November 22, 2015
(Some mild spoilers, but none around the ending. I promise).
After the relatively dismal Sleep No More, Doctor Who really needed to kick the series back into high gear. After a first half that was well-laid out, allowing its stories to play out more (and avoiding the crash-boom of the Matt Smith years) provided the show with a well-needed buildup.
Face The Raven is simply brilliant...and not for the reasons you may think.
First, the story manages to mix tones and elements in a more successful manner than last week's - moving from harsh drama to Neverwhere/Harry Potter-esque explorations to a Pandorica Opens/Big Bang premise with overt political overtones around civic power, control, or law and order.
(Although many other reviewers site the "refugee camp" aspect as being a bit stretched, Face The Raven would not feel out of place in an American series around 2002 - 2003. That subtext resonates powerfully, and I'm more than happy to take criticism for saying it out loud).
But then there's....the ending. No, I'm not mentioning it despite the show being televised.
It's an emotional gut-punch, especially given my recent experiences.
Last week, family health issues disrupted many of my activities. (Which is why my blogging attempts this month have been rather off-the-cuff....because they were off-the-cuff). Earlier that day, I was involved in a conversation that, in hindsight, reflected much of the conversation that happened towards the climax.
It could have been handled in a much kinder, gentler way. I can understand if some people found it a little...upsetting or controversial. But the general overtone - about letting go, accepting certain burdens, and acceptance - was a very beautifully written piece of television.
When I sit down to blog my reactions, I try to maintain a balance between my personal feelings and whether a piece works dramatically. For Face the Raven, keeping that balance is a little tough....but this one knocks it out of the park.