Season 12 Is A Nightmare
We’re back with another slice of Doctor Who and this week is certainly an improvement over last week but also shows a lot of wasted potential here, with a storyline wrapped up in break-neck speed and some under-utilized ideas that could have made this a real winner with better script writing. The idea of nightmares consuming our companions, and the Doctor herself, seems like a good scope to deep dive into the psyche of these people but given the profound lack of screen time each of these have had over the past two seasons, it just highlights why three companions are far too many for the TARDIS.
Episode 7 begins in Syria 1380 with a girl called Tahira telling her friend that something is coming and whatever it is, it’ll be there soon. As day turns to night, the creature appears and comes face to face with her.
The Doctor returns to Sheffield with the companions and as they leave, a strange figure materializes inside the TARDIS. The companions meanwhile all try to return to their normal lives. Graham sits down to play cards and mentions not being “stuck in the past”, which feels like foreshadowing, before experiencing visions of a girl asking for help, while Ryan questions his flatmate about the strange figure he’s been seeing in his room.
Each of the companions see this ominous man too, the same one that was inside the TARDIS. The Doctor meanwhile arrives in Syria and begins talking to herself before finding the creature up on the wall and Tahira subsequently in trouble.
With some DNA from the crime scene, the Doctor grabs the companions (off-screen, we don’t actually see as we just cut straight into the TARDIS) and they relay their experiences, especially Graham who focuses his memories using a contraption inside the TARDIS to transport them all inside a space station as two planets appear to be about to collide outside. With something trapped inside an orb between them, and the ship full of severed fingers, the Doctor pieces together what it all means.
Meanwhile, the companions rush off to find Tahira while the Doctor hangs back but unfortunately this endangers all the companions who wind up captured and caught in nightmares. The Doctor eventually comes face to face with the tattooed creature called Zellin who’s pulling the strings; an immortal bogeyman using nightmares extracted from humans to power the orb between the two planets. Unfortunately it turns out the whole plan of bringing the Doctor on-board and freeing the woman in the orb was the end-game all along, unleashing an immortal trapped between worlds.
We then cut to a good dose of exposition as we learn more about these Gods. As they de-materialise, The Doctor finds herself trapped and forced to endure nightmares while the two immortals find their way onto Earth and decide to spend eternity feasting on their nightmares. The Doctor awakens from a teasing glimpse of The Timeless Child and uses her telekinetic powers to warp her sonic screwdriver to her hand and free the others. With an orb collected from the ship, she entices the immortals to Syria and turns their weapons against them, trapping them back in the orb between the planets and saving the day.
As the episode closes out, the companions confront their fears while Graham tries to open up to the Doctor regarding his cancer scare but she remains socially awkward, instead deflecting the idea of helping her companion and cheerfully mentioning Frankenstein instead as they head off on their next adventure.
Excluding some sloppy editing and a couple of heavy-handed doses of exposition, Doctor Who squanders what potential it has with this interesting concept by wrapping up its story far too quickly, dissipating any tension that may have been building up. With everything resolved and no consequences for any of our characters, Doctor Who misses a trick here by not deepening the characterisation for our companions. Of course, there are glimmers here as Yaz and Ryan head off to confront their fears but their emotional resonance with the Doctor is exactly zero, typified even more by Graham attempting to open up to the Doctor late on and her brushing him off cheerfully and proclaiming herself “socially awkward”.
For a time lord all about “the fam” and saving her “mates”, the lack of empathy from this iteration only reflects the icy reception and profound lack of chemistry any of these people have on-screen together. To be fair, Graham does well with the scripts he has and at times there are moments of hope from the other companions but it all feels too little too late in this series that’s hurtling along toward the climactic finale. The TARDIS needs a clear-out and after two seasons it’s become abundantly clear now that three companions does not work.
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