Peter Capaldi in Face The Raven (C) BBC

Face The Raven
by Sarah Dollard


Starring Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Maisie Williams


Airs Nov 21


Review by Cameron K McEwan

As we hurtle towards this year’s Doctor Who finale (hold on, didn’t this season just start???), things are getting a tad more complicated and troublesome for our favourite Gallifreyan. A simple enough sequel for Rigsy (who debuted in last year’s two-dimensional cracker Flatline) has unforseen repercussions for some and the return of someone The Doctor would rather not see.
Especially by the end of the episode.
As you may have already discovered, Ashildr is back too and the slippery slope of malevolence that was hinted at previously, seems to be in full flow. But, we’ll come back to this in a moment.
Rigsy has been sentenced to a crime he didn’t commit (or didn’t remember doing, at least), and has called Clara for help. And that’s one of the fun things about their relationship – if you recall Flatline (and it was only a year ago, so get with it!), you’ll note that his relationship with Clara and The Doctor is quite different to most. When he met her, she was the Doctor in that ep, and the Time Lord is just some cranky old Scottish bloke with a neat suit.

Letitia Wright and Joivan Wade in Face The Raven (C) BBC

Granted, the neat suit is still there (albeit a now more velvety) but his initial grump (still refers to Rigsy as “local knowledge”) is gone when The Doctor realises he has to help out. And this takes us to the fantastic conceit of the story – trapped streets.
Incredibly a real thing (and Clara goes all teachery on us to drop some facts on us regarding this phenomenon), these streets exist on maps alone – but what if such invisible streets actually existed.  What if there were streets we didn’t know about, just around the corner? Leading us to a street filled to the brim with aliens (familiar and unfamiliar) hiding from humanity in human form. 
And in charge of this odd collection – some friendly, others sinister – is Maisie Williams, back as Ashildr. Her journey from The Woman Who Lived does not appear to have been a particularly positive one for the youngster/massively old lady, as she has become quite the villainess in many ways.

Maisie Williams in Face The Raven (C) BBC
And that, I’m afraid, is pretty much all I can say. This is a big episode with big things happening, so in terms of plot that’s it. Wouldn’t like to even hint at what unfolds for you.
What I can say is that Joivan Wade (Rigsy) brings all his charm and affability to the role that needs trust and guest actress Letitia Wright (who was divine in Russell T Davies’ Cucumber and Banana) is also a treat in a great sympathetic and key role. Jenna Coleman is in Doctor mode once and her confidence and tricksyness makes for a fascinating watch though this bravado is somewhat diminished by the events of the ep.
But it’s Peter Capaldi, once more, who gives yet another striking and shocking speech. Certainly not in the same vein as The Zygon Inversion, but it’s every bit as good and even more effective. This is one angry Time Lord. Properly angry and scaring more than any Dalek or Cyberman, it’s sensational, spite-filled and deeply unsettling; even disavowing himself of his own name.
It’s another defining moment for Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor – I cannot imagine any other actor performing this moment in quite the same way or as brutal and raw.

Jenna Coleman in Face The Raven (C) BBC
Matching the heights of the talents of the cast is composer Murray Gold who reminds us once more why he’s THE music man for Doctor Who. Most definitely, once of his finest pieces of music is in store for fans.
Face The Raven is a remarkably assured and confident episode by anyone’s standards. But given its Sarah Dollard’s first Who entry (and I cannot imagine it will be her last), this is to be admired greatly. There’s not a mis-step to be found, again a mean feat given the retuning characters, and you’ll be completely absorbed by the initial mystery immediately with Dollard’s terrific idea and then rewarded with her beautiful script (and it is beautiful) and performances.
And I will politely add, this is not an episode to wait for. Or to iPlayer later, or to catch up elsewhere. Do yourself a favour and watch it on Saturday. You won’t regret it.

Or will you?



Doctor Who, Face The Raven airs 8.10pm, Nov 21 on BBC One



Thanks to the BBC

26 COMMENTS

  1. How much do the BBC pay you for these non-reviews? This has been the worst series in years but as far as you're concerned every episode is a flawless work of genius. It's almost as if those set visits and interviews you get come with strings attached…

  2. Why wasn't there a review of "Sleep No More", the episode with worst AI and Fan response since "Love & Monsters"? It seems strange to miss that one out while having an interview with Mark Gatiss.

  3. I've been so much more emotionally involved this season than ever before. I guess it's Peter and the scripts.

  4. With the exception of "Sleep No More" (which even that story had 'some' merit) this has been the stongest season since the show returned in 2005. The two-parter format has allowed story and character development, no annoying "relationship" subplots, and Peter Capaldi portraying the Doctor with gravitas not seen since Christopher Eccleston played the role. For as bad as series 8 was…series 9 has been 180° turn around for the show.

  5. I hear that this is Clara's departing episode, and that she is to die in it.
    If that's the case, it needs to be done right. A powerful scene showing the death of Clara. Deaths of the Doctor's companions are rare, and I think, is good for the story and the Doctor's character. It keeps the Doctor slightly dark and edgy – which is a side to him I particularly like (for instance, in The Snowmen). That's why I think Clara's death scene has to be a strong, memorable scene. There probably won't be another quite like it for a long time. In fact I was surprised when I heard the rumours of Clara's departure being her dying. It's not a thing I expected to see in new Who.

  6. Agree with be majority here, this current series is one of the finest in New Who and Capaldi is dazzling. He and Tennant are up there with Troughton, Pertwee and Baker…very satisfied long-term fan here! And Cameron, you are doing a terrific job!

  7. Simon, stop confusing your opinion with fact. Much as it will shock you to hear this, not everyone thinks the same way as you. I think this has been the best series of the revival, and I've found Blogtor's reviews to be largely spot on.

  8. Simon Cooper's comment .oughly translates as 'I'm very jealous of your access to sets Blogtor Who'

    Nicely handled Cam. I enjoy your spoiler free reviews, keep posting em, and yes this has been a very strong series imho

  9. Yes, it's a thousand times better than series 8. The two parters have given it more of a depth the stories needed to breathe. Capaldi is fantastic and my 8 year old son adores him.

  10. Dear Simon,

    I hope you can see from the reaction to your comment, that a number of fans are very happy with this series. (Of course, I have no doubt there are some who are not, plus ca change.)

    RE: No Sleep No More review. There was also no review for The Woman Who Lived (though you didn't mention that). No, there's no sinister conspiracy here, I just didn't have time. Sadly, this happens. This isn't a job for me, this is fun. And sometimes real life gets in the way.

    Lastly, with regards to your conspiratorial set visit theory. Earlier this year I did ONE set visit. And it cost me over £100. The BBC don't pay for the train fare. I can assure you I didn't make that money back from the interviews I got from it. Recently I was on a set visit for the Christmas Special but I was reporting for a website called Digital Spy (and will be published in due time).

    Hope this helps, although I imagine it won't.
    Cam

  11. 'What if there were streets we didn't know about, just around the corner? Leading us to a street filled to the brim with aliens (familiar and unfamiliar) hiding from humanity in human form. '

    Isn't that just Diagon Alley but this time with aliens?

  12. It's a long tradition in DW fandom, going back far before modern DW, to scream about how it's no good anymore and [fill in the blank] has killed it. It's a tedious practice.

    We all have different opinions that aren't "facts." I stalled very hard on watching Tennant as the Doctor. Perhaps I'd have liked him if I hadn't had to listen to all his fans declaring that he was the Best Ever. Now I enjoy DW again and am being told that it's crap. *shrug*

    RTD was a smug, self-satisfied showrunner. So's Moffat. I think that Capaldi's an excellect actor for the Doctor and deserves much stronger scripts, but that's not the same as declaring it all to be the worst in years. I actually appreciated S8, and am liking S9 (though I wondered what the use of "Sleep No More" was, really). I don't care if I have fandom's glorious permission to like what I like.

  13. I can't wait for this one. IMO, it's been the most remarkable season of Doctor Who that I've seen, and that goes way back to when I first watched Two regenerating into Three. Capaldi is definitely sealing himself as my favourite of all the Doctors, Classic and New. Most of the stories this season (bar a few glitches) have been superb and intelligent. A Doctor Who for adults. Amazing stuff.

  14. Of course, if Clara does actually "die" in this episode she'll reappear in some form by the end of the series. Moffat can't resist having multiple goodbyes for his characters.

    I mean, I'm enjoying this series and everything… but Clara really needs to go in one fitting, final exit.

  15. I was delighted when Capaldi was cast, but so disappointed by his first season (although that was mostly poor stories, not his acting). This year (with the exception of Sleep No More – great idea, but a bit of a mess imho) is superb. Capaldi has nailed the Doctor. Watch the pre-title sequence to Zygon Invasion where the Doctor gets Osgood's message. That stare right before the music starts. He doesn't even have to say anything: that 'look' – you just know this is the Doctor. Another year – hopefully more – of Capaldi in the role should cement him as one of the best – if not best – Doctor of all time.

  16. I was also extremely impressed with this script, especially as it was Sarah Dollard's first for DW. I've also loved series 9 as a whole, I don't recognise the remarks made by other online commenters – I think the standard of writing has been consistently high with the exception of Mark Gatiss' episode, a remarkable achievement. Even Peter Harness redeemed himself in spades this series.

    The only slight niggle I have with 'Raven is the fact that The Doctor seemed to give up towards the end and leave Clara to her fate. Yes, paint him into a corner. Yes, make it impossible for him to avoid events spinning out they way they're going to, but The Doctor would be pulling out all the stops to save anyone, let alone his best friend, from the danger they're facing. The Doctor never gives up. An almost flawless story however and looking forward to more scripts from Sarah in the future.

    Really looking forward to Peter's single hander next week, and an angry 12th Doctor in the series finale.

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