This week brings the second part of a particularly timey-wimey episode, as well as the addition of a brand-new bad guy, one that seems very vague but pretty intense. Where does this episode fit in to the larger story this season is trying to tell? Read on and we’ll try to learn more.
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly other episodes/seasons of Doctor Who. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: We’ve got an episode that picks up right where the last left off – excepting a fairly-entertaining but largely unnecessary intro of The Doctor breaking the fourth wall to explain directly to the audience how a particular time-travel paradox (that of “which came first, an idea or someone learning of the same idea and then going back in time to create it”) works. It’s an interesting conceit, and I especially appreciated the carryover of the Doctor’s guitar riffing into the opening credits.
Once we dive into the episode full-throttle, we see the Doctor and is half of the science team arrive at the pre-flooded town of the 1980s past, just in time to meet Prentis the Tivolian, who is the “mole-faced” ghost fellow from the previous episode. Prentis is an extra-terrestrial hearse driver; his cargo, The Fisher King, is a former conqueror of Tivoli (they love that, remember), and according to Tivoli tradition, his body must be disposed of, so here they are. One problem, though: The Fisher King’s not quite dead yet…
Back in the “present,” Clara and the other half of the science team are trying to contend with the ghosts, including the Doctor’s recently-appeared specter. Through the magic of temporal FaceTime, the Doctor is able to talk about – and to – his own ghost, and try to solve the mystery of who dies and when; see, the ghost Doctor is mumbling a string of names, and the next to die (once O’Donnell dies in the past, of course) is Clara. The Doctor makes it clear he’s not going to let anything happen to Clara, and after a few tense stand-off scenes between the Doctor and The Fisher King in the past and Clara and the ghosts in the present, we get our resident Time Lord’s patented formula for success: out-think the enemy by working several steps ahead, make a hologram ghost of yourself to scare your friends, and stash yourself in a suspended animation box to fool the bad guy. All in all, another no-way-out-oh-wait-it’s-all-fine conclusion to a Doctor Who tale.
>>> Called it on the Doctor in the stasis box in last week’s review! *vigorously pats self on shoulder *
>>> I really appreciated, as did lots of other fans whose feedback I’ve read, the inclusion of Cass as an authority figure for the science team. The fact that she was deaf and still able to command the team through a crisis speaks volumes to the “equal opportunity” that more writers should be affording different characters of all disabilities.
>>> This was easily the episode of the last few seasons with the highest time-paradox-sorting-out built into the narrative, and I’m sure it really challenged viewers to “keep up.” It’s a nice balance to what’s become a very “explain-y” season so far, where it seems like the Doctor takes a lot of time to lay out for other characters (and by extrapolation, the audience) exactly the “what” and the “why” behind what he’s doing.
>>> It sure seems like lots of hints and one-off lines of dialogue are being dropped that appear to be building towards a large-scale “decision” event coming this season. Is it possibly the untimely demise of Clara, or will instead we see the Doctor make a tough decision about the future/past of his home planet and his people? At the risk of being overly pun-ny: only time will tell!
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald