Sunday, April 14, 2013

Doctor Who Series 7 Episode 8: Cold War — Review and Reflection

Hello Everyone,

With the advent of On Demand, DVRs and instant streaming video, I figure it's somewhat relevant to post reviews of ongoing series. In fact, once they update the site, you can download-buy it here (update: it's now available):

I've been a Doctor Who fan since I discovered it, which, relatively, was pretty late. Not since the reboot was in its 3rd season (or "series" as the Brits refer to them). I quickly realized it was the absolute best show on television; even more, the best show I've ever seen.

Six AMAZING series of Doctor Who and a dozen (or so) specials and it seems that the Doctor can do no wrong — or at least, not anything to get worked up over.

Yet, the entirety of series 7 with possibly 2-3 exceptions (read these exceptions as not letdowns, but nowhere near Who-quality) has been letdown after letdown. To the point that my darling fiancee won't watch it anymore without an episode being vetted. ...yes, it's gotten that bad. The fact that she still hopes for it to return to former glory shows you how amazing it once was. So how does "Cold War" measure up?


Let's review. This week's entry is called, "The Cold War" and this is a nice punny title as it is both the return of the famed ice warrior race and also the source of the primary drama with their stay on a Russian sub equipped with nuclear missiles.

I thought the ice warrior's armor was well done and looked quite imposing and cool (not as cool as bow ties, but cool)

For those of you that are unaware, the ice warriors are a reptilian race from Mars that have a cybernetic tank suit. They're a warrior race (I know, right?) with a caste system and buttloads of honor issues.

You can guess where the story is going pretty immediately, and the only "surprise" comes from what's under the suit. Hint: it's bad CG and visual effects.

I've heard stories of the big reveal of what's under the daleks' armor shells and how it was in the news (real news) that it would finally be revealed, and I can only hope they handled THAT reveal better than this. As my future wife says, just because you CAN use CG, doesn't mean you SHOULD use CG.

There was some character development and it was nice to see Clara start to become more human-like instead of just a collection of memes. It's looking more like her origins will become clear in the 50th anniversary if the hints they are dropping have any relevance besides geeking out the Whovians.

The submarine seemed spacious and well-lit, but otherwise was a nice piece of set design and was a great set for a story.

Final Grade: OK, but I probably won't be recommending it to my future wife.

Reflection (Spoilers Ahead)

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I just need more from Doctor Who than this. It was just OK and that's not anything.

"What?" You might be saying, "What?! WHAT?!"

It's right up there with the other non-letdown of Series 7, "A Town Called Mercy". For the record, "Asylum of the Daleks" was spectacular in my opinion, Who-level. "Snowmen" was good, but not technically part of Series 7 as it was the Christmas special. "OK" or "non-letdown" is quite bad.

I usually try to write reviews without reading others, but I am astonished at the cries of, "The Doctor is back!" and citing this episode as a return to the good. It was a return to the mediocre! Which after the bad is quite nice, but it's still mediocre!

The big inconsistency of the episode that struck me was how high the ceilings on the roof of the submarine were. Maybe that's how Russian subs were in the 1980s, but it screams a design of convenience for the episode instead of for authenticity.

Somehow the reptile is able to perch on the ceiling and pick up full grown adult males with two hands. It does this ninja style to the point that people are dead before someone standing right next to them knows, disposes of the body, and apparently can disappear from sight (since the camera never pans up, it's unclear how this is happening, but we see the head shrouded in shadow at one point, so I guess the well-lit sub is just really dark above head level).

We lose track of why the ice warrior abandoned his armor (which is apparently quite dishonorable). We're told it's because he's desperate, but well, his armor is basically a tank, impervious to their bullets, and able to break the chains that hold him. So why would he dishonor himself if he didn't need to? 

So Clara's birthday is the same day as the launch of the original Doctor Who and her mum died on the day the 9th Doctor met Rose. Oooookayyyyy. 50th anniversary here we come!

What's up with the super-attachment the Doctor has developed for his sonic? It's crossing the point of a useful object to almost moe level affection on his part. We had last week where he refused to give up the sonic and forced Clara to give up a ring (quite a dick move really), and this week his reaction to getting the sonic back. It's very odd. What are they building up to? A new tool?

And although this week it was subtle, after last week's hitting us over the head with the power-of-singing theme, it was quite annoying to see Clara sing again at a crucial moment. I almost wanted the ice warriors to transmit down, "Ssssseriousssssly? We were going to let your world live, but ssssssinging at a time like thisssssssssssssssssssssssssssss?"

There's just no feeling there. We start to see Clara as a human but even then, it's a far cry from what we have been used to. I read last week about people crying over the Doctor's "epic speech"
(Here you go if you forgot or missed it)

But it was just the same old-same old delivered very well by Matt Smith. The fact that it's good, powerful acting doesn't remove the fact that it's ridiculous. I think you have been blinded by your own bias towards Doctor Who. See the "What What What What" video above for my reaction to hearing you cried.

I Adore Doctor Who. I giggle and cheer and cry and cherish the show, and I can forgive cheese and the occasional low-point and even minor inconsistencies, "hand-waving", and questionable motives and plans of the baddies, but it's lost its soul.

There's no heart in Doctor Who Series 7, which before had twice as much heart as any other show. The Doctor has become too capable. Where before he would run from the enemies, now he runs to them and does a standard intimidation speech (like the one you just witnessed; minus the tears, but with the righteous fury intact).

And really now, if everyone and their mom knows about the Doctor still, wouldn't the daleks have re-figured out who he was even if they had their own systems wiped of his info? I mean, the dalek in "Dalek" of Series 1 downloaded the entire Internet in under a minute.

The entire Series 7 has been on fast-forward and each episode is existing only to provide the single piece of the puzzle that will not be revealed until the season finale or 50th anniversary.

This is possibly more forgivable now, since it will eventually be revealed. In the first half of Series 7, there wasn't even any build-up. It was just, "this is what we want to get through with Amy and Rory, let's do it!"

There's always obvious questions that pop up. If the ice warriors have an empire, why wouldn't they have been involved in the Pandorica? One easy way they could have left it open for them would be to have shadowy figures unrevealed or have other races in the spaceships that are unrevealed.

I don't know. I can't keep justifying an hour to watch a mediocre show. That's 9 hours of television in Series 7 counting the Christmas special, 1 hour at normal Whovian levels ("Asylum of the Daleks", episode 1), 1 hour at good levels ("The Snowmen", Christmas Special), and 2 hours at OK level. The most emotion I feel after watching these episodes is the frustration, bitterness and depression of having watched another hour of wasted potential.

Update: If you'd like to read Series 7 Episode 9's review, it's now available here.

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