I find this two-parter to be an interesting contrast with the prior episode, Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife”. I think what you see is the difference between a very good TV writer and a great writer, period. Matthew Graham’s fleshy story was very solid – totally derivative and completely of Doctor Who with all it’s baggage. The moral quandary, the isolation on the island, the choice/sacrifice at the end, even the twist ending. Gaiman’s episode, by contrast, was not as neat and orderly – and totally soared above the box 32 years of history can put a TV show in. He did what he wanted and came up with something new, rather unwieldy and ultimately revelatory. It’s neither possible nor (probably) desirable to have writers like that every week – but it sure makes for a nice change.
For all that, Graham has put together a very solid pair of episodes here. The dilemma of the “almost humans” was handled with suitable balance – we saw both sides of their existence, and what it could mean both for them and for the human race. We also saw the depth of the crimes humanity has committed against The Flesh – who could blame Jennifer for snapping a little and going all “Alien” on us? That’s the dual nature of the ‘Gangers (but I thought they took on the nature of humans? Hmm…) – they can love a child and show mercy, or they can become monsters hellbent on revenge.
While Rory has become my favorite character this season and Arthur Darvill is doing a bangup job, I was rather let down to see him become a dupe in Monstro-Jen’s revenge plan. I did enjoy the interplay between the two Doctors though. While hardly a new concept for this series, it was handled in a fairly novel way with a few nods to the past as well. Matt Smith was quite good, here – he’s a very good Doctor but, like Peter Davison, tends towards the “too nice and too human” side of the spectrum. It’s nice to see him as “other” as he was, here – that coldness that separates him from humanity has been too rarely seen since he assumed the role. And indeed, he was cold as ice this week – it’s only as we get to the blockbuster surprise ending that we realize just how much everyone – including us – has been taken for a ride by the inscrutable Time Lord.
All in all, a solidly traditional “Who” that built on the season-long mythos the show is working towards. An enjoyable supporting cast, especially Raquel Cassidy as the acerbic foreman Cleeves. Next week is show runner Steven Moffat’s “A Good Man Goes to War”, the last episode before the “break” that splits S32 in half. I’m sure that cliffhanger will be a gangbuster, too.