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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Doctor Who: Guest Starring Monty Python's God and Arya Stark

Spoilers: RIP Sonic Shades; ye won't be missed.

Five episodes in and we finally get an episode that, while still technically a two-parter, can stand on its own as a complete episode. This feels very much like Part 2 will be a sequel instead of a direct continuation of the story. And while it wasn't a bad episode by any means, it falls into a recent pattern of the historical episodes being really quite silly and I'm just not enjoying that.

For comparison, look at the early relaunch historical episodes like The Unquiet Dead, Tooth and Claw, or Girl in the Fireplace -- dark tone, serious characters, and an almost somber mood, but with an appreciation for adventure. Conversely, last season's Robot of Sherwood was easily my least favourite episode, and The Girl Who Died may be joining it. Surprisingly, I can often pick out which episodes I enjoy by the writers, but Mark Gatiss wrote Robot of Sherwood and I normally enjoy his episodes, while Jamie Mathieson wrote this one, and he wrote my favourite episodes of the previous year: Flatline and Mummy on the Orient Express.

The things I enjoyed in this episode are fewer than things I didn't, so we'll start there:
  • Clara's grandstanding bluff to “Odin” really shows how much she's grown since she became a character instead of a plot device. To stand eye-to-eye with a powerful alien masquerading as a god requires a strength of will and wit that Colonel Jack O'Neill over on Stargate would appreciate. 
  • Maisie Williams. Oh, Maisie Williams. I weep that she was used on this episode and hope that her talents are more at home in the next episode. This girl's face is obscenely expressive, to the point where she could probably play a major role in which she never said a single word and still bring a crowd to tears.
  • The ending scene, after the Doctor realizes what he's done to her, representing the world aging, continuing around her, separate from her, as her face goes from joy and happiness to sorrow to finally cold detachment is amazing. 
  • The variations on the excellent theme of “A Good Man.” That still remains my favourite piece of Who-related music. 
  • Thwarting an alien race with shaming them on social media.
Maisie Williams will bite your head off. (Image courtesy BBC)
The things I didn't like:
  • Comedy vikings.
  • Inept villagers who wield tools for farming and construction, but smash cut to the moment they pick up a real weapon, and they've set the entire village on fire.
  • The viking who passes out at the mere mention of blood. 
  • The fact that the farce of the comedy vikings drags on for soo long.
  • The Doctor's defeatist attitude and the fact that Clara had to remind him what he's good at: winning. 
  • The Playskool battle armour of the aliens, like even sillier Judoon. 
  • The fact that Odin's first appearance is functionally identical to Monty Python's God
  • Beating the aliens with electric eels was... clever, but I'm not really sure they put out that much electrical current. I'm no marine biologist or electrician, but that just strikes me as unlikely. 
  • And they just had to sneak in a poop joke. 
  • The revelation of the choice of his face. It was a real “Wait... that's it?” moment, and I felt it served to undermine his strict insistence on working within the Rules of Time emphasized in the previous episode
  • Thwarting an alien race with shaming them on social media. I'm quite torn on that one.

I wasn't fond of this episode overall. I didn't quite dislike it as much as Sherwood, but I'm hoping it serves as, at the very least, a good introduction to a character that will get a better story. We'll find out next week with more Maisie Williams.

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