I’m going to get the bitching out of the way first and then be nice. Bear with it.
I didn’t like these things:
- Another end of season episode set in a graveyard. I’m beginning to think Moffatt has issues. We’ve had The Ponds, Trenzalore and now this. Really? REALLY? Another Graveyard? REALLY?
- Osgood’s ignoble end. Unnecessarily cruel and then callously forgotten about.
- Danny’s ending was overlong, overwrought and lost it’s emotional clout long before zoomed off to stop the rain.
- I didn’t want to see The Brigadier like that. That was TOTALLY unforgivable.
- There were obvious parallels between ‘the dead who died for the living’ and poppy day. On any other day, I’d have gone with the story, but broadcasting the day before, it’d seemed a little distasteful.
- The pacing was awful. Yet another instance of being given 60 minutes and not knowing how to use it.
- Cyber-technology seems to have got a bit shit in that in this episode, two people seemed to be able to break their programming. Part of the horror of the cybermen was the inevitability of it.
- I’m also getting tired of cyber****’s Cybermats were okay, cyber-shades at least had some logical reasoning behind them. Cybermites, really? They’re just smaller. Cyber-pollen? Oh, you’re just being stupid now. Can I trade mark ‘cyber-bosons’? It’s probably the only thing left that’s smaller.
- Sanjeev Bhaskar. So why was he in it, exactly? No point having a guest of that calibre simply to be ineffectual, mocked and then shot out of a porthole. Utter waste of a good actor.
- Sad Danny/Cyberman, drooping his head was affecting once, by the time the Brig was doing it, it was just silly.
- When you have an emotional ending and possibly the loss of a companion, can we please play the credits out before the ‘coming soon’ bit. Finally after picking up a respectable emotional punch, it is immediately blown by sticking fucking Santa Clause halfway through the credits. Post-credits, it might have worked.
So what was good about it?
- Michelle Gomez was, as ever, bloody wonderful. Finally showing up as Mary Poppins was wonderful
- The Doctor’s skydive was audaciously silly and hugely enjoyable.
- The sneaky “dead as a Dodo” gag that <smug mode on> only works if you *really* know your Doctor Who. <smug mode off>
- The President of the World.
- Clara pretending to be the Doctor and getting top billing.
- Bowties are cool (I still miss Matt)
- Kate Stewart: “Welcome to the only to only planet in the universe where we get to say this – he’s on the payroll.”
The Doctor: “Am I?”
Kate Stewart: “Technically.”
The Doctor: “How much?”
Kate Stewart: “Shhh!”
- The opening section of the Graveyard scene. All hand-held and “Night of the Living Dead” creepiness. Those Cybermen rising are going to be burned in the brains of children, such was their spookiness.
- The bickering about Gerry Anderson.
Okay, so it was a mixed bag, but when you look at it, most of the stuff I didn’t like was in the last fifteen minutes. It was an amazing piece of TV right up to the point where they forgot to write a credible ending. The set up was wonderful, everything about it was wonderful right up to the point where Clara was creeping through the graveyard. I was half expecting someone to pop out from behind on of the gravestones and say “They’re coming to get you Clara”, but the problem, really, was that the overly wordy ending was hamstrung by a half baked piece of scripting.
Danny apparently managed to break his programming – presumably the Brig, too – because ‘love isn’t an emotion, it’s a promise’. Um. No. It’s an emotion. It’s only a promise when you need it to allow a piece of crass storytelling. Commanding the cyber-troops was just silly, a terrible ending to a badly used character. I really wanted Danny to be more and bigger, but he was forever held at arms length and never really fulfilled his potential. I would stress that that’s not because of a poor performance, because he was excellent whenever he turned up on screen. Apart from that speech, he was never less that believable; another wasted opportunity. Returning the child was a nice touch, though, but I couldn’t help feeling that it was all a bit pat by that point.
I suppose really, the graveyard scene is the crux of the awfulness. There was something a bit am-dram about it. Long speeches with the rest of the cast not quite knowing what to do. I wholly appreciate that Clara wanting to hug Danny would be a thing, but the conversation between the Doctor and Missy took so long, they were both beginning to look bored and having the not quite fully charged cybermen lurching around in the background lost it’s menace very quickly and became unintentionally comedic.
And the brief threat of Clara killing Missy was underdeveloped and half arsed lip service to the horrifyingly tense ‘tardis key’ scenes last week.
But. Kudos to Rachel Talalay, again, for making this humble TV show look so damned cinematic. She did bloody amazing work and she really needs to be brought back next season.
With the massive scope of this story – every bit as audacious as the Toclafane storyline and even more cinematic – I was actually dazzled in the first 30-40 minutes. Huge ideas, like the Flying Cybermen attacking Boat 1, the dome of St Pauls turning into a satellite dish, people taking selfies with the cybermen, I mean there was loads to love about this episode. It just lost it’s way and rather than fix it by y’know, actually *fixing it*, it became an exercise in throwing everything at the ending and hoping something sticks.
After a good start, we got an incredibly unsatisfying denouement to the tale and I still don’t know if Clara has actually left or not. Given Santa’s intervention, I assume not.
I just don’t want that nice, down played, low-key ending in the cafe to be wasted on a crass, happy ending courtesy of the festive season. Sometimes life *doesn’t* have nice neat endings. It would at least be a fitting end, given that their relationship didn’t have a neat beginning!
This review has neither.