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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Doctor Who: Moffat Keeps Stealing My Pun Titles

Spoilers: Clara's flat is larger than I thought. 

When I was young, I was a huge fan of Batman: The Animated Series. My favourite episode was a Scarecrow-centric one called Perchance to Dream, in which Batman is locked in a dream state where Batman and Bruce Wayne are two separate people and Thomas and Martha Wayne were never killed. One of the most memorable moments of this is where he begins to realize it's a dream because the newspapers are full of gibberish. This episode begins much the same way, with Clara realizing her dreaming state with little details and, due to her experience beyond that of normal humans, slowly begins to use the Zygon's psychic link to seize subliminal control of her double. It's all very, very clever, and a good use of “show, don't tell” that shows us that Clara Oswald, since becoming a proper character a few years back now, really is a strong companion.

Last week, I complained that the first part of this two-parter was very chaotic and unfocused, with lots of STUFF HAPPENING and very little tying it all together. This episode does make up for it, again slowing the frantic pace of the first episode and having a lot of long, involved scenes with a tremendous emphasis on character that benefits the four main stars: The Doctor, Osgood, Clara, and Evil Clara (yes, I know she calls herself 'Bonnie.' I like Evil Clara better).

Osgood really proves herself in this episode as well. So far, she's been really little more than a joke, a nod to the fandom, a little bit of Fourth Wall with her cosplay outfits and question mark jumpers and ridiculously long scarf. The speech she gave in the last episode, which I quoted entirely in my review of it, spoke of how dedicated to the protection of her home that she is and the peace that maintains that home. At the same time, she continues to be an audience stand-in as she voices our opinion of the Sonic Glasses -- an opinion that is no doubt delighting Moffat to no end, as the man revels in the frustrations of his viewers.

She also goes quite obscure when referencing how she'd deal with the Doctor if she had to: a bullet, before he could speak, 12 times if necessary. There was an audio story called Full Fathom Five that ended much this same way, with a woman -- a government operative -- shooting the Doctor and letting him regenerate only to shoot him again until his regenerations were gone.

Evil Clara continues to be a treasure. The official YouTube channel released a short video discussing it, and it turns out this is Jenna Coleman's first time ever playing a villain -- and she completely knocks it out of the park. Her tone is flat and menacing when in control, sad and desperate when not. Her body language is completely different from Clara -- standing stock straight, tilting her head menacingly, her eyes almost permanently narrowed -- she plays an excellent baddie, and I'd love to see her play one elsewhere after her time with Who is up.

Which brings us to the meat. Starting at approximately 30 minutes in, and going on for a staggering nearly 10 minutes, was a scene that I thought would never end and was hoping would just keep going.

“You're not superiour to people who were cruel to you, 
you're just a bunch of new cruel people.”

The previous episode had a very ham-handed allegory towards ISIS and Syria and other political hot-spots, but this episode plays it with much more subtlety, in that the message could be applied equally to the previous episode's targets as well as any group, be it left, right, up, down, secular or otherwise, that feels it might be marginalized and lashes out.

This is Twelve's moment, and Capaldi delivers his finest performance to date, right up there with other memorable moments across regenerations. It's his shouting down of Davros, his “Do I have the right?”, his Pandorica speech. his "Everybody Lives", his "Go to Hell!" He's not speaking from a position of authority as he dresses down Evil Clara and her revolutionary movement, he's speaking from a position of experience. From a position of centuries of pain, having lived through the worst conflict imaginable, as he takes a very Bruce Wayne-ian vow of never letting anyone live through what he's lived through. And Capaldi plays it all beautifully, veering between angry Scottish shouting, pained sadness, and barking like a Craig Fergson-esque gameshow host. I rewound and watched that scene three times. This truly is the culmination of Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor, and I almost fear that it will never be this good again.
"I forgive you."
And he's done it 16 times now, apparently. But apparently this will be the last, as his words seem to have truly hit home with Evil Clara, who has restored the Osgoods. I suspect they're both Zygon, though, as I like to think that human-Osgood was lactose-intolerant. But that's just my fan theory.

I was very pleased with this episode on the whole. The previous episode confused me, and that didn't surprise me as it was written by the person who wrote my second least favourite episode of the previous series, Kill The Moon. Moffat seems to have stepped in and co-wrote, and the difference is night and day. My only real complaint is Kate Stewart's escape from the New Mexico branch of Zygon Separatists. She is her father's daughter, the “five rounds rapid” reference was appreciated, and it's not that I have trouble believing Kate Stewart could easily overcome a single Zygon rebel; I simply have a hard time believing she's the only UNIT operative that could. UNIT needs better training.. maybe they could get SHIELD to lend a hand? Or maybe I'm just that interested in getting Kate Stewart and Phil Coulson onscreen together.

A minor complaint is that I wish we'd seen more focus on the implications of the Zygon invasion, as there was clearly a non-insignificant body count telegraphed by the casual sweeping of post-Zygon-kill electric hairballs off the street. It seems a shame not to have explored that more, but if it had come at the cost of cutting absolutely any of that 10 minute sequence, I can accept that. I also wonder if Zygons think humans brush their teeth with poo. Because that's what This Is Toothpaste brand Toothpaste looks like.

Next week's episode looks very reminiscent to the underwater base episodes from a few weeks ago. It should be interesting to compare and contrast.

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