Monday 15 October 2018


The standard response to the debut episode seemed to be Whittaker good, Chibnall bad. I’m sympathetic, but not sure it’s quite that simple. Capaldi always gave a great performance, as you’d expect, but that performance seemed the whole of it. You could watch individual scenes of his which would seem great, but they never added up into anything. The Whittaker Doctor, well I feel I know more about her already. And that sense of underlying consistency does suggest a scripter’s hand.

Curiously then, the companion roles still seem like placeholders. Ryan’s foregrounded character traits are straight out of Screenwriting 101. Will he ever come to call his step-Grandpa his Grandpa? And overcome his fear of ladders… sorry, debilitating disability. Yet that’s more than Yas gets, whose whole identity seems to be Someone You Can Talk To. I’m now semi-seriously considering the theory there has to be three companions, to conceal the deficiency of any one of them.

The script was clearly designed around delaying their stepping into the Tardis, so it could be given its own episode-dominating reveal. And to get them there, the choice of a Great Space Race isn’t so bad a concept. Nor is the Tardis as a Ghost Monument. Alas, however, they just get thrown away. What was the point of so carefully coding one racer as ruthless, and the other as genuinely motivated, only to have that let's-team-up ending we’d already seen in ’The Hunger Games’?

How about this for a better idea? They stay split in two groups, aiding the two different drivers, for most of the episode. Initially press-ganged, each group slowly becomes convinced their driver is the righteous one who must win at all costs. Only to run into one another at the very end.

And uh-oh, through lines. Weren’t we promised they were done with? Who will the Timeless Child turn out to be? A whole load of mystic woo set on repeat, which then gets wrapped up in the final episode with something off the shelf? Or worse, it might suggest they’re going down the Dark Revelations About the Doctor route again.

And all that business of the Doctor repeatedly noticing the planet made no sense is somewhat undermined when it actually makes no sense. It remains no more than a succession of hazards. Ryan was right to compare it to ’Call of Duty’.

It’s actually the through lines which disguise all this. Of course this doesn’t make much sense right now, because we’re all heading towards great revelations in the future. You see, this throwaway planet is all to do with the throwaway enemy we saw last time. Everything deferred. Keep watching. Ironically, having a series of standalone stories wouldn’t just lower the bar, encouraging you to see the show more as frivolous fun. It would push each story into standing on its own merits.

So did the first episode work better because the emphasis was all on the Doctor, the one component that’s actually working? And we’ve already hit More Of The Same? We’ll see, but it seems likely. Despite my one-off review turning into a two-off, I really don’t intend to write about it weekly. And I will actively resist saying anything publicly about the next episode. Judging by their previous attempts at historicals, and the patronising nonsense most people seem to have swallowed about Civil Rights, it’s going to be trite and noxious simultaneously.

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