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Anticipating Journey, Crimson, Nightmare and Name

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Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull looks ahead to the final four episodes of Series 7.

Note: the following article contains information regarding the forthcoming four episodes. For those who want to remain ‘blind’ about them, I suggest you do not read on.

“You are the only mystery worth solving.”
– the Doctor.

What amazes me about the seventh series of Doctor Who is the diversity of each episode. With each week comes a new genre – an ‘urban thriller’ for The Bells of Saint John, a touching character drama in the form of The Rings of Akhaten, a tense ‘base-under-siege’ yarn was Cold War and finally a unique horror story in Hide – Doctor Who has never been so rich in contrasting tales. Just like last time I will examine the next four upcoming stories and give my opinions on them.

The Doctor, played by Matt Smith.

doctor-who-journey-to-the-centre-of-the-tardis-promo-pics-(26)Puzzled and mystified, the Doctor is on a mission to discover whom Clara; “the woman twice dead” is. He, like his audience, is desperate to know but no answers have been presented to us. As displayed in Hide, the Doctor is despairing to the point of obsession and it appears his want to discover more about Clara will drive the pair apart. What would interest me is her finding out about her other two selves (Asylum of the Daleks and The Snowmen) as so far she hasn’t known about the Doctor’s ‘quest’.

Steven Moffat’s characterisation of the Doctor has been very much to my liking lately. He has toned down the madman in a box shtick and has made the character more serious, while still keeping the ‘madcap toddler’ feel. Matt Smith’s acting has been of the highest degree, and as Graham Kibble-White said in his review of The Bells of Saint John in DWM 459: “Matt Smith illuminates every scene with endless invention. It’s all exquisitely judged.” I particularly found his performance in the first two episodes of the series captivating and first-rate. If he maintains this, by further mellowing his rendition of the Eleventh Doctor then Series Seven may be his best.

The Companions

Clara, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman.

doctor-who-journey-to-the-centre-of-the-tardis-promo-pics-(34)I don’t know about you but I have been loving Jenna-Louise Coleman lately. The character of Clara, and the conundrum that surrounds her has kept me glued to the show every week.  The Rings of Akhaten was my highlight of her so far, and I found the maternal side she displayed with Merry Gejelh (a beautifully understated execution by Emilia Jones) engrossing. It also backed up the slightly unsupported idea that Clara is a childminder to the Maitland family.

There are hundreds of theories about Clara and her confusing displacement throughout time, ranging from the simple to the extraordinary. I don’t have any, neither a valid hypothesis. I can only hope that we get satisfying closure, and that Steven Moffat doesn’t bungle up an intriguing mystery. What I’d like to see in the remaining month we have of Doctor Who is more of Clara’s background explored. The Bells of Saint John was mainly verbal whilst The Rings of Akhaten showed us the origins of the maple leaf and how it led to her parents’ meeting, further delving into her past. The more we see of her, the more the pieces of the puzzle start to slot into place.

Note: the following  characters are not formally credited as ‘companions’ but still feature throughout the forthcoming episodes, and work as the role of ‘companion’.

Madame Vastra, played by Neve McIntosh.

series-7-part-2-coming-soon-trailer-(24) jenny vastraLast seen in The Snowmen, “the veiled detective of Paternoster Row”  Madame Vastra will return later in the season in The Crimson Horror and The Name of the Doctor. I recently gave 2012’s Christmas special a rewatch and I found myself liking her. Vastra was a amiable enough character, although after her appearance in The Crimson Horror, we may be sick of her by The Name of the Doctor.

Jenny Flint, played by Catrin Stewart.

Madame Vastra’s “fatuous accomplice” and wife, Jenny Flint was rather pointless in The Snowmen. She didn’t provide anything of value to the Doctor. She hardly helped, and her presence in the Christmas special was unnecessary. Jenny didn’t annoy me, her presence was just unwanted in the grand scheme of the episode. I have a theory that in The Name of the Doctor, when  “someone kidnaps the Doctor’s friends”, she, Strax and Vastra will be characters taken hostage by this mystery foe, either that or they’ll help the Doctor recover the captives.

Commander Strax, played by Dan Starkey.

Strax is probably my favourite out of the Paternoster Gang because of the contrast in his character. Sontarans are traditionally battle-craving warriors who seek death on almost everyone. Commander Strax, on the other, is a butler in the Victorian era, assisting two woman, something the mighty Sontaran Empire would heavily frown upon. His ignorance towards other cultures is hilarious, and the ‘memory worm’ scene [in The Snowmen] makes me laugh every time. If there was ever a character I’d like to return, it’d be Strax.

The Maitland Children, played by Eve De Leon Allen and Kassius Carey Johnson.

Last week, when the synopsis of Nightmare in Silver was released, fans were shocked to discover the names of Clara’s wards: Artie and Angie appear in the text. It hadn’t been announced that they would return in the series and unless this is a typo, the Maitland kids will be making a comeback. The likely scenario for them is either that Clara sneaks them onboard the TARDIS, or they do it alone, or the Doctor even materializes around them (à la Dinosaurs On A Spaceship). He could invite them to see Hedgewick’s World of Wonders, a dilapidated theme park that was once “the greatest [theme park] in the galaxy” and they arrive to discover the Cybermen are lurking. I’m actually really happy that the Maitland youngsters are joining Clara and the Doctor as it has been a long time since youths have travelled in the time machine.

The Villains and Monsters

Terror within the TARDIS: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

doctor-who-journey-to-the-centre-of-the-tardis-promo-pics-(30)Not much is known about the antagonists of tonight’s TARDIS-based extravaganza, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS but from the synopsis the BBC has released, we will discover some hidden enemies within the titular Time Lord’s ship. These “ossified monsters” could be anything: a stowaway from the classic series? A brand-new foe? My guess is the latter, I don’t know why, but as much as I’d like to see a classic villain return, I don’t think it’s happening in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.

Trouble in Sweetville mill: The Crimson Horror.

series-7-part-2-coming-soon-trailer-(33) Rachael StirlingOne of the questions I am pondering in the upcoming Gatiss-penned story is what exactly is the Crimson Horror. Is it a plague? Or a sentient being? From the launch trailer, we glimpsed Rachael Stirling: possessed. Could it be a creature that bewitches people? Could it be a disease that infects individuals? My curiosity has been most definitely piqued. Apparently “bright red and waxy” bodies are washing up in the local watercourse. Dame Diana Rigg is making an appearance as the mysterious Mrs Gillyflower, the owner of the Sweetville mill. Could she be spearheading the deadly Crimson Horror?

Resurrection and Death at Hedgewick’s World of Wonders: Nightmare in Silver.

series-7-part-2-coming-soon-trailer-(31) cybermenThe Cybermen are back. After their previous debacle [Closing Time], the metal menaces have been taken under the wing of Neil Gaiman, a man highly skilled in Doctor Who. His writing flair will hopefully reinvent them, and ditch the ‘Cybus’ design, first seen in Tom Macrae’s Rise of the Cybermen. The Mondasian aliens now look a bit like Iron Man, with the chestplate and all, but this is definitely a good thing, and I think it suits them. They also look much more sleeker, a step up from their chunkier past bodies. Gaiman might add something else to them. Another way of killing? Or something more? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Abduction of the Allies: The Name of the Doctor.

“Someone is kidnapping the Doctor’s friends, leading him towards the one place in all of time and space that he should never go.”

series-7-part-2-coming-soon-trailer-(28)The hotly anticipated Series Seven finale has a very interesting premise, leaving us pondering many questions. Who is kidnapping the Doctor’s friends? Why are they doing this? And which friends are being taken?

The Great Intelligence seems a likely option after he appeared unannounced at the end of The Bells of Saint John, as Miss Kizlet’s ‘client’. Richard E. Grant is a superb actor and I wanted him to return after his stint in The Snowmen. When my wish came true, I knew we would be further graced with his presence.  I could be wrong however and the Great Intelligence may not be the villain of The Name of the Doctor, rather the 50th Anniversary special in November. The Silence are the odds-on favourite to return, and I join them, not because I like the Silence, but because I want closure for their storyline.  We’ve also got the mysterious Whispermen, a brand-new adversary for the Time Lord. I found a theory that they could be either a branch of the Silence, or enemies of the Silence. What would be quite a twist is if they were actually on the Doctor’s side. It seems unlikely, as their physical appearance is so unsettling. Then there is the maxim that you should never judge a book by its cover.

I could be wrong on both accounts and a new nemesis may come to light but the Great Intelligence seems the most probable foe for the grandiose finale.

Episodes

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, written by Stephen Thompson.

journey-poster-landscapeA quest to the core of the most powerful ship in the universe; the Doctor’s faithful assistant is trapped inside; a deadly enemy is stuck with her; and a salvage crew plan on deconstructing the TARDIS.

The Curse of the Black Spot was one of the most disliked stories of Series Six. It doesn’t have much of a fanbase and is disregarded by most fans. Stephen Thompson, the man behind it has now taken on a heavily anticipated concept of Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. I wasn’t looking forward to the episode, really, but then I remembered Thompson penned The Reichenbach Fall, the dramatic finale of the second series of Moffat’s other show, Sherlock. After a quick re-watch I rediscovered just how good it is, and how surprising Sherlock’s death was. If Thompson pulls off something to the scale of The Reichenbach Fall, he could become my favourite writer of this series.

The Crimson Horror, written by Mark Gatiss.

crimson-poster-(1)Waxy, blood-red bodies wash up in Victorian Yorkshire; the Paternoster Gang make a comeback; Dame Diana Rigg is the enigmatic Mrs Gillyflower; something terrible is going on at the Sweetville mill.

After the disappointing Ice Warrior revival Cold War, Mark Gatiss had better redeem himself with his second series outing: The Crimson Horror. The premise is enticing, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a romping historical. The Paternoster Gang return, to the joy and anger of the fandom, and Dame Diana Rigg and her daughter Rachael Stirling star. Waxen corpses appear in the river in a Victorian Yorkshire town and the Doctor and Clara investigate the local Sweetville mill. To quote Doctor Who TV: “It’s… Doctor/Clara lite”: The Crimson Horror appears to be our first Doctor and companion-lite episode since Love & Monsters. I wonder how the episode will get on with just the Paternoster Gang taking centre stage.

Nightmare in Silver, written by Neil Gaiman.

nightmare-poster-(2)The greatest theme park in the universe; a dysfunctional army; a chilling resurrection of an old foe; the Cybermen have returned.

Neil Gaiman has become a household name in the Whoniverse. His masterpiece, The Doctor’s Wife remains one of the best Doctor Who episodes (ever) to date, and when it was announced he was scripting another, fans were feverish. The Cybermen have deserved a redesign for a while, and Moffat acknowledged their last excursion, Closing Time was poor. It’s no wonder he asked Gaiman to reinvent the Cybermen.
I hope the writer brings something different and original to them, otherwise it won’t unique. However, knowing the fantastical mind of Neil Gaiman, Nightmare in Silver is going to be something really special.

The Name of the Doctor, written by Steven Moffat.

poster-series-7-finaleWhen the title of Series Seven’s finale was announced, I was ecstatic. The Name of the Doctor sounds absolutely fantastic and I think it might be the highlight of the series. We get to discover the Doctor’s “greatest secret” (most likely not his name), see old “friends”, and a new villain: the Whispermen. Steven Moffat’s latest script, The Bells of Saint John was by far my favourite of his for a long, long time and if The Name of the Doctor is as good as that, he will rocket upwards in my books.

The BBC have graced Doctor Who with a sizable budget, and that has been displayed in the first four episodes – particularly The Rings of Akhaten, so who knows what we’re going to see in the next month.

Brand, spanking new Cybermen; murder in Victorian Yorkshire; loads of unseen rooms within the TARDIS; the Doctor’s “greatest secret”… oh I just can’t wait!

Step back in time...

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