Reflecting In Norway
It’s been quite the tumultuous ride for Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor this season. From the great historical episodes to the not-so-great Arachnids In The UK, Doctor Who has had one of the most inconsistent seasons for as long as I can remember. The writing has been all over the place and all of this made worse by a political agenda that’s infected almost every episode. This isn’t even mentioning the lacklustre CGI and poor characterisation. It’s taken 9 episodes but finally Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor delivers a worthwhile episode to remember her by. And one that’s so off-the-wall, so bizarre and incredulous it’s likely to be the most divisively received of the season.
The story begins in the heart of the Fjords in Norway. The Doctor arrives with her companions, admiring the view. Spotting an abandoned cottage in the distance, the group decide to go and investigate and it’s here where the story descends into a darker, more sinister tone. A monster seems to be lurking in the woods and for some reason the mirrors inside the house don’t cast reflections. All of this while a little blind girl Hanne is desperate to find her Father whom she presumes has been captured by the thing outside. Thankfully, The Doctor is on the case but as the mystery deepens, what they find is far more horrific than they could have ever imagined.
For the most part, the story works well although some of the design choices and overall ideas here are so off-the-wall and out of the ordinary, it’ll be interesting to see how the general populace react to this. This is an episode built around its slow pace and this, combined with some really clever Easter Eggs (watch the reflections and the mirror images late on) as well as a healthy dose of foreshadowing allow this episode to really stand out this season. If there’s likely to be one criticism here it’s going to be with the general antagonist in the episode and the big reveal at the end as The Doctor confronts this one-on-one. It’s at this point where the horror dissolves and in its place, unintentional humour. Thankfully, the final few moments of the episode pull it back again and finish the episode on a really positive note.
Much has been said about the companions this season and it’s been a constant issue with this season both in terms of pacing and story. Say what you will about the plot, there’s no denying that every companion is given enough to do throughout the episode to avoid them feeling like a spare part. Yaz chimes in with some smart science, Ryan continues his journey to becoming a more empathetic young man while Graham has a seriously emotional arc throughout the episode culminating in a heartfelt moment with Ryan.
With such inconsistent quality this season, it’s really hard to predict how Doctor Who is likely to end next week. There’s no denying the writing has certainly improved as the season has gone on (thanks in part due to Chris Chibnall handing the pen over to different writers) but the characterisation and general plotting of each episode has been hit or miss to say the least. Thankfully It Takes You Away is more hit than miss and although some may lament the lack of originality and a compelling antagonist for much of its run time, the 9th episode is one of the best and for me at least, a reminder that Doctor Who can still deliver the goods. Roll on next week’s finale!