It feels slightly weird to be revisiting this series so soon after it aired – I never intended to add my voice to the several thousand that are already reviewing contemporary Who, mainly because I don’t feel I have a great deal to add. In lieu of much in the way of insight, my reaction tonight was that I wasn’t quite as enthused as I remember being on first viewing, probably because it’s a story that relies on a mystery element to keep it going, and it’s recent enough that even I can remember all the details.
Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable watch, thanks to this particular TARDIS team. Rani’s mum from the Sarah Jane Adventures shows up at the beginning very briefly before being killed, and then Ralf Little rocks up towards the end, but for the vast majority of the episode it’s just the Doctor and Bill wandering around an empty colony having a chat, and those are by far the best bits. The dynamic between them feels effortlessly natural, even after only two episodes, and I remain fascinated by Pearl Mackie’s face.
The headline feature is killer emojis, and it’s a very “how do you do fellow kids” concept. I remember being worried about this beforehand, but it actually takes the language seriously as a means of communication, and with the exception of one snooty line from the Doctor, isn’t as condescending or dismissive of the phenomenon as I’d feared. I’m of the age where I’m not a native user of emoji myself, but I appreciate its potential as a universal language, and that was the spirit in which it was treated here.
Unfortunately, it did kind of go to shit a bit when people other than the Doctor, Bill and the little emojibots became involved, highlighting for the second episode in a row that the plot is somewhat secondary to the character work. It gets away with it, but ideally you’d have great central characters and a decent story, rather than something that culminates in the Doctor turning the robots off and on again and that making everything fine.
In summary then: 🧓🏼👩🏽 = 👍, 📖 = 😴
But I do like all the episodes smushing into each other this series – very 1960s. Although I feel sorry for future Big Finish and/or novel writers trying to find gaps in which to insert new Twelfth & Bill stories.