Over the years Doctor Who‘s forays from sci-fi into horror have led to mixed results. While creating my favorite episode of the current run in “Blink” which introduced audiences to the Weeping Angels, other attempts have been far less successful. Sadly, “Sleep No More” falls into the later category as the audience is thrown into a found-footage style horror tale about monsters from your sleep made up of dream dust who devour people because… um, not sure about that part. There’s an intriguing idea at the center of the episode about the need for sleep and the repercussions of bypassing the natural order for greed, but the story itself delivers rather lackluster creatures and fails to make the scientist (Reece Shearsmith) responsible for creating them interesting in the slightest.
Following the recent pattern of the show’s Ninth Season, Doctor Who delivers another two-part episode with “The Zygon Invasion” and “The Zygon Inversion” which pick up a plot thread of from “The Day of The Doctor” involving one of The Doctor‘s (Peter Capaldi) older enemies who were allowed to stay on Earth. The fragile ceasefire between humans and Zygons is broken with a splinter group of the aliens decides they are tired of hiding in human form around the world and would prefer all-out war to the surrender of their natural state.
Another two-part episode brings The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) into contact with Vikings and thieves while introducing a new recurring character to the Whoverse we’re likely to see more of this season (and possibly beyond). “The Girl Who Died” takes The Doctor and Clara (Jenna Coleman) to a Viking village besieged by the advanced warriors of the Mire. Despite his reluctance at getting involved in the conflict, The Doctor is coerced to help both by the pleas of Clara and an uncomfortable feeling he gets when meeting Ashildr (Maisie Williams), a young Viking whose appearance (and death) will lead The Doctor to indulge in one of the most impassioned, and reckless, choices of this (or any regeneration).
The two-part episode featuring The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Clara (Jenna Coleman) fighting off ghosts in an underwater mining facility in the near future has a strong set-up and some intriguing ideas behind it’s premise even if it does eventually falter and stumble with the reveal of the truth about its ghosts and the reveal of the Fisher King (who looks like he walked straight out of incomplete costume fittings of the classic Doctor Who). Even if only partially successful, it’s still better thought-out bootstrap paradox than Looper.
It’s official, I’ve already grown tired of Missy (Michelle Gomez). “The Witch’s Familiar” concludes the opening arc to the Ninth Season of Doctor Who which began with last week’s “The Magician’s Apprentice.” The not-so-dead Missy and Clara (Jenna Coleman) spend most of the episode together, and apart from The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) whose comapssion is put to the test by his most hated enemies and the mind of the mad man who spawned them. As Dalek episodes go I wouldn’t rank this pair against the best of Doctor Who, but the second-half does deliver The Doctor out-thinking his enemy once more (and surely not for the last time).
Time travel is tricky. One of most commonly discussed issues with the ability to travel backwards it time and alter the future is the Hitler Paradox which debates both the morality and ability of killing someone before they grow into a fascist dictator with genocidal tendencies. The crux of that argument is at the heart of “The Magician’s Apprentice” opening with The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) naturally reaching out to help a scared child lost in the middle of a battlefield. However, learning the child’s name will force The Doctor to make an uncharacteristic decision which will bring the series full circle and cause The Doctor to return to face the creator of his most deadly adversaries one last time.
The end of Peter Capaldi‘s first season as The Doctor ends not with a bang but a whimper. In a storyline that puts the entire world at risk from a resurrected Master and an army of Cybermen rising from the dead writer Steven Moffat constantly cheats the audience with a story that never sums up the courage to sacrifice what’s required to make the finale work. The Doctor being made President of Earth against his will caps off a season of bizarre plot points that sound like fun ideas until you put them into practice. The reveal of Missy’s (Michelle Gomez) plan, which is a special kind of torture specifically designed for her lifetime frenemy, works well, but the show’s ending refuses to let there be any real cost to the entire affair undercutting the finale from the get-go.