, a pissed off Doctor confronting the Time Lords (of which I was hoping for the fallout from the Time War, the time lock, and all the stuff that happened in between to be addressed–let’s face it, there’s a lot of stuff brewing here that needs to be aired out), the Sisterhood of Karn (seriously, how were they there? And not telling the Doctor all this time? Douche move on their part)–it’s all the makings of what could be a really good storyline, especially as this is the first episode we’ve had in the rebooted series to feature Gallifrey. But no, it was all moot points here (and don’t get me started with the Hybrid plot point–you could’ve edited out every reference to it in the series and it wouldn’t have greatly impacted the series as a whole): Rassilon was dispatched early and rather anticlimactically (and Donald Sumpter was sorely underused here), the Doctor destabilised the government of Gallifrey in the span of twenty minutes, and that was that =/
Ruminating through all of this, I came to conclusion that a) when it comes to two parters, Moffat’s not very good with the second half (in retrospect, series 8’s “Dark Water” was much stronger than “Death in Heaven”) and therefore b) what should’ve happened was there should have been another Doctor-Clara adventure episode, have “Face the Raven” in the episode 11 slot and have “Heaven Sent” as the series finale episode (which was by far stronger). Can you imagine the final shot of the season being him walking towards the domed city on Gallifrey? How epic would that have been? Granted the Christmas episode either wouldn’t happen or would be some kind of flashback, but then the writers would have proper time to plan and craft out a storyline starting on Gallifrey in series 10. Missed opportunities, yo.
I feel awful writing this (and if you stuck around to read this to the end, I’m so sorry), but I was disappointed by this episode. Moffat has once again undone a rather poignant emotional moment (not the first time, I should add) and once again reinforcing that no one really dies under his writing except Danny Pink and Osgoode (whichever Osgoode it was that time). And it’s sad because I was really enjoying this series, it was fun and pretty solid for the most part. As always Peter Capaldi is in top form and I really like his Doctor and if the writing and build-up had been better, I would’ve appreciated the finer points of his Doctor spiraling into some eerie version of Timelord Victorious here (albeit on a personal, do-anything-to-save-Clara route). But this finale was littered with wasted opportunities in advancing some storylines and exploring new avenues of storytelling (*cough*Gallifreyandthefalloutthere*cough*) by revisiting a storyline that already concluded. It was disappointing. Maybe I should press reset somewhere in my brain and think that the series ended last episode and then jumped somehow to the Christmas episode:
(Granted, I’m also wary of River Song showing up because of the way her story was handled after series 5, but this looks fun! And it should be interesting to watch her interact with this Doctor. And namely the Doctor smiling again)
Oh, and before I forget: the last scene of the Doctor in his TARDIS was lovely. And he got a new sonic screwdriver! (it’s TARDIS blue too, so cool =D) Oh, and we got to see the retro TARDIS for a bit too; also very cool.
So, what did you think of these episodes of Doctor Who and/or about series 9 as a whole? I thought it started off strong with a lot of good episodes and moments; I think the first half of the series was a lot stronger/more interesting than the latter half, but it was pretty solid and enjoyable (a la series 1-5) until it pewtered out for me at the finale there. I think you can figure out what my episodes are? 😉
- “Under the Lake”
- “Before the Flood”
- “Heaven Sent”
On a final note: have you guys seen this? *self-implodes*