Although Can You Hear Me? was kind of a muddled mess, it was not terrible. The biggest problem it had was the fact that The Eternals cannot die, so the writers had to think of a clever way for them to be defeated. While this is an interesting challenge, it does create a lot of hassles with the overall storytelling in that a 45-minute episode simply may not be able to do it justice with a resolution. In this instance, I think the episode needed another 10-15 minutes to tighten things us and flesh things out. It felt awfully hurried and tried to do too much.
Also, the epilogue with Yaz and Ryan talking in the TARDIS was emotionally powerful stuff. It clearly set the table for some kind of transition with the companions without being heavy-handed. The Yaz backstory was a nice touch and really added dimensions to her character.
Much has been spoken about Graham’s conversation with the Doctor about his cancer possibly returning. While this really upset a lot of viewers it should be noted that the Doctor has always been somewhat emotionally detached from his and her companions. There have been some exceptions to this, but at various times over the series, we’ve seen The Doctor come off as emotionally cold. So, for me, that aspect of the story wasn’t a big deal. Here though, it came off as cruel. I understand that by making the Doctor so distant and detached you are emphasizing the alienness of the character. I know it was meant to be a powerful moment that affected the Doctor/companion dynamic, but it misfired. They had an opportunity to really make a point on mental health and fighting cancer, but it fell flat.
Choosing that aloofness to be to happen over a conversation about a cancer concern was a poor decision, How could anyone expect there to not be blowback of some kind for the BBC and the production team, who as reported by The Radio Times, has been handling this week?
Another thing that bugs me is this, I understand they were going for a heart-tugging moment, but for some reason, this era of the show is failing at tugging on heartstrings on a regular basis. With the possible exceptions of Rosa and Demons of the Punjab, the series has a connectivity issue. for some reason, it cannot create intriguing moments between characters in the way that the Tennant and Smith eras did. I don’t see this as the end of the world, but it is incredibly annoying.
I also think the scene where The Doctor retrieves her sonic screwdriver to escape was really poorly executed and contrived. In fact, this Doctor suffers from using the device way too often. It has become irritating. It has become a plot device that serves as a way to shorten exposition in episodes.
On the positive side, I did like Tahira and thought she was an interesting character. As with most characters this season we meet her and get very little texture in character development, but overall I thought she was a refreshing addition. Mandip Gill, tossing Cole and Bradley Walsh were great and pulled their own weight. They were the only real meat in the stew. Ian Gelder was fantastic as Zellin and was genuinely scary.
The ongoing use of elements of horror in the current season is a nice shoutout to the Hinchcliffe years. I think this story would have worked better as a straight-up horror story. I am hoping the next three episodes continue really use this aspect of the show. Throughout his career, Chibnall has always written horror fairly well. Whether it be the obvious or the monstrous of everyday people. Diving into deep SF is where he has often fallen off the wagon. So, I am hoping the rest of the season plays to his strengths as a writer.
Again, the overall tone was okay and the acting wasn’t bad either, However, the writing is again an area of improvement that really needs to addressed after this year. Maybe they could go back to using writers who are familiar with the genre or whom have written for the show before.
Can You Hear Me? was a cauldron of boiling stuff (mental health, ancient Syria, cancer, a race of super-beings you cannot kill, the Doctor’s mysterious past etc..) that simply tried to do too much. It wanted to touch on a bunch of key themes before the windup to the series finale, but sadly it collapsed under its own weight.
In addition to all the happenings of Gallifrey 31, this week has some news on what some former Doctor Who actors are up too and a cool announcement from Big Finish!
THE HAUNTING OF VILLA DIODATI
Episode eight, The Haunting of Villa Diodati finds the Doctor and her friends in historical surroundings alongside Lord Byron, Mary Shelly and Percy Shelley. It’s an old school ghost story with lots of suspense and probably Cybermen.
I want this one to be good.
The Doctor and gang arrive at the Villa Diodati, Lake Geneva, in 1816 , on a night that inspired Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The plan is to spend the evening soaking up the atmos in the presence of some literary greats – but the ghosts are all too real. And the Doctor is forced into a decision of earth-shattering proportions…
Here are videos and promo images from the Episode eight.
Episode eight was written by Maxine Alderton and Chris Chibnall with Emma Sullivan directing.
ASCENSION OF THE CYBERMEN
A redesigned and more vicious version of the Cybermen are returning to Doctor Who for the season’s two-part finale.
Giving a throwback nod to the ’80s version of the beloved baddies, the first part of the finale appears to be a fast-paced epic that will close out many of hanging plotlines from the season. It also will most likely see the departure of several, if not all of the current companions.
In the far future, the Doctor and her friends face a brutal battle across the farthest reaches of space to protect the last of the human race against the deadly Cybermen. The aftermath of the Great CyberWar. The Doctor arrives in the far future, intent on protecting the last of the human race from the deadly Cybermen. But in the face of such a relentless enemy, has she put her best friends at risk? What terrors lie hiding in the depths of space, and what is Ko Sharmus?
Julie Graham guest stars as Ravio, a character in the action hero mold. Steve Toussaint also appears s Feekat.
Episode nine was written by show runner Chris Chibnall and directed by Jamie Magnus Stone.
MANDIP GILL INTERVIEWED
Mandip Gill has spoken out about finding work as an Asian woman and overcoming her Leeds accent when auditioning for roles.
Interviewed by The Mirror, Gill spoke about her travails.
I think what I’ve struggled with more than being Asian and being a woman, because they’re difficult in themselves, is being Northern. As soon as I opened my mouth the amount of times people have gone, ‘Oh God, you’re Northern’. That sort of ruined it for them.
SIR MICHAEL PALIN JOINS TORCHWOOD
Big Finish turned heads and dropped jaws this week when they announced that Sir Michael Palin will appear in a new Torchwood audio adventure.
Written by Tim Foley, Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4 is directed by Scott Handcock and stars John Barrowman as Captain Jack
You are listening to a self-help tape. You are hearing a soothing voice. You have always wanted to do something with your life, haven’t you? Oh, how you’ve ached to be a better person. Well now. This is your chance. Go on. Sit back. Close your eyes. Relax. You’re going to learn all about Captain Jack Harkness. You’re going to learn all about Torchwood. You’re going to change the world.
Tropical Beach Sounds and Other Relaxing Seascapes #4 will be released in April.
CAPALDI STARS IN THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD
Those who miss seeing Peter Capaldi will be glad to know that the Scottish actor has been very busy. In addition to wrapping filming on Suicide Squad, his appearance in The Personal History of David Copperfield sees him reuniting with Armando Iannucci for more onscreen magic.
As he mentioned at DragonCon 2018, Capaldi appears as Mr. Micawber in the film.
PIPER IN I HATE SUZIE
It appears that Billie Piper could have another hit series on her hands. A veteran of several successful television shows beyond Doctor Who, her newest project, I Hate Suzie is an intriguing drama about the trappings of fame, fandom and life in the spotlight. Here is the trailer.
The eight-part Sky TV series features Piper as Suzie Pickles, a star on the wane, whose world is turned upside down after her phone is hacked and an image of her in a compromising position is leaked.
The series reunites Piper with series writer Lucy Prebble and former Doctor Who producers Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter,
TENNANT ON STAGE
After appearing in a number of high profile television roles David Tennant is returning to the London stage in CP Taylor’s Good. Set in 1930s Germany, the play is being produced and staged by Fictionhouse for a ten-week run at Playhouse Theatre from October 6th.
Taylor’s play about how good people succumbed to the evils of Nazism is getting a fresh coat of paint form acclaimed director Dominic Cooke.
CHICAGO TARDIS UPDATE
Big Finish’s Jason Haigh-Ellery, Michael Troughton, Mickey Lewis, Shobna Gulati (shown below), Bhavishna Parmer and Jimmy Vee have been added to the roster for Chicago TARDIS 2020.
Jimmy Vee is best known for playing Bannakaffalatta in Voyage of the Damned, as well as the Graske in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Actor, writer Michael Troughton is the son of Patrick Troughton, Shobna Gulati and Bhavnisha Parmar star as Yaz’s mom and sister, Najia and Sonya Khan in the current series. Also announced is Mickey Lewis, who has played a variety of roles in Doctor Who.
Held from November 27-29 in Lombard, Illinois, Chicago TARDIS is the Midwest’s largest annual Doctor Who gathering. For more information visit: http://www.chicagotardis.com
Next time…Convention News, wrapping up Season 12, The Faceless Ones on DVD and more Big Finish news.