Sorry to go on about it, but this is blatantly the second of a two-parter. It’s a comparison I’ve made before, but this is essentially the same structure as The Ark – the first 45 minutes are so are the Doctor having an adventure, and the second half explores the unexpected consequences of that adventure, which he then has to put right.
Here, he doesn’t fix things in a literal sense, but instead it’s about helping Ashildr/Me come to terms with what’s happened to her, and that’s at the heart of the story. What she’s been through in the last eight hundred years is horrific, and it’s great that the show spends so much time addressing some pretty grim subject matter. It says more about the dark side of immortality in one episode than Torchwood managed with Jack in four series.
I mean, it’s made her into a bit of a dick, but you really can sympathise with her. I liked the detail that she became expert at things using the same method that Phil Connors uses in Groudhog Day. Her big lion mate was very obviously going to turn out to be a rotter, and I wasn’t keen how evil Me was being at first, but it was necessary to take her to the peak of inhumanity in order for her outlook on life to change so completely.
What was weird is that this big metaphysical resolution was tied in to Rufus Hound doing stand-up on the gallows. For ages. They kind of get away with it, because Hound has an inherent charm as an actor that wasn’t always present earlier in his career, but it is a very strange diversion, almost as if they were worried the episode was a little too dark. I also wonder whether the big lion chap was really necessary – I’d admire an episode that had the balls to completely forego a monster or alien element in favour of deep philosophical debate, but I guess the show has to cater for viewers who aren’t 30-something nerds on the internet.
There’s no Clara this week, which is a bit of a shame, consider she also has an episode off later in the series due to being dead. You do miss her slightly in this episode – despite how great it is without her – because her and Capaldi make such a good pair in this series. She turns up briefly at the end, and the way the Doctor looks at her when she says she’s not going anywhere made me wonder at the time if he already knew that she was doomed.