Series 10 marches into a space station set story… with (sort of ) zombies! An odd mix and a not-so-subtle political message make this a good, though flawed, story.
The Doctor, Bill and Nardole answer a distress call in deep space, and find themselves trapped on board space station Chasm Forge. All but four of the crew have been murdered – and the dead are still walking!
In a future where oxygen is sold by the breath, and space suits are valued more highly than their occupants, the TARDIS crew battle for survival against the darkest evil of all…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
Despite one of them being blue, Nardole still looks like the odd one out…
The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) – Space and Time-travelling alien who is trying his best to have fun at the expense of his duties… Just like old times!
Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) – Upbeat student who has got the lucky ticket to travel with The Doctor to times and places she only ever dreamed of.
Nardole (Matt Lucas) – Android (at least partially) ally of The Doctor who has ended up being his nagging mother rather than a companion. Still, there is a line of respect between the two, however thin.
Ivan (Kieran Bew) – Technician aboard the Chasm Forge Space Station. He survived the initial onslaught, but is pretty down on the whole experience… softy!
Abby (Mimi Ndiweni) – Her role as crew member never specified, she is at least the amusingly sarcastic one, so she has that going for her.
“Zombie want hug! Zombie feel insecure about self!”
Much like last week’s great haunted house atmosphere, this episode was dripping in lovely sci-fi imagery. From Alien-esque beaten up interiors to lovely space walk scenes, it was top stuff. Speaking of Alien, the dead crew being pulled along and attacking the others was often good and tense, though not really scary (for me, as a 32-year-old, I’m not saying it wouldn’t be scarier for the younger audience!)
The Doctor losing his sight during a long space walk with no helmet (he gave his to save Bill) is a big shocker and plays really well for the rest of the episode (and the big cliffhanger reveal that he’s still blind!), as does a scene where Bill is seemingly killed and begins getting walked around in her suit like the other zombies. She is of course alive, but The Doctor knowing she’d live but assuring her it would be an unpleasant experience was gripping TV.
In my review of The Pilot I mentioned how Nardole was just in the way and annoying, in this he was actually funny and served a good purpose, especially when The Doctor went blind. Thank goodness for that!
The guest cast served their roles well. They were all pretty stereotypical sci-fi crew members, but they were at least all well acted.
“What do you mean I look stupid? You should have seen some of the space helmets my earliest incarnations saw!”
The idea that oxygen in space is the top commodity makes sense, what doesn’t is suits that will rob their hosts of oxygen and kill them if they can’t afford to buy any more. This leads me to my most negative criticism of the story: the anti-capitalist message, right down to The Doctor coming right out and saying about how crap it is. I kind of see Doctor Who as escapist entertainment, so I didn’t really like the heavy-handed approach this episode took. Subtle little hints? Fine. Being beaten over the head with the message? Less so.
Less snakes on a plane, and more zombies on a space station. That’s my motto! (or at least, it is now!)
Beyond Nardole referencing trying to stop the TARDIS by removing the Fluid Link (a broken Fluid Link being the reason the TARDIS broke down and stopped on Skaro in the original Daleks serial) there wasn’t much. Obviously corpses in walking space suits has been done before in the 10th Doctor two-part classic Silence in the “Library / Forest of the Dead”, which is a weird plot point to see recycled, really!
Series 10 is on fire at the moment. Smile was a bit weak, but we’ve had three genuinely great and pretty much completely stand-alone stories in a row. Oxygen ended on a bit of the cliffhanger, and we’re moving on to a super-rare (in the modern series) Three-part story, so it will be interesting to see if the streak can continue. My fingers are crossed!