I had seen some episodes of Doctor Who being rerun on PBS in the early 90s. It was utterly ridiculous and impenetrable to me. I couldn’t tell you the Doctor in it, nor the stories I saw, but it was not for me. I saw the Fox television movie, and… I was interested to see more of it, back then, but there wasn’t anything to see.
I gave it a shot when the series was revived on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was still utterly ridiculous, but it wasn’t incomprehensible. I would start, and stop watching it at random. The first time I started watching regularly was with the introduction of Matt Smith. BBC America made a big push to air it the same day as episodes aired in the UK, along with an all-out marketing blitz. Billboards for Doctor Who!
I also introduced Jason to the show. He still hasn’t watched anything from before Matt Smith, and doesn’t want to. To him, Matt Smith is The Doctor, and Amy and Rory are his companions. The last season with them disappointed him, and he didn’t like Clara because the character was a bland nothing for a whole season. I can’t say that I disagree with him.
There is an uneven, up-and-down mess with the episodes during this showrunner’s run. Casting is always good, character moments are very often well-executed, but narratives have been unreliable. Often episodes end with twists we saw coming, or with just a bunch of made-up stuff in the last five minutes. They’re more like episodes of Scooby-Doo.
Perhaps Moffat’s plot logic is more pronounced now that the Doctor has changed? Capaldi is a very serious actor (even when he’s being comedic, he plays it completely straight). The episodes, for the most part, have had serious, life-and-death moments where this Doctor has given up on saving people in under a second. Clara provides the touch of humanity, and morality, missing from our new Doctor – a role she didn’t have last season (series? Blah.)
To be perfectly clear: I don’t hate Doctor Who at all, but I am regularly disappointed in it. I am given to understand that this season has been particularly polarizing with different fans liking, and disliking, various episodes with seemingly little rhyme or reason. At least I don’t hate Doctor Who, like this guy in Manchester. I think we can all agree that he’s the real problem.
Seriously though, it’s just a TV show. Hate’s a strong word.
I hate this episode. Moffat started by cutting in on an event in progress — a thing he loves to do – and it was confusing nonsense. The dinosaur was a ridiculous spectacle. We met up with the old gang, and the Doctor had some funny lines, and then we started doing a bunch of things that made no sense.
The things that happen in the episode are motivated around getting characters to pair off in certain ways to have conversations, and not conversations motivated by the story. Instead of, “What would he say if this happened?” It was, “How can I get them together so he can say this?”
I despise this writing. I’m watching a story, not a pile of index cards with yarn connecting them.
There’s a perfectly wonderful scene with Clara and The Doctor in the restaurant, but it doesn’t save all of the other scenes where people enter and leave rooms just to have conversations. Indeed, the first kiss between female actresses was explained by a whole lot of breathing based on sight nonsense. They could just kiss because they love each other, you know!
That skin balloon. Oy vey.
We’re also shown this year’s mystery, Missy. Jason asked me who she was and I said she was this year’s crack in the wall. The crack worked because it was simple. (The payoff on what the crack was is another matter entirely…) We don’t need a crack every year. Also, the worst cracks have been the ones with actors. I know Moffat is trying to go for a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer thing, but Moffat does it as a mystery instead of a villain with scenes and a motive. We don’t get the Mayor conspiring, and eating people, we get purposefully obtuse stuffing.
I confess to having a preconceived dislike of the episode when I saw the preview and the title. Honey, I Shrunk us in to the Dalek starts with action (of course), and establishes some kind of conflict with Daleks. The effects here were atrocious. I don’t usually bad-mouth VFX, but it was a ship, stars, and some asteroids. No characters, no deforming geometry, this should be a cakewalk in 2014.
We quickly find out we need to go inside a Dalek with a shrinking device. Then we go to scenes with Danny Pink, and Clara Oswald at a school in England. These secenes all work surprisingly well. Then the Doctor shows up and takes Clara over to go inside the Dalek with him and we go back to the bad plot in this story.
The whole thing is laughable, but without the laughs. Shrinking people is always silly. Always. To make this serious instead of a comedy is a huge error. This isn’t even Whedon-esque where the characters comment on all the silliness of the things that are happening.
The Doctor is in denial about there being such a thing as a good Dalek, when… Uh… That’s happened more than once, actually. Most recently with a version of Clara copied through time that made soufflés. Clara is kind of with him, so it seems a bit odd to forget that time…
The inside of the Dalek was goofy. So. Goofy. Here’s some flexible, corrugated, plastic duct work. Let’s just put it everywhere! There are lit-up status lights, which seem like a bizarre thing to include at the scale they’re supposedly in. Think of how small those bulbs must be. Even the tiny, hovering antibodies, which seem directly taken from Let’s Kill Hitler are silly. They have a beam that vaporizes and vacuums people away to a waste reclamation system? These things are smart enough to divine the source of a grappling hook, but not see a bunch of tiny people as a threat?
To quote from one of my favorite movies:
Gwen DeMarco: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn’t have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here?
Jason Nesmith: ‘Cause it’s on the television show.
Gwen DeMarco: Well forget it! I’m not doing it! This episode was badly written!
The stupid thing was fixing the Dalek after all that talk about the Dalek’s memory system. Of course, things go south. They realize that maybe the memory thing is not a good thing to have on. The Dalek says “Resistance is futile” twice, but once was enough, thank you.
The Doctor stands in front of a greenscreen and gives a speech while Clara crawls through … Uh… A service duct? Turning on light-up memory circuits like this is HAL 9000?
Hooray the Dalek kills the other Daleks and we can all live happily ever after!
My favorite part of this is when the Dalek tells the Doctor that he’s “the good Dalek”. It adds a layer to all of it.
We also get Missy, serving tea. So, here’s the crack again. In another jarring scene.
This is my favorite episode from this season. That is a controversial pick, because this episode is goofy. I criticized In to the Dalek for not acknowledging that it was ridiculous. This episode, in contrast, doesn’t take itself seriously at all. In fact, the Doctor is funny because he doesn’t believe in what is happening instead of going along with all of it.
The absolute worst part, of course, is the gold, and the golden arrow. None of that makes a lick of sense whatsoever, and it is the part that weighs down the episode. This is writing to have a teamwork moment happen, rather than writing what would happen and then inserting teamwork around it. Lazy, really.
I thought the Sheriff was a little odd. It didn’t seem to make any sense why the robots would follow his commands. Though there seemed to be some hinting at him being a robot. It was peculiar. I found out after the episode that he was supposed to be a cyborg of some kind, rebuilt by the robots after he was crushed by their ship. This was revealed in a beheading scene that was cut out of respect for current events. All very understandable.
We also get a reference to The Promised Land, but no Missy. This is also the second of three episodes to feature a crashed ship run by robots preying upon humans in England, in the past. So… Probably could have spaced those out a little more.
I hated this episode. None of the motivations for events made any sense at all. The Doctor starts the episode off by wondering, aloud, if it was possible for a creature to hide itself perfectly. This theory is seemingly confirmed by some rolling chalk, and the word “listen” scrawled on the chalkboard.
Danny Pink and Clara are going on a date. The date doesn’t go well and Clara returns home filled with regret. This is a very Clara heavy episode, and I don’t object in the slightest.
We get the weird telepathic circuits we’ve never seen before and we’re off to Danny Pink’s past because Clara couldn’t get him off her mind. Clara, however, lies to the Doctor at every turn about how much she’s thinking about Danny Pink, or why they would be here.
The thing on the bed is… well it could be anything, really. The Doctor is strangely non-confrontational toward it. His whole plan was to catch one, and here it is, and his big plan is to let it get away. Why? Well the reason is that Steven Moffat wants us not to know so he can do this again.
Clara lies some more and asks to go to her date. She wants to walk in at the point where she stormed out. Which is great except she forgot her coat and she totally makes everything worse. Now Danny is the one that leaves. This is interesting, this effect of time travel on relationships is fascinating to explore. Too bad about the spacesuit wandering through the restaurant full of people totally unshaded by seeing it! I really thought that was a horrible way to end the scene. It makes no logical sense, none of the patrons react, he doesn’t talk to Clara, and then they’re back on the TARDIS. The whole time, Clara is mad because she thinks it is The Doctor, it is not, it is Danny Pink with different hair!
Turns out that the Doctor scrounged around with the telepathic info he found from Clara, and it pointed him to some other person in the Danny Pink lineage. Clara lies some more about this.
Apparently, his name is Orson, and he’s from the not-too-distant future when humanity started to test their own time travel ships. He got lost at the end of the universe. The Doctor went there, retrieved him, suited him up, sent him in to a restaurant to retrieve Clara, and then took them all back to the end of the universe. Sure. Why not?
The Doctor is convinced that Orson knows something about the unseen creatures and decides to keep them all there to spend the night –there is apparently a night at the end of the universe, but that’s because night is scary, not because night is logical. This reveals the glow-in-the-dark reminder Orson wrote for himself not to let things in through the looked door.
The Doctor wants to let the things in. This is stupid for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because it is the exact opposite of how he handled things in the orphanage.
Yay it’s nothing, for reasons, and we can all go home. What a good use of an hour.
I don’t mind that it wasn’t a monster –or robots on a crashed ship– but why does anyone do any of the things they do in this episode? They didn’t even do those inconsistent, poorly-reasoned things to get us to some interesting conclusion. The most interesting part about it was the soap opera that is Danny and Clara.
We start off with more stuff about dates, and then a phone call. The phone call cuts directly to a dark room where Clara and the doctor are joined by two other people and they’re all holding worms.
This is the most interesting opening of the season. Everything was normal, then something mysterious happened. We didn’t start on a scene of them in action like Moffat likes to do. We got the chance to breath, establish things, and upend it all.
A voice recording establishes, to their immediate satisfaction, that they all consented to this. There is a mysterious Architect. They must all get in a crazy bank, and take stuff, using their unique abilities.
They run away from some ineffective law enforcement and we establish that one character has a computer in his head, and the other is a shapeshifting mutant human (this lets her genetically copy people, but that doesn’t make sense of she’s a mutant because then the gene that lets her do that wouldn’t match the targets genes.)
They go in the bank using a genetic identity that was gifted to them by The Architect.
They witness a creature, called The Teller (what’s with all the THEs?!) detect the guilt of someone else and cave in the guy’s brain. This is all directed by a very prim, posh, head of security. She is so arch, and her dialog so campy, that it makes the circle from ‘bad’ to ‘good’.
The Teller detects none of the guilt from the four people that know they have to rob a bank. Because, apparently, they didn’t know enough about how they would do it to be perceived as guilty.
Our robbers enter a room and they satisfy a genetic lock. The Doctor then uses a device from the case that he thinks is a bomb, and they shift part of the floor to another dimension, complete with burn marks, and then they shift the floor back and there are no burn marks. That’s not really how burning things works, but whatever.
They spread out and find another case. There are syringe-looking things inside the case and the Doctor guesses it will kill them. Which is an odd conclusion to jump to…
This is when logic was strained for me, because the case needed to be placed there, which means someone got past the security before. The Doctor says it might have been another team that was caught. It seems more likely that someone with a go-almost-anywhere box put it there.
They run through some corridors and there are things. They do the patented Wander Past the Sleeping Creature but Accidentally Wake Them Up Maneuver and we loose Sabra. This scene is really protracted and ends with something that looks more like a teleporter than a disinitigtrator. There’s probably a reason for that!
They moop about the “dead” person, except the Doctor, because he’s used to leaving a trail of dead extras in his wake. We get a vault thing and the Teller is awake, so they need to split up, because their telepathic trace will be weak, or something. Cyberpunk sacrifices himself to save Clara and uses another syringe. It was pretty clear to me at this point that The Doctor was The Architect and that they were being teleported. What wasn’t clear was if he was intentionally lying to them, or if he genuinely didn’t know. His callousness led me to believe it was the former, so I guessed wrong there.
We get in to the vault, and we get stuff that will magically repair Cyberpunk’s memory, Mystique-Rogue’s shapeshifting, give Clara ruby slippers, and give the Doctor a brain. I was kidding about two of those because they were captured.
They’re taken to the head of security, after a Bond speech she leaves them to be disposed of by her henchmen. One of the henchmen has no helmet, which is the first time we’ve seen this in the whole episode. It’s kind of important or the morph wouldn’t look as interesting. Surprise!
They all go to the private vault now, through some very wide ducts. The vault is filled with the contents of a 1920s propmaster’s dreams, and we meet the villain behind the bank. She looks like the head of security. She’s not, and she fires the head of security. Which will consist of burning the clone. She hates her clones.
We get a scene where the doctor finally puts it all together and says that he is The Architect. If you are in the audience, and you were remotely surprised by this reveal, then I have a bridge to sell you.
This is when we find out that the terrible line about not being able to trust someone with your own eyes was there just to set up a moment here at the end. Of course. Still doesn’t make any sense really. There are a lot of people that would really… uh… trust all over the place with themselves.
She leaves, because the solar storm got worse and bad things might happen to the planet. The Doctor gives her his number because he predicts she will feel guilty when she’s old and call him to set this all in motion. Indeed, editing and makeup reveals this to be true.
That doesn’t make sense though because she would have only called him after all this happened and he gave her the number. It’s a paradox. Oh well, no time for that, I guess? The Teller is here and he’s going to kill them! But wait, The Doctor figured out the thing that kept The Teller in their service, a captive mate.
They use the 6 teleporter syringes –which are fortunately immune to the effects of a planet-destroying solar storm– and they all escape. They drop off the aliens to somehow form a genetically viable population like they were on Noah’s Ark. We’ll name them George and Gracie. Celebratory take-out Chinese food for everyone!
We end on Clara going on the date she was planning on at the start of this episode.
Overall this episode was fine. If I didn’t see the twists so soon, then it might have been more enjoyable. My viewing companion for these episodes agreed Time Heist was fine, but he didn’t see any of the reveals coming. He just hated the ending in the Private Vault onward.
He still misses Amy and Rory though.
We start on a giant, alien monster crushing East London. There’s so much screaming, and no one knows what’s going on. We see the TARDIS flying around the alien monster, and The Doctor in the door, unspooling a cable. He’s wrapping it around the monster. Inside the TARDIS are two people the audience has never seen before. Monsieur Mars, an Ice Warrior stranded in France since the 1950’s, and his valet/lover Aristotle. The audience literally has no clue at all what’s happening and they start to wonder if they missed part of the episode.
The alien creature is subdued, AT-AT style, and the doctor makes up some story about using the cable to tow the alien creature through time and space to its home. Then he introduces the two people the audience doesn’t know to Clara. She’s quite alarmed by all of this, as she was in the middle of regretting how a date with Danny Pink went. She regrets it ever so much. We get some flashbacks to it not going well at all. Poor Clara and Danny, so awkward!
The Doctor says that they need to go back in time and find out what lured this alien creature to Earth in the first place. He says that it’s a special kind of alien creature that only shows up when it’s lured somewhere. Fortunately, The Doctor lands them all in the past on exactly the right day they need to be.
They are in Victorian London, once again. The TARDIS is in an alley, and a robbery is occurring. The Doctor ducks back in to the TARDIS and makes a plan with Clara, Monsieur, and Aristotle to foil the robbery. When they exit the TARDIS they see that the robbers have already been dispatched by Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. Strax calls all the robbers women and we laugh. Oh how we laugh.
After a long series of introductions with many sexual innuendos, they all agree to find the thing that drew the alien to earth, in the future. They leave the unconscious robbers in the alley and walk away, chatting. The camera stays in the alley as one of the robbers comes to. Just in time for an arm, enrobed in black, to grab the robber.
The gang arrives back at Madame Vastra’s home. Jenny and Clara go to make tea. They chat about their love life. Clara has some more flashbacks to things she said to Danny, and Jenny has some flashbacks to things that didn’t go well with her first dates with Vastra. The tea is ready and they return to the parlor to find that The Doctor has torn up a bunch of old newspapers. There have been disappearances of men in the area around the docks. Whatever they’re looking for must be in or near the water.
The Monsieur suggests that they all split up in to pairs to cover more ground searching the docks. Good idea, what could go wrong? Because splitting up is for the writers, more than the characters, we’ll pair them up as follows so we can have interesting conversations:
- Jenny, The Doctor, and Strax
- Madame Vastra, and Aristotle
- Clara, and Monsieur
A nefarious-looking robbed figure watches all of this from the shadows. Of course.
The Doctor asks Jenny why Clara’s been acting so weird, and Jenny says it should be obvious that she’s having boy troubles. Strax talks about how confusing the anatomy of human males are.
Madame Vastra and Aristotle talk about philosophy, but only in double entendres.
Clara and Monsieur talk about why he chose to stay in Paris, with Aristotle. How Monsieur knew he was the right one, even though Monsieur was a warrior, and Aristotle wasn’t.
Just then, all three groups are surrounded by black-robed figures, because it was a stupid idea to split up and wander around the fucking docks.
They’re all cuffed with christmas lights and taken down to a specific dock. A large metal cylinder rises from the water and opens a door. The robbed figures herd the people inside.
Once inside, the doctor sees all the technology and surmises that they are aboard a crashed ship. A crashed ship! No way! The gang is herded past groups of workers welding things inside the crashed ship.
The gang stops inside of what appears to be a bridge. There’s corrugated plastic tubing EVERYWHERE. Monsieur demands to know who the robbed figures are. The robes collapse to the floor revealing floating spheres with singular, cycloptic, blue eyes. They look like large versions of the Dalek antibodies from In to the Dalek. The cuffs all drop to the floor as well.
The Doctor tells everyone to shut up, a lot, and calls Aristotle a puddinghead, and then tells everyone that OF COURSE they’re in a crashed alien ship, but not just any crashed ship, this ship is an enlarged Dalek. One of the Dalek antibodies speaks and says that they passed through an area of warped space on their way to The Promised Land, and that enlarged the Dalek, but killed the mutant at the core of the machine. They crashed in London in the 1500’s and eventually the computer system evolved enough that the antibodies could make conscious choices. For the last three years they’ve been abducting dock workers to fix the Dalek shell. Once it is capable of flight, they will dominate the Earth and use the population to build more large-scale Daleks, and antibodies, like themselves.
Clara wonders what any of this has to do with the alien creature that was lured to Earth. The Dalek antibodies say they have no intention of luring any aliens to Earth, that it would add an unnecessary impurity.
The Doctor puts it all together, and says that he knows who summoned the alien. He uses his sonic screwdriver on the Dalek antibodies and there’s a high-pitched squeal. He tells everyone he just sent the transmission that will summon the alien creature so they will all go back in time and find the Dalek army. No paradoxes at all here, none whatsoever. Let’s just keep moving, because this is ridiculous!
They all run down a corridor, while the Dalek antibodies regroup. One of the antibodies kills Aristotle with a ray.
Aristotle is having champagne with Missy in the Promised Land.
The gang runs through more corridors and then they all run back in to each other in the empty spot where the dead Dalek mutant would have been. Madame Vastra asks the doctor what their plan is. The Doctor says that they might be able to self-destruct the Dalek if they can trigger failsafes that prevent non-Dalek’s from operating the system. He says the way to do that is for someone to join with the machinery that connected the mutant to the machine. Clara asks if that person could leave once the failsafe is triggered, and of course they can’t. Monsieur volunteers to do it because he can’t go on living without Aristotle. The gang runs away, to find an exit back to the docks. Monsieur inserts some cables under his skin and the whole place (just the camera, really) shakes. Strobe lights flash. Clara, Jenny, Strax, and The Doctor shout for the dock workers to run for it. Dalek antibodies block the exit. The Doctor does the same alien transmission trick, disorienting the antibodies used to broadcast the signal, and they all escape to the dock while the water starts to boil, and glow.
Madame Vastra comments that she would have done what the Monsieur did, if Jenny had died. Jenny tells Clara, in a reference to earlier, that she should go talk with her own Monsieur.
The Doctor and Clara are traveling back in the TARDIS when Clara asks about the second signal. The Doctor casually remarks that they just have to go subdue another alien when they get back, and it shouldn’t take more than a few hours.