Monday, December 30, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Sixty-four - Dr.Who: Series 6, Episodes 8-14, "You just can't kill this SOB, can you? Even when you try."

Yes, I know about the hand off from Eleven to Twelve and, yes, it was the most watched thing in BBC history for its timeslot, apparently, but THAT season isn't on Netflix at the moment, is it? No, it most certainly is not. So no Fields of Trenzalore or John Hurt or Peter Capaldi or Clara Oswald.

No, no, no.

Instead, these last seven episodes currently available on Netflix encompass the much anticipated climax of River Song's much hinted marriage/murder of The Doctor. In fact, the beginning of the season was us watching The Impossible Astronaut actually doing so... and it's taken this long for everything else to catch up.

We start with Let's Kill Hitler, where a childhood friend of Amy and Rory's, whom we've never heard or seen before today but apparently was close enough that they named their daughter Melody after, forces our trio of time travelers to go to Berlin at gunpoint. Of course, it turns out that this Melody is actually their daughter Melody, in a regeneration she got after we last saw her dying on the streets... and she actually does manage to kill The Doctor after regenerating into the face we know so well before her better nature is appealed to and she spends all her regenerations (she can do that, apparently) to bring him back.

This is a fun episode for several reasons. For one, Hitler's in it for all of five minutes before he's shoved into a closet at gunpoint. Humiliating der F├╝hrer, then relegating him to a footnote in his own episode? Priceless. It's also great because it shows River before she's even River. I actually wish we had a bit more on that front, not to deny Alex Kingston screentime, but to not have everything be in such a rush, but oh well.

Next is a trip to a housing estate where a young boy is being tormented by his fears and manages to trap Amy, Rory, The Doctor, and his own father in a dimensional dollhouse where his fears live to torment him.

It's a sort of creepy episode, but never really gets beyond its own novelty. The whole "turning into dolls" device is boring as all get out, though I do like how The Doctor fast talks his way first into the apartment and then to the root of the problem, using his powers of persuasion to squeeze out answers from both father and son using only his words.

After that is a sort of "what if" episode that has Amy caught in a different time stream than The Doctor and Rory such that she is trapped for 30+ years in a quarantine facility in the future and her boys only catch up to her very, very late, leaving a possible paradox in that Old Amy doesn't want to die but that would mean leaving Young Amy to suffer through what her older self calls Hell.

I understand that Rory is the humanity anchor for the trio and his decisions all revolve around doing what is for the best and preserving life at any cost, but it feels like a simple decision both for him and for Old Amy to make. She's been living in her own private Hell for decades and has a chance to render it all moot. Sure, "rage, rage against the dying of the light" and all, but I can't see myself not making the choice to save my previous self all the trouble. I guess it's one of those impossible thought puzzles as I'll almost certainly never have to deal with anything similar, but my own feelings on the paradox spoiled the episode for me. That and the pancake makeup on Karen Gillan wearing thin in the closeups.

Moving on, we come to God Complex where the trio get caught in a spooky hotel where your worst nightmare is waiting for you to convert you to brainfood for a strange, hulking minotaur.

This is a silly as all get out episode, what with the Sad-faced Clown, the crap tons of ventriloquist dummies, and The Doctor seeing his fear but not having it revealed to the audience (personally, I think it's just Toby Jones again, or possibly just an empty universe). Still, the moment where he has to break Amy's faith in him is a pretty revealing one, even if he half-dials it back a bit after the fact. It just feels like ground we've already covered. For a bottle episode, it's not that bad, but could've been much better.

After dropping the Ponds off back at home, The Doctor starts making his last minute rounds to old friends and we get to see Closing Time where he reunites with Craig from The Lodger who is a new father now to Stormaggedon (at least, that's what the baby calls himself) and whose local department store is being targeted by damaged Cybermen. Cue The Doctor, male bonding, same-sex couple miscommunication, and plenty of comedy.

This is actually a fairly fun episode, almost purely due to The Doctor's non-adventure related antics and Stormaggedon. Having asides coming from the baby through The Doctor (because he speaks baby, remember) is cute as all get out, especially as Craig waffles between believing and not. I can always do without The Cybermen (and Daleks and so on), but since they're not the main focus of the episode, I can safely say that they don't annoy me here like they do elsewhere (same for their cameo a few nights back in A Good Man Goes to War).

I can safely say I was surprised, though, with The Wedding of River Song, which did NOT turn into the giant multipart episode that I was expecting and, instead, was merely the penultimate episode of the season since (by Netflix's reckoning and maybe the BBC's as I don't own the DVDs and haven't checked) the series ended on the Christmas special.

The episode throws us right into the middle of all of Time (with a capital "T") mashing Earth's history together and The Doctor explaining to old friend Winston Churchill, Caesar of the Holy Roman Empire, why it's always two minutes after five on the same day... forever. This leads us to a sort of frame story where The Doctor explains how River managed to circumvent the fixed moment in Time that was The Doctor's death and is blowing up reality. From there it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to Amy, Rory, and River leading a revolution and only River and The Doctor knowing why.

Of course everything turns out alright in the end as the heavily hinted at solution to the whole thing (from Let's Kill Hitler) just happens to have shown up earlier in the episode. Well, at least the writers managed to seed their solution earlier than the ABSOLUTE last minute like so many other episodes of Doctor Who, but still. Could've been a little more elegant.

The last episode that is currently available on Netflix's Instant Stream, The Doctor, The Widow, And The Wardrobe, is a little bittersweet... both for me, personally, and in general. There's no River, barely a moment for Rory and Amy, and features a whole cast of one-off characters that are just entirely too sweet to occupy a single episode. But that's the way of it, I guess.

For some reason, during the cold open, The Doctor is on an exploding ship in orbit over Earth just before the Second World War and manages to get help from a mother who takes his spacesuit and alien-ness right in stride. After that brief intro sequence, time shifts forward a few years where that same mother is spending Christmas with her two children in the country to be safe from The Blitz and she's dreading telling them that her husband is MIA, presumed dead. The Doctor shows up as The Caretaker of the estate they're staying in and has souped up the place with gadgets and gizmos and extraplanar doors, oh my. This leads to an almost deadly adventure, concerning the entire family, where it's up to the mom to save the day.

This one really pulls at the heart-strings thanks to all of The Doctor's "child of wonder" antics and repeated "I know"'s. The trio of future forestry engineers are really rather precious as well, played as they are by Bill Bailey, Arabella Weir, and Paul Bazely. I do think the best moment, though, was at the end when The Doctor goes to visit Amy and Rory for Christmas dinner. Sure, it would've been nice for River to have been there as well, but you can't always get what you want.

And... I think that about does it. For my time with Doctor Who on Netflix anyways, at least until they put Series 7 on the Instant Stream.

It's been a weird couple of weeks and a very long year for me in terms of Whovian consumption. Yes, I will admit that the series has grown on me as time has worn on. Not those first few seasons, of course, but definitely during David Tennant's later episodes and most certainly during Matt Smith's run. I think Smith and Gillan made Doctor Who infinitely more palatable for me with their charm, wit, and charisma... not to mention their (and Darvill's) chemistry. And River... oh, River Song, even though I think you got shortchanged by all the rushing towards the end, you are by far my favorite character. Kudos, Alex Kingston.

Welp, just one more day before I'm done for the year. Any guesses as to how I'm going to finish out the Couchbound Project? My Year With Netflix? Place your bets now, because tomorrow is coming right quick!

Until that tomorrow, Potatoes~

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