Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Doctor Who, Season Ten, Episode Five: Oxygen

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The Doctor has sworn an oath to remain on earth and guard the vault and it's clearly starting to get to him. He's used to having the entirety of space and time at his disposal.  This isn't the first time that the Doctor has been stuck on earth but clearly, vow or not, threat or not, this is not where he wants to be.  To that end, he's tasked Nardole with helping him to keep his vow.  The Doctor gives a lecture to his class about how one dies in space - "the final frontier". Also, love the Start Trek reference here. None of it is pleasant but it shows his preoccupation with space because he's supposed to be lecturing about crops.

The Doctor's lecture is enough for Nardole to try and disable the tardis and of course this doesn't work.  Considering that we were first introduced to Nardole when he was working with River, it's enough to make me wonder why he would believe a word the Doctor says?  If River could tell Amy and Rory that the Doctor always lies, why didn't she tell Nardole?

Okay, so it's off on an adventure to a space station when the Doctor picks up a distress call.  It's initially a let down for Bill, who thought that being in space would be different.  It's not long before they learn that there's actually no oxygen on the ship and that oxygen is something that the workers actually have to pay for. To me, this is some great commentary about how irrational capitalism is because it devalues people and makes them disposable for the sake of money. 

The suits which provide oxygen for the workers are systematically killing them. This time, it's not the Vashta Nerada killing people but an evil corporation bent on increasing their bottom line. I will however say that corpses walking around in space suits continues to be suitably creepy as fuck. Nardole, Bill and the Doctor are forced to make a run for it and meet up with the surviving crew members.

This is Bill's first interaction with someone who is blue and her surprise is read as racism.  This is played for comedy but it's not even remotely cute. I get that we're supposed to suspend reality when watching a show like Doctor Who but that should not extend to the point where racism can be played with for shits and giggles.  This is particularly tone deaf, especially given that lack of real discussion of race and racism on Doctor Who. This interaction was not saved by Bill pointing out that it's usually her that's subjected to racism or the blue person's incredulity at this comment.  Disbelieving people of colour when we talk about racism is standard practice and it seems that even in this imaginary world, it's the status quo. 

Bill's suit has been short circuiting despite the best efforts of the Doctor and the surviving workers.  Bill is exposed to the vacuum of space and as we are told at the beginning of this episode, this gives her 15 seconds of consciousness if she doesn't hold her breathe. In order to save her life, the Doctor gives Bill his helmet. The Doctor does manage to save Bill but it comes with a consequence - The Doctor ends up blind.  Bill is concerned by this but the Doctor says that his eyes can be fixed as soon as they get back on the Tardis. 

Unfortunately, the aliens are closing in again and everyone is forced to flea. Of course this is when Bill's suit decides that it's time to malfunction.  The Doctor is left with no choice but to leave Bill behind. It's clear that this is a decision that hurts him deeply, especially because he knows that Bill is going to be in pain. It's not long before the zombie workers catch up to Bill and turn her into another member of their killer workforce.

Backed into a corner, the Doctor comes to the realisation that their death is inevitable and the only way to stop the killer workforce is to make it more expensive for the company to keep them alive than to kill them. The Doctor ties his, Nardole's and the surviving workers to the system and makes it so that if they die, the entire station will explode.  This is enough to stop the killer workforce in their tracks. Bill is returned to her normal state because her suit didn't actually have enough power to kill her.

Back on the Tardis, The Doctor agrees to drop off the surviving workers at head office so that they can make a complaint.  Nardole, works on the Doctor's eyes and his pupils return to normal.  Back on earth, the Doctor explains that in six months time there's a massive workers revolt and that this changes the path of humanity.  It's an adventure for another day and so Bill takes off.

Alone with the Doctor, Nardole is concerned with the fact that the Doctor just took off in the Tardis. Nardole is concerned that whoever they are keeping in the vault could sense a weakness in the Doctor and take advantage of it. Nardole is worried that something serious could impair the Doctor leading to something terrible.  The more Nardole pesters the Doctor, the more irritated he becomes. Finally, the Doctor is forced to admit that he's still blind.

In the trailer for next week, we get to see Missy. I have to say that I was not happy with this spoiler whatsoever. Secrets on Doctor Who don't tend to remain secrets for long and the public has long been aware that not only would we be seeing Missy but the Master this season.  Moffat also told us that we wouldn't have to wait long for the big reveal but it feels like the clip for next week is a huge spoiler.

This week, the Doctor's sonic screwdriver was destroyed. Of course this is not the first time that this has happened; however, I hope that it will not turn into an excuse to return to the sonic sunglasses, given that the Doctor is currently blind. Let me say that again, NO SONIC SUNGLASSES.

It will be interesting to see how the loss of the Doctor's vision plays out.  So far, only Nardole is in on what is going on.  A lack of vision will mean that he won't be able to pick up on visual clues.  I cannot help but wonder what aids he will turn to in order to be able to move around? I find that I quite like the idea of a disabled Doctor.  It will add a new dimension to his character.  As we all know, our beloved Peter Capaldi is going to regenerate this year and so I wonder if the writers are going to have the Doctor remain blind until he regenerates?