“Doctor Who” has been around for almost sixty years, but its plot reveals are recycled plot points from last summer’s popular entertainment. This episode opens with a terrible CGI sequence as we find out what happens to Doctor Jodie Whittaker after she gets turned into a Weeping Angel statue.
Nothing, it’s just carbonite to transport her to meet She Who Remains (Barbara Flynn, who appeared in a quick ominous cameo earlier this season). There Whittaker finds out everything she knew about the Time Lords and the Universe was wrong (again). Flynn runs the anti-Federation, called the Division, which breaks the Prime Directive to change species’ evolutions for the Time Lords’ purposes. Oh, and Flynn has a secret identity important to Whittaker’s history.
Only not really.
I mean, sure, technically, but at most, it’s Whittaker’s “history” from last season. But the weightiness of it is more from this season, like three episodes ago. Writer Chris Chibnall doesn’t even try to get away with the recently introduced fluff; instead, he relies on Whittaker and Flynn to make the scenes effective and then—since Flynn’s playing a caricature—it ends up being all on Whittaker.
Who’s fine. It could be a lot worse. It will be a lot worse. Chibnall actually manages to hold on to the narrative cheapness until the end of the episode. Well, the most narrative cheapness. There’s a bunch throughout.
Starting with companions-lost-in-time Mandip Gill, Josh Bishop, and Kevin McNally, who are much better without Whittaker. They’re trapped in 1905, where “Doctor Who” continues its British jingoist timeline where no one was racist or sexist and instead thinks Gill’s wonderful. They’ve been trapped in the past for three years, and this episode has them figuring out how to get back to the future. It’s literally something they should’ve figured out on the second day. Their adventures are kind of Indiana Jones, but with a lot of colonialism thrown in. Like, do the British not see themselves?
There’s also some stuff with returning mawg Craige Els, who’s no more charming than before. Not even after finding out he’s thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years old or whatever. He’s got a couple tasks this episode, including dragging down Thaddeus Graham. Then Jacob Anderson’s off doing something too.
Craig Parkinson’s back—he was a racist future villain in another episode this season. Now he’s just in the British government in the late twentieth century, where they reward racist villains. Nice cameo from Robert Bathurst; I, unfortunately, cannot remember his “Downton” nickname. But having, you know, good actors cameo makes you wonder why they don’t hire more of them.
It’s a better episode than most this season, but solo writer Chibnall really should’ve brought back his co-writer from the last episode. There’s only so much Gill, Bishop, and McNally being charming can cover for and the episode finds that limit way too quickly.