Cabin In The Woods
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer and Brit in Los Angeles, Robert Cave, takes a look at the ninth episode of the new Doctor Who season…
It Takes You Away
Director: Jamie Childs
Writer: Ed Hime
Stars:Jodie Whittaker, Sharon D. Clarke, Tosin Cole, Kevin Eldon, Mandip Gill
The Doctor goes to Norway this week, previously a location that had only been seen briefly as Dårlig Ulv Stranden at the emotional conclusion of the series two finale Doomsday. This time out, the country gets its own full-on adventure, which surely won’t hurt the show’s Scandinavian viewing figures. Sadly we don’t spend much time gazing at the majestic fjords. Team TARDIS is far more interested in exploring a mysterious cabin in the Norwegian woods.
Doctor Who has often been described by fans and critics alike as a kind of science-fiction fairy tale, and this story in particular, penned by Skins writer Ed Hime, very much has that feel. It also shares many key tropes of fairy tales. There’s the cabin itself and the young blind girl named Hanne (played wonderfully by Ellie Wallwork) who has been abandoned by her father, there’s a magic mirror that serves as a portal to another world, there is an untrustworthy otherworldly stranger, dangerous creatures on the path, and even a talking frog.
Of course, there is more to the frog than meets the eye – it’s actually a Soletract, a desperately lonely sentient universe with the ability to control its own appearance. But despite its near infinite capabilities, the Soletract is dangerously incompatible with our universe, which is, unfortunately, the one thing it wants to interact with.
At its core, this episode is a tale of thwarted desires for things we can’t have – no matter how much we might want them. And at the forefront of this heart-breaking theme are Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Hanne’s father Erik (Christian Rubeck), both bereaved husbands who desperately miss their dead wives. It is a solid central idea, wonderfully furnished with extra scares from the menacingly self-centred Ribbons (Kevin Eldon) and a flock of flesh-eating moths.
I really liked the moment Graham first glimpsed Grace as he steps symbolically through the veil formed by the sheets of a washing line. I also liked the notion of the Soletract itself and its untenable desire to touch our universe. Yes, I still had a fair few niggles about how exactly the Soletract first managed to make contact with Erik. I also didn’t like the arbitrary way in which the Doctor decides Ryan (Tosin Cole) should be the one to look after Hanne while the rest of team TARDIS head off through the magic mirror, especially after it was established that he was, in his own words “rubbish with kids”.
I also had a bit of a problem with the way the Doctor upsells herself to the Soletract in the place of Erik. From the outset this move feels more like an expedient ploy on the Doctor’s part to get her friends out of the Soletract, and while Jodie Whittaker does and excellent job conveying the Doctor’s sense of adventure and the joy of meeting a sentient universe, I would have liked to seen more of her sense of wonder and awe at the Soletract a little earlier in the episode. It would also have been nice to see the pair of them spend more time together, getting to know each other more before being forced to part ways.
Ultimately, the folktale-like tropes made it easier for me to overlook these minor quibbles. Indeed, this is probably my favourite episode of the series so far.
Next week is the series finale. Already. I know this series’ shorter 10-episode run helps the production team to concentrate the budget and keep the quality of each episode high, but I will always want more Doctor Who.