“Did you know that I’ve been running for fifty years now?” Asks Doctor Who as we trudge out from under a bridge and toward the bright lights of civilisation.
“Yes, I did.” I mutter. “And as I recall, your fiftieth anniversary episode was deeply unsatisfying.”
“Oh. Well.” Doctor Who shrugs. “I just wanted to make sure that you knew.”
“How could I forget? There’s not been a moment of this past season that you haven’t obnoxiously reminded us all of it.”
“Funny you should say that…”
“You’re not going to do a really smug text and video montage that goes back to the events of the fiftieth and – of course you are.” I finish lamely as the intro rolls. “You know, that’s getting really tiring…”
I turn around, and stop talking when I see that Doctor Who has a frying pan in their hand. And I don’t get to say anything at all before they hit me in the head with it.
When this episode returned to the events of the fifty-years special, I had to go back to catch up on that plot line to understand what was going on in this one. This could be because of three possible reasons. One is that I was so utterly and completely done with Doctor Who when we fell out that I put the whole thing out of my head. Two is that I’m very unobservant and forget my own name on the best of mornings. Three is because the special was such a complete self-congratulatory messy let-down for me that I tried to supress the memory. Pick whichever you like, I really don’t mind.
But. Saying that.
This was the first episode in this season where I didn’t mind the whole fifty-years gimmick. Which is surprising, considering that was all it was about. But the gimmick was a matter of circumstance, rather than the focus, because this episode really established itself as a coherent continuation and development of those events. And dare I say it, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed an episode in this season of Doctor Who that alluded constantly to its prior fifty years.
I’m just as shocked as you are, honestly.
This episode was nasty. Rough around the edges, unapologetic, pulling no punches, and taking no prisoners nasty. It played filthy mind games with me, pulled on every nerve, and enjoyed watching me squirm. And oh boy, it was an absolute treat. After all the messing around, second guessing itself, and wild experimenting, Doctor Who not only hit the nail on the head but smashed it right through the house. As well as pulling it off beautifully, it did it across a wide spread of different locations and plots, all working together in one cohesive unit. That’s difficult to do on that kind of scope, but this episode shot it right out the park.
My only complaint: why is Clara only useful when she’s not actually Clara?
Think back to the beginning of this season, and how that was the most use we’ve ever seen of her character, even as a pawn in someone else’s game. What was she then? She was being mistaken for a Dalek. And I’m going to spoil this episode on account that you’re probably here because you’ve seen it, but it was her Zygon double playing everyone like they were a bloody orchestra and she their awful, tyrannical conductor. It was an incredible, beautiful twist that had me reeling, but why is actual Clara useless in comparison? She just takes up space in every episode! I think the Doctor could talk to thin air and it’d have the same effect, honestly. I wholeheartedly absolutely want Clara to be something more than she is, but the show’s never given her a chance. And any bones they throw her way are just passive elements where she’s used by someone else for their own gain. Those times, like the way this plot is going, she’s just another possession for someone to snatch off of the Doctor for him to come chasing after.
So here’s what I’d like in the next episode. (By the way, this was another two-parter, if that wasn’t obvious. And it was so good that I don’t even care. Could it have been later in the season after a few individual episodes? Absolutely. But I’m not going to say anything more on it. Yeah, it was that good.) I want Clara to break out of that Zygon prison on her own. I want her to bust on out of there with all the other captured humans in tow, and I want her to lead the way on what’s to come next. And don’t get me wrong by saying that’s me wanting her to be better than the Doctor, oh no. I want her in on this on the same level as him, rather than his tagalong that’s inevitably going to go astray. (I just realised: she’s Daphne. She’s the Daphne of Doctor Who.) Give me that, Doctor Who, and I will be incredibly happy. I’m already happy with the way that this episode went, but put that cherry on the top for me. Please.
Also, please release me from where you’ve tied me to this chair.
“You traded places with the real Doctor Who when I was asleep under the bridge,” I say accusingly as my captor paces slow circles around my chair. “And you did it so well that I never even guessed.”
“No,” laughs the Zygon-Doctor Who menacingly. “You never even guessed because you underestimated them. You thought so little of them that you never expected them to pull off an episode with a twist like this one. And you fell right into my little trap.”
“They’ll come to save me,” I insist. “Doctor Who will come to get me, and then you’ll be sorry.”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” says the Zygon-Doctor Who. “With another double episode, it’s all to play for. Everything that the last forty five minutes worked for might all be for naught. The resolution will be messy and over complicated, even while being obvious. And you can forget about your precious Clara saving herself!” They throw their head back and laugh manically.
“I believe,” I murmur quietly to myself as they melt away into the dark. “I believe that this show can do better. It won’t let me down.”
“Not now, after that episode was so good.”
Image courtesy of the BBC