Doctor Who And The Misadventures of Team Not Dead

A team of four amnesiacs: a cantankerous Time Lord, a hapless human, a hacker cyborg, and a shape-shifter walk into the most dangerous bank in the universe …

This is the joke that begins this episode of Doctor Who.

However I would like to point out that while most jokes end with one punchline, “Time Heist” ends with at least two. Imagine some Mission Impossible combined with a bit of the creepiness (though not the gore) of Saw and some Memento for good measure. Then add this concoction to some Doctor Who zaniness that almost always borders a bit on camp or kitsch (the very strange tone that almost turned me off from the series altogether, at the very beginning of my watching experience until I recognized even weirder rhythms and human interactions of the Whoniverse as presented from Davies and onward).

Essentially The Doctor, Clara and their other two companions find themselves trying to rob the Bank of Karabraxos on behalf of a mysterious figure called The Architect after having been exposed to some memory worms. The convolutions and the reversals of fortune (and the re-reversals thereof) throughout the episode were extremely clever and tied back into the nice neat package of a Steve Moffat self-contained episode.

What I mean by that is that, once again, this could have branched out into the overall arc of the series (whatever it is that seems to be happening with Missy, the robots and the Promised Land we keep hearing about) but it doesn’t seem to be the case. In that sense, it’s a lot like “Listen”: in that it begins with something of great import. “Listen” begins with The Doctor becoming fixated on an idea that threatens to become a psychic meme, while “Time Heist” starts with someone actually phoning the TARDIS.

And just how many people are capable of doing that?

Doctor Who What's In the Vault

This episode definitely caught my interest in wondering who could have phoned The Doctor, who The Architect was, and just what could the only Time Lord in current existence possibly want in the Bank of Karabraxos. I will also say that “Time Heist” plays with the idea of just what a Whovian monster actually is, the various ways in which The Doctor deals with it, how self-hatred and regret can manifest, and the novel way that he handles a conflict that someone might solve differently with a gun.

I definitely appreciated seeing a lot more of The Doctor’s humanity and the fact that, unlike his other recent incarnations, he actually gets angry at people attempting to question him: and he is not above putting them in their place. Sometimes I really like this Doctor when I’m not somewhat cautious or outright want to slap him.

And I hope I don’t spoil too much when I state that, not only is this episode constructed immaculately like the trap that it is, but Team Not Dead succeeds in breaking through it: and definitely lives up to its name.  I just hope that Moffat can something similar with the series overall story arc.

So tell me my fellow Whovian watchers, just how long did it take you to figure out this episode’s punchline or two?

Doctor Who Teller


I spent much of my youth somewhere else.

It’s not too much of a surprise really: especially when you consider what I was and what I would ultimately become.

You would find me reading one of the Oz books during a special session of class. Or reading a book from The Belgariad in the car on the way to a funeral. You’d better believe that I was reading comics when I was dragged to synagogue and philosophy texts were my in-depth friends in my adolescence. I’m not going to even go into the many games, arts and crafts, and stories I wrote to distract myself from being bossed around and general tedium when I was sent off to summer day camp. And I would watch and rewatch old Muppet and Disney cartoon movies on my VCR whenever I was home from school.

But the fact is, from grade School all the way through the end of high school I must have created and read most of my life away. I miss the immersion that staved off the banal mundane world and its gritty, disappointing, adult reality from my life.

It got harder to keep the world away once I got into university. My magical rotes, such as they were, began to falter and fail. Once, when I had to do so many things I hated or tolerated I always had that space to retreat into: that alternate place where I could focus on more intellectual and imaginary matters.

I had so much time. When I was younger, time was limitless and most of it was spent wanting to be somewhere else when I didn’t want to do something else. But then time began to speed up. Sometimes it would slow down again and become stagnant with the dead-end nature of reality.

Reality again. It was creeping in. It’d been doing that towards the end of high school and I always knew it was there: just waiting for me. And it scared me. It was more complex and wondrous than the terrors of daytime Fox talk-shows. It was politics, and plurality, and many experiences, and human horror, and girls.

I’m glad I met the girls.

I think that explains a lot about the person that I am now: for however long that lasts.

It’s strange. These past few years time feels like it slowed down, or went by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I wonder if that span even existed. You see, time did slow down but in that stagnant place of perceived adult failure. The thing is: I had gotten out into the world, if you want to call academia part of the world as it is.

I couldn’t handle the rest of it. And the refuge of books, films, comics, and cartoons were only temporary retreats in front of a cold, grey reality. And I know that age-old danger: of knowing it could be worse, that it can and for some it really is that.

I got tired.

But something has been happening. Time is moving fast again. These past two years, some of it spent by myself, I still knew that my time was not infinite. But it is getting faster again, if that makes sense. Things are happening. Things have been happening.

My reality marble of purely writing all the time is harder to keep around me against that perception of reality of which I’ve not done much in the way of justice. Things are happening.

Things are changing.

It scares me. It scares me to know that after some years of being sedentary I’m going to be moving around again. I’ve gotten too used to my sense of exile. I know how dramatic that sounds in this somewhat disjointed post. I didn’t even know what I was going to write this time around considering all of my circumstances but I think, when it is all said and done, that this a good thing.

It is the only thing. I’m changing and I can’t always keep up with those changes and their multitude of event horizons. But I can try. And I know and I have to believe that there are people who will be there alongside me, who will still be patient with me, as this continues to happen.

Soon I’m going to be out of my bubble. And you know, it’s time.

My rotes may not work as well as they did, but perhaps now is not the time to dwell in other spaces.

Now is the time to act: in this space.

Matthew and the Daleks

Doctor Who: Listen

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”

End of the Universe

I find it simply amazing that a Doctor Who episode can begin with a similar creepy premise to Fredric Brown’s short story “Knock” and end with an incredibly heart warming sense of pathos. But what I truly find engaging is the fact that, for the first time in a while, Steven Moffat managed to create a Doctor Who episode whose monster, whose threat, was rather … ambiguous.

I have to admit that I found the last three Doctor Who episodes of this season to be rather heavy-handed at times. In fact, I didn’t think very much about “Listen” from its television preview. I thought it would follow the contrivance of “Robot of Sherwood”: with a new creature and some half-hearted horror resolved within an hour at best.

It should have been clear that something was up when the episode begins and The Doctor just can’t let go of the idea of some ultimate hidden creature. I mean, it could have easily been one of the Silents but that would have, by now, been a familiar, if somewhat forgettable, being. You already have the interplay of some subtle psychological elements: such as The Doctor seeing messages to himself in his own handwriting that he doesn’t remember making and coming to a strange conclusion that the reason people talk to themselves or “misplace things” is because of some hidden shadow that follows them.

Doctor Who Listen

This is not some forgettable terror or something at which you shouldn’t blink. You know it’s there and watching you. You also know that if you look at it, it will manifest and have power over you. And it seems to feed off of fear itself. It’s very tempting to say that Moffat follows an age-old rule of horror when he doesn’t, in fact, reveal what the monster looks like and lets us as the audience imagine the worst for ourselves.

Doctor Who Hidden

But the dark magic involved here is even deeper than that.

The horror in “Listen” is about the things that the characters don’t want to acknowledge. I have to admit that it was refreshing to see Danny Pink finally call Clara out on some of the thoughtless “cheap shots” at his previous life as a soldier, while also having her find out more about his own fears and the motivations that shaped him into the man he is today. And this fear that plagues The Doctor, Pink, Clara and others is often associated with the dark. At the same time, this darkness is a fear of others and loneliness: both with a young Pink alone in his room, the Pink descendant time traveler at the End of the Universe (which was awesome to see again, this time without anyone), and … one other child.

This particular review has been referencing the horror genre quite a bit, but there are two more things that I’d like to add. H.P. Lovecraft liked to say that humanity’s oldest fear is that of the unknown. However Clive Barker, in his own horror writing, seems to posit that what we fear is also what we desire. I don’t want to give any further spoilers as to what The Doctor and his Companion find in this particular adventure, but it is notable that The Doctor, who is always running, tends to also run towards those things that are frightening — that he is ultimately afraid of — and that at when he faced down that hatch door opening at the End of the Universe he very much wanted to see what, if anything, lay beyond it.

Doctor Who Unlocked

It was immaculately done. At the end of the episode you wonder if the monster, if there ever was one, was just a figment of everyone’s imagination. Perhaps someone did pull a prank on the young boy who would become Danny Pink. Maybe The Doctor did write those messages to himself while still adjusting to who he is. Perhaps the stranded time traveler Pink was going insane from isolation and had to believe he wasn’t alone at the End of the Universe:  those messages to himself to keep from suicide.

It might all just be coincidence?

Maybe all everyone in that episode needed to do was simply listen, to pay attention, to what was actually being said to them. The footsteps that never pass your own could be the decisions of your ancestor, the shadow of your past, or even the trepidation of a life not yet lived: or soon to be lived when you place time-traveling into the equation. And then there is the possibility that the monster, the fear, is just hope that you didn’t listen to properly the first time around.


It’s easy to forget, much in the way that you would encounter a Silent, that Steven Moffat — for all his other faults — is a master of the short episode. We get reminded that there’s so much about The Doctor we still don’t know. We get reminded just how dark Doctor Who can get. But at the same time not only do we see just how far Clara and the TARDIS will go to save their Doctor, but just how much more opportunity we have to learn something new about characters that we thought were long established: that the unknown is both terrifying and fascinating to that regard. I only hope that “Listen” is telling us that this will be the turning point to episodes and an arc of a similar nature.

Doctor Who: Robs From The Rich and Gives With A Spoon

At the end of “Deep Breath” The Doctor tells Clara that he’s made many mistakes and that it’s time for him to “do something about it.”

I’m just wondering when he’s figuring on doing that.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I understand that in “Deep Breath” he had to get something of his bearings back from his recent Regeneration and forgetting how to pilot the TARDIS. And while I do wonder what he was up to before encountering the Dalek “Rusty” in “Into the Dalek,” to me the episode made sense as it gave him, and the rest of us, some potential further insight into the arch-nemeses of The Doctor.

But then we have “Robot of Sherwood.”

Doctor and Robin Hood

In my last two reviews I mentioned how Doctor Who seemed to be distancing itself from the fairy-tale atmosphere of the latter stages of the Eleventh Doctor’s run and going right back into horror, folklore, and dark science-fiction. Even so, there are aspects of this episode that are really fascinating to look at when you compare Robin Hood to The Doctor. For a Time Lord who has some mistakes to do something about, he sure has time to go on some “side-quests”, or rather “requests”, from his Companion Clara Oswin Oswald. I also find it as hilarious as Clara does that The Doctor believed Robin Hood to be merely a legend: especially when you consider that this sentiment is coming from the Oncoming Storm himself.

There was something really lampoonish and almost satirical about how Robin Hood and, as Clara calls them, his band of “Merry Men.” Here are these swashbuckling and larger than life outlaw heroes that, as the old story goes, “rob from the rich and give to the poor.” But the way that they’re portrayed in the episode — as flat and almost two-dimensional caricatures — makes them out to be people that are “too good to be true” all the way to the point where you can almost believe, like The Doctor, that this is going to go to the “actually a robot” trope: something that does tend to happen a lot in science-fiction and, really, Doctor Who itself.

Still, it is interesting to contrast Robin Hood with The Doctor as he is now. Whereas previously The Doctor himself is a swashbuckling larger than life character himself — especially in latter years as the Tenth Doctor — the Twelfth Doctor seems to be far more cynical. He likes to poke and prod at phenomenon that he has never seen before, and is far less trusting of the process. In fact, it seems as though his discomfort with soldiers is even more amplified when it comes to those that seem to be heroes. Of course, it’s pretty clear that the main reason The Doctor is particularly uncomfortable with heroes (who may or may not exist) is because of his own experiences. Even at his most heroic, The Doctor has never been comfortable in the role of hero and never seems to want to acknowledge this.

But unlike a few of his other incarnations, he doesn’t just shrug off the presence of heroism or acknowledge it in any one other than himself. As the Twelfth Doctor, and when he isn’t sulking like a spoiled child, we see him literally analyzing and becoming critical of the hero: not just in what may or may not be Robin Hood, but the archetype of heroism itself. It is a somewhat heavy-handed reminder to the audience that The Doctor may not be that striking heroic figure that we have been blessed with these past couple of seasons. At the same time however, that question is still in doubt: especially when Robin Hood, having talked with Clara at length, makes The Doctor realize that Clara thinks of him as her hero.

Really, this whole episode just brings a lot more uncertainty as to where this Doctor is going. I mean, in addition to “doing something about his mistakes,” he also has to find Gallifrey at some point: his home world that still lives if “The Day of The Doctor” and “The Time of The Doctor” are of any indication.

Robot of Sherwood

There are some other fascinating elements in this episode. For instance, we have more robots — this time in medieval aesthetics — seeking their “Promised Land” when not helping the Sheriff of Nottingham. It makes me wonder if the “Heaven” of Missy is the same place as this “Promised Land” and just why the robots have been introduced twice in three episodes. It’s also good to see Clara developing more as a character in her own right and calling people on their nonsense  as opposed to someone who is “born to save The Doctor.” But when all this is said and done, I will add this. Even though the element of Robin Hood and his Merry Men was a red herring, I like how The Doctor still has elements of ridiculousness, albeit with something of a nasty streak.

Doctor Vs. Robin Hood

He should really make it part of his new catch-phrase.

Tick Spoon

Or perhaps the Twelfth Doctor should moonlight as a Ginosaji.


Or maybe he was just trying to demonstrate to Robin Hood that a spoon full of sugar really does help the medicine go down.

Mary Poppins A Spoon Full of Sugar

It’s all right. I’m done. For now.

My Last Geeky Weekend

My last weekend did not go as expected.

There’s an understatement for you. I knew that Fan Expo was happening and I was going to avoid it. I had some bad experiences with it the previous year (in the form of getting a prepaid ticket for the last day, getting lost, and not getting a straight answer of where to go: even from the volunteers). It got me so angry that not only did I write to the previous managers of the event, but I vowed to personally boycott them. It was a sad decision: as I know people who go to it that I rarely ever see.

My original plan was go to GeekPr0n’s Cosplay Ball Friday evening and the next day go to the Silver Snail Black Canary Espresso Bar to meet my friend John, who was coming in from Michigan, for their Midnight Madness sale. In this way, I would avoid the lines, the confusion and be able to take my time at things: while possibly meeting my friends regardless.

But as I said, things did not go as planned.

First let’s start with the GeekPr0n Cosplay Ball. I left late that evening and I hadn’t eaten anything. After nearly getting lost, though not nearly as badly as I used to get because fuck geography, I found a Subway store nearby, only to have less than a half an hour to eat and get out. My original plan was to eat and then put on my make-up: instead of walking through suburban Thornhill, riding the TTC system all in pseudo-goth, and messing up my make-up by eating.

Instead, I was forced to go to a nearby Tim Hortons and do a rush job in the bathroom. Here is a lesson to making yourself up like the Crow. Number One: don’t rush it. Especially if you haven’t put on your own make-up in a few years. And Number Two: remember that putting black make-up over white dilutes it.

And you end up resembling something like this.


So after I left the Tim Hortons as a combination Crow and Kiss Halloween experiment, I got into the Mod Club: where we were having the event and due to my excellent sense of timing I missed a lot of things.

A lot of things.

It actually makes my heart hurt a bit to realize just what I missed. And you can find all of that at GeekPr0n, if you’d like. I’m not in any of those pictures because, yeah, I was late and it’s probably just as well. Still, I got some dancing in and met a few people. Our magazine manager actually got me a drink and I felt bad that I don’t really drink, but I definitely appreciated the sentiment and I still do. After helping pack up some stuff, I walked all the way to College and Spadina from the Mod where I formally said goodbye to the physical resting place of the Neutral Lounge that once meant so much to me.


It’s amazing how people treat you differently when you are wearing a costume. Most Torontonians ignored me, but I got a few jeers (there was one guy at the club that was always dancing near me and patting me on the shoulder and what-not because, you know, men always don’t mind physical contact apparently) and even some appreciation. Sometimes I don’t know whether someone is complimenting me or making a joke at my expense in the form of a compliment. I guess that says a lot about my early life with my peers. But on the bus ride home some giggling young ladies were sitting around and one wanted to take her picture with me. And I thought to myself: so that is how my cosplaying friends feel. It was a pretty cool feeling.

So after a late night walking back and talking with a friend of mine on the phone all the way home, I went to sleep extremely late and planned to slum to the Espresso Bar later in the evening the following day.

All right. Now let’s talk about the rest of that weekend.

So my friend John had this cockamame plan to get into Fan Expo and buy tickets on the busiest day of the event: Saturday. I told him good fucking luck, after trying to make him see the error of this insanity, and quite honestly waited for the messages of horror to come.

The following Saturday I woke up towards two and got a Facebook message from John saying he was heading out. All right. Again, good luck to him. I felt a little disappointment as I knew he was going to be meeting some of our friends, but I made my own plan and I was going to stick with it.

John messages me some minutes later telling me that he’s “here.”

“You’re downtown now?” I asked him.

“Nope. I’m on your driveway.”

My jaw dropped and I have to admit, I swore a lot. I asked him what he was doing here as I told him about my plan and he said he just thought it would be convenient if he drove me to the Snail or to Dundas and we could meet up later. Bear in mind: I was still in bed and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. But since John was already here, I decided “Fuck it, I’m going downtown.”

As we were going downtown, we decided to try for the Expo and get tickets for Sunday. Instead, we got tickets for that day and Sunday. You know, a part of me almost thinks that this entire thing was planned. I mean, John did tell our friends that he was going to try to get me down there, but for god’s sakes this was ridiculous.

So we ended up walking around the south building and eventually we met up with my friend Angela O’Hara was cosplaying Ariel: complete with a combing fork. We looked at drawings, sketches, and then comics. We met some more people we knew. I got a signed Manborg comic. And then we got a picture with some Daleks who decided to serve me:

Served by the Daleks

Or whom I decided to serve.

Serving the Daleks

But while language is ambiguous for a reason, Toronto traffic is less so. We spent an hour getting out of the city: and this happened both days. But on Saturday, since we were already out, we decided to meet up with our friend James in Mississauga and see Guardians of the Galaxy. I’d given up hope of seeing it with any one of my friends and I was this close to seeing it by myself to see what the hell everyone was raving about.

So after we had dinner, the first meal of my whole day, and Groot later, I was grandly impressed by the film. It was a story well done with dialogue exchange that is reminiscent of how I like to hear dialogue and write it.  I made a vow to see all the Marvel movies I can access now as I have a fear of commitment and it’s about time to get over that at least to this regard. Suffice to say I passed out pretty hard that night.

The next day I had time to eat, John picked me up, and we went to the Sunday round of the Expo. We hung around a little more in the North building this time around (and there was a lot of walking and escalators involved in that, let me tell you) and I got to meet my fellow horror and Heroes in Hell writer ZombieZak at his booth. We explored until it was almost that time and we headed back into the Toronto traffic before finally escaping on a highway.

And to cap off that day, I watched the Doctor Who episode “Into the Dalek”: which my dad recorded for me the night before. I even wrote a review.

So yeah. My friend John is stubborn and loyal and I got to have the geekiest weekend I had in a very long time. I learned just why we are Groot and that I will never be late for GeekPr0n Party again if I have anything to say about it.

Still, traffic jams need to be exterminated.

Matthew and the Daleks

Doctor Who: We Go Into The Dalek

When The Doctor tells Clara that they are going to travel “into darkness,” what is the first thing on your mind? Is it a blackhole? An abyssal planet? A pocket dimension of death or pure nothingness? And what does this have to do with Daleks?

Well, in the case of the second episode of Doctor Who season eight we have the answer in the title.

“Into The Dalek.”

Dalek Eyestalk

But what does that mean? In my recap of “Deep Breath” I talked about Doctor Who becoming less a fairytale now and more of a folktale: a cautionary tale or a horror story. Now, since 2005 we have seen hints of what is “inside” of a Dalek: the ultimate bogeyman of the Whoniverse. We know they are genetically engineered beings of pure hatred that were once humanoid, either Kaled or even in some instances human. They are bred to destroy anyone that is not them and even those among them that aren’t “pure.” Moreover, they are placed into advanced cybernetic carapaces — essentially miniature tanks — that allow them to obliterate anything at will. They rarely feel touch or light. They are just plain self-hatred and living bile made to kill everyone and everything else in all existence.

Russell T. Davies truly explored that Dalek condition and the horror of them. But Steven Moffat’s attempts to do something of the same somewhat pale in comparison. This time, however, Moffat attempts to do something particularly ambitious. This time he makes us see what a Dalek is from the inside out.

It’s pretty much a misnomer to call any Dalek a “good Dalek.” By the time The Doctor finds himself captured at a secret base studying a damaged Dalek that claims to desire the destruction of its own species most fans aren’t really taken by the novelty. I mean, you had the episode of “Dalek” with the “last Dalek” becoming “infected” by Rose Tyler’s DNA and therefore developing more complex feelings: actually making you feel sorry for it. Then there is Dalek Caan who, after viewing all of time and space, goes insane (or sane) and plots the destruction of his own species.

So it is not new to see a Dalek that hates its own kind. Most of them do so anyway. And honestly, when it explains to The Doctor and the team attempting to repair it, about how it saw the birth of a star and understood the concept of beauty, I was thinking Dalek freaking Caan and all of time.

Even The Doctor’s revelations about his (hopefully) evolving new self hearken back to “Dalek” where he is told that he would make “a very good Dalek” though in this case the Dalek in question tells him that while it is a “bad Dalek” he is “a good Dalek.”

That said, I can appreciate what they attempted to do with this episode. The technology to shrink The Doctor, Clara and their team into the Dalek’s very body, its cybernetic nervous system, is a throwback to some vintage and often B-rated science fiction film. However, I still think a lot more detail could have been put into the function of the Dalek’s immune system: elaborating on the ghastliness of its construction in a more visceral way and the horror of it. It’s actually very similar to some of my issues with the “Asylum of The Daleks” episode where, again, I definitely thought that Moffat could have expanded on the horror of, well again, insane and broken Daleks.

Broken Dalek

It is fascinating to see The Doctor investigating a Dalek from the inside considering his long history with their species and, of course, the inevitable issue that by doing so he is also exploring himself. And, oh boy, does The Doctor deliver for us.

His other incarnations had their moments of sheer terrifying presence: from Nine to even Eleven. But there is something cold about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor: particularly in the way that he clinically and detachedly informs a female soldier of the death of her brother, and writes off a member of their party as dead and even expendable. Not even The War Doctor himself, a battle-hardened ancient forged in the awfulness of the Time War was this seemingly callous.

Doctor 12 and Clara

We remember, again, why The Doctor needs to have his Companions when Clara does something that I totally thought she would do in the first episode and pretty much slapped The Doctor hard across the face. This, of course, serves to get him to help deal with the Dalek, but I will say that if the happy conclusion of this story is the creation of a Dalek serial killer of its own kind — inspired by “the beauty of The Doctor’s hatred” — it speaks volumes about him at this point.

There are two other things of note. The Daleks in this episode do not seem to know who The Doctor is: or at least not this Dalek. I thought that by “The Time of The Doctor” they would have disseminated that intelligence back into their collective conscious across space and time. But one element I found very fascinating was The Doctor’s very heavy-handed and vocal dislike for soldiers. Perhaps this can be explained by his memories of what he did during the Time War, but perhaps seeing the female soldier Journey Blue reminded him of his Eighth incarnation and the encounter he had with the pilot Cass during “The Night of the Doctor.” There were definitely some nice resonances there: not to mention some potential foreshadowing with Clara’s new attraction to the former soldier and current school teacher Danny Pink.

It seems like “Into The Dalek” might as well have been called “Into The Dark” and it does make you wonder where The Doctor’s sheer near-ruthless drive to “correct his mistakes,” as a comparison and contrast to that of his arch-enemies, will actually take him.