Saturday, June 18, 2016

NuWho Reviews: The Snowmen, The Bells of Saint John, The Rings of Akhaten

The Snowmen

You know, it has occurred to me that a number of "prequels" to episodes, which aren't included on DVDs or in the regular viewing, would actually help fill in confusing elements of the episodes. It seems a little unfair to those who couldn't watch along as they air. The British are oppressing me. I'm going to throw tea in the closest river.

ANYWAYS

We are in the very beginnings of the Victorian Era, when a child builds a snowman. The snowman starts talking to him and tells him that the other children are stupid and he needs no one else.

And then the child was locked into an insane asylum because things sucked back then.

The child, Walter Simeon, grows up to run the Great Intelligence Institute. It's basically the equivalent of those clubs for people with "high" IQs that mainly do crossword puzzles and congratulate themselves on their cleverness. Anyways, some employees gather snow for him, and then he feeds them to living snowmen.



Meanwhile, the Doctor is now a private detective. No, really. He is working with Madame Vastra, Jenny, and

STRAAAAAAX

Strax is back! He's a bit brain damaged but he makes a good butler.

Usually.

Meanwhile, there is a barmaid who is OSWIN???


Here, her name is Clara Oswin Oswald. She hears a noise outside and discovers the Doctor. Intrigued (because, really, the Doctor just stands out no matter how hard he tries), she follows him and asks what he's doing. The Doctor wants to wipe her mind with a memory worm (remember when this was a sad thing for him to do?), but they are attacked by snowmen. He thinks she is somehow causing it, and tells her to think of the snowmen melting. Since this works, the Doctor reluctantly lets her go without wiping her memory. Naturally, she follows him at a distance, discovering a hidden staircase that leads up to the TARDIS. Then she plays knock and run.

It turns out this barmaid has another job during the week: She is a proper governess to a Captain Latimer, hiding her cockney accent (except when she uses it to amuse the children). The girl has been having nightmares of their previous governess, who drowned in their pond, returning to hurt them. Clara sees that it is the only thing still frozen, and goes back to find the Doctor. After a meeting with Madame Vastra, Clara manages to catch up to the Doctor and tells him the word that will get his attention: pond.

The Doctor visits the Super Smart People For Realz You Guyz Institute, and pretends to be Sherlock Holmes because this is the BBC, and this is the Victorian era. The Doctor speaks to the Great Intelligence (because the Eleventh Doctor met him before the Second Doctor, and time travel is strange and confusing). After speaking with the Great Intelligence, the Doctor goes to the Latimers' house to look at the pond.

And the dead governess is now a White Walker.


Simeon arrives; the plan is to use the governess' body to make more White Walkers. While Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax help them to fight her off, the Doctor drags them to the roof of the house. They make it to the TARDIS, but White Walker Lady pulls Clara off the cloud, and she falls to her death. (Well, not quite death. She is surprisingly whole and manages to die in a rather dignified manner, because this is family show and intestines spattered on the ground is a bit much.)

The Doctor and Vastra go back to We're Totally Legit SRSLY Institute. There, he tricks Simeon into grabbing a memory worm, reasoning that the Great Intelligence is attached to him, but...it isn't. Mainly because Yog-Sothoth is literally time and space but that's beside the point.

Also, the Doctor shows the Great Intelligence a map of the London Underground, making things much worse for his past self. Good job breaking it!

Simeon dies, and the Great Intelligence fades away. The psychic snow is affected by the Latimers, who are mourning Clara. So, instead of snow, we get salt water. The Doctor attends Clara's funeral, which is when he realizes she has Oswin's name. Realizing he has a mystery on his hand, he stops sulking and takes off to find her again.

In present day, another Clara walks by Victorian Clara's grave...


So, this was a very fun introduction to the mystery that is Clara. How can she appear in two wildly different time periods? I also liked how this helped give her some development: she starts out as a mystery, but becomes much more to the Doctor.

...

Aww, screw it. Here's a Frozen joke.



The Bells of Saint John


Someone has lost their soul to the Internet.

No, that doesn't mean he's just spent too much time looking up funny cat pictures and watching Netflix. He has literally been uploaded to the Internet.


Meanwhile, the Doctor is hanging out at a monastery, trying to figure out this Clara business. The monks mention the title of the episode, and the Doctor discovers that the phone on the TARDIS is ringing. Though the Doctor doesn't recognize her voice, who should it be but Clara! She says "the woman in the shop" gave her the number, and she is having trouble with her Internet.


Anyways, the Doctor discovers who Clara is when she uses a mnemonic to remember her password: "Run, you clever boy, and remember".

So, the Doctor pops up where Clara is babysitting. She is very very confused by him, and does what a normal person would when a strange man shows up wearing a monk's habit: kick him out. The Doctor changes, but when he returns, she is being uploaded by a spoon robot. I don't know, I don't understand Yog-Sothoth's sense of humor either. Anyways, he does some magic hacking and pulls her back, puts her in bed with some jammie dodgers, and cools his heels outside until she wakes up.

Now that the confusion is over, the pair head off to find out what is going on. Clara has developed magic hacking abilities (much like her future counterpart), thanks to the corporation that has been dragging people into the Interwebz, and finds out the source of the uploading. Their morning includes the Doctor busking by letting people see the TARDIS appear (which gets meta again, because face it, we'd all give the Doctor our spare change just to see the TARDIS materialize) and getting some brunch. While the corporation uses their puppets to annoy the Doctor, it tries to take Clara again via a robotic server.

The Doctor takes off on a bike to the Shard building, where he confronts the villain of the piece, Miss Kizlet. And reveals that he is a hacked robot, and the real Doctor is hanging out at the coffee shop, keeping an eye on Clara's unconscious body.



And then UNIT arrives, spoiling everything. For the Great Intelligence. Everyone's memories are wiped, and poor Miss Kizlet is revealed to have been taken when she was just a child. What is it with the Great Intelligence mind enslaving children? That's just creepy, bro.

It ends with Clara telling the Doctor to come back in the morning, and she'd make up her mind about travelling with him by then.

I feel like this was the proper introduction to Clara-not her counterparts, but the real person. She has an obvious adventurous side, and as much as I dislike where they've taken her character, I can't say that it's inconsistent.


The Rings of Akhaten

Hands up, how many people read that as "Akhenaten"? Just me? All right, good to know I have a monopoly on ancient Egypt nerd-dom here.

The Doctor has been spending his time observing Clara's past, trying to understand her. One of those between episode episodes showed us talking to her as a child; here he discovers how her parents met (a leaf blew into her dad's face, he fell into the road, and her mother saved him), and that Clara's mother died when she was a teen. After this, he pops back into Clara's present, offering her an adventure, which she happily accepts.

The Doctor takes her to the titular Rings of Akhaten, a planet orbited by other planetoids which he once visited with Susan. One planetoid has a pyramid, so you can totally see where I got the ancient Egypt thing, right, RIGHT?

Anyways, it's a very pretty place, although Clara (who still has the leaf that brought her parents together, how has it not fallen apart?) thinks it's odd that payment is made with items of sentimental value. After being separated from the Doctor, she meets a little girl named Merry, who is the Queen of Years. The girl has to sing a song at a ceremony, and she is afraid she'll get it wrong. Clara encourages the girl, and after finding the Doctor they attend the ceremony to watch Merry sing.

Merry's song is intended to keep "Grandfather" asleep. It does not work, as she is dragged toward the pyramid. This is why worshipping the Great Old Ones is a bad idea, kids. So the Doctor and Clara go rent a space motorcycle (yes, space motorcycle) and ride off to the pyramid.



Inside the pyramid is a mummy, trying to escape from its glass case. Oh, so we're doing The Mummy now? Okay, I can see Clara as a clumsy librarian. We can do that. The mummy wants to consume Merry's "soul", or rather, all the memories and songs she has. Creatures called the Vigil try to keep them from leaving, and they are dressed in some steampunk kind of jacket. While the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to hold the door open, Clara and Merry escape; but he mummy breaks out. Some light hits the planet...which is revealed to be Unicron.

NO I AM BEING SERIOUS. The entire planet of Akhaten is actually a giant old god-thing. The Doctor tries to overwhelm it with his memories while Clara and Merry lead everyone in a song of, like, happiness or something, but even that isn't enough.

So Clara offers her leaf, which is filled with "endless potential" or something, and Unicron implodes.

It's a leaf of endless potential because...umm...JUST EAT THE LEAF

And so, the Doctor and Clara leave, having utterly destroyed the religion of an entire planet, return home, trusting that chaos and societal breakdown will not ensue.

Clara remembers seeing the Doctor at her mother's funeral, and the Doctor explains that she looks like someone he knew, but assures her she isn't a replacement.

Because she's the same person, and Clara is confusing.

So, while I liked the set up, I thought the ending was a bit...sentimental and trite. However, we can be happy that this Clara has survived two whole episodes! She's doing better than Rory at this rate.

Tune in next time for another stupid sci-fi warrior race, a haunted house mystery, and Moffat deciding that he hasn't traumatized us enough yet.

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