This one was a lot like “Time Heist” for me. Based on what I knew of it going in, I thought, “this is going to be fun!” but by the end I was so indifferent I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it. This is definitely going to be the season that’s broken me on that front.
Having said that, I did enjoy it, and for about fifteen minutes or so I was thinking this would be my favorite of the season. It had so many elements I liked, in theory: a mad confluence of genres and elements; SF in an opulent, visually stimulating setting; a truly creepy threat; at least the flavor of a murder mystery spread over a supernatural enigma with a putatively scientific solution; a lovely chanteuse providing the very best use of pop music in Doctor Who thus far. And actually, when I list them out, I do feel pretty happy about it. I think the biggest turnoffs for me were:
1. The vanishing of the train’s opulence and its extra passengers. Leaving aside the question of whether it’s entirely convincing that a lot of the frills are fake, it’s unnecessary for them to be. You could keep all the beauty of this very silly and wonderful train and just have a lab car, couldn’t you? I mean, it’s very “Stones of Blood” and “God Complex,” and on that basis I ought to approve, but come on. The train doesn’t HAVE to blow up at the end. Let us have this.
2. The heavy-handed, glib “soldier” bit yet again. Second episode this season whose final confrontation involves the Doctor giving either a robot or a cyborg marching orders — even if they’re largely redundant after he surrenders to the creature. And what about that? Wouldn’t it be an awfully intuitive thing to say to an advancing ghoul? Did none of those people who survived tell anyone else what they actually said? Are we assuming that the war was with the Time Lords, which is why the Doctor surrendering on their behalf would actually end the mummy’s war rather than just saving his life?
I’m perfectly aware that at this point my standards for Doctor Who episodes are hopelessly screwed up. But the only solution to this that I can see is to stop treating it like some special thing that’s a disaster if it’s not a perfect jewel, and I’m not sure I can do that if I continue to write about it as I have done. I’m also aware that I’m probably the only person who cares whether or how I write about this show.
Generally speaking, I think I need a break. I’m working my way through The Wire, and it’s such a relief to watch a show where it seems like someone has done their homework and which I don’t need to write about but can just enjoy for what it is.