Doctor Who: It Takes You Away

"This woman is clearly an alien force, collapsing two realities and impersonating your dead wife. Time to move on, mate!"

Such a neat idea. Why wasn’t I blown away?

I firmly believe it isn’t Jodie’s Doctor, or even the companions. However, there is something off about this season. Is it that they moved too far away from the past, or is it something a bit more elusive? I struggled through this perfectly acceptable episode, almost bored. Which is a shame, because there was some interesting science fiction on display here.

There was a monster fake out, an empty mirror and a dark dimension, then there was a very lovely almost reunion with Grace which eventually culminated in a conversation with a frog. So why was it boring? I think the problem is three fold, timing, tone and story. The beats of this episode didn’t flow, we didn’t have a natural through line to explore the fantasy of this new construct as it should’ve been. The seeds for proper emotional weight weren't planted ahead of time; instead we are told of something we’ve never heard of before (at least I’ve never heard of it before), and within a few scenes we meet it. Something like the Solitract should've been mentioned earlier in the season, because something that huge shouldn’t have been cast away in one episode. I almost feel cheated, like the Doctor not able to spend time with a new friend and a universal consciousness.

Still, the Solitract was an incredibly fascinating idea – a piece of the universe that was so destabilizing that it had to be completely removed and lingering in a parallel dimension, longing to know us. That's very powerful. So how did they mess it up? Maybe it was the frog. It was a good idea on paper, but it should’ve been Grace. That might’ve been derivative, having a god-like presence speak through the dead, but the dynamic with the frog was just silly. This isn’t Farscape.


However, I loved the Doctor in this episode. She was heroic and funny, she had the best lines and the best moment in the episode. Her sacrifice was defining; because her people were safe in their own time, not terribly far away so they didn’t need her to get home. I think she truly was willing to stay, but at the same time it didn’t have the emotional weight it should have had.

Maybe this is freshman blues and the show will firm up next season. The writers and Chibnall must be aware of the criticism of this season overall, that it’s been kind of meh. Which is a shame, because we really do have a good Doctor that deserves better stories.

Bits:

"It Takes You Away" was an unfortunately apt title. For me, things kept taking me out of the narrative.

Ellie Wallwork (Hanne) was pretty impressive, and she really is blind.

The Anti-zone was another great science fiction thing that wasn't really explored, but it had Ribbons who was so clearly a Farscape alumni.

While the storytelling seems to be lacking, I wouldn't say the same about the dialogue (see quotes below).

Quotes:

The Doctor: "The Solitract is a frog? Who talks like Grace?"
Solitract Frog: "My own form is endless, but this frog is a form that delights me as it once delighted Grace."
The Doctor: "There's me thinking the day had no more surprises left."

The Doctor: "You are the maddest, most beautiful thing I've ever experienced and I haven't even scratched the surface. I wish I could stay. But if either of us are going to survive, you're going to have to let me go and keep on being brilliant by yourself."

The Doctor: "She's not your wife! She's furniture with a pulse."

The Doctor: "Solitract! It's a theory, a myth, a bedtime story my Gran used to tell me."
Yaz: "You had a grandmother?"
The Doctor: "I had seven but Granny Five, my favorite, used to tell me about the Solitract."

Ribbons: "Bird is lunch. Maybe codger is tea."
Graham: "Who are you calling a codger? It's you who stinks of his own wee."
Ribbons: "That's not my wee."
The Doctor: "Let him go cause you do not want those words to be your last ones."

The Doctor: "Both of you. Stay clear of the mirror. It's already tried to lure in Graham."
Ryan: "Yeah."
Graham: "Hey. All of us, it lured. It's not like I gave it credit card details."

Ryan: "Whoah. Why are we not in the mirror?"
Graham: "I don't know."
Ryan: "We'd know if we were vampires, right?"

Graham: "Hey, Doc, do you think it's safe?"
The Doctor: "I doubt it. It's a jittering dimensional portal in a mirror in a Norwegian bedroom."

Ryan: "Maybe we shouldn't be in here."
Yaz: "There's a child in this house."
Graham: "Or some maniac who collects kids' shoes."

Graham: "Not hungry are you? Because these days, I always carry a cheese and pickle sarnie. Y'know, just for emergencies."

The Doctor: "It's only 2018. I thought we'd leaped into the Wooly Rebellion."
Yaz: "Sorry, what?"
The Doctor: "The Wooly Rebellion. In 193 years, there's a total renegotiation of the sheep-human relationship. Utter bloodbath."

2 out of 4 Red Balloons

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

1 comment:

migmit said...

I rather liked it. I think it was the strongest episode so far. I was genuinely intrigued and didn't have a clue about what was going on. I thought for a while that Hanna is not blind and either already is or will end up being the villain. Instead we've got a villain whose motivation is understandable and not at all evil.
Sure, would be nice to know the word "Solitract" before, but it's not the first time Doctor Who introduced a totally new concept, and they got a good excuse for it this time, with Solitract being a bedtime story — and really, why shouldn't it be one, considering it all happened about the time the universe was born.