Sunday, 25 October 2015

Moist Haunted

Doctor Who
Under The Lake and Before The Flood
Series Nine, Episodes Three and Four

At some point in the last few years, Doctor Who seemingly went off the idea of two-parters.  Once a staple ingredient, they only crop up now and then, often with such a tectonic shift in setting that the episodes are more like cousins than siblings.  (Look at The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, or A Good Man Goes To War and Let's Kill Hitler.  Actually, don't look at the last two, they're a load of balls.)  This year, for whatever reason, you can hardly move for two-parters.  Good-oh: change is healthy.

Speaking of change: the rock theme tune.
It... actually works.
Now can we stop moaning at Hartnell for wishing us a Merry Christmas?
And okay, they're already hit and miss.  (The Magician's Apprentice spent 45 minutes just warming the toilet seat for Part 2.)  But in cases like Under The Lake and Before The Flood, it feels like the writer had a reason to take up two episodes.  This isn't just Base Under Siege, Now With 45 More Minutes.  It's two separate things that work together.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  You see that bit up there, about the Base Under Siege?  Uh huh: we're going there again, and buying another T-shirt.  Make room in your wardrobe.

The TARDIS arrives (somewhat reluctantly) in an underwater base.  The crew are missing, but still nearby – the Doctor figures this out by dipping his finger in a cup of lukewarm tea, which is adorable.  They're being pursued by ghosts, who are killing them off and adding them to their ranks.  It all has something to do with an unidentified spaceship, with untranslatable words scrawled on its walls.

Under The Lake divides into two main chunks: ghosts being creepy and characters discussing the problem.  The ghosts are great, walking silently and spryly after the remaining crew.  It's refreshing to have a quiet baddie with no gnashing teeth.  (I also think the Weeping Angels are at their creepiest when they're not pulling their "GRR" faces.)  They follow strict rules, such as they only come out at night, they can only move metal objects, and they only have it in for you if you've read the words on that spaceship.  The Doctor is blissfully stumped, dismissing the whole idea of ghosts to begin with – because they don't exist, duh – but then coming around to it later on, because he's excited by new things and actually it might be ghosts.  (He dismisses the elephant-in-the-room-y idea that they are actually holograms, because um.)

Sadly, good as they are, there's a point where the ghosts aren't frightening any more.  There are just too many loopholes.  If there's nothing metal around them, they can't hurt you.  Even though they can walk through walls, you can lose them around a corner or by walking briskly.  When they're not trying to kill you, they're apt to stand around doing nothing.  If you can switch on the base's Day Mode, they disappear.  And if you lock them in the base's Faraday Cage, or go in and lock them out, you're safe as houses.  Yes, it sucks that the characters keep dying, but the ghosts themselves just become a point of inconvenience, and later, information-gathering.  This is where the episode's other chunk, the heaps and heaps of talking, comes in.

"It's deadlock sealed, I can't open it."
No, a sonic gadget can't open it.
Why is that the limit of his abilities?
What are ghosts?  Can ghosts exist?  What does the writing mean?  Why can't the TARDIS translate it?  Why doesn't the TARDIS want to be here?  What are the ghosts saying?  What does that mean?  How are the ghosts affecting the base?  Yak, yak, yak.  The characters aren't all that interesting, especially the poor bastard with Evil Capitalist written all over him (along with Next To Die).  Perhaps it's for the best that they spend most of their time listening to the Doctor.  One of them is a fan of his, which feels like a repeat of Osgood.  (Sniff.)  Another is deaf, which is really cool for the deaf community and handily enables the others to understand the ghosts (after about twenty-five minutes when they finally cotton on to lip-reading).  They're all well cast, but their sketchy personalities don't go far, as the script is busy justifying the (barmy) notion behind the ghosts.

The words on the spaceship are co-ordinates.  The ghosts (really sort-of-holograms, I think) are transmitting them out into space.  With every new ghost, the signal gets stronger.  So they want to keep killing people (but only the ones who've seen the words) to make more ghosts.  It's all an insidious plan by the original occupant of the spaceship, who's been waiting nearly 150 years for someone to happen along, read the words and die.  (Or however many someones he randomly needs to get enough signal.)  All this because he apparently does not own (and cannot find) any radio or communication equipment, and couldn't be bothered to skip stasis and just get in the spaceship and go home.  Come on.  Even by Doctor Who standards, that's convoluted.

But this is Toby Whithouse, who you may remember is banzai at writing the Doctor and not so hot on plot, so I guess this is Whithouse As Usual.  At its best, with Capaldi selling the hell out of the dialogue and the ghosts creeping along nicely, Under The Lake is traditional enough that you can almost hear Terrance Dicks novelising it.  At its worst, it's a lot of blether stacked on what looks suspiciously like bollocks.  But there are some really great lines, particularly the one about earworms: "Two weeks of Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre.  I was begging for the brush of death's merciful hand."  The music's creepy.  And the set's quite convincing.  There's mould and everything.

Anyway, it does get interesting, just before it ends.  The base starts flooding (because eh, we're bored of ghosts now) and the Doctor and Clara get separated.  The Doctor, in an uncharacteristic move, decides to go back in time to get some answers.  Then a new ghost appears.  It's the Doctor.

I can't lip-read, but he's probably saying:
"No, of course I haven't died.  God, you're gullible.
But I'll tell you my name.  Lean closer.  It's...
Hold that thought about "interesting" for a moment, because oi, you: the Doctor's going to die?  Again?  Cool cliff-hanger and everything, but is anyone going to buy that?  Before The Flood honestly seems to think so, launching into a heated emotional conversation between the Doctor and Clara, and this only two weeks after he thought he was going to cop it in The Witch's Familiar.  Guys, enough is enough; you're just crying wolf (or Bad Wolf) at this point.  Newsflash, he doesn't die.  We're not even talking dies-and-finds-a-way-to-reverse-it here.  He's fine, so all those scenes of Capaldi wrestling with time and mortality... well, they're very good, but they're a waste of time.  Worst of all, you've every reason to guess as much going in.  Keep pulling this nonsense and our expectations will only get lower.

For good measure, the Doctor is spurred into action – and possibly even changing history! – because Clara is due to die before him.  And this might be preferable, if she weren't the only other person in Doctor Who currently holding a No Way I'm Gonna Die Card.  For feck's sake, stop making it all about these two dying, especially while other people are actually copping it.  (They do make a point of how those deaths don't seem to matter as much, which says something about the Doctor's aloofness, but then it tacitly adds to the-show-as-a-whole's wonky sense of perspective.  Whoops.)

Anyway, back to "interesting".  The Doctor goes back in time during an adventure.  Despite owning a time machine, he doesn't do that very often.  It's admittedly a bit odd for that very reason – why doesn't he solve all his riddles that way, and why can't he solve this one the usual way, i.e. forwards?  But Whithouse is the guy who, in A Town Called Mercy, suggested bundling everyone into the TARDIS and getting out of there.  (They didn't do it, but it's what we were all thinking.)  If you can think of a good reason to do the undoable, or at least bring it up, then why not?  It is a really cool idea to set Part 1 in the future, and Part 2 beforehand.  And it's really all about paradoxes, so they don't take it for granted.

Ah yes, paradoxes.  Before The Flood opens with the Doctor explaining (to no one in particular) how the Bootstrap Paradox works.  In a nutshell: go back in time and give yourself an idea, which is what inspired you to go back in time and give yourself the idea.  Who came up with the idea?  This is an interesting puzzle, but it's not a new one for Doctor Who.  The most famous example is in (arguably) the most famous episode: in Blink, all of Sally Sparrow's actions are predetermined and cyclical.  It's a teensy bit weird that they're making a song and dance about it now – it's been Steven Moffat 101 for years.  But there's still a natty paradox underneath the hoopla, and it's satisfying to see Parts 1 and 2 circle each other, particular the second time around.

Sarah Jaaaaane!
Also, his guitar amp is from Magpie Electronics.
I like Doctor Who.
Just to add to the fun, Before The Flood paradoxes itself as well, Back To The Future: Part II style: when the TARDIS refuses to go to Clara's rescue (fair enough, old girl), the Doctor and co. must avoid themselves from an hour or so earlier.  There's a danger of disappearing down the rabbit hole here, but it does allow for a quick repeat of the dangers of changing history.  Which are... still quite muddy actually, since Clara tells the Doctor he's going to die, the Doctor tells an undertaker he's going to send evil messages in the future, he's risking changes in the timeline by cavalierly going back in time in the first place, and he seems to consider chucking the whole timeline in the bin just to save Clara.  (Although he might just be joking to distract the bad guy.)

It's all good fodder for Capaldi, who is generally funny, threatening and out-of-step-with-everyone-else here.  Good Doctoring is practically a Toby Whithouse trope; it's a nice one to have!  I love his attitude to the ghosts, i.e. not assuming they're hostile until they try to kill him.  (I like the way he says "Hello!  Did you want to show us this?  It's very nice!" like he's talking to a couple of toddlers.)  I'm not totally sold on his "emotion" cue cards, which veer closer to mental illness than alienness in my book, but at least he's trying, and he's not telling everyone to shut up any more.  (Apart from the stupid ones, who deserve it.)  In general, the Doctor's eccentricity and coolness came off forced in The Magician's Apprentice, but here, it's really working.  And he's not that nice: he sort of lets someone die just to test a theory – boo, you nasty alien, etc. – but then he obviously tries to get her to stay in the TARDIS first.  It's not his fault she goes, and his emotions are clear when she makes her fateful choice.  It's very Doctorly.  I'm sure McCoy would approve.  (See also, sending the bad guy to his death, apparently guilt-free.)

Jenna Coleman fares less well.  It's obvious they're Doing A Thing by comparing her to the Doctor – oh how terrible she has become by learning from him, etc.  This gives us a great bit where the Doctor has to try to keep her safe, and he hates talking like that so it makes him hilariously uncomfortable.  (Gimme a C!  Gimme an A!  Gimme a P!)  But sometimes she's so generic she might as well be her own hologram.  "I want another adventure.  Come on, you feel the same!  You're itching to save a planet, I know it!"  That's actual dialogue, spoken by a person.  She spends most of Before The Flood hanging by her iPhone waiting for the Doctor to check in.  It's eerily like they were expecting a change of actor and deliberately wrote her as generic as possible.  Jenna nearly left at Christmas, right?  But sadly, it's probably just Clara being Clara.

Sniff.  It's just like the old days!
The rest of the cast are fine, but there aren't a lot of standout moments, apart from some not-very-convincing romances thrown in at the end.  Some actors – Colin McFarlane and, most egregiously, Paul Kaye – are one-scene-wonders, not including their anonymous ghost stuff.  Cass, the deaf commanding officer, impresses the most with her (necessarily?) quiet intensity.  A Daredevil moment cringily over-compensates for her disability, but otherwise she's fab.  As for the baddie, a hulking monstrosity voiced by Peter Serafinowicz, The Fisher King doesn't really work.  He talks too much, his plan's a load of hogwash and in the end he falls for an obvious lie.  What a plonker!  As for his look, no doubt awesome in the concept art, the actual costume is more like Revenge Of The Wobbly '80s Throwback.  I'm pretty sure he bumps into a door at one point, the poor rubbery bastard.

There's a lot in these episodes that works, and as an overall package it's satisfying.  If all two parters are to be given as much attention as this, great.  At the same time it's not as clever as it thinks, over-explaining paradoxes, talking too much and significantly failing to surprise.  (No, he doesn't die and yes, you did guess who was in the stasis chamber the moment they unveiled it.  Who else?)  Call it a game of two halves, then.  Or to coin a phrase, a two-parter.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Curse Of Fatal Davros

Doctor Who
The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familiar
Series Nine, Episodes One and Two

I wasn't going to bother this year.

I haven't retreated to a monastery to ignore Doctor Who or anything, but I am marginally busier these days and I don't feel much urge to review it any more.  Shrug; plenty of other people do it.  But then I realised I was still watching it and spending just as much time griping about it as ever, so what the hell, eh?  It'll keep my committed band of followers (a dozen people still desperately trying to Google their friend Neil) happy.  You're welcome.

So, as we're all here and Doctor Who is back on, let's pick it to bits.  The Magician's Apprentice.  Grand title, great big plotty ideas, first part of two.  How does it fare?  Short, charitable answer: it's all build up.  Slightly longer and more honest answer: it's a lot of waiting for Part Two to happen.

It begins on a mysterious battlefield.  The Doctor sees a small boy in peril.  What else does he do but try to rescue him?  There's just one snag: his name's Davros.  So, naturally assuming there's only one Davros on the entire planet, the Doctor tucks his tail between his legs and leaves him to the mercy of the handmines (alas, not a typo).  Ages later, apparently in his death throes, Davros (for some reason) suddenly remembers that time the Doctor stitched him up and understandably wants a word.  Cue the Doctor dragging his feet en route to his last meeting with Davros – and apparently, his own death.

"My name's Davros!  Wait, come back!  Dave Ross, I said!"
It's big stuff all right, apart from the handmines, which are as stupid as they are incongruous.  (They don't even work.  Stand absolutely still or they'll get you?  They don't seem to mind Davros shifting his weight, or people talking, or a sonic screwdriver landing with a "plop" next to them.)  But as is often the way with Doctor Who, especially finales which is oddly what this one feels like, even the other comparatively shiny bits don't bear thinking about.

Big Idea #1: the Doctor is sure he's going to die.  This again, though?  The Doctor thought he was going to die in The End Of Time, then he thought he was going to die in The Wedding Of River Song, then he thought he was going to die in The Time Of The DoctorWe know it's never going to happen, especially in Episode One of twelve, so it's about as dramatic as dropping a balloon to keep doing it.  Even if you fell for it last time, you'd need the wherewithal of a concussed bee to think it might stick this time.  (And if you're not really meant to think it might happen, which would explain how utterly half-hearted it is here, well, why the zarking farktwaddle are they doing it again?)

Big Idea #2: the Doctor is missing.  (On account of not wanting to die, which he totally might.)  This is actually quite impressive for a man who's probably everywhere in the universe simultaneously, but then Missy, Clara and UNIT do a quick timey-wimey Google search and find him instantly.  Phew.  Remind me what all the fuss was about?  (Turns out he was nowhere in time and space, unless you remembered to check Medieval England.  Good old Clara, checking the one bit no one else had looked in for no reason!)

Quick sidenote: there's a noticeable dearth of forward-moving plot in this episode.  It's really just getting us from Point A, he doesn't want to go to Point B, he goes.  But things really grind to a halt in Ye Olde Land.  Here, the Doctor drops some hideous anachronisms and makes some terrible jokes, and Peter Capaldi plays some riffs.  The axe-man cometh and all that (ho ho), but come on, why's this scene actually here, besides meeting the requisite two-part minute count?  Charitable hat on: we're probably meant to look at the Doctor's bizarre behavior and think "Ooh look, he really has lost it, maybe he is going to die this time"?  Clara certainly thinks so, clumsily pointing out how out of character this is for him.  I suppose anything's worth a try with The Most Not Going To Happen Thing Ever, but that still doesn't justify five minutes of crap jokes even the other characters don't laugh at.  The whole thing is just awkwardly weird.

Mercifully, the one Davrossy minion actually out looking for the Doctor (a man made of snakes, because why not) finally checks the one bit of the universe left on his list and whisks our heroes to Skaro.  Skaro is invisible now, which seems terribly important until everybody can see it and then nobody mentions the invisible thing again.  Okay, spotting a pattern yet?  They come up with big or kooky stuff – invisible planet, mines that look like hands – and they just go pfft.  Wouldn't it be nice to take an interesting idea and actually get something out of it?

"We have acquired the TARDIS."
"Good work!  Pity you couldn't have told us sooner.
You could have saved Snakey a lot of bother."
And oh bother, I've skipped a few.  Backing up to Big Idea #3, then: on Earth, planes are stopping in the sky.  Wow!  What's that got to do with Davros?  Answer: nowt, it's just so Missy can get UNIT (and Clara's) attention.  Oh.  This feels like a random idea from Steven Moffat's bag of leftovers, but they at least get an eyebrow-raise out of it before glibly consigning it to the dustbin.  UNIT, too, as all any of this is for is bundling Missy into the story.  So long, Kate.  Nice to see you, Roz from Bugs.  Totally worth filming those scenes.

Oh, and Missy's back.  Woo.  Nope, still don't have a problem with a female Master (although I do have a problem with giving her a special "female" name), and yep, Michelle Gomez can be hugely entertaining, but the character's still written with such drunkenly broad strokes that she'd slot right into Moffat's ever-more-prophetic Who spoof, The Curse Of Fatal DeathEvery line is aimed directly at Tumblr.  "Traps are my flirting."  "He keeps trying to kill me, it's sort of our texting."  "I'm murdering a Dalek, I'm a Time Lady, it's our golf."  Ehhhh.

Look, we all know Moffat needs to fire a wisecrack every other second or we might not love him any more, but it's just so wearying to be relentlessly quirked and funnied at for forty minutes.  Missy pretty much exists just for teh proverbial lols.  The only thing that makes her interesting is the love/hate relationship with the Doctor – and be fair, this was already trope-tastic when Roger Delgado first started shrinking people – but in Moffat's hands that's as much of a dog's dinner as the plot.  Last time we saw Missy, she was a psycho and the Doctor hated her.  This time, she's still a psycho and the Doctor likes her.  Even Clara seemingly gets over the you-killed-my-boyfriend bit well enough to exchange witty banter, because nothing must stand in the way of banter.  It's all very zingy, but it isn't really character development.  It's ping-pong.

Oh, and I've missed another bit: Clara's here too, if it isn't too much bloody trouble for her to actually join the Doctor sometimes, and she pulls all the right companion-y expressions and does banter – but mostly she just helps Missy to be in the story as well.  They're both just... in it as well.  Neither of them makes a meaningful dent until the cliff-hanger, where they're (apparently) killed off, along with the TARDIS.  (!)  But even Moffat knows you won't swallow that one, so the real cliff-hanger is something else entirely: the Doctor rushing back in time in the TARDIS (*cough* TARDIS?!  You had one job, Steven!) to (apparently) kill Davros as a child.  Which is about as likely as the Doctor dropping dead of a heart attack, and is confusingly kind of like the nasty thing he already did at the start, but at least it gets us back to what these episodes are about.  Cue The Witch's Familiar, or Part Two, or The One Where They Get On With It.

The Doctor abandoned Davros, ergo he's guilty.  And hey, remember Genesis Of The Daleks?  Don't worry, there's a clip: Tom Baker says if you knew a child would grow up to do terrible things, could you kill him?  And if you did, are you any better than the monster he became?  It's not really something that needed exploring literally, as that's already what Genesis was about, but fair enough, let's go there.  And I tend to think it's a waste of time pointing an accusing finger at the Doctor, especially if the person doing the pointing is a genocidal nutbag with absolutely no moral high-ground, but we're trying to find something new to say about said nutbag, so that's good.  Is Davros really all that bad?  Is the Doctor, given all that he's done, a saint?  It's kind of amazing we're still going there after last year's "Am I a good man" conundrum (yes he is, what do I win?  Oh you're going to keep asking), but maybe these episodes will put a new spin on it.

If you've made it this far, you've probably guessed it's a "no" from me.  And right you are.

Okay, Daleks – time for the 2010-redesign ultra blurry cameo!
The Doctor's done questionable things.  He blows up armies of Daleks all the time, and sometimes he's just flat-out mean.  But there's still a fat stack of difference between that and Davros.  Daleks as well: they love to wave an accusing tentacle and say "You would make a good Dalek" or somesuch, but he just wouldn't, okay?  When he blows stuff up and kills things, it's always because the stuff and the things want to blow up everything else.  Do you have any better ideas?  And if he's grown to hate Daleks and Davros after all that, well, he's got a pretty good reason to feel that way, hasn't he?  With the exterminating and the absolutely-nothing-else they get up to?  It's like Jaws.  Brodie, Quint and Hooper aren't just some jerks picking on an innocent fish.  The fish keeps eating people.

Nevertheless, Dalek Hitler asks "Am I a good man?"  I don't even.  I mean the answer would be a resounding "no", wouldn't it, even if there wasn't a line of dialogue expressly telling us this whole routine, with the moral tirade and the change of heart and the I-want-to-feel-the-sun-on-my-face-one-last-time, is a load of bobbins.  "Be subtle, Colony Sarff.  Tonight we entrap the Time Lord."  All the confessions, all the tears – don't worry about it.  Why put that in there?  Yes, Davros turning over a new leaf is the mother of hard sells, but if you're going to sidle up to the camera and say "Psst, not really!" beforehand, why even bother?

So Davros is as much of a nutbag post-episode as he was before.  Quelle surprise.  What of the Doctor?  I mean, how could he abandon a child on a battlefield?  What a bastard, right?  Well, the more you think about it, the more complicated it is.  The Doctor is on Skaro by accident.  (Dum de dum, trying not to question that...)  His first instinct is to help the child, of course.  But then he finds out it's Davros, an enemy whose personal history he doesn't know.  What does he do?  Wade in and rescue him?  If it goes wrong, Davros might die and change history.  If it works, perhaps it'll turn out the deadly handmines are what crippled him, and not leaving him there will change history.  Perhaps Davros was always meant to struggle out of there alone – in at least one version of the timeline, he must have done.  (And if the Doctor always rescued him, as he inevitably does in the end, Davros wouldn't be mad at him.)  On the face of it, it's shameful, but when you try to apply a little Time Lord logic it's nowhere near as clear cut.  Walking away is cruel, but it might be right.  This, by the way, was exactly why Tom Baker was asking "Do I have the right" in the first place – because time is complex.  In any case, Davros survived, and he's done a lot worse to others since then.  It's a pot-kettle-palooza. 

Still, perhaps the Doctor isn't as fussed as he makes out.  He's quite hysterical to begin with, begging Davros to spare his friends, but once Clara and Missy are zapped he's more than happy to turf him out of his chair.  Where's all this enormous guilt, and this apparent certainty of death?  Is one reminder of what Davros and Daleks are actually like – Surprise!  They'll kill your friends! – enough to get rid of all that?  And when he triumphantly pulls a Curse Of Fatal Death-esque "Naturally I anticipated" on Davros's plan, switching it around to blow the Daleks up yet again (and probably take out Davros as well), it becomes alarmingly possible that both the Doctor and Davros have been trolling each other the whole time.  At which point these episodes are saying nothing substantial about anything.  Davros?  Hates everyone, exterminate.  The Doctor?  Hates Daleks, tick, boom.  Yes, it's wonderful that he goes back and rescues Lil' Davros after all, teaching him about mercy and affecting him even minutely for the better.  He's still going to blow up his house with him and all his kids in it.

"Oh, the unbearable guilt!"
*kicks disabled guy out of wheelchair, makes Dodgems joke*
Meanwhile, Missy and Clara survive via some teleport jiggery-pokery, and I'll take a moment to say: glad they explained that.  The little cutaway with Capaldi engineering his own escape in a similar fashion is loadsa fun.  Peter Capaldi is, in general, more to my liking in these episodes than he was last year.  Have I just got used to him, or has there been a retooling?  Hmm.  He's still crotchety, but fundamentally he's a lot sweeter and sillier.  Capaldi from last year wouldn't have given Davros five minutes, let alone a burst of regeneration energy.  Okay, some of this is deliberate out-of-characterness brought on from thinking he's going to die (nope, still don't buy it), and some of it's fake, but whatever it is, it falls within my personal Doctor limits.  He even makes a few of the jokes work.  Even when he can't, it's a pleasure just to listen to Peter Capaldi, his voice lilting between gruff Scots, posh Scots and the occasional funny English accent for no particular reason.  I'll always miss Matt, but I'm happily on the Capaldi Train this year.

I can't seem to focus on Missy or Clara.  Do they really achieve very much?  They mostly loiter in the Dalek sewers (where all the not-dead Daleks end up, because apparently Daleks can't die, which is news to all those dead and self-destructed ones over the years), occasionally commenting on the Doctor's actions (curiously broadcast over a loud speaker) and confirm that he really is acting like he's expecting to die.  (He still might!  Honest!)  Missy is having her own Davros-ish moral back and forth this week, or that's what they seem to be aiming at: a moment where she mentions her daughter, a general attitude of helping the Doctor a bit.  No?  But then she confirms in The Magician's Apprentice that she hasn't "turned good", so it's surely no surprise when she (more than once) betrays Clara and the Doctor, essentially just for the trollols.  It's the Master – what were you expecting?  There's a line about how none of us are really all your friend or all your enemy, but actually, Missy and Davros are clearly not the Doctor's friends, and Clara clearly is, so... that doesn't really work.  (Mind you, they seem to be hinting at some dreadful hybrid prophecy thingie, and harkening back to when we first met Jenna Coleman in a Dalek casing, so god knows where they're going with that.  Shall we save time and assume nowhere?)

On a first viewing, when it isn't painfully obvious how pointless it all is, these episodes waste about 50% of their time but pick up a bit after that.  Julian Bleach continues his good-but-not-revelatory job with Davros – no offence, Julian, but it's difficult to give proper kudos when we've no reason to buy the mono-optical one's sudden transformation, and as for all the ranting and raving, welcome to every Davros ever.  But his scenes with Capaldi are the obvious highlight, pointless or otherwise.  It's two good actors shooting the breeze.  I'll take it.

Phew – so glad they explained this.
And how Davros survived blowing up in Series Four.
Oh.  Um.  Maybe next time?
Let's see, what else: you get to see loads of old Daleks again, only this time you can actually see them, which is an unfettered delight.  How I've missed the little grey ones!  (We're still ignoring the "new" Daleks from 2010, which is quite the multi-coloured elephant in the room.)  There are some amusing insights into how Daleks work, from the questionably potty (Dalek sewers) to the sort-of-makes-sense-actually (saying "Exterminate" is their way of reloading).  Missy might be a misbegotten waste of effort, but Michelle Gomez still puts the effort in; wouldn't it be nice if she had a really nuanced script that relied less on jokes?  Capaldi we've already covered – take away the crap jokes and he's great – and while I don't feel anything at all for Clara besides "Oh, you're back then", Jenna Coleman certainly does all the requisite companiony stuff.  She even cries.  Good job?

These episodes are big and flashy.  Stick your fingers in your ears and they might appear thoughtful.  Don't do that and, well, they're hollow and worse, they're typical.  Ten to go.  Let's hope they can do better.

PS: Sonic sunglasses.  No comment.