Written by Steven Moffat
Transmitted 14 September
“Fear makes companions of us all”
Pacing alone in the TARDIS, the Doctor struggles to make sense of a logical dilemma involving talking to one’s self. He theorizes that no one is ever really alone and perhaps there is someone just out of sight, lurking in the corner of one’s eyesight. Invigorated by the mystery, he barges in on Clara who is dealing with her own dilemma as her long awaited date with Danny Pink proves to be a disaster. Installing Clara into the TARDIS’ telepathic circuits to tap into what he believes to be a shared experience for all beings, the Doctor cannot possibly guess where this journey will take him. To a child’s bedroom to the end of time, it’s all connected.
As many readers may know by now, I am very grumpy about the BBC Wales 2005-present Doctor Who series. I cringe at gimmicks and roll my eyes at domestic romance subplots. Therefore my guard was up when I heard what sounded like a new spin on an old idea (the ‘thing at the corner of your eye’ sounds not too dissimilar to the Vashta Nerada) and adding a romance to Clara’s life could fall flat. Well color me surprised when not only does Moffat take a convoluted plot that takes cause and effect for a cyclical spin but also intertwines the human factor. This is what the new Doctor Who has been trying to do since 2005 and in my opinion it has finally paid off. For a hat trick, Moffat even connected the War Doctor played by John Hurt.
Watching the Doctor investigate what he thinks is a simple mystery quickly becomes something more as even he realizes the danger of what he could be doing and tries to keep Clara out of meddling in what he guesses is her own timeline. This is a far cry from the all-powerful Lonely God Doctor who knew everything and the whimsical wizard who magic-ed away any problem. This Doctor has to work his way past problems and use force of will rather than his sonic screwdriver.
In my opinion, Peter Capaldi has been struggling to find his footing in Doctor Who. He has had some sterling moments, but this is the most uneven and awkward characterization of the character in ages. It seems that the program is unsure who the 12th incarnation is other than grumpy and old. However, when the Doctor and Clara meet young Rupert Pink (who will later change his name to Danny), Capaldi comes into his own. I was reminded of when I saw Matt Smith in the Proms when he interacted with a little boy and he simply owned the part. In this case. Capaldi’s Doctor who, for the most part, had been distant and aloof up until now became grounded and sincere.
Alone in a room with a totally alien threat, the Doctor delivers one of the most captivating speeches on the nature of fear and courage. It’s so on the nose that it borrows a line from 1963’s An Unearthly Child! It’s clear that something is in the room as it steals little Rupert’s blanket but it is unclear what it is and the Doctor seems to want to steer clear of it. Clara strengthens the Doctor’s words on courage by placing small army men around the base of the bed… not realizing that she has reinforced a dream to become a soldier leading to the man she left at dinner with PTSD.
Clara attempts to travel back in time and fix her date with Danny Pink, armed with more information after visiting him as scared child, but everything quickly falls apart again. Then a man in a space suit arrives and beckons her to the TARDIS. She (and I) was sure that it was the Doctor, but imagine the collective surprise when the helmet is removed to reveal a distant relative of Danny Pink, the first human chrononaut Orson Pink.
Orson is taken back to his ship where something unknown is attempting to gain entry. It’s the end of time, a period where the TARDIS should not be able to journey to, but with the safeties taken off and the TARDIS linked to Clara’s subconscious, the rules have changed. Orson is terrified but finds solace in a family heirloom, a small toy soldier. But nothing, not even the Doctor’s mad risk at facing the unknown head on… can deal with the unknown threat outside.
Rescuing the Doctor from certain death, the TARDIS leaps once more (still tied to Clara’s subconscious mind) to an unassuming barn where a little boy is hiding. It soon becomes clear that it is the Doctor as a young child, terrified of the trials of the training that will lead him to being a Time Lord. Rather accidentally, she creates the Doctor’s experience of something under the bed, something just out of sight. Ingeniously, she uses the Doctor’s own words on courage to bolster the boy’s confidence.
A program that can travel anywhere and any when, Doctor Who is only limited by the imagination of the creators. The new program must retain the audience that was drawn in by the romance and magic of the previous episodes. At the same time, it is making a bold move forward into new territory with more sophisticated stories, a more mature and edgy leading man and stories that… for the first time… take risks.
The 2014 ratings so far (via DrWhoTV):
Deep Breath 6.8m (overnight) 9.17m (final) AI 82
Into the Dalek 5.2m (overnight) 7.29m (final) AI 84
Robot of Sherwood 5.2m (overnight) 7.28m (final) AI 82
Listen 4.8m (overnight) TBC (final) AI 82
Next time: Time Heist