P.S.

I find myself unexpectedly moved by a short series of storyboards. This little Pond-based coda is arguably Chibnall’s best contribution to the show to date. It’s a shame that it was never actually filmed, but it’s presented in the best way possible, with stage directions conveyed through on-screen text rather than voiceover, allowing Arthur Darvill’s final performance room to breathe.

I liked the extra happy ending for the Ponds, and this scene skilfully balanced the melancholy of their departure and the joy of the fact that they lived long lives. By the end, I felt a lump in my throat when Brian greeted his newly-discovered grandson with a big hug; it was such a well-realised moment, the hug only revealed through the storyboard, with no caption spelling it out. A really lovely piece of work.

RATING: 8

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The Power of Three

This one seemed to be making a point about how people are attracted to fancy shiny things with no real purpose, which might have been for effective if the episode itself had any real substance to it. It’s an interesting idea – loads of identical alien things turn up overnight, the Doctor has to figure out what they’re for – but one I feel sure has been covered multiple times. At no point did it surprise or particularly intrigue me; it’s one of those rare Doctor Who stories that’s just a bit dull, and it washes over you.

In fairness, the plot was streamlined to allow Amy and Rory’s “real life” story to take centre stage, and while it’s always nice to follow a story from the companion’s perspective, I’m in a bit of a grump with the whole premise of them having a life outside the TARDIS, it’s fair to say. I’ve already covered the reasons I’m not on board with it, so naturally an episode that dedicates so much of its time to exploring this element isn’t going to appeal to me.

It was nice to see Brian again, although he was strangely under-used compared to his first outing. More notable was the introduction of Kate Stewart – I hadn’t clocked that she’d first turned up in a Chibnall episode, which bodes well for her continuing to recur beyond Moffat’s time on the show. With Kate’s background being in science, her taking charge of UNIT is a clear statement that it’s returning to its roots, thus promising to fix the issues I’ve had with the modern show’s interpretation of the organisation. And obviously, it’s brilliant that the woman to restore the Brigadier’s version of UNIT is his own daughter, honouring the great man in the best possible way.

A shame then that she, and they, didn’t really contribute to the plot – all she did was ask the Doctor to help, which he was going to do anyway. It threatened to get interesting when the cubes gave one third of the population heart failure. That’s a tricky one to get out of, and the Doctor did so by turning the cubes into mass defibrillators. But that was ages after all those people had keeled over with stopped hearts. I’m no medical professional, but I’m pretty sure that millions of people would still definitely have died.

So that was complete nonsense, as was the fact that the alien behind it all was revealed to be an intangible hologram, despite the fact he’d just been shooting at everyone. The emotional resolution fell flat too – there’s no point having Amy and Rory triumphantly returning to the TARDIS as full-time companions at the end, when everyone knows there’s only one episode left. They shouldn’t have bloody left in the first place, it’s too late now.

Another one to add to the list of painfully mediocre Chibnall episodes. There has been a very sharp decline in quality between the last series to this one, so far.

RATING: 5

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Or to give it a more accurate title, Some Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, But They’re Mostly Just in the Background and It’s Not Really About Them. There’s a lot to take in, not least the huge number of guest stars. There’s Lestrade from Sherlock, and Mark Williams from the Prudential adverts, who join forces with Amy, Rory and, for some reason, a randy Queen Nefertiti to provide the Doctor with a little gang.

It’s an interesting dynamic, but with so many new people on screen there’s not time to meet them all properly, and so I found it hard to care. Nefertiti seemed a good sort, but Lestrade was very much a product of his time, and while I appreciate that all his sexism was countered by Amy and Nefertiti giving as good as they got, it didn’t make me want to spend any time in his company. I was baffled at the end when he and Nefertiti got together, which sends the message that if you patronise and belittle a powerful woman enough, she’ll end up shagging you in a tent.

Then there’s David Bradley, meaning that this episode features two Doctors (sort of), and with Bradley alongside Arthur Darvill and Mark Williams, three Aston Villa fans, surely a record for Doctor Who. And just for good measure, the comedy robots are voiced by Mitchell and Webb. What a waste of two great guest stars on such dull and flimsy characters. And why does Mitchell get three times more lines than Webb? It’s just weird.

I’d forgotten about the Silurian element. It’s a nice bit of universe-building to learn more about them even when they play such a small role, and for once they are categorically not the villains. That role is reserved for Bradley’s character, Solomon, the guy who took over their ship and flushed them all into space. He’s a real nasty piece of work, which works well in the hands of such a good actor, but the way he is with Nefertiti is a bit too much. It’s too adult and gritty for a programme about dinosaurs on a spaceship, not for prudish reasons, but for the wildly veering tone it creates.

For all Solomon did, the Doctor passing and carrying out a death sentence makes me uncomfortable, even if the guy did commit genocide. As he himself as said in the past, there should have been another way – the plot painted him into a corner whereby killing Solomon was the means of saving everyone else, and I’d accept almost any other TV character making that decision, but the Doctor always finds another way.

So this episode doesn’t really have a lot going for it, but Mark Williams as his surnamesake Brian nearly makes it all worthwhile. He’s adorable as the slightly crotchety everydad, muddling his way through the adventure with a mixture of middle-aged practicality and child-like wonder. I could have done with more of him and Rory together, and to explore how he gets on with Amy, but you can tell that he was always going to come back. It’s only a shame that he didn’t turn up earlier in the Ponds’ tenure, or he could have become the new Jackie or Wilf.

But still, I’m yet to see anything written by our next showrunner that is anything better than “OK”. Getting ahead of myself for a moment, Jodie Whittaker’s casting has made me incredibly excited about the next series, but every time I rewatch a Chibnall episode, it reminds me of how worried I was before she was announced.

RATING: 6