Top of the Docs: Series 13 plus Specials (2021/2022)

A new era is about to dawn but first we have some last minute victories from Chris Chibnall, the lead writer of the series.  Love him or hate him, he did contribute to the overall lore of the series… for better or worse.  I’m not sold on his ideas and feel he basically came into the sandbox and broke the toys that were left there simply because he could, but the nice thing about Doctor Who is that it can be repaired.  There are plenty of examples throughout the series 59 years so far where fans hated something that eventually was either embraced or forgotten.  So, it’s time to wrap up Jodie’s era and share our thoughts.

series 13 and specials

The Halloween Apocalypse

RP: 7 – Chris Chibnall finds his mojo with an arc story and a genuinely frightening monster. The fact that the Doctor doesn’t remember his enemy, but his enemy remembers him, makes some good use of the pre-Hartnell idea. An effective start to the Flux season.

ML: 8 – A solid opener for the Flux, with a scary villain and the setup of some new mysteries.   Brought down a bit by Chibnall’s signature style of hurling ideas out there at breakneck speed without any hope of actually making sense of it, but as an opening, definitely above average.

War of the Sontarans

RP: 7 – I never thought the Sontarans could be restored to a credible threat so soon, after becoming little more than comedy villains during the Eleventh Doctor era in particular, so this one really surprised me. The way they are defeated undermines some of that good work.

ML: 7 – Chris really lets us down by that spaghetti-at-the-wall writing style.  I loathe when the Doctor is written to be racist (or speciesist).  I also hate when a cliffhanger is set up only to be utterly ignored one week later.  This had the potential to be something amazing and actually dropped in quality from part one.  Thankfully helped by a little real life history lesson, and good use of the “fam”.  Tension is kept on high giving this episode its above average score.

Once, Upon Time

RP: 6  – This one really starts to show the potential of the pre-Hartnell story, but the companions getting stuck in their own timelines feels like padding to delay getting to the business end of the season arc.

ML: 7 – Again, an ignored cliffhanger like that’s good storytelling or something!  Some bad use of Whittaker where Martin was needed, but still manages to be in the above average category, even if only by a point, but the fact that the tension is kept high and the acting is excellent.  Surprising even to me, I can tell you.

Village of the Angels

RP: 9 – An episode that does family-friendly horror stuff for almost the entire running time, and does it very well indeed. The writers don’t seem to be trying to do anything more ambitious than just frightening us, but that’s fine when it works this well. The scariest Weeping Angels episode since their debut.

ML: 10 – When the biggest complaints you can muster about an episode are about the villains earlier appearances in the series, you’re in good standing.  This episode gave me chills and was a wonderful hour of Doctor Who.

Survivors of the Flux

RP: 9 – The Serpent is a superb villain, and his interference in UNIT history is clever. I love Prof. Jericho in a temporary sort of companion role. This episode does a lot to reinstate the Doctor as a mysterious figure, which is something that has been mostly lacking from the show since the 60s. The Doctor’s refusal to open the fob watch is a truly selfless and heroic moment.

ML:  8 – How does anyone come off the previous week and not be annoyed by the hand-waved resolution?  Still manages a solid above average score but loses a little something being so exposition heavy.  I want to give a higher score just for having a voiceover from Lethbridge Stewart, but that’s not really fair, is it?

The Vanquishers

RP: 9 – Chibnall finds a clever way to bring all the disparate plot strands together and have the Doctor involved in everything. The Sontarans are brilliantly written, once again, and this is a beautiful restatement of the Doctor’s values and beliefs, told within a story that gives us a much deeper understanding of the universe she inhabits. Loads of food for thought here.

ML: 3 – Definitely a below average finale to what was a great season otherwise.  Probably deserves lower.  The “hero” attempts murder on a galactic scale and leaves another villain floating in space, alone.  Too much exposition, too easy a wrap up and a finale without a hero… the only thing to redeem this was a decently depicted villain.  Very disappointing end to an otherwise strong series.

Eve of the Daleks

RP: 3 – A Dalek repeatedly winning against the Doctor in a time loop just doesn’t sit right with me, undermining the character and his past history with the Daleks in a fundamental way that the pre-Hartnell idea is often accused (wrongly) of doing. It happens with the Doctor trapped in a huge building, with plenty of objects and people around to help her. Deeply silly. And it tries to do Groundhog Day or Heaven Sent (to keep things closer to home), but fails spectacularly at the most important aspect of those stories: the main character’s learning curve.

ML: 1 –  Just like Chibnall to undermine himself.  Right after the last episode, we’re already back to the Daleks which takes away what they just went through.  On top of that, having the Doctor die over and over, undermines Every.  Single.  Encounter. Ever. Before!  Does Chibnall know what show he was writing for?  And what was the story with the love interested between Yaz and the Doctor?  Huh?

Legend of the Sea Devils

RP: 4 – If a writer is going to mine the past, it’s not a bad idea to dig a bit deeper than the usual suspects, but this really doesn’t have a whole lot going for it other than the impressive visuals and the return of an old monster. The action is all over the place, and it’s all a bit of a mess, but it is quite fun at times.

ML: 5 – Meh.  Average really.  Sea creatures in an undersea vessel… with a room full of air so they can have a chat doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that’s Chris Chibnall’s most characteristic writing style.  Still, we did have a good adventure episode which is all this really had to be.  The Sea Devils looked great and I am throwing in a point for their scream.

The Power of the Doctor

RP: 10 – Hey, I’m a Doctor Who fan. The emotional return of Classic Doctors and companions was always going to guarantee this a 10 from me. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, and proud of it. Chibnall came good in the end.

ML: 10 – Well, that did it… Chibnall brought tears to my eyes on three occasions in this one story.  There’s real love for the source material here, the multi-Doctor sequences are amazing and the stuff between Aldred/McCoy and Fielding/Davison was just superb.  Gloriously fun ending.  Amazingly Chibnall really pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the end… and maybe a can of nitro 9 as well!

I am as stunned as anyone to say such great things about the end of Whittaker’s era, but let me be clear: I think Jodie was a great Doctor; I think her stories were horrible.  Capaldi got a season to fix his reputation as the Doctor and ended up being one of my absolute favorites.  Whittaker won’t get that luxury, but she did go out with a good story.

Chibnall’s era has been all over the map, but in the end, it was a fun romp.  Can’t wait to see what happens next.  ML

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1 Response to Top of the Docs: Series 13 plus Specials (2021/2022)

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Farewell, Jodie. Despite much of the unfair writing for your era, I enjoyed your Doctor. Thank you, RP and ML, for your Top of the Docs.

    Liked by 1 person

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