Doctor Who: World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 106m) ∗∗∗∗½ pr. Peter Bennett; d. Rachel Talalay; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, John Simm , Oliver Lansley, Paul Brightwell, Alison Lintott, Briana Shann, Rosie Boore, Samantha Spiro, Simon Coombs, Nicholas Briggs, David Bradley. Friendship drives the Doctor into the rashest decision of his life. Trapped on a giant spaceship, caught in the event horizon of a black hole, he witnesses the death of someone he is pledged to protect. Is there any way he can redeem his mistake? Are events already out of control? For once, time is the Time Lord’s enemy. Moffat’s season finales have generally been a case of excellent set-up and disappointing pay-off. This story comes close to meeting that trend, but ultimately wins out because of the superb performances, a witty script and its no-win situation. Capaldi excels here in fighting his moral dilemna. Gomez and Simm spark well with Capaldi and each other and there is a sense of irony about the resolution of their story. The first episode set up the premise brilliantly in one of the best ever episodes of the series. The resolution felt a little contrived in places and overly sentimental in the resolution of Bill’s story, but this is otherwise an excellent finale with a superb twist right at the end leaving us looking forward to the Xmas special to come. 
Doctor Who: The Eaters of Light (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 42m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Charles Palmer; w. Rona Munro; ph. Mark Waters; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, Rebecca Benson, Daniel Kerr, Brian Vernel, Rohan Nedd, Ben Hunter, Sam Adewunmi, Billy Matthews, Aaron Phagura, Jocelyn Brassington, Lewis McGowan. A long time ago, the ninth legion of the Roman army vanished into the mists of Scotland. Bill has a theory about what happened, and the Doctor has a time machine. But when they arrive in ancient Aberdeenshire, what they find is a far greater threat than any army. In a cairn, on a hillside, is a doorway leading to the end of the world. Another variant on the ‘monster of the week’ theme, working slightly better than EMPRESS OF MARS thanks to a more polished script from Munro (the only writer from the original series to pen a story since the 2005 relaunch – 1989’s SURVIVAL, the last broadcast story of the original run. What lets the episode down is the variable performances given by the young guest cast, contrasting with the confident ones from the regulars, some dodgy CGI and an overly neat ending. Its familiarity actually makes a welcome break from Moffat’s high concept episodes and is a diverting enough tale. 
Doctor Who: Empres of Mars (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 44m) ∗∗∗ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Wayne Che Yip; w. Mark Gatiss; ph. Stuart Biddlecombe; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie , Michelle Gomez, Anthony Calf, Ferdinand Kingsley, Richard Ashton, Adele Lynch, Glenn Speers, Ian Beattie, Bayo Gbadamosi, Ian Hughes, Lesley Ewen. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive on Mars, and find themselves in an impossible conflict between Ice Warriors… and Victorian soldiers. As the Martian hive awakens around them, the Doctor faces a unique dilemma – this time the humans, not the Ice Warriors are the invaders. When Earth is invading Mars, whose side is he on? A return to the “monster of the week” format and a hark back to the stories of the 1960s with a post-modern twist. It’s all entertaining enough without really generating any suspense. The underground setting proves restrictive and the Ice Warriors lack the menace of old, being portrayed as hulking monsters with thudding footsteps. 
Doctor Who: (1) Extremis/(2) The Pyramid at the End of the World/(3) The Lie of the Land (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 140m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Peter Bennett (1 & 2), Nikki Wilson (3); d. Daniel Nettheim (1 & 2), Wayne Che Yip (3); w. Steven Moffat (1 & 2), Peter Harness (2), Toby Whithouse (3); ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas , Michelle Gomez, Jennifer Hennessy, Corrado Invernizzi, Joseph Long, Jamie Hill, Togo Igawa, Nigel Hastings, Eben Young, Rachel Denning, Tony Gardner, Andrew Byron, Daphne Cheung, Rosie Jane. (1) In the Haereticum – the Vatican’s secret library of blasphemy – there is an ancient book known only as The Veritas. Throughout history, anyone who has ever read it has immediately taken their own life. Now a new translation is online, and the danger is spreading. The Vatican appeals to the Doctor. Will he read The Veritas? But can even the Doctor survive the ultimate truth? (2) A 5,000 year-old Pyramid stands at the centre of a war zone, where the Chinese, Russian and American armies are about to clash. There are many problems with that, but the one that intrigues the Doctor is this: there wasn’t a pyramid there yesterday. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole face an alien invasion unlike any other, and before conquest can begin, these aliens need the consent of the human race… (3) The world is gripped by a mass delusion and only Bill Potts can see the truth. When even the Doctor is fighting on the wrong side, it’s up to Bill to convince the Time Lord that humanity is in deadly danger. And if she can’t do that, she may just have to kill her best friend. Frustratingly close to being a superb example of the series at its best, but let down by a weak resolution. The second segment is the strongest with the tension building to a superb cliffhanger only to be undone by a confused and rushed finale. 
Doctor Who: Oxygen (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 45m) ∗∗∗∗ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Charles Palmer; w. Jamie Mathieson; ph. Mark Waters; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Kieran Bew, Justin Salinger, Peter Caulfield, Mimi Ndiweni, Katie Brayben. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole answer a distress call in deep space, and find themselves trapped on board space station Chasm Forge. All but four of the crew have been murdered – and the dead are still walking! Tense episode benefits from a strong script and Capaldi at his best. The plot is a thinly diguised allegory for corporate greed with its cast of zombified workers having been exploited by the “suits”. The visual effects are very impressive and there is a cliffhanger ending that adds a twist. 
Doctor Who: Knock Knock (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 45m) ∗∗∗∗ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Bill Anderson; w. Mike Bartlett; ph. Damian Bromley; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, David Suchet, Mariah Gale, Mandeep Dhillon, Colin Ryan, Ben Presley, Alice Hewkin, Bart Suavek, Sam Benjamin. Bill is moving in with some friends and they’ve found the perfect house – so what if it’s strangely cheap to rent, and the landlord is a little creepy? The wind blows, the floorboards creak, and the Doctor thinks something is very wrong. What lurks in the strange tower at the heart of the building – and why can’t they find any way to enter it? This effective variation on the haunted house plot is a perfectly paced and creepy episode with Suchet excellent as the mysterious Landlord. Capaldi and Mackie are making a great team with their interplay and banter. Great visual effects and make-up. 
Doctor Who: Thin Ice (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 44m) ∗∗∗ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Bill Anderson; w. Sarah Dollard; ph. Damian Bromley; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Nicholas Burns, Asiatu Koroma, Simon Ludders, Tomi May, Guillaume Rivaud, Ellie Shenker, Peter Singh, Badger Skelton, Austin Taylor, Kishaina Thiruselvan. London, 1814. The entire city has turned out for the biggest Frost Fair in decades. But beneath the frozen Thames, revellers are disappearing, snatched through the ice and pulled into the depths where a terrifying monster lurks. Will the Doctor and Bill stop the slaughter before they too are dragged into the icy waters? Fun episode with superb production values capturing London in the early 19th century. The story is no great shakes and lacks any real tension, but there is nice interplay between the leads and enough spirit to make it entertaining. [PG]
Doctor Who: Smile (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 46m) ∗∗½ pr. Peter Bennett; d. Lawrence Gough; w. Frank Cottrell-Boyce; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold; ed. William Oswald. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas, Kiran L Dadlani, Mina Anwar, Ralf Little, Kalungi Ssebandeke, Kiran Shah, Craig Garner. In the far future, at the edge of the galaxy, there is a gleaming, perfect city. This brand new human settlement is said to hold the secret of human happiness – but the only smiles the Doctor and Bill can find are on a pile of grinning skulls. Something is alive in the walls, and the emojibots are watching from the shadows, as the Doctor and Bill trying to unravel a terrifying mystery. Beautfully shot with great use of the City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias), in Valencia, Spain as an alien location. Unfortunately the story does little to engage either as a whimsical take on subversion of language or as a tale of technology gone wrong. The interplay between Capaldi and Mackie is good, but they mainly interact with the cute, but bland, emojibots. The threat factor is largely diminished by these robots’ clunkiness. When a human cast eventually emerges from slumber late in the proceedings the story has already moved toward a swift wrap-up, leaving no time for any further development. There is a direct lead in to the next episode THIN ICE at the conclusion, echoing the approach taken during the Hartnell years. [PG]
Doctor Who: The Pilot (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 50m) ∗∗∗½ pr. Nikki Wilson; d. Lawrence Gough; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Ashley Rowe; m. Murray Gold; ed. William Oswald. Cast: Peter Capaldi, Matt Lucas, Pearl Mackie, Jennifer Hennessy, Stephanie Hyam, Nicholas Briggs (voice). A chance encounter with a girl with a star in her eye leads to a terrifying chase across time and space. Bill’s mind is opened to a Universe that is bigger and more exciting than she could possibly have imagined – but who is the Doctor, and what is his secret mission with Nardole on Earth? This is a confident season opener that re-establishes the concept of the series through the eyes of new companion Bill Potts (Mackie). Mackie has lots of charm and her chemistry with Capaldi promises much for the series ahead. The plot shares common themes with WATERS OF MARS, which may or may not be a significant point. [PG]
Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio
Season: X15 Story: 1 (107) | 1 x 60m | Production Code: 10.1
Broadcast: 25 December 2016
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Ed Bazalgette
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin
Producer: Peter Bennett
Script Editor: Nick Lambon; Director of Photography: Ashley Rowe; Music: Murray Gold; Production Designer: Michael Pickwoad; Editor: Adam Green; Costumes: Hayle Nebauer; Visual Effects: MILK; Special Effects: Real SFX; Prosthetics: Millennium FX
Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Matt Lucas (Nardole), Justin Chatwin (Grant), Charity Wakefield (Lucy), Tomiwa Edun (Mr Brock), Aleksandar Jovanovic (Doctor Sim), Logan Huffman (Young Grant), Daniel Lorente (Teen Grant), Sandra Tees (Reporter), Tanroh Ishida (Operator), Vaughn Johseph (U.N.I.T. Soldier).
Synopsis: The Doctor spends Christmas in New York, but this time he is not the only hero in town. A deadly alien menace is poised to attack the city, and the Time Lord will need all the help he can get to stop it. Fortunately, Manhattan has its own protector in the form of a mysterious masked superhero.
Comment: Moffat riffs on the current saturation of comic book heroes in our multiplexes with middling results. The positives are Capaldi’s increasing comfort in the title role – his charisma and energy light up the screen – and the surprisingly effective Lucas as his companion. The alien invasion plot, however, is a little weak as is Chatwin as Grant/The Ghost. Some nice in-jokes for comic book fans help make this an entertaining, if slight episode.