Timestamp: Series Eight Summary

Doctor Who Series Eight Summary

Timestamp Logo Twelfth

Peter Capaldi’s freshman series was a mixed bag.

The Twelfth Doctor marked a significant shift in the franchise, re-introducing the alien quality and emotional distance to the main character that existed in the classic era and the Ninth Doctor’s single season. We were also treated to another attempt at the “regeneration gone wrong” story trope, which played with variable results in Logopolis and The Twin Dilemma.

The Doctor questions himself, Clara questions herself, and the relationship between them is stressed as it faces growth or breakage. In the totality of this series, it has done both.

This version of the Doctor pondered if he was a good man. He’s on the heels of (presumably) saving Gallifrey – an act that is tossed in his face by Missy as she pokes at his weaknesses – and has often looked down upon humanity until he realized just who he truly was in the final moments of Death in Heaven. The Doctor grows into his new skin, realizing that he is nothing more than an idiot with a magic box and a screwdriver who passes through, helps out, and learns. The Doctor grew well over the course of this series.

Clara, on the other hand, experienced negative growth in this go-round. She pushed her limits in stories like Flatline, but also lied (a lot!) and manipulated people, effectively becoming a reflection of the Doctor with very selfish motivations. She lied to the man she loved to keep traveling with the Doctor, and she intended to extort and betray the Doctor in an attempt to save Danny’s life by way of a temporal paradox.

To that end, Clara’s arc represents lost potential centered around what Davros and Rory have both pointed out in the past: Traveling with the Doctor can turn companions into worse people. Tegan knew it too. This series could have explored these waters, either culminating in a tearful goodbye for the relationship in Last Christmas or subverting the idea by having Clara evolve into a markedly better person. Instead, we got something more indecisive.

That’s a pretty good marker for this series, in fact, with the constant recycling of tropes and murky character motivations leading into rather disappointing stories at the end.  Yes, that includes both times that this series exercised the Black Dude Dies First trope, the latter of which was coupled with the Stuffed into the Fridge trope.

As an aside, someone on Facebook wondered if I was racist by pointing this out. That answer is no. The trope stems from the history of cinema where black actors purposely kept clear of leading roles. As times changed and more actors of color were cast in bigger roles, they were treated as token actors and their characters were often killed off first. It has been used less and less over time but has also given rise to the equally reprehensible Bury Your Gays trope.

The overall muddled path for the series translates into the scoring. Series Eight earned a 3.6 average. That is far from spectacular, leaving this set of stories at twenty-second out of thirty-six effective seasons since the Timestamps Project started. That’s more than halfway down the list.

It’s a shame since I do love Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. The stories that he has been handed are not doing him any favors, and neither is the treatment of his companion. I still stand by the opinion that Clara’s conclusion should have been Last Christmas.

Deep Breath – 5
Into the Dalek – 4
Robot of Sherwood – 2
Listen – 4
Time Heist – 4
The Caretaker – 3
Kill the Moon – 2
Mummy on the Orient Express – 4
Flatline – 5
In the Forest of the Night – 4
Dark Water & Death in Heaven – 3
Last Christmas – 3

Series Eight Average Rating: 3.6/5


Next up, the Timestamps Project tackles the ninth series of Doctor Who, followed by the single series of Class and then Series Ten. Series Nine will be a shorter set of analyses since most of the stories are two-parters.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Magician’s Apprentice and Doctor Who: The Witch’s Familiar
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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #263: Last Christmas

Doctor Who: Last Christmas
(1 episode, Christmas Special, 2014)

Timestamp 263 Last Christmas

And to all a rushed denouement.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. On the roof, however, the sound of a crashing sleigh and untethered reindeer awaken Clara Oswald. She looks upon the unlikely sight of Santa Claus and his elves, Ian and Wolf, trying to recover from the accident. Clara tries to dismiss the reality of Santa Claus, but the trio dismisses her instead. Even Santa challenges her belief in fairy tales as the Doctor arrives.

The Time Lord ushers Clara inside the TARDIS, prompting her to comment on how much she missed it. The Doctor asks if she truly believes in Santa, and she replies that she does. After all, the Doctor has returned at Christmastime.

At a base near the North Pole, a group of scientists are tracking a woman named Shona as she enters an infirmary. The scientists tell her not to worry about “them” and focus on something else, and when she enters the infirmary, she begins to dance to Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody. She’s warned to not look at the beings in the room and the music helps her do that. When she reaches the end of the room, she finds the Doctor and Clara, and their presence brings her mind back to the beings.

Those creatures begin to move, homing in on the constant image of themselves in the victim’s memory. The Doctor tries to distract Clara from the threat by invoking the memory of Danny Pink, and Clara slaps him, finally revealing that Danny is dead.

As the scientists rush into the room, a mass of crab-like creatures descends from the ceiling. The attack is presumably stopped by the arrival of Santa, the elves, and an army of toys. Santa orders the victims back to bed, then introduces himself to the collective humans. He also shows the threat to the Doctor, revealing that Kantrofarri – “dream-crabs” – have invaded Earth.

The group retires to a different room to discuss the threat. The dream-crabs are likely killing everyone as they blur the lines between dream and reality. In fact, reality and fantasy are difficult to tell apart because both are ridiculous. The Doctor and Clara both admit that they lied about the circumstances around their previous parting in an attempt to help each other move on.

The Doctor and Clara find Shona, who is interrogating Santa and the elves, and review the CCTV footage with Ashley of the four crew members who discovered the Kantrofarri. The same beings who are currently in the infirmary. The dream-crabs only wake up when someone thinks about them, and scientist Albert compares them to facehuggers from Alien. Humorously, the Doctor is beside himself that a horror movie was made about extra-terrestrials.

Notably, the polar expedition team refuses to explain its mission.

Clara goes to check on the captured crab and soon finds herself face to “face” with it. She awakens in her room with Danny in a Santa suit to surprise her for Christmas Day. Clara is enthused, but also sees notes on a blackboard similar to the Doctor’s warning her that she’s trapped in a dream. Outside of the dream state, the Doctor and the expedition team discuss how to save Clara from the dream-crab. The only way they know of is to kill Clara, which the Doctor refuses outright. The Doctor turns to Santa, who seems immune to the Kantofarri, and asks for a dream-crab so he can enter Clara’s dream.

The Doctor arrives as Clara and Danny snuggle near the Christmas tree. The Doctor tries to convince Clara that everything she sees is a fantasy. He tells her that the Kantofarri is literally liquefying her brain and Danny encourages her to move on from her grief. She can still mourn, but she can limit it to five minutes.

With tears in her eyes, Clara accepts the truth and wakes up. The Doctor wakes up next to her and the dream-crabs disintegrate from the stress. As the team investigates the remains, they all remark that they still have the “ice cream” pain in their heads. The Doctor leads them to the conclusion that they’re all still dreaming and have been since the first meeting in the infirmary. The rescue by Santa Claus was a dream. The Doctor uses the manuals in the base, which should all be identical, as proof that the humans are still trapped in the dream state. With help from Santa and the elves, manifestations of their brains acting as warning signs, the team wakes up in the infirmary.

The team narrowly avoids the original four team members and seals the infirmary. The Doctor and Clara take their leave with the knowledge that if the expedition team doesn’t free the Kantofarri, they’ll be fine. Clara asks why Santa was on her roof, prompting the Doctor to rush back into the base and question the number of people inside. There are four manuals but eight people in total, and everyone is still in a dream state. This is confirmed by another test with the manuals. As the beings in the infirmary rise, aware of the approaching endgame, the dream morphs into a nightmare that kills Albert.

The team runs for the TARDIS, but it too is a construct. The dream-crabs multiply and the Doctor suggests that they all dream themselves home. Santa Claus and his sleigh materialize above them as an escape pod. When the Doctor asks, Clara admits that she’s always believed in Santa, but he’s always looked different to her. With that, she gives the Time Lord a hug. After that, the Doctor takes the reins and flies them around London in a fun-filled fantasy.

Each person beings to remember their real life outside of the dream. One by one they awaken, each in their proper time and place. The Doctor awakens on a volcanic planet and rushes to Clara’s side as she decides to remain in the dream state. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to free Clara of the dream-crab, but finds that it has been 62 years since they said goodbye in the coffee shop. Clara is now 89 years old.

They sit together in the living room and share Christmas hats. She admits that there were plenty of admirers, but only one man besides Danny ever measured up. Sadly, he was impossible. They open a Christmas cracker together and the Doctor apologizes for not returning sooner. His wish is made a reality when Santa enters the room and whispers “wakey-wakey”.

The Doctor awakens one last time, rushes to Clara’s side, and removes her from the dream. She hasn’t aged a day, and the Doctor invites – rather, begs – her to travel with him once again.

As they dematerialize together, a Christmas tangerine sits on the window sill as sleigh bells ring.


What we have here is a fun mind-bending adventure marred by a terrible ending. Jenna Coleman was planning to leave the series with this story but changed her mind at the last minute thanks to Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat. Since the decision was made so late in the process, the script was revised at the eleventh hour, resulting in this rushed and hackneyed conclusion.

Before that decision was made, Shona was intended to be the next companion. I adore Jenna Coleman, but this should have been her exit based on everything that transpired over the last series of episodes. She got her chance to say goodbye to Danny and to the Doctor, and Clara’s departure here would even make this episode’s title make sense. After all, it is the last Christmas.

It’s yet another stumble by Steven Moffat.

Otherwise, we get the usual Christmas episode fare mixed with elements of Alien, The Thing from Another World, and even Miracle on 34th Street. Coincidentally, these are all of the films that Shona had intended to watch on Christmas Day.

Just like Amy’s Choice, this adventure was mostly a dream. We also get nods to The Time of the Doctor with the Christmas cracker and The Claws of Axos with Clara doing multiplication tables to avoid thinking about the threat. It was also quite fun to see Dan Starkey outside of his normal Sontaran garb as the elf Ian. We also see the first on-screen appearance of Michael Troughton, son of Patrick Troughton and brother of David Troughton (The Enemy of the World, The War Games, The Curse of Peladon, and Midnight). Notably, both younger Troughtons would take on their father’s role in audio stories.

All of this spooky fun is spoiled by that ending. It just drags the whole thing down. The dream-crabs were such a fascinating and scary idea, and this twisted holiday story would have been so much stronger as Clara’s swan song with a bittersweet goodbye over Christmas.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Series Eight Summary

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #262: Dark Water & Death in Heaven

Doctor Who: Dark Water
Doctor Who: Death in Heaven
(2 episodes, s08e11-12, 2014)

Timestamp 262 Dark Water Death in Heaven

A long-lost friend returns.

Dark Water

Clara is ready to confess her travels with the Doctor to Danny. She’s left Post-It notes around to remind her of everything she wants to say, but she starts with “I love you.” She continues with how he’s the last person she’ll ever say that to, but the line goes silent.

A woman picks up the line and tearfully apologizes.

Danny Pink was hit by a car. He died in the accident.

Clara mourns. She’s numb from the experience. She’s visited by her grandmother, but consolation does nothing. She claims that Danny was ordinary and boring, though she obviously doesn’t believe it. She claims that the universe owes her better. So she calls the Doctor.

The Doctor picks her up and she asks him to take her to an active volcano. While she asks, she gathers all seven of the TARDIS keys and hits the Doctor with a sleep patch before navigating the TARDIS to a volcano. She remembered when the Doctor explained what could destroy a TARDIS key and systematically throws them in the lava while demanding that the Doctor fixes Danny’s death.

The Doctor refuses to create the paradox, and after Clara throws the final key into the lava, the enormity of what she has done hits her. The Doctor asks her to look at her hand, revealing that he reversed the patch in order to see how far she would go. The pair are still in the console room. The Doctor gathers the keys as Clara asks about the state of their friendship. He suggests that she should go to Hell, and when she takes that as the end of their relationship, he clarifies that he meant it literally. He’s going to take them to the afterlife to find Danny and bring him home. Almost every culture in the universe has a concept of the afterlife. The Doctor sees the extremity of her desire to see Danny and, despite his fury at her betrayal, he agrees to do everything he can. The generosity of forgiveness is overwhelming.

He wires Clara into the TARDIS’s telepathic circuits and she pilots the craft to Danny. Meanwhile, Danny wakes up in the Nethersphere. Seb offers him a cup of coffee as Danny realizes that he is dead.

The TARDIS takes Clara and the Doctor to the 3W Institute. The place is dark and filled with tanks of water. Each tank contains a skeleton seated in a chair, placed in tombs after death. They are eventually greeted by Missy who pretends to be a Mobile Intelligence Systems Interface as she kisses the Doctor. The Doctor is displeased. The Doctor is also mildly surprised when Missy takes his hand and presses it to her chest to feel her heart.

The subtext in this meeting is amazing. It’s also foreshadowing that is easy to miss if the viewer isn’t paying attention.

Missy calls for Doctor Chang. Chang continues the tour as Missy smirks and the skeletons look on. Meanwhile, in the Nethersphere, Seb introduces the afterlife to Danny while asking if he has ever killed anyone. This is due to Danny’s time in the army which forces him to relive the “bad day” when he killed a child. This child has apparently requested to meet Danny and appears before him. The kid runs away when Danny tries to reach out.

Chang takes the Doctor and Clara to learn about Dark Water. Only organic matter can be seen through the substance, and each skeleton is encased in a protective shell. (More foreshadowing!) The Doctor poses as a government inspector and interrogates Chang.

Together in separate places, Danny, the Doctor, and Clara learn that 3W’s founder, Dr. Skarosa, found telepathic communications from the dead in white radio noise. The dead are conscious and aware of everything happening to their bodies. Danny feels cold because his body is being stored in a cold place while his soul is in the Nethersphere.

While the Doctor mocks this idea, Chang establishes a connection between Danny and Clara. The Doctor tells her to ask questions to which only Danny would know the answer.

Meanwhile, Missy activates the tanks. The skeletons all stand.

Chang takes the Doctor to investigate the skeletons. Missy reveals that she was pretending to be an android and then kills Chang. The Doctor is shocked as the tanks drain to reveal an army of Cybermen, and he’s more shocked to see the Nethersphere floating in the air near him and Missy.

The Nethersphere is a Matrix data slice, a Gallifreyan hard drive, and it holds the minds of the dead while they are transferred into upgraded bodies. Missy reveals that she is a Time Lord – Time Lady, please – who the Doctor left for dead. The Doctor runs out of the building, which is really St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Clara is unconvinced that she’s talking to Danny, and he tells her that she needs to move on. That she cannot find him where he is now. He forces her to disconnect the call, and Seb offers him a chance to delete himself to avoid feeling the immense sorrow of leaving Clara behind.

In 3W, Clara looks behind her to see a Cyberman in a tank. She tries to run, but the door is locked. Outside, the tanks all open and the Cybermen march. The Doctor tries to scare the onlookers away, but Missy only mocks him. The Doctor demands to know who she is, and she tells him that she’s Missy. Short for Mistress.

She couldn’t keep calling herself the Master, after all.

In the Nethersphere, Danny almost presses the delete button. Then he sees the kid he killed in the screen’s reflection.

Death in Heaven

Clara takes refuge behind a desk until a Cyberman finds her. To save her own life, she poses as the Doctor. Outside the cathedral, the Doctor is astounded to see the people of London posing with the Cyberman as if they were a carnival attraction. When Kate Stewart and Osgood show up, the bystanders are revealed as UNIT operatives. They take Missy into custody, but the Cybermen open up the cathedral dome and the cyborg army lifts off into the sky.

The same repeats around the world, leaving one Cyberman per major metropolitan area. Each of those Cybermen explodes and pollinates the air. Inside the Nethersphere, Danny and the kid look on as the lights start going out and the dead are transplanted into new bodies. The Doctor is unable to get the answers he needs when both he and Missy are shot with tranquilizer darts and taken away. Before the Doctor succumbs, he tells Osgood to focus on the graveyards.

Sure enough, that is where the new cyber-storms empty their rain, eventually flooding cemeteries and funeral homes with the contaminated water. In no time at all, the dead rise in upgraded Cyberman bodies. One of them is Danny Pink, who was previously laying in rest at the Chaplet Funeral Home.

The Doctor is awakened as the TARDIS is loaded into a UNIT plane. Kate has yet to find Clara, and explains that his cooperation is to be ensured since UNIT assumes that he won’t automatically do so. The Doctor has also been elected as the President of Earth, much to his chagrin.

Clara is still within St. John’s Cathedral and trying to negotiate with three Cybermen. They don’t buy her ruse, but it doesn’t need to last long since a single Cyberman approaches from behind. That unit concurs that Clara is an incredible liar, knocks her out, then destroys the three Cybermen holding her hostage.

Missy wakes up to see the Doctor hovering over her, asking why she’s still alive. Her presence is due to the Doctor saving Gallifrey, and Missy seems to know where Gallifrey is located. She refuses to tell the Doctor, and their discussion leads Osgood to deduce that Missy is the Master. As the Doctor is summoned to the conference room, Osgood tells him that the storm clouds have expanded to cover the landmasses. The Doctor offers her a spot as his companion, which pretty much seals her fate.

All around the world, the dead have risen as the new Cyberman army. Clara awakens in a graveyard as more start to rise, but these models wander aimlessly. On the UNIT plane, the Doctor realizes that the Cyber-pollen contains the data to convert the dead. The Cybermen are newborns, unable to attack since they haven’t yet linked to the Cyberiad.

Kate tells the Doctor that they were previously investigating 3W before getting a call from a Scottish woman. He presumes that the caller was Missy because the Master loves to show off his/her diabolical plans. Down in the cargo hold, Missy goads Osgood, revealing that she will kill the scientist soon. Missy distracts her with a countdown before displaying that she is free and vaporizing Osgood. Soon after, she summons the Cybermen to attack the plane. The Doctor returns to the cargo hold to find Missy.

In the graveyard, Clara confronts the Cyberman who saved her. After she refuses to admit where the Doctor is, the Cyberman removes its faceplate to reveal Danny Pink’s face. Danny asks for help, begging to have his emotion inhibitor turned on to eliminate his grief.

Missy admits that she’s been traveling up and down his timeline, salvaging the people who died saving him. When the TARDIS phone rings, she further reveals that she was the woman who gave the Doctor’s phone number to Clara. She was also the person who placed the newspaper ad in Deep Breath. When he picks up the phone, he hears Clara on the other end. She tells him about Danny’s fate and tells him to home in on her phone. He’ll either show up or he won’t, but Clara is set on helping Danny.

When Kate comes below, Missy blows out the hull before transmatting back to the Nethersphere, sending Kate into free fall. The Doctor plummets after Kate, falling into the TARDIS on the way. When Seb celebrates, Missy vaporizes him.

The TARDIS materializes in the graveyard and the Doctor warns Clara that if she removes Danny’s emotions, Danny will kill her. Danny denies it, but the Doctor tells him that pain is a gift. Without the capacity for pain, we can’t feel the hurt we inflict. The catch is that Danny cannot tell the Doctor what the plan is unless the emotions are removed.

The Doctor is left in a quandary. Clara relieves him of that by taking the sonic screwdriver and activating the inhibitor. Before she does, she says goodbye and apologizes to Danny for not being better. Danny reveals the plan to kill off humanity and resurrect the dead as Cybermen, thus eliminating the human race.

Missy transmats into the graveyard and offers to take away Clara’s pain by killing her. The Doctor swats the device away and Clara picks it up before returning to Danny. Missy activates the army with her bracelet, then offers command of the forces to the Doctor. With this army, the Doctor would have the final say in every great battle in the history of the universe. He can even save the people suffering in the Dalek camps. The universe would be at peace forever.

The Doctor rejects the notion, but Missy tells him that she needs her friend back. The Doctor ponders again if he is a good man but then has an epiphany. He declares that he is not a good man, nor a bad man, nor a hero, nor a president, nor an officer, as Danny had described him. He is an idiot, with a box and a screwdriver, passing through, helping out, learning. He has companions and knows that love is a promise, not an emotion.

This is why Danny won’t hurt Clara.

The Doctor passes the bracelet to Danny. The new commander of the Cyberman army orders all of the drones to lift off worldwide, destroying themselves in the clouds to burn away the threat.

Missy – the Master – is defeated. She recites the galactic coordinates of Gallifrey, claiming that the planet returned to its normal place. Clara considers killing Missy but relents at the Doctor’s bequest. The Doctor then tells Missy that she won before turning the device on her, but a blue blast comes from behind, seemingly disintegrating her.

The Doctor looks behind to see a single Cyberman. It gestures to Kate’s prone but alive form on the ground nearby. She was saved by this Cyberman, who in the Earth’s darkest hour still served the side of right. The Doctor offers the Brigadier a salute before he flies away.

Two weeks later, Clara is awakened by Danny’s voice. The bracelet that Missy used offers the chance to bring one person from the Nethersphere to the living world. Danny uses it to restore the kid he killed, asking Clara to find his parents and send him home. Later on, the Doctor finds Clara in a coffee shop and spots the bracelet. He wrongly assumes that Danny returned home, and further assumes that Clara will no longer be traveling with him. He also tells her that he found Gallifrey…

…except he didn’t. Space at those coordinates was empty. Missy lied, and the Doctor wept in rage and sorrow.

The Doctor tells Clara that he plans to go home, eager to reform Gallifrey into a good place. Clara continues the lie about Danny’s return and offers to say goodbye with a hug. The Doctor agrees, remarking that he doesn’t trust hugs because they are a way to hide your face.

The Doctor departs with a thank you from Clara. Traveling with him made her feel special, and he returns the thanks for the same reason. Clara walks away and doesn’t look back.

Later, the Doctor is brooding alone in his TARDIS when he hears someone knocking at the door. From behind the door, presumably in deep space, a voice says that the story cannot end like this because neither Clara nor the Doctor is okay. The voice belongs to Santa Claus, and in a swirl of snowflakes, he asks a puzzled Doctor what the Time Lord wants for Christmas.


Let’s take care of the elephant in the room. The first sin of this story is a typical sci-fi trope: They killed the only black main character.

The second sin: They fridged him.

Danny Pink’s death was an effort by Missy to engage Clara and the Doctor in her master plot. I cannot praise this story without first acknowledging how it played into two major tropes that exploit minorities, both of which Steven Moffat should have avoided in this story’s development. It also highlights the rather unhealthy relationship between the Doctor and Clara, particularly in the need for sneaking around and manipulating each other to get something done. Clara’s relationship with the Eleventh Doctor was far more healthy, and that one was based on his obsession with her.

A big mythological step from this story is the Missy revelation. While the show has previously acknowledged the concept of Time Lords changing genders – the examples are all from the revival era, specifically The End of TimeThe Doctor’s Wife, and The Night of the Doctor – this firmly establishes it with the regeneration of the Master (who we haven’t seen since The End of Time, which aired four years prior to this set). Notably, the term “Time Lady” has not been used in a revival-era televised story before this point. It was previously used in City of Death in reference to Romana.

The same holds for the term Prydonian, one of the most powerful chapters (think colleges or houses) on Gallifrey. It was introduced in The Deadly Assassin and explored in the novels.

Not counting the big gaps between Survival, the TV movie, and the 2005 revival, this hiatus for the Master is on par with the breaks between Frontier in Space, The Deadly Assassin, and The Keeper of Traken. The Master’s plan is diabolical – the planet Earth has no shortage of corpses given a worldwide death rate of 1.8 people per second – but also really, really squicky. It’s no wonder that the BBC had to release a statement defending the story’s points after receiving complaints from viewers.

Part of that unease comes from the “cameo” by the Brigadier at the end. I’ll defend the Master’s plan and I get what Steven Moffat was going for, but personally, the Cyber-Master was a step too far. Sure, Missy could travel through time and space to secure the Brig’s consciousness at the moment of his death, but why would she open that weakness in her own plan? It doesn’t make sense.

It’s also notable that this is not the first time that the Cybermen have converted the dead. We saw the practice before in The Pandorica Opens. (Spoilers: We’ll also see it again in a few years within the franchise.)

The return of the Cybermen marks another point in the Steven Moffat trend of ending a series with the menace. To this point, every penultimate episode of every series under his reign as executive producer – The Pandorica Opens, Closing Time, and Nightmare in Silver – has featured the Cybermen. This was one of the best features in that list, especially with the visual callback to The Invasion and the iconic march near St. Paul’s Cathedral. This story also calls back to a similar awakening from The Tomb of the Cybermen.

The return of UNIT in the second half really throws a wrinkle in the story. It’s nice to see Kate and Osgood again, though Osgood’s death was meaningless. The story pretty much threw her away for shock value, continuing a revival-era tradition of killing potential companions after being invited to travel. You know, like Lynda Moss, Madame de Pompadour, Astrid Peth, Jenny, Rita, and Clara Oswin Oswald.

The plot point of making the Doctor into the President of Earth – some sort of UNIT contingency plan for a worldwide catastrophe – seemingly comes from thin air and really drags on the story’s tempo. It only serves to set the stage for a less than exciting dive-into-the-free-falling-TARDIS moment as the presidential jetliner is torn apart. It further boggles the mind that the Doctor did not even try to save Kate, leaving her fate (ahem) up in the air until the deus ex machina Cyber-Brig revelation.

Otherwise, the Cyber-Danny elements provide a good exercise in exploring the meaning of Doctor Who, and close the loop on the good man/bad man theme that has served as the backbone for this series. It’s evident that this was the moment that Steve Moffat wanted in this story, leaving the rest of the spectacle to meander to this point.

The story continues to meander right up to the credits, providing a meaningful moment as the Doctor fails to find Gallifrey but another exercise in toxic relationships as the Doctor and Clara say their prevaricating farewells.

But, hey, at least we got Missy playing Mary Poppins. Because Mary Poppins is a Time Lord, y’all.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Last Christmas

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Debrief: Dragon Con 2022

Debrief: Dragon Con 2022
Atlanta, GA – September 1 through September 5, 2022

Boom! Dragon Con 2022 is in the books!

And it was an experience of highs and lows.

Attendance was reported at 65,000, and while it was definitely higher than the 42,000 from 2021, it was still pretty manageable. The big issue was the convention’s pandemic precautions (or lack thereof… more on that later), but I could still get behind an attendance cap in the 65,000 to 70,000 range. It felt comfortable enough.

As usual, we did a lot of good charity work this year. Open Hand Atlanta will be receiving at least $190,000, which is $70k more than we raised in 2021.

Dragon Con was also a getaway from reality that I really needed. Life and work have been insanely busy lately, and it was refreshing to decompress with the geek family, especially the former Scapecast folks that my wife and I hadn’t seen for three years.

On to the discussion!

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Timestamp #261: In the Forest of the Night

Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night
(1 episode, s08e10, 2014)

Timestamp 261 In the Forest of the Night

Forest conservation saves the world.

A schoolgirl runs through a forest in search of a doctor. Instead, she finds the TARDIS. When he answers the door, the Doctor finds himself among trees instead of in London (where he expected to be). He and the girl have a discussion inside the TARDIS about Clara, Danny, and the inner dimensions of the blue box.

The TARDIS refuses to start because it’s exactly where it’s supposed to be. The forest is actually Trafalgar Square. The trees have returned to London with a vengeance.

Meanwhile, Danny and Clara are chaperoning a group of students on a museum sleepover trip. After they deal with an annoying student, they pack up and head for the exit. On the way, one girl notes that a tree cross-section shows a thick red ring, leading Clara to quip that it was a good year to be a tree. When the class exits the museum, they find that the city has been flooded with trees. Danny goes to the roof to scout out this development as the world responds to the invasion with panic and awe.

Clara phones the Doctor and finds out that the little girl in the TARDIS, Maebh, is one of Clara’s students. Clara asks the Doctor to bring her by as Danny chastises Clara for talking to the Doctor. The students dismiss the argument as Clara and Danny being in love.

Danny and Clara lead the group through the forest as they discuss the trees. Once they rendezvous with the Doctor and Maebh, they find out that the forest sprung up overnight. The Doctor is unable to get any readings and decides to move everyone into the TARDIS for safety, but he soon finds out how bad that plan was when the kids start playing with the console and touching everything.

Danny notices folders of homework assignments that Clara left in the TARDIS, prompting the Doctor to search for Maebh. Clara explains that Maebh is fragile and hears voices, which the Doctor interprets as the girl being on a different frequency. The Doctor tracks Maebh with Clara’s phone as Danny remains skeptical that Clara ever left the Doctor’s side. The children persuade Danny to follow.

Maebh encounters teams from the government who are trying to burn paths through the trees. She’s frightened, so she continues to run but leaves items along her path like breadcrumbs. The Doctor and Clara also find the burn team and are amazed to see that the fire has no effect. The Doctor believes that it’s because trees control the oxygen and can suffocate the fires.

The Doctor also reveals that Maebh has accurately predicted a massive solar flare that will destroy the planet. He believes that this is because Maebh has lost someone close to her, so she’s always looking and observing, searching for hope in the world.

The whole crisis is further exacerbated when the trees break the gates at the zoo, releasing the wild animals to chase Maebh, Clara, and the Doctor. The wolves jump the fence and run away scared, but that’s only because of a large tiger that has now arrived on the scene. Luckily, Danny arrives with the kids and scares the tiger off with a flashlight.

The Doctor notices that Maebh is waving at the air above her head and refuses to give her any medication. Maebh runs to a lighted area and explains that her own thoughts in her grief led to the forest’s growth. The Doctor is able to illuminate the beings swarming around Maebh, making them present as fireflies while they explain that they are the lifeforce of the trees. They have been and will always be there and are aware of the powerful solar flare. The lights leave and Maebh is freed from their thrall.

Clara realizes that this threat cannot be stopped and urges the Doctor to use the TARDIS as a lifeboat. They arrive at the TARDIS and Clara tells the Doctor that he should leave without them, but the Time Lord refuses. Earth is his planet too. He’s reminded that the trees were flameproof and boards the TARDIS, leaving the humans behind. Once the realization strikes him, he returns to Earth and summons everyone to the TARDIS. He explains the threat to the kids, which accidentally frightens them, then reveals that it has happened before, namely in the Tunguska and Curuçá events. The red ring in the museum exhibit is proof.

Maebh offers to appeal to the world. The Doctor calls every phone in the world simultaneously and Maebh advises everyone to remain calm and leave the trees alone. She also asks her sister to come home. When she’s done, her mother arrives and their reunion inspires everyone except Clara to turn down a trip to space to watch the flare. Clara will join the Doctor after the children are returned home, and Clara apologizes for lying to Danny. She and Danny then share a kiss, which proves the children right about those dating rumors.

From the TARDIS, the Doctor and Clara watch the flare harmlessly strike Earth. Missy watches as well, surprised at the resolution. Later on, the trees vanish as the Doctor and Clara watch, and Clara is surprised to realize that the people of Earth will forget that this ever happened.

Finally, Maebh and her mother return home. When they arrive, a hydrangea vanishes like the trees did, revealing Maebh’s lost sister, Annabelle.


This is a fairly interesting episode that runs along the same narrative lines as Kill the Moon. The events would have happened with or without the Doctor’s interference, and the events do not truly pose a threat the humanity or the planet. Effectively, our normal protagonists could be removed from this story entirely and nothing would change.

What’s left is an intellectual mystery that the Doctor and his companions are compelled to resolve so that they can understand it. It’s that perpetual quest for knowledge that our favorite Time Lord seems to follow. Further detail comes from the investigation of Maebh’s behavior, which is often disregarded as a disability by everyone. I enjoy the beauty in exploring how such differences make us unique, but I’m not too keen on the idea that her unique skill is completely “cured” by the end of the story.

The title of the episode is taken from a verse of William Blake’s “The Tyger”. Not only does this foreshadow the tiger’s appearance (dodgy CGI and all), but it also calls back to Planet of the Spiders where it was previously read aloud. This poem also made an appearance in the audio story The Emerald Tiger.

Of course, in a moment of meta, this episode is an example of Doctor Who as a television show being referenced within the show itself. There is a bus (which is really a cardboard cutout) amongst the trees displaying a one-shot ad for Series 8. We previously saw this in Remembrance of the Daleks, which was set on the same day that the show first premiered, where a television aired the BBC commentator’s lead in before the debut of An Unearthly Child. Once again, the Doctor is a character in his own story.

We’ve seen solar flares before (Time Heist, The Ark, The Ark in Space, The Beast Below, The Mysterious Planet) as well as evidence of humanity’s “capacity for self-deception” (World War Three, Victory of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks) and communication with telepathic trees (The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe).

Overall, this was a slightly above average story even with its somewhat problematic approach to neurodivergence. The fairy tale ending was also a bit syrupy.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”


UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Dark Water and Doctor Who: Death in Heaven

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.