Synopsis: The Doctor and friends must embark on a mission that forces them to face their darkest fears as they are haunted by a call from beyond the stars.
Chris Chibnall and Charlene James gave us a phenomenal, atmospheric and touching episode this week. I was really pleased to see the return of the cold opening, which I felt was effective in establishing the mood and tone. There was a mystery to be solved this time, and I liked how the Doctor went off on her own to investigate without her companions, as we have not seen this happen before during Jodie Whittaker’s era. There are some great interactions between the characters in this episode. I loved how Ryan and Tibo provided both comedy and a more serious look at how adventuring with the Doctor affects her companions’ friends on Earth as well. The atmosphere throughout this episode was both frightening and melancholy, and really highlighted the struggles that the ordinary people were going through. I enjoyed 13’s detective style approach to working out what the problem was and the initial confrontation between her and the episode’s villain, Zelin, hit all the right notes for me. Bonus points also for mentioning the White and Black Guardians and the Celestial Toymaker. I loved the how terrifying and jarring the nightmares that the gods trapped the Doctor and her companions in were. My one criticism is that the 13th Doctor seemed to turn the tables on these immensely powerful beings a bit too easily and she seemed a bit too overconfident and pleased with herself when she did so. What made up for this were the powerful and affecting moments we saw each character go through at the episode’s denouement which showed how anybody can struggle with things at any time, and how there’s no shame in reaching out and asking for help.
Jodie Whittaker gave what I felt was her first big “I am the Doctor” speech when she faced down Zelin and Rakaya having reverse engineered their technology to use against them at the episode’s climax. I loved Whittaker’s anger and passion when she delivered her lines, which I think we need to see a lot more of from this actress. Ian Gelder absolutely stole the show as Zelin, providing us with an urbane and sophisticated villain that called to mind Roger Delgado’s Master. There was a very good balance of humour and gravity achieved in the scenes between Tosin Cole’s Ryan and Buom Tihngang’s Tibo, who delivered a touching speech about mental health at the episode’s end. Mandip Gill gave a fantastic performance in the flashback as a lost and angry Yaz who had run away from home, and Nasreen Hussein was amazing as the older and wiser Anita Patel who tried to help Yaz. I really liked how Hussein’s words didn’t magically fix everything for Yaz, and she had to get more real and more down to earth to help Gill’s character. The scene when Yaz went back to see Anita at her house after three years was beautiful, and nearly made me cry. Bradley Walsh got some great moments in this outing like when Grace told him that he still had cancer during Graham’s nightmare, and Graham’s understated confession of his worries about his cancer returning to the Doctor at the end of the episode. The only thing that felt a bit cheesy to me was when Ian Gelder and Clare-Hope Ashitey screamed at the monster that the Doctor trapped them inside the prison with.
The theme music at the start of the episode was very unnerving and helped set the scene well I thought. The theme when the women in the hospital are whispering to each other complemented their hushed voices really well. The electric guitars that played when we first saw Zelin were great and really helped to heighten the threat that he posed as did the creepy score that was employed when Zelin’s fingers separated from his hand. The music when Yaz pointed out that the computer console was covered in severed fingers was jarring and helped convey the horror of the moment well. I really liked the music when Zelin was making his first villainous speech to the Doctor as well. I also loved how much the music that played when Graham was confessing his fears to the Doctor made me think of secrets being shared.
The CGI of the creature that haunted Tahira’s dreams was brilliant. I loved the FX of Zelin’s fingers detaching from his hand and the CGI of the spaceship was so dark and atmospheric and really helped to convey the tone of the episode. The animation detailing the history of how Zelin and Rakaya tortured the inhabitants of the two planets was brilliantly done and the scenes of team TARDIS’s nightmares were beautifully twisted. There were also some gorgeous shots of the 13th Doctor alone on the TARDIS and it was brilliant when the entire console room went dark and Zelin appeared for the first time. I also enjoyed the Doctor’s nightmare of the Timeless Child, which was deftly woven into this story.
A brilliantly creepy episode with a great message.
- Incidental Music9.0