In gearing up for the big season finale next week, Doctor Who has been upping the ante for the last few weeks, and this episode shoots the stakes through the roof. Perhaps the closest DW has ever come to replicating the vibe of a film like Cast Away or The Martian, this week the focus is solely on our man Peter Capaldi, as he is almost the only human actor featured in the entire story – not that I have one single problem with that, mind you!
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: If you’re reading this, it can only be assumed that you’ve not only seen this week’s episode, but chewed on every moment like I did. Your recap here, then, can be brief. The Doctor arrives at a gothic castle via the teleporter seen last episode, and proceeds to deduce his way through a horror-movie-esque scenario of being stalked by a slow-moving but unyielding monster called The Veil. Throughout the tale, the Doctor must deduce why he has been placed in this scenario, and the final minutes of the story reveal the truth: the clues placed throughout his entrapment were actually left by him, as he’s been repeating the same process (via the magic of teleportation science!) for billions of years. Through this time, he’s been guarding his deepest secret until he could literally punch his way through the barrier to his next destination: Gallifrey, where he finally reveals that he is “the Hybrid.” He mentions earlier in the episode that his “confession” is that he didn’t leave Gallifrey because he was bored (as has been stated practically since the beginning of the original run of the show), but rather, because he was afraid. But now, he’s ready to come home and face the Time Lords.
>>> Lots to take in throughout the episode, but the overall vibe I got was this: Steven Moffat, who actually wrote this episode himself, has never been afraid to dance around altering or flat-out reworking pieces of mythos of Doctor Who, and this episode took that to whole new level. One of the biggest among these, as mentioned previously, is that fact that the Doctor left Gallifrey because was scared, and not because he was bored. The latter explanation has been around since 1969, first mentioned all the way back during the run of the Second Doctor, so y’know, pieces of DW history don’t get much more sacred than this…
>>> Doctor-specific wordplay is something our favorite Time Lord seems to have adopted more and more as of late. In addition to the previous hits earlier this season, during this episode our man utters the phrase “The Doctor will see you now” early on when trying to draw out his enemy. He’s said this before, most recently (and notably) in his previous regeneration in the 2010 episode “The Eleventh Hour,” also when calling out an alien foe (the Atraxi).
>>> While I was watching the episode, I was impressed with the Doctor’s telepathic communication with a wooden door, which I personally found charmingly reminiscent of British author Douglas Adams and his constant portrayal of elevators with emotions. Later in the episode when Capaldi busted out the sonic sunglasses, I wondered why he didn’t just use the sonic on wood door to open it; once my Doctor Who senses kicked in, I remembered that sonic screwdrivers don’t work on wood, as referenced throughout the series. In fact, just last season the Doctor mentioned that the sonic wouldn’t work on wood mostly because wood doesn’t have any moving mechanical parts.
CLOSING THOUGHTS: The Doctor references taking “the long way ‘round” multiple times at the end of the episode, particularly in his choice of travel in getting to Gallifrey. This is a direct reference to the closing monologue from 2013’s 50th-Anniversary mega-episode “The Day of the Doctor,” where the Eleventh Doctor lets everyone know that his goal and destination is “home – the long way ‘round.” Seems as if he has finally arrived.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Peter Capaldi as The Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara Oswald