The Doctor’s negative or apathetic commentary on Clara’s appearance continued in this episode, which didn’t do much to endear me to either the stand alone plot or the new Doctor. Clara, however, is proving to be a much more interesting character than she had been in seasons past. When her previous arcs involved her role as the “Impossible Girl” her new role is independent from any pre-determined destiny and she’s able to stand alone as a unique character. I only wish we had this version of Clara sooner. As far as the plot of the episode goes, it was pretty much just more fun filler like ‘Robots of Sherwood.’ Overall the episode was pretty average, but with the continuing bad trends regarding the Doctor’s behavior towards Clara, I find it hard to even enjoy the simple fun episodes that aren’t meant to be heavy or deep. It’s unfortunate, really, because Capaldi is giving an incredible performance. He’s just being given some questionable lines. Five episodes into the season and I’m still holding out hope that I’ll begin to enjoy Capaldi’s Doctor. I want to. Badly.
The Doctor’s behavior towards Clara, particularly his commentary on her appearance, makes me wonder if Moffat took all the criticism regarding putting the Doctor in romantic positions with his companions and decided the best way to address the issue was to go as far in the other direction as possible. Hot tip: it isn’t the best decision. There can, in fact, be a middle ground. The Doctor can just not comment on her appearance at all, thus not implying any sort of attraction or insulting her. I don’t know why it’s so hard to refrain from doing this. Instead of pushing their friendship into a platonic realm, it just makes their interactions awkward. They could be so much more if those pointless lines were just cut from the scripts entirely.
It’s an odd dynamic between them that isn’t entirely negative, though, because he concludes the episode by calling her “boss” and insinuating that their bank heist was better than any potential date she could have. I’m not entirely sure where they’re going with this sort of interplay. I feel like we’ve established that there isn’t going to be a romance between the Doctor and Clara and that point has been hammered home, but with that one parting line I’m starting to fear this plot device hasn’t been entirely left in the dust. I’m hoping, however, that this is actually an indicator of a developing respect for her and this Doctor is just having trouble expressing it. Am I too hopeful? Maybe. But my longing for their relationship to strengthen is making me cling to this theory and until proven otherwise, I’m going to hold out hope that things will get better.
I wasn’t entirely displeased with the episode, despite my repeated criticism of the Doctor’s characterization. I always enjoy a bit of wibbly wobbly timey whimey in my story. As much as I often complain loudly about Moffat’s writing, I enjoy these bits quite a lot. I also tend to be quite fond of the monsters he creates. I feel like these are his two strongest writing talents and I wish he could separate these good things from all the problematic things that keep popping up. In this case, I did not see the surprise ending coming and was quite happy to see the “monster” have a more sympathetic side. It wasn’t particularly revolutionary, but it was definitely an interesting ride.
I also haven’t entirely given up on enjoying this version of the Doctor because Capaldi keeps proving that his acting talent can almost make up for the horrible lines he’s being given. Watching how a he solves a puzzle is a great insight into who they are after a fresh regeneration, and this of the Doctor was fun to watch. This was Capaldi crafting his character, using the bits of script and dialogue on the page and making it his own. The frantic delivery and prounciation of lines like “shutitty up up up” were amusing to say the least. It’s moments like that that keep my faith for Capaldi’s Doctor to be a character that I’ll ultimately enjoy in the end. I haven’t encountered a Doctor that I didn’t like before and I’m going to be truly surprised if an actor as talented as Capaldi can’t win me over at some point.
While this episode felt like filler, the next episode may loop back around and give us more development of Clara’s budding romance with Pink. While I’m initially not fond of the idea of Clara immediately having a romance after her Doctor regenerates, I’m enjoying Pink as a character so far and have warmed up to the idea. Filler episodes can be fun, but I think we’ve given this new regeneration enough filler for a while and it’s time to actually start doing things that ultimately matter for these characters in the long run. In this case, I’m hoping to see Clara’s relationship with Pink develop in a positive way and for the Doctor to just flat out stop commenting on her appearance. I’m also hoping they don’t try to play the Doctor as some sort of romantic rival to Pink, because really, having we been driving the point home that that’s not going to happen this time around? Honestly, that’s the only thing that would disappoint me more than the insults at this point. Long story short, I’m just hoping for some healthy characterization. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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