* This rewatch is challenging my previously-held opinions of Series 4 all over the shop. I’d remembered this one as being exceptional, but now I find it’s merely very good, yet not quite up there. It builds up brilliantly, and it’s enthralling throughout, but it feels like it’s missing a twist or revelation towards the end, to make sense of what we’ve just seen. I don’t demand that absolutely everything is tied up neatly – often, leaving room for personal interpretation is an advantage – but the complete lack of any answers left me cold. Without that bit of closure, the events of this episode exist in a bubble, and it almost feels like it didn’t really happen. The action all taking place in one tiny, cost-effective set contributes to this too – it’s so different to most episodes that the smaller scale makes it feel like a disposable skit.
* But anyway, all of this is merely to explain why I don’t think it’s an all time classic, because it’s still a very good episode indeed. Despite all of the above, the unique setting is a good thing overall, providing ample opportunity to do scary things in an unexpected way. David Tennant and Lesley Sharp are brilliant together, pulling off an extraordinary amount of synchronised talking. It’s an incredible feat of acting, and those bits are the stand-out moments by some distance. Maybe this is part of my issue – those moments were so jaw-dropping the first time around that it’s hard to recapture the magic on a second viewing, when you know what’s coming next. The joy was in the escalation, and it’s not quite the same if you’re skipping ahead in your brain.
* There seems to be a higher proportion lately of episodes featuring big ensemble casts, made up of lots of recognisable faces. It’s like the old days where you’d get a whole new bunch of reasonably developed characters in every new story, except they were previously required to sustain 4-6 episodes, and now everything’s packed into 45 minutes. Lovely to see a Troughton amongst the cast this time – it just seems right – and yet another Humans alumni in Colin Morgan. Also, I worked with the guy who played the mechanic about two years before this episode aired, which was nice.
* Fascinating to see what happens when these characters are pushed to their limits; normally in Doctor Who, adversity brings out the best in most people, with the exception of one or two selfish bastards. Here, they’re all bastards, relentlessly exhibiting all the very worst aspects of humanity. It’s like watching Torchwood. Although, as with most things, it wasn’t made completely clear, I’m assuming that the monster, whatever it was, was messing with their minds and causing them all to act like that. Otherwise, they’re just all pricks.
* And yes, it was nice to not have Donna around. I like how The Doctor goes all super serious at the end, as soon as they’re reunited. He does not have time for her shit.