Even with all of the mystery that surrounds her, and despite her (sort-of) mid-season introduction, Clara is getting the proper ‘new companion’ treatment with this episode and I like that. In a sense this is the first proper adventure for (this iteration) of Oswald. It’s a throwback to the Russell T. Davies era pattern for the start of a season, a pattern that lasted into Moffat’s first year but which was broken in his second. Although possibly, I’ve just mistaken the pattern as being for a new season rather than a new Doctor/companion pairing… Anyway, Akhenaten has a nicely alien feel, like The End of the World, giving the sense it’d be properly scary for Clara to loose sight of the Doctor and risk getting lost in time and space…
I liked the fact that there wasn’t much story so the episode had time to breath, and they had time to build a proper (albeit minimalist) alien world that felt distinctive and unfamiliar (though perhaps it was familiar in the sense that it echoed Gridlock – particularly in the way music and singing was used to establish community). It was wonderful, of course, to have a reference to Susan, and Matt Smith was given some lines that really played to his strengths. The intensity of “we don’t walk away” and “running from out of the shadows” immediately punctured by the charming levity “you take the moped and I’ll walk”. I liked the treatment of religion, too (“just because something eats your soul doesn’t make it a God”).
If I had to find a criticism it seemed to be that the story came to a natural conclusion a good few minutes before the end of the episode, which was a shame. That time could have been used for more of the lovely character moments during the build up (such as Clara and Merry chatting behind the TARDIS). It felt like a 25 minute story, with around 10 minutes of lovely character moments and world building, and another 10 minutes spinning the climax out to to finishing line. Perhaps, too, it wasn’t the most original episode, especially when you compare it to the wonderful A Town Called Mercy or The Power of Three which are (technically at least) part of the same season, even if they were several notches up in terms of quality. But anyway, it was enjoyable comfort viewing – and next week looks like it will be even better still.
Once again, you can hear these thoughts enounced for the Fusion Patrol podcast at 47’40” (and hear 47’40” of Ben and Eugene’s thoughts before that):