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Chris Chibnall (#110 of 10)

Doctor Who Recap 2017 Christmas Special, “Twice Upon a Time”

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Doctor Who Recap: 2017 Christmas Special, “Twice Upon a Time”

BBC America

Doctor Who Recap: 2017 Christmas Special, “Twice Upon a Time”

“Twice Upon a Time,” Doctor Who’s 2017 Christmas special, is a story of endings and of continuing beyond them. It caps off the Doctor Who careers of both showrunner Steven Moffat and the current Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, and heralds a time of wholesale change both in front of and behind the camera, as new showrunner Chris Chibnall arrives with his new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker. Moffat’s swan song is a fittingly elegiac tale that looks at how the Doctor has changed in the course of his 54-year journey by placing Capaldi’s Doctor side by side with his very first incarnation, originally played back by William Hartnell and here by David Bradley.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 4, "The Power of Three"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Power of Three”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Power of Three”

Two weeks ago, writer Chris Chibnall presented “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” an episode which I felt started poorly but became steadily more interesting and enjoyable as it went along. Regrettably, the reverse is the case with his second episode of the season, “The Power of Three.” The first half is captivating, full of intriguing mysteries and great character moments, but when it comes time to resolve the plot, the story simply falls to pieces.

Doctor Who Recap Season 7, Episode 2, "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 7, Episode 2, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”

In one of the more blatant cases of Doctor Who using a B-movie style episode title to pull in the viewers, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” lets us know up front that this is going to be a “romp”—big, loud, and hopefully fun. Writer Chris Chibnall, starting from that bare four-word premise given to him by showrunner Steven Moffat, has come up with a very enjoyable stand-alone adventure that lumbers a bit in the set-up (as is usual with Chibnall) but ultimately delivers some excellent tension and excitement, making good use of previously established Who continuity along the way.

Doctor Who Recap: Season 5, Episode 9: "Cold Blood"

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<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 5, Episode 9: “Cold Blood”
<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 5, Episode 9: “Cold Blood”

“Cold Blood” completes the two-part story of the clash between the Silurians—a species of intelligent reptiles that long ago dominated the Earth—and present-day humanity, showing the two sides being unable to overcome their seemingly irreconcilable differences. For the most part, the story quite closely follows the path taken by the original Silurian story (called, surprisingly enough, “Doctor Who and the Silurians”) forty years ago. However, there’s a real sting in the tail, courtesy of the overarching plot arc of this season, the “crack in the universe” that seems to be following the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy (Karen Gillan), and Rory (Arthur Darvill) wherever they go. Previously, the crack had been most prominent in “Flesh and Stone”, where indeed it provided the actual resolution of that story’s threat; here it simply arrives as an appendix to the main story. But more of that later.

Doctor Who Recap: Season 5, Episode 8: "The Hungry Earth"

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<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 5, Episode 8: “The Hungry Earth”
<em>Doctor Who</em> Recap: Season 5, Episode 8: “The Hungry Earth”

In all four previous seasons of the revived Doctor Who, the second two-parter of the year turned out to be one of the highlights of the season—see, for example, Steven Moffat’s “The Empty Child” in 2005, or Paul Cornell’s “Human Nature” in 2007. Unfortunately, this year that run of success is broken. Appropriately for an episode that centers around an underground drilling operation, “The Hungry Earth” is a slow-moving bore. While not actively dreadful, it functions mostly as a prologue for next week’s conclusion, and struggles to fill its running time with meaningful plot and incident. Most of the good bits are repeats of moments and concepts that have been seen before in Doctor Who—some from decades ago.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 13: "Exit Wounds"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 13: “Exit Wounds”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 13: “Exit Wounds”

Given its ratings success, there’s every indication that Torchwood will be returning for a third season. But writer-producer Chris Chibnall’s superlative “Exit Wounds” is something unexpected: a wholly complete and satisfying episode that could just as easily serve as a series finale as a bridge to the third season.

The events of this episode are relentlessly paced, but it never seems rushed. It just keeps driving towards its inevitable conclusion, thoroughly engaging the viewer. Chibnall is a master manipulator; just when I thought I was thoroughly sick of undead Owen (Burn Gorman) and dithering Toshiko (Naoko Mori), “Fragments” re-humanized them, and “Exit Wounds” made them fully real, noble, and tragic.

We open directly after the closing scene of “Fragments,” with the team bruised but still alive (except for Owen, of course) and mostly all right after the explosion. Everyone’s working their gadgets, and Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) determines that Captain John Hart (James Marsters), the author of their current misery, has driven the stolen SUV straight back to the Hub. Tosh detects major Rift activity all over the city. Just then Gwen (Eve Myles) gets a panicked call from her old partner, PC Andy (Tom Price), saying they need her right away at the police station. Andy’s a pretty steady guy, but he seems very upset.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 12: "Fragments"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 12: “Fragments”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 12: “Fragments”

Chris Chibnall puts that old chestnut, your life flashing before your eyes just before you die, to good use in “Fragments,” managing to avoid most of the clumsiness inherent in the typical origin story. It doesn’t sit well that we’re finally learning how Jack (John Barrowman) built his team just as it appears we’re about to lose them all. “Fragments” is satisfying in that it answers many questions about our Torchwood Team, but ultimately it suffers from being nothing more than an extended setup for Chibnall’s pull-out-the-stops season finale.

The episode opens with the team, sans the over-sleeping Gwen (Eve Myles), arriving in the SUV to round up the four or five aliens that Toshiko (Naoko Mori) has detected during routine scans. Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd) calls Gwen to meet them ASAP; the other four enter the deserted warehouse to take the aliens into custody. The warehouse is completely still, leading to speculation that the aliens are sleeping; Ianto thinks they may be hatching, which would explain the silence. Jack rounds a corner and sees a small, blinking device, and realizes that there are no aliens. The whole thing was a set-up, and the readings Tosh registered were in fact being emitted by explosive devices. The timers count down to zero, and an impressive explosion blows out all the windows. How could anyone survive that? We have to wait until after the credits to find out.

Torchwood Recap Season 2, Episode 11: "Adrift"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 11: “Adrift”
Torchwood Recap: Season 2, Episode 11: “Adrift”

His mother laughs and calls him cheeky; she turns away from the window, expecting him at the door in the next moment. But the boy never reaches home. Within the next step or two, a wind has kicked up, and we hear the sound of electrical discharges. The boy looks up, and the camera spirals around him, circling closer. His cellphone clatters to the grating in the sudden silence.

Torchwood Recap Season 1, Episode 13: "End of Days"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 13: “End of Days”
Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 13: “End of Days”

Following the new Doctor Who’s tradition of ending each season with a cataclysmic event, “End of Days” brings Torchwood’s premiere run to a mostly satisfying conclusion. I could fault writer Chris Chibnall for eliding far too many important details, but there’s no need for such a tedious reckoning. What he has given us is an enjoyable combination of characters, alien technology, and an unknowable so far outside our understanding that we want to label it supernatural. Desperate love wreaks havoc, but simple faith can (apparently) repair all.

We pick up shortly after the events of Captain Jack Harkness, with Gwen (Eve Myles) staring lovingly at a sleeping Rhys (Kai Owen). Their morning idyll ends quickly when Jack (John Barrowman) phones and asks, “You watching the news?” It’s not all hell breaking lose out there, it’s all time, with people from past ages, and futuristic air/spacecraft from the future, suddenly appearing all over earth. The initial interpretation was that these events were a series of stunts, but as they continue, everyone realizes that Something Very Bad is happening.

Torchwood Recap Season 1, Episode 4: "Cyberwoman"

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Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 4: “Cyberwoman”
Torchwood Recap: Season 1, Episode 4: “Cyberwoman”

Torchwood dips into its Doctor Who back story (“Army of Ghosts”, “Doomsday”) in this sorry mess involving Cybermen, bathetic love, a pterodactyl, and a hapless pizza delivery girl. Redeeming qualities are few, but we can always hold out hope that the pterodactyl was mortally wounded and won’t return.

As “Ghost Machine” showcased Owen (Burn Gorman), “Cyberwoman” belongs to Ianto (Gareth David-Lloyd), which proves to be the episode’s undoing. Gorman’s visible terror and barely contained rage stand in stark contrast to David-Lloyd’s adolescent bleating and blubbering. Ianto is written here as a resentful and rather stupid adolescent, and David-Lloyd’s over-the-top performance does nothing to convince us he’s not.