Doctor Who is one of those television programmes that will never be able to win. It’s demographic is so wide-spread, and people want such different things from their Doctor Who experience, it really is impossible to please everyone. He’s too human, too alien, there’s too much sci-fi, too much humanity, it’s too childish, too adult, boring, complicated, incredible, ridiculous, etc, etc.
Obviously opinions matter, and we write blog posts about the programme because we care about it. I’ve been known to air my disappointment about past episodes and I am usually at odds with most of the rest of the internet. That’s why, this time, I quite liked the episode. It had grand ambitions, and a great premise, and I enjoyed it - although I do think it slightly missed the target.
Clara’s first trip in the TARDIS and first visit to an alien world was like many we have seen before. It reminded me of Amy in her nightdress chasing the crying girl, it was like Donna making her way through the bazaar where she would ultimately end up with a bug on her back. It was a hodge-podge of alien civilisation, a chance for the imaginations of the creative team, the make-up and costume department, and of course, the viewer to run wild. Lots of gloriously big words that we have no hope of understanding, but sound exotic and exciting. Alien mopeds, a different kind of currency, and a language that foxed the TARDIS - barking is apparently untranslatable. It doesn’t take long for Clara to feel at home, diving into the blue gunk fruit, and standing up to guards that are chasing after the little girl Merry (not Mary, as I thought throughout the entire episode).
In fact, I thought she identified with this world a little too much. The episode started with the Doctor stalking his prey behind a Beano, watching Clara’s parents meet, fall in love, start a family, raise Clara herself, and ultimately leave her behind.
(I don’t want to get all You’ve Been Framed about this, but I could watch that guy get a leaf in his face over and over.)
The companion finally has some back-story, so that while there is still a mystery to her appearing throughout time and space, we at least know she has some grounding in this instance. The death of her mother is obviously painful for her, she clings on to the book, to the leaf and to the ring. And then, all of a sudden, she gives them all up. As a plot device, it worked okay but I wasn’t convinced it would have happened like that. She didn’t know she would get the ring back, so that she sacrificed her two treasured possessions for an alien girl and world she had been on for five minutes. Perhaps visiting alien planets gives you a bigger picture of things, I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.
The sacrifice came about because the big Pumpkin Sun in the sky needed stories (input) to stop sucking the souls out of the community that worshipped it. The Doctor tried his best, with a magnificent performance, but in the end it was the magnitude of stories that could have been that satiated the beast. Abruptly, the sun went out.
That was my only problem with the episode. We spent a long time worshipping with these people, singing and swaying and revelling in the emotional side of it. It was almost on the verge of boring, I can understand why those who like Doctor Who for the action and running along corridors were more likely to switch off. It stopped just short of being boring for me, but it did take up a lot of time. Once the story came to its conclusion, the sun went out and that was it.
I’d have liked a bit more afterwards - what do the alien planets do now they have no sun?
Nevertheless, I liked it, enjoyed it, I approve, I just would have liked a little more end and a bit less middle. Still, it was nice to have a relaxing episode, something a bit different. It looks like action fans will be pleased next week, though, as things go nucleur on a submarine!