An Eternal Threat
Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave takes a look at the seventh episode of Doctor Who, which was on BBC1 last Sunday…
Series 12, episode 7
Can You Hear Me?
Writer: Charlene James and Chris Chibnall
Director: Emma Sullivan
Well, that was certainly a packed little episode with the action ranging from 14th Century Aleppo to a far-off space platform via various points in an around Sheffield. But whereas last week’s episode felt at times to be little sprawling and unfocused, with various characters only seemingly introduced so they could be killed off this week’s instalment worked much better, not least because most of the guest-cast were either previously introduced or otherwise linked to the TARDIS fam’s lives in Sheffield.
The central plot or malevolent immortals harvesting human nightmares for fun and as a means of getting on of their number out of a flashy interplanetary prison cell was incredibly effective mainly thanks to the skills of Ian Gelder as the Eternal Zellin.
Long-time Who-fans might remember the Eternals from the 1983 Fifth Doctor story Enlightenment. Or not. It doesn’t really matter because writers Charlene James and Chris Chibnall don’t let their references to wider series lore and continuity get in the way of their story. You don’t need to know anything about the Celestial Toymaker of the Black and White Guardians to follow what is going on and enjoy the creepiness of an old man with detachable fingers as a penchant for other people’s nightmares. Hopefully a whole new generation of viewers managed to find a safe hiding place, be it behind the sofa, or whatever the modern equivalent might be (from under the covers via a smartphone?) from which to enjoy all the spooky goings-on.
If I had any quibbles at all, they would be my ongoing issue with the showrunner getting co-credits on the story, which I feel detracts from the work of the other credited writer. I also felt that there might have been slightly too much CGI. The monsters from Tahira’s (Aruhan Galieva) nightmares looked liable to date quickly and Zellin’s disappearances in puffs of smoke weren’t nearly as unsettling as it might have been if he simply vanished by walking out of the audience’s line of sight.
That said, I loved the visuals of the prison cell caught between two colliding planets looked fantastic, and Zellin and Rakaya’s (Clare-Hope Ashitey) animated mythic origin story. The contrast between the more powerful Rakaya, taking the form of a young black woman and the less powerful Zellin, who assumes the appearance of an older white man, also helped sell the whole notion of almost infinite abilities of the Eternals to assume any shape that amuses them.
And we get a little glimpse of what I presume is the Timeless Child. My current theory on this is that it may revisit some of Andrew Cartmel’s ideas that the Doctor is somehow more than just an ordinary Time Lord… With the end of the season rapidly approaching we probably won’t have to wait very long to find out. In the meantime, next week’s episode promises to give us Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and maybe the creation of Frankenstein’s Monster. See you next week.