After hiding out as an university professor on Earth for five decades, while also protecting a mysterious vault from an unknown threat, The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) is thrown back into action by a cafeteria worker at the school who has been attending his lectures and has encountered something she can’t explain. Along with Nardole (Matt Lucas), The Doctor and Bill (Pearl Mackie) investigate this odd puddle which has swallowed up another student (Stephanie Hyam) Bill had a crush on and has now taken her watery form while chasing her across campus, the universe, and through time.
Then there was the time that The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) accidentally created a super-hero. “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” is unexpected but not unwelcome. As the show has moved away from doing their own versions of classic Christmas stories we’ve gotten more variation in these specials, and “Doctor Mysterio” certainly fits that bill. After a short introduction in which we see a young boy exposed to a Hazandra gem which will grant him his fondest desire, the episode jumps to present time where The Doctor discovers Grant has grown up into a young man (Justin Chatwin) who has decided to use the powers accidentally granted to him to live out his lifelong fantasy as a super-hero.
River Song (Alex Kingston) returns for the latest Doctor Who Christmas special in a story than connects to the events of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” (her character’s first appearance) with what is likely the character’s final appearance on the show. The set-up of River having not yet met the The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) allows “The Husbands of River Song” to use a running gag of allowing the pair to travel together without River knowing the identity of the man she’s mistaken for a surgeon whose help she needs to remove a diamond from the head of her cyborg husband (Greg Davies). Allowing The Doctor to see his wife in an entirely new light, the episode stretches the gag well past its breaking point but does allow for an enjoyable payoff before all is said and done.
The final episode of Series Nine returns The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) to Gallifrey, although the episode turns out to be more about Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) than the Time Lords. I had a very mixed reaction to “Hell Bent” which immediately undercuts the emotion of Clara’s death, and the power of her sacrifice, by The Doctor using his return to Gallifrey to find a way to cheat death and bring her back. Using the Time Lord’s technology to pull Clara out of the final moment of her timeline, The Doctor saves his companion one last time.
It had been 33 years since the death of an ongoing companion (not counting Peri‘s death which was retconned out of the series almost immediately). That streak is over. “Face the Raven” says a final goodbye to the Impossible Girl (well, except for a dreamlike cameo in “Heaven Sent”). Like it or not, Clara Oswald‘s (Jenna Coleman) time of traveling through space and time have come to an end. I’ll give writer Sarah Dollard credit for making Clara’s exit mean something and propelling the season in an unexpected direction. I’ll also take a moment to mourn the show’s loss of Clara who leaves big shoes to fill for whomever steps in as the next companion. You will be missed Jenna Coleman.
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.