I like bookends. The stop my books from falling over.
A week ago I dreamt, rather strangely, that I had watched this last* episode of Doctor Who and it had disappointed me, not because it was a poor episode but just because it was just a regular one. And this disappointment was odd, because I have frequently whinged about the big blow-out season finales that are the result of season-long plot arcs, and demanded something that was just ‘good’.
There has been no plot arc to speak of, this season, but we’ve speculated that the Stenza (or at least Tim Shaw) might return, and Chibnall, writing this one himself, has indeed brought ol’ Timbo back. I didn’t much care for the stenza last time so this was not in itself welcome, but by connecting the first and last episodes, Chibnall has created that sense of completion that was missing from my dream.
While Timothy himself was just as much of a cookie-cutter baddie, the focus in this episode is Graham’s character arc – and the grief and unresolved anger he feels towards the creature who killed his wife. While vengeance is an desire that it’s easy to sympathise with, there was a theme running through the earlier episodes (until the ill-judged Kerblam!) in which unpleasant characters survived the story. That’s notable because in Doctor Who a habit has developed among authors of indulging in the extra-judicial termination of such characters; using in-story contrivances to avoid facing any difficult consequences or unresolved disquiet. Here Chibnall takes that theme head on, pitting the Doctor against Graham – the scene where they face off is incredible intense. Jodie Whittaker is in top form. The ultimate outcome of the episode may not be so impressive (vigilante justice, albeit non-terminal) but it’s a start.
Another strength of the episode is it’s unashamed flaunting of a quarry. This is a quarry that could easily have had Time and The Rani or Death to the Daleks filmed in it, and it looks great. There’s nothing that says Doctor Who better than standing ankle deep in a puddle in a quarry and waving a sonic screwdriver.
It’s a solid end to a mixed season, which has had some extraordinary high points. I’m looking forward to more from this team…
“None of us know for sure what’s out there. That’s why we keep looking. Keep your faith. Travel hopefully.”
* Last episode for a whole 23 days.