Power of the Doctor (Belated Review): Oh Joy, It’s Over!

The thirteenth Doctor’s tumultuous era comes to a tumultuous close in Power of the Doctor! But do Chris Chibnall and co stick the landing? Read on to find out.

Cybermen-Timelord hybrids hijack a space train to kidnap a child; A rogue Dalek warns the Doctor of an invasion headed for Earth; and some old companions consult with UNIT on some strange-goings on. The Doctor must navigate this series of quickly spiraling issues whilst struggling to keep her “fam” together.

I’ve not been a fan of Doctor Who these past couple years. Shocker, I know. But it’s only fair to let you know I came into this thing with some heavy biases. Frankly, I watched Power of the Doctor more as a begrudged DW completionist than an emotionally invested fan.

Don’t worry if my synopsis of this thing a few paragraphs ago confused you as to Power of the Doctor‘s over-arching plot… ‘Cause I still don’t understand it, and the episode released a few months ago! Though I take some solace in that, because I doubt even competent writers could have knitted ALL these threads together without loose ends and a whole lotta needless material.

There’s simply too many characters in this special! And most of them are given little to do, except be glorified cameos or tag along in the personal journeys of others. But what’s worse is that some of those aforementioned cameos get more to do than main characters like Yaz or Dan. Hell, Dan gets sidelined so early that he doesn’t even participate in the main plot! That’s just disrespectful, even if he’d just been introduced this season.

Even WORSE: modern Doctor Who fans probably won’t care less about Power of the Doctor‘s featured characters. They’ll spend the whole special going “Who’s that? Why does the show act like I should know them?” As if every Doctor Who fan has seen all 59 years of the show’s history. I have, but most haven’t.

Having said that, I’d be a liar if I claimed those guest stars weren’t awesome for me (because, to reiterate, I HAVE seen every episode of Doctor Who). Some of the cameos almost made me cry with glee! I never thought I’d see certain faces in Doctor Who again–partly because I didn’t realize some of the actors were still alive.

Power of the Doctor is a break-neck paced, action-packed adventure. It’s never boring! Though it probably goes too fast for its own good, as there’s few chances for the characters or audience to breathe and regroup.

And the aforementioned action was bad. Doctor Who’s shoddy effects are legendary, yet Power of the Doctor features weaker VFX than usual… I was amazed how cheap and green-screeney it all looked from the first scene. It didn’t get much better from there. The BBC either needs to give this show a budget, or DW needs to stop filming set-pieces it can’t properly render.

That said, I’ll cut the effects some slack for its creatures. Daleks, Cybermen, and more looked good as ever! Though that’s cold comfort, as the BBC probably has old costumes and VFX files for them in abundance. I’d imagine it takes less work to bring them to life nowadays (hence the probable reason for these villains’ constant returns).

Used to be Doctor Who could make a lot from a little. Now they can’t even do that. I blame many of these visual issues on the episode’s direction and cinematography. They’re uninventive, uninspired, and generally uninteresting. But that’s been true across the board these past few years. So I’m not even mad: just disappointed.

Sacha Dhawan’s portrayal of The Master reminds me a lot of of Anthony Ainley’s. Dhawan seems to relish his time in the role! He always seem to have more fun on screen than his co-stars, and gives every moment his all (no matter how ridiculous).

The Master’s (master) plan in Power of the Doctor is clever, though convoluted. But this show hasn’t made perfect sense in many many years (if ever). The plot had my attention throughout the special, and had cool moments, but its resolution left me unsatisfied.

Said unsatisfaction extended to other elements of the special: namely how Whitaker was robbed of meaningful moments with her “fam” before her departure. The goodbyes were insultingly awkward and unmemorable. Whittaker’s scenes with Yaz were her most emotional… except PotD scrapped their teased romance with zero fanfare! This narrative choice was weird and disappointing.

I get that the writers had to cut stuff for time-management. It was a packed special as it was. But why would they chop one of the FEW ongoing stories in which people invested themselves to focus on a plot nobody cares about? It was another tone-deaf move from this writer’s room.

I was never big on Jodie Whittaker’s interpretation of the Doctor. And the material with which she had to work did her no favors. But I still found her send-off beautiful and well-handled. And the regeneration itself was so cool it left me saying “What?!” with my jaw on the floor as the credits rolled.

Whether you’re a fan of DW seasons 11-13, this finale is a perfect culmination of Jodie Whitaker’s era of Doctor Who– for better and worse. It’s stuffed with everything which defined the show’s last 3 seasons: thinly sketched plots, big ideas, bigger acting choices, lack of meaningful character development, poor cinematography, a couple fun moments, a generally light tone, and some controversial surprises.

Yet Power of the Doctor‘s ending has me looking forward to the next era with anticipation. Can’t hurt to hope, right?

Power of the Doctor is Worth a Watch if you’ve come this far.

What was Jodie Whitaker’s best performance as the Doctor? What did you think of Power of the Doctor? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,
Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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