“Death is for other people, dear.” – Doctor Who Recap

doctor who little boy

Doctor Who Series 9, Episode 1
“The Magician’s Apprentice”

Posted by Sage

For better or for worse, Steven Moffat has never been afraid to touch the Doctor Who mythology and mold it as he likes. This is good. It’s necessary. Fans are particular and no media-maker in the English-speaking world knows better than Moffat that you can’t please everyone. But we can’t keep putting pieces of the show behind glass and swatting away any hand that dares get close. Not if it’s going to survive another 50 years.

Now that a Doctor Who series premiere is a full-fledged international event, there are certain expectations of scale. These expectations are automatically filled when there’s a new companion to introduce and certainly, a new Doctor. But for a run like Series 9 with a returning team, the stakes have to be raised through the story itself. In this case, Doctor Who doubled down on classic villains. The last time that happened, Rose Tyler got trapped in an alternate universe. Gird your loins, Whovians.

Of all the surprises in “The Magician’s Apprentice” (and holler to the preview audiences for not spoiling them!), I was most thrown to see Clara Oswald in a classroom again. (We talked about this, Whouffaldi.) After “Last Christmas” and coming to terms with Danny’s death, Clara was all in for time and space, 24/7/365. (All units of time measurement that should, ironically, be irrelevant to her now.) No more of this “every Wednesday,” companion-lite business. Wednesdays are for suckers. Need I remind you that Twelve and Clara ostensibly eloped in that episode and that Clara didn’t even pause to change out of her jim-jams before their giggly, hand-in-hand run to the TARDIS? Ohhh, I’ve given myself the “Last Christmas” feels. I need a cold compress. Lead me to my fainting couch.

That the Doctor is going through some shit was apparent in both prequels to “The Magician’s Apprentice,” but we never were told why exactly he and Clara were separated. We all agree that the first trip they took after the credits rolled on the Christmas special was to Bath to take a turn about the ballroom with Jane Austen, yes? Continued head canon: the Doctor always suspected that Jane and Clara would get on well, ever since he listened in to Miss Oswald lecturing her class about Pride & Prejudice. He just didn’t expect them to get on that well. He got lost on the way to the toilet and walked into an otherwise occupied drawing room instead. What he saw in that other room – the drafty one that the family never uses – left him a little pink, and Clara didn’t stop teasing him about it for three weeks. Mostly because she was pleased to learn that this regeneration does get embarrassed sometimes. Actual canon: Clara Oswald is bisexual.  Doctor Who is back, and Clara Oswald is bisexual. Sometimes, I can’t believe our luck.

If I don’t get my Jane episode soon, I’m writing it myself. Looking at you, Gatiss.

OH YES. This episode.  So…the planes have stopped. And presumably there’s a shortage of airline customer service professionals, because every last one of them quit.

you so fine

UNIT’s got Clara Oswald on speed dial, and the President can wait, thank you very much. This scene felt a little extraneous, to be honest. Surely Missy (who’s not dead, naturally) could have gotten Clara’s attention any old way. But the old girl loves it when all eyes are on her, and Kate’s involvement gave Missy the extra satisfaction of taking out a few of her best men in front of her. And I would like to take this moment to officially declare that no amount of Missy will ever be too much Missy for me. This statement may well be tested to its limit in the future (*shakes fist* Moffat!), but Michelle Gomez is a casting boon for this show and this Doctor. Usually when “The Master” is in a Doctor Who story, it’s “The Master” show. How tremendously brilliant to make her an honorary TARDIS team member for an episode, to explore how her friendship with the Doctor looks when she’s not in the middle of a scheme and to give Gomez free rein to smirk, play, and fondle a Dalek’s balls. I’m a sucker for “we don’t trust this person, but we need their help” stories across all genres, and this is a fun one to add to the list.

love claralove missy
Credit where it’s due: Missy may have alerted Clara to the fact that the Doctor is in need of their help, but it’s Clara who knows him well enough to track him down. It’s always been the Master’s unwillingness to acknowledge the fundamental differences between the Doctor and the rest of their race – the impact that his travels and his other “puppies” have had on him – that prevents her from being able to fully ensnare him in her web of toxic co-dependency. She’s so smug when she explains to Clara the difference between “a friendship older than your civilization” and “the reproductive frenzy of your little food chain” (and why does she assume that Clara cares about his romantic capabilities, hm?), yet it’s Clara zeroing in on another point of contrast between the Doctor and other Time Lords that lead the ladies right to his going away party. (“Do not go gentle into that good night.”) Human emotion and human company aren’t worth the pin on the back of Missy’s cameo brooch; the Doctor thinks we look like giants. They will never agree on this, and that divergence gives the companion all the power.

doctor guitar doctor guitar 2
Meanwhile, in other centuries, I don’t know why Peter Capaldi won’t just let me exist in peace. (I saw a guy today wearing a shirt that said “Long Live Death” and my reaction to this scene was the first thing I thought of.) A split-second of Twelve’s “axe fight” made it into the Series 9 trailer, and the entire fandom knows by now that our current Doctor is authentically a rock star. Still, a Time Lord guitar solo could have gone so wrong in so many ways. And it certainly wouldn’t have fit anywhere in Series 8. That tank may as well be draped in a giant “CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT” banner as it rolls into the arena for the way it heralds the Doctor’s new confidence in this version of himself. (Me: “He’s just so warm now.” Kim: “Because he finally got laid.”)

In all seriousness, this performance just gets better the more Capaldi settles into it. The way that he interacts with people now is markedly different than it was in Series 8, but it’s not jarring. The need to relate, befriend, and even to entertain come from the same place that his hesitation once did. “Who frowned me this face?” he asked that tramp back in “Deep Breath.” And Davros too makes a crack about how he’s grizzled since the last time they met. (GLASS HOUSES, DAVROS.) But over the course of the last year, the Doctor decided to show that face who’s boss. He’s not a cranky, old man who wants to be left alone to contemplate his role in the sorrows of the universe; he’s Keith Richards, and he wants to rage, rage against the dying of the light.

pretty woman

pretty woman 2

Ummmm, who’s going to tell these three actors, Steven Moffat, and Roy Orbison himself via seance if necessary all that official jazz about Whouffaldi being a “fatherly” and platonic relationship? ‘Cause I don’t think they know. At the BAFTA Wales screening and Q&A that we got to attend in New York this spring, Moffat explained once again the motivation behind all of the Doctor’s clueless remarks about Clara’s appearance. (“Clara Oswald, you’ll never look any different to me” was pay-off enough for this shipper trash, but I’ll take these additional comments too.) “It’s fun to see these early episodes and watch the Doctor pretend he doesn’t fancy Clara,” the showrunner said. “He’s very ‘You’re gross, I don’t like you, but really stop looking so good.'” In other words: “mmmMMMOHMYGOD. Stop fuckin’ lyin’.”

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“Pain is a gift.” – Doctor Who Recap

doctor who mr president conquer the universe

Series 8, Episode 12
Death in Heaven
Posted by Sage

Pain is a gift. Fear is a superpower. And the only man you’d possibly want in charge of all the world’s armies is an idiot.

I watched “Death in Heaven” on a bed full of friends in my hotel room at L.I. Who, with a sippy cup full of wine in my hand and Paul McGann, Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant and other Doctor Who royalty just a few doors down the hall. And no matter their content, I almost always enjoy the episodes I watch in company more than those I watch alone. This is a series that’s meant to be shared. So, kindly indulge my rosy take on things and blame it on the 3-day Whovian love-in.

I’m not alone in my feelings. After the episode, we booked it downstairs to an instant reaction panel moderated by our girl Deb Stanish (and almost got kicked out, but that’s a story for another post) and the response from our fellow fans was pretty positive, across the board. Maybe it’s because Moffat was working with an established villain, but the series 8 finale buttoned up story in a way his past season-enders have not. There are ends that remain untied, but time will tell which are continuing mysteries and which are plot holes, cheerfully skipped right over. Obviously, we’re all hoping for more of the former.

doctor who cyberman graves

Absolutely NOT.

After the show totally went there with Danny Pink and revealed Missy as the Master, the time came to reveal her devious bat-ass-shit-crazy-as-frick plan. And in the TARDIS team (and friends) response to that threat, all the questions swirling around this series joined hands and formed a giant chain of THEME. Is this regeneration a good man? What does being a soldier tell you about a person? What doesn’t it tell you? Why are we so obsessed with the concept of an after-life? Why do people without a clue continue to call this a kids’ show?


We’ve been teased with visions of the Nethersphere all season. (And wondered right here on this blog why only people who gave their lives for the Doctor or to ensure his eventual victory seemed to end up there.) Now we know that this place is actually a data cloud of consciousness – “hell” to some, “the promised land” to others. Missy has been traveling (presumably since John Simm’s Master dusted himself off after “The End of TIme”) back and forth along the Doctor’s timeline, “saving” unwitting accomplices to her Cyberarmy. (“Bit of an upgrade.”) She preys on vanity, on fear of death, and on sacrifice. While the Doctor is constantly chasing opportunities for humans to surprise him, the Master uses what she knows of humanity against us. She’s good.

But why, the Doctor keeps asking. Why, why, why? He needs motive. Motive is usually his way in. Most of the villainous species he runs up against are trying to survive, to protect, to grow. But The Master? The Master only ever thinks of the Doctor. (“I need you to know we’re not so different. I need my friend back.”) She has no other motive. Not money, not power. Her plans are always designed to draw the Doctor in, which makes them difficult to avoid and impossible to predict. I wrote in my “Into the Dalek” recap that if anything, the Doctor defines himself by what he is not. And every one of his personal codes is tested when he runs into his childhood friend. Because, on the other hand, the Master is the only creature in this dimension who also knows what it’s like to feel the turn of the Earth.

doctor who payrollon the payroll doctor who
Missy had to have foreseen UNIT’s getting involved in this whole global Cyberman takeover, though I’m not sure that she anticipated the President of the Earth business. Me? I’m just happy to see lady Earth defenders extraordinaire Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and Osgood swoop in for their first (and in SOME horrible cases, last) adventure with Twelve. Ingrid Oliver remains adorable, especially since Osgood has traded her multi-colored scarf for a new, more streamlined accessory.

doctor who osgood bowtie

*ugly cry*

Osgood’s death hurt like hell. I’d never pretend otherwise. She represented the fan girl in all of us and we could have used her clear-headed assistance a few dozen more times. Some audience response has decried her death as pointless and cruel. Well…yeah. Isn’t that just the Master’s way? I do believe that’s the point – that she didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, and that Missy didn’t need to kill her to advance her scheme. “Why does one pop a balloon?” Missy asks her. “Because you’re pretty.” One might also pop a balloon to ruin a child’s day. The Master sees the Doctor’s companions as his distractions – his playthings. And she’s forever jealous of them. Osgood died because the Doctor admired her, and we have yet another TARDIS pair that could have been but never was.

time and space doctor whodoctor who i'm sorry
Frankly, it’s the only item on my bucket list, Doctor. Anyway, Osgood’s death is quick and dirty because the real linchpin of Missy’s operation is Miss Clara Oswald. Moffat knew his “master” plan (rimshot please) at least as early as series 7B. Missy was the “woman in the shop” who gave Clara the Doctor’s number in “The Bells of St. John” and the “needy ego-maniacal game player” who placed the “Impossible Girl” advertisement in the newspaper in “Deep Breath.” Since she’s been stomping all over the Doctor’s timeline, isn’t it possible that Missy saw several shades of that impossible girl along the way? She hand-picked Clara for this job, just like The Moment hand-picked Rose Tyler as its interface. This was the one who would lead the Doctor right where Missy wanted him.

doctor who control freakdoctor who go to hell
And here’s where all the “control freak” comments pay off. My mom said to me on the phone the other day, “You have high standards for people, and sometimes they’re impossible to meet.” That’s the kind of control freak I am, and the kind Clara Oswald is as well. It’s why she puts the Doctor through his paces like few companions have and why she won’t sit and be chastised by Madame Vastra when she smells hypocrisy. Missy knew that Clara simply wouldn’t accept the death of someone she loves, especially one so mundane and unworthy of him. This means that Missy or one of her “boys” definitely killed Danny Pink, right? I imagine her behind the wheel, looking like something like this.

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Day of the Doctor: A Comprehensive List of All the Times We Overreacted

David Tennant Excited

Posted by Sage

It’s been a beautiful week to be a Whovian.

Not that it isn’t always. But it’s not every week that we get to celebrate the five-decade history of our most precious show. The plans have been in motion and anticipation building in the back of our minds for so long that, by the time the anniversary finally came around, it almost took us by surprise.

Obviously, we still had the wherewithal to plan a little viewing soiree complete with authentic Jammy Dodgers, marshmallow Adipose, “fish fingers and custard” and a whooooooole lotta vodka for five girls. (Check out blog/IRL friend Kelly’s piece on the party over at the TV Mouse!) Emotions were high. Expectations were higher. And, oh my Gallifrey, did “Day of the Doctor” deliver. And so we give you a comprehensive list of all the times we overreacted during Doctor Who‘s 50th Anniversary special.


Billie Piper Day of the Doctor

If you don’t have anything nice to say about Rose Tyler, kindly show yourself out of the HOF door. Kim and I had an insane caps-locky text conversation the morning the BBC announced that Billie and David would be returning for the special. But the elation soon took a turn into fear and even dread. Moffat doesn’t like Rose. He’s called her a “needy girlfriend.” (Continuing his campaign to be named Male Showrunner Feminist of the Year, I see.) When last we left Rose, she was snogging TenToo on a beach, heading towards a happy life in Pete’s World with her half-human Doctor. What if Moffat blew holes in our ship? Or worse, minimized Rose and her importance in the canon?

Those fears were unfounded. Even though Billie wasn’t playing Dame Rose Tyler of the Powell Estate and there was zero interaction between her and Ten, we’re actually quite pleased. Why? Because The Moment chose Bad Wolf Rose as the form to take to appear to the Doctor. Out of any companion from his past or future, THIS is what it chose. And though the misalignment of the time streams mean that the War Doctor won’t remember any of these events once he regenerates into Nine, you cannot convince me that some vague flash isn’t triggered the first time he hears “Bad Wolf” in Series 1. Or could it even be that it’s this latent memory that actually leads him to the basement of Henrick’s that night? I NEED A MINUTE.

Doctor Who The Interface is Hot

I’ll say.

Did I mention that Billie was AWESOME? That outfit. That voice. We saw the special again in theaters on Monday night and – with the absence of our own screams – were able to hear her dialogue that much better. It was intense and mysterious and SO Time-Vortex-Rose. RTD must be proud. “You know the sound the TARDIS makes? That wheezing, groaning. That sound brings hope wherever it goes.” It felt good to see Bad Wolf Rose again as a guardian angel for her Time Lord love. “I want you safe, my Doctor.” Sigh. Thank you for respecting our favorite companion, Moffat. A basket of mini-muffins is on its way.

David Tennant’s Entire Being

Day of the Doctor Tennant Glasses

I love Matt. I love Eccles. There are no flaws in either of their performances and I accept them both 100%. But every single time David Tennant was on screen, my body (and my mouth, as our friend Jaime pointed out), would scream, “MY Doctor.” Everyone has one, and he is mine.

After almost four years, Tennant stepped easily back into character (and into the same suit). And it was just like he never left. He’s still got the face, the sass, the unmistakable body language. And an “Allons-y!” has never sounded more beautiful. His joy is palpable, and I hope this won’t be the last time Ten runs into himself. Speaking of…

Eleven + Ten = BROTP

Day of the Doctor Ten and Elevent

Screw paradoxes. Can’t these two join forces and travel together forever? Chinny and Sandshoes to the rescue? No? Fine.

If we had to settle for this one glorious buddy-comedy of a special, then at least it gave us plenty of gif-able moments. Ten popping on a fez. Eleven ribbing Ten for being so emo and girl-crazy. Let One Direction try in their entire career to generate the amount of squeals that David and Matt did when they put on their glasses at the same time. As a pair, they were everything we fangirls could have possibly wished for.

The War Doctor Meets His Future Selves

Day of the Doctor His companions

We assumed that John Hurt’s Doctor would be dark and intimidating and no fun at all, really. But despite being the one regeneration that he never speaks of, he’s still the same man. And that man is a cheeky old bastard.

You can imagine how this grizzled warrior-type must feel when he runs into these dreamy, nattily-dressed whippersnappers. And that dialogue was some of the best in what I think is one of Moffat’s finest scripts. “Am I having a mid-life crisis?” Hee.

“No, sir. All thirteen.”

Doctor Who Peter Capaldi Eyes

Apologies to anyone in a half-mile radius of our viewing party because we LOST OUR DAMN MINDS when Capaldi showed up onscreen. Any qualms anyone had about the decision to cast him should have been blown TO TINY PIECES by this split-second preview. That’s our Doctor, you guys. And I can’t wait to meet him.

The Easter Egg Hunt

Day of the Doctor Nice Scarf

Modern and Classic Who references were everywhere and we’ll probably find new ones every time we watch it. Spotting each one was a little thrill, from River’s shoes, to the sign from “An Unearthly Child,” to Jack’s vortex manipulator to the machine that goes “ding” when there’s stuff. We FINALLY know why Elizabeth I has a vendetta against the Doctor. And Four’s scarf couldn’t have landed on more worthy shoulders than Osgood, the heroic and science-y asthmatic who represented the entire fandom. For as much grief as we give Moffat, he made US a character in the 50th Anniversary. And an incredibly important one too. Aw. Deep down, he loves us. He really loves us.

That Moment Where Ten’s Hearts Pounded Right Out of His Chest

Did You Just Say Bad Wolf

This Ten/Rose close-call was our second loudest reaction of the day. How could we not when David’s face was doing the thing? Look at him. He has literally forgotten everything else that’s going on (you know, the pending genocide) and only cares where and how and from whom the War Doctor got those words. And just like that, the moment passed.

Day of the Doctor Bad Wolf GirlDay of the Doctor Yep That's Going to Happen


May we also point out that, while Ten’s hair was relatively (and disappointingly) flat throughout the rest of “Day of the Doctor,” he has a noteworthy “hair boner” (copyright Kim Rogers) only when he’s sharing the frame with Rose? And don’t you dare say that the height and placement of David’s hair is not significant, because it is the most reliable barometer of Ten’s emotional state that we have. You know this is true.

The Doctor Forgives Himself

Don't Have to Do It Alone

I don’t want to say that I spend a lot of time thinking about Steven Moffat’s balls, but he sure must have some big ones to completely flip the script on the show’s mythology. In Modern Who, the Doctor’s entire character and thereby the plot of the show is built on the foundation of his guilt over destroying the Time Lords with the Daleks on the last day of the Time War. Though “Day of the Doctor” didn’t change anything for Nine or Ten (who are still miserable, womp womp), it DOES rescue Gallifrey from certain doom and set Eleven (and Twelve, I’m sure) on a mission to find it. And it gave the Doctor the opportunity to forgive himself for what he did when he couldn’t find another solution. Freezing Gallifrey could ONLY have worked with every regeneration working together, so there’s no reason to hold the War Doctor’s actions against him any more.

And let’s not forget Clara’s role in this momentous decision. The “Impossible Girl” finally got a little character and it’s looking really good on her. What she did wasn’t mystical or alien or fantastic. She simply empathized with her Doctor. She couldn’t stand to watch him push the button, knowing how it would break him. In as unbiased a way as I can, I’ll say that she reminded me so much of Series 1 Rose in that scene. I’m so glad her mystery is solved and we can get to know Clara Oswald as a person.


War Doctor Regenerates

Yes, yes, we all know that Eccleston has vowed never to return to Doctor Who. But I wasn’t going to give up hope of seeing him until the very end of the closing credits. When the War Doctor started to regenerate, all five of us watching together stood up, held hands, and screamed at the top of our lungs like we were trying to conjure him. Were fangirl powers worth the strength of our love for Nine, he probably would have appeared in the middle of that very room. Alas, he did not. Maybe he’ll get over his issues by the 75th.

Ten’s Last Words – Again

Day of the Doctor I don't want to go

No. Nein. Nyet. Nope.

Our theater was relatively quiet until this scene, when all the “aw”s broke loose. How could we forget that seeing Ten again meant we’d also have to say goodbye to him again?

Tom Baker Melts Your Cold, Dead Heart

Day of the Doctor Tom BakerDay of the Doctor Tom Baker Perhaps I was you

The fourth Doctor returned to Doctor Who for the first time ever as “The Curator” (hmmm….) and shared a scene with Matt Smith that could not possibly have been more sentimental or affecting. I’m jealous of young fans who watched with their parents, who I’m sure feel the same way about Baker as we do about Tennant. He is the ORIGINAL Mad Man with a Box (look at those eyes, still!) and again,Moffat hit it out of the park with this scene. It was a gorgeous tribute to the show’s history and I can imagine that there wasn’t a dry eye on the set when it was filmed.

Day of the Doctor ending

Happiest of birthdays, Doctor Who, from Head Over Feels. We wouldn’t exist without you. Here’s to 50 more years of space and time.