How can an episode with such an exciting title as this one deliver such a clunker?
Doctor Who has always had a history of missing its own opportunities, it's one of the reasons why fans such as myself can get so passionate about analysing certain episodes.
In this remake of 1964's The Edge Of Destruction… well… they just don't seem to know what they're doing.
That said, while I think it's certainly below average, I would not relegate it all the way down to awful. It still has plenty going for it.
The opening TARDIS scene is just lovely, with the Doctor and
So far the TARDIS' geography is great, until later when there are revealed to be several copies of this room in the vicinity, and the direction makes no attempt to map out how they relate to each other, despite asking us to empathise with Am-Clara's attempts to.
(Clara. Clara-Clara-Clara. Clara. Clara. Okay, I've got the new name now. This one's called Clara instead.)
Clara also gets to explore the TARDIS a bit. I think a lot of the series' appeal lies in the wonder of that safe box from which we can visit anywhere at anywhen, so it surprises me that more episodes don't make more of this. We see the library, the Eye of Harmony (or a fragment of it, whatever), and the new swimming-pool, which looks absolutely spectacular. (the old one was abandoned in The Doctor's Wife) Frankly I'd be happy with forty minutes of this travelogue and no story at all, especially since so much of the plot we do have functions as poorly as the TARDIS does this week.
Yes, I'm afraid that the following list of problems is going to look as ugly as the episode itself:
- Despite the TARDIS' sentience, which here is realised better than in any story in the past, the Doctor doesn't just ask the TARDIS whereabouts on the ship Clara is. Instead he recruits three complete strangers to help him scour the corridors for her, as slowly as possible, and even more nonsensically en masse. He even says he's set the ship on self-destruct to motivate them. This is awful, just awful, and on no level a situation that we the viewers can buy into without constant frustration at the Doctor's total inability to simply look for someone in his own house. He's pathetic. Even the self-destruct turns out to have been a lie, following which its impossible for either the rag and bone men, or us, to believe anything else that he says.
- Despite having last been seen in the console room, Clara awakens under some internal wreckage down a corridor. How did they get separated? When we last saw them they were both together in the console room.
- Clara should surely have already explored the TARDIS long before now. Despite what she claims, she's certainly already spoken to it. (last week in Hide)
- In the library, Clara discovers a book detailing the history of the Time War, which she opens on exactly the right page to discover who the Doctor really is. She later claims to have read his name. Yet just how can it be possible for her to know that the person named in the book is him? She doesn't already know his name, nor can there even be a picture of his current face for her to recognise. This might be explained in a later episode, but I'm not holding my breath. I shall skip the impossibility of a history book about the Time War even existing - I mean who can possibly have published such a tome.
- Tricky the android discovers that he is not an android, something which even us viewers who have only just met him could see coming a mile off. Sheesh, just how can he possibly never have known this? They even carry scanners to tell them what everything is. Idiots.
- Clara gets scared of the Doctor, realising what a weird guy he is when he admits that he thinks he's met a girl exactly like her twice before. As in Cold War, it's all looking like she's going to completely lose it, go home, and wrongly peg him as a stalker forevermore, but nah. Inexplicably she then says how much she likes being hugged by him. It's another real missed opportunity for a show that thrives upon doing things that are new, and especially since Clara is a completely expendable character - she's been killed off twice before already.
- We see Clara's impending doom, but it doesn't happen. Again, how dramatic could it have been for the Doctor to lose her again. Her previous deaths in the series make this a real possibility.
- As the TARDIS consciously mixes up its own physical interior, a similar thing happens to localised time. (it's leaking space as well as time) Now, normally I would insist upon this making a modicum of sense, but given the confusion in geography too, I think it works. What doesn't sit well with me is the ambience of dialogue from episodes going back some 50 years, and there being no exploitation of anything else from over that period, eg. walls. Future glimpses of River and / or the Valeyard and /or already filmed scenes from next series would have been good too.
- The inside of the TARDIS turns out to be every bit as miserable and cold as in the aforementioned The Doctor's Wife, and on no level a place where anyone would like to live. It's one area in which any TARDIS scene from the original series trumps any one in the revived version every time - the old TARDIS was cosy. I'm genuinely disappointed that this episode didn't mine the opportunity to take advantage of that.
And that title at the start was going so well, darn it.
For all that, Clara continues to come out as friendlier than Amy, and the Doctor as less trustworthy, both of which would be good trends to continue. I also liked the Doctor's needing to tweak a plan that he'd already carried out, and the usual undoing of everything so far by the pressing of a handy button is done much better here than usual.
Doctor: "I've thrown this through the rift before. I need to make sure this time. I'm going to take it in there myself... there might be a certain amount of yelling."
Clara: "It's gonna hurt?"
Doctor: "Things that end your life often do that."
At the very end, there's also a curious shot of a piece of paper falling in front of the Doctor:
Or are they going to lose interest and just forget about it?