Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Viking River Cruise of The Doctor



STORY 259: THE GIRL WHO DIED

The problem with living forever is that eventually, you run out of things to do.  Eternal youth isn't all it's cracked up to be, and The Girl Who Died certainly learned that lesson, or is going to anyway.  The Girl Who Died (which keeps with this eternal fixation co-writer Steven Moffat has with Death...and How to Avoid It) has some simply awful moments that are sheer embarrassments to all concerned.  There are a few glimmers of good things in it.  However, the rapturous praise this episode and actually all of Season Nine has received is a far greater puzzle than that which is on the screen.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his Companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) find themselves captured by Vikings.  The Doctor attempts to convince them he is the Norse god Odin, but then the "real" Odin shows up in the sky.  He demands the village's greatest warriors in order to bring them to Valhalla, and not only does 'Odin' take them, but also grabs Clara and a mysterious girl, Ashildr (Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones fame, and for full disclosure I've never seen Game of Thrones or cared to watch, so Williams being a guest star causes absolutely no excitement for me).  Anyway, we quickly discover that 'Odin' (David Schofield) is no Norse god, but the leader of the Mire, an alien warrior group that extracts testosterone from the finest warriors in the universe.

No vitamins for these nutters.  Wonder why they haven't beamed up the Israeli Army, but that's for another time.


Well, Ashildr has managed to challenge the Mire to war, and now they have twenty-four hours to raise an army against them.  The Doctor and Clara now rally the disheartened Vikings to take on the Mire.  The fact that he can't be bothered to learn any of their names, referring to them as Lofty, Chuckles, and Heidi is not as important as his sense that he knows Ashildr.

Oh, and he still speaks Baby.  In fact, this language helps the Doctor in his plan to defeat the Mire when Lofty takes his baby to see the electric eels they have.  With a little puppetry from Ashildr, who has books apparently, they are ready to challenge the Mire.

When they Mire appear, they are surprised to see the Vikings in the middle of a hoe-down.  They demand a battle, and thanks to Ashildr's powerful mind projections they are able to defeat and fool the Mire.  Worse, Clara has captured them being defeated by a cheap puppet on video (complete with The Benny Hill Theme playing) and the Doctor threatens to upload this on the Intergalactic Version of YouTube unless they leave.  The Mire is angry at this turn and swears revenge.  However, in the midst of celebrations, we find that Ashildr has died, the force to project into the Mire's minds too much for her. 


It's at this point that The Doctor is highly upset about her death. As he contemplates what he can do, he starts to think where he's seen his face before, why he chose that particular face.  The Doctor now sees why he looks the way he does and who he looks like: Caelicius from The Fires of Pompeii, the man the Tenth Doctor saved (along with his family) from Vesuvius' wrath.  He chose that face, that particular face, to remind himself he saved people.  Rejigging the Mire's helmet, he installs a chip that not only brings Ashildr back to life but has inadvertently given her immortality.  To help her, he gives her a second chip that she can give to anyone she wants to share immortality with.

However, as the Doctor leaves and time flows on, we see Ashildr's face change from happy to dour, the burden of immortality weighing on her.    


I am reluctant to say that The Girl Who Died is really a two-part story insofar as whatever comes after will be more a sequel to it than a straight continuation.  One could bring Ashildr back any time really without affecting the flow of the season.  The fact that she is returning in The Woman Who Lived immediately following in reality has little to do with The Girl Who Died save it has the same character several centuries later.

Be that as it may, from what I saw The Girl Who Died is yet another bad Doctor Who episode, though not because the ideas in it are bad.  I blame the execution, where Moffat I figure now knows that he can put down anything and it will be hailed as brilliant.

Must be nice to be praised for cranking out crap constantly and get awards for it too.

Let's start with Odin's appearance.  I understand that it was meant to evoke memories of Monty Python & The Holy Grail, but my question is, 'why?' Monty Python & The Holy Grail was meant to be an all-out comedy, so was The Girl Who Died similarly aiming to not be taken seriously?  When the farmers declare, "We are VIKINGS!", I again burst out laughing.



It's clear that The Girl Who Died wasn't taking things seriously when it evokes The Benny Hill Theme...and plays it too.  (At this point, I wonder, where did they get the Wi-Fi to get the music to play alongside the video?  Just a thought).  Would the aliens get the joke?  Would Millennials?  There are some GenXers who wouldn't get the joke, but then again I've always gravitated to British television.  Still, why was that there?

This isn't even touching on the fact that electric eels weren't known in Scandinavia as they are native to South America (thus making their inclusion all the more bizarre) or on that pesky "Viking helmets DIDN'T have horns on them" business.  Personally, I don't care about the historical accuracy of Viking helmets because that wasn't part of the story.  Having animals that did not exist and making them a major part of the story does, and isn't it curious that few if any critics have mentioned this in their Girl Who Died reviews.  Certainly the whore of whores, The Nerdist's resident Whovian Kyle Anderson, makes no mention of this historical anachronism in his typically enthusiastic fanboying (to call them reviews, let alone critical analysis, would be as logical as Vikings having electric eels).

We have the usual Moffat tropes (people coming back to life, no explanation for how the girls got away, a villain with no identity or persona) and again with that damn "talking Baby" crap.  It wasn't funny the first time, nor the second, and it still isn't funny. 



What bothered me in retrospect about The Girl Who Died is the idea that a.) the Doctor 'picked his face' and b.) that he was so wrapped up in Ashildr.  On the first part, I know why it was done.  NuWho fans wanted an explanation as to why the Twelfth Doctor (but Fourteenth Form, to use Andersonian logic), looked like Caecilius.  HOW COULD THIS BE?  With this episode, we got a reason I'm sure even the Nerds on a Couch will mindlessly parrot as logical: he 'chose' that face to remind himself he saved people.

Oddly, no one has ever answered two or three points on that.  One: since when could the Doctor 'choose' anything regarding his physical regeneration?  When the Second Doctor was forced to regenerate, he was kind of given a choice, but he dithered so long the Time Lords essentially said, 'screw it, we're picking one out for you'.  In fact, the Doctor has never really chosen much if anything with regards to regeneration (and if he has, I can't remember it).  Two: why THAT face?  It isn't as if he had to select that Roman to remind himself of his Hippocratic oath.  I'm sure he saved many people (remember, "EVERYBODY LIVES!"), so why not select another face altogether?

Third and finally, no one, not even Kyle Anderson, has been able to answer, if the Doctor can choose a particular face, why he chose as his fifth regeneration to look like Commander Maxil, who shot the fourth regeneration in Arc of Infinity.  When I actually asked Anderson via Twitter, he did respond, and it was as follows:

"Arrogance? Maybe he was remembering people he hated and chose that face? Who knows?"



My answer is infinitely more logical: they hired the same actor to play two different parts at two different times. 

This isn't the first time Doctor Who has done this.  Nicholas Courtney played Bret Vyon in the epic First Doctor story The Daleks' Master Plan before he played one of the most iconic Doctor Who characters starting with the Second Doctor story The Web of Fear: Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (better known today as the father Kate Stewart constantly name drops and who was 'honored' by being turned into a Cyberman in Death in Heaven, which I'm sure would have thrilled both the Brig and the late Courtney).  Before he was First Doctor Companion Steven Taylor at the end of the story The Chase, Peter Purves played a hick tourist in New York City IN AN EARLIER EPISODE OF THE SAME EIGHT-PART STORY! Even NuWho has had the same actors playing different parts, with future Companion Amy (Karen Gillian) playing a soothsayer in Fires of Pompeii.

Yet in none of those instances, particular with regards to Colin Baker's double-duty as Maxil/The Sixth Doctor, was there ever an effort to attempt to explain why two people in distant times/places looked exactly alike.  I think it was because people had some logic to them and knew that the people were actors, capable of playing different parts even if it was on the same show. 

Watch The Golden Girls, for they cast Harold Gould as a love interest for Rose Nylund before they cast him...as a love interest for Rose Nylund by name of Miles Webber.  Even when the Miles character was given a pretty outlandish plot to have him written out (he was part of the Witness Protection Program whose identity was discovered), when he was brought back, that particular episode addressed that part of the story but then things went back to normal and that storyline was never mentioned again; he returned to being Miles Webber, mild-mannered yet randy college professor. His criminal past was never brought up because we as the audience moved on.

What I don't get is why NuWho fans got so hung up on Peter Capaldi possibly playing two distinct parts and having to have that explained in some way.  Aren't people capable of understanding that actors can play a variety of parts?  Aren't people capable of a little suspension of disbelief?  I guess NuWho fans aren't, because we had to have a whole storyline built up to explain why an actor could appear as two separate characters in one show...rather than just accept things and move on. 

No one ever asked why Dill from The Chase looked like Steven Taylor, or why the Brigadier looked like Bret Vyon (as if there were some cosmic connection between the two), so why do we need to ask why Caelicius looked like the Twelfth Doctor?  Again, the question has to be asked, 'why THAT face?'  Hasn't the Doctor saved or failed to save others?  Why not choose their faces?!

Oh right, NuWho fans need everything spelled out for them.

Also, one wonders if he has such power over his regenerative appearance, why hasn't he gotten the ginger part right?

For when The Doctor gets the 'ginger' part right...

Second, why is the Doctor so devastated with Ashidlr's death when he didn't seem all that broken up with O'Donnell's death in Before the Flood? What made our Scandinavian tween so special?  She had visions, but so what?  I didn't find Ashidlr so important as to bring about this desire to make the Doctor reenact Christ with Lazarus.

In short, I didn't care to see her get immortality, so that was not something that thrilled me or made my fist pump...except perhaps in a desire to punch Steven Moffat and/or Kyle Anderson.

This isn't to say The Girl Who Died was all bad.  The final moments with the Doctor contemplating the idea of immortality was well-played. "Immortality isn't living forever.  Immortality is everyone else dying".  The Doctor should know.  This was so well-played by Capaldi, who could be a truly great Doctor if only his material weren't almost all rubbish. The final scene with Williams' shifting face was also well-executed.

In retrospect, the love The Girl Who Died puzzles me.  Have I finally lost interest in Doctor Who?  Perhaps we should take the Doctor's advise and realize that nothing was meant to be forever.  Not even Doctor Who.     

3/10

Next Episode: The Woman Who Lived


The Ghost Hunters of The Doctor



STORY 258.2: GHOSTS IN THE WATER PART 2: BEFORE THE FLOOD

Well, there went THAT idea. 

Last time, I had said that Toby Whithouse had drawn inspiration from Alien/Aliens for Under the Lake.  To conclude his two-part story, which I'm calling Ghosts in the Water, he seems to have drawn inspiration from both Predator and Alien vs. Predator.  Now, I love PredatorAlien vs. Predator...ah, that was pretty bad.  The sequel was even worse.  Therefore, what could have been a great ending became a merely OK one.  I didn't hate Before the Flood.  After the fantastic opening to Ghosts in the Water Part I, one would have to really be bonkers to flop Part II.

Toby Whithouse might be bonkers.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), along with two of the scientists from the underwater base, O'Connell (Morven Christie) and Bennett (Arsher Ali) have gone back in time to before the city they are investigating was flooded, specifically 1980.  They find the first victim, the Tivolian known as Prentiss (Paul Kaye), still alive and well who tells them the ship is a hearse carrying the remains of one of Tivoli's many conquerors, the Fisher King.  What Prentiss doesn't know is that the Fisher King too is alive and well, and the King kills Prentiss.

In the future, Clara (Jenna Coleman) and the other members of the underwater base, Cass (Sophie Stone) and Lunn (Zaqi Ismail) are still shocked to find the ghost of the Doctor before them.  Cass, reading the Ghost Doctor's lips, realizes he is listing off a series of names in a specific order.  The first is O'Donnell.  The second is Clara.  They conclude this is the order of people killed.  When the Doctor learns of his ghost, he realizes he cannot change history and is destined to die at the hands of the Fisher King.


Tragically, O'Donnell is killed by the Fisher King, making Bennett highly upset that the Doctor didn't save her.  Now the Doctor has to save Clara, the next person on the list.  The O'Donnell ghost now appears on the base, taking Clara's phone.  In order to retrieve it, Clara pushes Cass to let Lunn go get their only means of communicating with the Doctor since they won't hurt Lunn.  Cass hates the idea but Lunn agrees with Clara.  Lunn gets trapped in the main room, and Cass and Clara have to go out of their safe room to get him.

The Doctor faces the Fisher King alone, and tricks him into going back to his ship where he finds that the dam wall has burst open, drowning the down.  Bennett is sent back to the future but we have no idea where the Doctor is.  We discover that he is inside the hearse!  The ghosts, responding to the roar of the Fisher King, are doubly tricked: the Fisher King is not there, and the Ghost Doctor is really a hologram.  Trapped in the Faraday cage, the Doctor tells them UNIT will come to spirit the ghosts away.  Bennett, heartbroken over his lost-love O'Donnell's death, tells Lunn to confess that he loves Cass before it's too late, and after doing so, they kiss.

When they leave, The Doctor reveals to Clara that the names he listed were random, but that he was motivated to act by placing Clara's name second.  As for who really wrote Beethoven's Fifth (the question and scenario the Doctor gave at the beginning), well, since the Doctor stated Beethoven himself didn't write anything but had someone give him the music already written, that mystery still remains.

Right off the bat I should say that the whole Beethoven thing really bothered me to no end for two reasons.  One, it denies the true genius of Ludwig with a cheap joke (and smacks of that whole "Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare" nonsense snobs like Sir Derek Jacobi push.  Second, it just wasn't funny or clever.  Worse, the Doctor breaking the fourth wall to talk to us and tell us about this bootstrap paradox I guess to explain how he saved the crew by changing the future.

Still, I think our first clue that the Doctor's Ghost wasn't real should have been when we heard the names listed.  "O'Donnell, Clara, Doctor, Bennett, Cass", the Ghost Doctor repeats.  My question would be, 'how could the Doctor give the names of people killed after he was supposedly killed'?  Being a ghost, he would be dead already, so how could he know that Bennett and Cass were killed after him?


Maybe I'm overthinking this, but I can't help be bothered by what I feel is a bit of a logical fallacy. As if the whole "The Doctor wrote the Ninth Symphony and every bit of Beethoven's catalog" thing wasn't a bother already.

I also wondered what exactly the Doctor was doing in that statis chamber all those hundreds of years: sleeping it off, waiting patiently until the base staff opened it up.  Oh well.

It does seem a pity that once again, Doctor Who kills off better Companion material than the Companions we have now.  Back in the day, Companions were introduced during the story to be brought on board. From Vicky, the first Companion outside the original cast, to Ace, the last Companion before the show went on 'hiatus', almost all Companions were brought aboard after their first encounter with the Doctor.  Now, just like before, we see good characters killed off.  I would have liked to have seen Bennett and O'Donnell serve as Companions over Big Eyes Clara, especially since Christie and Ali were so good in the roles.  They would have balanced each other well: O'Donnell's fangirl with actual intelligence and courage and Bennett's intelligence with a reluctance to fight. 

I especially liked Ali in Before the Flood.  He could be funny (as when he says upon meeting Prentiss, "My first proper alien...and he's an idiot") and he could be full-on straight dramatic (as when he chastised the Doctor for O'Donnell's death).  I didn't believe the whole "Bennett was in love with O'Donnell" bit because I though he had eyes for Big Eyes, but Ali did try to convince me of such. 

In fact, Before the Flood was remarkably well-acted by everyone, so that was a plus.

What I didn't care for was the Fisher King himself, who proved a bit of a bust.  As a side note, I understand Slipknot 'singer' Corey Taylor provided the roar of the Fisher King, and while it's made out to be some sort of acting coup equal to having Dame Judy Dench appear as the Rani, I can only yawn since I don't know Slipknot and don't care one whit.

Anyway, the Fisher King himself wasn't that great of an antagonist, more in the growling to be menacing style than an actual antagonist. 

It also doesn't help when you find yourself shouting, "Slap her!" when you see Cass scowling at Clara. 

Now, I don't think Before the Flood is a disaster.  Instead, it is a terrible let-down after the brilliance of Under the Lake.  It failed to match the first part, and too many wrong things (weak villain, the Beethoven bit, a desire to bitch-slap Big Eyes) took away from the good parts. 

That being said, on the whole Ghosts in the Water is an OK story overall. 

      

3/10

Overall Score for Ghosts in the Water: 6/10

Next Story: The Girl Who Died

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Underwater Menace of The Doctor




STORY 258.1: GHOSTS IN THE WATER PART 1: UNDER THE LAKE

I don't have to read Kyle Anderson's review for The Nerdist regarding Under The Lake, the first of a new two-part Doctor Who story, to know that he raved about it (as he does with just about every Doctor Who story).  In fact, I think the last really negative Doctor Who review Anderson gave was for A Town Called Mercy, two seasons ago.  It's gotten to where spoofing Anderson's ebullient Doctor Who reviews has turned into a hobby for me, seeing how his self-proclaimed 'analytical critic's mind' melts at the merest mention of "The Moff" and his 'genius'.  Yet I digress.

Well, two things on that.  First, Under the Lake was written by Toby Whithouse, who wrote A Town Called Mercy.  Second, I find myself agreeing with Anderson about Under the Lake (and for the record, on A Town Called Mercy too).  Under the Lake felt and played like a Classic Doctor Who story, from its setting to the central role the Doctor played to the mix of science-fiction and horror, Under the Lake might just be the Flatline of Season Nine: an episode that is really unimpeachable. 

However, since it's a two-parter, it remains to be seen whether its companion piece, Before the Flood, can keep up its good potential.

The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and his Companion, Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) arrive at an underwater base three days after the crew discovered a strange spaceship.  It's even stranger because they are in what was once a city above water where no spaceship should have been in.  The crew has suffered the loss of their captain, Moran (Colin McFarlane) and has to hide out in the base's Faraday Cage to protect themselves from the 'ghosts' that come at night after them, Moran being one of them.  There are essentially two leaders: the deaf Cass (Sophie Stone), aided by her interpreter Lunn (Zaqi Ismael) and the head of Vector Industries, Pritchard (Steven Robertson), who is the company man.  The other, scientists O'Donnell (Morven Christie) and Bennett (Arsher Ali) are pretty much there to keep things going.

The ghosts are about, but what makes it strange is that the original ghost is from a very meek race, so the attacks on the crew are so out-of-character.  Prichard is killed by the ghosts and becomes one himself. The Doctor now comes to realize that they are really ghosts, and that they as ghosts are transmitting a signal through themselves.  Thanks to their capture, Cass is able to lip-read what they are saying, "The Dark, The Sword, The Forsaken, The Temple", and at first it seems so strange.  The Doctor then deduces it is a set of coordinates, leading to the church within the sunken city.  He also dissuades Cass from calling for a rescue ship (despite one being on its way without being sent for) because the ghosts want to kill the crew to strengthen their signal.

The ghosts strike back, unleashing a flood within the base.  As the group attempts to flee, the Doctor says the only way to fix this is to go back in time to find the source of the signal in the church before it was flooded.  The doors lock between two groups: The Doctor, Bennett, and O'Donnell in one, Cass, Lunn, and Clara in the other.  The Doctor's group goes into the TARDIS, and the Clara group waits it out...until they see in horror outside the window into the water, to find a new ghost...THE DOCTOR!



Under the Lake is practically pitch-perfect in a way Doctor Who has not been in a really long time.  Again, we have to go back to the double-punch of Mummy on the Orient Express/Flatine to find a Doctor Who story that works just as well on every level.   The 'base under siege' plot has been used before, certainly a mainstay of the Second Doctor's tenure, but here, it never feels forced or contrived. 

It actually has a very strong Alien/Aliens feel, from the claustrophobia to the evil businessman getting in the way of things to the scene where Lunn is about to be killed by the ghosts but is spared.  Curiously, when we get the ghosts to pull back from killing, we find that Whithouse provides a logical reason for it.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons Under the Lake is such a good story: it gives us a logic to everything, even if the Doctor's explanation for the cryptic message is a bit offbeat.  In every step of the story, from the ghost's capture to how the ghosts came to be to working out why the day mode on the base (which is when the ghosts hide) was switched to night and O'Donnell managing to work it back all blends to give the viewer credit in being smart enough to figure things out.

I can digress to wonder why someone wasn't tasked to put the base on permanent daylight time to keep the ghosts at bay, but I'm not going to split hairs.

Another brilliant aspect in Under the Lake is the acting.  There isn't a bad performance in the lot.  I'll grant that O'Donnell plays like a 2119 version of Osgood and I could ask why she was such a big fan of The Doctor, but give Christie credit that this was a small part of her character.  For most of the time, she was the intelligent officer she was meant to be. 

  
When I learned that a deaf character was going to be in the story, I was concerned that this was done to show us that actors with physical limitations weren't being given a chance.  How wrong I was, and glad to see how Cass was not a token character to placate some misguided notion of equality.  Instead, thanks to Stone's performance, she was the excellent leader that her character demanded she be.  Soon, we forgot that she was deaf, and while it is important to acknowledge that she is deaf, the fact that it soon became a non-issue is a credit to Stone, Whithouse, and director Daniel O'Hara.

In fact, Under the Lake goes out of its way to cast a wide range of actors who show us what British and American television could do if they opted to cast actors, not ethnicities.  We forget that Lunn and Bennett are being played by actors of Arab and Pakistani heritage.  This is good, because both Ismail and Ali are excellent in their roles: Ismail as the interpreter who is frustrated by Cass' actions in keeping him out of things, and Ali as the somewhat nerdy and cowardly Bennett who appears to take a shine to Clara.  Truth be told, Ali's Bennett was my favorite character: his fear but rising to do what was needed being both comic and heroic in equal turn.

I hope, however, he isn't the newest romantic interest on Doctor Who, despite his good work.

Apart from the positive step in casting non-Anglo actors in what would appear to be Anglo parts, we get perhaps the best performances out of our leads.  Capaldi is in his element as The Doctor, toning down the goofy mannerisms bestowed to him by Matt Smith's interpretation and making The Doctor into a mostly rational, intelligent, authority figure.  Sometimes the comedy is forced and dumb (he needs cue cards to express emotion), but sometimes the comedy actually flows well ("You weren't like this when you met Shirley Bassey", he mutters to himself when thinking out the problem).  Coleman was excellent merely because she for once wasn't the main character.  She behaved like what a traditional Companion should be: the one who asks the questions and helps move the plot along.

It's almost a shame to think how so much time has been wasted making Clara the focus, because Coleman flounders when she has to carry the load with some exceptions (Flatline).  Here, Clara was good, but oddly, we see how well The Doctor can work with better characters as Companions. 

While people seemed eager to have Cass and Lunn be the new Companions (because NuWho fans ALWAYS want guest characters to be the new Companions rather than have a completely new character pop up), I'd like O'Donnell and Bennett to fill that role.  

What elevated Under the Lake is also the brilliant visual look to it, giving it the creepy look that pushes the fear factor.  Even Murray Gold for once tones things down, making the music effectively minimal and tense.  We even got a logical use for those damn stupid Sonic Sunglasses, which deserves a point in itself.

If I were to fault Under the Lake for something, it is in little things, like the clich├ęd 'evil businessman' of the Pritchard character (one half-expects Robertson to a.) twirl a mustache and b.) not live out the episode since he's obviously evil and stupid).  Another thing is when it made the O'Donnell character another Osgood.  One wonders WHY she is such a fan, and the story doesn't answer it.

Apart from that, Under the Lake is probably the best episode we've had in a long, long time.  It's a strange thing to find my bete noire Kyle Anderson and myself being enthusiastic about the same thing, I'm an honest critic.

Let's see whether Before the Flood manages to pull things together...or tear it down.

         

9/10

Next Episode: Ghosts on the Water Parts 1 & 2 (Under the Lake/Before the Flood)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Aragon vs. Anderson: The Name of The Doctor



Now that I have a few minutes free, I thought I'd go back to one of my great passions...bashing The Whorist (or as it's generally known, The Nerdist), in particular their Doctor Who reviews by one Kyle Anderson.

Mr. Anderson (now doesn't that sound sinister) in my view, has rarely if ever met a Doctor Who post-Rose story that he hasn't loved. I don't mean liked. I mean L-O-V-E-D, to where that particular episode is the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time...until the next episode when THAT becomes the Best Doctor Who Episode of All Time. It's gotten to be almost a point of parody to see how Anderson rarely finds fault with a Doctor Who episode. I don't mean just to nitpick on a few things. I mean give a bona-fide negative review. Even I, someone who has been vociferous in my condemnation for many NuWho episodes, do admit when I see a good one (like Flatline or Mummy on the Orient Express). Anderson, however, will almost always find something to wax rhapsodic about, even on something as atrocious as In the Forest of the Night.

I was intrigued by this, so a little research was required. I went as far back as I could regarding Anderson's Doctor Who reviews, and the earliest one I could find was the Series/Season Six opener, The Impossible Astronaut. What I've done is taken Kyle Anderson's review verbatim, and offered my own 'translation' to the text to see what Anderson is, in my view, really saying. I also throw in my own thoughts as to what is being said.

I hope this will be a fun and informative journey into the strange mind of the Functioning Nerd.

I present Part 28 of The Nerdist as Whore: The Name of The Doctor. My 'translations' are in red.


Wait, so this WASN’T the 50th Anniversary special? It’s an episode in which every single incarnation of the Doctor we know (and also…) is featured,
...in a way that should horrify every true Doctor Who fan, where 50 years of Canon are apparently all from the mind of Steven Moffat, who was all of two years old when the show premiered.
and in a way that makes sense and isn’t stupid.
 
It’s full of past characters and references and mystery and intrigue and loss and sadness and endings and beginnings and…. Man, “The Name of the Doctor” had everything.
It's full of continuity questions and references to things NuWhovians neither know or care about and confusion and sluts and Anderson got lost in his hyperventilating glee at it all, never really caring whether any of it made sense.  Man, "The Name of the Doctor" had a lot of oddities in it.
It was even about what it said on the tin, and we didn’t have to hear it.
 
What it said on the tin was "The Name of The Doctor", but it wasn't a part of the story. 
So, let’s dive in, I guess.
So, let's get this over with, I guess.
Vastra calls a meeting of all the awesome people who help the Doctor and are still available to be shown onscreen.
Let's see: Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton, Zoe Hariot, Jamie McCrimmon, Jo Grant, Romana, Ace...oh, that's right.  They're Classic Who, so putting them on what you thought was the 50th Anniversary Special would have been so erroneous.   
That means herself, Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River, whom we haven’t seen since she left the Doctor crying and alone at the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan.”


I'd like to know who declared Madame Vastra and River Song "awesome", so as to publicly horse-whip them.

Apparently, with the proper fragrance,
Eau De Stupidity
people can lucid-dream their way into a Matrix construct. I did not know that.
Man, my fan-fic isn't as good as The Moff's.
It’s a good way of getting people in the same room at once without having to mess around with pesky science or technology.
It's a lousy and lazy way to get around putting characters from the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries in one room at once without having to mess around with pesky logic.  Oh, and did I mention that The Bitch is technically dead at this point.  Oh, right, sorry...on Moffat Doctor Who no one ever dies. 
They are gathered because some crazy murderer knows information regarding the fields of Trenzalore. We know this, of course, as the site of the Fall of the Eleventh, as told to the Doctor by Dorium at the end of “The Wedding of River Song.”
What we DON'T know is how exactly this Victorian-era murderer knows all this information regarding the Fields of Trenzalore.  That isn't explained, let alone given a plausible explanation, but since this is Doctor Who, whose main virtue is its total lack of logic, it doesn't matter how this all came about. 
This is bad news.
This is bad episode.

The Great Intelligence, again played by the iconic Richard E. Grant,
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Grant is ‘iconic’, but he’s a good actor, so I’m willing to let that slide.

sends the Whisper Men, another in a long string of Moffat’s terrifying henchmen,


to take/kill the members of the pentagon whilst they’re asleep. Clara wakes up and tells the Doctor what happened, causing him to cry.
 

He wasn’t the only crying through this horror, albeit people cried for different reasons.
He knows where he must go, but he daren’t. If you could travel anywhere in time and space, obviously the one place you’d avoid is the place where you breathe your very last.

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, obviously the one place you keep going to is 20th Century London and Cardiff.

We see terrible things on Trenzalore,

Like The Name of The Doctor.

not least of which being the remains of the TARDIS, its dimensions broken down so that the outside matches the inside.

POOR IDRIS!


River is also here — not real River, mind, but the River that’s mentally linked to Clara.

OF COURSE RIVER HAD TO BE IN THIS!  She's the most important character on Doctor Who!  That's like not having Stormtrooper Number 7 in The Empire Strikes Back!

I don’t actually understand what River is doing there and why the Doctor, we eventually learn, can see her.
River served no purpose in The Name of The Doctor, and there's no logic to the idea that for the longest time, he apparently pretended not to see or hear where when apparently he could.
I get that she’s supposed to be the “saved” version of River from “Forest of the Dead,” but why wouldn’t they just pick a River who’s alive? I mean, she’s out of sequence with the Doctor; does that mean the very next thing she did after Amy and Rory got sent back to the ’40s was go to the library?
The whole River timeline, with his first meeting of her being her last meeting with him and vice-versa, has gotten so convoluted that there's just no way any of it makes sense now.
Either way, I think we’re led to believe that she’s not going to be in the show anymore.
 
I’ll miss her, I think, but I can live with it.
OH GOD, HOW I WISH THAT OLD BITCH WOULD GO!!!  I can't stand River Song, and the sooner we see the backside of her the better.  Granted, Anderson has a thing for cougars, or in River Song's case, saber-tooth tigers, but still, get rid of her! I can live without her.
The Great Intelligence’s plan is downright horrific, to jump into the Doctor’s time stream and un-right all the un-wronging he’s done throughout eternity.

If only the Great Intelligence could do that with so many NuWho episodes...

What a dick.

What a dick.

Planets, galaxies, people, begin to disappear from existence, including Jenny and evil-again Strax.

Maybe I was wrong.  Maybe The Name of The Doctor is actually good, if the episode wipes out Jenny and Strax.

There is but one thing left to do – for Clara to jump in herself, completely forsake her own life, and get split into a billion pieces to save the Doctor and ensure things happen the way they should.

The Companion sacrificing herself to save The Doctor.  Now THAT'S an original idea! 

She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to integrate competing Moffat-era scripts that contradict each other.
 
Since “Asylum of the Daleks,” back when we were surprised to see Jenna-Louise Coleman on our screens, we’ve been wondering who exactly she is, and what exactly she’s doing in multiple places in history. Now we know; she’s not a trick, or a trap,

Maybe a tramp who turns tricks?

or some weird alien, or a robot, or anything like that.

She ain't a bitch or a ho, either.

She’s a young lady who essentially allowed herself to be fragmented throughout time and space to save the Doctor time and time again.

Well, there is a certain logic to that, albeit an idiotic one, to misquote All About Eve.  However, there's something sad in thinking that Steven Moffat, in a roundabout way, is claiming credit for ALL of Doctor Who because his creation now has 'interacted' with all the Doctors.

We see her “interact” with the Doctor throughout his whole life.

In the future, we see just HOW long her meddling in his life was.

I don’t care if it does look fake, seeing Clara and William Hartnell share the same frame is magical. And Tom Baker and Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton and everybody. It’s awesome. I love it.

Kyle Anderson, you are officially expelled as a Whovian.

Once things are righted, the Doctor does something even more insane that what Clara did: jump into his own time stream to save her.
 
 
 
She eventually ends up in some horrible, bleak place
 
a Moffat-penned Doctor Who episode...
 
and, miraculously (or not), the Doctor finds her, the real her. Except there’s another guy standing there… We do not know this guy; who’s this guy?
 

Seems pretty self-explanitory to where even an analytical critic could figure it out.
 
Evidently, he’s the man who had forsaken the name of the Doctor.
 
 
Yet he's billed as "Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor".  And perhaps this is not the best time to mention that "The Doctor" is not The Name of The Doctor.  The Doctor is a title.  Geez, even Peter Cushing's version at least named him "Doctor Who" and didn't go on with this "Name of The Doctor being a BIG MYSTERY" nonsense you lap up like the lapdog you are.
 
There have only been 11,
 
Well, there used to be only 11 Doctors until now.  Thanks to "The Moff" what had been a simple numerical system has been permanently thrown into needless chaos and confusion, but with apologists like you, "The Moff" need not worry about answering for illogic on a show whose whole premise, according to you, is in BEING illogical. 
 
but this one’s a mistake or something.
 
Kyle Anderson accidently hits the nail on the head.  Yes, this one's a mistake...or something.
 
Is he the Valeyard,
 

is he a future Doctor,
 
 
 
is he… a third thing?
 
 
NOPE. It says, "Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor".
 
I guess we’ll have to wait and see once the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors team up.

I’m sure there’s a lot of nitpicking to be done about this episode, but none of it really bothered me in the least.

I'm sure an analytical critic could point out how horrible this all is, how it obliterates Canon, how it does a disservice to 50 years of stories, how a lot of it simply doesn't make a lot of sense, but none of it really bothered me in the least.  I either get very well paid to shill for Moffat or am such a total lackey that it's beyond me to look past anything other than to bask in The Moff's reflective glory.  There is a third alternative: Kyle Anderson is an idiot.  Just a flat-out idiot too enamored of pretty lights and access to all the Doctor Who production team that he just doesn't care how good or bad a story is, so long as he gets a piece of the action.

What is extraordinary about that statement, "I'm sure there's a lot of nitpicking to be done about this episode, but none of it really bother me in the least" is that Anderson essentially is saying that whatever flaws The Name of The Doctor has as a story, he just doesn't care what they are.  He just doesn't care.  He'll let it wash over him and go on his merry way, disinterested that a show he claims to love and analyze with a critical eye is being brought to wrack and ruin.  It's a bit like saying one loves antiquities but doesn't care that Palmyra is being obliterated before our eyes. 

I thought everything paid off what was promised,

I was handsomely paid off.

and River’s ghost being able to open the tomb’s doors aside, the episode wasn’t a cop out.



It WAS about the name of the Doctor,


it WAS about finding out who and what Clara is,



it WAS about something that completely changed what we knew about the show, but it doesn’t besmirch or negate any of it.


That last line was so bad, it deserves another Vincent Price Laugh.



How can Anderson truly say that with both a straight face and any sense of decency?  This John Hurt Doctor oh so much besmirches and negates what has come before on Doctor Who.  The idea that CLARA of all people has been boucing around the Doctor's entire existence, bailing him out of dangers like some big-eyed guardian angel completely takes away from all the good work various writers, producers, cast and crew put into the show.  Clara doesn't fit into Canon pre-Bells of Saint John, and even in her two prior appearances not only does she "die" but neither story fits very well together.  Yet now she's been shoehorned into pre-An Unearthly Child, and for what?  To please the ego of the man Anderson rims metaphorically at every opportunity he gets.    

It’s an episode about the past, present, and future of the character, which is something everybody can enjoy.

I shouldn't be shocked, SHOCKED, by the levels Anderson willingly sinks to in order to please Moffat (or show himself to be a total acolyte to Moffat's overwhelming sense of genius).  However, what I see is a man desperate to convince me (and perhaps himself) that The Name of The Doctor is some turning point in television, nay, world history, when it's an open sewer (and Anderson knows it).  Now, either he knows it and is not saying so for reasons opaque (a love of money, a desire to please Moffat, blanket stupidity) or he doesn't know it and genuinely believes that The Name of The Doctor or Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS are somehow equal to or above The Caves of Androzani or Genesis of the Daleks.

This is the gist of my long 'feud' with Kyle Anderson.  You CANNOT be an 'analytical critic' AND a cheerleader/apologist for the person you are analyzing.  There is a clear-cut conflict of interest that renders your 'analysis' nothing more than promotional puff pieces or worse, shameful and shameless propaganda.

One can advocate for a particular writer or artist (I make no secret of my love for Mia Wasikowska as an actress and would call myself a champion of her career).  However, when I think she is in a bad movie (like I thought of Stoker or Alice in Wonderland), my admiration for Wasikowska as an actress will not blind me to what I consider the failures of either the films or the performances in them.  Well, perhaps at times I was a bit too in love to be completely impartial.  However, a true 'analytical critic' will be honest enough, with both his/her audience and him/herself, to recognize when the one he/she supports does something wrong. 

Anderson doesn't.  He is quick to leap to Moffat's defense at every opportunity.  The Leader cannot be questioned, cannot be criticized, cannot be mocked.  Via his Twitter feed on October 6: "People who dislike Moffat: You can't say he does the same thing every series, because they've all been structurally fundamentally different". To my own mind, this statement doesn't come from a 'critic', analytical or otherwise.  

It comes from an apologist.  It comes from a fanboy.  It comes from someone who rather than argue the merits of Moffat's writing, sees himself as a Defender of The Faith: 

There is No God But Moffat and
Kyle Anderson is His Messenger. 

When a critic goes from analyzing the pros and cons of a subject and goes into an impassioned defense of that which he/she is covering, then that critic cedes being a true critic and goes into being an advocate.  That's all well and good, but Anderson should be up-front about it.  He should say, "I think Moffat is the new Rod Serling, and as such, no criticism will pass my lips".  He should say, "Any criticism of Steven Moffat, either for Doctor Who or Sherlock, will be met with fierce condemnation and furious anger from me, for I will defend him at every turn".  The fact that he wants it both ways (be thought of as a serious, objective, analytical critic AND as a champion of The Moff) shows either a disconnect or patent hypocrisy.

Make up your mind, Kyle.  Are you an analytical critic or an advocate?  You cannot be both.           

I adored this entire series, from “Asylum” to now.

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

It really only had a few missteps for me,

Precisely ONE negative review out of 13 for Series Seven.

but I almost don’t care at this point.

You're too hard on yourself.  I don't think you ever really cared to begin with.  Personally, I find that last statement rather sad.  You're saying that you don't care that a show in your view has taken some wrong turns.  It doesn't matter to you whether something is bad, so long as it has Doctor Who stamped on it, mindlessly accepting the dribble that comes from Moffat or Gatiss or anyone else without saying anything other than "I LOVED IT".  

This is the show that I love to watch every week and the one I’ll be excited to watch for the next six months until the special. So, to sum it up, I loved “The Name of the Doctor,”

SHOCKED that Kyle Anderson liked a
Doctor Who episode!

and if you didn’t, that’s cool.

Look, I know The Name of The Doctor was shit from the moment Clara spotted The First Doctor and Susan and told them which TARDIS to steal (thus Clara, and by extension, Steven Moffat, essentially CREATED Doctor Who, and also contradicted The Doctor's Wife a mere series ago) right down to "Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor", but I'M not about to openly criticize it.  I know many Whovians, even NuWhovians, know that The Name of The Doctor was really a shambles that in the future will make even less sense.  I really want to say it, but I cannot.

Do note though, that Anderson loved both The Name of The Doctor (where Clara Oswald told the Doctor which TARDIS to take, and remarkably showing that The Doctor really was senile as he had no memory of having met Clara in his very first incarnation or wondered who that mysterious being was when she popped in on Gallifrey) AND The Doctor's Wife (where the TARDIS in human form told the Doctor SHE selected him).  He tries to bridge this contradiction by suggesting the TARDIS and Clara possibly, potentially, perhaps worked together.  "Maybe they were in league together" is how he tries to fit two contradictory stories despite no evidence to suggest that such a collusion entre Clara et Idris took place.

They were not in cahoots.  The Doctor's Wife: the TARDIS chose The Doctor.  The Name of The Doctor: Clara chose the TARDIS for The Doctor.  No amount of finagling, no amount of mental gymnastics, no amount of apologetics can make these two stories fit into one coherent narrative.  However, for a true believer like Kyle Anderson, no proof that Moffat is wrong is possible.  If one episode says the TARDIS chose the Doctor and another episode says Clara chose the TARDIS for the Doctor, there apparently is no contradiction that some good old 'timey-wimey' can't resolve.

The fact that he'd rather come up with rationales and excuses and wild theories (far-fetched as they are) to force the pieces to come together rather than just say Episode B contradicts Episode A I think says all there is to say about why Kyle Anderson is no 'analytical critic'.    
 
I’ll be back at some point this summer with a more thorough postmortem of Series 7 in its entirety, but right now I’m gonna go to sleep.

The Damned Sleep Well.