Doctor Who recap: Stalemate in the Time Lord's Cerebellum!

An old enemy returns with some serious upgrades, while the Doctor takes Clara on a trip to a wild amusement park
Ep. 11 | Aired May 11, 2013

FANCY A GAME OF CHESS? And you thought Deep Blue was scary

Frazer Harrison/BBC Images

But I also don't think the show has quite found its footing Post-Pond. Jenna-Louise Coleman is an impossible charming screen presence, but Clara hasn't quite set herself apart from past Companions yet. I think the main problem is that the show hasn't quite figured out what her specific Doctor-Companion dynamic is yet. The Doctor and Rose were master/pupil (with Eccleston) and will they/won't they (with Tennant.) The Doctor and Donna were best pals, platonic friends until the end.

The Doctor and Amy had a whole wild host of issues which were brilliantly set up almost immediately: The Doctor as Amy's imaginary friend, Amy as the Girl Who Waited, the initial romantic-triangle with Rory, the frequently-stated possibility that the Doctor was actually a remnant of Amy's youth which she had to leave behind. And I know not everyone loves the Martha Jones era, but I always liked the core nature of the Martha-Doctor era. Martha fell for him almost immediately; he just wasn't that into her; he knew that, but kept her around to stave off loneliness, and revealed himself as a bit of a selfish ass in the process.

I'm hard-pressed to pinpoint what, exactly, The Doctor and Clara's relationship is at this point. The Doctor is fascinated by the Mystery of the Impossible Girl, but the mystery hasn't really developed. (For that matter, it might not be all that mysterious. So the same woman has been alive in three timelines -- is that really so crazy, for a man who keeps a supernova in his engine room?) Because the Doctor/Clara dynamic hasn't been firmly established, the show has felt more than ever like an anthology of short stories. They're decent short stories, but nothing much has ever been at stake.

That changed immediately when we saw the Doctor facing off against Cyber-Doctor -- or, he preferred to be called, "Mr. Clever." They were at a stalemate. The Doctor could regenerate if he wanted to, but he didn't want to: "Use this me up, who knows what I'll get?" The two forces controlled 49.881 percent of the Doctor's brain apiece, with a mere .238 still in the balance. The Doctor offered him a wager: Let's play chess.

Meanwhile, Clara and the Punishment Platoon were beginning to prepare for a showdown with the Cybermen. The Captain revealed that they had a bomb that would blow up the whole planet. There were two ways to activate it. One was a handy switch, which Clara took immediately. The other was a verbal code, known only to the Captain. While they chatted, one of the Platoon found herself face-to-face with a Cyberman. She hid, but the Cyberman revealed a new trick: It detached a hand, which snuck up on the hiding soldier. (Clearly, the Cybermen saw Iron Man 3 and got some ideas.) The Captain freaked out. She hadn't followed orders before, and that got her sent to this Punishment Platoon. She began to start the destruction sequence…and a Cyberman shot her. The Siege of the Comical Castle had begun.

The Doctor began his chess game. Mr. Clever mentioned something interesting: There was no mention of the Doctor in the records of the Cyberiad. Clearly, the Doctor has been continuing the task he set for himself in "The Wedding of River Song": Eliminating himself from history. (ASIDE: I wonder if we're seeing a subtle indication of Steven Moffat's greater plan for his Doctor Who era. Russell T. Davis' saga was all about building up the Doctor, playing with decades of history and also building up a whole universe of characters around him; Moffat seems much more interested in slowly eliminating the Doctor's history. A man with too much past is slowly becoming a man without a past. END OF ASIDE.)

The Doctor used an old trick against Mr. Clever, using a bit of gold to regain control of himself. He raced off to reteam with Clara and the Punishment Platoon. Clara was disappointed to discover that her young charges were in a walking coma, but the Doctor had no time for that. He needed to be tied up, and he needed a table. The chess game would continue.

NEXT: The best scene of the season?

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