- The Doctor
I wanted to like this episode but the way it ended, it just pissed me off. Honestly, we know Peter Capaldi is regenerating prior to the Christmas special so there has to be some reason why he needs to change but what they’ve gone with is borderline offensive and unnecessary. Anyway, at the top of the episode, he’s giving a lecture about space and how it can kill you in rather gruesome, horrible ways. Nardole points out after the lecture that Doctor misses traveling but he has to keep his oath to stay on Earth and guard the vault. I really wish they would just give us information about this plot point. It’s playing such a repetitive point in the show this series but we have no idea of who or what is inside and who or what tasked the Doctor with guarding it.
Much like he has the rest of the season, the Doctor ends up hurtling off in the TARDIS with Bill and a very grumpy Nardole in toe. They’re responding to a distress beacon from a space station in the future. We see some people in space suits running out of oxygen and then get attacked by dead people in suits. It’s rather creepy. But when the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive, they find the place basically empty. And lacking oxygen. Because humans can be idiots and so profit-driven, the company that owns the station sells the oxygen in the personalized suits at a very high premium. As the Doctor says, capitalism in space. It also turns out that when the Doctor extended the oxygen field of the TARDIS into the station so they could take a peek around, it set off some protocols to vent it into space (again to make them pay for it). Once they are forced into the suits, they have to find their way back to the TARDIS (it’s on the other side of a door exposed to the vacuum of space.
As they go along, our trio finally runs into the surviving crew members. They think the suits are malfunctioning and have been instructed to eliminate the “organic” component (aka the living being inside it). But they’ve sent out the distress beacon and they believe help is on the way. We do get a little side bit with Bill reacting to her first non-human looking alien. A blue fellow who kind of reminded me of one of the races on Star Trek and also the Blue Man Group. Anyway, things sound like they might be looking up when the other suits hit a part of the station that’s not on their maps yet. Because the inhabitants are dead and the suits aren’t that smart, they have to rely on building schematics to get around. The other thing about this episode that was kind of annoying was our heroes being chased around a futuristic station by a machine that wanted to kill them. It wasn’t the creepy mechanical jellyfish inside the Tessalecter but they did have their own special little catch phrase. Really, it feels like Moffatt and company are just recycling bits from previous scripts. I can’t wait to have fresh blood at the helm.
The suits do eventually find a way through (after killing and assimilating one of the survivors). And Bill’s suit is having all kinds of problems. It keeps freezing up on her and she keeps kind of panicking and freaking out. Which is understandable. She even has to be exposed to the vacuum of space without a helmet on because the suit is so severely malfunctioning. I will admit I can’t recall them putting a companion in such life-threatening danger in a while. She does manage to survive the experience pretty much unscathed. That’s mostly due to the Doctor giving her his helmet. But then he’s exposed to the vacuum of space and he doesn’t come out so easily. For some reason, he’s blind (this is what I mentioned at the start of this post). This just seems like too convenient and so unnecessary a plot device to later facilitate his regeneration. Besides, I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the Tenth Doctor use some regeneration energy to heal himself without totally changing. But then again, that was RTD era and Moffatt doesn’t like to stick with a lot of that continuity. But yeah, so now we have a blind Doctor trying to save everyone. And of course, he manages it (even when he lets Bill get caught by the suits and electrocuted). In the end, he reveals that he knew Bill’s suit power was low so it wouldn’t really kill her and she’s ultimately fine. I do sometimes hate his cockiness. He also discovers that the suits aren’t malfunctioning. To keep profits going and such, the company that runs the station was likely conserving the oxygen to resell to people. So, the two survivors agree to go to the head of the company to complain (and according to the Doctor, they succeed in shutting everything down). The Doctor also manages not to get everyone else killed by linking their suits to the cooling system on the station. IF they die, the place goes boom. Simple cost-benefit analysis I suppose.
Bill, having survived this ordeal, is happy to be back on Earth but you can tell she can’t wait for her next adventure. The Doctor is more subdued though and he ends up snapping quite angrily at Nardole (who to be fair is kind of laying into the Doctor for being so reckless). We think we’ve seen the Doctor’s eyes healed but it turns out he’s still blind (and hiding it behind his dark glasses). Hate to tell you Doctor, but that’s kind of a blind person stereotype. So yeah, if you’re trying to fool people it isn’t really working. So, now we have to endure however many episodes of him trying to hide it before he can’t anymore and he regenerates.