Doctor Who Review: Face the Raven

Clara gets a call for help from a friend, which leads to a street full of aliens hidden in the middle of London.

I’m still slightly behind with reviews. Heaven Sent review coming up later today.

Cast and Crew

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
Jenna Coleman as Clara
Maisie Williams as Ashildr
Joivan Wade as Rigsy
Naomi Ackie as Jen
Simon Manyonda as Kabel
Simon Paisley Day as Rump
Letitia Wright as Anahson
Robin Soans as Chronolock Guy
Angela Clerkin as Alien woman
Caroline Boulton as Habrian woman
Jenny Lee as Elderly woman

Written by Sarah Dollard
Produced by Nikki Wilson
Directed by Justin Molotnikov


A call for help from one of Clara’s friends leads to the discovery of a hidden street full of aliens in the heart of London, the countdown to an execution and an old friend.

High Points

Clara’s development over the course of the episode, from her initial frivolity and lightheartedness to realising that she needs to take this very seriously and stepping up to the mark with pride.

There’s a post-credits scene and it’s utterly perfect.

Low Points

I’m a little tired of people concocting schemes that involve sentencing people to death.

If the street is meant to hide itself in the expectations of its surroundings, why is it Victorian and not early 21st-century London?

Trying not to be too explicit if people haven’t seen it, but there’s a character who dies and gets a big scream and we get to hear it. Then there’s another character who dies in the same way and there’s a big scream and we just get music, not the screaming noise. Given who these two characters are I wonder what the reasoning is here, and some of the options I’m coming up with I don’t like.

The Scores

Originality: Sadly the core action which brings our protagonists into the situation is a bit of a tired old saw. “I never wanted anybody to get hurt” is all very well but when you start messing around with lethal weaponry that does tend to happen. Especially when humans are involved. On the other hand, this might be the most original way for a character to bow out in the show’s history. 4/6.

Effects: Ashildur’s tattoos are beautiful things when in motion, as is the raven. There’s some good particle effects software at work here in the hands of someone or someones who really know how to use it. The glitchy visuals of something not being right get a bit tiresome after last episode beat us over the head with them though. 5/6.

The story is difficult to judge in a multi-part episode until you know how the elements left hanging in this part are going to be resolved, because sometimes something looks good but ultimately disappoints when it doesn’t get carried through in a satisfactory manner. However, that is something to deduct marks from the conclusion for, not for this episode. So: in pacing terms it’s a standard introductory part, everything ends being utterly terrible, the heroes are doomed, oh no what shall we do. But gets there not so much through driving plot and interesting storytelling as through character development. Very rapid, very compressed character development brought on in what’s actually a believable manner by the imminent threat of death and the desperate need to find a way to avoid it. Again we see Clara coming to the fore as a competent, confident companion for the Doctor, although pride comes before many a fall… 5/6.

The acting is back to mostly top notch, although Williams is getting a bit one-note in her role as Me. She’s trying to be arch and superior and aged and wise, but she’s only ever arch and superior except for a slight glimpse now and again of almost childish vulnerability. Maybe this is deliberate, but something is not quite right here for me. Capaldi, fortunately, is back on form, and Coleman gives us a fantastic dose of Clara, from her playfulness to her love of life to her absolute concern for her friends and ultimately her willingness to sacrifice and face the consequences of her choices. 5/6.

The emotional response is something I hope the next part doesn’t mess up, because I really cared. I’m not sure why, because a supporting character I barely remember from a previous appearance shouldn’t interest me this much, but he does. Good job. 5/6.

Production: the street looks exactly like one of the indoor Victorian street sets you see at museums. It’s not a very convincing disguise, both because of its evident fakeness and because of the anachronistic nature of the thing it’s not doing a very good job of imitating. 4/6.

Overall: A strong episode which hopefully will be continued through to a strong conclusion to this series. 6/6.

In total, Face the Raven receives 34/42.

2 replies on “Doctor Who Review: Face the Raven”

  1. Regarding the low point about the two “screamers”; one of the characters involved literally faced the raven while the other didn’t. I noticed the difference, but put it down to the producers trying to emphasise it under the possible guise of overcoming fear also going a long way to helping you retain more control of yourself in other ways as well.

  2. Just a thought about the Victorian appearing street in 21stC London – seconds after hitting “Post” on the above; typical! I guess getting manual labour into such a trap street might be tricky, so perhaps the idea was that it retains the look and feel that it had when the distortion field was first activated.

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