Doctor Who: Dark Water / Death in Heaven in 3D Review

Watching Doctor Who on the big screen is always a treat.
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We’re kind of in love with Fathom Events here at Cinema Sentries.  We constantly promote their shows, many of us have written reviews of them (I myself have written two, not including this one).  At some point you have to wonder where we cross the line from critics into shills.  Thing is they really do put on fantastic events.  From advanced showing of upcoming films to putting the classics back on the big screen, plus opera, world class theatre  and more special events than you can imagine - often packed with behind-the-scenes peeks, interviews and commentaries - Fathom is creating a new and better way to enjoy going to the movie theater. But fear not, friends we are still critics at heart.  You’ll note that us film geeks have not yet covered any of their finer arts such as opera and rest assured if they put on a bad show, we’ll be there to tell you about it.

We aren’t there yet, as last night’s showing of Doctor Who was, as the Ninth Doctor was so fond of saying, fantastic. What we got was the last two episodes of the most recent season (“Dark Water" and "Death in Heaven") both in 3-D and put together like it was one long episode, plus a short prequel to the ninth season entitled “The Doctor’s Meditation,” and an interview with Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman hosted by Wil Wheaton.

There was trivia before hand, though too much of it focused on the night’s episodes.  While I don’t imagine anyone is paying $30 to see episodes of Doctor Who than ran on the television months ago without having already seen it, it still felt like a bit of a spoiler on several occasions.  I would have much preferred more questions about older episodes.  But whatever.

Speaking of spoilers I should note now I’ll be throwing some out a little bit further on.

It was great fun to see everything in a big theatre, with fancy recliner seats, plenty of popcorn, and a whole bunch of Who fans.  It really is the best way to watch Doctor Who (I think I’ll have to buy me a bigger TV, some nice recliners and find some friends before the next season airs). 

The 3-D was nothing particularly special.  Like a lot of movies these days the three-dimensional space was created well after the film was shot, and I doubt the director had any sort of intentions to make it look really cool in 3-D.  Still. it was done well enough and its neat to see the TARDIS with some depth, and the title sequence was fabulous with the titles coming straight for us.

I quite liked the episodes themselves.  I’ve really been quite impressed with Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, and this past season was definitely a notch above the last one.  There were still some duds and Steven Moffat still can’t help but coming up with cutesy concepts from time to time (see “Robot of Sherwood” and “Mummy on the Orient Express”).  But it also contained some really good episodes (“In the Forest of the Night" and "Kill the Moon" come to mind) and I think “Listen” will go down as one of the best Doctor Who episodes of all time. [Editor's Note: Read Greg Barbrick's review of the Eighth Series to learn about or be reminded about those episodes.]

“Dark Water / Death In Heaven” demonstrate both Moffat’s strengths and his interminable weaknesses.  Conceptually, there is some terrific stuff going on with the fascinating world of the Nethersphere and those creepy skeletons in the water cages.  The opening scene with Danny dying on the phone while Clara declared her love for him was terrific television.  And for those who say Capaldi’s take on the Doctor is too cold, too mean-spirited, I say go back and watch the scene in which he tells Clara that though she betrayed him completely he’s ready to climb to the depths of Hell to help her, and tell me this isn’t a Doctor we can all love.

But while there are some really cool concepts and some terrific individual scenes as usual Moffat has trouble with the landing.  I have to admit I had no idea Missy would be the Master, but then again I’m terrible at catching any clues about any surprises ever.  With all the talk after Matt Smith left of having a female Doctor, I think it's quite clever to make the Master a woman this incarnation.  I liked her. I liked her turning the dead into Cybermen. I hated that ending.  Danny somehow doesn’t lose his humanity even while he is a Cyberman.  The Master gives the Doctor total control over them and hardly lets out a whimper when he throws the control bracelet to Cyber-Danny?  Ridiculous.

But hey, that's Doctor Who.  And we take the good with the bad for as long as we can get it.

“The Doctor’s Meditation” ran about ten minutes and while it was fun, it really gives us no information on what’s coming up.  The Doctor needs to get away (this time to a medieval castle) and think about something major he needs to do.  Comedy ensues.  That’s it.

The interview with Will Wheaton was likewise fun but not particularly useful.  Coleman and Capaldi are tight lipped on what’s coming up with the series, but they do seem to really get along and are having a blast making this show.

That’s it.  Fathom Evens once again created a fantastic time at the cinema.  I can’t wait for the next one.

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