Crayons & Spam
Doctor Who has always been a character-driven show, and in particular its central Time Lord figure that’s always questioned everything around him or her. The above clip is an important one to watch as it signifies one of the most important parts of this character’s persona, one that perfectly captures this blurring line between right and wrong and showcases everything that makes this show so wonderful. Tonight’s episode unfortunately undoes that legacy in a way, delivering one of the worst episodes since Who returned in 2005.
Now, don’t get me wrong I actually like the idea of Global Warming being discussed and I appreciate that these political and social statements have been made in this show in the past. However there’s a difference between subtly including it into a fun sci-fi adventure and beating your audience over the head with a sledgehammer-sized agenda, undermining character development and forcing everyone to act uncharacteristically in the process (more of this later).
Episode 3 of Doctor Who begins with the Doctor and his companions deciding go to on a holiday to Tranquility after cleaning up squid from the Tardis. Before they discuss whether to go or not however, a teleport cube blasts the companions and the Doctor to their 2 week all-inclusive holiday resort. While the companions busy themselves with various activities, The Doctor decides to have a look around.
While Yaz stops an elderly man called Benni from proposing to his partner, Ryan winds up with a virus, which the Doctor thankfully manages to free him from. Graham however, sits and enjoys a drink until the alarms go off. As the companions try to figure out what’s going on, talking to a pair of green-haired mechanics in the process, the Doctor manages to talk her way into exploring a linen cupboard thanks to her psychic powers. Inside, she pleads with the security team to listen to her, given the Hopper Virus could signify the resort being under attack.
As the security cameras go down and the companions hide out in the linen cupboard, Ryan unfortunately is separated alongside an unemployed tourist called Bella, finding himself coming face to face with the monstrous creature known as the Dreg. Before it can attack them however, the Doctor manages to stop it remotely, allowing Ryan and Bella to slip away.
It turns out the creatures are actually native to the planet and the resort has been built on an orphan planet – Orphan 55 to be precise. With Benni missing, the crew head out and decide to go on a rescue mission to find the Dreg whom they believe has taken him away. As it turns out, this race are apex predators and having adapted to nuclear winter and harsh weaponized conditions, they driving straight into the lion’s den. It’s here their transport hits a trap and they wind up surrounded by Dreg. The Doctor suggests they run and after hiding out in the transport, Benni suddenly re-appears and asks his partner to marry him before requesting to die.
As the remaining crew head underground to try and get away, Bella turns on them all and points a gun at them before she and Ryan manage to teleport back to the resort. What follows is an elaborate escape plan, one that sees the supporting players with the Doctor sacrifice themselves one by one before the Doctor and the others learn that Orphan 55 is actually Earth in the future. Global Warming, mass migration and war have all caused the Earth to change into a monstrous dystopia.
39 minutes into the episode, the Doctor then decides to talk to the Dreg as they head inside the resort. She laments it for not making smarter choices and tricks it into standing in the cage alone, locking it in and running away; a throwback to the Arachnids last season which the Doctor inhumanely killed.
However, using the Hopper Virus from earlier the Doctor detonates a bomb inside the building, killing some of the aliens and allowing the humans to battle the Dreg with guns and fight it out. In the midst of this chaos the Doctor and her companions are teleported back to the Tardis where the Doctor gives an impassioned speech about global warming and saving the planet where the episode ends. As war rages below them.
It’s difficult to know where to start with this poor episode of Doctor Who but I guess the Doctor herself is a good enough place to start. Between inhumanely killing creatures and refusing to talk to any of the alien race, this character feels like an inconsistent mish-mash of influences and none of them all that appealing. The Doctor of old would have spoken to the Dreg early on in the episode and understood their woes. Given the Doctor found out that this was Earth “a few minutes before you did” (referencing a line made by Ryan 35 minutes in the episode), I’m struggling to understand the motivations of this character.
The random jumble of words, including the crayons and half a can of spam line, makes zero sense and this, coupled with the 40 minutes of running away and shooting, just doesn’t feel like Doctor Who. Even the mundane or bland episodes of old, like Season 2’s Fear Her had the Doctor talking and trying to understand the creatures. This episode had none of that.
That’s before we even get to the on-the-nose moral message about global warming, followed by an impassioned speech and a bizarre final scene that shows the Dreg and cuts to black. The Doctor stands and watches the Dreg killed in cold-blood by guns – the same guns she hated last season remember – but yet is happy to blow up an entire base full of creatures she’s not even taken the time to understand. This is why the episode is so disappointing, and what the above clip here illustrates, that this is not the same character who could be called The Doctor. It’s actually more disappointing because the two-parter to open this season held some real promise but unfortunately that’s been completely squandered by this 46 minute episode. What a real shame.
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