Doctor Who 10.5 – “Oxygen”
However, it also put the Doctor in a position he has never been before, but he’s determined not to let it defeat him
It begins with a phrase that belongs in another show…
“Space, the final frontier…”
which is followed by “Final, because it wants to kill us.”
It’s part of another lecture that started out as crop rotation and veered into talking about space and how fascinating and dangerous it can be. He clearly misses galavanting in the galaxies, but he has to keep guarding a vault that’s keeping who-knows-what. Nardole (Matt Lucas) is worried about him taking flight, too.
Meanwhile, at a mining station in space, two people are doing spacewalks when they are joined by someone who doesn’t have a helmet…or a pulse. It’s not exactly zombies in space, though.
A distress call is given, and the Doctor, Bill (Pearl Mackie) and Nardole arrive. They find a dead astronaut standing, mainly because of his suit. They soon find out the space station has no oxygen, but the crew breathe oxygen for personal use. Also, they have to pay for it by the breath. That’s why length is measured by breaths, not meters.
They also suspect the spacesuits got a rogue command to kill the people who wore them. To figure out how, they have to wear suits that apparently didn’t get that command.
They soon contact the four living crew members, but don’t notice the dead crew member moving. Once they meet, it’s an interesting situation, especially when Bill meets her first blue alien, Dahh-Ren (Peter Caufield), followed by his response. Bill’s suit is also glitching.
The suit zombies (aka dead crew) do kill one member, Tasker (Justin Salinger), and head for the Doctor. He, Nardole and the surviving crew get their helmets on as they head outside into space, but Bill’s glitching suit prevents her from doing that.
This leads to the most important scene of the season: Bill has to breathe in outer space, with the Doctor carrying her. There’s brief scenes of the crew battling the suit zombies, and Bill faints. It looks like she is dead.
Then Bill wakes up. She discovers the Doctor gave her his helmet, and he had to fight without oxygen. He’s fine….except he’s also blind.
This is a first for the show. Occasionally the Doctor gets a serious scratch or two…but losing his sight is a big deal. He did it to save Bill, and he’s never gone that far for any Companion. However, he insists he’ll get his sight back somehow.
A rescue ship seems to be coming, but one of the Suit Zombies hits Dahh-Ren’s suit, and it kills him. Bill’s suit glitches again, and she can’t move. The Doctor is forced to leave her behind. She also seems to die thanks to the suit zombies, as her last words are “Mum, answer me”.
It looks like the Doctor has gone insane in his blindness, but he has a plan. He’s linked the life signs to the core reactor, which means everyone will have the experience of “dying well”.
Or actually he’s giving an economics lesson to the people who own the mining station. The Doctor figured out the suits (aka executives) reprogrammed the space suits so they they kill who’s wearing them. Apparently the crew members used up too much oxygen, and the bosses want people who breathe less.
By threatening to blow up the mining station, the Doctor’s hoping the suits will turn against their masters. As he puts it: “Our deaths will be brave and brilliant and unafraid, but above all, suits, our deaths will be expensive.”
That does it. The suit zombies stop attacking and give up their oxygen to Ivan (Kieren Bew) and Abby (Mimi Ndiweni), the only survivors. As for Bill, she wasn’t dead because her suit’s battery wasn’t strong enough to kill her. The Doctor didn’t mention this because he was sure the suits would be listening.
So, everyone gets back. The Doctor said what happened in the space station would do serious harm to intergalactic capitalism, but then something else happens….but that’s another story.
Nardole is glad to be back, but reminds the Doctor if he’s not guarding the vault when it suddenly opens, that means big trouble from whatever is inside. He insists the Doctor look at him and discuss this.
The Doctor can’t. He’s still blind.
A blind Time Lord? How can he save the universe?
Well, since he taught some executives about economics while being blind, he might be able to handle himself….but for how long?
This week’s episode had a lot more Nardole, and it worked pretty well. He had some comments about the voice from the space suits and how it reminded him of an old girlfriend. On the other hand, it’s heartbreaking when he tells Bill what the Doctor did for her.
Speaking of Bill, it’ll be interesting how long it’ll take for her to figure out why the Doctor is just now wearing sunglasses. Otherwise, Mackie did a fine job sowing some new sides of Bill, especially fear and shock when she learned she had to breathe in a vacuum.
As usual, the Doctor comes up with the best lines, especially when he explains what he’s learned about the universe: “Everyone says it’s not their fault. Well, yes it is, all of it. It’s all your fault, so what are you going to do about it?” That’s valuable advice these days.
Next week, the Doctor deals with blindness, a deadly book….and someone’s return.