This week, we got to take a look at what happens when Bill tries to keep part of her life to herself. We also got a classic, hide-behind-the-couch, peek-between-your-fingers scary episode of Doctor Who. I usually enjoy when the show returns to its roots of a family show that is very occasionally a little too scary for its youngest viewers. In this case, it was fine that they did this type of story, but I felt the execution was a bit off.
There were some interesting little Easter eggs dropped in this episode. The Doctor and Bill’s discussion of Time Lords was just a little too prominent for me to believe it as casual dialogue about the Doctor’s backstory. Mark my words, they will factor into this season. There was also a hint dropped about regeneration, which was quickly swept under the rug, but the way it was delivered made me believe that the Doctor expects one to be coming soon.
There were also a lot of classic series references, chiefly Bill referring to the Doctor as her grandfather, which was the same relationship he had with his first companion Susan, who is seen in a framed picture on the desk in his office at the university. This strong association with his first companion, recovering very familiar ground about how he originally stole the TARDIS, and the heavily-referenced Time Lords all make me think the resolution of this season will be addressing the Doctor’s roots. The less significant, but nonetheless enjoyable, link to a past regeneration came in the form of Bill’s roommate Harry (the one who was with the Doctor for the bulk of the episode) who mentions one of his grandfathers when Bill claims the Doctor as hers. This article explains that his other grandfather is classic series companion Harry Sullivan, but that lines about him were cut due to a lack of relevancy. Apropos of nothing, really, except that it’s nice to see the writers finding opportunities to include tributes to things they love about the original show.
The plot centers on Bill and her five roommates trying to find a house for rent so they can all live together. Who are these people? How do they all know each other? Why is it important that they all live together? Why should I care about any of them? These are all questions the episode answered either poorly or not at all. I wasn’t invested in any of these 2D millennials, so I didn’t really care that much when the house kept eating them all. I was not a fan of taking a whole episode to demonstrate that Bill and the Doctor are both better off together by separating them and throwing them in with a bunch of one-offs that were basically cannon fodder and who all (spoiler alert) lived. Even Bill’s supposed best friend Shireen (couldn’t help that name being recycled, she was an oft-mentioned, never-seen friend of Rose), we’d never seen before. Four episodes in, we have had a chance to get some of Bill’s backstory. If she’s such an important figure that Bill wants to sign a lease with her (and four other randos...for some reason), why are we only just meeting this woman now? Either Bill has no one, or she has people in her life. I don’t like the show trying to have it both ways. It bugged. (Pun intended, OBVIOUSLY). The bugs themselves and the associated creepy house/creepy landlord/creepy wooden lady plot all made for a perfectly serviceable monster-of-the-week story; not great or terrible, just fine.
As far as holding my interest goes, the main plot couldn’t hold a candle to the last few minutes of the Doctor’s interaction with Nardole and the vault. So much new information! Apparently the Doctor can come and go as he pleases and converses with its occupant, who seems to have a complicated relationship with the Doctor, enjoys suffering, and has a dark sense of humor. All strong evidence indicating it could be the Master in there, but it’s a little too obvious for me to commit to that as a prediction just yet. I like to think the show can still blow me away from time to time and I’d love it if all these clues leading the audience to believe it’s Missy/the Master were just blown out of the water by someone we never saw coming.
Overall I didn’t hate the episode, I just wish it was better. I think it was down to the supporting cast, not that the actors did a bad job, just that they weren’t written very well. I might have liked it better if not for the final scene, but the stark contrast between how compelling it was and how compelling the rest of the episode wasn’t dragged down my overall feeling for it a bit. Next week looks to be another adventure in space (with zombies!) and Nardole’s along for the ride so there’s lots of potential for a great hour of TV. See you next week!