Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Review

Warning: spoilers.

I knew it. I just knew that there was more to this so-called “Victorian” so-called “non-canonical” Sherlock special than they were letting on. I didn’t know what it would be (I was optimistically entertaining hopes of a WhoLock crossover at one point), but I had a hunch that the first Sherlock we get in two years wasn’t just going to be some quaint Victorian adventure entirely removed from the canon. That doesn’t happen. They wouldn’t have written something like this and not tie it back, somehow, to the award-winning, mass-followed, phenomenon-creating, career-defining main series, even in a small way. I’m pleased that this very peculiar Sherlock special did progress, albeit not by much, the main narrative that we’re all on tenterhooks to see continued.

That said, this special would have absolutely worked, and worked fantastically well, even if it bore no in-story relation to the main series. It was about halfway through that I began thinking to myself that Sherlock, as in Sherlock, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and produced by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, actually works every bit as well as a show set in the Victorian Era as it does set in modern London. I realise that shouldn’t really be a revelation, given that Sherlock is a contemporary adaptation of Victorian stories and characters, but, after everything, Sherlock is a show set in modern London, and it’s reasonably foreseeable that, in transplanting the characters to a radically different setting, something of the show’s essence would be lost.

I’m pleased to report, though, that nothing at all is lost. If anything, the show benefits from the change of setting: it retains everything we love about Sherlock in its contemporary setting while fully indulging itself in the Victorian, which makes for very evocative, romantic visuals, and a spooky, Gothic case of the sort that could only have worked in the Victorian setting. And, of course, the mystery, the plot, feels very much like an original Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes story. Nothing of the humour, the storytelling or the characterisation is lost. Indeed, Sherlock positively benefits from the timezone shift. Here, finally, is Sherlock in his natural habitat. Sherlock is a man totally in his element, a man totally of his times, his stature visibly enhanced in his Victorian surrounds. His florid language and his courtly bearing seem natural in this setting, and Cumberbatch, a sort of semi-Victorian figure himself, absolutely owns it. It’s a genuine pleasure to watch.

Even though this special was essentially an imaginary situation played out entirely in Sherlock’s mind palace for the purpose of determining whether Moriarty was actually dead or not, and that scarcely 10 minutes have passed since the end of His Last Vow, it did, nevertheless, advance the overarching narrative of the show in very significant ways. Mycroft, certainly, has undergone more genuine character development in this one episode than the entire series up to this point. No more the “Ice Man”, he was touchingly shown to care deeply for his little brother, to be intensely concerned about Sherlock’s well-being, and heartbroken by his brother’s self-destructive lifestyle choices. Suggestions about Mycroft’s “concern” for his brother have been seeded throughout the series, but never to this extent. I’m not sure how many of us suspected the intensity of Mycroft’s love and concern for his brother before now. I found that quite poignant, the way Mycroft’s characterisation was dealt with. And, of course, the theme of Sherlock’s reckless addiction and propensity to live on the edge, even in a Victorian fantasy, was explored compellingly, the effect on the people close to Sherlock, most of all Mycroft, brought into sharp relief.

sherlock the abominable bride2

Overall, it’s an emphatic success. It’s worth conjecturing whether the special would have worked better if it really were an adventure into a Victorian alternate universe, totally removed from the canon of the main series. For my part, I think it would have — the lurching back and forth between the 19th Century and now made for a slightly disorienting twist — and I would have been happy if the episode had been just a novelty special in sumptuous period dress: there was definitely enough meat in the Victorian story for it to stand alone. The writing was excellent and the performances reliably superb. But that’s not to say I wasn’t pleased that what ended up being a very quirky special did contribute to the main narrative in the end. To be honest, I’m just glad we’ve got Sherlock back, in some iteration, after two years. Now for at least another year’s wait for Series 4.

Thoughts on: Sleep No More

Warning: spoilers.

I’ve watched Mark Gatiss’s latest effort, Sleep No More, three times, and have had more time than usual (due to preoccupation with exams) to think about it and mull over my impressions. I think that’s for the better in this case, because my impressions of the episode now have shifted quite considerably since my first viewing. If I’d reviewed this episode on the day of broadcast, this review would probably have read quite differently. While I won’t presume to tell others to watch it again and reconsider their opinions, I think this is definitely one that needs to be watched at least twice to be properly appreciated. Needless to say, this has also been one of the most divisive episodes of Doctor Who I’ve seen—the most divisive, at least, since Kill the Moon, and even that one received a broadly positive reception. This one has divided opinion more violently than almost any I’ve seen.

Divided opinion is to be expected from a script as experimental as this. Whenever the show, Doctor Who seemingly more than any other, does something differently and left-of-field, there are inevitably going to be fans who love it and fans who hate it. It’s not just the found footage style that’s different about this episode, although, to say something about that, I found it effective. For the most part, I didn’t notice the difference from a regular episode, but, at its best, it allowed for the amplification of the intrigue and atmosphere and thrill of the episode. It provided for some wonderful moments, including the numerous moments Peter Capaldi spoke directly to the camera.

sandmen
They were sand… and they were men… like… a hybrid?

But it’s also the way the story, and its overarching conceit, played out that’s bound to frustrate some. If you’re like me, you probably came out of the episode upon first viewing more than a bit confused about what had just happened and feeling rather unsatisfied. After two subsequent viewings, I’ve managed to wrap my head around the slightly convoluted conceit the script was weaving—that all the events of the episode were orchestrated by the dust to tell a story to keep the viewers hooked, to infect them with the Morpheus signal—and I appreciate the “action” of the episode a lot more with that in mind. Although the episode plays out like a stock-standard base-under-siege with some gimmicky camerawork, it’s really quite a concept-heavy piece. Again, I think you need to watch it a few times to fully appreciate that. Its narrative appeal is primarily on the meta level, and if that isn’t to your taste, then this episode is probably not going to work for you, especially if, like me upon my first viewing, you found the action a bit boring and the plot overly complex.

That said, there’s a lot that could’ve been improved upon. The Sandmen, notwithstanding their intriguing concept, in practice were fairly unoriginal creations. They were snarling, groping monster-men practically indistinguishable from the zombies in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. In the Sandmen there’s a reticence on Gatiss’s part to take the brilliant ideas he’s put into this script as far as they could have been taken. Why not show a person’s transformation into a Sandman? (Deep-Ando’s death was a perfect opportunity) Why not illustrate exactly how these creatures are sentient sleep dust, rather than just showing them stomping around like generic zombies and having the Doctor tell us “they’re sleep dust”. Moreover, the other problem I had with this episode is that, even given that the action was all engineered to tell a riveting story, there wasn’t enough plot to tease out to fill the whole 45 minutes. We watch the Doctor, Clara and the crew getting into scrapes and near-misses for most of the episode—yes, it was all manufactured by the dust, but after a while it all became a bit tedious. The first plot development of any significance came 30 minutes in, when the Doctor realised the dust had been recording them. By then you’d be forgiven if you’d lost interest.

But yet… I rather enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more upon each subsequent viewing, perhaps because, wrapping my head around the confusing plot points and meta-narrative, I was in a better position to appreciate the script for the clever and engaging piece of writing it was. I was in a better position to appreciate that this wasn’t just a typical monster runaround with a clever twist tacked on at the end, but that Mark Gatiss really has, for all its faults, crafted an exquisite script. And, I mean, it wasn’t that boring. Perhaps I overstated my impatience with the episode above—I was certainly unsatisfied the first time round, but, like I said, it improved for me once I grasped what the point of it all was. Contrary to others’ impressions, I found the characters all fairly well-written, especially the unsettling Rassmussen, and I loved the amusing Chopra-474 double-act. And I have no hesitation in affirming that I’d watch this episode again just for that ending. I think the last minute of the episode is the one thing everyone agrees was superb. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by suggesting it was one of the creepiest, freakiest, most chilling moments in a  Doctor Who episode ever. I’m sure if I were 10 years old, I’d have been petrified about going to bed after watching that. It just reeked of Mark Gatiss’s dark, morbid sense of humour. I love that.

Is it Mark Gatiss’s best script yet? Although that isn’t really saying much, I’d be tempted to say “yes” if it weren’t for the exceptional Robot of Sherwood in Series 8. Even if we accept, though, that Sleep No More is the weakest episode of Series 9 so far (it’s vying for that honour with Before the Flood and The Woman Who Lived, to my mind), that is undoubtedly to the credit of Series 9, because this is by no means a bad script, and I have no hesitation in saying that every series since 2005 has had episodes much weaker than this, even the stellar Series 4 and 5 had Partners in Crime and Victory of the Daleks, respectively. And, I mean, there’s a tendency to overstate the poorness of the quality of Doctor Who scripts. The average quality of Doctor Who compared to most everything else on television is emphatically higher, and even Doctor Who’s weakest scripts generally make for good television. Because we devotees of this wonderful show are used to an unusually high standard of writing and storytelling in our show, this episode might not necessarily have made for great Doctor Who, but it certainly made for stunningly good television. Admit it, you’d much rather be watching this than anything else that was on at the time.

Rating: 8/10.


Quote of the week:

“No, you don’t get to name things. I’m the Doctor. I do the naming.”

Thoughts on: Robot of Sherwood

Just when I had lost all faith in Mark Gatiss, he goes and delivers this, which has to be the most enjoyable, entertaining, eminently watchable script he’s ever written for Doctor Who. I didn’t have particularly high expectations for this episode beforehand. The synopsis and the teaser trailer indicated that this one had “mediocre early series filler episode” written all over it, à la The Curse of the Black SpotThe Shakespeare Code and The Beast Below. And Robin Hood and robots aren’t exactly the kind of story ingredients that get your Whovian heart racing (unless you’re Clara, who makes for an adorable fangirl). But I was pleasantly surprised — this has to be the most engaging writing Gatiss has ever produced for Doctor Who, even if only because it was so terrifically funny. To be sure, it was fairly light on plot, and it’s obvious Gatiss expended minimal time in conceiving its villains, generic robots from outer space, but I’m willing to forgive it these faults because everything else — the dialogue, the characters, the comedy — was done so well.

There are so many memorable scenes I could watch over again and again. The Doctor’s spoon-fight with Robin Hood had me grinning from ear to ear. I’m not entirely convinced Gatiss didn’t just start with the totally awesome idea, “the Doctor sword-fights Robin Hood with a spoon” and wrote the rest of the script around it. The Doctor and Robin Hood’s testosterone-fuelled alpha male rivalry throughout the episode was an absolute lark to watch, made all the funnier by the two actors’ hilarious performances. You wouldn’t think that Peter Capaldi’s Doctor could make you laugh as much as that, but Capaldi’s most famous role before Doctor Who, of course, was the comedy character Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It, and it’s obvious Capaldi is consciously channelling Tucker in the Doctor’s fiery, wit-laden exchanges with Hood. In particular, I was clutching my sides watching the Doctor and Hood tearing into each other while chained to the floor of a medieval dungeon. I’ve honestly never laughed more at a Doctor Who episode than I did watching that.

After the very dark and heavy Deep Breath and Into the Dalek, this episode puts the Doctor in a more congenial setting, and we get to see another side, or at least the suggestion of another side, to our new Doctor. The Doctor spent a lot of time in his first two stories brooding and generally being grumpy. To be sure, he was substantially grumpy in this episode, too, but, through the generous displays of his dry wit, and the way he behaved around Hood, it’s clear that he at least has a sense of humour, and that there’s more to him than brooding amateur philosopher. The positively adolescent way he behaved around Hood, and the way he vied with Hood for Clara’s attention, showed there’s still a whimsical side to this Doctor, although it’s expressed a little differently to how it was Matt Smith’s and David Tennant’s Doctors.

Something I would have changed about the episode would have been to make Robin Hood and his Merry Men conform less to their storybook depictions. It’s just that if Robin Hood were real, he almost certainly wouldn’t have resembled the way he’s portrayed in storybooks and remembered in folk legends anywhere near the Robin Hood in this episode did. Hood surely would have been closer to an unscrupulous highwayman with delusions of moral rightness, more like a Ned Kelly figure, than the positively camp figure portrayed here who looks like he’s wandered in from a Laurence Olivier Shakespeare set. I don’t blame the Doctor for being so ardently sceptical of him. It would have been more consistent with the theme of the episode, of the legends of great men like Robin Hood and the Doctor consuming the actual persons themselves. We all know that the Doctor is just an idiot with a box and a screwdriver, but the rest of the universe, it’s been made clear several times, sees him differently.

Rating: 8/10.

Thoughts on: The Crimson Horror

Ugh. This is why I don’t want Mark Gatiss to be the next showrunner. I barely tolerated this episode when it first aired, and my impression has barely improved upon this re-watching. I mean, I tried. I tried to put aside how repelled I remember being by the episode when I first saw it, and be open to reassessing my impression, but it’s so difficult to watch this and feel anything other than exasperation. I know Mark Gatiss can write good stories. His effort earlier in the series, Cold War, was a great success. I liked The Unquiet DeadNight Terrors and Robot of Sherwood. I’ll even make time for The Idiot’s Lantern. I love his work in Sherlock. But this episode is an exemplar of Gatiss’s tendency sometimes to lapse into the formulaic and the unbearably trite. The plot itself is not uninteresting or unimaginative; it’s quite a good idea, actually — it’s just written in a way that’s unengaging and predictable. It’s a standard throwaway “Dr Who fights the bad guys” episode. A cut-and-paste, drag-and-drop, standard-issue Doctor Who script. That said, a standard-issue script in Doctor Who is invariably a lot better than the common run of mainstream television, but, as a Doctor Who episode, it’s a fairly poor effort.

I’ll at least say that it begins well. Like I said, I thought the idea was interesting and had potential. The story hooks the viewer in with the intrigue surrounding the slimy Mrs Gillyflower and her idyllic “city upon a hill” community, Sweetville, as well as the horrific “crimson horror” disease and how it’s all connected. Our noses really prick up when Jenny discovers the Doctor, semi-petrified like one of the crimson horror victims, but still alive. It’s all going well up until the point the Doctor cures himself in the healing chamber. It’s from that point on that the episode gives the impression that Mark Gatiss lost interest, as it all becomes very derivative and uncommitted. The Doctor finds Clara and cures her. He confronts Mrs Gillyflower, who reveals her evil plans. The Doctor frustrates aforementioned evil plans. The end.

In particular, I couldn’t help but facepalm over that resolution. Mrs Gillyflower is about to fire her rocket and destroy the world, but, aha! Vastra and Jenny have disabled it! “Foiled again! And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” the old crone spits (I’m paraphrasing). So she turns her pistol on the Doctor and his gang, but not before Strax inexplicably appears from above and blasts Mrs Gillyflower down. And the world is safe for another day, thanks to the Doctor and his friends. The point I’m trying to make is that the last five minutes gave the impression they were written with undignified haste and minimal application of the great creative capacities I know Mark Gatiss possesses. It was trite par excellence. Mrs Gillyflower was duly camp, as I suppose she was intended to be, but there is such a thing as too camp, for example, when the villain’s motive is, seemingly, an uncomplicated, cheery desire to destroy all human life. Mrs Gillyflower was the leader of a fanatical religious cult, but she was portrayed more as cynically exploiting the religious fanaticism and gullbility of her followers for her own wicked ends; religious fanaticism wasn’t what actuated her, which is a shame, as, if it was, it would have made her character and her actions much more believable. As it stands she’s just a raving misanthropic psychopath. Very convincing that. And don’t even get me started on Mr Sweet; that thing was just ridiculous.

Every Doctor Who story is a mixture of good and bad, though, and this one does have its good points. The setting was realised well, and integrated nicely with the plot. It’s probably one of the main things that made the more tiring parts of the episode watchable. The direction was all fairly robust; the episode looked good, at least. Secondly, despite being poorly written, the character of Mrs Gillyflower was played with distinction by Diana Rigg, who made the cackling, mad old hag compelling and enjoyable to watch, at least. Ada was also played really sympathetically by Rachael Stirling, daughter of Rigg, and the budding relationship between Ada and the Doctor was one of the better aspects of this script. Their eventual meeting, after the Doctor was cured and flexible again, was sweet. I’ve said before that I tend to find the Paternoster Gang tiresome, but in this episode I at least found them more tolerable than usual, especially Strax, who got some amusing lines. Nonetheless, I’m afraid these points don’t come close to redeeming what I found to be a very irksome and tedious story, one I don’t plan to watch again (willingly) for a long time.

Rating: 3/10.

Thoughts on: Cold War

The tributes to Classic Who in the anniversary year’s run of episodes are really coming thick and fast now. It’s hard not to see Mark Gatiss’s latest effort as a celebration of Patrick Troughton’s era. He’s brought the Ice Warriors back — those lumbering, hissing, giant humanoid tortoises that were iconic villains of the Troughton years. And the base-under-siege format employed fondly here by Gatiss is very reminiscent of the reams of Troughton stories that utilised the format. It all makes for an episode with a very classic and 1960s feel to it, albeit injected with a generous dose of New Who swagger and fast-paced excitement.

The Ice Warriors are re-introduced in style, with the old slow-moving tortoise shells adapted effectively for the new series. They’ve pulled the same trick employed in Dalek in featuring just one of the revived monsters and portraying what just one can do. It’s an effective way of conveying the threat of the Ice Warriors to a modern audience, especially when the lone Ice Warrior in question is Skaldak, whom I gather is supposed to be like the Chuck Norris of the Ice Warriors. The genius of Gatiss’s re-introduction of the Ice Warriors in this script, though, was in getting Skaldak out of his armour. No longer the hulking, lumbering product of 1960s production values, the Ice Warrior takes on genuinely terrifying form as it skulks around the shadows, extending its scaly, clawed hands to grope unsuspecting Soviet naval officers. Its picking off the crew one by one lent a real air of menace and claustrophobia to the situation. The eventual revelation of what the Ice Warrior looked like under its helmet was impressive, but I feel somewhat that some of the magic and the menace of the Ice Warriors is lost now that we know what they look like. I suppose it’s well enough that only the head of the ice warrior was shown.

The sinking Soviet submarine made for an effective setting, and really made compelling the threat of the Ice Warrior, a villain I’d imagine would be difficult to get right. The Cold War setting made possible the captivating standoff between Skaldak and the Doctor in the submarine’s control room. It’s meaningful that Skaldak was swayed from his resolve to destroy the world by Clara’s appeal to his compassion, whereas the Doctor thought only to threaten Skaldak with mutually assured destruction. This echoes The Beast Below, where it was similarly portrayed how much the Doctor needs the human anchor of a companion.

Both the Doctor and Clara were great in this episode, and I’m pleased to see that Matt Smith is back on form after his lacklustre performances in the previous two episodes, with his intense and authoritative portrayal here. Also deserving of praise was David Warner as Professor Griskenko, a wholly charming character performed endearingly by Warner. The last word goes to the comedy of this episode, which, far from being incongruous with the solemnness of the situation, injected a bracing, refreshing element of human realism into what could have been a very Hollywood-artificial sci-fi runaround. I particularly liked Matt Smith’s barbie doll (was that supposed to be Rose?)

Rating: 8/10.

Thoughts on: Night Terrors

This is a refreshing break from the arc-heavy material that has predominated most of Series 6 up to this point. It’s an effective standalone story, a typical modern Doctor Who story that oozes scariness but also carries an emotional touch. It’s not everyone’s cup of their hot beverage of choice, but I really like it, and in my opinion it’s easily Mark Gatiss’s best Doctor Who story to date (although the episode he’s penning for Series 9 sounds excellent). For the most part it’s a charming, sweet story about a father and son and the strains on familial relationships. It sympathetically portrays a family struggling to cope with the mental issues of their son, although, in typical Doctor Who style, it’s revealed that there’s more than meets the eye in this boy’s excessive paranoia.

The main reason I like this episode is its fear factor. The episode starts modestly enough, with the Doctor answering a call from a small child to “please save me from the monsters”, remarking that a child’s bedroom is the “scariest place in the universe”. At this point I’m sure a lot of hardened fans would have been facepalming and preparing themselves for disappointment. I don’t necessarily blame them—the premise is a bit corny. But, thankfully, this episode really does become something genuinely scary and eerie as Gatiss displays an unexpected Moffat-esque flair for the creepy. The scenes in the dolls’ house were surreal and pulse-quickeningly claustrophobic, with great use of light, camerawork and especially very creepy aural effects to induce anxiety and tension. The dolls themselves were downright terrifying, playing on the disturbing appearance of dolls, especially old-fashioned dolls like these life-sized peg dolls, after they’ve aged and decayed. I’m sure there were a lot of shaking children nervous about going to bed after watching this.

Another area in which this episode succeeds is its portrayal of the personal side of this extraterrestrial dilemma. We see the relationship between George and his parents strained over George’s issues, and we see George insecure and anxious about his sense of belonging to his parents. Despite the oddity of George’s being an alien, this is a sympathetic reflection of the emotional struggles countless concerned parents go through over children with peculiar issues, be they physical or mental. I’m sure it’s natural for such children to question and feel insecure about their parents’ feelings about them, as George did. Here we see two loving parents, especially one loving dad, totally dedicated to helping their child. It was a moving, heartfelt moment when Alex embraces George, assuring him, to the latter’s tearful relief, that he loved him and was devoted to him no matter what. Some might cringe at such an “over-sentimental” resolution, but I think it worked perfectly well, given that the science-fictioney dilemma in the episode was caused by George’s insecurity about his parents’ feelings about him.

Some final thoughts. Although Amy and Rory played a diminished role in this episode, I thought Rory was delightfully funny in the dolls’ house. “We’re dead — again!” should be his catchphrase. “Lights are great, aren’t they?” is also another Rory Williams classic. I also have to add that I wasn’t convinced by Jamie Oram, the child actor who played George. Child actors are always hit-or-miss, and this one, I’m afraid to say, was decidedly the latter. I hate to be harsh on an eight year old, but the thing about child actors is that if they’re not good, they’re positively distracting, and their performance actively detracts from the story, as here. Sorry, kid, but don’t take it too badly; very few children can act well, and you’ve got years and years to improve anyway.

Rating: 8/10.

Thoughts on: Victory of the Daleks

I enjoyed this episode the first time I saw it. I still quite enjoy it now, but, with the benefit of time and distance, I can’t ignore the very real faults of this episode which compromise what potentially could have been a good story. For one, I was never entirely convinced of the premise. Daleks in wartime London fighting under Winston Churchill for the British war effort. It just seems more than a bit corny to me. As far as ideas go, it’s an eye-roller. It feels like a product of the excesses of an overactive fanboy imagination, as though Mark Gatiss pitched the idea to Moffat with the words “Wouldn’t this be freaking awesome?” and Moffat, the eternal fanboy, nodded his fervent enthusiasm and, before they knew it, they were making a story about Daleks fighting Nazis. I mean, I get that World War II is a very symbolically fitting setting for a Dalek story, given that the Daleks were inspired by the Nazis, but that doesn’t prevent this idea from being cringe-inducingly corny.

That said, the mystery of why the Daleks were working for Churchill was interesting and made for an intriguing plot. However, I think the answer to this mystery could have been revealed better. In truth, it was actually only upon this rewatch that I understood what the point of it all was, i.e. that the Daleks needed the Doctor’s “testimony” to convince their Progenator device to recognise them as real Daleks (I’m not surprised; the thick pepper pots can’t even spell “progenitor” correctly). It was a slightly convoluted explanation that merited more than the brief attention it got; it was very much a “blink and you miss it” explanation. Then, with much fanfare, we were introduced to the “New Dalek Paradigm”. I think it’s fair to say that time has not been friendly to these redesigned multi-coloured Daleks. Reading contemporary reviews, the reception seemed to have been generally positive at the time, but fan opinion of the new Daleks now tends to be invariably negative; and the producers seem to have got the message: the New Dalek Paradigm haven’t been seen since. When I first saw the redesigned Daleks, I thought they were awesome. But that was when I was fifteen and thought everything Doctor Who did was awesome. I’m less starry-eyed now. Admittedly, the redesigned Daleks do have an enhanced menace due to their intimidating size and their deeper, more guttural tones, but the colours and the softer contours have the opposite effect of making them look comical. They’re Power Ranger Daleks. The old Daleks, with their stark, metallic quality, were action figure Daleks; these are plush toys. They didn’t work, as I think everyone now agrees.

Matt Smith continues to shine in his early days as the Eleventh Doctor. I’ve said this before, but already it feels like Matt wears the role with visible ease and control. He exudes authority and age, and has captured the character of his Doctor masterfully. It generally takes a while for a new actor to establish themselves in the eyes of the audience as the Doctor rather than just an actor trying to play the Doctor—I’ll admit it took me a while to accept Capaldi as the Doctor—but Matt Smith has remarkably quickly made the role entirely his own and entrenched himself as the Doctor. It’s hard to imagine anyone else as the Doctor even after only three episodes. We’re learning more about Matt’s Doctor with every episode. In the last episode we learnt that Eleven is mercurial and moody. Here we see that again in his startling, ferocious outburst against one of the Daleks. We see that Eleven is a man of passion, passion that can very easily get the better of him. We know that Eleven, while most of the time unassuming and placid, is emphatically not a Time Lord you’d want to get on the wrong side of. It’s also very telling that, in trying to convince Bracewell of his humanity, he attempts to summon up Bracewell’s feelings about the death of his loved ones, while Amy knew better to evoke Bracewell’s memories and feelings of love. Although he’ll never let on, the Doctor is a man constantly, inescapably haunted by the spectre of death.

I thought that resolution, by the way, of Amy’s evoking Bracewell’s feelings of love to deactivate the bomb, was very touching and the most satisfying thing about this episode. Amy’s dialogue at that moment was powerful, and very deftly and movingly conveyed by Karen Gillan. It was one of the redeeming aspects of this episode, which, on the whole, was a decent and enjoyable effort despite the very visible faults.

Rating: 7/10.