Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Sleep No More

I'm rather disappointed in this episode.

It's not that the producers decided to replace the opening theme and CGI sequence with a Matrix-style glitch in a 'found footage' scene.  It's not the horror element.

It's not even so much that the normally competent writer Mark Gatiss churned out something rather stupid, although it does contribute to the poor quality of the episode.

It's that the producers seem to have run out of steam for the show and are no longer interested in even trying to maintain storytelling standards so as not to insult viewer intelligence.

I mean, come on: Killer sleep sand?  Really?  That gunk that forms in the corners of our eyes at night and dries into crusty yellow-ish grainy stuff takes on a life of its own and devours people from within?

I realize that head writer Stephen Moffat is a one-trick pony and that this episode is basically filler until we reach the season finale in three weeks, but still, he owes us better and so does Gatiss.

I'm giving this episode the 'F' it deserves.

Review: The Zygon Invasion, The Zygon Inversion

Given that this is a two-parter, I'll review them both as a single episode in two chapters.

As was seen in the 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, in 2013, Zygon invaders were...let's just say, "convinced" to negotiate a peace treaty with U.N.I.T. to remain on Earth peacefully.  By this point there are now twenty million Zygons living here disguised as humans.  An opening video made by the twinned U.N.I.T. researcher Osgood explains how fragile the peace is and that if it ever breaks down there is a contingency plan inside a red carved box to deal with what's called the Nightmare Scenario.

That scenario has now taken place, with one of the Osgoods dead (see Series 8's finale, Death In Heaven, for more info) and the surviving twin on the run from rogue Zygons who have decided that they got a bum rap from their elders when they negotiated that peace treaty and now want to live openly as themselves—or else there will be consequences.

The first part basically exists to set up the story for the second, so there's not much to review other than to say that U.N.I.T. must be scraping the bottom of the barrel for red-shirts these days.  You'd think they'd recruit people smart enough to know when they've walked into a trap and not to take the bait.  Alas, they don't.

Part Two, The Zygon Inversion, deals with the consequences of war and why it should be avoided.  Jenna-Louise Coleman delivers a rather good performance as Clara and her Zygon counterpart Bonny, who leads the aliens' revolution.

Oddly enough, Stephen Moffat for some reason decided to throw ambiguity into the mix as to whether it was the original Osgood or her Zygon twin who was killed off in Death In Heaven.  The only relevancy seems to be to reinforce the prophesy of the Hybrid, which the Doctor supposedly has a hand in creating, and which is supposed to be resolved by the end of Series 9.  We've already seen some red herrings in the form of Davros' regeneration-energy-charged Daleks, and Viking girl Ashildr, and now a third one in Osgood.  Moffat likes to play poorly-written head games with audiences, so don't expect much delivery on his promises.

I give this two-parter a C.

Review: The Woman Who Lived

Picking up about eight centuries from where the previous episode left off, we find the Doctor on the trail of an alien artifact, interrupting a robbery in 1651 England that is in the process of being carried out by none other than Ashildr (Maisie Williams), who by now has largely forgotten her name and now answers to "Me".  Bored with eternal life, she has taken to fighting in wars and robbing the spoiled rich.  The Doctor is astonished at this and resolves to help her rediscover herself.

Complicating things, of course, is a leonine alien who calls himself Leandro and who claims to have lost his family and his world, and wants to use the artifact to leave Earth.  There's just one catch: the artifact, an amulet called the Eyes of Hades, requires the entire life energy of a living being in order to open the portal to Leandro's dimension.  "Me" seems only too happy to help, and here is where the Doctor must find a way to convince the immortal girl of the error of her ways.

Although the episode was hit-and-miss, there were some decent enough bits that were worthy of consideration.  For instance, Ashildr's body may be immortal thanks to the Mire medical chip embedded in her skull, but her memories are not—the chip suppresses memories that are too painful for her to bear, and there are a lot of them.  In order to keep track of her own activities, she writes them down in journals, pages of which she tears out so she won't have to relive any events that are too traumatic.  She only keeps intact the journal of how she lost her children in the Black Death to remind herself not to have any more.

By the end, of course, things work out and Ashildr declares her intention to remain behind and attend to all the people the Doctor leaves behind during his visits to Earth.  That's to the good, because Maisie Williams is scheduled to make at least one more appearance in this series.

But beyond this bit of character building, the episode is fairly unremarkable.  I give it a C-.