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The Unlikely Validation of Steven Moffat’s “Doctor Who” by Chris Chibnall…

To be entirely fair, the twelfth season of Doctor Who offers a marked improvement over the eleventh. It has a lot more enthusiasm and ambition, a stronger sense of ownership, and a higher baseline of competence.

Still, watching the twelfth season is a surreal experience. On the most basic of levels, the season does not contain a single episode as good as either of the eleventh season’s standouts, Demons of the Punjab or It Takes You Away. The best episode of the season is Fugitive of the Judoon, which is not so much an episode as a forty-odd minute teaser. The second best episode of the season hinges its climax on the moral argument that Percy Shelley’s life is worth more than millions in the future because he’s a “great man of history.” As such, it is a fundamentally flawed season.

At the same time, there is something interesting in the season’s relationship to the Moffat era. Every era of Doctor Who has an interesting relationship with the one that preceded it. The Third Doctor’s status as an establishment figure was best read as a reaction against the Second Doctor as a wandering hobo, with the Fourth Doctor’s bohemian sensibilities itself a reaction against that. Indeed, specific stories with the Hinchcliffe era seem to exist as plays upon (or critiques of) the Letts era, most notably Terror of the Zygons.

The Moffat era was no stranger to this, involving itself in an evolving conversation with the Davies era. The fifth season adhered religiously to the structure that Davies had employed for each of his four seasons, while later seasons would become structurally ambitious. The entirety of the ninth season seemed to be built outwards from Journey’s End, from the return of Davros and resurrection of Skaro in The Magician’s Apprentice to the reframing of the Doctor’s memory wipe of companion in Hell Bent. Moffat even affectionately named the “good Dalek” in Into the Dalek as “Rusty” in honour of Russell T. Davies.

As such, it is no surprise that the Chibnall era should have something to say about the Moffat era. To be fair, historical episodes like Nikola Tesla’s Night of Terror or The Witchfinders, along with attempts to ground the series in the companions’ domestic lives in Arachnids in the U.K. and Can You Hear Me?, suggest a stronger affinity for the Davies era. Still, the decision to open the twelfth season with a two-parter globe-trotting adventure (that morphs into a time-hopping adventure) in Spyfall, Part I and Spyfall, Part II feels consciously indebted to Moffat’s sixth season opener The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon.

The most striking aspect of the twelfth season’s relationship to the work of Steven Moffat is how its season premiere and finale feel like long-delayed set-ups to punchlines that Moffat delivered years ago. In particular, Spyfall, Part II feels like the premise of Let’s Kill Hitler played depressingly straight, and The Timeless Children is essentially the sort of notionally “epic” continuity-fest that Hell Bent so studiously avoided. There’s something incredibly depressing in this, a sense that the Chibnall era not only missed the point of Let’s Kill Hitler and Hell Bent, but is committed to being the kind of stories that they so roundly mocked.

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Star Trek: The Next Generation (DC, 1989) Annual #1 – The Gift (Review)

This January and February, we’ll be finishing up our look at the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation and moving on to the third year of the show, both recently and lovingly remastered for high definition. Check back daily for the latest review.

We’ll be supplementing our coverage of the episodes with some additional materials – mainly novels and comics and films.

You can see why DC comics jumped at the chance to publish The Gift. After all, a comic about Q written by the actor playing Q is a hell of a hook. The publisher had already done something similar, with actor Walter Koenig providing a script for the nineteenth issue of DC’s first Star Trek comic book series. At the same time that The Gift was published, George Takei collaborated with Peter David on a Star Trek annual story, So Near the Touch.

John deLancie isn’t a bad storyteller. Indeed, his published tie-in novel – I, Q written with Peter David – is quite enjoyable. However, The Gift is just an absolute mess of a story, with a couple of interesting high concepts buried beneath two horrible clichés tied together to create a rather unfortunate narrative. The Gift is a disappointment on just about every level.

Cue Q!

Cue Q!

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Doctor Who: Let’s Kill Hitler (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Let’s Kill Hitler originally aired in 2011.

You’ve got a time machine, I’ve got a gun. What the hell. Let’s kill Hitler.

– Mels drops a title

Well, Steven Moffat made it quite clear from the outset that he was going to play with the structure of his second season as executive producer. The show was split and broadcast in two blocks, straddling the summer. It opened with a rather epic two-part adventure that seemed to show us the end of the Doctor’s journey. Let’s Kill Hitler is positioned in a very strange way. It is simultaneously the light and quirky opening episode of the season’s second block, and also the hour devoted to resolving a lot of the lingering questions overshadowing the arc-driven sixth season of the revived Doctor Who.

It is, in short, a mess. It’s a confident and occasionally brilliant mess, but a mess nonetheless.

Crashing the Nazi Party…

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