Still, first things first: Voyage Of The Damned. Yes, it's going beyond even what I predicted in terms of similarity. So yes, whilst I got the whole space vehicle done up like famous earth transportation with all the passengers in period dress along with a pop music cameo I actually missed out on the Doctor in tuxedo. Although it perhaps stretching things a little. What's more interesting is that we also have a monster that's not in control of it's own actions systematically picking off the passengers, a shadowy unseen power responsible for unleashing the monster reveled in third act, AND the monster providing the Doctor with the quick travel he needs to save the remaining survivors.
Really it just boils down to a choice between style or practicality.
So yeah, that's... unusual. I do hope that this is all building towards something and isn't just the writers being lazy. Or, even worse, being ACCIDENTAL. I mean, does anyone else remember when Curse Of The Black Spot was shifted around the running order simply because there were two episodes with torches in next to each other or something?
Still, one thing it does give us, and in a really successful form is the good old "mysterious magical legend turns out to have a rational (ish) explanation in advanced alien technology" trope. Which we haven't really had for a while. Indeed, there's been more of a tendency for things to err on the fluffy magical side of things for quite a while now, with things just kinda working because and no real attempt at any half convincing explanation.
Get this: what if the witches were actually WITCHES?!?!?
So that makes a nice refreshing change. Even better is that this is an episode where the Doctor actually has lots to do. And this is perhaps the best look at the Doctor in full on alien pragmatism mode as well. We've certainly had other attempts to show this more callous seeming practicality, but I think this is where it's certainly worked most successfully. Possibly because it takes the eminently sensible precaution of locking Clara in cupboard for most of the episode so she can't spend the whole run time whining about it.
Still, at least we can now add flagrant inconsistency and bare faced hypocrisy to her growing list of character flaws. I must admit I was slightly disappointed when she walked out of the TARDIS at the beginning of the episode. After all, she hadn't actually shown up in any of the trailers, and after that hissy fit she threw last time I was quite looking forward to seeing the Doctor out and about on his own for an episode. Although maybe they realized that would have been yet another similarity with Voyage Of The Damned. And whilst I'm certainly no expert on human interactions by any standard can I just ask: WHO THE FUCK GOES ON A BREAK UP DATE?!?!?
That's just... weird. Really, really weird. Along with the mood swings and other changes of both mind and personality she's been displaying lately, I'm starting to worry about Danny Pink. Sure, it's all fine now (aside from the swanning about with some other guy to all sorts of fun places to which he is most decidedly NOT invited). But it's seeming like she's got a crazy manipulative streak that perhaps even rivals Rose.
Back in your box Mickey, you're not needed now!
Maybe not quite as good at emotional blackmail yet, but at least she lacks the daddy issues, so I guess it balances out. Funny when you think about it, but aboard a ship with an ancient undead menace and a cheerfully homicidal computer somehow she's actually the least pleasant person around.
Aside from Clara (who, admittedly, does at least have the decency to hide it a lot of the time) we have a nice selection of actually likable characters to get killed off. Even the blustering, officious captain manages to redeem himself from his Perwee era template. Particular note actually goes to Frank Skinners Perkins, who far from being an irritating celebrity cameo is actually a good character and rather well played. It's really a shame that he doesn't stay on, although I can't really be too suprised. After all, he's calm, intelligent, resourceful and practical. Most episodes would be over in 10 minutes with someone like that helping out. Still, I'm sure they can always bring him back another time if he's popular enough.
Also interesting is what this episode brings to the ongoing themes of the series. We don't get any appearances by Goth Mary Poppins or mentions of the promised land. But we get more on Soldiers and making difficult decisions. Two themes that have been consistently floating around in some form or another. The Doctor has been making several life or death judgements, and more importantly demonstrating that he CAN do that sort of thing without stopping to cry about it. And of course the one time Clara was faced with a similar thing she went all to pieces. And then we have the Doctors somewhat overstated dislike of the military, and Clara's new ex-soldier boyfriend. And we have this ongoing tension between Clara and the Doctor over his rather more pragmatic attitude.
I think we can all see where this is going.
Poor danny. He's a nice guy. But Clara keeps treating him badly because once he's dead she'll get to feel REALLY fucking guilty about it. He's an ex-soldier, so he knows about bad situations. When inevitably called on to make the ultimate sacrifice he will. Maybe not gladly, but he'll still do it. And we know that Clara will be leaving the series soon. So who wants to bet that Mr Pink is put in a position whereby it's his life or stopping the bad guy? And then he goes down in a heroic blaze of glory but Clara will end up blaming the Doctor for sacrificing his life?
Right now that seems fairly inevitable. Maybe things will change. Maybe they'll manage to surprise me. Maybe I should look up whether Clara is in the Christmas special or not. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, we have another good episode for the pile, bolstering the overall quality of the series and lending credence to theory that the weak start was more that they were saving the best for later.
Tune in again next week when will we see....
It's a conspiracy. It's GOT to be a conspiracy.