This was in our household’s consensus opinion pretty much not a good followup to the season opener. Which is a shame, because we like Capaldi, and we’re now hoping he’s not going to be wasted on inferior scripts.
My main beef with it? I’ve been hearing rumblings going around about how this season is supposed to be darker, and how this Doctor is supposed to be more morally ambiguous–except the questions raised in this episode are all questions we’ve seen raised before in far better episodes. And not to mention that we’ve seen the whole “shrinking down to go inside something” plot before. Hell, this thing even namechecked Fantastic Voyage!
Spoilers behind the fold!
(ETA: And oh hey, Dara’s got her own reaction post up. That she has chosen to illustrate her points with screencaps from Lost in Space pretty much sums up what you can expect in her reaction!)
Ah, and here we have the intro of Danny Pink, about whom I’d heard prior rumblings as well, and who I knew was incoming as a love interest for Clara. I would have liked him more if the episode hadn’t tried so hard to hit us over the head with what a “ladykiller” he is, when he was clearly quite awkward with women, and dealing with some PTSD besides. I did like once he started actually talking to Clara though, and how she managed to coax him into going out for a drink with her.
I also liked the whole “Where have you BEEN?” “I went to get you coffee!” “That was three weeks ago!” thing. Because yeah, sometimes the Doctor needs to be reminded that not everybody lives non-linearly like he does.
And I probably would have liked Journey Blue a bit more if she’d had some function in the episode besides “soldier whose brother just got killed”. But as it happens I mostly came out of the episode feeling sorry for her, because here she goes asking the Doctor if she could come with him, and he turns her down cold. Because she was a soldier.
Likewise, we have Danny angsting at Clara about being afraid that she wouldn’t like him because he was a soldier. And we’ve got the Doctor snarking that the soldiers on the ship don’t need people to like them because they’ve got the guns–which honestly seemed like an asshole thing to say. On the one hand, I like Capaldi’s Cranky Old Man Doctor, but on the other hand, we have no context in this episode as to whether this particular set of people with guns are deserving of that kind of snark. And given that they’re fighting for their lives against the Daleks, it seems particularly unwarranted snark. I didn’t exactly care for the Doctor’s line re: Clara, either–“she cares so I don’t have to.” They need to be careful with this kind of thing. Too much of it and the Doctor starts being actively unlikeable.
What, exactly, is this episode’s beef against people being soldiers, anyway?
And this is exactly what I’m talking about when I say this episode is raising questions that have been raised before. We’ve seen the Doctor be contemptuous of soldiers before. Hell, he’s spent entire seasons being snarky at UNIT. And even in the newer incarnation of the series, we’ve seen him question the morality of war. Particularly with the Daleks involved. There’s the entire Time War arc. There’s “A Good Man Goes to War”–which, I might add, was one of Moffat’s own run of episodes.
Most importantly, though, there was “Dalek”. Back in Nine’s run. Wherein we had a plot that did a much better job of playing with the concept of a captive, helpless Dalek, who had a much stronger, more powerful reaction to human emotions after being exposed to Rose.
Likewise, I felt a strong callback to Nine when the Dalek tells Twelve that he is a good Dalek. We’ve heard this before–this entire question of how the Doctor’s got major gray areas going on when it comes to his war on the Daleks. This was, after all, the entire reason that we learned that the Daleks call him the Oncoming Storm as well as the Predator. And if you go back to “The Parting of the Ways”, there’s all kinds of mileage in there with the Emperor Dalek calling the Doctor out, and in fact calling him “the Great Exterminator”.
The Doctor Who Podcast has said before that the current incarnation of the series has a bad habit of not acknowledging stuff that’s happened in the classic series, or even in the RTD era. This episode, unfortunately, was a prime example of that.
Moreover, it just felt rushed and harried to me, overall. I feel like I barely got to know any of these characters,
And I’m still not entirely sure what we’re supposed to think of Missy yet, whoever the hell she is. And is this going to be a thing now, having people die and get snatched up by Missy?
Overall… meh. Not impressed by this one. Sorry, Doctor! I hope I’ll like the next one better.