♦Our man in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the fifth episode of Doctor Who Series 10, on last Saturday on BBC1 in the UK…
Director: Charles Palmer
Writer: Jamie Mathieson
Stars: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
Wow. That was really good, wasn’t it?
We start off going all “Star Trek” with Peter Capaldi in fine lecture form, telling us all about the dangers of space travel. Then we get what appears to be a pair of tumbling space zombies and an incredibly effective, beautifully choreographed opening sequence that establishes a whole lot of stuff that will become very important later.
In short order, we are introduced to a couple of space miners and their malfunctioning space suits. Apparently the miners are dealing with a bit of a crisis: most of their crewmates have been killed by their own space suits. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the miners have to pay for every breath of oxygen they take. Space capitalism red in tooth and claw.
And all of this is wrapped up in a poignant vignette of a female miner who, in extermis, is trying to tell her partner how much she wants to have his baby if they survive, but she can’t because her space suit’s com-link is broken. And then she is attacked by a pair of space-suit zombies, but she can’t cry out for help because, again, her com-link is broken.
It’s great writing by the episode’s author Jamie Mathieson and this is just the pre-title sequence!
After the titles we get another mention of The Vault that the Doctor is supposed to be guarding, and a glimpse of some Gallifreyan designs – further evidence that the occupant could be a Time Lord, or at least someone that the Time Lords view as dangerous. I’m increasingly at a loss as to see if there could be anyone other than The Master/Missy inside at this point. I guess we will find out eventually.
We have some banter with the Doctor, Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole (Matt Lucas) that end with the three of them going off on their first proper Tardis trip together.
The trio are soon nosing around the mining colony, bringing some oxygen with them for the trip, much to the annoyance of the company that owns the facility it seems. The colony’s computers vent the Tardis’s “free” oxygen forcing the Doctor and his companions to suit up in some of the faulty space-suits.
The big question here, not even touched upon in the episode itself is why Nardole appears to need a space suit himself. Previous episodes in the series have rather implied that he is some kind of robot now, so why would he need to breathe?
The Tardis crew then meet the mining crew and we have a lovely moment of intersectionality as Bill meets her first visibly different alien and gets called on her casual “racism” when she is caught staring.
There is then some running about, and the Doctor managing to save the day by making life not just sacred, but very expensive to the ship’s computer, thus casually offhandedly defeating capitalism.
But what really makes this episode exceptional is the way it sells the jeopardy of the story. The lecture at the beginning about the dangers of space travel of the liquid around your eyes boiling in a vacuum is really brought home when the Doctor is forced to give up his space helmet to save his companion and is blinded in the process, and he remains blind at the end of the episode.
There is a real sense of consequence here, and one that is actually rooted in the lore of the show. Back in “The War Games” the Second Doctor reveals that Time Lords can live forever “barring accidents.” Will this accident cost the Doctor his sight for the rest of this regeneration?
Judging from the trailer for next week’s episode, it seems so – in fact it seems like her will be, out of necessity, retuning to use the sonic sunglasses that riled so many fans last season – well his new sonic screwdriver.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.