Doctor Who Series 8 SoundtrackBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 27 May 2015 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek
Doctor Who: Series 8 Soundtrack (Credit: Silva Screen)
Series 8 Original Television Soundtrack (Music CD)
Available 18 May 2015 From BBC Shop and All Other Stores

With just a few months left before Series 9 of Doctor Who hits our screens in Britain and across the globe, there is a new soundtrack release once again from musician-veteran Murray Gold. This covers the many exciting stories of Series 8 (along with the last Christmas special).This release certainly offers quantity, with 68 tracks spread out on the  3 CDs, and for the very most part also is one of quality.

Having enjoyed Matt Smith's tenure for the most part - but finding it a small step down from the days of David Tennant - I often found myself tapping my feet to the pleasant harmonies Gold would come up with, but wondering if more scope could have been employed. This new collection certainly offers quite a bit more variety and is a great barometer of just how eclectic Series 8 has been. 'A Good Man?' is the new theme for the latest Doctor and is ebullient; seeming to represent the phase that 'Twelve' is going through as he comes to terms with his new identity and markedly older look for many a regeneration. It recurs throughout various other tracks in the collection and always feels like a 'punch-the-air' moment. My personal favourite variation on the theme is the shrill 'Free Fall' which reaffirms the Doctor's bond with the TARDIS and also has him performing a Superman-eque fall without batting an eye.

There is a generous allotment of music for the Series 8 premiere 'Deep Breath' an episode which I found watchable but forgettable compared to its bedfellows in the first third of the television run. However as we all now know the identity of the antagonist who presided over a surreal 'heaven' domain, it is quite rewarding to have her theme be established, then somewhat cast aside, only to be authoritively echoed much later on. Clearly Gold was clued into the Moffat Masterplan and such bonds amongst the production team are part of the reason Capaldi's debut worked so well.

Several episodes well enough but don't stand out from their music - perhaps the sign of a smooth integration, which was actually intended -- including 'Into the Dalek' and 'Flatline' For the most part though each section of tracks has something to offer, and can go from the darkest of moods to the most frivolous. As regards the latter, I particularly enjoyed the Robin Hood escapade themes again on their own. That episode will never go down in the Who hall of fame, but it stands up better than I thought it would, so all credit to Gold and his associates there.

'Listen' is probably the most cerebral of all the episodes Moffat was credite with writing onscreen, and often had some eerie silences and a bleak sense of foreboding. But once again Gold knew just when to flip the switch and give some more immediate atmosphere with gentle instrumental pieces. But when a bit of bombast and sheer electricity is the order of the day, then look no further than the music for 'Mummy On The Orient Express' and the Series 8 multi-part finale. As for the 'Last Christmas' sections - representing a Yuletide episode I much preferred to the 2012 and 2013 efforts - then Gold is very much at his peak level, relishing the twisty-turny narrative and disturbing themes that story so adeptly conveyed. As a result the third CD contains almost all the 'top 10' of the sixty-and-eight total.

Almost all the tracks deserve multiple listens to do them justice and they are easily recalled in a person's 'inner ear' without straying into the irritatingly catchy type of music.

This whole awareness and care/attention is commendable indeed, but probably no less than one would expect given the composer's pedigree and substantial experience on Doctor Who, a show so full of versatility nowadays, that I myself hesitate to use sc-fi/fantasy to label it.  

I would hazard a guess that the many Who aficionados out there confidently expect more excellence from team 'Moffat-and-co', as they to add more layers to the onion that is Capaldi's Time Lord. The soundtrack once again will likely rise to the occasion. .

FILTER: - SERIES 8/34 - Music

Death in HeavenBookmark and Share

Sunday, 16 November 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Hudecek

Death in Heaven Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Rachel Talalay Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Samuel Anderson, Michelle Gomez, Chris Addison, Ingrid Oliver, Jemma Redgrave, Sanjeev Bhaskar Premiere 8 November, BBC One
This review contains plot spoilers.

Although not short on giddy action and a twist or two, this concluding episode to both the Missy/Cybermen double-header and Series 8 proper is fundamentally one about characterisation and interpersonal drama. It is not afraid to take risks, and manages to be distinctly memorable - if not the out-and-out classic that the best of modern Doctor Who has to offer the viewer.

Steven Moffat was emphatic in interviews that he and his team would make good use of the Cybermen on this occasion. The creepiness factor for the silver giants was dialled up very high in 'Dark Water', to the extent that many viewers were left quite upset and some even complained to the BBC. The tone alters somewhat here, and it is arguable that the use of some (re-done) voices for these creatures may take just a little edge away. But since Doctor Who was reborn 9 years ago, I cannot name a more solid outing for the Cybermen than this. They are not shown to be overcome by anything mundane or commonplace, and there is a good sense of poetic justice when cyber-converted-Danny commands his troops to end the crisis once and for all. Moffat believes in having these emotionless aliens as a persistent threat but economical in terms of screen-time, and this approach is pretty succesful.

And after all we have another villain who has plenty to offer, and every scene featuring her is an absolute triumph. I was left rather underwhelmed by Missy's previous cameos in Series 8 and felt the arc was not the most intriguing; now I want to go back to earlier stories to try and pick up on the clues that were set in place. Michelle Gomez is someone I myself have seen little of before, but once again casting an actress better known for comedy really works - much as was the case with Catherine Tate.

The main talking point with the audience is the sheer audacity of re-gendering the Master. Yet somehow this fully fledged appearance of a new and very different incarnation is right up there with all the best debut outings for the Doctor himself. Moffat is prepared to stray close to pantomime - especially evident when she channels 'Mary Poppins' by teleporting into a graveyard and falling gently to the ground with her black umbrella - and yet Gomez is able to convince us that there is something very sinister bubbling away underneath the kookiness and spectacle. But most crucially the inter-personal chemistry between Peter Capaldi and Gomez is unquestionable and leaves the strongest after-impression once the final credits flash on the screen.

And in general 'Death In Heaven' works pretty well, even with flaws like 'telling - not showing' - namely when the Doctor is briefed by UNIT on the global situation. Also the 'President' title given to a reluctant Doctor may be a deliberate nod towards long-term fan-favourite 'The Five Doctors', but somehow ends up falling flat. The choice of killing off Osgood conclusively is perhaps a little disappointing, as she has more facets to her than the rather dour Kate Stewart. And further to that, the way Kate is shown to survive is memorable for the wrong reasons entirely; her late father has been converted to a Cyberman, but then breaks free from Missy's control and catches her in mid-air. I do like the intention behind the Doctor's salute to the former Brigadier regardless.

Another talking point, but one that I myself find amusing is the glaring tease over whether Clara is not only a Time Lady, but in fact the show's lead after all. Maybe more humdrum is her fooling of the Cybermen when facing certain death if she were to say the wrong thing. Jenna Coleman is as reliable as ever though - clearly putting in that extra bit of intensity that is needed for a big finish to a year's worth of episodes. Once Clara gets to interact with Danny, the Doctor and Missy, then it becomes abundantly clear just how much of a personal journey this initially plot-oriented lead character has been through. And as of this date it appears there is still some more of her story to be told.

Danny Pink is given some of the strongest material in the script, building on all the foundations laid in place since the beginning of this season. His guilt over his accidental killing of a small boy is a bold theme to tackle for Doctor Who - but given how topical Britain's military presence abroad is, this is a commendable storytelling decision. It also is notable that we last met Danny when he was showing all sorts of panic, fear and apprehension. Now he feels emptiness but appreciates the sacrifice he (and Clara) need to make.
Although I found the Torchwood episode 'Cyberwoman' to be pretty unwatchable, this particular use of Cyber-conversion is both poignant and disturbing. Samuel Anderson seems to be written out now rather conclusively, but he really has made the most of his character's arc in the last cluster of stories. In the end my overall feelings toward this character are positive.

A further big highlight is Clara's brave pretence to her friend that she she has used Missy's techno-bracelet to have the 'normal' Danny restored to her. This scene of two people talking in an unremarkable cafe setting may seem low-key, but is acutely moving. The added dimension of the Doctor also covering his loss by lying that the Master for once told the truth is brilliant. I really doubt that Doctor Twelve will mellow out too much when he still has so much angst and loneliness to process.

Series 8 has been a sound season when taken as a whole, and there have been mostly winning individual entries. Peter Capaldi has proven virtually all doubters wrong and looks ready to raise his average performance yet higher. As fans of the classic series will attest, an actor with a good number of years under his belt is more than compelling enough. Lastly, the 'Santa' epilogue was amusing enough and brought an utterly hilarious bemused reaction from the Doctor. First Robin Hood, and now this? Let's hope the traditional Christmas episode will make strong use of the North Pole setting..

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

Death in HeavenBookmark and Share

Saturday, 8 November 2014 - Reviewed by Matt Hills

This review contains plot spoilers.

Death in Heaven’s pre-credits sequence plays with the idea of a female Doctor; it’s a notion which hangs over this finale. The cheekily modified title sequence lends unexpected credence to Clara’s assertion as to who she really is, deftly borrowing a trick from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although in the end all of this proves to be little more than a diversionary tactic.

There can be no doubting Steven Moffat’s ambition – this episode caps a story that has taken Doctor Who to some pretty dark places for a ‘family’ show, and concludes a series that has combined romps and dead-ahead monster stories with experimental, unusual and outright fantasy-driven tales. There’s a sense of the showrunner cutting loose and ditching tried-and-tested timey wimey devices in this episode; Moffat clearly relishes writing for a “bananas” Master, and takes care to show us the danger and potency of the character, particularly by killing off a returning friend of the Doctor’s. It's a version of the Master that seems indebted to Big Finish’s explorations of the Doctor-Master relationship, specifically framing this archest of arch enemies as a “childhood friend”. Moffat makes Missy’s agenda more personal than ever before: what she wants isn’t simply world domination, but rather full recognition of the fact – as she sees it – that the Doctor is her mirror image (it’s almost as if she’s read a scriptwriting manual on how to represent heroes and villains in the contemporary screenplay). This partly replays tropes from the tenth Doctor’s showdown with Davros in series 4. And it further develops Moffat’s thematic interest in the implications, or possibilities, of a warrior-like Doctor, something that's chillingly explored via the Doctor's use of any tactical advantage he can lay his hands on.

More than anything, though, this finale integrates the series that has come before: flashbacks to a range of episodes including Deep Breath and Robot of Sherwood pull series eight together impressively, representing a satisfying rather than gimmicky story arc. I’m tempted to suggest that this is Moffat’s finest series finale yet, as he riffs shamelessly on the “tomb of the Cybermen” image and idea, seeking to make the Cybermen as terrifying as possible (and delivering in spades).

Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Samuel Anderson all put in impressive performances – something enhanced by Rachel Talalay’s smart and assured direction – but the episode belongs to Michelle Gomez as well as her channeling of John Simm in the role. I realize that many of us would have liked a regeneration scene, but what we get is, in a way, more substantive than that. Gomez’s heightened and exaggerated performance consistently calls her predecessor to mind. Her mocking lip-biting is a joy to behold, as is her choice of pop music (even more narcissistically self-centred than the Simm-Master). And the child-like way that Gomez chooses to interpret a line about playing with more of the Doctor’s friends is also spot on. I very much hope she will return in the role, as there’s real scope to further explore this somewhat retooled relationship between Time Lord/Lady peers.

Death in Heaven offers another terrific piece of narrative trickery from Moffat. Having directed audiences to consider how the Doctor and the Master are the same (or not), we instead end up with a very different mirror image, as Clara and the Doctor face each other across a gulf of mutual deceit, both of them seeking to protect and release the other. And, most wonderfully of all, Moffat transforms what has up until now looked like a bit of mildly flailing comedic business – the Doctor’s aversion to hugging – into an emotional sucker punch, as the Time Lord explains why he doesn’t trust a hug. That instantaneous shift from slapstick froth to brutal truth might just be the darkest moment in the episode – it’s not a fantastical scenario of uploaded minds and upgraded bodies, just the simple, stark recognition that even those we most care about, and deeply trust, might nevertheless choose to lie to us about matters of life and death.

As well as lacking full-on time travel shenanigans (bar Missy’s acknowledgement that she’s been patrolling up and down the Doctor’s timeline, by way of explaining her earlier episodic appearances), this finale also plays out like a fairly linear continuation of Dark Water. Other Moffat two-parters have sometimes taken off in a whole new direction. Here, we get the shifting perspective of UNIT’s involvement, and the Doctor’s unexpected rise to mastery of Earth, but there’s still very much a sense of organically developing ideas from episode eleven. And if some of Dark Water’s darkness is backed away from, the Master’s made-over identity is nonetheless firmly embraced (though we are deprived of seeing Missy’s TARDIS, unless one counts Saint Paul’s as occupying the role). Unfortunately, I think Seb represents a slightly miss(y)ed opportunity, despite offering a pay-off to Missy’s initial explanation of her status. And although Seb’s final word offers a moment of fan referentiality (only someone as black-hearted as the Master could possibly be opposed to a good squee), it would have been interesting to see Chris Addison properly facing off against his The Thick of It co-star Capaldi.

This is an episode sprinkled with special, fan-pleasing moments, not least of which is the manner in which a much-loved classic series character is cleverly and poignantly featured. And it is an episode which, for me, integrates sentiment and intellect more thoroughly than, say, The Angels Take Manhattan, and in which the graveyard setting feels thematically relevant and earned rather than a case of set dressing or overt emotional manipulation. Clara’s (latest) story really feels as if it’s been completed here, although the cunning false ending, and Nick Frost's eyebrow-raising debut, both promise further adventures (and these moments were omitted from an advance screening of the episode, as well as from its BBC preview for journalists).  

Is the Doctor a “good man”? Did you ever really, truly doubt it? And has series eight offered a good run of episodes? More than that, it’s been startlingly great in its overall consistency, its risk-taking, its freshness and its vision. Much of this series, and Capaldi’s effortless, bravura inhabitation of the role, is surely up there with the very best of Doctor Who times past. Steven Moffat, Brian Minchin and the many other prime movers behind this run of episodes all deserve hearty recognition.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

Dark WaterBookmark and Share

Saturday, 1 November 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock
This review contains plot spoilers.

Poor Danny Pink. It was looking fairly inevitable that he'd end up paying the Nethersphere a visit at some point, but who would have thought he'd get there for not observing the Green Cross Code? Clara herself remarks on what a boring demise it is, in her numbed, traumatised state - even if 'death is not an end'.

These early scenes see Doctor Who handle death and grief in a very grown-up fashion, perhaps influenced by Broadchurch. Indeed, the whole episode deals with various facets of death, and is set to challenge one or two belief systems. One bit of blackmail-related plot misdirection involving lava and a dressing-down from the Doctor later, and it's time to go and rescue Mr Pink from his new home in the Nethersphere.

Speaking of the Nethersphere, we get our first proper glimpse here. Not only do we get a look at its impossible vistas and see how it works, but we finally get to the bottom of what's eating Danny.

Boldly, he's brought face to face with the young victim of his tour of duty in the Nethersphere, and we see his 'really bad day' in flashback. After weeks of treading water whilst Clara's story continues bounding forward, Samuel Anderson finally earns his stripes, as he finds out that 'death is not an end' via administrator-from-hell Seb (Chris Addison), and is left contemplating his own final end, as he tearfully manoeuvres Clara into hanging up on him.

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Clara make their way to the mysterious 3W institute. Here we meet Doctor Chang, who is pressed and pressed until he finally reveals the full horror of what happens after 'death', and the TARDIS crew finally get to meet Missy - who terrifies the Doctor with her unorthodox and highly invasive method of introduction.

After lurking on the sidelines since Deep Breath, Michelle Gomez gives a superb, playful, unsettling performance once given a bit of space to move. The terrified Chang is asked to 'say something nice' before she executes him. We still don't have the full lowdown on what she's about, but unsurprisingly, given the familiar publicity shots - Missy is in league with the Cybermen. The Nethersphere gets the minds, our friends from Telos get the bodies. There's some neat foreshadowing with the Cyber-eye motifs used on doors and the 'water tombs'. This is even used to alert the viewer ahead of the Doctor as to what's coming. The title itself is a plot point, and it becomes very apparent that it's there as Cyber-camouflage. It's good to finally have confirmation that these Cybermen are of organic origin, and not the RTD-era brain-cases though.

In another bit of misdirection, Moffat pulls the rug to reveal that the Nethersphere exists on a different plane to the institute, and the Doctor and Clara are actually in central London all along - as Missy puts things into motion, and Cybermen once again march down those St Paul's steps.

Interestingly, for a change, the Doctor has no inkling of the series arc, he blunders into it by accident while attempting to rescue a man he doesn't much like. Despite his 'so what' reaction to Clara's news, we know whether he's a good man now.

As ever, Capaldi and Coleman are excellent, and their relationship is key. The Doctor gets some good moments, be it his disbelief and horror at Missy's revelation, or tersely telling Clara how much she means to him when she attempts volcanic blackmail. Coleman meanwhile channels grief, deviousness, and pluck throughout, with the underlying unsaid note that her phone call caused Danny's death. The chemistry between the two leads is electric as ever.

Dark Water is a brilliant part one, how part two pans out is anyone's guess, but hopefully our questions will be answered next week, and it'll be worth the wait.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

In the Forest of the NightBookmark and Share

Saturday, 25 October 2014 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
This review contains plot spoilers.

A few weeks ago, 'Kill the Moon' sparked debates about whether Doctor Who needed to get its science right: was it science fiction or fantasy? This week there seems little room for debate: this is surely outright fantasy, from its fairytale roots through to its magical branches and leaves. Rather than gothic monsters there are glowing motes of sentience; in the place of technobabble there are “voices” that children can hear. Writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce is, of course, not only a Carnegie Medal winner for children’s fiction, he was also the writer of the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, where a gigantic tree was uprooted in order to symbolize the industrial revolution’s onset. In short, Cottrell-Boyce is no stranger to the dense symbolism of trees, woods and forests, and here again he tackles nature versus technology, with the Doctor and his sonic screwdriver appearing powerless to turn back an invasion of the trees.

Almost lifting his title from a William Blake poem, Cottrell-Boyce is clearly committed to Doctor Who as an educational show. Indeed, writing in The Telegraph on Saturday August 23rd he also compared the many Doctors of the show’s history to Philip Larkin’s poem ‘The Trees’:
Perhaps part of the show’s deep appeal is that it offers this possibility of renewal, of starting again. The Doctors are like the trees in Philip Larkin’s poem, which “die too” but whose “yearly trick of looking new / Is written down in rings of grain”. “Last year is dead, they seem to say / Begin afresh, afresh, afresh."
And there’s certainly a freshness to this rather unusual Who. The episode fizzes with ideas, especially when Cottrell-Boyce comes up with his own explanation of “bigger on the inside”. It’s a moment that’s sold wonderfully by Sheree Folkson’s direction. Rarely has the TARDIS console room felt as awe-inspiring as when Folkson has the camera track Peter Capaldi’s walk up the stairs and around the outer wall, effectively seeing it all through the dazzled eyes of young Maebh (Abigail Eames).

There’s also more than a touch of Malcolm Hulke’s old-school storytelling to this adventure, with the Doctor and humankind confronting a power that’s always been there – though these ‘tree devils’ aren’t quite what they seem. Meanwhile, the beautifully unsettling image of a green earth hits home with an ecological message that’s far from subtle. This authorial vision of Doctor Who is probably the closest thing to James Lovelock’s Gaia theory that TV drama has ever sustained, even edging out the classic BBC thriller, Edge of Darkness.

In some ways, though, this is anti-Doctor Who: the Doctor and Clara are ultimately on-lookers, and Missy is similarly reduced to doing little more than watching the outcome of events, albeit with surprise. The Doctor’s role in the story is definitely trimmed back: although he works out what’s going on, and helps Maebh get word out to the authorities, he still ultimately watches the trees in action with a degree of uncertainty. In contrast, Danny Pink gets much more to do than usual, showing his mettle as a leader; Cottrell-Boyce perhaps wants to demonstrate ‘ordinary’ human powers at work, whilst minimizing or cutting back on the conventional fantasy-hero’s role. And what John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado, writing in The Unfolding Text, call one “of the recurrent motifs of Doctor Who” (p.94) is also inverted. In place of “organic” nature threatened by bad or mad scientists, science is alternatively trumped by nature’s fantastical potency. These trees run rings around both Time Lord and humankind.

But Doctor Who reimagined with a type of fairytale ambience – far more so than ever before in the Moffat era, despite previous attempts to position the show in these terms – also has certain limits. The script is sometimes in danger of becoming a touch twee, and its ending is arguably slightly weak. The brief final scene feels forced and tacked-on – there simply because another moment of emotional closure is needed. For a screenplay that has otherwise refused to play by a number of Doctor Who’s ‘rules’, this final capitulation to yet another happy ending doesn’t quite ring true.

'In the Forest of the Night' wants to revalue fairytales at the same time as reinforcing its ecological thesis. At one point, it’s suggested that forests represent a primal symbol of fear (“the forest is mankind’s nightmare”, says the Doctor), and it would have been interesting if the episode had taken more time to tease out and develop this possibility. But psycho-drama is rapidly displaced by eco-lecture. And so instead forgetting is identified as “the human superpower” (did Moffat’s ‘Listen’ riff on Cottrell-Boyce’s ‘Forest’, or was this an arboreal coincidence?). Fairy stories are shown to be less strange than the episode’s 'real' events. In this reversal, fairytales are an echo of magical reality and not just a mode of childhood fiction. Despite appearances, 'In the Forest of the Night' doesn’t merely reference fairytale archetypes; it’s an argument for the uses of enchantment and the values of the fairytale, not just in terms of making readers and audiences feel safely thrilled, but in reminding us – children and adults – of the strangeness and wonders that can exist all around us, before us and after us.

Having a Carnegie-winning writer of children’s fiction contribute to series eight was undoubtedly a press release-worthy event. But following two impressive episodes from Jamie Mathieson, especially the visually stunning and tightly coherent 'Flatline', 'In the Forest of the Night' doesn’t stand out quite as much as may have been anticipated. It is very much ‘Frank Cottrell-Boyce does Doctor Who’, and as such has a far stronger authorial voice than the show sometimes permits guest writers. Yet by reducing Clara, the Doctor and Missy to spectators gazing with wonder at a global spectacle, this story felt more reminiscent of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony than I would ever have imagined.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television

FlatlineBookmark and Share

Saturday, 18 October 2014 - Reviewed by Martin Ruddock

Written by Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Paul Wilmshurst
Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, Joivan Wade, Christopher Fairbank
Premiere 18 October, BBC One
This review contains plot spoilers.

Nine weeks in, and it's time for a 'Doctor-lite' episode, as Clara Oswald's journey continues. Last week, in Mummy on the Orient Express, we saw her consider her role as the Doctor's companion post-wobble. This week, she's had a shock promotion - it's her turn to be the Doctor.

Arriving on present-day Earth, we're immediately in uncharted territory for Doctor Who - Bristol. They should have taken the time to look up Chris Parsons, and see if he moved back to the area after all that business with Skagra and that sphere in Cambridge. Hopefully he'd live in the nicer part of Bristol, which we don't see here. The TARDIS arrives on a wasteground, and the first place Clara visits after that is a dingy underpass. Other locations include a warehouse and a railway tunnel. It's not doing Bristol's tourism industry any favours.

After a brief, creepy teaser, the story quickly gets down to business - the TARDIS is rapidly shrinking with the Doctor trapped inside, and lunch with Danny Pink is off. Clara is left to investigate, with the trapped Doctor as backseat driver - giving her the sonic, an earpiece and hacking her optic nerve.

Clara soon happens upon a Community Service team led by nasty-piece-of-work Fenton (Christopher Fairbank), and teams up with one of the group - Rigsy (Joivan Wade), a likeable young man with a penchant for street art. From the start Rigsy is portrayed as a good sort, while Fenton is an unrepentant bigot and bully throughout, and nearly gets everyone killed. Even the Doctor's moved to say that not all the right people were saved at the end.

Fenton's crew are tasked with painting over murals that have appeared alongside tributes to recently disappeared locals. The murals are of people with their backs turned. It soon transpires that they're not murals. A sinister alien force is at work - one that exists only in two dimensions. It's dissecting and analysing us, a slow-dawning realisation that hits when the Doctor twigs that the strange decor on the walls of the flat of one of the missing people is actually a flattened out human nervous system.

The alien threat is unnamed, doesn't speak, and has unknowable, yet nasty motives. We never learn anything about it - even whether it's a single entity or a race - but its theft of our dimensions, and our image is a disturbing concept. The concept of people turning into drawings was of course done way back in Fear Her, but there's no upbeat reversal of the situation here. The Doctor is briefly given pause to ponder whether the aliens' (or alien's - we don't know for sure) M.O. isn't necessarily bad, but his mind is made up by the end, and his fury is something to behold. The stop-motion-styled flowing effect as people are absorbed into the walls and floors is creepy, as is the jerky, misshapen movement of the painted figures chasing down the railway tunnel. Once upon a time Doctor Who made kids afraid of shop window dummies, telephone flexes, and statues. It recently branched out to bedsheets. Now it's moved on to walls, and floors.

Douglas MacKinnon does an excellent job of directing as ever, all long shadows and atmosphere, with some excellent camera trickery and physical comedy - as the Doctor's hands and face portrude impossibly from the shrunken TARDIS. Clara even pulls a sledgehammer from her handbag. Jamie Mathieson delivers his second cracking episode in a row - more from him please.

Danny Pink appears again, in another cameo - the third in a row since his last full appearance in The Caretaker. It's hard to see where his character is going from this, and Samuel Anderson's a bit wasted here - hopefully his story will finally pay off in the next few weeks.

For a Doctor-lite episode, the Doctor is much more present than usual, albeit trapped in an ever-diminishing TARDIS. Capaldi and Coleman continue to impress. Both get some great lines, and the Doctor and Clara's relationship is now in a very interesting place. She's thoroughly pleased with herself about how well she handled standing in for the Doctor. She wants his approval. He eventually compliments her, but seems a little troubled at how well she did at 'being' him, and also at how easily she lies to Danny about still travelling with him. Perhaps his influence isn't healthy, and he seems to acknowledge this.

We end by cutting to Missy, watching Clara (somehow - how does she do that?) on her white iPad, remarking how glad she was to have chosen her. We'll find out what for in a fortnight, but it's unlikely to end well.

FILTER: - Series 8/34 - Twelfth Doctor - Television