Once in a while Doctor Who throws out an episode that really hits the mark. For me, ‘Vincent And The Doctor’ was sublime and has been my favourite episode for some time. I think tonight’s episode ‘Oxygen’ has just knocked it off my personal top spot. It felt like Doctor Who should feel. It had it all: mystery, scares, pace and some killer twists. It also had a great message which I’ll return to in a moment.
This episode had me hooked from the very first scene. I cared immediately about the (admittedly thin) supporting characters and they didn’t get in the way of a great dynamic between our Tardisbound Trio. Talking of whom, I adore Bill Potts. I love her. She’s exactly the kick up the arse the series has been waiting for; one of the most human companions the show has seen since Rose buggered off. Also along for the ride proper, this time, was Nardole. And I loved him too. He’s clever, in-the-know. With a Doctor as aloof as Capaldi’s often is it’s nice to have someone almost as clever as our lead to explain things to the companion (and us) in understandable terms.
Space zombies have been done before. Sentient space suits have been done before. The claustrophobic ‘base under siege’ thing has been done before. Doctor Who has told every story a thousand times but the beauty of the show is that it manages to retell them in a way that makes everything feel new again. ‘Oxygen’ managed to make its space zombies in sentient suits a secondary threat to the ideology of those responsible for the mess.
Capitalism is the big bad here, with the very air we breathe being sold at extortionate rates in Jamie Mathieson’s masterpiece. And if the company deems you’re wasting your breath by not being productive enough they’ll simply switch you off and get someone else. I won’t go deeper into the plot here because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but let’s talk about “that twist ending” for a moment, but in code: Surely such a massive alteration to the Doctor’s situation must play into the wider scheme of things, right? It isn’t a throwaway thing. This is a deliberate and fundamental change to the way he will function as a character in the next few episodes. I can’t wait to see what the show does with it.
I loved everything about this episode. It was the best yet in a series of very strong stories. It’s such a shame that Capaldi will be leaving us since he’s every inch the Doctor in this current series. Pearl Mackie too is going to be sorely missed if/when she leaves us at the end of this run. I don’t know, maybe we’re just appreciating what we’ve got a little more now we know we don’t have it for much longer. Either way, I’m loving each and every step this team takes. I hope Chris Chibnall is able to capture this lightning in his bottle and zap it through his own TARDIS crew.
I’m going to go and watch this week’s episode again because it really is that bloody good. Next week sees the return of Missy, along with some rather creepy-looking monks, in a story set in the bowels of the Vatican. I’ve heard good things about it so, hopefully, it’ll deliver. And as for what the series has in store for us in the last couple of episodes; let’s just say a little bird told me that you’d better brace yourselves, because we’re in for one hell of an emotional and thrill-laden ride. You have been warned.