With just two episodes to go in this first series for the 13th Doctor, it is fair to say that it has been very hit and miss with many up and downs I almost expected from a new show runner in Chris Chibnall who had no previous experience including writing of Doctor Who before taking the position as well as his team of new writers for the show. As we draw to the end of this series still without any main story arch to it or any hint at all of any big bad for the Doctor to face in the finale, the 13th Doctor and Team TARDIS has struggled to really deliver the full experience fans have expected and wanted from a series. Now we have episode 9, taking the team to Norway in what promises to be a mixture of all the non real historical events based episodes that have really been a big problem throughout this series.
*Spoiler Warning – I will be talking about major story plot points in this review simply because so much of the good stuff is rather spoilery*
We start off with the TARDIS already landed on Earth, with the Doctor working out where they are by eating….soil. Working out that they are back in 2018 and in Norway, discovering a cabin which makes them feel the need to explore. Approaching and seeing the cabin boarded up, they enter to find a young girl named Hanne, who tells them that there is a monster in the woods and that it was her father who built the extra defences around the cabin before going missing. A mysterious mirror is discovered, and the Doctor takes Yas and Graham to explore what is behind the mirror and leaving Ryan to protect Hanne.
Right I have to start of by saying this is perhaps my favourite episode of this series, though flawed it definitely feels like the writer and director finally got all the Doctor Whoness right for this story and adventure. In a blend of sci-fi, fantasy and a little spookiness chucked in for good measure, It Takes You Away delivered the best non real historical story of the series and if anything, felt more like a series finale than the penultimate episode.
I really enjoyed the setting for this episode and though we did not get to really see the sights so to speak of Norway, it was nice to get away from a story set in England for the series and it had one amazing surprise I was not expecting, the young blind actress playing the role of Hanne, who gave such an amazing performance and she was so emotionally expressive in showing her moments of being scared and angry throughout this episode that it put the wooden performances of Team TARDIS to shame.
Which again is another continuing flaw in this series, Team TARDIS because I think there is no denying that the TARDIS is just too crowded with people to give them all enough screen time as well as the Doctor and then the guest characters for the episode. Yas appears to have drawn the short straw as her presence was again reduced to just backgound presence yet once again is the one who goes off with the Doctor, which for me I really just want to see Yas and the Doctor in the TARDIS for the next series despite knowing it probably wont happen. What was a surprise was that in an effort to make Ryan more compassionate, the writing actually had him being a bit of a dick for most of this episode, especially directed towards Hanne. It was a clumsy way of using the story of how his father left him and never came back to show that when confronted with someone else such as Hanne and her missing father, not being able to show a level of empathy from the start but instead has to spend half the episode as her protector for him to connect to her.
But this was most certainly the episode for Bradley Walsh’s Graham to take a moment to shine and it was nice to see him get a moment to showcase more of Graham other than the one liners and comedy side that he often becomes in the story. Seeing him finally getting the chance to work through his grief of losing his wife Grace in the first episode and was very touching to see how he reacted to suddenly seeing her again after making it through to the other side of the mirror. Now yes, I am finding it a little on the nose that all of the alien and sci-fi elements of this season are suddenly things that the Doctor has only just remembered about or is being introduced to for the first time and it all comes down from Chris Chibnall’s mission statement about only using and creating new monsters for the Doctor to face in his era as show runner but here especially, it is pretty huge to have the Doctor explain something this huge about the whole anti-universe consciousness in the Solitract as something that has never quite come up before.
We also have Eric, Hanne’s father who we are suppose to believe was very happy to leave his blind teenage daughter alone to fend for herself because he discovered what is a copy of his dead wife, on the other side of the mirror which is just too much of a stretch. He would not of known that Hanne was able to sense that this was not her real mum until he brought her through the mirror to meet her but its clear he never even tried, just set up some recordings in order to scare Hanne into staying in the house and even seemed quite happy to never return to her so he could stay with the copy, which yes, was the whole idea of the copy being a trap but when Graham is snapped out of his desire to remain with Grace simply because Ryan was in trouble in the anti-zone just left it a little unbelievable for me.
Jodie’s Doctor is once again just a joy to see on screen and the frustration of the story having to focus on her less in order to fit in Team TARDIS will remain one of my criticisms of this series. The Doctor does get a lot of screen time though here and there can be no doubt in just how brilliant her Doctor is and I have taken to her far quicker then I did for both Matt Smith’s and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors. I just like her Doctor who is brave, funny and clever but her compassion really is great to see on screen when helping characters stand up for themselves or to accept their own reality in the moment.
I do come back to this feeling more like a finale episode then just episode 9 of 10 which is down to how it directly connects to the opening episode with the return of Grace and characters almost coming full circle with how they were before meeting the Doctor, especially Graham. By introducing something as massive to the universe as the Solitract, it almost felt like this was something that could have been used as a series story arc but again, we come to the end with everything nicely tidied up and off they popped into the TARDIS and off to another adventure. We are seeing less and less of the TARDIS now and I do think this is the first series where the TARDIS feels like it really is just the vehicle they travel in, we do not even see them in the TARDIS at all this episode, which is probably just a logistical filming thing but its rather annoying all the same.
So here we are, one episode to go with no big bad for the Doctor fight but there is a nice little tease in the trailer for the finale where the Doctor does say “I know that voice” which could be interesting but, we have no idea what to expect in this finale but we do know that Team TARDIS does survive it because of the photographs released of the New Years Day special so there is less excitement going into next week which feels odd and I am a little sad about that if honest.
But tonight’s episode was the right blend of Doctor Who elements coming together with just a few niggles that I fell needs to be addressed next series, but this is the quality and balance I wish more episodes had found this series.