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Reviews By Mercury
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From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 5/18/19 11:59 am
1 out of 1 found this review helpful.

This Christmas special is suitably festive fun with lots of humour. It does though have a more serious emotional aspect later on which is rather touching and adds a bit of weight to the otherwise very light entertainment.

The story involves The Doctor meeting up with River Song for the first time since his last regeneration. River does not recognise him creating quite a lot of humour. However, I find it a rather hard to swallow idea that River does not realise it is the Doctor no matter what he says or does. Yes it is funny but it is rather stretching credulity as it goes along. There is also quite a lot of silliness in this mostly comedic episode. Some of this silliness is very enjoyable and amusing but it is perhaps slightly over the top at times. The story of River trying to steal the head of the rather ridiculous King Hydroflax is all done for laughs and it really is pretty much a full parody. The episode Robot of Sherwood is a good example of making parody work as well as possible in the series and this makes it work in terms of making me laugh and be entertained but it is not in the league of more serious episodes of the show. The issues of the lack of subtlety or credibility mean this is not a favourite of mine but it is fun to watch.

I do not quite get the resolution of the Doctor and River spending their last time together before she goes and meets the 10th Doctor in the library where she 'dies' and leaves the Doctor's life (of course in Moffatt writing nobody ever actually dies so she is uploaded to a computer memory that the Doctor inexplicably never interacts with again.) As the location of their last ever time together before her demise is known to them both it makes no real sense the way that the Doctor seems to embark on this last 'night' voluntarily just because her diary is nearly full and the way it is portrayed that River knows full well her next meeting with the Doctor will be the last does not make sense when you watch Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead where River shows no such knowledge. Writng a character's storyline the wrong way round is very difficult and Moffatt did not succeed, especially as he created such a stupid character arc for River in series 6. This is a real shame because River is such a great character, so well acted by Alex Kingston.

It is hard to focus on such issues of continuity and deep storylines when the majority of the episode is such comedic fluff and I do enjoy watching the episode so I won't judge it too harshly. It makes me smile and chuckle and the daft adventure skims over any deeper issues. Matt Lucas makes a good debut as Nardole and fellow comedian Greg Davies appears as the equally funny Hydroflax. The beautiful acting of Alex kingston and Peter Capaldi lift this story and make it all work.

My rating: 7/10
From the Reviewer:
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Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 5/10/19 2:24 pm
4 out of 5 found this review helpful.

Moffatt does it again - takes a potentially great storyline with a brilliantly acted Doctor and high production values and spoils it with ludicrous plot choices.

Number one is the undoing of a main character death YET AGAIN. Clara, who was killed 2 episodes earlier is saved by the Doctor usurping Rassilon and getting the Timelords to allow him to remove her from the moment of death, supposedly to gain information before returning her to her death but he then escapes with her! Moffatt reverses the apparent deaths of companions and/or the Doctor an unbelievable 34 times in his 83 episodes as Showrunner!!! Absolutely bonkers and lame storywriting as well as cowardly in not ever standing by killing off a character. The manner in which this is done with the Doctor meddling with time, abusing Timelord technology and using a gun to shoot a Timelord who had just been helping him make this even worse! It is so out of character for the Doctor (apart from Moffatt's era when his character is made to mess with time recklessly several times and the Colin Baker era when John Nathan Turner had the Doctor turning violent). It also brings a lame culmination of all the build up of yet another silly long term story arc from Moffatt. Incredibly Moffatt's story arcs in 4 of his first 5 series involved prophecies - the TARDIS exploding, the death at Lake Silencio, the death at Trenzalore and now the Hybrid - and this Hybrid prophecy arc ends with a vague idea that the Doctor was running from a notion he might bring destruction to the Timelords, more vague ideas that the Hybrid may be Ashildr, Clara or a combination of them and an inexplicable idea the Timelords would keep the Doctor in a prison for 2 billion years just to get an answer to a question of what he knows about the Hybrid without ever directly asking him! Then a few words from him causes the overthrow of Rassilon and a suggestion Clara has information on the hybrid causes the Timelords to allow him to take her from her moment of death.

Not content with that, Moffatt also throws in lots of other messy story elements and meddles with the Doctor's history a little bit. He not only causes the Doctor to act totally out of character he overly complicates things and has a muddled idea about 'the Hybrid' that just does not really work.

Clara's return is cheap but it also is compounded by the way she then goes off in a TARDIS with Ashildr/Me. Having been a reckless companion with a invincibility/superiority complex which lead to her demise she again gets away with it and then is handed a TARDIS so she goes off convinced she is some sort of superhero! This would be a dangerous turn of events unleashing 2 reckless people with the power of travelling around all of time and space.

All the great acting, spectacle, excitement, humour and drama of this episode is high quality and should make this a terrific finale but Moffatt's storytelling lets things down badly once more so this sadly for me can be no higher than 4/10.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 5/10/19 11:23 am
2 out of 3 found this review helpful.

This review contains spoilers:

It is a strange one to rate because within itself this episode is entertaining, well acted, well made and quite powerful with the death of companion Clara, however writer Steven Moffatt YET AGAIN flips this apparent death and has an improbable get out 2 episodes later that returns Clara to life. If this was a one off it would be not so bad but Moffatt has apparent deaths of main characters which he then undoes and has the characters return over and over and over again. The frequency of this pathetic plot device is hard to believe. In Russell T. Davies 60 episodes as Showrunner there were 5 reversed deaths of companions or Doctors, in Steven Moffatt's 83 episodes as showrunner there were an incredible 34 reversed deaths of companions and Doctors (not counting regenerations). That means Moffatt had fake/reversed apparent deaths strike rate of over 40% compared to just over 8 % for RTD! It is ridiculous and bad writing to use such a fake plot device so many times.

As a result even when Clara seemingly died on first broadcast I thought there may well be yet another get out coming which lessened the emotional impact and sure enough Moffatt did indeed undo the death which makes Face the Raven yet another hollow manipulation. It really makes Moffatt look very silly.

That aside, this episode was very good. It was interesting and intriguing and had suspense and drama. Peter Capaldi was, as always, superb. Jenna Coleman does an excellent job as Clara despite the character issues. There is a welcome return for Riggsy as a guest companion. The hidden street is a neat idea and the tattoo countdown is different. The return of Ashildr/Me is again very ambiguous and dark and Maisie Williams shows yet again what a fine young actress she is performing perfectly in the role as she does as Arya in Game of Thrones. Without the faked death it would be a 9/10 episode. However, along with the hollow fake death Clara's apparent demise was as a result of her reckless and power crazed personality that had kept popping up annoyingly throughout her time as companion. Clara seemingly wants to be the Doctor (yet often hypocritically tells him off for his behaviour) and frequently acts as if she is invincible and superior. This causing her downfall is interesting but does not bring about sympathy or sadness as a viewer.

I will give credit for all the good stuff in this episode and also will not judge this episode based on the return of Clara 2 episodes later but I still feel the hollowness to the death and the immortality/superiority of Clara detract enough to drop this to a 7/10. The acting, particularly of Capaldi shines through though and stops it slipping any more. If only Clara had actually been allowed to die in this episode, it would be emotional and would be 9/10. Her return in Hell Bent is a bad move.
From the Reviewer:
User Rating:
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Reviewed By: MercuryReview Date: 4/14/19 9:14 am
3 out of 3 found this review helpful.

I think Mark Gatiss, who loves horror based ideas, probably had a decent idea in bringing a found footage scenario to Doctor Who and having 'a monster that lurks in the corner of your eye. Sadly it just is put together in a way that just does not work. Visually the episode looks fine, there is a creepy and effective scene of a person's face crumbling like sand the Sandmen crumbling looks good but when they are fully formed they look a bit unimpressive and the plot is a mess. It goes along not making much sense and when it all pans out it just is unconvincing and strange. The worst thing is that it is just boring. The script is dull, the action is not exciting, the guest characters are weak, Clara adds nothing, the ideas are poorly presented and, apart from the great horror shot of the crumbling face, the ending is annoying in terms of being left irritatingly and pointlessly unresolved. The only real plus point apart from the one scary visual effect is Peter Capaldi who performs as well as anyone could but even he cannot make this interesting or make sense of it.

I love a good one-off base under siege adventure but this is a very weak example. Disappointing. If you want a really good example of a claustrophobic Mark Gatiss written adventure look at Cold War instead and there are plenty of great, thrilling base under siege adventures over the years like The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.

4/10

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