‘I’m Welsh.’ Less consciously epic than the first episode, but still a step up from much earlier Torchwood. This focuses on Jack and Gwen’s eventful extradition to the USA, where released child-killer Danes is now becoming a media darling following a dramatic TV apology. Like a lot of Torchwood, there’s a studied edginess to some of this – can a paedophile be rehabilitated and transcend his crimes? But so far it’s interesting.
‘He’s the second one tonight. DOAs who just won’t die.’ Torchwood’s transfer to the US Starz network comes with a visibly increased budget (and Bill Pullman) which not only leads to better effects (the grisly aftermath of the suicide assassin) and action sequences (the helicopter battle on a Welsh beach), but an international flavour and a greatly increased sense of scale. Amusingly, given Doctor Who’s own experience of becoming a US co-production, it also begins with a character being rushed into ER and miraculously surviving death.
‘This is the Battle of Demon’s Run. The Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further.’ I really disliked this when it broadcast. Moffat keeps coming back to the idea of whether the Doctor is a good man: ‘Good men don’t need rules. Today is not the day to find out why I have so many.’ Fresh from having killed Flesh-Amy to prove a point he massacres a fleet of Cybermen then puts together a hit squad to raid Demon’s Run and rescue Human-Amy and her new baby. All because he’s very, very angry.
‘I needed to see the Flesh in its early days. That’s why I scanned it. That’s why we were there in the first place.’ Might as well acknowledge up front that the end of the episode is darker than anything the seventh Doctor did to Ace. In the previous scene the Doctor made it clear that ‘The energy from the TARDIS will stabilise the Gangers for good. They’re people now.’ So, the Doctor murders a person that is perfectly capable of living as Amy to prove a point. Once again, somehow, there’s a lack of judgement on the part of the production team. I guess it’s meant to be set-up for the Doctor, in his fury, becoming a villain, an idea that is strong in the next episode and that they keep flirting with through the rest of Matt Smith’s run and Capaldi’s first series. Here, it’s about as good as Old Sixie throttling Peri.
‘I feel everything she has ever felt and more. I’m not a monster. I am me.’ This channels Season 22 complete with a horror movie setting and aesthetics, acid baths, inappropriate period music and an interest in body horror that encompasses references to Frankenstein, The Thing and Aliens. It also plugs into Moffat’s fascination with memories making the man, and ‘What if we had ideas that could think for themselves? What if one day our dreams no longer needed us?’
‘I always took you where you needed to go.’ This explores the show’s history in a very safe way, casting fresh light on events fans have known about for years by telling the story of the Doctor’s “borrowing” a TARDIS and fleeing Gallifrey from a different perspective. Making the TARDIS an active participant in the event (in her view, ‘I wanted to see the universe, so I stole a Time Lord, and I ran away’) is lovely. Finally giving her a voice and an adventure side by side with her thief is beautiful. Suranne Jones is compellingly odd as the TARDIS, trying to work out how to be a human. Matt Smith responds with his best performance to date: his grief when the TARDIS is restored, and their adventure ends is heart-breaking.
‘I have my good days and my bad days.’ I took an intense dislike to this one the first time I saw it and hadn’t rewatched it since 2011. I don’t remember why: on a second viewing it’s poor, but inoffensive. Its main flaws are a plot that relies on the Doctor repeatedly guessing incorrectly to string out a thin story, and a sense that some explanations are missing.
‘So, this little girl. It’s all about her. Who was she? Or we could just go off and have some adventures.’ I don’t think this really follows from The Impossible Astronaut. The first part was about the Doctor investigating his own murder. This is about a revolution to overthrow the malign influence of the Silence. By the end, for inattentive viewers, it might not be entirely clear whether in foiling the Silence the Doctor has averted his future death (it’s not confirmed until Amy mentions it in The Doctor’s Wife). For me, this is the problem with this opener: it’s full of spectacle and clever moments, but the thrust of the story is weak and it lacks Moffat’s previous flair for neat, tie-it-all-together endings.
‘That most certainly is the Doctor. And he is most certainly dead.’ Beginning the series with Part One of a season finale is a power move, like not content with playing with the structure of episodes, Moffat is now turning our understanding of a modern series upside down. It almost works, in the same way that the first episode of classic serials usually work – it’s about setting up mysteries and inescapable cliffhangers rather than providing answers.
‘Pond, put some trousers on.’ A Doctor Who comedy about upskirting. So, that’s a thing. Six minutes objectifying Amy, as Rory explains how she flashed her way through passing her driving test before a quick glance at her naughty bits makes him drop something important leading into a sketch that’s one part Logopolis to two parts Meglos. As this sex-crazed crew act their way through a chronic hysteresis, Amy fancies herself and Rory imagines what two wives could do for him, before it all ends with the woman being told to dress appropriately around men. I know it’s a sketch, and it did some tangible good raising money for Comic Relief, but this is Time Crash with awful sexual politics. Avoid.
Next Time: The Impossible Astronaut