Since I was a little bopbop, I have been obsessed with nerd stuff of many flavors, from Star Trek to X-Men to comic book crossovers featuring Star Trek and the X-Men. Somehow, Doctor Who remained on my periphery, unwatched. What was it that kept me from this great unrealized love in my life? Was it the too-many episodes? The intimidating history of the franchise? Couldn’t be, I’m an X-Men fan! I’m more than used to jumping into a story in the very middle. In truth, it was probably just because I was waiting for the perfect moment, a moment which seemed to never come.
Then, one day, like an angel from heaven, FANGRRL Riley Silverman offered me a list of 12th Doctor episodes to watch, finally uniting me with my one true love: Doctor Who. This series is amazing, and now I look back on my many wasted years spent not loving Doctor Who with remorse. Instead of smiling and nodding at my friends who were stoked about it, I could have been loving it alongside them. If only I hadn't been such a fool! Why did I fight it for so long? Bitter regret!
This series really has it all: great villains, suspense, scary monsters, bonkers science fiction, and some of the strangest, most complicated friendships in all of fiction.
Here it is, baby’s first episode of Doctor Who. So, the story introduces a lady named Bill, who works at the school’s canteen but has been sneaking into Doctor Who’s lectures. He offers to be her private tutor, and she is thrown off by it, but quickly accepts.
Guess what? Bill is queer! She immediately crushes out on what is soon-to-become the villain of this story, to which I relate very strongly. Bill is great. I love her. She is my favorite character. If she dies in a future episode, don’t tell me, because I can’t handle that kind of negativity in my life. All hail Bill! The girl she has a crush on turns out to be also turning into a weird puddle monster, who then starts showing up again and again and trying to kill everyone in her path. It turns out that a seemingly casual promise to Bill earlier in the episode is what is keeping her around, and Bill releases her, and everyone cries. (By everyone, I mean me and my cat.)
Doctor Who decides Bill can’t handle knowing all his cool Doctor Who secrets so he goes to wipe her memory, but she effectively guilts him out of it. There’s a ton of really funny and self-referential moments with Bill as a sci-fi fan, at one point asking the Doctor, “Do you know much about sci-fi?” When he approaches her to mindwipe her, she freaks out, claiming to know what he’s doing because she’s seen it in movies. Instead of mindwiping Bill, they become BEST FRIENDS. It’s heartwarming.
So, it turns out that Doctor Who is a queer masterpiece and everyone should watch it. Who knew?! Is all Doctor Who like this?! If so, amazing! I am sold! This is surely the greatest show of all time.
Mummy on the Orient Express
In this episode, I discover that Bill wasn’t always the Doctor’s best friend, because he also at one point had a best friend named Clara. Clara might not be Bill and therefore not my favorite character on the show, but she is pretty great.
The Doctor and Clara show up via the TARDIS on a train flying through space filled with people dressed in costumes and an interior that duplicates those of the Orient Express. The story begins with a woman who sees a mummy that only appears to her, and kills her within 66 seconds of seeing it. The mummy again appears to a chef on board, and likewise kills him within 66 seconds, at which time it becomes clear that it’s going to be a theme and everyone on the train is in danger. The Doctor realizes that there is an inordinate number of scientists aboard and that they’ve been specifically brought there by an outside force to solve the mystery. The automated computer system Gus helps motivate them by likewise killing the entire kitchen staff when the Doctor is speaking to Clara and won’t hang up his phone to get back to work.
In this episode, I started to notice a theme, which is that the solution to the problem is usually to stop fighting, to sympathize with the villain and help them get over their mission and move on. Also, Clara begins the episode having decided to leave her work with Doctor Who, but after a series of really touching moments between them, she decides to stay. It’s really cute!
The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar
This two-parter opened up Season 9 and watching it felt like getting a crash course through Doctor Who history. I wasn’t totally aware of the history of Time Lords or what that meant, nor did I know that Daleks had their own planet, nor that they were created by a person named Davros.
Even if you don’t know anything about Doctor Who, the Daleks are really scary, almost because of their weird, ludicrous design rather than in spite of it. I really do believe that a weird cylinder on wheels yelling “Exterminate!” would be the ultimate face of evil and that some random guy would have invented them in a move reminiscent of a sci-fi Citizen Kane just because he was mad about some old stuff that happened. It’s literally my worst nightmare, and this episode is just full of A+ Dalek moments.
The Doctor is apparently missing from the end of last season, and Missy (the then-current incarnation of the Doctor’s longtime enemy, the Master) stops all of the planes on Earth in midair. Clara meets with her for a discussion, and they decide to find the Doctor. Missy and Clara are a great dynamic duo, in no small part due to Missy’s complete willingness to murder Clara at any given moment. The Doctor is summed to speak with Davros, who tricks them into meet on Skaro, planet of the Daleks. The Doctor speaks with a dying Davros while Clara and Missy try to survive the Daleks.
While it might have been a truly convoluted episode for a newcomer, I cheated a bit by looking up parts I didn’t understand. That said, the series did a pretty great job incorporating a lot of its history into the story while not totally alienating new fans like myself. In the beginning, when an endangered boy is stuck in a field of monsters and the Doctor happens upon him while traveling, stopping to save him, just the expression on the Doctor’s face when the boy says his name is “Davros” conveys that this is one of his major villains.
Despite being mired in history, I also feel that this two-parter helped define the Doctor for me. While he showed some compassion in "The Pilot" and even some in "Mummy on the Orient Express," choosing to give a mass murderer the benefit of the doubt in his last moments, but being fully prepared to turn the tables back around if Davros reverts to form (which he does), made Doctor Who’s status as one of the greats really click for me.
World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls
I have so many feelings about this episode! Missy returns, and now she’s Doctor Who, but only at the beginning of the episode?! What?! This is the last appearance of the 12th Doctor?! What?! I just got to know him! Life, truly you are cruel, for even just as I have just fallen in love a few hours ago, you have now taken that love from me. On the other hand, Bill is in this two-part episode, so I can’t help but feel that everything is going to be OK.
There’s a lot of bonkers stuff about black holes and that sort of thing in this episode, but most importantly, Bill! Bill gets her heart taken out and replaced, and it is pandemonium. A hospital worker named Razor tricks Bill into going for an “upgrade” into being a Cyberman, and I don’t know what that means but it super doesn’t matter, because Razor is then is revealed to actually be the Master! So then Missy and the Master team up with each other, even though they’re just weird other versions of each other. This is some Kang the Conqueror-type confusing time travel epicness right now, and I am here for it.
Through the whole story, the Doctor’s body is attempting to regenerate, which I’m just now realized is a thing that is involuntary and can happen at really inconvenient times. Missy and the Master betray each other and laugh as they die from the irony of it, which is probably one of my favorite moments in the series so far. The Doctor is eventually shot, and, as the episode title promised, he falls.
Wait a second, though! Heather, the kind-of demon girlfriend from "The Pilot," shows up to transform Bill into a weird puddle monster just like her and invites Bill to explore the universe with her. Wow! What an amazingly solid pick-up line! I would never be able to refuse someone that invited me to explore the universe with them. Heather is marriage material! Who knew?!
I can’t believe the 12th Doctor is already gone, but I’m glad I now get to go back and watch the three seasons he starred in. This series is amazing, and now I’m hooked. The truly bonkers science fiction mixed with tender character moments has me sold.