Life’s A Beach
Tripwire’s man in Los Angeles Robert Cave takes a look at the sixth episode of Doctor Who, which was on BBC1 last Sunday…
Writer: Pete McTighe and Chris Chibnall
Director: Jamie Magnus Stone
After last week’s big revelations that John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness is returning to the show (although apparently he won’t be showing up again this series), and the appearance of a mysterious new/old incarnation of the Doctor, the show’s fans might have been forgiven for perhaps expecting an episode that follows up on this in some way. Alas, show runner Chris Chibnall has other plans.
Instead of exploring longer-term plots, viewer attention is directed to completely new and action-packed adventure in medias res. Dropping us in on the action of returning space ships and multiple mysteries being investigated by an already-split-up TARDIS crew is a bold move and one that gives the show’s regular cast more opportunity to step out of the Doctor’s shadow from start, but it’s also quite a jarring and feels like a distraction.
Does this story necessarily take place directly after the last week’s at all? There is some circumstantial evidence that it doesn’t: Yas’s (Mandip Gill) describes herself as being on some sort of sabbatical from her job as a police officer, but in the Spyfall two-parter it was established that she is still in her period as a probationer, albeit one who apparently keeps being selected for all manner of strange secondments. Is this a simple conversational slip in terminology or an indication of something more significant? You decide.
One thing I’ve already decided about this series so far is the chunky font used in location captions is gorgeous, as are the locations themselves. OK, the base at the bottom of the Indian ocean did look like it could have featured as a set in the show’s classic era, but the South African beaches that double for Madagascar are pretty impressive, as are the street scenes set in Hong Kong, regardless of where they were actually filmed.
The main plot about a plastic-loving alien pathogen with an unfortunate tendency to make humanoid lifeforms explode in a puff of polycarbonates was solid enough, but the growing number of co-writing credits Chibnall is racking up makes me wonder how much rewriting the script underwent on its way to the screen. The twist of Suki the scientist (Molly Harris) turning out to be less trustworthy than she first appears felt a little too close to the similar bait and switch that surrounded the Master in this season’s series opener. I was half expecting it to be revealed at she was actually some other Time Lord too, perhaps a new version of the Rani from the tail end of the classic era?
Running around has been a key element of the show pretty much since its inception – it fills time while adding an element of an element of excitement. Now it seems to have also become a cardio workout that has given Ryan (Tosin Cole) abs of steel. Maybe someone should tell BBC Worldwide? Maybe we need a TARDIS Fitness Guides?
Ultimately, I was left feeling that the frenetic pace of the episode didn’t quite earn its place and was being used to zhush up a story that would have been a whole lot more engaging if it had slightly fewer characters and a little more space to breathe. I’m glad the astronaut got to reconcile with his estranged husband, but did we really need the vloggers? Their inclusion just seemed to serve the ongoing trend the show has developed recently for lesser supporting characters that are so superfluous that even their closest friends and loved ones seem to have forgotten about by the end of the episode with an ease that verges on callousness.
Let’s hope next week’s guest cast fair somewhat better as team TARDIS heads off to Aleppo…