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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doctor Who: Zombies! In! SPAAAACE!

Hearing Peter Capaldi saying "Space: The Final Frontier" was magnificent, as was his opening speech, but that doesn't take away from the issues I have with this episode.

I love a good bit of science fiction. I love a good bit of outer space. I even love me some zombies. So why didn't I love this one? That's what I'll try and find out.

Let's start with what I did like.
  • I did like his Space monologue, both in the cold open and in the class. 
  • I did like his antagonizing of Naggle. 
  • I did like the line "You only see the true face of the universe when it's asking for help." 
  • I liked how, when Twelve told Bill she was in artificial gravity, the first thing she did was hop. 
  • And finally, I did like the throwback to the very first appearance of the Daleks, where the First Doctor claims the TARDIS is disabled because of a "fluid link."
  • I did like how Bill got called a racist for her reaction to a blue person and her insistence that she's not, immediately following her fascination with how Dahh'ren's name was pronounced. 
           

Things I most certainly did not like include:
  • Naggle's prominence in the episode 
  • The damage done to the Screwdriver (those damn glasses are back, aren't they?) 
  • Bill is still 30 years out of date with her fashion (crop top and denim jacket with ripped jeans?). 
  • The twist ending that has implications that I certainly hope aren't going to last the rest of the season. 
  • Seriously, what kind of deal with a crossroads demon did Matt Lucas make to get Naggle as a recurring character? He's not funny. He's just snide and whiny. 
  • Trying to convince us that they'd killed Bill off. Twice. In 15 minutes' time. 
Pictured: Doctor, Companion, Waste of Oxygen, in reverse order.
I'm very conflicted about the other elements of the episode. In the current political climate, there are extremists that genuinely believe that capitalism in its current state is exactly the same as what is portrayed here. I'm trying to believe, given the way certain themes have been portrayed in other episodes recently, that it's only coincidence. Humanity has, in canon and in reality, had its ups and downs, and expansion into space would only make oversight more difficult. It's not hard to believe that a corporation would become greedy enough that it would consider its workers expendable, but the entire setup of oxygen being supplied by the 'company store' instead of actually being in the station like any regular setup (say, with primary and redundant filters, vents and pumps, and CO2 scrubbers) seems wildly inefficient (or purposefully malevolent). I'm trying not to think that this is a 'message' story; the writer, Jamie Matheson, is responsible for two surprisingly outstanding episodes, Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline, as well as the introduction of the character of Me, formerly Ashildr, so 'message fiction' isn't really his track record with the series so far.  

Since the first series with the Ninth Doctor, there's always been at least one episode per season that I don't go back and rewatch later. From the Slitheen episodes to eye-booger monsters, the possessed television monster to the Robin Hood episode, there's usually an episode each season that just falls short, and I really feel like Oxygen is going to be the one I pass over this time around. If, by the time you read this, you haven't seen it, you needn't make it a priority. It was rarely good, a bit of a let-down at times, and mostly forgettable.

Vault update: Naggle nags at Twelve and is reassured that Twelve is, indeed, still guarding the vault. At the end of the episode, we learn that the door may open on its own, and that Naggle refers to its occupant as Twelve's "friend." Couple that with the brief flash of Missy at the very end of the 'next time' trailer, and the signs are certainly pointing in a specific direction... but is that a misdirection itself?

[shameless self-shilling here - still looking for work. Contributions welcome at Paypal, reverendsalem@gmail.com]

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