In a series that so frequently contradicts and corrects itself like Doctor Who, can there be any such thing as canon? Even the question of character development is up in the air, as a time-traveling protagonist who has been on and off the air for upwards of 50 years can only change so much before the story becomes untenable. All of this is leading up to me saying I’m intrigued by whatever showrunner Chris Chibnall is building up to in the penultimate episode of Doctor Who season 12. Because, despite the amorphous, ever-shifting nature of Doctor Who, it feels game-changing.
“Ascension of the Cybermen” picks up right after the events of last week’s excellent “The Haunting of Villa Diodati,” showing the Doctor and Team TARDIS landing in a far-future where the remnants of humanity are barely holding on after a universe-devastating Cybermen war. And without the Doctor’s help, humanity could be extinguished altogether. But as the Doctor and Team TARDIS jump to action in what is the most blockbuster sci-fi episode of the Jodie Whittaker era, Doctor Who is not against introducing several more baffling, head-scratching mysteries. Next week’s season finale has a lot to answer to.
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It turns out lightning can strike twice with Doctor Who, which makes an electric return to form with “The Haunting of Villa Diodati.” Last week saw Season 12’s hot streak of episodes come to an end, but Doctor Who resuscitated its high-quality run with a perfect old-fashioned ghost story that pitted Frankenstein’s author against a modern Prometheus of Doctor Who‘s own making.
Doctor Who has long delighted in doing on-the-nose tributes to famous literary figures, which range from the good (Charles Dickens meeting ghosts in “The Unquiet Dead,” Shakespeare battling witches in “The Shakespeare Code”) to the amusingly bad (Agatha Christie solves a whodunit in “The Unicorn and the Wasp”). “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” falls in the good category — dare I say, one of the greats — thanks to its healthy dose of mood and atmosphere and its sinister reimagining of one of Doctor Who‘s oldest villains. You either love or hate The Cybermen, but you can’t deny that they’ve been overused nearly as much as the Daleks in the past 15 years. Though their last outing was decently horrific, “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” does for Cybermen what the season 1 episode “Dalek” did for Daleks: make them feel like a real, terrifying threat.
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After its surprising season 2 finale, in which one main character left another for dead, the BBC America spy drama Killing Eve is almost back for its third season. Executive producer Sally Woodward Gentle calls it “the most personal” and “the most emotionally rocky” season yet, which says a lot about the dynamic between MI6 agent Eve (Sandra Oh) and unpredictable assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer). Find out when the new season is set to premiere and check out a few new photos below. Read More »
Doctor Who is inherently a cheesy and sentimental show — despite its sci-fi label, it’s about as far from the hard science and technological imaginings that the genre offers. The series has always been about a quirky time traveler who saves the day with compassion. Doctor Who is often at its best when its leaning into its big, overwrought emotions and delivering a humanist vision of sci-fi and, yes, when it lets the Doctor save the day with love.
“Praxeus” is an explosive, big-budget episode that feels like Doctor Who is firing on all cylinders in both action and emotion. But once the globe-trotting excesses fade away, a potent ecological message shines through.
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Well, that certainly was a lot. Doctor Who has been firing on all cylinders this season after a lackluster season 11, and the latest episode “Fugitive of the Judoon” was the most explosive yet. It’s a wildly marked difference between seasons for showrunner Chris Chibnall, who seems to be taking critics’ words to heart after his inaugural season of underwhelming standalone episodes; this time, it’s all season-long mysteries and arcs, baby. But can Chibnall pull off such an ambitious arc that involves the Master, the destruction of Gallifrey, and now a brand new Doctor? Time will tell.
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Doctor Who is a show of sky-highs and deep lows, and baby, we’re back up in the air again. After last week’s episode wasted a fantastically creepy monster design and an ambitious premise, Doctor Who is back to the well trod historical. Doctor Who has had an unusual history with its historical episodes — early seasons of the Classic series infusing as little sci-fi elements as possible, while the Doctor Who revival went full-tilt on “Shakespeare battles alien witches,” etc. In their inaugural season, Chris Chibnall and his writing team attempt a return to those period-accurate historicals, with the Doctor and Team TARDIS barely making a dent on history as it happened in front of them. It was educational, it was thoughtful, but it was boring. But this season is changing all that, first with the season premiere bringing in three important female figures in the invention of computers (before erasing their memories, boo), and now with the Nikola Tesla-centric episode, “Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror.”
This season of Doctor Who has swung way in the opposite direction of last season’s reverent but stiff historical episodes — now we get Tesla battling an army of scorpion aliens, and it rules. But most disarmingly, it’s sweet and endearing to Tesla in a way that Doctor Who hasn’t been to a real-life figure since the all-time great 2010 episode, “Vincent and the Doctor.” Is this Jodie Whittaker‘s own “Vincent and the Doctor”? It’s not quite on par with the Richard Curtis-penned episode, but it’s almost up there.
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After the rip-roaring two-part premiere of Doctor Who, which managed to bring a new level of excitement to the series while filling me with a white-hot fury, the sci-fi series is taking a little vacation. But, this being Doctor Who, that vacation is far from restful.
The latest episode, “Orphan 55,” is an ambitious sci-fi epic made on a micro budget in a dumb location — which admittedly is very Doctor Who. But despite its grand ideas and noble messages about climate change and the future of humanity, the Ed Hime-penned episode unfortunately settles back into the bland forgettable-ness that characterized a lot of showrunner Chris Chibnall’s first season. And, in a thematic continuation of last week’s continuity-busting episode, “Orphan 55” manages to do away with much of the rules established by Russel T. Davies and Steven Moffat’s eras — because Chibnall doesn’t care about your canon.
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Season 3 of BBC America’s hit drama Killing Eve hasn’t even premiered yet, but the network is so confident in the series that it has already ordered a fourth season. “How could we not have massive confidence in Killing Eve?” said Sarah Barnett, the president of AMC Networks Entertainment Group. “It has won big in every major award show and is the highest growing show on U.S. television for six years.” When any show is able to break through the noise of the Peak TV era in such an impressive way, another season renewal seems like a proper response.
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Over the decades, Doctor Who has assumed a plethora of identities: in the ’60s it was an educational program with a sci-fi twist, in the ’70s it was briefly a James Bond-inspired espionage series, in the ’80s and on, it embraced its camp. With the 2005 reboot, Doctor Who embraced and shed even more identities: the blue-collar soap, the fairy tale adventure, and even flashes of hard sci-fi. Last season was a much celebrated new era of Doctor Who, one led by a new showrunner, Chris Chibnall, and the exciting first female Doctor of the series, played by Jodie Whittaker. It was going to be an all-new Doctor Who, Chibnall promised, one without the tedious plot twists and convoluted mythology of the previous seasons. But the result was a season without an identity, with episodes that felt like solid sci-fi stories by talented and diverse sci-fi writers, but without that special oomph that made Doctor Who feel like Doctor Who. Whittaker’s Doctor, despite the effervescence with which she played her, felt like a non-entity, running through forgettable plotlines on which she made little actual impact.
It’s no surprise that the highs of last season — apart from that mid-season high-concept swing “It Takes You Away” — were when old enemies returned and familiar Doctor Who winks were made. So perhaps it’s no surprise that, after having overcome his first-season growing pains, Chibnall is doubling down on that classic Doctor Who vibe, including one big enemy making a surprise return. I still don’t know if the Chibnall era has found its own identity yet, but it’s certainly done a good job at retreading some classic Doctor Who identities; in the first episode of the season, “Spyfall, Part 1,” the series plays with some major Jon Pertwee-era stylings. This season is all shaken and stirred, with an explosive Bond-inspired opening involving a network of spies that are being attacked by mysterious translucent humanoid beings that change the very nature of human DNA. Say it with me in the Jennifer Jason Leigh voice: “Annihilatiooon.”
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Blimey! Will the Doc (Jodie Whittaker) be able to use her magic wand to defeat all of the Snorf Weezils and Cephlamorks in the galaxy? What about those pesky trash can robots? Can’t forget about those! And will she and her trusty sidekicks all fit in that tiny phone booth at the same time?
Check out the Doctor Who season 12 trailer below, which reveals the premiere date
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