Monday, May 15, 2017

My Review of Doctor Who's 10x05: "Oxygen"

Written by Jamie Mathieson
Directed by Charles Palmer

The Doctor (to Nardole): "I still blind."

Okay, gonna be slightly controversial here but compared to some of the more hyped reception this episode received online, I found myself not really feeling it and to be honest, even I'm perplexed by this.

On paper, you've got a tense, claustrophobic base under siege thriller with some genuinely scary moments, a life or death peril for Bill, something happening to the Doctor that isn't magically fixed and plenty of scenes for Nardole that do wonders for his characters and yet, none of this stuff compelled me as much as it should've done if I'm being candid.

The episode started with a lecture about dying in space and then soon enough, our TARDIS trio were aboard a space station where most of the crew had been transformed into space zombies and the remaining ones - Tasker, Abby and Ivan were on borrowed time along with a blue skinned alien named Dahh Ren on the Chasm Forge.

This series and to be honest, every series since 2005 has had episodes with a political and a social tinge and most of the time they work perfectly. So far this series, this has been our third episode with something of a social commentary (both Smile and Thin Ice having their moments) and while the sentiments on capitalism are noteworthy, the delivery in which the episode goes about with them just fell very flat for me.

The idea of abusing a human work force by using the suits to cut off the oxygen at any given point (mainly when the works would outlive their usefulness) had potential and the tension certainly got ramped up when Bill herself fell victim to the dangerous suit, even though her dire predicament was also handy in actually solving the main problem itself.

The resolution to this particular plot point was probably the most unsatisfying we've had and the crew themselves were fairly underdeveloped to care about. It's a shame because Mathieson is an excellent writer and he's done with past characters like Perkins, Maisie, Gus, Rigsy and Ashildr but none of his guest cast here really stand out to be honest.

On the plus side though, Nardole came a little more into his own here. I spent a lot of last year not thrilled by the idea of him being a large presence this series but now I'm starting to warm more to the character and while his attempts of keeping the Doctor to commit to his promise to guard the Vault haven't been too successful, he's certainly engaged more now than he did at Christmas, which is good.

As for the Doctor, when we weren't getting lectures on the evils of capitalism and that fun lecture at the start in St Luke's University, we also had him going blind. Granted there was a moment where the episode looked like he had been cured but by the end of Nardole's castigating of him abandoning his Vault duties, we learned the Doctor was still actually blind. I know it's gonna sound terrible, pun wise, but damn, I did not see that one coming.

- Nardole has an interface ex-girlfriend named Velma. He does seem to go back and forth between being hostile and liking Bill as well I noticed.
- Charles Palmer who directed this episode previously helmed Smith & Jones, The Shakespeare Code and Human Nature/The Family Of Blood.
- Nice use of a Star Trek quote to open the Doctor's lecture with as well.
- The racism commentary between Bill and Dahh Ren didn't work as well as it could've done to be honest.
- I genuinely thought the episode would end with the Vault being opened but it looks like that will be in the next episode though.
- Chronology: Present Day Bristol and also whenever the Chasm Forge was meant to be based in.

I don't really want to go against the grain as such but Oxygen despite some great little moments here and there, was somewhat the weakest episode for me this series. I do however like that the Doctor's blindness wasn't magically cured and the consequences of that in the next few episodes should be interesting to see unfold.

Rating: 7 out of 10

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