Doctor Who

Dr Who: Oxygen Took My Breath Away

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Doctor Who – The Pilot

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Doctor Who is back with a brand new TARDIS crew. Joining Peter Capaldi for his last series at the helm are Pearl Mackie and Matt Lucas. Both are wonderful; more about them soon. What of the story? Well, it was great! Some years after we last saw him, the Doctor is now lecturing at Bristol University and has been for a long while. He’s taking care of something that’s been locked in a vault below the ground and it isn’t long before trouble finds him.

Bill Potts (Mackie) has been sneaking into the Doctor’s lectures. She isn’t a student, she works in the kitchens, but she has a thirst for knowledge. Her crush, Heather, has a star-shaped defect in her eye and it isn’t long before she has also been killed and replaced by an alien intelligence that looks like a puddle of water, bent on leaving earth. But it won’t leave without Bill, thanks to promises made when Heather was just a sad girl with a star in her eye.

The Pilot is a perfect jumping-on point for new fans of the show and works just as well as a long-awaited reintroduction to our favourite time travelling alien being. It isn’t long before Bill, Nardole (Lucas) and the Doctor are jetting from planet to planet, era to era, trying to outrun the aqueous assailant-in-Heather-form. The plot is small and personal, the threat contained only among the new gang – the world isn’t really in peril, here. And the episode is better for it. We get time to get to know our new companion; Bill Potts is excitable, enthusiastic and unknowledgeable enough to ask the questions we ourselves have. A big noise was made about her being the “first openly-gay, full-time companion” (although there was Captain Jack, of course) but her sexuality isn’t a case of the BBC trying to be “right-on” as an afterthought. There’s no hammering the point, no big deal: She’s a lesbian. She just is. It’s a part of who she is but she’s so much more than that; more than you’d have given Moffat credit for. For someone who is usually less than subtle about his characters’ sexual sides, Bill is beautifully-rounded already. We’ve known her for less than an hour and yet we already know so much about who she is. I can’t wait to get to know her better. She really is wonderful.

As for Nardole, he’s not in it enough to piss us off. And when he is in it, he’s a delight – far less ridiculous than his first appearance and full of entertaining lines to make us chuckle. Of all the characters I thought I’d hate to see return I’m actually glad he’s back – I love a full TARDIS.

But what of the future? Emojibots next week, the one I think we’ve all been least looking forward to. But with Mondasian Cybermen ahead and the promise of the return of John Simm as the Master, I’m sure we are in for a treat! It’ll be sad to say goodbye to Peter Capaldi, a truly wonderful incarnation of everyone’s hero of choice, but I trust the new team to get the right person in to replace him. Talking of which, The S*n are reporting that Death In Paradise star Kris Marshall has already begun the transition and is, in fact, the one chosen to be the next Doctor. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, obviously, but they were spot on about John Simm’s return. I’d welcome that casting, personally.

And then there’s the Big Question being asked by those who take the time to look a little closer, to speculate a little harder, than most. Is this Earth? Is Bill from our planet at all? Sure, she appears to be in Bristol but the Cybermen shown in the Coming Soon trailer are the very first iteration, Mark I Cybermen, if you like, and they come from Mondas, a planet from our own Solar System that was lost to battle aeons ago. Could all this be happening long ago on Monday, the now-lost and far-advanced sister planet to our own? I’ll be exploring or exploding this theory in the future based on clues (or lack thereof) in future episodes.

What I’m overjoyed to report, however, is that I loved every second of The Pilot and am thrilled with our new companion. It’s great to have Doctor Who back on our screens after such a long absence, one that has numbed us all – I think – to the joys of the show, so much so that many people seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for it in recent months. I hope The Pilot did enough to rekindle the love people have for this show. It deserves to be loved. I’ll always love it, no matter what.

We Asked. We Got.

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For a long time, since Russell T Davies introduced his alternate-universe “Cybusmen” to the show, Doctor Who fans have been asking for the return of the true, Mondasian Cybermen from this universe. Neil Gaiman’s dissapointing Nightmare In Silver brought them back in series 7 but they were seen by many as just streamlined Cybusmen; faceless, soulless automata with no real character, just an army of robots.

Well, the finale of series 10 will see the return of the very first itteration of the enemy. Complete with cloth faces and clunky life-support aparatus, the Cyberman are back. I can’t wait to see what they’ll be up to. Not long now! Doctor Who returns to BBC 1 in April.