This certainly looks, at first glance, like classic Doctor Who: corridor running! But it’s almost a caricature of the format: the Doctor arrives to help a bunch of people trapped in a starbase/ship/hotel/whatever figure out and escape from the monster trapped in the bottle with them. It’s Steven Moffat’s take on James Cameron — there are so many shades of Aliens, Titanic, and The Abyss here — and he can’t seem to leave it alone: we just got this in the Christmas episode, and it’s not any more interesting now. And much of the potential tension is diffused because everyone on this underwater base already knows who the Doctor is and knows what UNIT is, so they welcome his help instead of being suspicious of him and demanding to know just who the hell he thinks he is to waltz in and take command. Sure, that’s a trope that’s gotten old, too… but the solution isn’t to just skip right over it but to avoid writing stories that make it an issue at all (or to find a new and clever way to deal with it).
The Doctor (Tom Baker version) once said, “There is nothing inexplicable, only unexplained.” Since when does the Doctor immediately jump to the conclusion that what they’re facing here is something actually supernatural — they really are ghosts! — and then get excited by that? This is not the Doctor.
Since when does he make wild leaps to entirely unsupported conclusions, such as that the phrase “the dark, the sword, the forsaken, the temple” refers to galactic coordinates? (And why would an alien race with a completely different perspective on the position of stars in the galaxy, not to mention a completely different set of cultural references, see a sword hanging from Orion’s belt?! Is there really only one church in an abandoned town on the entire planet Earth?) This is just lazy writing (it’s Toby Whithouse this episode) that doesn’t want to do the narrative work to make that conclusion stick. It doesn’t take much — maybe the Doctor remembers encountering a race of beings that are poetic rather than mathematical in their space-directions. But we don’t get that. Because Doctor Who isn’t about storytelling anymore.
Since when is Clara the Doctor’s babysitter? Since when does the Doctor need anyone to tell him how to behave in such a regimented and regular way that flashcards are required? Why is the Doctor being infantilized like this?
I don’t recognize this show anymore.
[next: “Before the Flood”]