Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

It's hard to remember the last time I really felt like I was watching Doctor Who.

Early on in this episode, the Doctor and companion land in an alien environment, surrounded by aliens, and stars, and take the time to really be there. There's dialogue, there are crowds, and singing, yes singing. If getting to sit down among an audience of creatures you've never seen before and witness an opera in another tongue for a few minutes doesn't make you feel like you've been travelling in the TARDIS, then I don't know what does.

It's almost a disappointment when a story begins to slowly emerge. I mean we've all known since we first saw the kid getting chased that she was going to turn out to be some kind of primitive sacrifice to a so-called 'god' (this is Doctor Who after all), but I for one would have been quite happy if they'd just stayed at the opera for 40 minutes, with everything going to plan.

When this tale does eventually get going, it too takes its time, which again is refreshingly great for making me feel like I'm there. Taking another motorbike (moped whatever) across space after the kidnapped child instead of taking the TARDIS though… well that was never going to work for any viewer.

The visuals here are as beautiful as the music, and that our heroes remain surrounded by stars for so much of what transpires ensures that we don't often feel like they've stumbled back onto a BBC set.

In the final act though, it becomes clear that this plot just isn't sure where it's going. Just what is that alien supposed to be, and who saves them from it? It's not the passive Doctor, who surely cannot be heard by it, and indeed is left with all his memories apparently untaken at the end. It's not the child, who again only sings a song. And it's not the companion's leaf either which, it literally goes without saying, cannot hold memories of events which have never transpired.

For all that, this story still does better than most these days, and what substance it does lack it certainly makes up for with style.

Not interesting, but certainly enthralling.

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