Once Upon a Time "The Doctor" Review: A Patched-Together Abomination

By Lily Sparks

Oct 29, 2012

Once Upon a Time S02E05: "The Doctor"

Like please, please please please don't tell me Once Upon a Time went ahead and made black-and-white movies another dimension last night. Maybe that was just a nightmare? A terrible nightmare that they ruined the internal logic of their entire premise to accommodate a "wacky Halloween" episode? It was either a nightmare or it was a slap in the face to viewers, a cheery announcement of, "We know we're ridiculous anyway, so let's just throw another ridiculous thing in here that's seasonally appropriate because none of this matters at all."

And like yeah, okay, none of it does really matter, except that we have invested hours of viewing time, and time matters more than anything else to finite creatures like you and I, and if going forward OUaT is going to throw our time to the winds like it did last night, we might as well call it now and spend that hour doing something fulfilling with our lives, like fostering puppies or making ice cream the old-fashioned way (churning, something with salt, I don't know. Maybe I'll research it next Sunday at 8pm.)

I know many of you were waiting with bated breath to see what Dr. Whale's deal was. Well, he's doctor Frankenstein via black-and-white movies, with Tin Tin hair, and that works seamlessly with the rest of the plot, doesn't it? I know Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was a book first but as James Whale directed the original Frankenstein movie, it's pretty clear that’s what they’re grounding him in. And would it be that much better if they were referencing the original book? It was a very serious and melancholy allegory, nothing like a fairy tale, and part of the reason fairy tales can work conceptually for this show as being the history of another dimension is that there's no specific source for fairy tales. The same tropes recur throughout different cultures, they were collected by anthologists but written in an uncertain, long-ago time by a collective folk voice (except for Pinnochio and Peter Pan, which have been shoehorned into OUaT but I've let slide because I figured Disney put pressure on OUaT to use the whole Disney catalog).

That's very different than plopping Shelley's brainchild via '30s director James Whale into the show. It's far more offensive than the Alice in Wonderland dimension because at least Wonderland is portrayed in its source material as a land, with a portal you can enter from our world. There was an elegance to that logic.

The world of 1930s Hollywood, however, offers no such entry, and it bends the logic to the point of breaking it to say any genre of entertainment can become another dimension. (Is there a "'70 action movie" land too?) If the writers sacrificed the threadbare logic of the show thinking it would be a whimsical Halloween "treat" for us, then shame, shame, shame on them. I'd like to think the world I'm investing past and future spare time in has foundations more concrete than the "seasonal" aisle at Rite Aid. Would Game of Thrones do a Halloween episode? No, because Game of Thrones actually has a story to tell and no time to waste, mine or its own. And it will be creepy long past the holidays are over that Snow had an affair with a man who stitched corpses together, and who also showed up in Fairy-Tale Land with a middle part, which is something only worn by MADMEN.

We did get to see the princesses this week but somehow that just makes me angrier. I would have happily watched them for an hour rather than slog through a go-nowhere plot about a dead man come to life and a character turn that actually made me like Regina less than I had before.

Most people who suffer a terrible loss don't turn into cold-blooded murderers, so Regina is officially a psychopath and I don't know that talkin' it out with Jiminy Cricket is really going to help. Although I am a little relieved that she inherited her vault of hearts from her mother and didn't pluck them all out herself. Still, why did she slay that woman in a Yandy's gypsy costume for no reason? That was rude!

And also, horse hearts are HUGE (the average is seven pounds!) so I don't know what all this was about:

I'm not going to start nitpicking, nitpicking is the defense of a petty mind. There were enough huge glaring errors that you don't have to put this turd under a microscope to declare it pure crap. Just when I was letting myself "go" with OUaT's shaky premise, similar to how I'll succumb to laugh gas in a dentist's office rather than face excruciating pain, we got to the stables scene where Daniel appeared as a hunky and deadly monster.

Yes, as much as we all enjoyed Henry getting a good scare while mucking out his pony's stable, the face-off between Daniel and Regina was embarrassing. And not because of Lana Parrilla, but rather the contrast of Parrilla, an incredible actress, across from an unworthy scene partner. Like, he needed about one-and-a-half more acting lessons to pull off that Frankenstein angry / then Daniel remembers you / then Daniel mentally fights Frankenstein transition. It was kind of cheesy, guys. Maybe it's not even his fault, maybe a sound effect would have helped? It was like a high school play kind of special effect, that acting transition. It was bad.

My eyes were rolling like dice during this scene, and then Regina vaporized him, a power we've not seen her display before but you'd think would have saved her a lot of time and energy in the past. Maybe she just removed the preservation spell and he rapidly disintegrated into dust ? I'm sure I just put more thought into it than the writers did by typing out that sentence, and why as a viewer should I do that work for them when they are LAUGHING AT US with this episode for enjoying the show in the first place? That's how this episode made me feel, like they figured we'll swallow anything so BRING ON THE HORSE PILLS and coat them with crap.

And because I now feel like an evil troll living under a bridge, I will say there were good parts, small moments strewn through this mixed bag of disaster like mini Snickers in a Halloween trick-or-treatin' pillow case:

– Dr. Whale carrying his own arm in a cooler made me laugh.

– For once, Emma caught someone in a lie, and dare I suggest she and Hook might develop a scruffy, rapscallion kind of chemistry?

– An actual Lucite coffin was built for this episode.

– Regina, in her FTL flashbacks, seemed to have a head cold (you could hear her voice was kind of raggedy), and all I could think was, wow, what a pro, Lana Parrilla shows up sick to film this shitty shit writing. Someone get her in a serious film that will make the most of her skills.

– That's about it.


1. Do you think they'll ever return to the 1930s black-and-white-film land, or was that a seasonal tangent?

2. Are you as angry as me or were you enjoying your day and the memory of last night’s episode until I came along like a sourpuss?

3. Does anyone at the wheel of this show have a map or are they just cashing checks while the sun shines?

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  • bobster_bsas Nov 09, 2012

    The only good thing that can come out of this is the hope to some day watch snow slaying a dragon with a lightsaber (that could happen given this rules and Disney's properties right?)

  • blaine101 Nov 05, 2012

    Well if you don't like the combination of "real world" stories and "fairy tale" stories gird your loins people. The sneak peeks show Emma hooking up back in Tallahassee with a young man by the name of Neal Cassady. It's only a matter of time before Atticus Finch defends one of them in court.

  • AofDarkFan Nov 05, 2012

    Next year people will complain about SLeepy Hollow being Introduced Give me a fricken break people

  • nic656 Nov 04, 2012

    worst episode ever for OUaT. Frankenstein? Seriously? Im hoping come next week we can just all wipe this one from memory, that somehow this just didn't happen.

  • googlehoop Nov 04, 2012

    Somebody is very angry! I don't think this show is meant to be taken so seriously, and to compare it to Game of Thrones is ridiculous. It's a family, Disney-inspired, show. Fairy tales can be dark, but this is not a dark show. And Halloween episodes, most of the time, are separate from the regular plotline of a series. For example, one of our family favourites, Two Guys and a Girl, has a great Halloween episode that we rewatch every year where the main characters end up shrunken in a shoebox and eaten by a cat. They reappeared unscathed the following week.

    So, try not to take it all so seriously. You didn't enjoy this episode...that's okay, you will quite likely enjoy the next one. Everyone will have different favourites. But I for one will stop reading these reviews if they are going to be so overwhelmingly negative.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Nov 05, 2012

    Two Guys and a Girl is a sitcom, meaning the world intentionally resets to status quo every week, white OUAT is a serialized drama. So actually its in the same genre as Game of Thrones, not Two Guys and a Girl. It has nowhere near the same budget, but a good story and fine dialogue cost nothing- only effort.

    I honestly don't like to be so negative in reviews. If you go through my history of reviewing OUAT you'll find many more positives than negatives. But I have to stay honest and honestly this episode infuriated me- as i did a number of other commenters in this thread.

  • LOST-TWD-PP-GOT Feb 27, 2014

    The only positive i can take from this episode, is the Regina parts. Everything else was crap. I felt for Regina, even though the story was bad. It was nice to see how Regina, started down the road to evil.

  • googlehoop Nov 06, 2012

    I am well aware that Two Guys and a Girl is a sitcom, but sitcoms are also serialized. They have continuing plots and their characters do not generally die at the end of an episode and reappear at the beginning of the next. I was making a reference to the frequent "stand-alone" nature of Halloween episodes.

    Also, after reading your review of the current week's episode of OUAT, it appears you do like to be negative in your reviews of this show. That is your prerogative, obviously, but it isn't enjoyable to read for those of us who love the show. So, you can stay honest, but I believe you will lose a number of readers, including myself.

  • SweetMissJaye Nov 04, 2012

    This was, without a doubt, the WORST episode of OUaT that I have ever seen. Strike one. Three strikes & they're out. I will NOT watch this show if they insist on making stupid episodes like this one. Just horrible.

  • GiorgosStergi Nov 04, 2012

    I love this show! Its crazy and full of fun!

  • CiaraGlynn Nov 03, 2012

    Dunno if anyone's mentioned this in the comments, but I heard they're going to throw Tron universe into the mythology...that was 2/3 weeks ago, so since then, I've kind of been pretty well prepared for them to do anything. It's kind of ridiculous, but then, this show isn't one I take extremely seriously. As you said, Game of Thrones will never do a 'Halloween episode' - although I don't necessarily consider this a Halloween episode despite timing, it was no scarier than any other episode - but Game of Thrones and Once Upon A Time a pretty different, not just in terms of storytelling or scope, but overall logic. GoT, and many other shows, seem to at least do their level best to plot meticulously and make sense of their story for viewers. OUaT has had numerous plot holes so far, and frankly, it can be a chore to remember to come back to it. But, obviously there are reasons to come back. The way the mix all their tales into this strange, magical cocktail is pretty much reason number one - or two, can't decide if it's more allurin than Lara Parrilla's scene prsence, and Robert Carlyle for that matter - for coming back, and even though not all the characters are very well written, or all that enticing, I'd say only one or two continue to confuse me (can Belle's story stop being romantic drama exclusively?) I'm not sure the legend of King Arthur necessarily constitutes as a fairytale, so Lancelot showing up was personally - had I not heard the Tron thing earlier - a clear message theat they would be branching out. And there's enough in this show that works to its favour to forgive those massive logic gaps.

  • safibwana Nov 03, 2012

    That is so wrong. Do these people have no shame? Oh, right, they do not. Nevermind.

  • cvh Nov 02, 2012

    Right up until the very end I thought he might have been the Wizard of Oz (they mentioned slippers that opened portals and called him a wizard at one point. heart needed for the tin man...he was even wearing green!) I could have let that go because of the whole other world idea (and Regina could go searching for a hot air balloon hidden somewhere in Gold's shop). It may not be a classic folktale but at least its whimsical.

    But Frankenstein makes no sense at all. It's not a classic story, it's set in 'the real world.' It just doesn't fit.

    YES they definitely planned it from the beginning, you can tell by character's name. But whoever came up with it should have been fired. Stupid idea! Now they need to either kill the character off so we can all pretend it was all a dream... or just ignore it forever... so we can all pretend it was all a dream.

  • Dracomom Nov 03, 2012

    Mentioned this earlier- What if they're going to combine the 2? "Wizard of Oz" begins and ends in "our" world, in black and white, just like this episode...

    That's the only way I can make any sense out of this!

  • LilyRoRoSparks Nov 02, 2012

    Thank you for succinctly putting what I have been ranting about for weeks. Frankenstein is set in the real world, it just doesn't fit. Perfect way to say it.

  • safibwana Nov 03, 2012

    Most fairy tales were set in the "real world" for their time. Your perspective is just off. Apparently, the 19th century isn't far enough removed for you. Little Red Riding Hood was set in the real world somewhere around the 14th to 16th century.

  • lsbloom Nov 04, 2012

    No, not real world. They weren't doing real fairytales/folklore they are doing Disney fairytales where the "story book" opens and it starts "Once upon a time in a land far far away." It's in the title of the show, it was in the name of the town it in the book that Henry carried around. It was a decent idea (done before sure, but still offered promise). But they couldn't stick to it. They couldn't stick to ideas about "happy endings." They couldn't stick to what they promised us day 1 because either they are incompetent storytellers or they aren't creatively intriguing enough to surprise their audience without changing the rules constantly to support new "theories" that never tie back to an overarching message.

  • safibwana Nov 05, 2012

    No, Cinderella's castle was knocked down years ago, it is distant in both time and geography. No fairy tale has meaning unless it happened in our world. There's no hope if they happened somewhere else. They are supposed to make you believe there is magic in the world that you can find if you look hard enough.

  • lsbloom Nov 05, 2012

    @Saf--"Take a boat" ?? Huh? No, I didn't grow thinking they were aliens? That makes no sense. Do you think you can take a boat ride to Cinderella's castle?, maybe you can find the "bridge" to Terabithia, while you're at it.

    The point is that it is an indeterminate time and place that is "other" to our world and our history. It is a world in which good overcomes, magic intervenes, and people have "happily ever afters." The idea of displacing that to our world, modern, cynical, scientific, was supposed to be part of the underlying message. But taking things like Frankenstein which is neither "other" nor hopeful, undermines that juxtaposition.

  • Dracomom Nov 04, 2012

    I think the phrase "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time" kinda captures the same sense of disconnect, in a more modern vernacular.

    I really wish there was less preoccupation with Disney lately (hard to ignore them, I realize, but there's so much else out there!) and maybe a little more of FTL. Still, the vituperation has us at the top of the "most commented posts" this week

  • safibwana Nov 04, 2012

    I think you misunderstand. "Once upon a time in a land far far away" doesn't mean another world in most fairy tales. It means you have to take a boat to get there. It's just a mechanism to make people not get picky about the details and say things like "I've never heard of that king, country, prince, princess, castle, ball, monster, whatever." You are give distance in both geography and time to help with your suspension of disbelief. You didn't seriously believe Cinderella was an alien your whole life did you? She's just a girl from a vague time and place over the horizon.

  • Raeking50 Nov 03, 2012

    the real world? last i checked ive never seen a Frankenstein monster running around my neighborhood. it from a movie/book therefore its fair game to be another world.

  • CiaraGlynn Nov 03, 2012

    That's like saying put characters from 500 Days of Summer in FTL...the problem is that Frankenstein, in OUaT, originally came from an alternate universe. When you read something, or watch something, based in OUR world, even if it's a stretch of the imagination, it's kind of strange to have them pop up as some part of an alternate world where the Mad Hatter can take them to another iniverse to dabble in magic. The complaint is that even in a show with a plot as odd and twisty as this one, throwing Frankenstein in there is just...weird. They're changing Frankenstein's entire story. Whereas all the fairytale characters still have most of their story, situated in the same place, Frankenstein's transported from our world to somewhere ELSE. It doesn't bother me quite so much either, but understand where they're coming from with this. It's illogical.

  • Jonbark13 Nov 02, 2012

    This show is light and fluffy and abstract and warrants as little analyzing as possible. Because the plot holes are glaring, like how if the town is isolated and no one comes in and noone goes out, how do they have all the electricity, food, cars, technology etc. Its a fun show if u can take it unseriously. And saying that its my number one favourite show on tv at the moment. Snow White is Hot!

  • LilyRoRoSparks Nov 04, 2012

    I get the idea of not dissecting gossamer, but there comes a point when the logic holes distract from the emotional logic needed to keep a show engaging. As in this episode, where we spent 2 minutes with Hook,Emma and Snow for an agonzing, senseless, prolonged examination of Frankenstein that netted us zero progress and zero fun.

  • Dracomom Nov 04, 2012

    Are you sure the fabric of this particular episode wasn't the "rotting-mummy" cheesecloth they sell for Halloween decorations?

    Congrats on topping the chart for this one, Lily- 500+ may be a record for this show- so you've done what a reviewer should do: generate discussion and possibly get people thinking!

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