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Dan Starkey (#110 of 6)

Doctor Who Recap Season 8, Episode 1, "Deep Breath"

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 8, Episode 1, “Deep Breath”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 8, Episode 1, “Deep Breath”

Last August’s announcement of Peter Capaldi’s casting as Doctor Who’s new leading man was met with almost universal approval. The highly respected actor’s long list of film and TV roles includes two previous appearances in the Doctor Who universe, as Caecilius alongside David Tennant’s Doctor in 2008’s “The Fires of Pompeii,” and his powerful performance as the doomed civil servant John Frobisher at the center of the Torchwood miniseries “Children of Earth.” In the whimsical early scenes of “Deep Breath,” with the TARDIS being vomited onto the banks of the Thames in Victorian London by a time-displaced dinosaur that had accidentally swallowed it, Capaldi gets to have fun with the Doctor’s traditional post-regeneration wackiness—and some of his funny moments resonate strongly with those in Tom Baker’s first episode nearly 40 years ago.

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 11, "The Crimson Horror"

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

BBC

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 2012 Christmas Special, "The Snowmen"

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Doctor Who Recap: 2012 Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”

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Doctor Who Recap: 2012 Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”

Jenna-Louise Coleman, playing the Doctor’s new companion Clara, has certainly received the most protracted and complex introduction into the series of any regular cast member ever. She made a surprise appearance in the opening episode of this season, “Asylum of the Daleks”, portraying not Clara but a different character named Oswin Oswald, a crew member of a far-future spaceship who died after having been captured by the Daleks. This year’s Christmas special (like “Asylum,” written by showrunner Steven Moffat), was expected to be the episode that would see Clara introduced and begin her traveling with the Doctor. But Moffat, the master of unexpected plot twists, has faked us out again—apart from one brief glimpse, the Clara we see in this episode is not the companion-to-be. After the events of “The Snowmen,” while we can definitely welcome Jenna-Louise Coleman aboard Doctor Who, Clara remains, for both us and the Doctor, an enigma.

Doctor Who Recap Season 6, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 6, Episode 7, “A Good Man Goes to War”

Before this split season began, showrunner Steven Moffat promised that the first half would end with a “game-changing” cliffhanger—and, for me at least, “A Good Man Goes to War” delivers on that promise, even though it’s not so much a cliffhanger as a turning point. Rather than some artificial bit of jeopardy interrupting the story, the episode ends with one particular skirmish in what looks to be a much longer battle resolved, while the final revelation means that the relationships between our four central characters—the Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill), and the enigmatic River Song (Alex Kingston) can never be the same again.

Doctor Who Recap Season 4, Episode 5, “The Poison Sky”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Poison Sky”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 4, Episode 5, “The Poison Sky”

In the comments section for “The Sontaran Stratagem,” Joan wondered why at the close of the episode “...no one thought to break the window of the car while Gramps was asphyxiating.” And so “The Poison Sky” begins with Donna’s mother, Sylvia, doing just that. It’s a huge anticlimax for the cliffhanger, but I would argue that the whole point of a cliffhanger is in the hang, not in the resolution in the next episode. Cliffhanger resolutions almost by their very nature are destined to suck, because if our heroes succumbed to the disastrous situations they’re left in, there would be no more show. We always want the resolve to be as thrilling as the minutes that preceded it in the narrative, but there’s a big difference in the first couple minutes of an episode, and the final moments of another. And there’s no point in delivering the best you’ve got at the start, right?