Brief touch-base on Doctor Who this week, for reasons I’ve already covered. But the usual disclaimer applies – don’t mistake the length of the post for the fondness towards the episode. I thought this was rather a good one – probably the second-best of the season after “Listen”, and probably of more historical standing.
I’m still not buying Jenna Coleman – her Clara never delivers a line in a way that sounds and feels like an actual person would deliver it. But I loved the way her character was used this week to reveal an essential and difficult side of the Doctor-Companion relationship. And I love the way Peter Capaldi’s Doctor is finding his true form – an irreverent, brusque and irritating genius who could never be mistaken for a human the way Smith or even Tennant could.
The plot this week – a goofy-looking alien called a “Skovox Blitzer” that looks like a Dalek-Cyberman hybrid hiding out near Coal Hill School that the Doctor decides he needs to deal with by posing as the temporary caretaker– is a thin veneer to facilitate the character dynamics between Capaldi’s Doctor, Clara and Danny. But that’s fine – it’s those dynamics that give the story its edge, and the meeting between Danny and the Doctor doesn’t disappoint. Danny irritated the hell out of me, but in a good way – this was every bit the tense and dangerous meeting of two guys who seriously dislike each other that it needed to be.
True, the Doctor’s disdain for soldiers is being played up in way that suggests Moffat is wilfully ignoring series canon (Brigadier on line two…), but it does provide for a fascinating conflict. Capaldi is revealing a real prejudicial nature here, constantly demeaning Danny as “PE” and refusing to believe Clara could see anything in an ex-soldier (he convinces himself that Edward Harrison’s Adrian – whose resemblance to Matt Smith is unmistakable – is the boyfriend). But Danny is every bit as bigoted when it comes to authority figures (presumably like the Doctor he has good reasons for his biases). And for the record Clara officially uses the “L” word about him here.
I’m not that crazy about Moffat’s conceit of having the companions lead double-lives – I like the notion of a full-time commitment. But he is using it here in an interesting way, and really playing up the conflict with Clara – she’s desperate to have each of the men she loves approve of the other. I don’t think this can work long-term, and I think Moffat feels the same way – but we’ll see.
Finally, Missy does make an appearance here, albeit a silent one – so don’t think for a moment Moffat has forgotten that MacGuffin. Not that anyone who knows his work could think so.