Hello readers! Sorry about last week, life got in the way and unfortunately, I don’t have access to a TARDIS to give me extra time to write. So, this week. Maybe it was the 2nd century AD setting, maybe it was the ruins, cairns, and barbarians, or maybe it was the classic Who connection on the productions side (probably all of them), but this episode felt like really old school Doctor Who in the best way possible.
Apropos of nothing, the VFX on this show have come quite a way from the man-eating garbage can days of 12 years ago.
So I found out a while back that this season would have an episode written by a classic series writer and here it is. Whovians may know the name Rona Munro, she wrote the final story of the classic series run, “Survival.” This episode had a lot of the old show’s flavor in it; it had a lot to say about a lot of important things. Coming on the heels of last week’s perspective on the colonialist attitudes in Victorian England, this week, the show reflected on Britain’s history with conquering Romans (in a far less comical fashion than my favorite new series episodes (“The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang”) did). When you have a time travel show that spends as much time in Earth’s past as this one does, it’s nice that it actually has things to say about the attitudes of the time (see also the Romans’ view on Bill’s “limited” sexuality) and the lessons of history, rather than just being a romp into the past. After all, the goal of Doctor Who from the very beginning was to be an educational show about history. Granted, it’s become a lot more (and sometimes a lot less) along the way, but it’s wonderful to see that acknowledged, especially by a seasoned Doctor Who veteran. I usually enjoy when the show offers its own explanation of a historical mystery, like the disappearance of the 9th Roman legion, and this was no different. And while I found the bit with the crows kind of silly in the beginning, I appreciated the pourquoi tale that got wrapped up into the story by the end.
Nobody yells at the people threatening him like the Doctor does
Capaldi was very First Doctor in this episode as well, very angry at the barbarians, when they really did the best the could under the circumstances. Possibly still reeling from the conflict on Mars, possibly recognizing echoes of the Time War conflict in the problems between the Celts and the Romans, the Doctor was on fire, shouting at everybody like the grumpy old man he very oftentimes is. It was very Hartnellian. I felt he was especially harsh on Kar, in the way the Doctor can often be with humans when his anger makes him forget what they are in the moment: frightened children in the grand scheme of the universe. This episode did an excellent job of reminding the character of why he does what he does and what it is he’s meant to be doing.
She’s like him, but not trying to BE him.
Bill is really coming into her own as a companion. I mean, it took her a LONG damn time to figure out the TARDIS translation (or even notice it, frankly), but I liked how it factored into the resolution of the conflict. Bill’s speech to the Romans was exactly what the Doctor would’ve said in her situation, so it’s nice to see her thinking like him without becoming a surrogate for him, as often happened with Clara. It’s another way the show reminds us of why he picked Bill. It was nice to see a united front, despite their separation, and to have the episode focus on the problem facing the people in the episode, rather than on the relationship between the main characters, which should be pretty well cemented at this point in the season.
Absolute master class in acting going on here
We are only getting snippets of Missy in each episode, but I absolutely LIVE for them. Capaldi plus Gomez equals several thousand fire emojis. They are just an absolutely stunning combination onscreen. The show is doing a phenomenal job of “show, don’t tell” with their relationship and really honoring its history. A long long LONG (long) time ago, the Doctor and the Master were best friends, as the best arch enemies always are, and I’m so thankful that the show remembers that and is dealing with it head on. This is all heading for some kind of phenomenal conclusion in the season finale and I CAN’T. FREAKING. WAIT.
I normally don’t embed the trailer here, but this one has me DYING! Next week is the penultimate episode of the season and if you want more Missy, you’ve got it. I can’t really talk too much about next week, I just end up barfing out a bunch of exclamation points. I can promise you this: next week’s recap will NOT be late. See you all then!