Saturday, 21 November 2015

The Preview Review: Doctor Who Series 9 Episode 10: Face the Raven

Face the Raven provides a relatively loose first part of our three-part finale where we are taken on an emotional rollercoaster. It all begins with Rigsy waking up with a tattoo that's counting down. The Doctor and Clara have less than 10 hours to save his life as the search takes them to the hidden streets of London as we meet some unexpected friends and foes.

It's difficult to go into any detail without touching upon several of the spoilerific (and embargoed) territories, despite the trailers and Peter Capaldi doing a mighty fine job of doing that themselves. In fact, if there was any episode thus far this series I'd have hoped to go into without knowing what happens, it'd be this one. Like so many episodes of late, the episode's twists and turns somewhat hinge on the fact that people don't know what's coming and while this isn't entirely ruined, I feel that had I not known, I'd have enjoyed it that much better.

Reminds me of a certain movie....
New-to-Who writer Sarah Dollard makes you wonder, not for the first time this series, "how has this never been thought of before?", by bringing the "trap street" concept, a street in the middle of London completely hidden from passers-by, to the show. Sarah also provides a new approach to the character's storyline although this is massively helped by writing for an arc as opposed to a standalone filler episode. We also have a little commentary on asylum-seekers on the side, providing several fresh side-characters for us to be curious about.

While the vast majority of these aren't touched upon or done so lightly (we are on a time limit after all!), the main two side-characters, Rump and Kabel, played by Simon Paisley Day and Simon Manyonda respectively, provide a great sense of the two extremes of the group. We also get to fleetingly see other members of the group, enough to understand but not overwhelm the plot.

While the group appears to be all shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common. They all despise Rigsy, played by Joivan Wade who takes the role to new places, such as becoming a father and becomes a major part of Clara's journey. Sadly, he is inevitably overshadowed as the story moves on to Ashildr, The Doctor and Clara.

Yes, Ashildr's back and once again, the terms `good` and `evil` do not work here, which most certainly helps make the story more interesting, but Maisie Williams wonderfully takes the malicious level up a notch or three. I am, however, slightly saddened that we still haven't explored any of this "immortality" as yet and her ability to remember her diary entries (even remembering how she feels while reading them) but not what those entries represent doesn't make much sense to me.

Jenna Coleman's Clara is once again in Doctor-mode, making the episode also act as a sort-of sequel to Flatline, acting even more reckless than ever, such as hanging out of the TARDIS above London. Jenna gives a wonderful performance taking on virtually all aspects of the character. Opposite Jenna, Peter Capaldi gives an absolutely ecstatic yet chilling take on The Doctor as we see another striking speech, the return of the cards and the temporary loss of the title.

Backing up the Jenna/Peter dynamic is Murray Gold's music that takes over and really pulls at the heartstrings, as well as including a clear callback here and there. It does the story a great justice. The direction. by Justin Molotnikov, takes this episode in a very fantasy feel, primarily caused by the rich yet centuries old feel to the trap street, and does so wonderfully.

Face the Raven is definitely one of the best episodes of the series so far, but make sure you have your ice cream and tissues at the end. This is not an episode to be watched on-demand. There's also an after-credit scene.

Rating: 8/10

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