Iraxxa

Story: Empress of Mars
Written By: Mark Gatiss
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

I have given "The Empress of Mars" a couple of watches, and I have to say it just doesn't thrill me. I don't hate it by any stretch, I just found it kind of by the numbers and I think my own general disinterest in the Ice Warriors leaves me a bit cold (pun absolutely not intended).  There are things I like, the juxtaposition of Victorian soldiers on Mars is neat, and the way that people were curled up into balls whenever the Ice Warriors shot them was fun.  The whole idea of it seems more entertaining in theory than it ever does for me in execution.
That all said it is probably on the higher end of Mark Gatiss episodes, below his previous Ice Warrior entry ("Cold War") for me, but not as fun as "The Crimson Horror." In a way this almost seems like a cross between Gatiss' two Series 7 entries, with the Victorian fun stuff mixed with the Ice Warriors...I just didn't think it did anything terribly special with a premise that is, admittedly, kind of fun.

I don't hate it, but the Ice Warriors are always lower tier Classic Who monsters for me, so when they return it doesn't fill me with excitement.  If you are a fan of the Ice Warriors, no doubt this will entertain and excite, and if you are a fan of the Peladon stories (of which I am most definitely not!), then there is a nice little treat for you at the end.

Passable entertainment, but of this series so far, I'd rank it near the bottom of my list. 

NEXT TIME: The Ninth Legion

The Monks Have Always Been Here

Story: The Lie of the Land
Written By: Toby Whithouse
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

The conclusion to the "Monk Trilogy" showcases the Earth as completely taken over by the Monks, not only do they have complete control of the present, but they have also changed history and/or done some mass brainwashing to make the populace believe that the Monks have always been there and cared for them, which helps in preventing too much resistance...any resistance shown or anyone spouting the truth that the Monks only arrived 6 months prior gets them quickly arrested and sent to jail.
Nardole returns to Bill and helps her track down the Doctor, who has only been seen on the TV presenting the Monks' propaganda.  Bill is convinced that the Doctor is only biding his time to take down the Monks rule. But is really?

The episode is a solid conclusion to an arc I personally think has been great Who. This final entry has fairly relevant topics of derision, much as "Oxygen" seemed quite critical of extreme capitalism and making people pay for basic bodily functions, this episode takes on the topical world problems of fascism, propaganda, and the so-called "fake news" issue.  It also solves it all in a fairly Doctor Who fashion, with love triumphing over all.  While some may decry that the ending was too easy, I think the setup of the Monks only being able to take over the world with the pure thought and love being destroyed by such made sense...and the fact that Bill's mom and her love for her lost parent have been set up and played into the background throughout the season make it all work out nicely for me.

If only we didn't have to now end this lovely run of episodes with next week's Mark Gatiss penned return of the Ice Warriors. I don't care for his scripts usually, and the Ice Warriors have never been terribly interesting.  Can't say my hopes are too high. 

NEXT TIME:  Lady Ice Warrior

Consent of the Monks

Story: The Pyramid at the End of the World
Written By: Peter Harness & Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Another excellent episode, the Monks are proving to be a great foe for the Doctor. The previous episode was really just a message from a virtual Doctor to the real Doctor, warning him that the Monks have been planning their takeover of Earth for some time and may be ready. Now they have arrived, coming in style in an Ancient Pyramid, their plan consists mostly of a warning that the world will come to an end regardless, unless someone with power consents to giving them the Earth, and they will stop it...but the Consent must be made out of Love alone.  Easier to control for a lasting time under Love it seems.
So the Doctor must figure out what will actually cause the Earth to be in ruins, in order to prevent it and thus ruin the Monks plan for takeover.  He and Nardole eventually narrow it down to being a life-destroying bacteria created by mistake in a lab, and all he has to do is blow it up and escape...but to escape the lab he needs is eyesight (to see an analog combination lock), and of course he is still blind.  Bill decides that what the Earth really needs is the Doctor, so she consents to the Monks out of love for the Doctor (platonic love nerds...), in order to give him back his eyesight. The results of which probably won't prove too good for Earth.

It is a fun episode, with a great evil plan that preys on love as a weakness, and Bill's decision to help save her friend and cure the Doctor's blindness has dire consequences...as based on the trailer for next week and just the context of the episode, the Earth is no longer the Earth we know for now.  So far I am really enjoying this "Monks Trilogy" in the center of the this season. Let's hope the big ending for the storyline is as fun and exciting as the last two have been. 

NEXT TIME: The Monk's Reign

Veritas

Story: Extremis
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

"Extremis" is top notch Doctor Who. It not only plays with this new reveal that the Doctor is currently blind, and thus a little out of his depth, but it also just plays with the show's format in a clever way, all while revealing more of the Vault Arc this season has been setting up, as well setting up the next episode's villain.   In every way I enjoyed this episode, and it was among the top episodes of Capaldi's run so far in my opinion.
The Doctor, struggling with his new-found blindness, receives an e-mail on the Sonic Sunglasses (with their new need they seem less stupid and annoying as they did in Series 9), and we next see him interrupting Bill's date by bringing the Pope into her bedroom.  The Doctor brings in Bill to assist him (along with Nardole) in his attempt to read a book called the Veritas in the Vatican secret library.  Of course the Doctor can't read due to his lost eyesight, but only Nardole knows that.

As the episode unravels the creepy monster Monks that chase the Doctor and his cohorts turn out to not really be invading the Earth...yet.  Slowly it is revealed that the entire episode takes place inside a hologram, not even the Doctor or Bill are real.  At first this was mindbending and I wasn't entirely sure when the hologram bit began, has the whole season been there?  Then it clicked...the e-mail at the beginning of the episode, that was the start of the recording, being sent to the Doctor from his hologram counterpart, to warn him that the Monks were not only practicing to invade, but were currently ready. It is great set up for next week, and done in such a new and clever way that proves that even though Moffat has been around a while, he still somehow has a few tricks left up his sleeve.

Also revealed in this episode is that Missy is indeed, at least as far as the episode made clear, inside the Vault.  As the Doctor was at some point meant to execute her and guard her body in the vault for 1000 years, but he chose not to kill her (because he is the Doctor and Nardole came post his last night with River to give the Doctor a bit of a kick to do the right thing in River's name), and has just kept her locked up alive, still keeping true to his word of guarding for 1000 years, just with the caveat that she isn't dead.  And in the end of this particular story, the Doctor seems to be thinking of using Missy's help to fight off this new enemy..should be an intriguing episode next time!


NEXT TIME: The Monks' Pyramid

Smartsuits

Story: Oxygen
Written By: Jamie Mathieson
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

"Oxygen" is top notch Doctor Who.  The Doctor takes Bill and Nardole on a trip, much to Nardole's dismay that the Doctor is breaking his promise to guard the Vault over and over again, but the Doctor is tired of being nailed down to one planet and one University...so he says screw it and heads out on yet another.  But, they end up on a Space Station where the Oxygen is only provided by "Smart Suits," and it is only provided by credits...basically you must pay for your supply of breathable air.  And the suits end up killing the inhabitants of the suits, turning them into essentially zombies (or really corpses that are only walking around because they are in the technological space suits). 
It is capitalism run amuck, and since people's health and livelihood in America is still highly costly, it rings quite true here.  And putting a price on the air we breath seems not so different from putting a high price on someone getting necessary medical attention or life saving operations or medication.  So this episode feels very relevant to today's issues here in America (though being that the show is British, maybe they were commenting on other issues specifically) but either way the message is fairly simple...Capitalism taken to it's extreme, totally sucks. 

And the kicker of the episode is fantastic.  During the course of the adventure, the Doctor saves Bill (who has a malfunctioning suit), by providing her with his space helmet when they walk outside of the station.  He survives the ordeal, but loses his sight in the process.  He of course brushes it off because he has stuff in the TARDIS that can probably cure it...but when we get to the tail end of the episode we discover that it didn't work...he is still blind!  So we either have a Doctor who only remains blind for the next episode and it gets cured, or it is entirely possible that he remains blind until his regeneration, which we already know is coming by Christmas.  I am actually hoping that Moffat goes for the challenge, and keeps the Doctor blind for his remaining adventures...I mean what a twist that can have for his character and his perspective in his remaining adventures.

I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't last through to his end, but I think it could be a neat idea...and it could even lead to his ultimate downfall, maybe something simple he just doesn't see gets him.  Or who knows!  The possibilities are exciting.  Great episode, wonderful tease at the end, look forward to the next one!

NEXT TIME: A Blind Doctor?

The Landlord

Story: Knock Knock
Written By: Mike Bartlett
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Bill joins in with a group of fellow students/young people in renting an old big house with fairly cheap rent, the catch obviously being that the house wants to eat them.  Typical!  The Doctor suspects something is up from the moment he helps her move, and quickly determines that there is something more to the house than just creakiness. An alien pressence is there (of course) one that is basically a swarm of bugs which eats the inhabitants every 20 or so years in order to keep a woman acquainted with the Landlord alive, but preserved as a wooden lady. 
It is nice and creepy and gothic, felt like a 70s Who story, like a Pertwee or a Baker in which we end up in this stately manor and have to fight off aliens.  The aliens in this are essentially a swarm that eat the kids alive and make them into the wood within the house.  Classic goofy Who stuff. And David Suchet (Poirot himself) is quite good as the main human antagonist. 

It also did a solid job of solidifying the relationship between Bill and the Doctor, as well as adding a little something in the tag about the Vault, apparently the Doctor can open it and knows what is inside, and he is somewhat friendly with an entity that would enjoy a good tale about kids getting eaten by a house.  My bet is the obvious: it is the Master, either in Missy form or in the John Simm Saxon form...since we already know he is also making a return this year.  Time will tell, but that is my guess!

NEXT TIME: Space Zombies

Frost Fair

Story: Thin Ice
Written By: Sarah Dollard
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2017

Returning to the trend that began way back in "Rose,"  the new series is starting off introducing a new companion and the basic concepts of the show, following on with one episode in the future and then one in the past (or vice versa given the series).  This episode takes the Doctor and Bill back to London 1814, during the last Frost Fair on the River Thames (which was a thing I knew nothing about but having read about it since watching the episode, I find it rather fascinating)...but of course something mysterious lurks under the ice...
Again the biggest draw of this somewhat standard Doctor who episode is the developing relationship and charming rapport between the Twelfth Doctor and Bill.  I say standard, but I actually enjoyed this episode quite a bit.  It may be your standard Who adventure, but it has a lovely new setting that felt unique (and you get to see an elephant walk over the frozen Thames!), and it has a fun underwater sequence...how often do we get to see the Doctor in a diving bell! 

It's not going to blow you away, but it has some nice development for Bill, and her relationship with the Doctor, as well as adding a bit of mystery as to why exactly the Doctor and Nardole have made some deal to stay on Earth and guard this vault. 

NEXT TIME: The Old Wood House