Series 7 (Jun 16 - Jun 30)

June 16 continued: "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" Prequel / "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" / "Good as Gold"
June 17: "Asylum of the Daleks" Prequel / "Asylum of the Daleks"
June 18: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"
June 19: "The Making of the Gunslinger" / "A Town Called Mercy"
June 20: "The Power of Three"
June 21: "The Angels Take Manhattan" / "P.S."
June 22: "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later" / "The Great Detective" / "Vastra Investigates - A Christmas Prequel" / "The Snowmen"
June 23: "The Bells of Saint John - A Prequel" / "The Bells of Saint John"
June 24: "The Rings of Akhaten"
June 25: "Cold War"
June 26: "Hide"
June 27: "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"
June 28: "The Crimson Horror"
June 29: "Nightmare in Silver"
June 30: "She Said, He Said - A Prequel" / "Clarence and the Whispermen" / "The Name of the Doctor" / "The Inforarium" / "Clara and the TARDIS" / "Rain Gods"

June 16 continued: "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" Prequel / "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" / "Good as Gold"

And now it's on to series 7, with the 2011 Christmas special "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe".  First off we get a prequel, with the Doctor ostensibly talking to Amy (but really just to himself) as he goes about stopping an alien spaceship from conquering the Earth by blowing it up.  It's quick and suitably exciting but rather sweet, and it reminds us that the Doctor is traveling alone right now (remember, he thinks Amy and Rory think he's dead -- he doesn't know River told them).  So in terms of getting us interested in the actual episode, mission accomplished.

That prequel basically carries us straight into the opening moments of the main event, as the Doctor is trapped on the exploding spaceship and ends up tumbling to Earth -- but fortunately he's grabbed an "impact suit" that saves his life.  It's a strong, action-packed opening, but it is slightly strange in retrospect how this is just about the most exciting the episode ever gets, as Steven Moffat chooses to give us a slightly more mysterious and quiet Christmas special.  Much like last year's Christmas special, "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" steals its premise from another classic work -- but unlike "A Christmas Carol", this time around Moffat takes the very basic premise of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (a whole winter world in a small container -- here a cardboard box) but then jettisons the rest.  That's not totally surprising -- Dickens' A Christmas Carol is already a time travel story, so it's easy enough to adapt, but there's less to crib in C.S. Lewis's Narnia books -- but what is surprising is how calm everything seems.  There's no huge dramatic enemy to work against, no sense of evil to be fought; instead this is a story about magical happenings.  It's clear from the planet where Christmas trees grow, complete with ornaments, that this is meant to charm children rather than frighten them.

Lily and the Doctor debate whether they've entered a trap.
("The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe") ©BBC
But because we're running around with trees that have souls and can grow buildings and spaceships and people, with a certain sense of "just accept that this is magic", when the main threat shows up in the form of a big ship crewed by people here to "melt down" the forest with acid rain, it distinctly jars with the rest of the story.  It doesn't help that the scenes of the Androzani Major harvesters (oh look, a pointless reference to The Caves of Androzani) are largely divorced from the rest of the story -- they're there to provide an impetus for the trees to leave, and supply a touch of comic relief along the way, but that's about it.  In a story about trees growing people and having souls that can get on a ship and leave, a clunking, rusted spaceship with similarly attired crew sticks out like a sore thumb.

It's a hard episode to judge, because while it has lots of magical bits, the threat is a touch too abstract to really connect (we don't see anyone die in the acid rain, or even anything get really damaged -- some holes in Madge's coat and that's about it), and the incredibly oversweet ending (where Madge rescues her husband pilot (Alexander Armstrong, who gets to show his face in front of the camera after five series as the voice of Mr Smith on The Sarah Jane Adventures) by shining a light for him to follow) threatens to sink the whole thing.  But, counterbalancing that, there's some lovely dialogue ("I don't know why I keep shouting at them," Madge says.  "Because every time you see them happy, you remember how sad they're going to be, and it breaks your heart," the Doctor replies.  "Because what's the point in them being happy now if they're going to be sad later?  The answer is, of course, because they are going to be sad later"), and I do like the efforts to make this an overt fantasy -- it's the type of setting in which Matt Smith shines.  The push-and-pull of all these factors does make for a rather uneven episode, though.

And look, there's one more quick episode today: "Good as Gold".  We're now jumping forward to 24 May 2011, and just like "Death is the Only Answer", we've got another winner of a script-to-screen competition, this time for perennial children's show Blue Peter.  This one's officially written by the Children of Ashdene School and features the TARDIS materializing in the path of the Olympic torch relay, where a runner is chased inside the TARDIS by a Weeping Angel.  To be honest, this one's not as good as "Death is the Only Answer", as the whole thing seems a bit more contrived, with less finessed dialogue (the stuff about having one adventure per week is particularly wince-inducing) and an odd cliffhanger ending that seems to suggest there's now a Weeping Angel trapped in the TARDIS.  And where's Rory in all of this?  It's not the most successful effort ever, but at least it's only three minutes long.

June 17: "Pond Life" / "Asylum of the Daleks" Prequel / "Asylum of the Daleks"

2012 only gives us a short run of five episodes (I'm not sure an actual reason is given for splitting up the series across two years, but monetary issues seems like a likely candidate as this was a BBC decision, not a Steven Moffat one), so they've got to milk them for all they're worth.  And to help do that, before the broadcast of "Asylum of the Daleks" we're presented with five short scenes, all under the umbrella title "Pond Life" and all written by Chris Chibnall.  These five mini-episodes are designed to give us an idea of what it's like to have the Doctor continually popping into your life, leaving messages and temporarily misplacing Ood.  The first four are designed to be whimsical in nature, and at that they succeed marvelously, bringing a smile to the face.  The last one is much darker in tone, however, suggesting that something is seriously wrong between Amy and Rory (and something that didn't appear to be problematic just the previous month -- but more on that in a bit), which is setting us up for the start of "Asylum of the Daleks".

But then in addition to "Pond Life" we get another prequel teaser, showing the Doctor being confronted by a hooded figure who commands the Doctor via a dream (which resembles a sequence in the series 7 finale "The Name of the Doctor") to save the daughter of a woman named Darla von Karlsen, and to meet Darla on Skaro.238  And with that, it's now finally time for the main episode.

Let's get this out of the way right now: the divorce storyline between Amy and Rory might be one of the most ill-conceived misfires in the entire BBC Wales run, and possibly Doctor Who as a whole.  It's terribly implausible in terms of characterization -- Amy and Rory have both been through an awful lot and still stayed strong, and in fact felt like a genuinely loving relationship, so why would this suddenly change? -- and the timing seems really off: "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" suggested that Amy and Rory had been living together happily for two years, but by the time of this episode were on the outs -- and if you factor in "Pond Life", this change happens within the space of at most two months (if the July segment is at the beginning of the month and the August segment at the end).  But fine, this might not be such a big deal if it didn't feel completely irrelevant -- by the end of the episode Amy and Rory are back together and the divorce is never brought up again.  And what's worse, it's not relevant to the main storyline, either thematically or narratively -- the only time it really comes up is in the conversation about whose love is stronger (and thus will be able to withstand the transformational nanocloud longer), and while we learn that this is happening because Amy "gave [Rory] up" because he wanted kids and she can no longer have them (which is probably meant to demonstrate her love but comes off as selfish instead -- "I don't think you can handle my not having children so I'm going to make the decision for you"), it's not even a crucial reveal, as we see that the Doctor gave up his anti-nanocloud wristband to Amy anyway.  The whole thing instead feels like a calculated way to get viewers to tune in ("Amy and Rory have split!  Find out why!"), rather than a genuine story-based decision.

Right, with all that said...

The Daleks ask the Doctor to save them. ("Asylum of the
Daleks") ©BBC
"Asylum of the Daleks", barring the divorce stupidity, is a thrilling, well-plotted story, one that continually throws up surprises and excitement.  It starts with the Doctor and his friends being captured by Dalek puppets (people who've been taken over by Daleks and can conveniently sprout Dalek eyestalks from their foreheads to demonstrate that fact) and being taken to the Parliament of the Daleks (which is itself an utterly bizarre idea -- apparently they're fed up with all these Dalek emperors and have decided for a more democratic approach, but it just leads to the idea of Daleks debating bills and naming parks and things) so that the Daleks can ask the Doctor for help: something has crashed onto the Dalek asylum planet ("A planet where you lock up all the Daleks that go wrong.  The battle-scarred, the insane, the ones even you can't control") and the Daleks are worried that all these insane Daleks will get out, but none of them are willing to go down and switch off the forcefield stopping them from destroying the place.  So it's up to the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to save the day.  It's a strange idea, but it works well -- and it's a good excuse to get us down to the planet itself.  And man is that a lot of Daleks on screen.  Plus, interestingly, most of the Daleks we see here are the old Davies-era bronze Daleks, rather than the New Dalek Paradigm established in "Victory of the Daleks".  There are still some Paradigm Daleks around, but they're generally in the background; it seems the production team has (wisely) backpedaled on its new Dalek design.

I noted that this episode is full of surprises, but the best surprise at the time was the appearance of Jenna Coleman (then billed as "Jenna-Louise Coleman").  It had already been announced that Amy and Rory were leaving the show and that Coleman would be taking over as the new companion -- but that wasn't supposed to happen until Amy and Rory departed, so her appearance here was quite the surprise.  Coleman here is incredibly energetic, flirtatious, and fun -- but that's clearly as scripted, as Steven Moffat wants to establish her character, Oswin Oswald, as very much alive in order to make the big reveal about her have a greater impact.  It's to Coleman's credit, however, that she does such a good job with the character, in making it her own, that it's not until you think about it that you realize that Moffat essentially wrote Oswin as River Song.  She's also the driving force behind the episode; the Doctor might be going to shut down the forcefield around the asylum, but he's also going to rescue Oswin.

Amy realizes the people she saw are actually Daleks. ("Asylum
of the Daleks") ©BBC
But yes, this story is filled with all sorts of Daleks that our heroes have to get past to get to Oswin and the forcefield, which leads to lots of tense moments that director Nick Hurran exploits very well.  Watching old, dusty Daleks slowly wake up to start trying to exterminate the Doctor and company is an exercise in slowly mounting dread, as Hurran fills the frame with tons of menacing Daleks.  There's also a particular joy in spotting all the old-school Daleks in the background of shots -- original '60s grey and blue Daleks, '70s grey and black Daleks... even the Special Weapons Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks is here (in the scene where Rory first wakes up the Daleks).  It's really nicely done, and the scenes of Amy slowly succumbing to the nanocloud are pleasingly trippy -- my favorite part being the girl who she's hallucinating twirling being revealed as a '60s Dalek spinning around in a circle, which is hilarious and unnerving at the same time.

So we get lots of creepy moments, but there's also the reveal about Oswin, as the Doctor learns (after making his way through the intensive care section, full of the Daleks who survived encounters with the Doctor239) that Oswin is in fact a Dalek, albeit one still desperately holding on to its humanity.  It makes the Doctor's offhand non sequitur question ("[Making] soufflés?  Against the Daleks?  Where'd you get the milk?") suddenly take on a greater significance, and it also throws up all sorts of questions regarding Jenna Coleman's character -- how can she die here if she's going to be the companion?  But if she was the companion earlier in her life, why doesn't she recognize the Doctor? -- that "Asylum of the Daleks" is happy to leave unanswered.  It's a clever reveal, and full credit to both Coleman and Dalek voice artist Nicholas Briggs, who manages to carry over much of Coleman's inflections in his Dalek performance -- "Why do they hate you?" being a particular success.  It's really nice -- and the way she erases knowledge of the Doctor from the minds of the Daleks is interesting (even if it'll be reversed in "The Time of the Doctor").

This is a really strong script, aided by some great acting and stunning direction.  If it weren't for the divorce nonsense, this would be one of the best stories ever -- as it is, it's merely very good.  "Asylum of the Daleks" provides us with an original and intriguing Dalek story with lots of flair and energy.

June 18: "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"

The slightly daft title aside (which appears to be riffing off the 2006 film Snakes on a Plane, and was actually Steven Moffat's idea), Chris Chibnall's third full story for the series (ignoring mini-episodes like "Pond Life") is easily his best one yet, with lots of fun and excitement on display.

I'm stating this up front because it was a pleasant surprise, given his previous track record.  Torchwood did get better, yes, but much of Chibnall's actual episodes were among the worst the show ever produced, and his previous Who stories were hampered either by throwing everything into one script and hoping something would stick ("42") or by remixing some Pertwee stories into a hodgepodge that never felt particularly original or truly engaging ("The Hungry Earth" / "Cold Blood").  So, having been conditioned to not expect great things from Chibnall, it's a welcome change to find just how good "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is.

The Doctor confronts Solomon and his two robots. ("Dinosaurs on a
Spaceship") ©BBC
The overall feeling that one gets while watching this episode is just how much fun it is.  The thought of the Doctor forming a "gang" to help him investigate a spaceship threatening to crash into 2367 Earth is an intriguing one (even to the Doctor: "I thought we might need a new gang.  Not really had a gang before.  It's new," he remarks), and the people he's chosen are quite varied -- I like how we get a big game hunter and Queen Nefertiti interacting with Amy and Rory, as well as Rory's father Brian (who's been accidentally brought along).  Mark Williams (probably best known as either a part of The Fast Show or as Arthur Weasley from the Harry Potter films, although I'll always think of him as Petersen off Red Dwarf) is rather wonderful as Brian, someone who hates traveling but is nevertheless still practically-minded and able to help out, as opposed to being a burden, and Williams gives it just the right amount of wonder.  And then, in a good contrast, we get fellow Harry Potter alum (and future Doctor, of a sort) David Bradley as the villainous Solomon, whose primary concern is making money at all costs.  He's portrayed as completely amoral, willing to kill an entire ship of Silurians or kidnap Nefertiti for the sake of a larger profit.  He's presented as an interesting foil for the Doctor, completely implacable and selfish.

But as I said, there's an underlying feeling of fun.  The way the dinosaurs are said to be aboard the ship makes perfect sense in terms of the series, and it also means that we get dinosaurs that are leagues ahead of the ones in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.  The triceratops model in particular is nicely done, but things like the ankylosaurs are also really lovely.  (Although once again they're referring to pteranodons as pterodactyls.)  And because we've got dinosaurs roaming around, a "gang" who all seem to more or less like each other (and who all contribute in some way), some genuinely funny robots, and some really lovely writing, the end result is really good.  The only potentially duff note is the Doctor's refusal to grant Solomon any mercy, instead leaving the tracking device that the Indian Space Agency's missiles are following on Solomon's ship and then sending it away with Solomon still on board.  "Doctor, whatever you want, I can get it for you.  Whatever object you desire," Solomon pleads.  "Did the Silurians beg you to stop?" the Doctor replies softly.  "Look, Solomon.  The missiles.  See them shine?  See how valuable they are.  And they're all yours."  "You wouldn't leave me, Doctor," Solomon says.  "Enjoy your bounty," the Doctor says, closing the gate to Solomon's ship.  The script goes to great pains to establish that Solomon is emphatically not a nice man, but it's still surprising to see the Doctor unwilling to grant any quarter.  (Well, unless you think he left the beacon thingy out for Solomon to eject himself, as a way to justify his decision -- but it doesn't really look like there's enough time to actually get rid of the beacon.)  It's a darker eleventh Doctor than I think we're used to, and because it feels cold it sticks out.

However, if the worst thing about this episode is that a dramatically justified decision doesn't quite "feel" right, then we're doing pretty well.  "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is a really nice episode that's hopefully an indication of how series 7 is going to be.

June 19: "The Making of the Gunslinger" / "A Town Called Mercy"

The episode's prequel gives us a look into how exactly the "Gunslinger" came about, with Kahler scientists and doctors (including Dr. Kahler-Jex) augmenting him under the false pretext of being "selected for peacekeeping missions on off-world colonies".  It's interesting because it gives us a look into Kahler-Jex's thought processes before any regrets subsequently appeared, and it gives us a good lead-in for "A Town Called Mercy".

One thing I keep forgetting to mention is how the title sequence has been changed.  A re-tinted time vortex (now in frankly hideous shades of blue and green), new font for the credits, and a slightly different logo -- no more DW TARDIS, and in fact a slight alteration for the logo every time thus far to reflect that particular episode: bronze with Dalek bumps for "Asylum of the Daleks", green scales for "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship", and this time, a rough woodgrain pattern for "A Town Called Mercy".  Yes, 46 years after The Gunfighters, it's time for Doctor Who to tackle another Western.

It helps that it looks utterly gorgeous.  They've gone off to Almería, Spain, where an awful lot of Westerns have been filmed (include Sergio Leone's Man with No Name trilogy240), and the result is fabulous.  No soundstage or Cardiff locations substituting for the American West here; instead we get beautiful landscapes and a convincing frontier town.  And they've even gotten some American actors to help sell things (instead of the more typical practice of having British actors fake a Transatlantic accent), which is nice.

Kahler-Jex prepares to be killed by the Gunslinger. ("A Town
Called Mercy") ©BBC
But what's also interesting about "A Town Called Mercy" is the moral arguments that pervade the piece.  Kahler-Jex is a war criminal, but one who's attempted to atone in some small way for his crimes, helping the town of Mercy with a cholera outbreak and rudimentary electric light and heat.  It seems in some ways that Kahler-Jex wants to put the actions he performed during his war behind him, that he's unhappy about the choices he's made ("You think I'm unaffected by what I did?" he says.  "That I don't hear them screaming every time I close my eyes?"), but as the Doctor points out, "You committed an atrocity and chose this as your punishment ... but justice doesn't work like that.  You don't get to decide when and how your debt is paid."  But then the Doctor is hardly blameless -- he's willing to hand Kahler-Jex over to the Gunslinger, to be the judge and jury, ready to turn him over to the executioner.  (Admittedly, this is apparently because Kahler-Jex gets under the Doctor's skin -- "Looking at you, Doctor, is like looking into a mirror, almost.  There's rage there, like me.  Guilt, like me.  Solitude.  Everything but the nerve to do what needs to be done.  Thank the gods my people weren't relying on you to save them" -- but it's still a surprising decision.)  Rory is on the Doctor's side, so it's up to Amy to stop him:
AMY: This is not how we roll, and you know it.  What happened to you, Doctor?  When did killing someone become an option?
DOCTOR: Jex has to answer for his crimes.
AMY: And what then?  Are you going to hunt down everyone who's made a gun or a bullet or a bomb?
DOCTOR: But they keep coming back, don't you see?  Every time I negotiate, I try to understand.  Well, not today.  No.  Today, I honour the victims first.  His, the Master's, the Daleks', all the people who died because of my mercy!
AMY: You see, this is what happens when you travel alone for too long.  Well, listen to me, Doctor.  We can't be like him.  We have to be better than him.
And fortunately Amy is able to bring the Doctor back to sanity -- Jex should face justice, but that doesn't mean vigilante justice.  It's not their place to try Kahler-Jex, but it is their place to keep the inhabitants of Mercy safe.  ("This is their home, not the backdrop for your revenge," the Doctor tells the Gunslinger later.)  This does mean that the ending of the episode sags ever so slightly (as people in the town disguise themselves as Kahler-Jex by painting the tattoo on their faces, to confuse the Gunslinger long enough for Kahler-Jex to escape) but it's frankly done so well up to this point that it's easy to forgive.

"A Town Called Mercy" is a surprisingly nuanced episode, interested in examining the moral dilemmas it presents and unwilling to provide any genuinely easy answers -- even Kahler-Jex's "escape" at the end is by committing suicide, enough of a coward to not simply hand himself over to the Gunslinger and unwilling to see another group of people caught in the crossfire.  It's a thoughtful episode, nicely introspective but with enough excitement to keep things moving.

June 20: "The Power of Three"

This week, a time vortex recolored in shades of blue and magenta, with lots of little cubes in the Doctor Who logo...

So yes, the big reveal of the purpose of the cubes is rather vague, and there's a sense of things being unresolved at the end (as the Doctor has stopped the cubes, but not the Shakri themselves), but that's not really the point of "The Power of Three".  No, this story is explicitly about the relationships between the characters, what it's like for Amy and Rory to essentially have two lives, and what's it like for the Doctor to hang around for a while.  And unlike other episodes that have examined some of these questions, "The Power of Three" is emphatically determined to have fun along the way.  As such, the alien plot is almost secondary.

Admittedly, it's that "alien invasion?" angle that motivates much of what we get here, as a huge number of small black cubes suddenly appear one day all over the planet, leading the Doctor to wonder what's going on, but this is much more interested in the effect on our heroes.  Amy and Rory have become used to having these two lives -- "real life and Doctor life", as Rory puts it -- but it's fascinating watching the Doctor try to adapt to "real life", because he's rubbish at it.  Well, it's more that he can't stand the waiting, but either way, it gives us an insight into the Doctor's mind, how he'd much rather charge around than just sit back.  Meanwhile Amy and Rory are trying to live their lives ("What?  You've got a job?" the Doctor asks Rory, somewhat incredulously.  "Of course, I've got a job," Rory replies.  "What do you think we do when we're not with you?"  "I imagined mostly kissing," the Doctor says), while trying to handle the Doctor and the cubes at the same time.  It's presented humorously, with a deft touch, and so it never strays too far one way or the other.

Plus we get introduced to a new character, Kate Stewart241, who now seems to be the head of UNIT.  It doesn't come as any great surprise to learn that she is in fact Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's daughter (she dropped the "Lethbridge" because she "didn't want any favours"), but it is slightly surprising, given her father, that she's of a scientific bent.  It's good that she seems to have repositioned UNIT as more of a force for good again (as opposed to the UNIT we'd heard about in earlier stories and particularly in Torchwood), and Jemma Redgrave plays Kate with a slightly sardonic wit, as if she's only tolerating much of UNIT's goings-on and still hasn't completely gotten them to where she wants them (her opening speech points at this), and it's really all rather wonderful.  "I like her," Amy remarks, and I have to agree.

After 361 days, Brian sees one of the cubes move. ("The Power of
Three") ©BBC
And of course we also see the return of Rory's dad Brian (who's thus the only Pond/Williams family member to make a return appearance -- they go to all that trouble of giving Amy a mother and father in "The Big Bang" and then we never hear from them again), who's surprisingly willing to help the Doctor out -- maybe all that traveling he did (as we learned at the end of "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship") made him grateful to the Doctor.  In any event, Brian is presented as loyal and persistent and unwilling to give up -- note how he goes through almost a year of his video log about the cubes, presumably without fail -- but also concerned about his family.  "What happened to the other people who travelled with you?" Brian asks the Doctor, after he notices that Amy and Rory have been gone in the middle of their anniversary party (an excursion that apparently included an adventure in 1890 with Zygons -- something of a tease at the time, as Zygons were high up on many people's wish list for returning aliens).  "Some left me.  Some got left behind.  And some -- not many, but -- some died," the Doctor replies.  It in fact seems to be this conversation that convinces the Doctor to stay behind, to try and experience life through his friends' eyes, rather than have them experience life through his eyes.  And happily, Brian is willing to see the other side of things -- unlike, say, Jackie Tyler or Francine Jones -- as he says at the end, "It's you they can't give up, Doctor.  And I don't think they should.  Go with him.  Go save every world you can find.  Who else has that chance?  Life will still be here."

Of course, this is a bittersweet moment, because we know Amy and Rory are leaving in the next episode, so Brian's command to the Doctor ("Just bring them back safe") is loaded with more irony than it otherwise would have been.  And while the stuff with the cubes is actually quite entertaining, there's still that Shakri problem left dangling.  (Did blowing the ships up solve everything?  Or will they be back to wipe out humanity?)  But as a celebration of Amy and Rory, showing them happy and content and comfortable, as we get us an episode viewed primarily through their eyes, "The Power of Three" provides us with a lovely time before the end.

Mind you, that last line is pretty terrible.

June 21: "The Angels Take Manhattan" / "P.S."

(Our last look at this title sequence, with a lot of blues and silvery greys and a logo tinted verdigris...)

It's got logical problems and plot holes you could drive a truck through (how can the Statue of Liberty make it to Winter Quay -- how can there be no one in the City That Never Sleeps looking at the statue for the duration of its walk to Manhattan?  If the Doctor can't get back to New York to rescue Amy and Rory, why can't they just go somewhere else instead so the Doctor can pick them up?), but it doesn't really matter.  Steven Moffat has chosen to send Amy and Rory out not on a big epic daring story, but on a quietly creepy one that is utterly determined to yank on your heartstrings as hard as it can.

Having provided us with an army of Weeping Angels gathering their strength in "The Time of Angels" / "Flesh and Stone", here Moffat chooses to go back to a different idea from "Blink": that Angels feed off your time energy by sending you back in time (presumably to a time and place where you won't make much difference) and harvesting the potential left behind.  To that end we're presented with a human "battery farm" for the Angels to feed off of: they grab you, stick you in a big apartment building, and force you to live your life there.  It's a creepy idea that lies at the heart of the story.

But since we're in New York City (For real!  Actual proper NYC!), we also get a nice dose of that film noir feel, with '30s detectives, dark wet New York streets, and an overweight, rich collector (Mike McShane), who's probably the closest thing to Sydney Greenstreet they could get.  (This is after a sequence in 2012 New York -- you know, the sequence with the least realistic thing ever in Doctor Who242 -- that's designed to show off New York's cosmopolitan side as much as they can.)  We even get a pulp-y narrative in the form of Melody Malone's book, which also serves as a clever plot point; because it's narrating things that are currently happening, looking at the book constitutes solidifying history, making it a fixed point.  ("This isn't any old future, Amy, it's ours," the Doctor says.  "Once we know what's coming, it's fixed.")

Rory and Amy prepare to jump. ("The Angels Take Manhattan")
This is of course Amy and Rory's last story, but nevertheless it's Matt Smith's performance that is the most riveting.  Not that he's exactly a slouch in other stories, but here he's a whirlwind of frustration and pain, trying desperately to change history and ultimately unable to do so.  His scenes with Amy and the book are wonderful, his foot stamp of frustration after he's learned that River's wrist is broken and she's angry at him for using regenerative energy to heal her (presumably because she's (sort of) part-Time Lord), his utter anguish at the thought of losing Amy forever... it's incredibly good.  Smith sells the emotional climax of the story possibly more than anyone -- and given that Karen Gillan isn't exactly phoning it in in her last scene, you get a sense of just how good this cast is.  From Arthur Darvill's terrified-yet-brave performance as Rory ("If this place never existed, what did I fall off of?" he says, standing on the ledge.  "You think you'll come back to life?" Amy replies heatedly.  "When don't I?" Rory replies, with a touch of sardonic wit) to Alex Kingston's reined-in River Song ("Never let him see the damage.  And never, ever let him see you age.  He doesn't like endings"), the acting alone makes "The Angels Take Manhattan" a fabulous piece of work.

And that's really what this episode is about: the relationships and the performances that this cast has built up over the past three years.  To have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory is a cruel trick, but it feels right -- and as the Angels "kill you nicely" (as the Doctor noted in "Blink"), Amy and Rory are allowed to live out the rest of their lives.  Isolated from friends and family, but nevertheless together.  It's a bittersweet moment, but it's fitting (particularly given the way the Doctor has been coming and going into the Ponds' lives -- a simple parting would never feel right) -- and that's when the episode really goes for it, with the final "afterword".  It's a beautiful way to end Amy's story, to reveal that the Doctor did actually go back to the young Amelia after she waited that night, that he didn't leave her completely hanging.

So this is goodbye to Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, and it is sad to see them go.  I wasn't quite sure about Amy in the early days, but she quickly settled down to become a really outstanding companion -- she and the Doctor always felt like a great team, one that just naturally fit together.  And with the supremely talented Darvill thrown in (Rory is personally one of my favorite companions), the dynamic didn't shift too far in one direction or the other but instead cohered into a smooth, natural fit.  It is genuinely sad to see them go, but that's the nature of the show: always moving forward.  And while "The Angels Take Manhattan" brings an end to Amy and Rory's story (and to the first half of series 7 -- or "Series Pond", as Doctor Who Magazine took to calling it, given the large gap between the two halves243), it does so in a supremely confident (even if not always logical) way.

But there's one last piece to get view.  The original plan for the series 7 boxset was to include a brief scene called "P.S.", but ultimately this fell through due to "actor availability clash" (according to author Chris Chibnall's Twitter account) -- which almost certainly means Mark Williams was unavailable.  But somebody liked this enough to show us some storyboards, with narration by Arthur Darvill, and it was released online by the BBC as such.  It's not even a deleted scene, really, but it gives some nice narrative closure to Rory's dad Brian, who was essentially left hanging at the end of "The Power of Three".  "P.S." shows us Brian reading a letter from Rory, explaining that he and Amy have gone away and won't ever be coming back but that he loves his dad very much, and the gentleman delivering this letter, Anthony, is their adopted son -- and therefore Brian's grandson.  ("He can tell you everything," Rory writes in his letter.  "He'll have the family albums, and I realise having a grandson who's older than you is so far beyond weird, but I'm sorry.")  It's a short scene, but it does provide a nice sense of closure for Brian (and is rather fitting for today, what with it being Father's Day in the United Kingdom and the United States).

Next up: Christmas 2012 and "The Snowmen"...

June 22: "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later" / "The Great Detective" / "Vastra Investigates - A Christmas Prequel" / "The Snowmen"

So I'm cheating a bit: strictly speaking, "The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later" didn't air until shortly before "The Bells of Saint John", three months after "The Snowmen" -- but as it makes more sense to view it here, that's what I'm doing.  It's not even that exciting a scene, to be honest; it shows Vastra and Jenny talking to the revived Strax and offering him a choice to go with them (back to 1888, so four years before "The Snowmen"), so that he won't be alone.  It's probably not a scene that needed to be explicitly stated, but I suppose it's nice to have the bases covered.

The next couple mini-episodes, "Vastra Investigates" and "The Great Detective", explicitly precede "The Snowmen".  "The Great Detective" aired during 2012's Children in Need telethon, and features the Paternoster Gang (as Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are referred to here) in Victorian London, trying to interest the Doctor in investigating weird happenings around the town, but he'll have none of it: "Why do you keep doing this?  What is the point?  I have told you.  I keep telling you, I don't do this any more.  I've retired."  This sets the stage for the Doctor's attitude in "The Snowmen".  The other prequel, "Vastra Investigates", simply shows that the Paternoster Gang helps Scotland Yard with their more unusual investigations (almost like a proto-UNIT), and that the Doctor still is unwilling to help out.

All this sets the stage for the 2012 Christmas episode, "The Snowmen", which is the first Steven Moffat Christmas special to not explicitly be about Christmas.  It's set at Christmas in 1892, but this is simply a backdrop for a more typical Doctor Who tale (as opposed to the previous couple, which really have been all about Christmas).  Steven Moffat appears to be taking an old rejected Douglas Adams idea -- that of the Doctor retiring but people keep bothering him for help -- as his starting point.  This is a much more somber Doctor than we're used to, one who appears to still be grieving over the loss of Amy and Rory and who has largely isolated himself from society (although it's worth nothing that he nevertheless chose a place with friends nearby, rather than complete hermitage).  His costume also reflects the change, as he's wearing a long purple coat with fur lapels, a necktie instead of his trademark bow tie (at least, until he finally comes down from his cloud and starts helping again, realizing along the way that he'd unconsciously put the bow tie on again), and a rather crumpled top hat.  He's also still wearing the round Lennon-esque glasses that Amy had in "The Angels Take Manhattan".  This is a Doctor who seems older and less inclined to stick out.

In contrast, we have a "new" character, Clara.  I say "new", but it's Jenna-Louise Coleman again, playing a similar character to Oswin in "Asylum of the Daleks".  Here she's shown as just as clever as Oswin was, albeit in a different way -- she's a lower-class barmaid who's also an upper-class governess, and thus highly adept at fitting into her surroundings and being the best at whatever she puts her mind to.  This includes tracking down the strange man who's just suggested that perhaps a suddenly appearing snowman happened because "it remembers how to make snowmen" -- a facetious answer, although we learn that's actually the truth.  Clara is unwilling to simply let this person slip away, so he chases him and learns he's called the Doctor.  And from there it's straight into the opening credits.

Dr. Simeon and his snowmen. ("The Snowmen") ©BBC
There's definitely a sense of change in the air in this episode.  A new title sequence (which is both contemporary and oddly retro, with what looks like bright orange lava lamp patterns mixed with magenta starfields -- and there's a deep-seated thrill at seeing Matt Smith's face in the titles, marking the first time the Doctor's face has appeared since 1989), subtly new logo (this one looks like snow -- the last time they'll do this), new theme arrangement (this one is much more percussive-feeling, with the bass line given greater prominence than the last time), an utterly gorgeous new console room (making it look less "whimsical" than the previous version and far more like a proper ship), and other changes dotted throughout the episode give this one a feeling of importance, of something waiting on the horizon.  This is a theme that's reflected throughout the episode, as we constantly get the impression of a hush before the storm, instead of running through the middle of it.  Part of that might be because the main villain, Dr. Walter Simeon (as played by former almost-Doctor Richard E. Grant (Scream of the Shalka)), spends much of the episode waiting for the right moment, for the Ice Governess to emerge from the frozen pond, rather than hatching elaborate plans for the Doctor to thwart.  It's also likely because the Doctor and Clara spend a lot of the episode not-quite-meeting after their initial encounter (which includes a humorous sequence involving Strax and something called a memory worm), which means the plot dances around the two, with Clara trying to enlist the Doctor's help and encountering Madame Vastra instead.

This isn't an explosive, action-packed Christmas special; instead, like most of the stories this series, it's a more intimate affair, concerned with characters and their relationships.  Clara is presented as an ideal companion for the Doctor, one to pull him out of his "sulk", and while this might be almost unbearable in the wrong hands, in Jenna Coleman's it becomes charming and somehow right -- of course she should travel with the Doctor.  Which is why (given her chemistry with Matt Smith and the fact that she'd been announced as the new companion) it's something of a shock to see her die in this.  "Asylum of the Daleks" was a one-off, a teaser, but this was supposed to be the proper debut of the new companion, so it's a genuine surprise to learn that it's not, that it's another mystery -- albeit one connected to the last, as the Doctor finally realizes that Clara and Oswin ("Soufflé Girl") were the same person (thanks to them both saying the same thing as they died: "Run, you clever boy, and remember").  It's an interesting way to make the audience intrigued and curious about the upcoming second half of series 7, and it works.

None of this, mind, marginalizes the main enemy of this story, Dr. Simeon and his mimicking snow.  It's a conceptual threat that ends up being something of a prequel to two Troughton stories (those with sharp eyes and HD televisions might have made out the words "Great Intelligence" on Simeon's business card early in the episode, but for everyone else it's made explicit at the end ("The Great Intelligence.  Rings a bell..." the Doctor remarks thoughtfully afterwards).  Richard E. Grant is suitably sinister as Simeon, even if he does seem a bit underutilized (he's largely there to repeatedly ask for the Ice Governess and to talk to the telepathic snow), and it's a joy to have Sir Ian McKellen as part of the show, voicing the Great Intelligence.  The scene with the Doctor confronting the two of them at the end is nice (even if the "snow turns to tears" resolution doesn't quite feel right), and it's cheeky to have that reference to The Web of Fear in there (the London Underground stuff).244

It's a strong story, with some fabulous characters and a lot of great direction (including our first-ever pass from outside the TARDIS to straight inside the doors into that new console room in one shot) that contributes to a very satisfying atmosphere.  The mystery of Clara is set up well, and the use of the Great Intelligence is quite lovely.  This is definitely the best Christmas special of Matt Smith's era, and possibly the best one of them all.

June 23: "The Bells of Saint John - A Prequel" / "The Bells of Saint John"

And now we've reached 2013 (Doctor Who's 50th year!) and the start of the second half of series 7.  And of course we have another internet prequel scene to pique your interest.  This one is simple -- it shows the Doctor on a swing, talking to a little girl -- but it drives home just how fabulously good Matt Smith is with children.  They have a nice little chat about how the Doctor is looking for someone ("Well, the first two times I met her, I just sort of bumped into her, so I thought maybe if I just wandered about a bit, I might bump into her again.  You know, like destiny, sort of," the Doctor says.  "That's rubbish," the girl replies.  "Yeah, I think it probably is," the Doctor agrees.  "Hey, maybe I could find a quiet room and have a good think about it instead" -- which we then see in the main episode is exactly what he does), and then the girl walks off, with neither of them aware that she's in fact Clara, the person the Doctor's looking for.  A quick but charming scene.

The main event, however, is "The Bells of Saint John": a cheeky title (the "bells" are the TARDIS's phone ringing -- the TARDIS, as you'll recall, having a "St. John Ambulance" sigil on the door) that nevertheless leads to an action-packed whirlwind of a tale.  This is our first proper look at the companion version of Clara (other than a brief moment at the end of the previous story), and fortunately she's not quite as perfect as the last two versions had been -- fortunately because that gives "our" Clara a chance to grow and develop and not be completely boring.  The Doctor finally finds her, after both trying the "random chance" and the "sit in a room and think" approaches (albeit in a room in a monastery in 1207 Cumbria), by pure chance -- Clara calls the TARDIS's phone after being given the number by "the woman in the shop"245, trying to get help with the internet on her laptop.  (Although Clara seems really helpless here -- is it really likely that a woman in her mid-20s in 2013 would be quite so hopeless with connecting to the Wi-Fi?)

That's the (deliberately contrived) setup, but what follows is really quite wonderful.  "There's something in the Wi-Fi," the Doctor tells us, and while it does seem somewhat fanciful, everyone treats it with sufficient seriousness to make you believe in the idea of a company out there stealing people's minds/souls via Wi-Fi, all for a sinister client: the Great Intelligence (we learn at the end) has been feeding off these minds to sustain itself.  (It's a link that's hinted at earlier in the episode, as the walking base stations -- the "Spoonheads" -- repeat back what's said to them, much as the Intelligence did with young Walter Simeon.)  This means that it has a lot of "agents" out in London, and it's not happy that the Doctor has pulled Clara out of their network before she can be fully downloaded.

(Incidentally, we get a slightly different outfit for the Doctor: the basic feel is the same (coat, bow tie, braces, etc.), but we get a longer purple coat and a darker bow tie.  Nevertheless, it still feels like a natural fit for Matt Smith's Doctor.)

The Doctor rides a motorcycle out of the TARDIS, ready to take
Clara to breakfast. ("The Bells of Saint John") ©BBC
From there it's a mad dash around, with possibly the best bit being all of London going dark except for the area Clara's in, which has a big plane heading for a crash landing -- which leads to the Doctor materializing aboard the plane (in a really wonderful shot from director Colm McCarthy, as they head into the TARDIS, dematerialize, and rematerialize and head straight into the plane) and stopping it from crashing.  But there's also the Doctor's confrontation with Miss Kizlet at the coffee shop, with Kizlet taking over the bodies of everyone in the shop.  Or the Doctor's motorcycle ride up the side of the Shard.  Or the reveal that he's gotten a Spoonhead to confront Miss Kizlet and her gang, while he's comfortably still in the shop.  Once this episode really gets going, it never stops, and all the set pieces link together in a very satisfying way.

In some ways, "The Bells of Saint John" has two jobs: introduce the companion version of Clara, and provide the equivalent of a spectacular series opener.  At both jobs it succeeds admirably.  This is Doctor Who as pure fun, with little angst and a lot of entertainment.  "The Bells of Saint John" is a great, highly enjoyable episode, getting the 2013 run off to a fabulous start.

June 24: "The Rings of Akhaten"

This is one of those stories that doesn't seem to get much love from fandom (233 out of 241 in the most recent Doctor Who Magazine poll), and I have to confess that I'm not certain why.  It's not like it's incompetently made or offensive or anything like that.  So why are people so down on it?

Merry the Queen of Years talks to Clara. ("The Rings of Akhaten")
Is it to do with Clara's story, specifically the stuff before the titles?  What I mean by that is, the cold open shows the Doctor investigating Clara's history -- watching her parents meet, have Clara, followed by her mother's funeral246 -- and concluding that there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about her -- and yet she was also on a space cruise ship in the future and a Victorian governess in the past.  As the Doctor says, "She's not possible."  But then, after the titles run, this isn't touched upon again; the focus has completely shifted to Clara's first adventure in the TARDIS.  That's not to say that Clara doesn't do well with her first trip to a different time and place -- in fact, all things considered she copes astonishingly well -- but rather that the majority of the episode drops the exploration of the ongoing plotline in favor of the story around Akhaten.  If you were hoping for more revelations regarding the Impossible Girl, you would have been sorely disappointed.  But still, that's not the worst of problems, and it can't have been the deciding factor for everybody.  So what is it about the main story that people dislike?

Perhaps it's just the nature of the episode.  It isn't an action story, but it's not about the characters of our heroes either -- which does mean that quite a bit of time is spent exploring the environment, which I suppose can be dull if you're not in the right mood for such a thing.  And once we arrive at the threat, it does sometimes seem like it takes a while to get anywhere -- characters talk about what they should and shouldn't do rather than just doing it (which is an oddly retro style of television).  So perhaps you just wish they'd get on with it.

The "Old God" feasts on the Doctor's many experiences. ("The
Rings of Akhaten") ©BBC
If that's the case then I suppose there's not much to be done, but what, for me, makes "The Rings of Akhaten" work is that this is the least cynical Doctor Who story we've had in years.  Neil Cross's debut script for the show (well, sort of; he actually wrote "Hide" first, but this was broadcast ahead of that) is unabashedly about beauty and wonder and just experiencing things, and even when things are going wrong that philosophy pervades everything.  The people of Akhaten placate their god (which they refer to as "Grandfather") by singing to him (rather than anything more violent -- although I guess they do occasionally sacrifice people to him as well), and "Grandfather" is defeated via stories -- not just stories that happened, but the stories that will never happen, the potential left untapped.  It's a charmingly lyrical piece of storytelling.

And even beyond that, we're encouraged to look at this new world through Clara's eyes -- but not to stare; rather to experience the wonder of all these different peoples, to immerse yourself in the culture (prized possessions as currency, communal singing as prayer), and to marvel at how beautiful and wonderful the universe can be.

So yes, it's a bit slow at times, and it's hardly a strikingly original resolution, but "The Rings of Akhaten" is so invigoratingly optimistic and beautifully uncynical that it's hard not to be caught up in it.  It's not a standout story, but it's definitely a refreshing change of pace.

June 25: "Cold War"

An alien warrior, frozen in the ice for thousands of years, excavated by humanity and thawed -- revealing that the warrior was dormant, not dead.  A small group of people in a confined area, under siege from the resuscitated warrior.  That warrior threatening to destroy the world thanks to nuclear power.  Yes, Mark Gatiss has chosen to remake another Troughton story: this time it's The Ice Warriors.

I mean, I suppose if you're going to reintroduce the Ice Warriors after 39 years then why mess with success (although you start to wonder how many Ice Warriors were accidentally frozen on Earth -- but then maybe Varga and his group were sent to look for Grand Marshal Skaldak and they were also trapped), but it does mean you start forming comparisons between the two stories.  The Ice Warriors had an underlying theme of people versus computers; "Cold War" is (I think) exploring the idea of mutually assured destruction, but it hardly does anything with that idea beyond a basic threat.

Grand Marshal Skaldak takes off his helmet. ("Cold War") ©BBC
The primary purpose of "Cold War" is indeed to bring back the Ice Warriors, and at this they do a good job.  The redesign is fairly minor -- the silhouette and colors are the same (beyond a more metallic sheen), although they've gotten rid of the "fur" -- and so Skaldak is instantly recognizable.  Gatiss has also incorporated some of the later character developments, so the Ice Warriors aren't evil per se, but Skaldak is portrayed as particularly militaristic -- but still with a sense of honor, which is in keeping with where we left the Ice Warriors.  (All that said, I still kind of miss the hissing voice.)  They even do one better, by finally confirming that the Ice Warriors wear armor and showing us the true face of a Martian.

Of course, that's where part of the problem lies; not the fact that they showed us an unarmored Martian, but that this leads to an extended sequence where Doctor Who "does" Alien.  In principle there's nothing wrong with that, but the fact of the matter is that they're going out at 6pm on a Saturday and so they can't make this as terrifying as it needs to be.  So while shots of the unarmored Skaldak creeping up on people and pulling them up into the ceiling are tense, they're not the pure unadulterated terror that's required to make this approach work.  We need to see the bodies and feel the fear for this to really come off, but they can't do that.

The other part of the problem is that Mark Gatiss gives us this background of heightened tensions between the US and the Soviet Union (this is explicitly set in 1983, the year of Able Archer and the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars")) and then hardly does anything with it.  There seems to be little in the way of rampant paranoia -- the only one who exhibits this is Stepashin, and he's portrayed as a warmongering nut -- and they don't draw any explicit parallels between the two situations (the global one and the one on the sub).  In fact, it looks like they start to go down a more interesting road, as Stepashin tries to convince Skeldak they're both alike and should help each other, but then Skeldak kills Stepashin off screen and leaves that road frustratingly untraveled.  So instead we get an unsatisfying Alien homage that leads to a standoff between the Doctor and Skaldak that could have happened at almost any point during the Cold War (the obsession with early '80s New Romantic music notwithstanding).

It's not all bad, of course; we've got a really great cast -- Liam Cunningham does a nice job as the more experienced Captain Zhukov, unwilling to push his men into war, and while Stepashin may seem overeager for a nuclear war, Tobias Menzies does a good job of playing this role -- to the point that you wish he'd stuck around a little longer (another reason to be annoyed by his unceremonious demise).  And they've finally gotten David Warner in front of the camera as Professor Grisenko (after his turn as the main villain in the animated "Dreamland" and a number of Big Finish stories (including an alternate universe Doctor)), and it's everything you'd want from him, a performance filled with dry wit and warmth.  (The best moment is when he questions Clara about the future: "Tell me what happens," he implores Clara.  "I can't," Clara replies.  "Well, I need to know," Grisenko replies mock-desperately.  "...Ultravox, do they split up?"247)  And Jenna-Louise Coleman continues to excel as Clara, being brave and scared at the same time and coming across as incredibly likeable.

If only there had been a more substantial plot to hang this all on, it could have been fabulous.  But here Mark Gatiss's urge to write pastiche falls flat here.  "Cold War" needed more than just reintroducing an old alien and giving us a new twist; it really needed to be about something.  The fact that it's not leaves you with an ultimately hollow feeling, craving something more substantial.

June 26: "Hide"

It's a slightly odd feeling, traveling back to 1974.  Sure, it was 39 years earlier (so not exactly recent), but now we're traveling back into years during which Doctor Who was active.  It's not the first time, but whereas things like "Father's Day" and "The Impossible Astronaut" / "Day of the Moon" didn't have quite the same impact because we were in places not typically associated with the show during those times (a wedding and Cape Kennedy), "Hide" is set in prime Pertwee territory: a haunted, isolated manor.  So initially you feel a bit off, watching Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman instead of Jon Pertwee and Elisabeth Sladen.

The feeling soon passes, however, as you get sucked into an effective, well done ghost story.  Neil Cross does a good job of slowly drawing you in, as we first meet Alec Palmer and his assistant Emma Grayling and learn a bit about the history of the ghost haunting Caliburn House.  The high-tech-for-the-70s equipment, combined with all the photographs, creates a good effect, and the Doctor and Clara's exploration is also handled well -- the cold spots, the loud noises, and the realization that they're not the ones holding each other's hands are great fun, and the quick flashes of something are glorious.

Alec and Clara watch as the Doctor explains to Emma his plan to
rescue the time traveller Hila. ("Hide") ©BBC
But what makes "Hide" special isn't just that it does a great job of evoking that feeling of ghost stories, of quiet tension and suspense, but that it keeps changing the game in reasonable ways.  So the ghost isn't a ghost; it's a time traveller, stuck in a pocket universe where time runs achingly slow who needs to be rescued, thanks to the empathic psychic Emma -- think Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  (Incidentally, this allows Matt Smith to join Sylvester McCoy in the ranks of "Doctors who can't pronounce Pertwee planets correctly" (Metebelis III is twice pronounced as [mə.'tɛ.bə.lɪs] instead of the original [mɛ.tə.'bi.lɪs] -- supposedly the production team caught the mistake and fixed it in ADR, but the edit was accidentally left out).)  He works this out by traveling through the entire history of Earth, taking pictures every few hundred thousand years -- something which freaks Clara out as she thinks about it.  That's understandable; what's less understandable is Clara's accusation that "We're all ghosts to you.  We must be nothing", which I have to confess is a viewpoint I can't comprehend.  If you can see everything then it becomes nothing?  I think I see what Cross is driving at (something like, "If the Doctor can experience everything, then what makes anything important?"), but it's expressed in a really strange way.  (Or, as the Doctor said to Amy in "The Beast Below" (in response to a similar observation): "Oh, lovely.  You're a cheery one.")

But weird thoughts from Clara aside, this is a taut, entertaining story; the way the ghost story gives way to time travel, but with something even more disturbing chasing Hila the time traveller (in the form of the Crooked Man), there's still that element of tension and terror, and it's striking that we see the Doctor respond as well: "You want me to be afraid.  Then well done.  I am the Doctor, and I am afraid."  It's a scary costume, and the way it's shot, so that it's juddering as if it's out of phase with the universe, is really effective.  This alone would make "Hide" a great story, but then Neil Cross goes one better:
DOCTOR: Oh, I'm so slow!  I am slow.  I'm notorious for it.  That's always been my problem. But, but I get there in the end.  Oh yes.
CLARA: Doctor?
DOCTOR: How do sharks make babies?
CLARA: Carefully?
DOCTOR: No, no, no.  Happily!
CLARA: Sharks don't actually smile.  They're just, well, they've got lots and lots of teeth. They're quite eat-y.
DOCTOR: Exactly.  But birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.  Every lonely monster needs a companion.
CLARA: There's two of them?
DOCTOR: It's the oldest story in the universe, this one or any other.  Boy and girl fall in love, get separated by events.  War, politics, accidents in time.  She's thrown out of the Hex248, or he's thrown into it.  Since then they've been yearning for each other across time and space, across dimensions.  This isn't a ghost story, it's a love story!
The way Cross gives us another twist, one that's pleasingly non-xenophobic with a beautiful message, is gorgeous.  I was already on board with "Hide", but that cemented it for me.  This is a knockout of a story.  One to treasure.

June 27: "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"

It took nearly 50 years, but we finally get an episode with the word "TARDIS" in the title.  I know, I bet you thought it would never happen.

It's an interesting idea, to set an entire episode inside the TARDIS -- something that the 20th-century version flirted with, but this episode is more Castrovalva than The Invasion of Time.  We admittedly got a little bit of this in "The Doctor's Wife", but here it's the main focus of the piece, as we explore the interior of the TARDIS, in the name of finding Clara before something else does.

The Van Baalen brothers don't want the Doctor to halve the time
on the self-destruct again. ("Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS")
The TARDIS is damaged, with Clara still trapped inside, and the Doctor enlists the help of the salvage team who damaged the TARDIS in the first place (using some sort of illegal MacGuffin) to help him find Clara.  The scene where he threatens to blow up the TARDIS as an incentive to the Van Baalen brothers is slightly odd, and the Doctor's line ("Don't get into a spaceship with a madman.  Didn't anyone ever teach you that?") doesn't quite feel right either -- but then it does demonstrate how desperate the Doctor is to find Clara.  (That said, the reveal that the self-destruct was a lie -- "There is no self-destruct! ... Had you going though, boys, didn't I?  I just wiggled a few buttons.  Yeah, the old wiggly button trick.  And the face.  You've got to do the face.  'Save her or we all die.'  I thought I rushed it a bit, but—" is one of the most wonderfully eleventh Doctorish moments in the whole episode.)  And while the Van Baalen brothers aren't exactly the best-acted parts in the show, they're not terrible.

Of course, the problem with discussing "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" is that it's essentially one long chase sequence -- we get lots of scenes of people exploring the TARDIS, and while these scenes are nicely done, they don't advance the plot that much.  Still, it's fun to explore the TARDIS, and things like the Architectural Reconfiguration System are wonderfully lyrical in their presentation -- and Gregor's decision to take one of the circuits leads to some marvelous camera work as the Doctor and the others start walking in circles ("If you walk out of here with that circuit, the TARDIS will try to stop you," the Doctor had warned).  And there are nice touches to the past -- a swimming pool, a vast TARDIS library, the Eye of Harmony inside the TARDIS (in what seems to be a reference to the TV Movie), and lots of whispered snatches of dialogue from previous episodes (including the first episode, "An Unearthly Child" -- appropriate in an anniversary year).  But nevertheless, it's just a chase sequence, rather than us learning anything new.  Well, except for the nature of the "zombies" stalking the corridors of the TARDIS, which is actually rather clever.

And we also get some nice tensions between the Doctor and Clara.  Clara starts it off ("What do you keep in here?  Why have you got zombie creatures?" she demands to know), but the Doctor gets his own jabs in ("Well, there's no point now.  We're about to die.  Just tell me who you are. ... I look at you every single day and I don't understand a thing about you.  Why do I keep running into you? ... What are you, eh?  Are you a trick?  A trap?"), only to find that she doesn't understand a thing he's talking about.

So as disaster movies go, this is a good one in claustrophobic tensions, with only a couple problems (the reveal that Tricky is human, not an android, falls apart the moment you start to think about it -- how could he not have known?  It's not exactly up to the level of The Android Invasion's "you had your eye all along!", but it's approaching it, and that's not a good thing) and some nice clever moments.  It's sad that the resolution is to reset everything so that the TARDIS isn't damaged and no one dies after all (oh look, another thing this story shares with "Grace: 1999"), as it removes a lot of the dramatic punch this episode had -- what's the point of the Doctor directly confronting Clara over her nature if neither one is going to remember it?  But for most of the episode, this is a solid, if not exactly outstanding, story.

At the very least, surely we can at least all agree it's a whole lot better than Stephen Thompson's last script for the show, "The Curse of the Black Spot"?

June 28: "The Crimson Horror"

It's something of a milestone today: "The Crimson Horror" is the 100th episode of the BBC Wales run of the series.

For me, there tends to be a slight sense of trepidation when approaching a Mark Gatiss script.  Maybe it's because I've seen what he can accomplish with Doctor Who when he nails it (such as his books Nightshade and Last of the Gaderene), and so far he hasn't quite made it to those levels on the actual show -- "The Unquiet Dead" probably came closest, but even it had the unpleasant subtext about immigration bringing things down.  But now, finally, Gatiss has achieved his full potential: "The Crimson Horror" is a delight from start to finish.

It helps that Gatiss is on comfortable ground here: "The Unquiet Dead" already demonstrated his affection and affinity for the Victorian period, and "The Crimson Horror" cements that, with shenanigans in 1893 Yorkshire involving a woman preaching fire and brimstone (Dame Diana Rigg, in an exquisite performance) but also a chance at salvation.  And meanwhile, people keep turning up dead, their skin colored crimson.  This is also Gatiss's chance to use the Paternoster Gang (formally introduced in "The Snowmen", although "A Good Man Goes to War" features all three of the Gang), and you can tell that he's thoroughly enjoying the opportunity.  In fact, the decision to sideline the Doctor for the first third of the story is a smart one, as it allows the Gang to take center stage, and they prove just how good they are -- the three of them have genuinely wonderful chemistry that elevates any scene they're in.  We also get a sense of how independent they are, and how comfortable they are doing their thing -- if anyone deserves a spinoff series, it's them: it's only because they spot an image of the Doctor in a dead man's eyes that this turns into a Doctor Who story in the first place.  Jenny is clearly at home in hand-to-hand combat (in what is clearly an homage to Diana Rigg's most famous character, The Avengers' Emma Peel), and Strax is having such a good time shooting up the place that it's hard to begrudge him it (although Vastra certainly does: "Strax!  You're overexcited.  Have you been eating Miss Jenny's sherbet fancies again?"  "...No..." Strax replies guiltily).

Jenny helps the semi-preserved Doctor. ("The Crimson Horror")
Good move, by the way, making the Doctor the "monster" behind the locked door -- it's the sort of expectation worth subverting, and gives Matt Smith a chance to do some "lumbering monster" acting that's rather fun to watch.  And the flashback that describes how he and Clara became involved in Mrs. Gillyflower's Sweetville scheme is a masterpiece of direction and effects -- the old film look is gorgeous without being too intrusive.

This leads to the main storyline, where it's immediately evident that Dame Rigg is having an utter whale of a time as Mrs. Gillyflower, relishing the opportunity to play such a black-and-white villain -- Gatiss makes it clear that Mrs. Gillyflower is utterly convinced of the rightness of her scheme, which means she gets to be delightfully villainous without having to worry about being misunderstood or anything like that.  The best scene might be her confrontation with the Doctor ("Mrs Gillyflower, you have no idea what you are dealing with," the Doctor tells her.  "In the wrong hands, that venom could wipe out all life on this planet."  "Do you know what these are?" Mrs. Gillyflower replies, holding out her hands.  "The wrong hands!" she cackles), but even moments with her daughter Ada (played by Rigg's real-life daughter Rachael Stirling, in their first professional show together) are wonderful, even as she cruelly rejects her daughter -- the daughter, we later learn, that she herself blinded.  And there's the bizarre relationship she has with the primeval red leech that's producing the venom that leads to the Crimson Horror, which Rigg plays to the hilt.

Really, it's hard to come up with anything that doesn't really work here -- everyone is fully committed, and the script sparkles the whole way through with cleverness and wit, and even the silly jokes (the way Mr. Thursday faints every time he sees something unusual, Strax receiving directions from "Thomas Thomas") bring a smile to the face, even as they make you groan a bit.  The only issue is the very end, where we suddenly have to have a lead-in for the next story, with the kids Clara babysits threatening to reveal her secret (that she's a time traveller) to their dad if she doesn't take them with him (is that remotely the sort of threat that has any hope of working?  All they have as evidence is photos that Clara could simply claim were Photoshopped), and this hardly feels like Gatiss's fault.  So therefore a great script, fabulous performances, and thankfully no subtexts to worry about means that "The Crimson Horror" is Mark Gatiss's best episode yet.

And what do you know?  Fandom agrees with meDoctor Who Magazine's recent First 50 Years poll has it as the highest ranked of Gatiss's six stories to date -- 83 of 241.

June 29: "Nightmare in Silver"

I'm not quite sure what goes wrong with "Nightmare in Silver".  The premise is sound enough -- make the Cybermen scary again, as we were told over and over in the publicity material -- and author Neil Gaiman has a proven track record.  But somewhere along the way, "Nightmare in Silver" turned into a thoroughly pedestrian affair mixed with some genuinely problematic elements.

The Cybermen advance across Natty Longshoe's Comical Castle.
("Nightmare in Silver") ©BBC
This episode's big draw was the return of the Cybermen, in an effort to make them genuinely scary, like they hadn't really been since the 1960s.  To that end, these "upgraded" Cybermen have a number of tricks up their sleeves that we haven't seen before.  The most effective one is the introduction of the Cybermites, insect-sized creatures that can you turn you into a Cyberman -- this is a genuinely clever move, and the fact that they could be lurking anywhere, ready to convert you, adds to the tension (or at least it would if they'd actually gone down this road).  The scene of the Cybermites streaming out of the dead Cybus Cyberman's eyes might be the best shot in the show.  All the other new tricks range from acceptable (the increased speed) to the weird (they can spin their heads all the way around) to the ludicrous (they can detach body parts -- okay, decoy head, silly but fine, but a scurrying Cyberhand that attacks you like a Facehugger from Alien?  Really?).  And then there are all the other bits, like developing immunities to weapons (and the Cybermites, to an extent) that feel like stealing from Star Trek: The Next Generation's Borg.  Fair enough, I suppose, given that the Borg often felt like Star Trek stealing from the Cybermen, but it still means that they don't come across as particularly original.

And here's the first problem: if your stated goal is to make the Cybermen scary, you need to use the most effective tool in their arsenal -- being converted into a Cyberman.  Part of the reason things like The Tomb of the Cybermen work as well as they do is that they play on that.  "You shall be like us," the Cyber Controller grates in that story, but we get little in the way of that here.  Mr. Webley is the most effective because he's partially converted, but people like those two troopers and the two children get a blinking light attached to their heads and that's it.  No body horror, no people dragged away or instantly converted by Cybermites.  We're told the Cybermen are dangerous and terrifying, but we don't see enough evidence to really believe that.

The other major problem is the inclusion of Artie and Angie, the two children Clara babysits.  To be frank... why are they in this story at all?  There doesn't seem to be anything requiring their presence (there's a suggestion that children's brains are needed by the Cybermen because they're clever, but that's immediately (as in, within the same line) discounted in favor of the Doctor's brain), and they tend to be a drag while they're around.  Well, that's not fair; Artie is actually rather likeable, as he actually seems to be interested in his surroundings, but Angie is presented as an obnoxious teenager, which is as much fun as it sounds.  I'm all for realism, but did no one think that having Angie walk into a room full of soldiers and declare that she's bored was taking things too far?  She's incredibly unpleasant to be around, and it's frankly something of a mercy when the Cybermen put her in a "walking coma".

So we've got new look not-actually-very-scary Cybermen and a kid and his annoying sister wandering around, but there are some good moments here.  The best one is the partial conversion of the Doctor himself, mainly because Matt Smith is so good portraying both the Doctor and the Cyber Planner -- it's a surprisingly nuanced performance for a character that seems to involve a lot of smug shouting, but Smith pulls it off.  And I'm happy any time Warwick Davis shows up in anything, and his portrayal of Porridge/Emperor Ludens Nimrod Kendrick Cord Longstaff XLI doesn't fail to deliver.  The resolution of the storyline, where Porridge activates the planet-imploding bomb and then his imperial ship comes and rescues everyone, should feel like a massive copout but doesn't.  And the Cyber redesign looks nice -- and the Cyber-tombs underground have nice visual callbacks to The Tomb of the Cybermen, just like Attack of the Cybermen should have done.

But in the end "Nightmare in Silver" fails to deliver.  The feeling you get, watching this, is that this should have undergone either one more rewrite or several fewer.  It feels like Neil Gaiman's authorial voice was slowly edited out of the episode, but nothing was brought in to replace it, and the purpose behind some of the decisions (such as the presence of the kids) was lost in the rewrites.  It's not incompetent, and like all Doctor Who there are good moments in here if you look for them, but the final result falls far short of the intended goal.

Oh and look: in fine old tradition, they've misspelled Kit Pedler's name as "Pedlar" in the closing credits.

June 30: "She Said, He Said - A Prequel" / "Clarence and the Whispermen" / "The Name of the Doctor" / "The Inforarium" / "Clara and the TARDIS" / "Rain Gods"

They've been pulling back on the online prequel teasers recently, but now it's time for the series 7 finale so they make a return.  The nice thing about the prequel teasers is that usually they provide a nice taste of what's to come and are entertaining in their own right.  "She Said, He Said" is the exception to that trend, however.  It's genuinely painful in places, watching first Jenna-Louise Coleman and then Matt Smith wander through what appears to be the BBC Wales prop department, telling us all things we already know.  I suppose they wanted to add mystery to the upcoming episode, but this prequel lacks the trust that the show has been generally quite good at placing in the audience, and so it's a general misfire and the weakest of all the prequels to date.

"Clarence and the Whispermen" is a much better prequel for "The Name of the Doctor"249, as it gives us a glimpse of strange creatures called Whispermen, who come for a man named Clarence with a message for the "reptile detective", in exchange for a pardon.  It's a nice moody piece, even if at this point we have no idea what its meaning is.

But then it's on to "The Name of the Doctor" itself, which opens in a surprising way: it tells us upfront who Clara actually is.  "I'm Clara Oswald.  I'm the Impossible Girl.  I was born to save the Doctor."  And this is accompanied by clips of former Doctors, as she tries to get their attention and largely fails.  These clips are genuinely thrilling to see -- there's something about bits from things like The Invasion of Time, Arc of Infinity, The Five Doctors, and Dragonfire being broadcast at 7:00 pm on a Saturday in 2013 that's amazing and wonderful to behold (although, did they have to use McCoy dangling from that cliff from his umbrella?).  And we even get a look at the first Doctor leaving Gallifrey all those years ago, furtively ushering Susan into a faulty TARDIS.

Clara, Strax, the Doctor, Vastra, and Jenny prepare to enter
the Doctor's tomb, surrounded by Whisper Men. ("The Name of
the Doctor") ©BBC
So, we know Clara isn't a trick or a trap, and thus we're free to focus on the rest of the episode.  This involves the Great Intelligence's third appearance this series (and consequently more appearances here than in the 20th century -- so does that make him a 21st-century villain now?), and the trap he lays for the Doctor's friends, the Paternoster Gang, in an effort to lure the Doctor himself into the trap.  It seems the Intelligence has learned something important about the Doctor: "The Doctor has a secret, you know.  He has one he will take to the grave.  And it is discovered," Clarence tells Vastra (thus tying in with the prequel, as it's the Intelligence who's given Clarence the information).  This is what leads Vastra to perform her telepathic conference call, which also includes Clara and River Song (in what's to date her last appearance on the show (well, "Rain Gods" excepted, but we'll get there)).  There's a lot of setup going on, as this trap is baited, but what's impressive is how well it works.  We have a scene that consists of five people talking around a table that ends up being a fascinating and tense moment -- and when we learn that the Whisper Men (as it's spelled in the closing credits) have killed Jenny and surrounded Vastra and Strax, we know just how high the stakes are.

But what's most impressive about "The Name of the Doctor" is Matt Smith.  His scene with Clara in the Maitlands' place, where he blinks back tears after hearing about Trenzalore and realizing that he's confronting his future and his death, is a fabulous piece of acting, but it's just part and parcel of everything he does here.  Whether it's running through the secret passage to his tomb, confronting the Great Intelligence, or his emotional interaction with River, Smith is incredibly watchable, drawing the eye in every moment.  It's therefore a credit to everyone else here that they can hold their own, and the result is an extremely good cast giving their all.

The tomb of the Doctor. ("The Name of the Doctor") ©BBC
It helps they've been given good material to work with.  "The Name of the Doctor" is about the future coming back to haunt us, and while it's emphatically concerned with the big questions that have been raised (why does Clara keep appearing?  Who actually is the Doctor?  What's going to happen at the Fall of the Eleventh?), it doesn't lose focus on the details.  It may be about the Doctor's final battle, but it's things like the Great Intelligence's desire to die, not to triumph (although he wants to take the Doctor with him as he goes), that make this special.  The idea that a Time Lord leaves not a body but a tear in the fabric of reality when they die is a clever, lyrical idea, and the use of it to defeat the Doctor (by having the Intelligence enter the wound and rewrite all the Doctor's victories as defeats) is interesting -- the effect it has on the universe is impressive, but when you see how it affects Strax and Jenny, it's given a smaller, more personal element as well.

And that of course leads to the climactic moments, as Clara follows the Great Intelligence into the Doctor's time stream to undo the damage, which leads to all the clips again -- and we see that Clara is the one who told the Doctor which TARDIS to steal, among other things.  It's a neat idea, and it's up to the Doctor to rescue her -- which leads to that glorious confrontation with River's ghost, where he ends up kissing her ("Since nobody else in this room can see you, God knows how that looked," he remarks afterwards, which leads to a marvelous cut to Strax, Jenny, and Vastra looking on in confusion) before finally, properly saying goodbye to her.  It's the Doctor at his most vulnerable and at his best, and it's a great prelude to his rescue of Clara.

The one who broke the promise. ("The Name of the Doctor")
"The Name of the Doctor" has been a lot of things up to this point, a balancing act of the big with the small, and it's generally been a satisfying piece of television that's done a good job of accomplishing just that.  As a piece of foreshadowing (remember, Matt Smith only has two stories left) it works extremely well.  As a story in its own right it's slightly less successful, but it does a good job of resolving Clara's "Impossible Girl" storyline as well as the Great Intelligence strand that's run through this year's stories.  If that's all "The Name of the Doctor" had been, it would have been enough, to have that story matched with those fabulous performances.  But it's those last few moments that change everything, that make this into something surprising and incredible.  The Doctor rescuing Clara is a beautiful moment ("You're my Impossible Girl.  How many times have you saved me, Clara?  Just this once, just for the hell of it, let me save you"), but it leads into that fabulous cliffhanger, as the Doctor observes a figure with its back to him and tries to get away:
CLARA: Who's that?
DOCTOR: Never mind.  Let's go back.
CLARA: But who is he?
DOCTOR: He's me.  There's only me here, that's the point.  Now let's get back.
CLARA: But I never saw that one.  I saw all of you.  Eleven faces, all of them you.  You're the eleventh Doctor.
DOCTOR: I said he was me.  I never said he was the Doctor.
CLARA: I don't understand.
DOCTOR: Look, my name, my real name, that is not the point.  The name I chose is the Doctor.  The name you choose, it's like, it's like a promise you make.  He's the one who broke the promise. ... He is my secret.
FIGURE: What I did, I did without choice.
DOCTOR: I know.
FIGURE: In the name of peace and sanity.
DOCTOR: But not in the name of the Doctor!
And look! It's John Hurt (now Sir John) as that figure, who is revealed to be...the Doctor?  Now that's a cliffhanger to send out series 7 on.

Series 7 is a bit of an odd beast, just by the nature of airing over a two-year span instead of the typical one.  And admittedly, series 7 does have a disjointed feeling -- even beyond being spread across two years, those two separate runs feel different from each other.  Part of that might be down to the changes being rung (new companions, Doctor outfit, control room, title sequence...), but it's also the case that the focus shifts between 2012 and 2013.  2012 seemed more interested in exploring the Doctor himself, about whether he was as good a man as we all assumed he was, while the 2013 stories are focused on Clara and who she really is.  The advantage of this is that the Doctor's character snaps back into focus as being generally heroic and morally upstanding, which feels more natural than trying to explore the darker sides.  That's not to say that darkness shouldn't be explored, but there was a sense in series 6 and the first part of series 7 that that was all the scriptwriters were interested in.  It's nice to get a change of scenery.

Another change of scenery regards that overarching plot.  It's still more prevalent than during Russell T Davies' era, but Steven Moffat seems to have taken aboard some of the criticisms regarding series 6, which means that this series' "Impossible Girl" is much more straightforward in the telling -- there are less mental gymnastics involved this time around.  I think the idea that series 6's plotline is too convoluted is wrong, but it is the case that many of the episodes last time around were very heavy on that storyline, in order to accommodate that storyline.  This doesn't happen here.  Now you may prefer or disprefer that (I know at least one person in the latter category, who couldn't understand why we were bothering with planet-sized parasites and Cold War Ice Warriors instead of getting on with the Clara storyline), but it is the case that these episodes stand alone much more easily, and thus are a little more casual viewer-friendly.

But the main thing to note is that series 7 has continued their run of consistently good stories -- in fact, it's an improvement on series 6 just by virtue of there being more variety in the stories we got.  It's no mean feat when the vast majority of your episodes are clear winners, and it simply confirms that this production team definitely know what they're doing.  The confidence that bursts from every scene is evidence of that, and it certainly seems like we're in safe hands as we approach the 50th anniversary.  And if the end of "The Name of the Doctor" is proof of anything, it's that after almost 50 years there are still plenty of surprises left in this show.

(Oh, and before we go, three more quick disc-only mini-episodes to discuss: "The Inforarium" details one of the Doctor's efforts to erase himself from history, and is charming and clever.  "Clara and the TARDIS", meanwhile, gives us a bit more insight into Clara's somewhat fractious relationship with the TARDIS, and this shows that it's definitely not just in her head (as you might have wondered).  It's also fun, even if you have to wonder when Clara was actually sleeping in the TARDIS instead of just being dropped off by the Doctor at the end of every adventure.  And finally, "Rain Gods" is an adaptation by Steven Moffat of a scene cut from the beginning of Neil Gaiman's "The Doctor's Wife", with River substituted for Amy and Rory.  It's harmless and a bit daft, but as it doesn't overstay its welcome (none of these run much longer than two minutes) we can forgive it some minor silliness.)


238 How can Skaro exist, given that we saw it destroyed in Remembrance of the Daleks?  There seem to be three possible explanations, none of them particularly good.  Possibility one: Skaro was resurrected during the Time War (or possibly saved by rewriting history -- time war, after all) and then ruined, but for whatever reason is not part of the Time Lock that sets the rest of the Time War off from history (although that's actually a problem for all three possibilities).  Possibility two: War of the Daleks (the eighth Doctor novel that suggests that the Daleks went through a ludicrously elaborate plot to fool the Doctor and Davros into thinking that a planet named Antalin was actually Skaro so that it, not the real Skaro, would be destroyed) is canon, and Skaro survived to the time of "Asylum of the Daleks".  Possibility three: the Daleks found a new home planet and also called it Skaro (as Jean-Marc Lofficier suggested in The Terrestrial Index), and that's what we see in "Asylum".  (All that said, it's worth noting that this problem of Skaro's existence pops up as early as the pre-title sequence of the McGann movie, so it's not like it's a new issue...)
239 We're told that these Daleks include those from Spiridon (here mispronounced the same way McCoy did in Remembrance of the Daleks), Kembel, Aridius, Vulcan, and Exxilon.  Setting aside the fact that none of the Daleks shown in that scene resemble the Daleks from those stories (and they had some 20th-century props, so it's not like they couldn't have used them if they'd wanted), it's a nice little line, but there are some problems with it: namely, some of the events referenced shouldn't have had Dalek survivors in the first place.  Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks) makes sense, given that the Daleks at the end were entombed in ice rather than outright killed, so survivors should be easy enough to find (or I suppose it could be one of the Daleks trapped in that little room with the plague).   Only one Dalek seems to suffer any ill effects on Aridius (The Chase), and all it does is fall down a hole -- so the thought of a Dalek needing to go to intensive care for that is silly (albeit worryingly in keeping with the tone of that particular story...).
     Exxilon (Death to the Daleks) and Vulcan (The Power of the Daleks) are a lot harder to explain.  It sure looks like any remaining Daleks on Exxilon were on the spaceship that Galloway blew up, but maaaaaybe one of the Daleks in the City managed to survive.  (Or, as I suggested at the time, it could be the one that self-destructed after losing some prisoners -- maybe it wasn't successful at that either.)  The end of Power does have the eye-stalk twitching up at the end (reportedly), so that would seem to be a survivor too; fine, although that does suggest that the Daleks returned for their comrade and presumably exterminated the remaining members of the colony.  But this still leaves Kembel (The Daleks' Master Plan), where all the Daleks are unequivocally wiped out at the end, along with all life on the entire planet (and Sara Kingdom, don't forget).  So how could there possibly be any survivors?  Even if, let's say, a Dalek left before the Time Destructor did its work, there'd be no reason for it to end up in intensive care since nothing bad had happened to it.  Unless the knowledge that it only just escaped death at the hands of the Doctor was enough to drive it insane.  Which is frankly stupid, but it seems to be the best explanation we have.
240 A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
241 Kate Stewart actually began life in a semi-official video called Downtime (there played by Beverly Cressman), which featured the return of an awful lot of people but especially Victoria Waterfield and the Great Intelligence -- she cropped up a few more times in novels and such before reappearing in "The Power of Three", but she seems to be intended to be the same character, making her one of the few to successfully transition from non-televised Who to the main show.
242 The New York Record (not a real newspaper)'s front page headline reads "Detroit Lions Win Superbowl [sic]", which feels like a cruel joke at the state of Michigan's expense.  (Although admittedly, in our universe the Lions did have their first winning season that year since 2000, so things were at least looking up, but if you know anything about the Detroit Lions you can immediately see how implausible this is.)
243 You sort of see their point, but the entire series was commissioned and filmed in one unit, which is why just about everyone else treats it as a single series.
244 It does kind of look like the production team knew about the discovery of four of the five missing episodes of The Web of Fear, but if so, it would mean they knew about it well in advance -- the readthrough for "The Snowmen" was in August 2012, while the announcement of the recovery wasn't until October 2013.  It's perhaps more likely that they'd heard some of the rumors flying around (combined with Neil Gaiman's original idea that "House" in "The Doctor's Wife" was actually the Great Intelligence, which would have put the thought in Moffat's head) and decided to bring the Intelligence back.
245 The mention of this convenient arranged meeting is largely thrown away here, but they'll finally explain it in the series 8 finale.
246 Clara's mother Ellie died on 5 March 2005, which happens to be the date that the ninth Doctor and Rose fought the Autons in "Rose".  Is there a suggestion that Ellie was killed by the Autons, or is it just a coincidence?
247 They do, but not for another four years.
248 The script began life as "Phantoms of the Hex", with the Hex being the name of the pocket universe the Lost Lord (an ancient Time Lord criminal) was imprisoned in, but as the script was revised the Time Lord aspect was dropped, along with any mentions of the Hex -- except for this one here, which slipped through.
249 Or at least it would have been if it had come out ahead of time, but strictly speaking I'm cheating again with regards to release dates: this wasn't available until roughly a week after the broadcast, as part of the Series 7, Part 2 (and then also later The Complete Seventh Series) boxset.