As I understand it, this story is already getting some mixed reviews, but not for me. I still believe that Toby Whithouse has absolutely outdone himself with this epic two-parter. And there are so many things going on here, that I couldn’t even manage a full and coherent review because I’m still squeeing. But here’s the gist of what I thought of it.
If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch the episode first.
- The Doctor has broken the fourth wall. Normally this would bother me, I think. But the honest truth is that Peter Capaldi can do whatever the hell he wants and I will be happy with it. Fact.
- The Beethoven setup is intriguing and I’m fine with it as an explanation for the Bootstrap Paradox. Did you Google it? No? Well, here, I’ve made it easy for you.
- The Doctor’s got his guitar again and his amp is from Magpie Electronics (remember The Idiot’s Lantern?).
- Yes, apparently that is Peter Capaldi playing guitar over the opening credits. Possibly one of the coolest things that’s ever happened in the history of Doctor Who. It just is.
- I wholeheartedly agree with everyone’s praise of Cass (Sophie Stone) and all the wonderful things that were done with her character. I also really loved Lunn (Zaqi Ismail) and the relationship between the two of them because it’s adorable. At least they got a happy ending (more or less).
- O’Donnell (Morven Christie) won me over right off the bat in Under the Lake and continued to gain my affection all the way up to her unfortunate and yet unsurprising death. Honestly, I would’ve voted for her to be a companion. She was another Doctor fangirl. Osgood 2.0, if you will. Which is presumably why they had to kill her. You know one day, Mr. Moffat, we may start to take this personally. Anyway, O’Donnell’s knowledge of the Doctor is somewhat unsettling until she explains that she used to be Military Intelligence and then everything falls into place. I love that she’s brave and sassy and that she dangled somebody out of a window and that is the reason she was demoted. And I’m not just saying this because she’s Scottish (obviously), but she reminded me a lot of Amy Pond. Maybe I’m the only one who thought that, but I did.
- Keeping with the same thread, Bennett (Arsher Ali) was very much the Rory to O’Donnell’s Amy. I liked him very much from the beginning, but even more so after O’Donnell was killed. He obviously has the Doctor’s motives a bit wrong, but the speech he gave reminded me so much of Rory’s in Vampires of Venice where he tells the Doctor that he makes people dangerous to themselves because they want to impress him. The scene where they go back the second time and Bennett sees O’Donnell still alive is maybe a bit cheesy with her smiling as the sun shines behind her, but it’s still suitably heartbreaking and we know just how much she means to him. And at the end when Clara tells him–from experience–that he just has to keep going, I thought that combined with his forcing Lunn to tell Cass how he feels was a very clever way to end it.
- One thing O’Donnell gets to do before she’s killed is drop what is presumably a breadcrumb that we will return to later on. It’s probably a big bread crumb. The Minister of War? Surely that could mean anything, and maybe it ties in with the other mystery seed planted in the first two-parter. The Hybrid. All it did for me was make me think all the way back to The War Games and the War Chief, but that’s probably because I’ve been on a Patrick Troughton kick lately.
- I understand that Doctor Who is a family show and I should’ve been more irked by this, but I will admit that I did laugh out loud when Prentis said, “In the ship I have directions to my planet and a selection of items that you can oppress me with.” I think I mostly laughed out of surprise that, yes, they went there. But Capaldi’s face when he says it is pretty good too.
- Prentis’s business card says “May the remorse be with you” on the bottom. This was only one of many nods to other sci-fi things in this story. Go back and look for yourself because it’s like an easter egg hunt.
- The fact that Prentis was an undertaker just made me think of Death of the Doctor from The Sarah Jane Adventures. I kept waiting for the enormous creepy vultures to turn up.
- I feel like naming the monster “The Fisher King” was kind of a waste. If you’re going to reference Arthur, then you have to do it with a proper Arthurian story. And of course acknowledge that the Doctor is actually Merlin because I’m still waiting for that loose end from Battlefield to be tied up in a satisfying way.
- I find the Tivoli funny, but annoying enough that I don’t need them back anytime soon.
- Clara and the Doctor have both changed so much and I absolutely love it, despite knowing the end is near. Clara’s behavior is mildly alarming, but I still believe it. Last series, we talked about addiction a lot. Clara’s relationship with Danny was doomed because she was addicted to her life with the Doctor, and I think that even if Danny hadn’t died, it still would never have truly worked. Now she has nothing left on Earth to hold her there, it seems, and the reckless abandon with which she has thrown herself into life in the TARDIS is enough that even the Doctor is a little unnerved by it. That said, it does explain her absolute desperation when she speaks to the Doctor after seeing his “ghost”. It used to be that Clara stayed with the Doctor because she was all he had. But now it’s also true that he is all she has. These two have, in one way or another, declared their love for each other time and time again. Take that as you will. We’re repeatedly told that it’s platonic and it completely works that way, but I also know that there are shippers out there who see it a bit differently. Who am I to argue either way? The point is, in this episode, we get more of that. We don’t need the words to know that they love each other more than anything else in the universe.
- The Doctor won’t change history to save himself or anyone else, but he will change it to save Clara. I don’t think his feelings could be spelled out any more clearly than that. Sort of a sequel to “Do you really think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?”
- Part of me kept expecting the mannequins staged as Russians to actually be Autons. The abandoned village setup reminds me of what Terrence Dicks said was a cut scene from The Five Doctors where the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane would drive Bessie through a village inside the Death Zone that was burning and full of Autons.
- I love that when the Doctor decides to be a rebel and says that no one is going to stop him, the TARDIS is instantly just like, NOPE. I just imagine Idris rolling her eyes.
- The scene where Cass feels the vibrations on the ground and we get a picture of what she sees that way was really clever. I know we’ve all seen it in Daredevil and also with Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but I still think it’s super cool.
- The Fisher King’s speech about the Time Lords was fantastic and I loved it.
- I love that the Doctor’s first words after leaving the stasis chamber are, “Don’t kiss me. Morning breath.”
- I’m still not too bothered by the sonic sunglasses. I kind of miss the screwdriver, but I like some of the applications that they’ve come up with for the shades. And again, I’ve no doubt that the screwdriver will be back fairly soon, so I’m not going to stress out about it.