Welcome back, readers! Well, that was a crazy adventure in space (the final frontier - man am I glad they made that joke). The episode itself was a fairly straightforward Doctor Who adventure, but at the same time there was a lot going on. A lot of things were bubbling just under the surface and some others are starting to come into focus. It may just be that I’ve watched too much Doctor Who in my life (actually no, no such thing) or that I’m just too used to Moffat’s machinations (far more likely), but I’m starting to look for the threads that tie the season together and possibly driving myself a bit mad speculating about what’s important and what’s not.
The main plot itself was perfectly serviceable. It had a big bad corporation, some cool monsters, drama created by a lack of trust, and the Doctor dancing as fast as he can to stay ahead of the problem and serving up some truly delicious vindication in the end. All in fine form. I have heard some talk that this plot may have been too political, but I think it was just political enough. It’s cathartic for audiences to see the the problems they face in life have a parallel on screen with a positive resolution and it makes the show that much more relatable. I also think the directors this season have been doing a bang up job. The scene of Bill’s near death experience was crazy intense because of how well it was shot (much like the underwater scene in “Thin Ice”).
Bringing Nardole along for the adventure added so much depth to the story. I’m finally getting to see a TARDIS team comprised of multiple companions who are not all from modern Earth, much like ones I remember from Classic Who, and it’s giving me exactly what I want. Not only is a lot of comedy derived from the different ways Bill and Nardole experience their adventures in the TARDIS, but we are also starting to see a whole new dynamic in Team TARDIS, one that looks a lot like a dysfunctional family. The dialogue and acting in the Doctor & Nardole’s scenes outstanding. They come off as married partners with dramatically different attitudes toward their joint responsibility. The ensuing bickering amuses Bill because she doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation. She takes on the role of the child because they treat her as such. It’s all very interesting to watch and I’m dying to see how it turns out when Bill becomes more aware of the way the dynamic functions and her role in it. I’m betting it’ll have something to do with her exit from the TARDIS.
I was so glad to see actual consequences for the Doctor for one of his crazy ideas. All too often, he gets away with murder and/or magic just because it’s science fiction and the writers can make up their own rules. I saw an interview with the writer of this episode on Facebook saying he though if the Doctor didn’t suffer some ill effects from his exposure to space, it would be too much of a cop out. Well damn. Slow clap to you sir for taking responsibility for your plot twist. Of course, I have my theories about how this will be tied into the season as a whole, which I’ll get to in a minute. We also saw the sonic screwdriver damaged (along with an excellent Capaldi reaction) and the return of the sonic specs. Given the turn of events in this episode, the use of those props in the early episodes makes a lot more sense.
So as I said at the top, I’m (possibly) starting to see a lot of overall, larger things at work in this episode. The opening moments tell us that “Space is always trying to kill you.” When viewed with the foreknowledge of imminent regeneration, that takes on a much deeper meaning. In the viewer’s experience, regeneration has always been caused by some sort of catastrophic event. I’m starting to wonder whether this time, it might just happen from strain. He’s a very old man (maybe not old for his race, but still 2000 years is nothing to sneeze at) and does lots of impossible things he shouldn’t be able to do and rarely faces any physical consequences for it. Except this time, he has. I’ve had the sense throughout this season that he knows his time is coming, maybe it’s because he can feel his body giving out. Of course, he’s going to resist it, not only from a natural survival instinct, but also out of his sense of duty to guard the vault. And I’m sure that being “trapped” on earth fulfilling that duty is putting its own strain on him as well. Of course, he also says “I try never to tell my enemy my secret plan,” so it’s possible this theory is straight hogwash and the writers are trying to tell us to stop guessing because we’re not going to get it.
This episode hammered home how much the Doctor likes help (spoiler: not a lot), but now he’s going to need a lot of it. At first, little elements like his speech about how the universe reveals itself in how it asks for help and we do in how we respond and his joke about how a distress call is his theme tune seem to be just simple comments on the nature of the show. But looking at them again given the Doctor’s new predicament, we start to see how the Doctor is going to have to reveal himself in asking for help and perhaps he’ll be the one broadcasting his own theme tune instead of answering to it. There were a lot of exciting tidbits (diary + library = River Song?) in the trailer for Extremis, so I’ll meet you back here next week to see if I was right about any of this nonsense.