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Doctor Who Recap 2013 Christmas Special, "The Time of the Doctor"

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Doctor Who Recap: 2013 Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: 2013 Christmas Special, “The Time of the Doctor”

“The Time of the Doctor” is the third in a loose trilogy of Doctor Who episodes focused explicitly on the title character. “The Name of the Doctor” saw the Doctor (Matt Smith) discover how his life was fundamentally entwined with that of his friend Clara (Jenna Coleman), while “The Day of the Doctor” resolved the secrets of the great Time War that was such a huge part of his past. Now, as the franchise completes its 50th year with yet another milestone—“The Time of the Doctor” is the 800th episode—and the era of Smith’s Doctor comes to an end, showrunner Steven Moffat provides a fitting wrap-up for the plot arcs that have stretched over the last four years and a firm foundation for the show’s future. It’s not the stellar piece of work that “The Day of the Doctor” was, but it still delivers quite an emotional punch at the end.

Doctor Who Recap 50th Anniversary Special, "The Day of the Doctor"

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Doctor Who Recap: 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”

An episode made to commemorate a series reaching its golden anniversary could be forgiven for merely being an excuse for a party, a nostalgic stroll through the high points of the previous 50 years. In Doctor Who’s last big anniversary celebration back in 1983, “The Five Doctors,” so many elements and characters from the past were thrown in that the result was more of a parade than a story. With “The Day of the Doctor,” showrunner Steven Moffat successfully pulls off something far more ambitious: an episode that provides plenty of celebratory spectacle, but also advances the continuing story of the Doctor into new areas.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 14, "The Name of the Doctor"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Name of the Doctor”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Name of the Doctor”

It’s been a long haul since the seventh season premiere almost nine months ago, but showrunner Steven Moffat has finally delivered a tremendous resolution to the mystery of Clara Oswald (Jenna-Louise Coleman), the “impossible girl” who the Doctor (Matt Smith) has encountered multiple times, living apparently unconnected lives in different times and places. “The Name of the Doctor” is a superb finale, providing a satisfying payoff for the season plot arc while still ending with a huge twist to lead into Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special in November.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 12, "Nightmare in Silver"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Nightmare in Silver”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Nightmare in Silver”

After the almost universal acclaim (and a clutch of awards) for “The Doctor’s Wife” in 2011, the next episode to be written by Neil Gaiman had a lot to live up to. “Nightmare in Silver” makes good use of the Doctor’s second-most famous enemies, the Cybermen, but it’s a step down from Gaiman’s previous outing, with gratuitous guest characters and a grab-bag of under-developed ideas. Revolving around the fate of two children, at times it feels like an episode from the late lamented Doctor Who spinoff series for kids, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 11, "The Crimson Horror"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “The Crimson Horror”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “The Crimson Horror”

With “The Crimson Horror,” the new series of Doctor Who notches its 100th episode. It’s an achievement that would have seemed outlandishly improbable when the series debuted in 2005, turning the franchise from a fading memory into a pop culture juggernaut that shows no sign of slowing down as it approaches its 50th anniversary. Writer Mark Gatiss, who helped launch the new series with a story set in the Victorian era (“The Unquiet Dead”), revisits one of Doctor Who’s favorite time periods with a wonderfully lurid tale which provides splendid entertainment, but also ties into and advances the ongoing arc of the season.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 10, "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS”

Thanks to its immediately intriguing title, “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” was one of the most highly anticipated episodes of this season. But while it delivers a neatly worked out plot and some memorable moments, it’s surprisingly inconsequential—almost as much of a “filler” episode as writer Steve Thompson’s earlier “The Curse of the Black Spot” in 2011.

The basic plot is very straightforward. Spinning through space with its shields temporarily down, the TARDIS is noticed by a trio of space scavengers operating a huge salvage ship. The time machine is ensnared by a “magna-grab” and hauled aboard the ship, badly disrupting all of its systems. The Doctor (Matt Smith) is somehow thrown outside of the TARDIS, while Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) is lost in its labyrinthine interior. He enlists the help of the scavengers to find her by promising them the richest salvage haul of their lives, and then traps them inside the TARDIS with a self-destruct timer ticking down.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 9, "Hide"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “Hide”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “Hide”

Neil Cross’s second episode of the season, “Hide” is a nicely spooky haunted-house story, which turns into a time-travel-gone-wrong story, which twists again to become an alien love story. In contrast to the expansive panorama of “The Rings of Akhaten,” Cross restricts himself to just four characters for most of this episode. The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) arrive at Caliburn House on a dark and stormy night in late 1974, where psychic researcher Alec Palmer (Dougray Scott) is working with empath Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) to investigate a presence which has been haunting the area for thousands of years, even before this gloomy, forbidding mansion was built.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 9, "Cold War"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Cold War”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Cold War”

I’m not the greatest fan of Mark Gatiss’s writing for Doctor Who, which generally doesn’t reach the heights of his work elsewhere (for example, on Sherlock). But “Cold War” is probably his best script for the series yet—a straightforward adrenalin rush of an episode with the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) trapped on a sinking Soviet nuclear submarine in 1983, which very successfully reinvents a well-remembered monster from the classic series for the 21st century.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 7, "The Rings of Akhaten"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “The Rings of Akhaten”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 7, “The Rings of Akhaten”

It may just be coincidence (though, given showrunner Steven Moffat’s fondness for building in connections and references between episodes, I wouldn’t bet on it), but the story of the Doctor’s (Matt Smith) new companion, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), is following a very similar trajectory as those of two of his previous fellow travelers. Just as happened with Rose in 2005 and Amy in 2010, when Clara tells the Doctor that for her first trip into time and space, she wants to see “something awesome,” she finds herself being whisked away from present-day Earth to a fantastical adventure in a weird alien environment.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 6, "The Bells of Saint John"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Bells of Saint John”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 6, “The Bells of Saint John”

It’s been a while since the last episode, but with “The Bells of Saint John,” the second half of Doctor Who’s seventh season follows smoothly from last year’s Christmas special. With the Doctor (Matt Smith) finally meeting his new traveling companion, Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), showrunner Steven Moffat presents an episode that efficiently sets several plot-arc threads in motion, but whose actual story is fairly thin and relies too much on devices he’s used before to be totally satisfying.