AAt one point, the newly introduced Bel (Thaddea Graham) said, “I have no idea what that means, but it does not sound good,” and it seems like she could talk about the episode as a whole. After last week Fun romp with the Sontarans, This was a frustrating reversal to the average of the Chibnall era. It looked good, but it was more of a disjointed series of exhibition scenes rather than a flowing story. It was definitely the weakest chapter of the flow so far.
On the plus side, we started to get some answers – and a look at the Doctor’s story with the Division and a Mission on Planet Time, suggested by Swarm in the previous two chapters. (That said, it might have been more fun to see the Fugitive Doctor (Jo Martin) and Karnavista (Craige Els) tear up the scenes instead of sometimes flying into the view.) Martin was absolutely shocked as the Doctor in the Fugitive of Judoon and has been desperately underused since.
I guess the series was filmed under Covid Restrictions, but much of the chapter seems to consist of an actor standing on a set, a monologue about what happened. If you miss some of the beautiful space visuals and the unexpected view of the Daleks floating through a forest, Once, Upon Time would be an audiobook without much change. That’s certainly a mistake in a television episode.
Nevertheless, it has been canceled in the last 10 minutes, setting up some quests and more mysteries. If you were watching half a movie – which I think it is – we would just be at the point in the middle where everything seems hopeless.
Summarize it in one sentence
The regular cast are lost and confused as we learn a little more about the division’s ancient battle with Swarm and Azure.
Life aboard the Tardis
The winner (Jacob Anderson) got his moment to enter Tardis for the first time. Curious, he already knew what one is (which is why we did not get “it’s bigger from the inside!”). We now find that he was exiled for trying to be a galactic whistleblower and that his messages were sent to the beloved people on the bell. She is pregnant. We do not know if he knows.
The relationship between Yaz (Mandip Gill) and the doctor (Jodie Whittaker) was more strained than ever – with a few sharp words between them as the doctor continued on to what appears to be a woman’s mission to discover her past. We did not get much more backstory to Dan (John Bishop), although we’ll probably find out next week how he handles the loss.
They could have been in the trailer, but that hardly counted as a comeo from the cybermen. Weeping Angels were also used sparingly in this episode – but to a much greater effect.
I found the idea of a hidden angel crossing on Yaz over the mirror on her police patrol car a nice twist on her usual approach. Some younger viewers will surely be a little disturbed by the idea that angels can get you out of a video game, especially if you have to break out of your valuable console to save yourself.
Sam Spruell’s swarm has been positively beaten through the first two chapters – he’s simply one of the best ‘Big Bads’ we’ve had in recent years. Doctor Vienna, absolutely enjoys evil for being evil well. I could not say the same for Matthew Needham in the role of Old Swarm in the flashbacks, so it was a relief to get a sprue at the end. Rochendra Sandall did not have much to do with Azure, but made it as delicious as ever.
Mysteries and Questions
I really liked your theories below the line last week. Some have thought that Mouri may be a Weeping Angels origin story – quantum locked, connected with time? There had also been speculation passengers could be housing Dan’s girlfriend, Di (Nadia Albina), though older familiar faces (Sacha Dhawan? Timothy Dalton?) Were banded over. Now we know.
Steve Oram’s Joseph Williamson made another brief but perplexing appearance. There seems to be no logic to him being in the Temple of Atropos last week; in his only scene this week he had a shotgun in the 1820s. He speaks as if he were writing from an episode of Mark Gatiss – a constant jumble of words that the writer’s vocabulary from the 19th I’m not sure my kids understood a single sentence he uttered.
Lupari must live a very long time as a species if Karnavista clashes with the Doctor in the division. The fact that there was a multi-species team on the mission also begs the question: is the division really a Time Lord organization at all? Or something else that sometimes occupies Time Lords?
Barbara Flynn also made her first appearance as Awsok, the mysterious woman who gave the impression that she was running the universe – theories?
Jodie Whittaker put on her inverted coat costume in the scenes where she was put into the memories of the Fugitive Doctor.
CGI Daleks swimming through a forest rather avoids the historical problem of working the props on rough ground. We first saw a Dalek climbing some stairs without support for sure in 1988 Remembrance of the Daleks, although a gravitational disk of deadly peppercorns was used to fly in the 1973 years Planet of the Daleks – and you can argue that as early as 1965 we saw one from the sand of the desert planet Aridius The Chase.
In other news, fans of Vintage Doctor Who can enjoy a new version of the lost William Hartnell story Galaxy Four from tomorrow (November 15) on DVD and Blu-ray. The soundtrack has been turned into a cartoon and the release contains remastered versions of the Survivor in a few episodes. It’s great to see the Hartnell era get some love in these animated releases. Probably now that they’ve drawn Vicki, Steven and the first Doctor, animations of the other one – gulp! – 25 missing episodes of the original season three will be easier to make.
Next week, there will be chapter four: Village of the Angels. Co-written by Maxine Alderton, who wrote excellently last season The Haunting of Villa Diodati, I have very high hopes for this – and for the appearance of Annabel Scholey’s intrigued Claire.