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Reviews By Mercury
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From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
6
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
7
Replay Rating:
6
Effects Rating:
NR
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 7/15/19 5:47 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

This is written by Mark Gatiss who would later be a regular writer for the TV show as well as appearing in a couple of episodes. Here he comes up with an intriguing and fun concept that aliens attack the earth during the 1938 broadcast of Orson Welles radio version of the H.G. Wells science fiction classic The War of the Worlds. In real life this broadcast caused hysteria in America as listeners failed to realise it was not a real Martian invasion. The idea of real invaders coming at that time and of the Doctor interacting with Orson Welles is very good but the execution of the ideas is sadly not nearly as good as it should be. David Benson is a convincingly good Orson Welles and Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson (now known as Jessica Hynes) play guest roles prior to their increased stardom and appearances in the TV version of the show (The Long Game/ Human Nature & The Family of Blood). They all add quality as do Paul McGann and India Fisher but the script they are given is sadly not good enough. The plot is decent but the dialogue is often silly and clumsy. There are several factual mistakes, some which are later retconned but more importantly the script just is too much of a pastiche and a comedy without being successfully funny or clever. The part of Cosmo Devine is clearly meant to be a Liberace type and not badly acted but comes across as very cartoonish and borderline offensive as an apparent homosexual depicted as a fifth columnist and over the top caricature. The aliens are not badly acted either but are again pretty cartoonish characterisations with silly unconvincing dialogue too often, especially in the final part. The gangster types are also very cheesy stereotypes and it all comes across as a comedy spoof. If this had been done with the sci fi/horror darkness Gatiss often likes to show (such as Cold War) rather than his comedy aspects it could have really worked but it was a moderately fun bit of nonsense in the end. 6/10.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
7
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 7/11/19 1:42 pm
2 out of 2 found this review helpful.

This contains spoilers:
There are a few problems within this episode but nothing worth overreacting about and there is a lot of great stuff too so overall this is a good quality episode.

The first problem is the prologue sequence introducing the idea of the deadly creature (SPOILER ALERT) which turns out is a Dalek battling humans in the 9th century. I find it perfectly reasonable that thousands of humans teaming up could defeat a Dalek but the way it is presented in the episode is a bit unconvincing with human warriors riding off alone to bury the split remains in different locations and 2 parts being guarded ever since while the 3rd is lost when the warrior is killed. If it was seen as so dangerous and such a vital issue to hide and guard the remains it is hard to imagine the job being entrusted to a single person to take them and bury them without backup. The way the guy is killed and his remains just stay on the dirt track with the Dalek parcel all remaining there for discovery is odd as it seems to be a track where others would travel, the attackers don't take the parcel and the remains are never disturbed. Falling into a peat bog or something would have been so much better. Also convenient it is in Sheffield again. This sequence detracts from the episode but not a huge amount. Anyway this sequence could be seen as a version from legend rather than a true depiction of events.

The second problem is the Dalek remains being reawakened by ultra violet light and then being able to teleport back together. This power is a little hard to accept. Not unacceptable in Doctor Who terms that a creature could have this ability built into it so again not a major problem but a bit of an annoyance.

The third problem is Ryan's dad bringing a microwave and realising it can be used as a weapon against the Dalek. An overly convenient solution sadly. The convenient coincidence and the dad Aaron thinking how to use the microwave is not illogical, he is an engineer after all but it just is another small negative to contrive the situation needlessly lazily.

These 3 issues were what holds the episode back from greatness and knock a couple of marks off my rating but really the majority of the episode is really really good! The story of a reconnaissance Dalek fighting humans in the past then remaining dormant before returning to attack is good and the way it attacks in its biological form outside its casing is tremendous. It gives a new terror and dimension to the Daleks and the way it uses a human as a puppet is so superbly effective and scary it goes straight into the greatest aspects of the Daleks and the horror side of the show. The Dalek is menacing and then when it rebuilds a casing from its old parts and junk that also works really well. Some seem to have missed that there were various cases full of parts that the Dalek recovered which are shown in the boot of the police car. These may have all been from the one storage facility or from various locations, whichever it is it explains how the Dalek rebuilds an armed Dalek casing sufficiently.

The subplot of Ryan and Graham coming to terms with the return of Ryan's dad is also excellent. It is brilliantly acted by Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole and guest actor Daniel Adegboyega. This aspect is totally believable, involving human drama and character development which is way superior to all the human interactions in the Moffatt era, it is like the convincing and engaging human interactions of the RTD era.

The acting of Charlotte Ritchie as Lin who gets taken over by the Dalek is superb and Mitch is also a decent, relatable guest character. Jodie Whittaker is at her best yet as the Doctor, showing a grittier edge and strength in the role as well as likability.

The dialogue is moving, intelligent, funny and sensible and the action is really good. The effects are great and the production values all round are high.

It is a shame that the few storytelling flaws of over convenient, under convincing aspects detract from what overall was an excellent episode that ignited the Daleks with a new scary dimension and provided so much quality. I will give full credit for all the good stuff and take a couple of marks off for the flaws which leaves this as an 8/10.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
10
Plot Rating:
9
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
10
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Yes
Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 7/6/19 10:34 am
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.

This is the excellent second part of a two part story following on from World Enough and Time which most people loved but I found rather flawed. I did enjoy WEaT but I saw flaws in the plot in terms of contrivances and lapses in logic which is all sadly typical of Moffatt era stories. This episode does not have those flaws and marks a great end to Moffatt's final series in charge with only a Christmas special left after this. I reflect on his time as Showrunner with appreciation of his service to the show and a lot of quality but with sadness that so much potential was often missed due to his lack of logic and obsessive repetition of weak plot contrivances such as bringing companions back from the dead. In this episode we YET AGAIN have an apparently dead companion get improbably rescued as Bill is turned into a water alien to roam the universe instead of dying as a Cyberman. This is far too reminiscent of other Moffatt companion send offs but is actually a fitting end for Bill which overcomes my feeling that the Doctor had failed her in the previous episode. The episode also features Moffatt's usual spectacle which often gets overblown and takes stories too far but here is well balanced bringing some epic excitement without getting out of control.

Despite often falling short for me, Moffatt has presided over some truly great episodes in his era that are in my top 100 stories of all time, some which he did not personally write (Flatline, Vincent and the Doctor, Mummy on the Orient Express, Amy's Choice, The Zygon Invasion, Cold war, The Doctor's Wife) and some of which he did write himself (The Day of the Doctor, Heaven Sent, The Pilot, The Zygon Inversion, The Magician's Apprentice, The Witch's Familiar, Listen, The Name of the Doctor, The Night of the Doctor, Oxygen). For me, this episode and the following special Twice Upon a Time are up with those best Moffatt episodes. This rises above the plot flaws of the good but not great World Enough and Time and manages to be a thoroughly enjoyable and impressive episode. The cop out (but nice) companion rescue is a reminder of his flaws and a couple of other scenes are a tiny bit heavy handed but this is overall superb quality and among Moffatt's best and really has to get a 10/10.

Peter Capaldi is given some strong material to show off his brilliance in the role (if only he had more of these great episodes to work with than he did) and Pearl Mackie who returns despite having been converted into a Cyberman is simply stunning. Bill is one of my favourite companions and certainly the best of the Moffatt era. Matt Lucas gets a meaty role as Nardole too and shows his comedic qualities as well as some tougher and more serious emotional sides. Michelle Gomez, in what seems to be her finale, gives possibly her finest performance of all as Missy. This series more toned down and 3 dimensional Missy with depth, pathos and gravitas among the humour and wickedness is fabulous and Gomez acts it to perfection. We get the treat of her sparking off with John Simm's Master who is also toned down to a more Delgado type Master. His cold cunning and cruel plotting are marvelously delivered with relish by Simm creating some screen magic as the 3 Time Lords spar verbally and physically together.

We also get the Mondasian Cybermen with their wonderful voices and retro look as well as 2 modern versions. I love Cybermen and they are a great threat in this episode. The tension and action is strong and the direction from Rachel Talalay is great.

There are clear influences/references from the amazing cinema classic The Night of the Hunter with the Doctor sitting on the porch, shotgun in hand, guarding the children from a terrifying threat outside and there are Western themes too with the humble homesteaders threatened by raiders. The Western theme from A Town Caled mercy is used to evoke this Western feel.

There is some sparkling dialogue, some movingly emotional scenes, some menacing baddies, some exciting drama and some funny humour. Then we get the finale between Missy and the Master which is gripping and leaves us on a cliffhanger as to the character's fate.

Finally we get the awesome ending where the 12th Doctor, trying not to regenerate, meets the 1st Doctor played beautifully by David Bradley in place of the long departed William Hartnell. Stunning ending.

Those qualities and dramatic highs make this just about a full 10/10 for me although as an overall 2 part story with the 8/10 WEaT my average story rating is 9/10.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
8
Plot Rating:
5
Acting Rating:
10
Replay Rating:
8
Effects Rating:
10
Has Prerequisite(s):
Unsure
Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 7/5/19 1:13 pm
0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

This contains spoilers for this episode and the following episode The Doctor Falls.

Whilst I rate this episode as a good one I am afraid I cannot join the line of people praising this as a great top level episode. This is the first part of a two part story and in my opinion the second part, The Doctor Falls, is great while this part is a good strong episode but with flaws that hold it back a bit.

As a test to see if Missy is able to become good the Doctor hides in the TARDIS while Missy goes out with Nardole and Bill on board an incredibly massive spaceship that has sent out a distress call. Missy hams it up pretending to be 'Doctor Who' with very comedic dialogue and performances all round. Then they discover the ship is trying to break free of the gravitational pull of a black hole and encounter a crew member (who happens to be a blue alien) who wants to kill any humans so threatens Bill with a gun. The Doctor steps in and tries to speak to him but the crew member is in terror of things coming up in the lift from lower decks due to sensing the presence of a human. He ignores the Doctor's pleas and shoots Bill.

This is where I have a problem with the episode. The Doctor talks to the alien at close range and fails to stop him shooting Bill. While violence is usually not the Doctor's way I found it a bit lame that he could have stopped the alien firing the gun and failed to do so. Later the Doctor uses Venusian Aikido on the same guy (a throwback to the 3rd Doctor) so if he had done that earlier Bill would not be shot. OK sometimes people are afraid to act in case the gun goes off so I can forgive it but it was possible for the Doctor to step between them easily but he allowed Bill to get shot in a rather unconvincing way I thought.

The shooting of Bill also is problematic because Steven Moffatt has had so many cop outs where he 'kills' companions or the Doctor only to undo it somehow. Therefore Bill's shocking death is less shocking because I felt straight away a cop out was coming. Sure enough Bill is kept alive as the creatures who come up in the lift take her and perform surgery which turns out to be the start of a conversion into a Cyberman. Converting Bill into a Cyberman is a horrible fate but at the end of the following episode Bill is eventually converted into an alien by 'the pilot' and able to continue a different life. Therefore it is essentially another cop out and reversal of an apparent death. I was actually happy Bill was rescued as I love Bill but Moffatt has 34 of these faked deaths that get reversed so it is just repetitive and lame that Moffatt never comes up with different endings for characters and never stands by killing off a companion. It lessens the impact of the apparently awful fate of Bill.

In addition, the Cybermen arrive despite the crew member shooting Bill and just take her away without harming the rest of them so why was the crew member so terrified and what was the point of shooting Bill? It was just for shock value.

The size of the ship is so enormous it seems unlikely and the way the ship is trapped causing time to move slower at the top of the ship than at the bottom is yet another timey wimey contrivance in Moffatt's long list. It is an interesting science fiction idea but it is hard for me to be convinced by the Master's plans, staying at the other end of the ship manipulating Cybermen whilst disguised as a kind of hospital porter (a rather old fashioned caricature character) and spending 10 long years in disguise tricking Bill before fully converting her. Why would he waste 10 years playing a character just to trick Bill? Why was Bill not fully converted straight away? It would upset the Doctor equally if he found she had been living as a Cyberman for 10 years waiting for him as it does when he arrives just after her conversion. The plot is just to create a way of telling a story with the Master getting a dramatic reveal at the end. That is the epitome of contrivance. A better plot would be to have the Master get a big reveal at the start and have him in full Master performance manipulating and creating the Cybermen, including converting Bill, in order to defeat the Doctor and escape from the ship in the Doctor's TARDIS. The plot Moffatt has written makes little sense to me. The Master's plan is not sensible, it is just put together for shocks and twists.

I still rate the episode a very good 8/10 though because despite the plot, the contrivances and usual Moffatt cop outs there is a lot to admire in the episode so I do not overreact to the negative aspects, I still appreciate the positives.

The acting is great. Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas and Michelle Gomez are tremendous. Missy is a far better character this series allowing Gomez's talent to shine and the character has great grey areas of good and evil. Once the Master reveals his true identity we start to get John Simm at his best, developing his Master characterisation into a more traditional Master like Roger Delgado's version. The dialogue and the acting throughout, apart from the stereotype hospital porter disguise, is terrific.

The horribly creepy prototype Cybermen are hard hitting and morbidly unpleasant for a family show but it just about treads the fine line and is superbly chilling for adult viewers. I was thrilled to get the return of the original Mondasian Cybermen with their effective, unique voices and retro look. The back story of a genesis for them is really interesting and powerfully horrifying in how Moffatt and talented director Rachel Talalay present it on screen.

There is horror, suspense, drama and visual flair along with the awesome acting and some strong dialogue. The plot is the thing that detracts for me. Thankfully I saw no such flaws in part 2 of the story The Doctor Falls.

This episode 8/10. The Doctor Falls 9.5/10, Average rating for 2 part story: 8.75/10.

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