The Star in Her Eye

Story: The Pilot
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 50 Minutes
Year: 2017

Finally! After another long haul between series, we finally have Doctor Who back! Since hte Doctor and Clara parted ways, we've only had two Christmas specials to tide us over, one which showed us the final adventure that River had with the Doctor before she met her end when we first saw her with the Tenth Doctor way back in Series 4, and another Superhero romp which also introduced that following that night with River, he put Nardole back together and for some reason they are sticking together.
Now the Doctor has apparently been serving as a Professor at a University for a while, and we are re-introduced to him through Bill Potts, a young woman who serves chips on Campus, but has been sneaking into the Doctor's lectures.  She not only seems to see things and react differently to the way most people do, but she also reacts in ways not even the Doctor expects. This makes for a fun new dynamic, and after the almost too-in-the-know Clara, it is nice to have someone who just seems completely new to the Doctor's world.

The story here involves some kind of alien spaceship oil that is smart, and takes control of a girl that Bill has a crush on, and attempts to latch on to Bill as well. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to see how far the stuff can follow them, and it is pretty much anywhere and fast.  It is actually a good concept for reintroducing the basics of Doctor Who for a new audience (and every now and then it is nice to just start fresh as if no one had seen it before, it keeps new audiences coming).  The premise allows for the Doctor's mysterious nature to be at the forefront, to reintroduce the concepts of bigger on the inside, that is a space ship, and that it is a time machine, and it dolls this info brilliantly during the episode.

And Bill is a nice character, already has some strong characterization and is charmingly brought to life by Pearl Mackie. She will be a definite plus for the show this year I can tell. I also enjoy Nardole, as played by Matt Lucas.  It seems he won't be in every episode this year, but I welcome him in whatever episodes he appears in, as he is a weird addition to the cast, and I like the weird when it comes to Who.

All in all, a great start for Capaldi's final year.  Looking forward to seeing his final adventures unfold, and getting to know Bill even more! 

NEXT TIME: Emoji Robots

The Ghost

Story: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Written By: Steven Moffat
Length: 60 Minutes
Year: 2016

The Doctor returns in his first full episode since last Christmas (beyond his brief appearance in the opener of "Class"), and this time he teams up with a Superhero!  The idea of bringing a superhero story into Doctor Who didn't really thrill me, mostly because I've grown tired of the needless onslaught of superhero movies we get each year...and they've even invaded the small screen with plenty of superhero and comic book based shows. I've just tired of the genre a bit. So did I really want this kind of episode? Not really...but is it any good? Sure!
The episode has the Doctor befriend a young boy, and accidentally gives the kids super powers by handing the kid (who has a cold) both a glass of water and this gemstone he planned on using for a trap. The kid thinks the stone is medicine (he was, after all, handed a glass of water and what looked like a pill by a guy claiming to be a Doctor), swallows it, and the gemstone goes to work fulfilling the wishes of it's host, which for the young boy just happens to be superpowers.

The story then picks up with the boy (Grant) as an adult, and we see he is doubling as the masked superhero and a nanny for the girl he loves. The Doctor is back on Earth investigating brain sucking aliens or whatever, and has to thwart their plan and hopefully get Grant to stop flying around as a superhero like an idiot and maybe find romance with the girl as well.  It is light fun entertainment. 

I like that Nardole has stuck around, happy to see him continuing with the series for a bit. It also did a nice job of showcasing how the loss of River in the previous episode, and even the loss of Clara in the episode that preceded that, are still haunting the Doctor a bit.  He is always facing the loss of friends, but I always enjoy it when it still gets to him. 

As "Christmas" the episode doesn't really fit the theme, and what does play on that is shoehorned in and doesn't totally need to be there. At this point if you don't have a reason for it to be Christmas, the show doesn't really need to have it.  Doctor Who has a Christmas special each year, that is great, but if you are out of idea for a Christmas themed Doctor Who adventure? Why not just make a fun episode, no need to shoehorn it in.  I dunno...it doesn't really mater, but it does often seem like the Christmas angle isn't always needed, even if that is the day they want it to air.  Anyhow...decent light fun. And that is really all you want in Doctor Who at Christmas, keep it light and funny, don't put too much sadness in there, and I'll be satisfied for Christmas.

NEXT TIME: Bill

Class - Series 1 Recap

Class was nothing short of a surprise.  I honestly felt indifferent to the idea when this was first announced.  The idea of a whole show at Coal Hill just didn't appeal to me.  I liked the scenes there in the parent series during Series 8...but what I enjoyed was Clara and Danny. The students weren't that great. But what saved this show was aging up the characters at the newly updated Coal Hill, which is now an Academy instead of just a school, and making the show not so much about some school kids fighting monsters...about how the monsters are used to bring out the personal issues these teens are facing.  Because being a teenager sucks...I remember that I didn't enjoy my time as one too often...and you are growing up and learning who you will become, and learning to deal with problems not as a kid anymore but as an adult.  And this show manages to capture that very realistically in a very unreal kind of world.

I think the cast was pretty great, for such a young cast they managed to prove what tremendous actors they all are.  I have made no secret about how Quill was the weakest link of the bunch.  If she played mentor or authority figure in some way, he character might've worked. But she spends far too much of the series sneering and making snarky comments and generally just avoiding the rest of the cast, showing only annoyance for them when they are around. Every now and then she fought something. When she finally got a whole episode to herself, the writing pretty much squandered it by not really giving her much more depth than what we already knew. She is a warrior and a fighter. Just too one-dimensional.  Maybe if she becomes a little more entwined with the rest of the cast in any possible future series, and if she softens up a bit or her pregnancy somehow adds some depth to her character? She could be saved...so far she is just the weakest point.

But enough about Quill...the rest of the young cast was great, they did good work and played a great deal of emotions in every episode, showcasing a great cast of talent.  I am all for watching more adventures with this group.

I could see myself rewatching this show, much as I rewatched Torchwood.  I can't say I gave any revisits to Sarah Jane Adventures (and I enjoyed that show, it just didn't excite me enough to watch an episode a second time), and that is the biggest factor in this show's favor.  I could stick with it.

There were some nice threads left lingering and teasing us for another round, it would be a shame if it didn't come to fruition.  I honestly have no idea how well this show has done in terms of viewers...but in terms of creative success?  A surprise winner in my book.  It is too early to call it the best spin-off, but it might be the one that is off to the best start.  SJA had an half-way decent kids show beginning, but the lead of that first season was a weak link in the proceedings, and Torchwood's first season was pretty abysmal.  But As much as I enjoyed this first season of Class? It hasn't quite reached the same enjoyable heights of Torchwood's "Children of Earth" third series, and I am not even sure I had as much fun with this as I had during Torchwood's vastly better (than it's first) second series.  I won't even mention the K-9 series from Austrailia that I couldn't even stomach past a few episodes (I actually wrote reviews for those few episodes and just decided the show wasn't worth continuing with).

So Class is a winner, a good new spin-off from Doctor Who that nicely stands on it's own, but still feels like something of the bizarre universe that Who inhabits.  I am all for more. 

NEXT TIME: A Superhero in Doctor Who?

Revenge of Corakinus

Story: Class: The Lost
Written By: Patrick Ness
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2016

The First Series finale of "class" is a highly entertaining capper to the season, as the Shadow Kin make their big final return as Corakinus attempts to take April (and her heart) back with him...and in the process killing loved ones of the Coal Hill gang.  When he first arrives, he murder's Ram's father, then he shows up again to kill Tanya's mother (leaving her and her brothers to be essentially orphans).
So Tanya goes to Quill for help in getting revenge against the Shadow Kin, and both want the Cabinet of Souls to be used against the Shadow Kin (which can only be controlled by Charlie, who isn't fond of committing genocide).  Quill teaching Tanya to fight is the first useful thing she has done this entire series, by the way, as before she seemed to want to avoid the group, and at least her teaching one to fight gives her a purpose on the show...she should've been doing this instead of showing constant disdain for them all year.

So it all comes to ahead at the school, as April decides to sacrifice herself.  She knows that Corakinus has an invasion plan, but also knows as the true Shadow King, that her death will not only kill Corakinus, but also stop the Kin from going further, since they only take orders from the King.  So Charlie is forced to use Quill's gun to shoot April, killing her and Corakinus with one blow...and since Corakinus also put a part of himself into Charlie during a brief faceoff earlier in the episode, he now becomes the new Shadow King.

Charlie decides that he will use the Cabinet of Souls and destroy them all after all, and it does. It wipes them all out, not just on Earth but on their own planet (even destroying their entire homeworld in the process).   And as the King, he is also meant to die, but Quill saves him, making him live with the decision (a fairly decent bit of revenge on her part to be honest).

The first big reveal at the end of the show is seeing the Governors for the first time, and finding out that the big "Arrival" they are building towards is actually working heavily with the Weeping Angels! A nice tie-in with the parent series, and also a fun mysterious thread I'd like to see play out.  What is the plan the Weeping Angels have for Earth? What exactly is the role of the Governors? Good teases for next year!

The other big reveal in the final moments involved what happened to the piece of  the Cabinet that was meant to kill Charlie...as it seems that it somehow revived April...in Corakinus' body.  That will be an interesting thread to follow up on as well!  I am sure that in the end she will somehow end up back in her body...but it will be interesting to see it play out, and what goofy route they use to place her in the same body...though it would be hilarious to see the show just keep her as a big Shadow Monster from here on out.

Really, a well put together season finale, one that felt like a perfect way to end this first year, and set it up for further adventures.  It really felt like a good culmination of many threads, and surprising that it managed to kill off two of the leads parents, and didn't even revive them. Gutsy move.  Hoping a second year will be in the works soon!

NEXT TIME: Class Series 1 Recap

Removing the Arn

Story: Class: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did
Written By: Patrick Ness
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2016

Whereas the previous episode featured a distinct lack of Miss Quill, this episode focuses on what she was up to while the kids where all trapped by the Prisoner Rock thing in Detention.  As I have stated in previous reviews, Quill has been my least favorite aspect of the show so far.  While the teens all seem to have depth and are well written characters, Quill always seems to be one-dimensional.  She quips and snarls and always plays the badass. It never seems like there is much more to her than "I am a warrior!" Here is an episode that focuses entirely on her, on her struggles, on who she is.  And you know what I found out?  She is a WARRIOR.
That is really the crux of the episode. If she had some deep sadness about who she is or was or something...maybe I would've begun to see something in her.  But what the episode showcased, more than ever, is that deep down there is nothing to this character.  She is a warrior. She is a soldier. She is also a fighter.  Her entire existence is boiled down to the fact that she wants to fight everything and everyone, and since she was stripped of her ability to use weapons by the Arn in her head, her only depth is that she is sad about that. I mean there is the loss of her people, but Charlie has the same backstory there, he just comes from the other people of her world...and her sadness seems to really be, tht her people are gone and all she wants now is revenge, which she can't take...because Arn.

She is just tiresome, and her snarky one liners aren't entertaining enough (for me) to justify dealing with this one-note character. Just snark and bitterness. And with 45 minutes of TV focused entirely on her?  I felt this episode really failed to do more for her character. Most of the runtime is spent on this goofy quest in which Quill, Ames, and this shapeshifter guy (who is frozen between shapeshifts), travel via this crazy contraption that takes them to other realms of Gods and stuff.  And they have to get an Arn, some thing from the devil or God of this shapeshifter guy, and the brain of a Quill Goddess. This eventually leads to the removal of the Arn, which was teased at the end of the previous episode.

How Quill seemed to age is also explained, as the Shapeshifter guy and Quill end up trapped in the Cabinet of Souls containing Charlie's people's like disembodied essences (or whatever)...and they are forced by Ames and the Governors to fight each other to the death (and seeing how they just fought next to one another and had sex...that is a bummer for them). Quill ends up the lone survivor, and is aged by the Rhodians, before being able to leave the box...apparently by the Rhodians themselves...which is weird because she first threatens to murder the last of their people (Charlie) once she gets out. Then we pick up where the previous episode left off, with one more reveal...Quill is pregnant!  Oh joy. 

This episode wasn't horrible, it just felt like a wasted opportunity. I haven't been fond of Quill in this show, as she seems like the weakest link of the ensemble. She doesn't gel with the rest of the cast, and her purpose continually puzzles me. She doesn't play the mentor role, as she shows nothing but disdain for everyone else and genuinely tries to avoid them. And the role of Alien of the group who can know things otherworldly seems just as easily played by Charlie (and often is).  Her main function has seemed to be to be the conduit in which the mysterious Governors running thread is dispersed.  Otherwise she is just a person who wants to fight everything but only can when something attacks Charlie. This episode had a big chance to add some much needed layers to her character, and it just pointed out, yet again, that she is a warrior who longs to be free from the shackles of not being able to shoot things. I hardly feel for her...because what she longs to be is kind of nasty and unpleasant (basically...an angry person who likes to shoot things and is fueled by revenge and hate).  So this episode is just kind of a bummer...because it had the chance to finally do something with this character and make me get it, and it just flat out failed to do so. 

NEXT TIME: Showdown with the Shadow Kin

Detention

Story: Class: Detained
Written By: Patrick Ness
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2016

Quill places the whole Coal Hill gang in Detention, hoping to not be bothered with something or other...but a piece of Asteroid breaks through the rift and smashes the classroom out of time and space.  The gang is forced to deal with the personal issues and demons as a prisoner in a rock forces them to confess their innermost secrets and feelings. 
It is a great little character piece, each character getting a moment to shine as tension and their aggression rise, and each character is forced to pick up a rock and spill their inner demons and/or feelings about one another, in exchange for info on who/what the rock is and how they may get home.

Again, this show is a surprise hit. It handles it's young characters so well...even in the somewhat silly world of Doctor Who...the teens don't come off as too phony. They have a realism to them, even though they deal with ridiculous situations no teens ever face.  It's great writing to handle all that.  I have felt that the weak link to the series thus far has been Quill...as her character tends to overplay the "badass" element, and lack much depth.  They've had hints of depth, but not a whole lot.  And honestly, seeing this episode that barely featured her just showcased how little I think the show actually needs the character.  Just focus on the teens, surprisingly, they are more rounded and well thought out than the one-dimensional Quill.

Speaking of Quill, when the gang does return back to their own space and time, they discover Quill has aged somewhat, with longer hair and a scar on her face...not to mention she apparently no longer has the thing in her head making her protect and obey Charlie...she could end up being a total villain by the next episode! Let's hope they kill her off! (Unlikely, but I can dream!)

NEXT TIME: Meanwhile, with Quill...

The Underneath

Story: Class: Brave-ish Heart
Written By: Patrick Ness
Length: 45 Minutes
Year: 2016

The conclusion to the previous episode's cliffhanger sees April and Ram in the "Underneath," the realm of the Shadow Kin, while much of the gang is left on Earth to figure out how to simultaneously get them back and deal wit hthe increasingly problematic Petal situation, AND Quill and Ames try to convince Charlie to use the power of his weird box (possibly filled with the souls of his kind) to destroy either the Petals (Ames' goal) or the Shadow Kin (Quill's goal).  It is a fine follow-up, with a little bit of character stuff that the show is best at, but a lot more plot in this one.
It doesn't let the character arcs that were started in the last episode down or anything, all seem to get a fitting resolution, but the episode definitely felt more like it wanted to deal more with the plot and the alien threats our characters faced, than their personal issues that coincide with said alien threat, as previous episodes tend to have done. And that is okay.  It was a fun episode to watch, and it had some nice character resolutions in there too (they were all set up well enough in the previous episode that they could let that all take a back seat to action until the finale of this one decided to wrap things up).

April ends up defeating Coranicus, and thus becomes the new Shadow King and uses her new army to destroy the Petals that are invading (oh and she also healed her mother's spine so she can walk again...and told her father to buzz off until she is ready for him).  Charlie decides not to use his weapon against either thing, much to the frustration of Quill who wishes to see the Shadow Kin destroyed. This places more strain between the two, as Quill has become increasingly fed up with her role on Earth.

Another entertaining episode from this surprise of a series. I genuinely didn't think much of this show when it was announced.  Being a Who spin-off made me at least give it a shot...but I really expected so little from it. A surprise hit!

NEXT TIME: Out of Time