Steven Moffat is Leaving Doctor Who

After Season 10 of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat is leaving the program as showrunner.

Many fans have been waiting for this news for quite some time. According to Radio Times, his successor will be Chris Chibnall: the original head writer and co-producer of the dark and diverse Doctor Who spin-off and science-fiction program Torchwood and the crime drama Broadchurch. From this alone, particularly his work on Torchwood, Chibnall seems to have promise but let’s let the other fact sink in for a little while longer.

Steven Moffat is leaving Doctor Who.

A lot of things have been said about Steven Moffat over the years. Some people believe he made Doctor Who a world-wide phenomenon. Others believe he has nearly destroyed the franchise. Some say he is an excellent writer, others believe that he has been a terrible showrunner, and still more look at him and think he is yet another casualty of “fan-fickleness.”

I know I have had my own opinion about his writing and showrunning: particularly with regards to The Doctor’s late and latest Companion Clara Oswald. But let me try, from albeit a biased fan perspective, to explain why so many fans have issues with Steven Moffat’s sense of direction.

When Russell T. Davies took up the mantle of showrunner and head writer for Doctor Who, he focused on the diverse elements inherent in the show. He looked at the future, at all the different kinds of futures, and wrote into it sexuality and gender and wonder that could never have really been explored on television in the eighties or nineties. But more than that, he took the old elements of the show — the aspects that made it Doctor Who — and built on them to tell new stories: new character-driven stories. Davies was in turns darkly Byronic and wonderful, managing to intermix the sublimely ridiculous, and the dead serious into something captivating and relatable to viewers. It was this tight, clock-work narrative of golden gears in darkness with baubles of pure delight.

Of course, Davies wasn’t without his flaws. Sometimes he did get overwrought and overly complicated. Certainly, the emotional and character cop-out that was the end of “Journey’s End” comes to mind: perhaps illustrating that it was time for Davies to move on.

Steven Moffat was Davies’ successor. He started off in Doctor Who, like Chibnall, as a writer. And he is a good one. Certainly he is an excellent monster-maker when you look at the empty children in “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances,” along with the Weeping Angels introduced in the masterfully told episode “Blink.” He has also introduced the dynamic and omnisexual characters of Captain Jack Harkness and Professor River Song into the Whoniverse. And this doesn’t even include the addition of Madame Vastra, the Silurian lady detective in the nineteenth century, her wife and maid Jenny, and … Strax. Yes: Mr. Potato-Head Homicidal Sontarian himself.

So Moffat could tell some good stories. Certainly, his reintroduction of a certain Missy, the episode of “Listen” and most of his previous Season Nine can attest to that. Unfortunately, by the time Davies left Doctor Who, Moffat’s role of showrunner became another matter entirely.

By this point, the tightly gear-oriented narrative structure of Davies is punctured, literally, with tears in time. Inconsistencies between stories and continuity get explained away by it all being the result of time-travel instead of sloppy story-telling. Character arcs and story ideas that could have been excellent in one or a few episodes, Moffat’s excellent self-contained mini-arcs for which he is so known, become dragged out and thin. Even the transitions between episodes — Doctor Who “Day of The Doctor,” I’m looking at you — are widened and viewers find themselves having previous events explained to them, instead of shown. It is the old “show, don’t tell” sin played all across space and time.

And this isn’t even including the “Mary Suing” that becomes more prevalent: especially in the form of Clara Oswald who is alternatively an extension of The Doctor’s character or an inconsistently-portrayed excuse of a human being instead of her own unique self. There is definitely a marked change from how Davies handled diversity and character development in the overall program to how Moffat dealt with these elements.

In the end, the best way to explain what happened to Steven Moffat is to make a bad geek analogy. Think about the original Star Wars trilogy: when George Lucas’ ideas and outlines were fleshed out and tempered by Lawrence Kasdan’s writing, Marcia Griffin’s film and cinematic work, and Gary Kurtz’s assistance. Now think about the Prequel Trilogy: where George Lucas’ former collaborators were all gone and there was no one else to reign in his ideas. Perhaps the most charitable thing to say is that Steven Moffat acts like the George Lucas of Doctor Who.

Take from that what you will.

My own conclusions are pretty clear. I liked Steven Moffat as a writer, for the most part, but as a showrunner he, at best, had a hit or miss direction in Doctor Who: becoming more of the latter with regards to using a character who had might as well be his own particular Jar Jar Binks. All that said, it is good to see that there will be a new showrunner and I hope that Chris Chibnall will be up to the task of playing in the sandbox that is bigger on the inside.

Be prepared to have to wait in order to see Doctor Who again. We will get one Christmas episode this year, and then Season 10 in 2017: Steven Moffat’s last.

They Lived Happily: The Husbands of River Song

I’m just going to say it right now: after watching “Hell Bent,” I really didn’t know what to expect from Doctor Who‘s Christmas Special “The Husbands of River Song.” This is especially true as it was Steven Moffat that wrote the episode.

I mean, it could have been an entire episode where River doesn’t even know who The Doctor is and after a fanciful waltz of not knowing who he is, dealing with science-fictional talking decapitated heads he doesn’t say anything and she never knows: and somehow we’d be expected to get something some moral lesson from the entire thing as The Doctor sails, alone, throughout the cosmos until the next Companion comes along. I strongly suspect that I’m not the only one who was thinking that it could have very easily gone in this direction: a timey-wimey circuit winding nowhere.

But then something happened. It’s very easy to do, when you think about it. Doctor Who is often seen to be the journey of one Time Lord and his Companions, but we often forget that there is another party. That’s right. Sexy the TARDIS takes The Doctor to wherever he needs to be. This is an established fact from Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife.”

So here is how I choose to see what happened in “The Husbands of River Song.” Sexy pretty much figured Clara to be a phase in The Doctor’s life. You know: the date that your parent knows isn’t necessarily good for you, and will probably not be around forever but decides after a while to not interfere and just let the phase run its course. So here Sexy is by the end of “Hell Bent,” getting rid of all that graffiti from her surface, and deciding that The Doctor should have a new screwdriver and give those glasses something of a rest.

Then, eventually, she probably gets tired of his moping and takes him into the future on another world where, coincidentally, his parallel-travelling wife also finds herself in the midst of another scheme. She’s even playful about it: putting antlers on The Doctor’s head when someone approaches them to ask for a doctor.

Doctor Antlers

And The Doctor, predictably, starts off as his usual grumpy old man self: perhaps even more so than usual as he knows his memory has been tampered with. But then he is reintroduced to River Song in the middle of another madcap scheme of hers, and she doesn’t even know who he is.

And then he meets her husbands: well, at least two of them in name. One is a tyrant who is a head on a robot body more malevolent than he is, who has a diamond stuck in his head that River is ultimately married to, and the other is a poor man who gets interrogated by the tyrant’s robot body and made into a talking head as well. At first, The Doctor is jealous: madly, quietly, seethingly jealous.

But then he takes that jealousy and decides to revert to his best feature from the beginning of his incarnations: being a troll. He goes along with River’s schemes, hams up a reaction to being in a ship that is “bigger on the inside” and generally asks snide questions and makes clever insights about River’s state of being. Finally, here, the tables have turned. When he first met River, he had no idea who she was and she had all the spoilers. Now, The Doctor is the one who has the keys to her Star Wars Episode VII so to speak, and begins to make the best of a bad situation: essentially having the time of his life.

It could continued something along these lines for a while: or even had their reunion trollishly teased and then subverted. Instead, they carried the tyrant’s head in a bag (The Doctor hilariously calling him a talking bag and in a rare of genuine mirth laughing hysterically at the situation) and they go to a luxury liner ship that is exclusively the domain of rich and powerful dictators and mass murderers to sell the diamond in the tyrant’s head.

As an aside, I would posit that The Doctor, having exterminated the Daleks and other evil races over and again, should have had a royal suite reserved exclusively for him on that ship. But anyway.

It turns out the buyers of the gem are all worshipers of the tyrant and it is when that revelation and all the mummery before it comes to a head, along with a poetic rendition of River Song’s love for The Doctor, that she finally realizes that her companion is her husband. Then they bicker like a married couple, outsmart all the baddies, complete with a line from River stating that she is an archaeologist from the future who has already seen their dead bodies four hundred years later, and they escape.

But it doesn’t end there. You see, The Doctor takes the diamond and finances the creation of a fine restaurant and hotel near the Singing Towers of a planet that he always promised to take River to, except he knew this would be their last night together ala “Silence in the Library.”

Doctor and River Christmas

Finally, he brings her to this place that he made long ago. And, for the first time ever, we actually see this Doctor do something that he had never done before. We’d seen the Twelfth Doctor laugh, rage, scream, detached, bitter, and sarcastic. But we had never seen him cry. It’s at this point that we see him say something to his wife. This is the woman to whom he told his true name, and the one person who knows all of his regenerations: including the one that he never talked about to anyone else from The Time War.

He says something to her that challenges if not outright blows all of the best one-liners of Casablanca right out of the water. And we find out on this planet, with their last night together, that nights on this planet last … twenty-four years. Suffice to say, as the episode ends, it is no coincidence that The Doctor has also brought her a sonic screwdriver.

Doctor New Sonic Screwdriver

It seems as though The Doctor’s other wife, Sexy, knows what’s best.

“The Husbands of River Song” almost make up for the events of “Hell Bent.” Almost. As I’ve stated before, I hope that River Song manages to find a way to re-evolve herself from the Library database and incarnate once again: so that we can definitely see her continue to interact with The Doctor. Or at the very least we know that she underwent life-extension treatments to add two hundred years to her own lifespan in lieu of the regenerations she seems to have lost. Anything could happen with those addition two centuries: if not more.

It was a good episode to end off the year with and one that was completely and utterly deserved by The Doctor and Doctor Who fans alike.

Doctor Who Hell Bent On Keeping Its Black Hole Sue

In the words of the Dalek trapped by the Cloister Wraiths near the Matrix, “Exterminate … me …”

Dalek Extermine Me ...

This week, on “Hell Bent” the season finale of Doctor Who, we see The Doctor return to Gallifrey — the world he thought he destroyed but ultimately saved — with the fire of wrathful self-righteousness. It is in the deserts of the outside of Arcadia that the common Gallifreyans, the people who were not fortunate enough to become Time Lords, celebrate the hero of Gallifrey’s salvation. As The Doctor comes home, the Chancellery Guard — still militarized with Time Lord-destroying stasers — surround him: demanding that he go meet the Lord President and High Council and reveal what he knows about the Hybrid.

After telling the multitude of Gallifreyan denizens to stand down with a wave of his hand, he leaves with the Guard: without any weapons, unnerving them all with his presence and the stories of what he has done. They respect him. They are afraid of him. It is there, at the Council that both the Councilors and the Sisters of Karn stand in attendance. The Doctor puts on his glasses as Rassilon, still Lord President of Gallifrey, comes into the chambers and both congratulates and threatens The Doctor. The Doctor asks why the High Council has not been disbanded, and Rassilon executed for attempting to destroy all of reality and betray their sacred oaths to watch over all of space and time. Rassilon makes a whole lot of self-serving remarks about how he is Time Lord society’s founder, creator, and liberator. He blames The Doctor for trapping them all in a pocket dimensional purgatory in which they cannot get out and for using The Moment to summon the Hybrid: to kill them all.

It is then that out of the shadows that Rassilon reveals the person who managed to get him here: by “revising” his confession dial. It’s Missy. In exchange for the repair of her destabilized body and another batch of regenerations, she lured The Doctor here through the manipulation of Lady Me: for the Council to interrogate him about The Hybrid. This and Missy’s “methods of persuasion” are why there are sections missing from Me’s books of memories. Of course, The Doctor is not fooled. He knows why Missy really brought him here. It turns out The Doctor had used his glasses to broadcast this whole interrogation to all of Gallifrey. The Chancellery Guard comes in. Rassilon orders them to kill The Doctor. But they ignore him. The General comes in after them.

Then the Guard surrounds Rassilon and point their stasers at him. The Doctor reveals that during this entire time, he also erased all of Rassilon from the Matrix and the Dark Matrix. He mentions that something that is dead and obsolete should remain dead and obsolete: that he cost him the life of his best friend. Rassilon tries to use his gauntlet, but The Doctor reveals that he has negated that too with his glasses. Rassilon commands the Guard to stand down, but eventually realizes they won’t. He pleadingly reminds them of who he is. The Doctor turns away as the General condemns Rassilon to death.

The Doctor exiles the rest of the High Council. Missy and The Doctor reluctantly work together in order to get Gallifrey out of its pocket dimension. This leads to The Doctor calling his graffiti-decorated TARDIS back using Gallifrey’s command functions. But they have some work to do first. They have to travel back in time just to help the other Doctor incarnations save Gallifrey during The Time War. And right after, he works with Missy and the other Time Lords on Gallifrey – many of whom he knows and trusts from his many incarnations – to bring the planet out again.

The Doctor, as Lord President, commands that Clara Oswald be brought back for her part in helping them save Gallifrey during “The Day of The Doctor.”

And it is then that The Doctor realizes the truth about The Hybrid. There are flashbacks to every interaction he had with all iterations of Clara: and how they met. They are at the Chamber: where someone can get called back from their time for just a few minutes. He realizes that Clara had been in his time stream. She had been introduced to him by Missy. Missy has done something to her. Even as he calls her back to save her, as Clara almost manifests again – changing this fixed point in time – she begins to destabilize time at the centre of Gallifrey. They just have a few moments. Clara tells The Doctor to let her go and something else we don’t hear.

The Doctor heartrendingly returns Clara to her death and turns on Missy who, in the confusion of the time displacement energy Clara was making as The Hybrid, has escaped. The Doctor’s glasses have broken. He leaves Gallifrey: utterly disheartened. But he sees the blackboard on his ship with Clara’s words: “Be a Doctor,” and a sonic screwdriver on the control panel of the TARDIS. The TARDIS then wheezes away out of reality to parts yet unknown.

This was an excellent season finale of Doctor Who …. that never happened.

Clara in a Diner

What actually happens in “Hell Bent” is The Doctor came back to Gallifrey. Then we have a segue where he meets someone who looks like Clara at a diner. We think that she is just one of Clara’s echoes in Arizona. The Doctor goes back to the shack where he was raised. And it’s interesting because, as Lady Me says later on, why would a Time Lord from the high society of Gallifrey spend so much time around humans on Earth? Certainly, from “Listen,” we have to wonder just where The Doctor came from, and his origins as part of the family that is the House of Lungbarrow in the books was ultimately a pleasant and noble lie.

Doctor Who Coming Home

But the rest of it is true. The people, including the woman who raised him, meet him and celebrate. And then the Time Lords simultaneously praise and threaten him: particularly Rassilon who is still Lord President for some reason. There is some epic and foreboding music and you think: Oh, this is on now. But then they do turn on Rassilon, but instead of executing him for his crimes, The Doctor tells him to “Get off his planet.”

Rassilon whines so pathetically that you almost feel sorry for him. Almost. Then The Doctor goes to Arcadia and banishes the High Council as well. From this point on, and before, we are given the mystery of the Cloister Wraiths — that are very reminscient of Rassilon’s Time Lord Interstitials from the novel Engines of War — that guard the Matrix and why they are now active. Leave it to Moffat to create yet another monster of the week.

Doctor Who Cloister Wraith

And then … and then … as Lord President of Gallifrey The Doctor calls back an … old friend: from moments before her death.

Yep. You guessed it.

Clara in a Classic TARDIS

Then he runs off with her, and the secret in the Matrix of this episode — a fascinating place of ghosts guarded by more ghosts utilizing Wraiths and enslaved Daleks, Cybermen, and giving Weeping Angels something to really weep about —  being that there is an old TARDIS hidden in the tunnel under there. Granted, there is a touching scene where Clara actually asks The Doctor and the other Time Lords there what they actually did to him in the confession dial whereupon she tells them that the reason they suck is that they are “hated.”

Pot, kettle, black, but I digress.

They run off to the end of the universe where The Doctor meets Lady Me and we discover that The Hybrid is neither of them, but actually two people of similar temperament and hobbies: namely, Clara and The Doctor because The Doctor is willing to risk fracturing all of space and time to keep her alive.

But apparently The Doctor’s plan is to erase all of Clara’s memories of him specifically so that the Time Lords or reality can’t harm her: so that she can’t be tracked. Basically it’s Donna Noble all over again. So Clara doesn’t like this and they both decide to flip the memory-erasing device to see whose memories of whom will be erased instead.

Clara and Me

And guess what happens? No seriously: guess. The Doctor’s memories of Clara are erased and Clara and Lady Me have a new TARDIS that looks like an Arizona diner. Clara has no pulse because she is still dead even though they travelled to the end of time itself so she has to stay on … her TARDIS in order to survive. I mean: at least Bill in Kill Bill had the decency to walk five steps afterwards, no?

So The Doctor isn’t talking to an echo of Clara, or a mind-wiped Clara at the diner that is a TARDIS, but rather Clara herself as he can’t even perceive her anymore. Then she and Lady Me leave: dematerializing around him and having not question it at all. And surprise: Clara brought back The Doctor’s TARDIS, with the blackboard’s inspirational message and a new sonic screwdriver that just happens to pop out and be waiting for him.

Doctor New Sonic Screwdriver

The blue box TARDIS and the diner TARDIS happen to pass each other in the night of the universe as they travel and … exeunt!

That’s “Hell Bent,” gentle-beings. No Missy. No Time War timey-wimey. No getting Gallifrey out of the pocket dimension because they already did it. Nothing more.

Rassilon Defeated

Honestly, I don’t really know what else to say here. It makes me wish that someone would go find Rassilon in his exile where he is totally not going to be plotting revenge against The Doctor, and beg him to destroy reality. To all the people out there that were hoping to see something spectacular about Gallifrey returning, well congratulations. You remember the Clara Oswald show that mercifully got cancelled? Well, we got a whole new bonus episode of that program instead.

At this point, Clara Oswald is a character that goes beyond being a Mary Sue. She is actually, more aptly, Steven Moffat’s Untempered Schism Sue or – more accurately – a Black Hole Sue. Google it: or better, yet, you can find what a Black Hole Sue is on TV Tropes: namely a character that the author likes so much and ascribes so much importance to even if there is no evidence of this importance aside from being told they are important to the point of warping all characters and plot around them.

“Hell Bent” was a terrible episode. If “Last Christmas” was one middle-finger to many Whovians, then this was easily two middle-fingers: especially when you consider that this was the finale of an otherwise better season. And if I had to rate this episode, that is precisely what I would give it.

“Hell Bent” can get bent with two middle fingers up.

At the very least, right now, The Doctor will no longer have to remember the Clara Oswald Show. If only the rest of us were so fortunate.

Clara Turns Off the TV

The Doctor Goes Through Hell In Heaven Sent

Back during “The Zygon Inversion,” I thought I finally saw Peter Capaldi’s Doctor shine through. It was also around that point, when he truly became poignant, that I worried about the character’s upcoming fate. After all, almost every time The Doctor has a particularly striking moment, it heralds the beginning of his next regeneration.

Well, perhaps I was wrong. Maybe it was an omen for something else entirely. Certainly, Clara as a Doctor substitute would suffice here: she died attempting to imitate him. But we see in “Heaven Sent” that there are many other ways you can die which do not necessitate regeneration.

Perhaps you were expecting the righteous wrath of a furious Doctor being unleashed on an opponent after “Facing the Raven.” Instead, after The Doctor appears in a teleport tube with his Time Lord threats quite clear in the air is a particularly vicious and cerebral form of torture: tailor-made specifically for this current incarnation. There is a lot that is excellent about “Heaven Sent.”

For instance, we get to see — intimately and in detail — precisely just how The Doctor’s mind actually works. It’s no mean feat. Steven Moffat truly brings out an advanced and alien mindset that is still affected by intense emotion. His mind is specifically assembled, probably through mnemonic training, like his TARDIS and he retreats and interacts with this fortress — his safe place and home — in his psyche even as he deals with death-dealing situations with a sharp and analytical mind.

But this episode is brutal. It didn’t take me long to realize who the person who activated the teleporter at the beginning truly was. There also was too much time to figure out whom each of those skulls in the bottom of the sea in the abandoned castle and its turning gears also belonged. In early stories pertaining to The Doctor, he dealt with the Eternals of Time and Death: which makes the shuffling monster surrounded by flies coming after him a bad pun and something eerie altogether. Even the music sometimes veers into strange eighties synthesized tones.

Moffat could have seriously ended “Heaven Sent” on a major down note. He was quite capable of having The Doctor get out of this in the upcoming “Hell Bent.” But that would be nonsense. Instead, through watching The Doctor fall over and again, you have a reminder of precisely how strong-willed and relentless he truly is. The way his prison works is that he would get a moment’s respite for every fear-based truth he told. But it was a losing proposition.

Think about it. If The Doctor told all of his truths, he would still die over and again. He would continually go insane. And his enemies, whomever they are, would know everything about him. If he just continued moving throughout the castle, he would still die and come back to life each time. A lesser mind would break either way.

But then The Doctor realizes something. He notices, each time after he brings himself back through the teleporter, that the stars are not in the right alignment as his innate Time Lords senses tell him. He also keeps punching a crystal in front of him: whittling it away through each incarnation, dying again, and crawling back to resurrect himself. The gears in the castle turn. It’s as though the entire prison is a puzzle calibrating precisely at certain temporal and spatial coordinates.

By the time The Doctor smashes through the crystal and finds himself in a desert, he doesn’t seem at all surprised by the revelation. First, we find that his prison was actually his confession dial. Second, he is back on Gallifrey.

The third truth is for us though. You know that Hybrid we’ve been hearing about from Davros onward this season? Well, apparently, it’s The Doctor. And from the way he looks at the end of the episode, there is going to be a reckoning.

For all the brilliance of this Doctor Who episode made by Sisyphus, there are still some issues. If The Doctor drowned in several incarnations — becoming those stacks of skulls underwater — how did he get to the teleporter to bring himself back those times? And, I’m sorry, but even in death Clara seems to be tagged on by the writer: a continuation of how important she actually is, while you just don’t really … feel it. Even her dialogue from the subconscious of The Doctor is contrived and outright callous. The episode keeps telling us we should care about Clara but it’s hard to when you already weren’t doing so. It just makes you aware that even though she’s gone, the badly written Clara Oswald is unfortunately going to linger on for a while.

All that said, however, here are some questions to consider. Who last held The Doctor’s confession dial? And is The Doctor lying for the benefit of whom might have done this to his dial? Are long time fan theories and certain lines from the 1996 Doctor Who movie about The Doctor’s origins true? Just how did Missy get out of Gallifrey exactly? Why did The Doctor leave Gallifrey to begin with? Who else did he leave with? And when he says “The Hybrid is me,” does he mean “Lady Me?” The same Lady who had a vast portion of pages torn out of one of her journals?

Perhaps we will find out next time on Doctor Who: “Hell Bent.”

Doctor Who: Clara Dies in Face the Raven

A few episodes ago in Doctor Who we had the phrase “truth and consequences” to ponder over. But if “Face the Raven” can be summarized in a few words, it would be “actions and consequences.” The episode begins as most Doctor Who episodes with Clara Oswald do: with an off-screen adventure and praising of each other’s abilities. It’s only when the spray painter Rigsy, from “Flatline” phones the TARDIS directly that things become serious fast.

Facing the Raven Plans

And I do mean fast. Rigsy has a number tattoo that keeps counting down towards … something. This “something,” of course, is Rigsy’s imminent death. This is obviously something that neither The Doctor nor Clara can tolerate as Rigsy has a family and, in particular, a small child. He also doesn’t remember how he even got this strange black tattoo. This leads to some fascinating research and the discovery of a hidden street and neighbourhood on par with Neil Gaiman’s London Underground in Neverwhere.

It turns out there is a hidden refuge for aliens and other beings on Earth. It is has a “misdirection circuit” that protects it from outsiders with any knowledge of its existence. It has existed for about a century and guess who operates as its Mayor?

Lady Me Facing the Raven

That’s right: our old friend Lady Me.

One way she decided to protect the world against The Doctor’s “good intentions” was to create this refuge. And it contains quite a number of beings shrouded in advanced holograms: including and not limited to a Cyberman. But the real mystery begins here. It turns out that Rigsy apparently murdered someone in the refuge, a model citizen, even though he has no memory of this. As such, Lady Me is responsible for the tattoo on his neck that will summon what looks like a raven to enter his body and kill him with excruciating slowness: the price of any crime that would endanger the refuge.

So of course The Doctor and Clara seek to prove that Rigsy, who had no way of even finding this place on his own to begin with, is innocent so that Lady Me will remove his tattoo. The good news is they prove that not do they prove that Rigsy didn’t murder anyone, but that his supposed murder victim is still alive in stasis.

The bad news is that it had all been a trap.

Face the Raven Trap

It turns out that Lady Me, having watched The Doctor’s doings for centuries, found out about Rigsy and lured him to the refuge and faked the entire crime: just to lure The Doctor to her. She then captured him: for a mysterious benefactor who gave her the misdirection circuit and cloaking technology that she uses to protect the refuge. Further, she also takes his Confession Dial away from him: though whether or not it was for her benefactor, or herself remains uncertain.

And then … it gets worse. As if Lady Me not learning from her last negotiation with an alien benefactor weren’t enough, Clara also didn’t learn … until the end.

The symbolism is heavy. After all, it is no coincidence that the alien woman supposedly murdered is a Janus. In addition to having two faces that can see the past and the future, Janus himself — the deity which the species is based from — is a god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. Before they solved the murder that didn’t happen, Clara and Rigsy had figured out that the Raven’s mark could be transferred to a willing host. And so Clara decided that she would take Rigsy’s mark: figuring that The Doctor would succeed and thus save her as he always did.

Except he doesn’t.

As it turns out, Lady Me can’t remove a tattoo from someone who accepts it willingly. There is literally nothing she can do. It is only in those last moments that Clara begins to understand. It is a hard lesson. More often than not, The Doctor has always managed to outsmart both their opponents and threats that come their way. In fact, The Doctor has saved Clara from quite a few moments that should have led to her death and, after a time, she started to take this for granted. It is only at the end, realizing that The Doctor can’t save her that Clara understands that her actions have consequences.

Clara's Last Moments

It is a fairly tragic end to the character for a number of reasons. Even as she processes and accepts her impending doom she still acts as a mirror to The Doctor: stating that she wanted to be like him. She also grimly mentions that perhaps all of her risk-taking was, in reality, leading to this moment: or that maybe she can find meaning in her sacrifice as Danny Pink had done.

To be honest, all of these possible explanations seem pretty tacked on to a character who alternated between self-righteousness, tagging along, becoming a joke in this season, and having one moment of genuine grace in “The Zygon Inversion.” Even so, when she dies she goes out with a certain degree of dignity as the raven kills her very slowly in the refuge.

Clara Dies

Suffice to say, The Doctor is teleported away to meet his new captor but not before it becomes very clear that Lady Me should hope to never, ever, meet him again. The episode ends after a pause where Rigsy leaves the TARDIS with beautiful graffiti commemorating Clara’s sacrifice.

What makes this episode so sad is how cleverly it begins and how it ends much in the way that Clara’s time with The Doctor began: with bravery, impetuousness, and stupidity. Clara didn’t have to die. If she had just waited and continued to do her part to help The Doctor, they could have saved Rigsy and left the refuge intact. If there had been symmetry to her character arc such as it was, she could have died peacefully in old age at a fixed point in time in “Last Christmas.” If Clara’s actions as “The Impossible Girl” had been shown to viewers, rather than told perhaps her death would have more impact than attempting to elicit pathos through three slow frames of motion. Just her final words themselves to The Doctor would have been more than enough.

The real tragedy of Clara Oswald, when it comes down to it, is that she could have been so much more and as abruptly as she came into Doctor Who she was just as arbitrarily removed. Frankly, she deserved better. Despite this, at the very least she faced her death as bravely as any Companion: and her exit from the show leaves an emptiness that we will have to see bridged in some way.

Because one thing is certain. Perhaps Clara was successful in keeping The Doctor from becoming the Warrior again, and convince him to “heal thyself,” but while he may not unleash vengeance he is most certainly going to seek justice next time, on Doctor Who.

Some Nightmares Fail: Doctor Who’s Sleep No More

Doctor Who‘s “Sleep No More” had a brilliant start. First, there was the eerie fact that the episode lacked the usual thematic introduction that we’re so used to. The subdued, eerie atmosphere simply begins with the introduction to a man named Professor Rassmussen. He gives us, the audience, his account of what happened on the Le Verrier space station: where a rescue team was sent to find out what happened to them … and failed.

It’s definitely not the last time we will see Professor Rassmussen. The episode itself, written by Mark Gatiss, is patterned after a found-footage film, or even a piece of epistolary fiction: a story told from a first hand account. No matter which way you look at it though, from the very beginning where the Professor warns us not to watch his recordings, Gatiss attempts to tell a horror story through the tropes of Doctor Who. This is not the first time. Doctor Who has often verged on the horror genre with its vast selection of monsters.

Unfortunately, it’s not only the rescue team that fails in this episode.

It turns out that the good Professor had created machines called Morpheus pods: things that allow humans to have a good night’s sleep in just five minutes to increase productivity. It is such a banal reason to unleash such horror because, wouldn’t you know it, you know those grains you get in the corners of your eyes? That sleep dust? After you sleep? Well, it is actually the growth of a mucus lifeform that usually gets killed off by semi-regular human sleep but because of the Morpheus pods and their electric signals, these lifeforms aren’t stopped by the human immune system in slumber and consume their hosts … and everyone around them.

These Sandmen, Dustmen, or Sleepmen can’t even see: they need the eyes of those who have apparently used the pods to find their prey. Also, interfering with the electric impulse that keep together disintegrate their bodies into dry grains of sand.

To be honest, they are … kind of underwhelming: more of a parasite that grows from these electro-magnetic impulses more than anything. The team, with the exception of the Grunt — a human cloned specifically and only for combat — are pretty unmemorable and they die with very little fanfare. Even with the interesting twist of The Doctor and Clara actually meeting and getting involved with the rescue team — instead of arriving after they are gone — doesn’t offset this. Mind you, there are some good character moments from The Doctor and Clara if you can believe it: The Doctor referring to the Professor’s pods as an abomination, and Clara calling the creation of human life made and bred to fight and die in wars morally disgusting.

In the end, The Doctor and the others destroy the station and the Sandmen within it: after one of the soldiers on the the rescue team kills the good Professor for actually trying to help his inadvertent creations take over the universe. Because, you know, we totally didn’t see Rassmussen being evil and behind everything totally coming a mile away.

But then we realize the truth. You know how Rassmussen recorded his last living moments on the ship? Well, he did it after he was supposedly killed. It turns out Rassmussen was captured and at least partially converted — or replaced — by the Sandmen at some point in the episode and by virtue of leaving his found-footage and sending it across the Sol System, he will spread Sandmen through all life everywhere: including through us the viewers. In the immortal tradition of M. Night Shyamalan, ‘What a twist!”

So as Rassmussen, or whatever he has become, crumbles into dust — the happiest dying villain ever having apparently one-upped The Doctor — you begin to see what is wrong with this episode. It can summed up by having a fascinating premise that could have made it on the level of “Listen,” with a cautionary tale introduction, interesting found-footage segments, followed by disappointing monsters, confusing information about what they are and how they get destroyed, lackluster secondary characters, and the particularly disappointing reveal of Patient Zero whom — if you are really following the plot at this point somehow — should have totally been the good Professor himself. I mean, he is already insane and driven so why wouldn’t he have tested his Morpheus pod on himself first and perhaps the Sandman that came from his eyes had been manipulating them the whole time?

Whereas “Listen” was all about psychological terror and playing with perceptions, at best “Sleep No More” at best an attempt at a NoSleep meme using Doctor Who as a medium. And it was just as bad as a rushed and amateurish creepypasta failed to go viral. In fact, it’s almost like a choppy superficial parallel of what happens in The Russian Sleep Experiment creepypasta. It’s a shame because with more time and effort, this could have been a classic creepy Doctor Who episode. Still, it is a fascinating failure when you look at what the episode tried to be. And who knows? Perhaps the experiment isn’t yet because, after all, there are some nightmares need more than just five minutes of sleep to come into full fruition.

Doctor Who: Hail to the Zygon

Things looked pretty grim in the last episode of Doctor Who. UNIT was supposedly neutralized, at least in the United Kingdom, and a missile was headed towards The Doctor’s World Presidential plane from a Zygon assuming Clara Oswald’s form. I also mentioned, last time, that the plan of the Zygon radicals was worthy of HYDRA.

But perhaps “Hail Zygon!” was a little premature.

Take, for instance, what the Zygons did with Clara. They put her in a pod: her trapping her mind in a dreamscape to gather more information from her subconscious. And this is where the writers of “The Zygon Inversion” do something very … interesting. As it turns out, despite having a year to prepare and work itself into UNIT, the radical Zygon faction didn’t do their homework. They didn’t know about the events of “Last Christmas”: where Clara and The Doctor were held by dream crabs. Of course, that might not be entirely fair. I mean, they wouldn’t have had reason to know about “The Bells of Saint John” with the Great Intelligence or even “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Name of The Doctor.” UNIT, assuming the faction even went as far as getting all of its information, didn’t even know about many of those events.

Clara has had her mind influenced before. It has been split across space and time. The Great Intelligence tried to synchronize it. And there have been many times she has been trapped somewhere: at the fringe between the damsel and refrigerator tropes. But “Last Christmas” in particular made Clara painfully aware of dreamscapes and the flaws within them. The Zygons did a shoddy job of making a dreamscape that was believable: a contrast to Steven Moffat and Peter Harness who use “the Gimmie” — the suspension of disbelief — to make us believe that she has a strong enough mind to resist and even influence the Zygon trying to access and steal her memories.

As unbelievable as it might sound, the way that Clara faces off against her Zygon counterpart Bonnie is nothing short of bad ass. Somehow Moffat, Harness, and Jenna Coleman make the character have this about face moment: leading you to realize just how screwed Bonnie — Clara’s Zygon duplicate — is going to be. Clara’s “schooling” of Bonnie is a hint of what Clara should have been from the very beginning.

Clara Turns Off the TV

But the epic element does not stop there.

You see, it’s really a combination of things. For instance, the show hits home exactly what the problem is with the Zygon radical faction. In my last recap, I likened them to HYDRA but I fear I might have grossly overestimated them. Oh, they shared HYDRA’s hubris, but their planning is only similar on a superficial level. The fact is: the radicals could have done a lot of damage in the longer term if they had been smart about it. They had about a year to prepare for an invasion without war. They are shapeshifters and are aware of what they are. Especially after one of the Osgoods died, they could have infiltrated UNIT across the world or — better yet — taken out the Zygon High Command first and dealt with UNIT later.

They could have appealed to the rest of their kind’s need to be more open, or to gain more resources through hit and run means. Meanwhile, they might have expanded their plan to use revealed Zygons — preferably “traitors” to their cause — as lightning rods to distract the humans and make a show of stopping them. Over time, they could have taken over places of human government and slowly improved human technology to make them more dependent on their innovation. And if they had taken UNIT in particular, it wouldn’t have taken much to place a bomb on, say, a World Presidential plane while its crew might have been … distracted by events.

The Zygon radical faction could have become the new Zygon High Command if they had been smarter: rallying the others of their kind by their example and using human civilization as its slave that they could monitor from within itself.

What happened instead was that Bonnie, as the leader of the radicals, wanted to make a statement. She wanted to reveal twenty million prepared and unprepared Zygons to seven billion humans right away. She didn’t care that those Zygons would most likely get slaughtered over time. Zygons are shapeshifters. Their greatest strength is hiding who they are until they have the advantage. Getting the Osgood Box would have only taken this advantage away by outing all of them.

The radicals are shown to be short-sighted and fueled by rage and a tremendous sense of self-entitlement. As The Doctor himself explains, they are more like rebellious children than anything else: rebels that are willing to destroy themselves and everyone else to be right rather than build anything lasting.

Bonnie is Mad

And this is where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor shines. He presents the radicals, through Bonnie, with a challenge. It seems as though The Moment affected him greatly as both humans and Zygons don’t merely have one box that could reveal or destroy them: but two. And it is almost a sick joke that both boxes have the radical motto on them: truth or consequences.

It is revealed that many threats to the Human-Zygon ceasefire have happened before. This is why The Doctor knows so much about Bonnie: because others had tried this before and he had erased their memories. But it goes further than that. He derails both Kate Lethbridge Stewart’s violence and Bonnie the Zygon’s fanaticism by showing them just how terrifying war is essentialized into two boxes with push buttons. He tells them about what real war is all about. And then he gives an excellent lesson to Bonnie. He teaches a shapeshifter that “thinking is a fancy way of changing your mind.” Of course. The Doctor himself is a much longer lived shapeshifter that did horrific things in the Time War so he would know all about it. The way he calls her out on the futility of revolutions and rebellion as a cycle and his own experiences in War made for a compelling and poignant moment in his own portrayal worthy of his other incarnations.

Doctor and Bonnie

But even when you put Clara and The Doctor aside, there is Osgood to consider. When asked if she is either a Zygon or a human, Osgood basically says, “Yes.” She holds her own to The Doctor, still respecting him, but recognizing his strengths and flaws. And she stands by her convictions. Many fans believe Osgood to be the Companion that he should have had, but now it’s clear that she has her own destiny as an agency in her own right. And it’s not everyday that someone discovers they have a new sister after the loss of their other sibling.

Osgood the Bad Ass

I do think that Bonnie got off very lightly for what she and the others had done to human and Zygon lives. If this was a learning experience for her, it was a costly one. One can only hope that she will continue to improve herself as the next Osgood. She has great shoes to fill.

“The Zygon Inversion” took the concept of a Zygon infiltration, and a wasteful revolution of radicals and turned it into something else entirely: an examination of the futility of war and the working towards something greater. Almost every character in this story had their bad ass moment and even The Doctor’s manipulation of the situation — in an almost terrifying manner — hits home one fact that may not have always been clear in the last season. Because in those lines, and in those words there was The Doctor. There he is.