I didn’t warm to this well-crafted by the numbers Doctor Who/Overcoming the Monster episode.
I can’t blame the acting – no chance to quip about ‘wooden’ performances here – they were fine and David Suchet was terrifying and despicable. Even heavily woodified Maria Gale was a powereful redeemer. And while the basic story setup is one that has already been thoroughly exploited on Doctor Who, I thought the tale of the Landlord and Eliza that formed the kernel was touching and told with effect. I guess the real problem is that after three episodes which put the Bill/Doctor dynamic centre stage, I’ve been spoiled. I wanted more, and I didn’t get it.
That’s partly because there was too much running around in pursuit of the plot (killing off a couple of housemates is plenty for 45 minutes, there’s not time for five). But it also felt like the relationship has slipped a gear. Last week Bill had just stepped out of the TARDIS after what was essentially just one round trip. Now she’s thinking of it as a removal van (granted, neat idea) and telling the Doctor this is the part of her life he’s not in? I get that he’s a being that is poor at recognising personal boundaries, and this is a message that needs to be delivered bluntly. But I like my own space and time at least as much as Bill, and even I’d be thinking of nothing but my next trans-temporal/interstellar jaunt after that first experience of the future and the past. Bluntly, this felt like episode 10 has been brought forward as episode 4, because there was so little character writing in the development the lead pair. That’s not to say they weren’t individually well written (the Doctor certainly got to use his little grey cells) just that the effervescent interplay that we are already accustomed to was all but absent.
That left me obsessing over niggles (e.g. why would you report there’s nothing strange outside when there’s an obvious and unexpected blue police box by the gate? If the wood-lice are in the trees in the garden, why haven’t they travelled further? etc.)
Last week the 3 knocks from the vault had me convinced it wasn’t the master in the vault (“he will knock 4 times”). But this week it feels very much like we’re being led towards it being him/her… which makes me think it isn’t!
Incidentally, when I saw the writer was Mike Bartlett I thought my brain had made a mistake – I’ve been looking forward to seeing his King Charles III (which was broadcast last night) and hadn’t realised he’d written a Doctor Who (his first). Good week for him!