I can't even attempt a spoiler-free review. I just, it's so, I mean, I just can't.
Oh, alright. This much I can say: The villain was good, the monsters were great, Queen Nefertiti was a standard issue Moffat Strong Woman. It hit all of my Good Doctor Who Episode feels in just the right spots. But that's not what makes this episode great.
This episode is great because of the beautiful, unexpected, holy shit moments.
No, it's not great, it's fucking magical.
The only thing I can say about that without spoiling one touch of the magic is:
GO TO ITUNES NOW. PAY THE $3. WATCH THIS EPISODE.
IT IS SO GOOD WATCH IT NOW.
Getting this out of the way first:
I can't be the only person who IMMEDIATELY rewound this and watched it again.
My first thought was, obviously, OMGHOLYSHITYES REALLY? DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN? YESYESYESYESYESOMGHOLYSHIT.
My second was: The Doctor's clearly been spending time with River. So much time, in fact, that he's completely internalized (what we humans would consider) romantic/sexual behaviors. Kisses, slaps, and terms of endearment - yeah. That's gotten River written all over it. And Matt Smith pulls it off brilliantly.
I love the little nods that make it clear that spending time with his (wife's) family is sort of a big deal to the Doctor.
"I'm not a Pond!"Because, duh, that's how you refer to your wife's family. The [maiden-name]s.
"Yes you are."
Spending a lot of time with the psychopath wife might also explain, in part, why the Doctor basically straight up murdered a dude.
There was a lot of tumblr handwringing about that whole murdering-a-guy thing. But I would like to argue in defense of the Doctor that the guy had a lot of outs as far as not being a rapey murdery bag of "I'm going to leave you all to die," just not in the clear-cut Tennant-era way that we tend to think of the Doctor giving the Big Bad an explicit choice. Plus, the Doctor hasn't always been so forgiving.
I know what's happening here. Do you have a guess? I'm going to call it now, in case I turn out to be right. (I had this thought during the episode, then went online and found some others who agree. GJ ALL, WE TOTALLY CALLED IT.)
I'm going to refer back to Graeme McMillan's five questions about Asylum of the Daleks here for a minute, specifically this statement: So, I Guess That Thing About A Season of Standalone Episodes Wasn’t True, Then?
No, it's true. Each of the episodes is going to be discontinuous from the next, watchable in any order, standalone from the others, just like The Moff declared... except for maybe the half-season and season finales. Here's why:
The reason for the "discontinuity" of this season is because it's happening in the wrong order, from our perspective. The Doctor's already seen Amy and Rory die, and it breaks his heart... so now he's being nice. Bringing them to all of the best/coolest/most interesting things in the universe, taking them on little trips. This is his Pond-in-laws farewell tour. This will hopefully be confirmed in The Angels Take Manhattan... but I think Matt Smith gave it away when he called this arc "The Fall of the Ponds".
Oh. Moffat, you delightful blinking genius. Can't WAIT for A Town Called Mercy.
ETA: Here are some links:
My continuity roundup of all the episodes in S7, part 1.
Asylum, Mercy, Po3, Angels.