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The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos


Season 11 Episode 10

US broadcast date December 9, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole,

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jamie Childs

The Doctor responds to a distress call from Ranskoor Av Kolos. Knowing the planet will mess with thought processes, she equips everyone with dampeners to keep them sane. They find a battlefield, a quarry, complete with hundreds of crashed ships and Paltraki, played by Mark Addy, who can't even remember his name.

The residents of the planet, two Ux, manipulate matter with their minds. Tzim-Shaw, played by Samuel Oatley, the teeth stealing megalomaniac from the first episode, has made them believe he is their god. To please him, the Ux to steal planets, compress them and keep them inside plastic containers. How that gives him power over the entire universe is never really explained. Now that the doctor has arrived, he wants revenge and tries to capture Earth.

Tizm-Sha was a pretty weak villain in the first episode. In this episode, the character has more power and depth. However, from Omega to Davros to the Jagrafess, megalomaniacs are all about the same.

Even though Tizm-Sha killed Grace, the Doctor forbids Graham to kill him. Graham doesn't listen. In the end, it is Ryan, who intervenes and finds a better way of decommissioning this villain. Graham and Ryan make major contributions to the plot, which gives them a chance to develop their characters.

This is a solid episode. The pace is even, building to an exciting conclusion, with enough wind down to give each character a future. Sound effects never overwhelmed the dialogue. There are well-timed comic relief and tender, thoughtful moments. But it is dark and dystopian throughout.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 9, 2018











It Takes You Away



Season 11 Episode 9

US broadcast date December 2, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Ellie Wallwork

Written by Ed Hime and Joy Wilkinson. Directed by Jamie Childs.

The Doctor and friends go to Norway and find a boarded up house in the middle of the woods. Inside, Hanne, a blind teenage girl, played by Ellie Wallwork, is alone. Her mother is dead and her father has disappeared. Every afternoon, a monstrous noise frightens her.

The show starts out fine with a creepy something is wrong feel and a mirror that is a portal to another universe. The alien in the cave never feels like much of a threat even though he is supposed to. Although, the carnivorous moths are a nice touch. They look soft, fly realistically, and eat anything that moves.

When the crew tries to get home, they find themselves in an alternate universe that is almost identical to this one, but nicer in some ways. Turns out the alternate universe is sentient, and now that so many people are there, it can no longer maintain its connection to this universe. If the Doctor and friends don't get back in time, the whole thing will self-destruct.

The adult in me thought a sentient universe was a really dumb idea, on par with Timothy Zahn's sentient black hole, but the kid in me didn't mind.

Most of this episode works. It gets a bit tedious just before the conclusion, as is typical for many Doctor Who stories.

There were nice moments with Graham and Grace.

Using a talking CGI frog as an avatar for a sentient universe is unique.

Erick's priorities are screwed up. He deserves the clueless, irresponsible father of the year award.

Hanne is self-sufficient and fits right into the story. Using a blind actress to play a blind character adds a degree of sensitivity and realism that isn't normally found in Doctor Who.

The sound effects and background music leave much to be desired. However, BBC America broadcasts in my area tend to have sound problems, so that may not be an issue in other areas.

Reviewed by Romana Drew December 3, 2018











Witchfinders


Season 11 Episode 8

US broadcast date November 25, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Alan Cumming, and Siobhan Finneran.

Written by Joy Wilkinson. Directed by Sallie Aprahamian.

The Doctor and friends find themselves in 17th century England near the village of Bilehurst Crag where a woman accused of being a witch is put on trial by the evil Becka Savage, played by Siobhan Finneran. After a lecture on not interfering in history, Team Tardis jump in to stop the mayhem. With a name like Bilehurst Crag, something just has to be wrong.

In typical witch trial fashion, if the accused drowns they must be innocent. If they survive, they must be a witch and therefore killed. Becka Savage, the ruler of the village, lives up to her name with her weekly witch trials always ending in the death of the accused. She claims to be ridding the village of Satan, but every woman drowns, which means they were innocent. That never occurs to her or to King James.

A while back, Ms. Savage cut down an enormous tree with only an ax, releasing a race of alien mud creatures who fill the bodies of the dead, making the episode replete with reanimated dead and twisted trees against cloudy skies, neither of which quite come off as frightening.

In a unique twist, the Doctor gets captured and accused of being a witch while her companions wander about investigating.

The episode bogs down a bit in the middle with too much rehashing, who, what, where, and how Satan manifests himself and what to do about it. However, both, Alan Cumming and Siobhan Finneran, do great jobs with their characters.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 26, 2018







Doctor Who

Kerblam!

Season 11 Episode 7

US broadcast date November 18, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, and Julie Hesmondhalgh

Written by Pete McTighe. Directed by Jennifer Perrott

A holographic delivery robot appears inside the Tardis with a (not holographic) package for the Doctor, something she ordered a long time ago, a fez, and a note saying "please help." She and friends go to Kablam! An intergalactic version of Amazon run amok.

With 10,000 employees and ten times that many robots, Kerblam! is the largest distributer in the galaxy, but something is wrong. People are disappearing. So, Team Tardis take jobs at Kerblam! to investigate.

As with the Tsuranga Conundrum, the sets, props, lighting, and special effects excellent.

Comic relief is put to great use. Ryan and Yasmin slide down several stories of shoots and ride on miles of conveyers with millions of packages. The Doctor's sonic fails to stop a murderous robot, so the prim and proper HR manager rips it head off. And of course, Jodie parades around in a fez. It all builds to an explosive ending.

Some of the background sound is rather irritating, not so much because it was too loud, but because it didn't go with the scene. Tension building sound effects are fine backing up a tense scene, but annoying in the wrong place.

Note: I tried to watch this off a BBC America broadcast as I normally do, but there were so many sound dropouts and the background sound tended to overwhelmed the dialogue. This has been a common problem with the Doctor Who broadcasts this season. I logged into the Daily Motion and fed that into the TV. All the problems disappeared. I don't know if the sound issue is BBC America, my cable company, or some combination of the two, but it only happens with Doctor Who.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 19, 2018













Doctor Who

Demons of the Punjab


Season 11 Episode 6

US broadcast November 11, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Amita Suman, Shane Zaza, and Hamza Jeetooa

Written by Vinay Patel. Directed by Jamie Childs

Yasmin's grandmother gives her a broken watch but refuses to explain why it is important to her, so the doctor and friends go back in history to find out. They arrive on the border between Pakistan and India the day before the two countries are separated. Yasmin's Muslim grandmother Umbreen, played by Amita Suman, is about to marry the love of her life, Prem a Hindu, played by Shane Zaza. Prem's brother, Manish, played by Hamza Jeetooa, opposes the wedding and supports the separation of the two countries and the segregation of Hindus and Muslims.

Marriage across religious, racial, family or political lines is the basis of many stories from Romeo and Juliet to Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Brothers separated by ideology is also a common theme. In that way, Demons in the Punjab didn't cross any new ground. It did, however, cover a bit of history I missed in school.

The demons feel like an afterthought, something to give the story a more science fiction look. They don't drive the story and don't change anything. Instead of increasing the tension, they disrupt it.

The Manish and Prem characters are underdeveloped. I was initially confused thinking one was Muslim and the other Hindu. But they are both Hindu, one tolerant of Muslims the other not.These characters need more screen time to develop emotional engagement with them and to intensify the threat of impending doom they represent.

This episode must have been filmed in the spring. Several times the Doctor and friends run a through a lovely field overflowing of wildflowers.

Graham is becoming my favorite character with his gentle wisdom.

Although a bit slow and disjointed in places, this is an episode worth watching.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 12, 2018

Doctor Who

The Tsuranga Conundrum


Season 11 Episode 5

US Broadcast November 4, 2018

Starring Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Jennifer Perrott

The Tsuranga Conundrum has a pretty solid story and a great villain. The Doctor and friends are trapped on a spaceship far from the Tardis. A space monster the size of a toaster, Pting, invades and trashes the ship. Can the Doctor escape before the ship blows up? I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there is another episode next week.

Pting is one of the better alien creations, running around eating bits and pieces of the ship. The sets are beautiful all white and blue with computer screens and colored lights. I think the plot is pretty solid, but since I could only understand every third or fourth word, it is hard to say.

It seems as if there should have been enough plot without the completely unrelated sub-story about a pregnant man giving birth. As comic relief, it would have worked better, had the dialogue been easier to understand.

The background noise and persistent echo is so annoying and loud that ad breaks felt like quiet time. Had I not wanted to do this review, I would have abandoned the show after about fifteen minutes. To be fair, the sound could have been the result of local broadcast issues, but I doubt it.

I wish this had been easier to watch, but as is, it's not a keeper. If anyone knows how to get a copy with the voices on top of the background, let me know.

Reviewed by Romana Drew November 4, 2018

After I wrote the review, I watched this episode online and the sound was fine. The episode was much more enjoyable.

Even the Tardis has a bit of a spider look.

Doctor Who

Arachnids in the UK


Season 11 Episode 4

Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill

Written by Chris Chibnall. Directed by Sallie Aprahamian.

US broadcast October 28, 2018

The Tardis lands back in Yorkshire just thirty minutes after it left only to discover an infestation of giant spiders.

The spiders are the result of research specimens being dumped into toxic waste. As a cause for giant spiders, that is not entirely believable. Environment toxins cause birth defects, disease, and cancer in wildlife, same as people. They make animals sick and deformed, not big and threatening. Get over that, and the rest of the episode works great.

The spiders aren't intelligent, or alien, or bent on conquest. They are just overgrown arachnids doing their thing, catching people, and wrapping them up in silk. Well, they do have a little more intelligence than real spiders, but not so much that it is kills the story.

The spiders move and look like real spiders, no absurd mouths or long stingers. Instead, fuzzy pedipalps and sharp, shiny chelicerae serve them well. The one that drops from the ceiling does so properly, extruding silk from his spinnerets. Ok, I'm a wildlife biologist, and I like spiders. The special effects people did a wonderful job.

Chris Noth steals a few scenes as a quick to fire people, luxury hotel owner, and presidential hopeful, Jack Roberson, gold tie and all. I really wanted to see a spider get him, but alas, he survives.

We learn a little more about Graham, Ryan, and Yasmin's family life. In this episode, Jodie Whittaker's doctor often reminds me of David Tennant's doctor. And that is a compliment.

This is a fun episode. The plot builds from a quiet beginning to increasingly dangerous encounters. Exactly what the doctor did with the spiders wasn't completely clear, instead the show cuts to a tender closing scene with Team Tardis.

The special effects are excellent, and camera work, music, and sound effects are never distracting.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 29, 2018
Doctor Who

Rosa


Season 11 Episode 3

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, Bradley Walsh, and Vinette Robinson as Rosa Parks

Written by Malorie Blackman & Chris Chibnall. Directed by Mark Tonderai

US Broadcast October 22, 2018

Set in Montgomery, Alabama, 1955

Doctor Who is supposed to be a children's show, but this week it tackled a very adult subject.

Krasko, a criminal from the future, played by Josh Bowman, is tampering with events. His goal is to stop Rosa Parks from getting arrested, thus preventing the civil rights movement.

Segregation is challenging to portray with sensitivity, and from my point of view, painful to watch. This quietly powerful episode depicts the dehumanization of blacks by whites in the deep south as if it were the natural way of things, which it was at the time.

This difficult situatiion is handled with care and respect. Although it is always present, it never overwhelms the story. Graham and the Doctor are able to move about freely, but Yasmin and Ryan have to deal with the intolerance and hostility.

Vinette Robinson does a very believable portrayal of Rosa Parks. Her simple act of refusing to give up her seat even when threatened with arrest, made her a catalyst for a bus strike that lead to the civil rights movement, and to many difficult years for her and her family.

Ryan meets both Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. In that, I envy him.

I'm not sure I want to watch this episode over and over again but think it may become a classic. We are not a colorblind society. Racial intolerance still exists. 1955 was only 63 years ago.

I want to thank the BBC for putting the dialogue on top of the music and sound effects. It was easy to hear and understand every word - finally.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 23, 2018

Doctor Who

Ghost Monument


Season 11 Episode 2

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh

Written by Chris Chibnall, Directed by Mark Tonderai

US Broadcast October 14, 2018

The Doctor and friends are scooped up by the last two competitors in an intergalactic rally. They crash on a desolate planet with poison water, sniper bots, and flying rag aliens. They must reach the finish or die. As plots go, this one isn't bad, but the execution falls short.

The first few scenes on the competitor's spaceships are almost unwatchable. The jerky camera work and obnoxious sound effects make it hard to concentrate. All the noise overwhelms the dialogue. Exciting - perhaps, if you don't care what anyone says.

Once they land on the planet, things get a little better. It is easier to understand the characters. Unfortunately, the two competitors have really depressing backstories, and both Ryan and Graham, join in the woe-with-me moaning. Things perk up once the action starts, but there is a lot of running around not accomplising much, which is pretty typical of Doctor Who. If done well, it works fine.

End the end, the Tardis interior is rather disappointing, all dark and gloomy. Given brighter or more colorful lighting, it might work, but as shown here, it's not a place I want to go.

I can't fault the actors. Their performances were fine. Jodie did a good job of portraying the doctor. And it is great to see a woman in practical shoes. Adventures in stileto heals are ridiculous.

I just wonder what is the point of writing clever dialogue (I think it might have been clever) and then burying it under music and sound effects. With just a little change in volume levels, the dialogue could shine. Great dialogue can overcome a world of other problems. But this is a long-standing Doctor Who issue at least with the US broadcasts.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 14, 2018

After watching other episodes with sound issues online, the main problem is BBC America, and/or my cable company. I haven't rewatched this episode, but I expect the sound will not be an issue with a different broadcast.



The Doctor, Romana, and Chronotis
Doctor Who

Shada


Tom Baker, Lala Ward, and David Brierley as the voice of K9

Also starring Christopher Neame, Denis Carey, Daniel Hill, and Victoria Burgoyne.

Written by Douglas Adams

Original six-part series release date was January - February 1980, but it was never completed or released.

US release July 19, 2018, with the missing sections replaced by animation.

The Doctor and Romana visit Professor Chronotis played by Denis Carey, to retrieve a powerful book that has been taken from Gallifrey. Chronotis is an escaped time lord hiding as a university professor. The Doctor, Romana, and K9, along with a couple of university students, get caught up in an evil plot to use the book.

Although some of the sets look straight out of early Buck Rogers, the evil balloons are reminiscent of The Prisoner, and the action is a bit slow by today's standards, it is wonderful to see Tom Baker and Lala Ward playing off each other. Unlike the current Doctor Who episodes, the dialogue is never muddled or overshadowed by sound effects or music, which lets Douglas Adams' clever repartee shine.

The animation is primitive and stilted, but voiced by the original actors, as far as I was able to ascertain. The best thing I can say about the animation is that it lets the story continue.

Like most of the six-part original series shows the monsters are somewhat silly looking, and it bogs down in episode four and five with endless running around getting captured and escaping, but perks up at the end. This is made even more obvious as most of the animation is in the last half of the show.

As an added plus, Tom Baker, the 2018 Tom Baker, makes a brief appearance at the end, still every bit the doctor.

If you are a Doctor Who fan, this is well worth watching. Tom Baker, and Lala Ward had the most charming way of portraying their characters and interacting with each other. If you are only a casual viewer, you may find it rather strange.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 8, 2018



Doctor Who

The Woman Who Fell to Earth

US broadcast October 7, 2018

Jodie Whittaker, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, and Bradley Walsh

Written by Chris Chibnall Directed by Jamie Childs

Ryan Sinclair, played by Tosin Cole, finds a strange object in the woods and calls the police. A friend from his childhood, Yasmin Khan, played by Mandip Gill, responds. They examine the cold, pock marked, bluish purple object, which is shaped much like a Hershey's kiss. They don't know what to make of it.

Ryan's grandparents' call from the train they are on, which is being attacked by a ball of writhing tentacles. The group meets up just in time to be killed by the whirling mass of cords, but the doctor falls into the scene and chases the menacing alien away.

In the meantime, someone else takes the giant kiss home, an obvious mistake, but where would stories be if characters didn't do dumb things. The object bursts open. A giant tooth stealing alien pops out and starts killing people. He embeds their teeth into his face.

Well, it is Doctor Who.

From the first line, Jodie Whittaker nailed the doctor's persona. Unlike many recent episodes, the dialogue was never difficult to understand. The special effects were great, and they never overwhelmed the story or the characters.

Each of the new companions is well developed and interesting, a young man, a young woman, and an older man, but it will take time to see how well they work as a group.

I think I like this doctor a lot and am looking forward to the next episode.

Reviewed by Romana Drew October 8, 2018