Expectations are a difficult thing to bargain with. I didn't expect a lot from this episode, but I expected that if it did something, it would do it in an entertaining way. After eleven weeks of well-made but fundamentally flawed episodes, Moffat fell back on a lot of old tropes, and undid a lot of the meagre good will I've built up for him over the past couple of years. After last season finished its arc with quite a nice, satisfying conclusion, Hell Bent tried to capture Capaldi's lightning twice, as well as expanding the series mythos - but the result, while not outwardly offensive, ended up feeling like a bit of a waste of time. I'll try not to spoil every twist and turn to start with, but be cautious.
|The sunglasses are stupid. And so is the electric guitar. But|
this shot is totally awesome.
The thing I was looking forward to most of all about this week's episode was the actual return of the Time Lords. The retcon of their existence irked me a lot back in Day of the Doctor and Time of the Doctor, when they seemed to be portrayed as really cool dudes full of love and happiness. Here there are still some elements of that, but at the same time their appearance has been updated to tie into their Classic Series appearances. Rassilon, previously played by Bond actor Timothy Dalton as a hammy but terrifying dictator, appears here played by Donald Sumpter as a tired, bitter old man with no power to his name. It's an interesting choice, and one which kinda works, even if it feels a little odd for the great Rassilon himself to be put aside so willy nilly, and with such little significance to the rest of the episode. If I could say anything really positive about the portrayal of the Time Lords, it was the diversity. I loved the fact that there are Shabogans; there's an actual distinction between Galifreyans and Time Lords. I loved how many black Time Lords there were, and even though it was sad to see the amazing Ken Bones leave the show, seeing an old white man regenerate into a young black woman was an amazing moment for Moffat's time on the show. I also adored the version of Hartnell's TARDIS interior, which the show has barely touched. Talk about timeless design.
Clara of course returned this week, via The Doctor's use of a Time-Lord tech to bring her from the moment before she died in Face The Raven. I cannot tell you just how disappointed I ended up being with this fact. Even if it had some character significance for this episode (which it does), it's yet another case of Moffat not letting people die. Clara has decided she's going to leave in Mummy On The Orient Express, Death In Heaven, Last Christmas and Face The Raven, and this fifth goodbye felt incredibly hollow. The way her exit was left open was so incredibly frustrating, because Jenna Coleman is not coming back. She's gone. She wanted to go last year, and now she's finally left. It speaks of poor planning to kill her off in a semi-satisfying way and then just ruin it again. She doesn't even do much in this episode, besides complain that she didn't want to be brought back in the first place, and be the moral chain which is driving The Doctor to do the crazy, stupid things he is doing. I think that Jenna Coleman deserves better than this, no matter how cool it is that she has, essentially, become The Doctor after all.
|The Classic Console Room used for Clara and Me's TARDIS|
is gorgeous. More of this, please.
I really want to like Doctor Who, and there are huge parts of this episode I do enjoy. I love the scenes on Gallifrey, with the Sisterhood of Karn and the High Council and all that grand, amazing stuff. The problem is with everything that Moffat brings to the table, and it's stuff we've seen far too many times before - characters who never die, mysteries with empty or unsatisfying conclusions. The thread is well and truly wearing very thin on his tenure, and as I sat and watched the Doctor and Clara say goodbye to each other for the fifth time in two years, I couldn't help but wonder just how brilliant this episode would be if Clara didn't appear. If we spent the whole thing on Gallifrey. If Moffat knew how to leave well enough alone. I love Capaldi and he makes this show worth tuning into every week. I'm not exactly back to the point where "I'm never watching this show again", but I really have to ask the question - where can Moffat go from here?
THIS CHRISTMAS: Jesus, I didn't think he'd go there. We face the unfortunate return of an old friend in The Husbands of River Song.