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Doctor Who, on BBC One (UK) / BBC America (USA)
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Caution: spoilers!

The original Doctor Who TV series ran from 1963 to 1989. The new series began in 2005, in the U.K., but I didn't see it until 2006, when it aired in the U.S., on Sci-Fi Channel. (That network would air the first four seasons, before American rights were picked up by BBC America, which had already been airing reruns of seasons 1-4, and then became the primary American distributor of the series from season five onward.) So... Quick recap of the old series: there's this human-looking alien called "the Doctor," who is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He has a time machine/spaceship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space). The tardis is disguised as a 1950s British police box (which is like a phone booth), but it's bigger on the inside. He uses it to travel throughout time and space, and has lots of strange and exciting adventures, sometimes even on Earth. Sometimes he travels alone, and sometimes with one or more Companions. The Doctor is centuries old, and occasionally regenerates a new body, so he can be played by different actors. But it's not just his appearance that changes, he also gets a new personality when he regenerates... but the one constant is that he's always a hero (and kind of a rebel). But Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times (under normal circumstances), for a total of thirteen lives. And this new series begins with the ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). (Well, we'll call him the ninth Doctor, anyway. He might technically be the tenth, but that's a story for another time. Same rule applies to all subsequent regenerations in the current revival of the franchise.)


Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi)
Series Eight (2014)
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There was a prequel to this season's first episode, shown only in theaters, and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. I haven't seen it.

I didn't get a chance to see this series when it first aired in 2014, but I finally watched it on Amazon in 2018. Well, there's a lot I feel I need to unpack, here. I suppose I'll start by saying that when we first saw the newest Doctor at the very end of The Time of the Doctor, he apparently had forgotten how to fly the TARDIS. In the first episode of series 8, a Tyrannosaurus rex appears in Victorian London, where it coughs up the TARDIS. The episode involves the Paternoster Gang investigating a series of murders. Throughout the episode, the new Doctor struggles to get a grip on... pretty much everything. (After watching the episode, I posted on facebook, "Well, I have finally watched the first Capaldi episode of Doctor Who. I quite like him. I do hope he gets his wits together more than this, but... you know, not too much." And of course, he does so.) The episode also introduces the new story arc, "The Promised Land." That's a place the villain in the story wanted to reach, and after he dies in the end, he finds himself there. It is apparently the afterlife, which he is introduced to by a woman named Missy (Michelle Gomez). (I actually don't recall hearing her referred to as Missy until the end of the season, but she may have been. Although I also spent most of the season wondering who she was supposed to be. Every time she made a brief appearance throughout the season, she vaguely reminded me of Madame Kovarian, from series 6, but without the eyepatch. But I was fairly sure that's not who she was. If I didn't sometimes suck at recognizing or remembering faces, I'm sure I would have known with certainty all along that that's not who she was. But I still would have wondered about her identity, because of course that's the whole point. Viewers were meant to wonder about her, and about the true nature of the Promised Land.) Throughout the season, we occasionally see someone die and then find themselves in the Promised Land, so I expected all these characters would become important again when the story arc reached its climax... but they didn't.

As we learned in The Day of the Doctor, Clara is now working as a teacher at Coal Hill School. Another teacher there is a former soldier named Danny Pink, who now teaches maths. He and Clara soon begin dating... but the Doctor strongly disapproves of the relationship, apparently because of Danny having previously been a soldier. (It's understandable that the Doctor would have a profound distaste for war, but it always struck me as quite odd that he would have such a strong prejudice against soldiers. It's not like he's never been friends with soldiers, and in fact that point will be rather touching brought home for viewers in one scene of the season finale, though I won't spoil what I mean by that.) Danny himself thinks of the Doctor as an officer, which leads to his own distrust of Clara's friend. (I also want to mention that the Doctor refuses to believe Danny is a maths teacher; he keeps insisting that he must teach P.E., and in fact he starts using "P.E." as a demeaning nickname for Danny. Even more than his dislike for soldiers, this really seemed to me to be particularly strange and offensive. And if I didn't know the Doctor better- as Danny didn't, at first- I mean, the way he spoke to and about Danny, if a human acted that way, I think it would seem racist. Which also reminded me of how the ninth Doctor treated Mickey, always either intentionally getting his name wrong, or tacking "the Idiot" onto it. But at least his attitude toward Mickey eventually mellowed, certainly more so than Twelve's ever did toward Danny. Plus, the twelfth Doctor's personality in general is fairly cantankerous, which often makes it harder to see the good in him, even when he's doing the right thing. When he's quite obviously doing the wrong thing, it therefore becomes even harder to cut him any slack.) But despite the current Doctor's relatively prickly nature, I do want to point out that he still has the essential qualities of any incarnation of the character. He's adventurous, and heroic, and brilliant, and funny. It's just that, as is the case with all of the Doctors, those qualities are filtered through his own specific personality.

Meanwhile, Clara struggles to keep her normal life on Earth separate from her travels with the Doctor. (Rather than being a constant traveling companion, as the Doctor's Companions usually are, Clara actually lives on Earth, and only goes off with the Doctor whenever he shows up to take her on some adventure.) I should also mention that this new Doctor's stark difference in personality from that of the previous Doctor is particularly disconcerting for Clara. And eventually, she decides to quit traveling with him. So it surprised me when the next episode started out with them traveling together. But it was soon explained to be their "last hurrah." It still seemed strange that Clara would even want to do this, but... whatever. It's a fun episode, and it ultimately leads to Clara having a better understanding of why the Doctor acts the way he does. So, she decides not to give up her travels with him, after all. However, she doesn't tell Danny that she's changed her mind.

Now, before I get on with how series 8 ends, I'm going to spoil some things about previous seasons of "Doctor Who" that I've avoided spoiling, up until now. (And the past spoilers in this paragraph will, unavoidably, clue you in to things I'll be spoiling about this season, in the next paragraph. So you might just want to stop reading right now, if you haven't already seen series 8.) So.... back in the original series, I mean prior to the 2005 reboot, one of the Doctor's major recurring antagonists was a fellow Time Lord called the Master. After the Time War, as you know, the Doctor believed himself to be the last of his people, which means, of course, that he believed the Master was dead. But in series 3, he met a man in the very distant future, called Professor Yana (Derek Jacobi), who turns out to be the Master. He then regenerates, but we don't yet see the Master's new incarnation. Later, back on Earth in the present, it turns out that the new Prime Minister of the UK, Harold Saxon (John Simm), is the Master. He's finally killed, and intentionally doesn't regenerate. However, in The End of Time, the Master is resurrected by a cult. He enacts a plan implemented long ago by the Time Lords to have the Master bring them (and Gallifrey itself) out of a time lock they'd sealed themselves in during the Time War. But the Doctor knows the Time Lords' return would mean disaster for the Earth, so he stops them. And the Master is taken into the time lock with them. Later, in "The Day of the Doctor," it is revealed that all of the Doctors had used their TARDISes to send Gallifrey into a pocket universe during the Time War, as an alternative to the War Doctor's original intention of destroying the Time Lords to stop the war. (This is confusing to me, because I assume this fate is distinct from the time lock that the Time Lords themselves had used as a means of escaping the war, which makes me wonder if there are actually two Gallifreys, each hiding in different ways. Hopefully that will be revealed eventually, but as far as I can tell, it hasn't been, as of the end of series 8.) Anyway... the eleventh Doctor then decided he should search for Gallifrey, now that he knew it still existed. Although he finds a way to bring Gallifrey and the Time Lords back into this universe, in "The Time of the Doctor," he ultimately decides not to do so, to avoid initiating another Time War.

In the penultimate episode of series 8, Danny dies. It's a senseless, tragic death, but it means we get to see him in the Promised Land, which brings us to the culmination of this season's story arc. Clara convinces the Doctor to try to find Danny in the afterlife, and they manage to pilot the TARDIS to the Promised Land, having no idea what to expect. What they find is a bunch of skeletons sitting in individual tanks full of some kind of liquid. The Doctor also meets Missy, whose plan is finally revealed: she is bringing all of Earth's dead people back to life by converting them into Cybermen, to create her own private army. It is also revealed that "Missy" is short for "Mistress"... as the Master has regenerated as a woman. How she returned to this universe from Gallifrey in the time lock (or the pocket universe?) isn't yet explained, but she does tell the Doctor where to find the planet. Anyway, she had used a Time Lord matrix to create the "Nethersphere," wherein she stored the minds of deceased humans. (The matrix, and therefore the so-called "Promised Land," was actually just inside a cathedral on Earth.) In the finale, Danny has been converted into a Cyberman, but retains enough of his humanity to save Clara from the other Cybermen, and to help stop Missy's plans for converting everyone on Earth into Cybermen. However, one thing that saddened me was Missy killing Osgood, who had been introduced in "The Day of the Doctor." We also learn that Missy had been responsible for a couple of mysteries that had brought the Doctor and Clara together, both in series 7 and series 8. (There is another good Cyberman who helps out, at one point, by killing Missy, but I won't reveal his identity. I'll just say it was a very nice nod to the original series.) Well, after Missy is defeated, the Doctor goes off to search the coordinates she had given him for Gallifrey, but he doesn't find it. But when he returns to Earth, he tells Clara that he did find it. And he assumes that Danny has returned to life, using Missy's control bracelet, but... for a reason I won't spoil, he hasn't. So, that's another very sad thing. But Clara decides to let the Doctor believe Danny is back and everything is fine. And the two of them part ways.


Just a little way into the closing credits of the final episode of series 8, the Doctor gets a surprise visitor in the TARDIS, which reveals one aspect of the next Christmas special, Last Christmas.

Series Nine (2015)
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This season had two online prequels, Prologue (on September 11) and The Doctor's Meditation (released in theaters on Sept. 15 and online Sept. 17).

Well, this season includes several two-part stories, as well as some standalone stories. Episodes 1-2 tell a powerful story that involves Davros, the creator of the Daleks. Also, the Doctor begins wearing sonic sunglasses (instead of using a sonic screwdriver). And we learn of a mysterious prophesied being called "the Hybrid," which will be mentioned throughout the season. Missy also makes an appearance, and we learn how she survived having apparently been killed last season. And a piece of Time Lord technology called a "confession dial" is introduced, which will be important throughout the season. Episodes 3-4 are about ghosts. (I dunno what else to say about that.) Episode 5 involves the Doctor and Clara helping defend a village of Vikings against invading aliens called the Mire. The Doctor's plan to defeat them requires help from a Viking girl named Ashildr (Maisie Williams). However, she ends up dying, and the Doctor later uses a piece of technology from a Mire helmet to bring her back to life. This makes her immortal, so we'll see her a few more times throughout the season. By the second time the Doctor encounters her, she has long since forgotten her original name, and just calls herself "Me." (This turns out, later on, to be more interesting than you might think.) Episodes 7-8 involve a splinter cell of Zygons... Well, after The Day of the Doctor, UNIT secretly allowed 20 million Zygons to live on Earth, shape-shifted into permanent human forms. Most of them have integrated pretty well, and are happy with their new lives. However, this one group wants to change all Zygons back to their original forms, thus starting a panic among humans that would lead to war. The Doctor must try to stop them, with help from UNIT, including Kate Stewart, as well as Osgood. I was happy to see her alive, after having been killed last season. It seems that ever since "Day of the Doctor," there were two Osgoods, the original one, and a Zygon who now looked like her, and the two of them work together. It is never revealed whether the one Missy killed was the human one or the Zygon, but at the end of this story, another Zygon takes on her appearance, so there would still be two Osgoods. (And so, it's unclear if there are now one human and one Zygon, or rather two Zygons.) Episode 9 is rather interesting, as it has a sort of a "found footage" framework, but the monsters it introduces have a pretty ridiculous origin. Episode 10 has the Doctor and Clara receive a call from Rigsy, a young man they'd met in an episode last season, who has a problem. Their attempt to help him leads to a hidden refuge for aliens in present-day London, which is overseen by Me. Clara manages to save Rigsy from his fate, but this leads to her own tragic death. Also, Me had made a deal with some unknown group to teleport the Doctor... somewhere. That leads into episode 11, which I would say is among the most brilliant of the entire series. (I don't mean series 9, I mean "Doctor Who.") I also want to mention that in a way, the nature of how this particular teleporter works reminded me of an unrelated short film I saw recently, The Un-Gone. (It also kind of inspired a story idea I'll probably never get around to actually writing.) I don't really want to divulge any details of the episode, but it's just... mind-blowing. And in episode 12, the Doctor goes to a diner in Nevada, where he meets a waitress who looks like Clara. At first it's unclear if she's one of the countless versions of Clara that had been fragmented throughout time, or if she's somehow the Clara, despite her not appearing to know him. But he tells her a story about his finally returning to Gallifrey. It was the Time Lords who had arranged for the Doctor to be sent to... where he was in the previous episode. Because they wanted to learn what he knew about the Hybrid. There... are at least a few different theories of what it is, and I didn't really feel like it was ever firmly established which theory (if any) was right. Meanwhile, the Doctor manages to be about as thoroughly badass as it is possible to be without actually doing anything violent. (Honestly, I'd say throughout this season he seemed both goofier and cooler than he did last season, in various ways. Which was great.) And he needs to trick the Time Lords in order to try to save Clara's life. I'll also say that Me makes another appearance. And the Doctor's story... doesn't end up quite like one might have expected it to, though the episode does provide viewers with answers, even if the Doctor doesn't get any. Although he does finally get his TARDIS back (having left it in London in episode 10), and he gets a new sonic screwdriver.

After series 9, there is the eleventh Christmas special, The Husbands of River Song. The show then took a year off, returning with the twelfth Christmas special, The Return of Doctor Mysterio. During the break between those specials, there was a spin-off series called Class.

Series Ten (2017)
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In April 2016, there was a minisode called Friend from the Future, which takes place during the first episode of series 10 (which aired nearly a year later). The minisode introduced Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie), who becomes the Doctor's companion this season. Also, Nardole, who has appeared in the last two Christmas specials, is still a companion. Though the Doctor tends to treat him more like a servant. Anyway, the Doctor is now a professor at a university on Earth, in the present. And Bill becomes a student of his. One of the things I like best about her is how she often asks questions that I think a lot of viewers, including myself, have been wondering about for years, or even decades. It's a neat sort of lampshade hanging, I feel. Meanwhile, the Doctor is guarding a vault that contains a captive, who we eventually learn is Missy. He's been tasked with guarding her for a thousand years, and he hopes that within that time, he'll be able to turn her into a good person. And... in the fifth episode, one of the Doctor's adventures leaves him blind, though he doesn't let anyone but Nardole know that. He does get his eyesight back a couple of episodes later, but I don't want to reveal how. And um... I don't know how much to reveal about this season. There are standalone episodes and multi-episode stories. There's a story with some very old-school Cybermen. The season finale includes the return of a character from the season premiere, which leads to Bill parting ways with the Doctor. And a separate plot point leads to Nardole parting ways with both of them. Also the Doctor is fatally wounded, which sets up the next Christmas special, Twice Upon a Time. Of course I am leaving out countless details, to avoid being too spoilery. But, you know, it was all pretty good stuff. As always.


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