In my last review, I mentioned that I wasn’t in love with the past few episodes of The Good Place. I felt like having all our characters trapped on Earth with no connection to the afterlife had resulted in the show losing a big part of what made it feel special and, subsequently, had started to feel like any other network sitcom. I’m happy to report that both The Worst Possible Use of Free Will and Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By make great strides towards rectifying that problem. Both of these episodes feel like classic episodes of The Good Place. The humor is on point, there’s some good character development, and most of all, there’s the return of a bunch of fantastical elements! (This review features full spoilers for episodes 7 and 8 of season 3: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will and Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By!)
Episode 307: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will (written by Cord Jefferson and directed by Claire Scanlon) Eleanor (Kristen Bell) recalls some forgotten events from her past.
Episode 308: Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By (written by Andrew Law and directed by Dean Holland)
Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) take an important journey. Eleanor ponders whether she should share a secret.
We’re past the halfway mark of series 11 of Doctor Who. We’ve had adventures in the present, the future, the past, the present (again), the future (again), and now it’s time for another historical episode. This time, we go back in time to 1947 India where Yaz (Mandip Gill) is seeking some information about some of her grandmother’s secrets.
Epiode 1106: Demons of the Punjab (written by Vinay Patel and directed by Jamie Childs) India, 1947. The Doctor and her friends arrive in the Punjab, as India is being torn apart. While Yaz attempts to discover her grandmother’s hidden history, the Doctor discovers demons haunting the land. Who are they, and what do they want?
With every new season of Doctor Who comes a new set of tie-in novels featuring the current Doctor. As season 11, the first season to feature Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, just recently premiered, it’s time for the tie-in books to be released. The first of these, The Good Doctor, was released October 26 and was written by the New-to-Who author, Juno Dawson. It’s a novel that explores the impact the Doctor’s visits can have on a world and how religions might spring forth from them. It’s a pretty darn good book.
For a Good Doctor there’s only one rule: first do no harm.
On the planet of Lobos, the Doctor halts a violent war between the native Loba and human colonists. Job done, the TARDIS crew departs – only for Ryan to discover he’s left his phone behind. Again.
Upon returning, the Doctor finds that the TARDIS has slipped hundreds of years into the future – and that something has gone badly wrong. The Loba are now slaves, serving human zealots who worship a godlike figure known as The Good Doctor.
It’s time for the Doctor to face up to the consequences of her last visit. With Lobos on the brink of catastrophe, will she be able to make things right?
Doctor Who is a big fan of the base-under-siege story and it’s a format that generally works for the show. Trap all of your characters in one location and have them being hunted by a monster. It’s a pretty easy way at building tension and it often leads to a lot of interesting character moments as the main cast and the guest cast try to deal with whatever the threat is. The Tsuranga Conundrum is one such story. The major problem is that the monster terrorizing said base-under-siege isn’t particularly threatening. (Spoilers for The Tsuranga Conundrum)
Episode 1105: The Tsuranga Conundrum (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jennifer Perrott) Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe’s most deadly – and unusual – creatures.
When The Good Place first premiered on our TV screens, we were introduced to a whole cast of characters who were dead and had awoken in the titular Good Place, an afterlife loosely based on the concept of heaven. As the series progressed, we found out that only four of them had ever been humans and they were actually in the Bad Place, being tortured for all eternity by demons, led by Michael (Ted Danson). From there, things only got stranger until the show decided to resurrect our main cast and give them a new chance at life. And this is where things started to go wrong. While giving your main characters a second shot at life as a way for them to actually earn their place in the Good Place isn’t a bad idea, it’s not one that can really be sustained for a long period of time when a huge part of your show has built itself on the whimsical weirdness of the afterlife. Take out a lot of that whimsical weirdness and you just have… any other comedic show with a cast of likable characters trying to do good things. That’s the problem The Good Place has found itself in these last few episodes and it’s one the show and its writers are gonna have to fix asap before the show stops feeling as special as it is. (This review/editorial covers episodes 4-6 of season 3: Jeremey Bearimy, The Ballad of Donkey Doug, and A Fractured Inheritance)
Episode 304: Jeremy Bearimy (written by Megan Amram and directed by Trent O’Donnell)
The group explores the three main branches of ethical thought.
Episode 305: The Ballad of Donkey Doug (written by Matt Murray and directed by Rebecca Asher)
Jason (Manny Jacinto) visits with some people from his past while Chidi (William Jackson Harper) gets help in resolving a problem.
Episode 306: A Fractured Inheritance (written by Kassia Miller and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller)
Eleanor (Kristen Bell) makes a startling discovery that tests her resolve, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) looks to make amends and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) does some bonding.
“Spiders! Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be ‘follow the butterflies’?” – Ron Weasley (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling) Doctor Who has featured stories about spiders before, but none quite as disturbing as the ones in this episode. Perhaps it’s because the last story that properly featured giant spiders had a hilariously tiny budget and so the giant spiders were clearly made of rubber, but good sweet Lord, the spiders in this episode are actually terrifying to behold and I hate them. It’s a relatively good episode, though. (Spoilers follow)
Episode 1104: Arachnids in the UK (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Sallie Aprahamian)
‘Something’s happening with the spiders in this city.’ The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill), Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) find their way back to Yorkshire – and Yaz’s family – only to find something is stirring amidst the eight-legged arachnid population of Sheffield.
Every new Doctor has to have a story set in the present day, a story set in the future/on an alien planet, and a story set in the past to start off their first season. We’ve had the present day story and we’ve had the futuristic/alien planet story, so it was time for our first trip into the past with this new TARDIS team. And where does the TARDIS end up taking our plucky heroes? None other than Montgomery Alabama, 1955. The day before Rosa Parks’ famous bus protest. Obviously, this is a rather touchy story for Doctor Who to try and tackle, so the biggest question is whether or not the show handled it well. In short: it absolutely did. (NOTE: There will be full spoilers ahead, so read with caution.)
Episode 1103: Rosa (written by Malorie Blackman and Chris Chibnall and directed by Mark Tonderai)
Montgomery, Alabama. 1955. The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends find themselves in the Deep South of America. As they encounter a seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks (Vinette Robinson), they begin to wonder whether someone is attempting to change history.
How do you follow up from an excellent season premiere of Doctor Who? With a dangerous romp across an alien planet and an excellent mystery, of course! Picking up pretty much where the previous episode ended, The Ghost Monument takes the 13th Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her new friends, Graham (Bradley Walsh), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Yaz (Mandip Gill) to their first alien world together. Stranded without the TARDIS, will the team be able to survive their first foray on an alien planet? (THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW)
1102: The Ghost Monument (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Mark Tonderai)
Still reeling from their first encounter, can the Doctor and her new friends stay alive long enough in a hostile alien environment to solve the mystery of Desolation? And just who are Angstrom (Susan Lynch) and Epzo (Shaun Dooley)?
The Doctor and her new friends have barely had a chance to recover from their first adventure together before they are plunged into another – which will take Graham, Ryan and Yasmin on their first journey to an alien planet. The unlikely travelling companions are faced with a struggle for survival as they try to solve the mystery at the heart of this strange, dangerous new world.
I really love how the writers of The Good Place don’t dawdle with this series. They never drag their feet when it comes to moving the story along. Last season featured Michael rebooting the neighborhood over 800 times in a single episode. Tonight’s episode featured a similar thing as more than a year passes within a single 22-minute episode, rapidly advancing the plotline of the season while also showing the continuing evolution of our favorite awful humans.
Episode 304: The Snowplow (Written by Joe Mande and Directed by Beth McCarthy Miller) After the shocking events of last week’s episode, Michael and Janet are, essentially, trapped on Earth as they continue to supervise Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) as the four of them continue to try and improve upon themselves. As a year goes by, Chidi’s thesis project comes to a close and Tahani gets engaged to Larry Hemsworth, Michael and Janet start to fear that all their work has come to naught and frantically try to keep the group from going their separate ways.
It’s the first episode of the Thirteenth Doctor’s (Jodie Whittaker) run. It’s the first episode of Chris Chibnall, the new showrunner’s, era. It’s the first episode to feature new companions Graham O’Brien (Bradley Walsh), Yasmin Khan (Mandip Gill), and Ryan Sinclair (Tosin Cole). It’s the first episode featuring Segun Akinola, the new composer for the show. To say there’s a lot riding on this new episode would be an understatement. The big question is: does it deliver on all it sets out to? Does it work as a jumping on point for new viewers and a continuation of the show beloved by millions? How’s Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the first female Doctor? How’s Chris Chibnall’s first episode fully crafted by him (and not overseen by a separate showrunner)? Is it a good episode of TV? The short answer to that final question is: yes. (NOTE: There will be spoilers within this review!)
Episode 1101: The Woman Who Fell to Earth (written by Chris Chibnall and directed by Jaime Childs) “We don’t get aliens in Sheffield.” In a South Yorkshire city, Ryan Sinclair, Yasmin Khan and Graham O’Brien are about to have their lives changed forever as a mysterious woman, unable to remember her own name, falls from the night sky. Can they believe a word she says? And can she help solve the strange events taking place across the city?
Guest starring Sharon D. Clarke, Johnny Dixon and Samuel Oatley.