I have mixed feelings on this week’s episode.
What I Liked
I loved the conclusion. I think the Shadow Doctor telling the audience that you don’t have to be the Doctor to change the world may be one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in Doctor Who. You can change the world even if you’re not the Doctor; even if you’re alone; even if you’re hurt or disabled; even if you’re not significant; even if you’re under someone else’s power –
You can help save the world.
Even if all you can do is write an email, make a phone call, or share a video. It helps.
That was powerful.
It was also incredibly dark, because the implication (in the show) is that the mystery monks are going to hit the reset switch after they kill the Shadow Doctor, reboot the program to include the new variables, and run through the whole scenario again. And again. And again. Like Heaven Sent, but without any eventual exit.
I like that Nardole continues to be “a secret badass” (who squeaks). I’m not entirely certain what was going on with Missy. Who paid for her to be executed by the Kill Anyone people? Why was the Doctor there? Why is the Doctor bound to his oath? Who’s enforcing it? Are the Time Lords involved?
But I’m enjoying the trajectory of this series so far. It lured me in with the obvious bait (who’s in the vault?), but now that it’s given the obvious answer (The Master! Obviously), I could care less – I want to know what’s going on with the mystery monks and their pyramid, how the Doctor is going to deal with them, and what’s going to make him regenerate. And, I suppose, the Master will pop out of the vault at some point and cause chaos with her younger Simm!self as wingman. It’s all very exciting.
What I didn’t like.
While I enjoy the Pope Joan legend, that was a bit weird. Especially since, given how that story ends, um, Moffat DOES know what he was implying? I was realllllly cringing. But never mind that.
I thought that the mass suicides to save the world and the scientists blowing themselves up were in poor taste. I understand the desire for a dramatic hook, “Everyone who worked on the translation is now dead!” but I don’t completely understand why ALL of the people came to the conclusion that offing themselves was the best way to corrupt the data. I feel like I would dress up in a chicken suit and go out to the bar, or something equally wild. If everyone decided to just stay home and paint, wouldn’t that be just as good at wrecking the alien datasets?
The fact that some vulnerable viewers might not get it and might do something regrettable is an uneasy thought. I don’t think television should be sanitized for safe viewing, but I really, really hope that younger children are watching this series with adult supervision and post-episode discussion.
Because I thought Heaven Sent was dark, but the ending of the shadow world was dark and utterly devoid of hope.
Which is also what made the Doctor’s finale speech so powerful.
So, I guess I’m at an impasse, where what may be one of my favourite speeches in the show is dependant on an uncomfortably high (virtual) body count.
Such is life. Light is needed to cast a shadow, and without the shadow it’s hard to appreciate the light.
Neither here nor there.
* I notice that the current American President in the Whoniverse is neither a blatant parody, like President Winters in the Sound of Drums, or a Terrible Body Double, like The-Back-of-President-Obama’s-Head in The End of Time. Whether or not he is the Master is yet to be determined.
* A real life friend of mine remains convinced that Missy is actually River in disguise and keeps telling me all of her theories to support this. I let her know that Missy and the Master are the same person, but now she's convinced that the Master is River. Smile-and-Nod is the correct reaction y/n?