Cast: Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill, Tosin Cole, James Buckley, Lewin Lloyd, Gia Re, Julia Elizabeth Fogel, Col Farrell, and Laura Fraser
Writer: Ed Hime
Producers: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Alex Mercer, and Nikki Wilson
Composer: Segun Akinola
Director: Lee Haven Jones
Doctor Who was created by Sydney Newman, and follows the adventures of the time-traveling alien known as the Doctor, along with their companions, as they explore and help the universe.
After the events of Spyfall, the fam is in desperate need of a vacation. Luckily, one seems to fall into their lap, as they’re all teleported to a place called the Tranquility Spa on an unknown planet. Unfortunately, however, their hopes of kicking back and relaxing are torn apart on arrival, as a system failure within the resort brings about deadly consequences and even deadlier creatures. As people are picked off, the Doctor and her friends join up with other survivors to uncover the mysteries behind the secretly guarded location. What are these creatures, and why was a resort built on their planet? Also, what exactly is the truth behind Orphan 55?
After the monumental two-parter that was Spyfall, I have to say I was definitely looking forward to a self-contained one-off again. I love two-parters to death, it’s one of the reasons Series 9 is one of my favorites, but I definitely look forward to seeing what other writers have in store for the stories in between the monumental events, especially when they’ve written previous episodes that I absolutely adored. In this case, Ed Hime returns after writing the incredibly bonkers It Takes You Away from Series 11, and I was far more than looking forward to seeing what he had cooked up again. Ultimately, while his new outing is definitely fun, with a solid and poignant message to boot, it comes off as incredibly rushed, and falling under a similar problem I had with a couple stories from Series 11: needing to be a two-parter.
Y’all know the drill, we gotta start off talking about Jodie. While the Doctor seems to take a smaller role this week than in the past two episodes, Jodie still brings her A-game, and never phones it in whatsoever. Something I really appreciated about this episode is how they used one of her character traits against her, creating some real tension towards the end of one of the episode’s acts. It really feels like there’s more care and focus being paid to character traits and personalities this series than in the last one, and I have to give huge props to the writers for that. I also love that she still seems to retain some of her anger from the previous two episodes, as she’s far less susceptible to compromising with other characters going against her. While there isn’t a whole lot carried over from the bombshells last week, there’s a solid amount left to make it feel like they haven’t been forgotten, and I look forward to seeing these expanded upon.
The companions also kind of take a backseat for the most part, with the small exception of Ryan, who seems to get some development alongside one of the side characters. Other than that, they’re all sort of there for the ride, which isn’t bad really, but it’s just something to let you all know about. As for the side characters, they all serve their purposes well enough in the first half, but as the episode goes on, there’s deeper connections and revelations made between them that feel way too rushed through to warrant all of this being crammed into one episode. The plot, as well, could’ve taken the extra time to expand the mystery of the spa, as well as people disappearing within it, but due to the time constraint it’s very rushed through. It’s definitely strange, because It Takes You Away completely worked as a one-off story, so I don’t know what happened this time around with Ed Hime. His dialogue is still very well-written, but the story needed a few things cut out and more focus on certain elements.
The episode still looks and sounds amazing, although Akinola’s score left a bit to be desired this time around. Something that I did absolutely, unapologetically love, was the message this episode conveyed. While I won’t spoil what it was, it’s something that I agree with wholeheartedly, and something that we as a species need to wake up to and recognize, and the writers of our entertainment are definitely being responsible by reminding us that. I know lots of people don’t want “politics” shoved down their throats in Doctor Who, but that’s what the show’s literally been doing for the past 56 years of its existence, and right now more than ever we need to be reminded of the real dangers we face today. While many people disagree, I say keep the commentary coming, and while we should be entertained, we should also take something away from these stories that could help us in the real world, where it truly matters.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed this episode a lot, as well as its message, but I can’t help but feel like it was a two-parter crammed into one episode. I don’t want to assume anything, but if I had to guess, Hime wrote this story to be a two-parter, but had to cut it down to one in order to fit within Series 12. It probably didn’t happen, but that’s what it definitely feels like when watching this episode. I definitely want to see more from Hime, as I do believe he’s a good writer, but this definitely didn’t hold a candle to his last outing. Regardless, I’m still excited for the rest of Series 12, and I’ll be more than happy to watch this episode over and over again in the years to come.