Doctor Who returns, with a Halloween Special that hands out Part One of a longer story, brings together friends and foes old and new, and doesn’t reference the recent retcon/revelations regarding the Doctor’s origins.
Title: “Halloween Apocalypse”
Directed by Jamie Magnus Stone
Written by Chris Chibnall
Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor
Mandip Gill as Yasmin Khan
John Bishop as Dan Lewis
Steve Orama as Joseph Williamson
Nadia Albina as Diane
Sam Spruell as Swarm
Rochenda Sandall as Azure / Anna
Jacob Anderson as Vinder
Annabel Scholey as Claire
Jonathan Watson as Ritskaw
Dan Starkey as Kragar
Matthew Needham as Old Swam
Sarah Amankwah as En Sentec
Charlie Oscar as K-Toscs
Richard Tate as Wilder
Paul Leonard as James Stonehouse
Heather Bleasdale as Wilma
John May as Kev
Gunnar Cauthery as Jon
Barbara Fadden as Weeping Angel
On Halloween, dark forces activate across the universe, involving the doglike Lupari, the Sontarans, the Weeping Angels, and a mysterious escaped villain named Swarm. The Doctor, Yaz, a canine alien, and an hilarious Liverpudlian played by John Bishop attempt to save the fate of the known reality.
John Bishop as Dan Lewis steals every scene in which he appears. His reaction to encountering an alien had us laughing aloud. I think I could watch an entire episode of Bishop encountering weird phenomena and trying to deal with them.
I understand that they’re setting up a longer story arc, but the opening felt channel-flippingly chaotic. It likely could have been less fragmented, but it might also pay off.
Originality: 4/6 We have a refreshingly intriguing mystery and an episode that plays like the first issue of a crossover “Event” comic book. We have a season-long (mostly) story arc, something Doctor Who has only occasionally tried (“The Key to Time,” for example, back in the 1980s). It’s also the first real Halloween Special that I know of, indicating how successfully the North American version of the Celtic-based celebration has been re-exported.
Note: The season will consist of a story arc and some specials.
Story: 4/6 We have an utterly chaotic opening, but I’ll give it a four for now. If the convoluted opening pays off, it will deserve a higher score. If it does not, well….
The episode does keep the pacing going, even if explanations for most of it will have to wait. We’re in the middle of the story, and we have much to see that occurs before and after this episode. Whether Chibnall nails it or not remains to be seen, but it’s a bold venture.
Acting: 5/6 Strong leads help move the show along.
Emotional Response: 5/6 I enjoyed seeing the Doctor in action again. My reaction gets muted somewhat by the bizarre revelations from last season that hang over the show, coupled with the fact that they may or may not hold once a new showrunner and Doctor step in next season. In the end, we have to enjoy the current story on its own merits.
Amidst the high-tech effects, it’s the relatively low-tech approach to the Stone Angel that evoked the strongest reaction.
Effects: 5/6 We have a lot of effects in this episode, and they get a bonus for that. The quality of the visuals vary widely. Some look great; others look like the CGI budget was running thin. The opener felt like a 90s videogame. Contrast that with some of the later space shots.
Overall: 5/6 Doctor Who has always tried to strike a balance between the original children’s show premise and the more sophisticated SF concepts it later tried to explore. “Halloween Apocalypse” feels, in turns, silly and dramatic, but it looks promising.
Reviews will likely be posted every two episodes, due to the story-arc nature of this season.
In total, “Halloween Apocalypse” receives 33/42