Once again, a Doctor Who episode takes one road, and winds up in a different place. This week’s episode is an invasion story, but it’s not a monster but a whole universe that’s trying to intrude.
“It Takes You Away” is an interesting story about loss, and how an alien force takes advantage of it.
It starts when the Doctor and her friends arrive in Norway, and find a scared blind girl named Hanne (Ellie Wallwork) hiding in a closet in an empty house. She claims her dad Erik (Christian Rubeck) has been missing for four days, and a monster may be responsible. She also mentions her mother died and her dad’s having a tough time, That’s why they’re living in the middle of nowhere.
They find a portal in a mirror at the house, and it takes them to a strange world, and a demonic alien named Ribbons (Kevin Eldon).
At first glance, it seems he’s the main villain. He claims he can lead them to Erik for a price, like maybe the Sonic Screwdriver. However, he’s scared of the oversized moths that eat meat, including Ribbons.
They soon discover they are in an anti-zone, a buffer between two universes. So, why does it exist? Before they figure that out, the moths come at them. The Doctor, Yaz and Graham escape, but Ribbons is moth food.
By going though another portal, they seem to be a mirror world (even Graham and Yaz are shown in an “opposite” mirror image).
Ryan, meanwhile, is left behind with Hanne, who is very suspicious of whether he is lying to her about what’s really happening. He’s suspicious, too. He discovers Erik has been trying to keep Hanne at home with recordings of animals from speakers. Due to his experience with his own dad, he wonders if Erik may have left.
Hanne is still worried about her dad. Despite her blindness, she gets away from Ryan, and soon she’s in the anti-zone looking for her dad.
What the Doctor discovers in the mirror world is a big shock, She finds Erik, who knows this is an alternate world with his wife Trine (Lisa Stokke) alive again. Erik says he comes here because his wife is alive here. Thing is, he also keeps Hanne at home with fake monster noises. Yaz and Graham are not happy.
However, Graham finds his wife Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) is alive in this world, and even she’s not sure she’s real. He wants to really believe that she is, though. Thus, he’s just like Erik.
The Doctor eventually figures out the mirror world is a Solitract universe. It’s a conscious energy that creates a new reality, but if that universe collides with ours, both collapse. The anti-zone keeps them apart. She says she learned that from her grandmother (or rather her fifth one, although there’s a hint she had regenerated six times).
The Solitract universe attracts people in our world by giving what they have lost. In Erik and Graham’s cases, it’s their wives.
However, some are not fooled. When Hanne enters the mirror world, she knows Trine is fake. Graham, though, just can’t believe Grace is fake. When she says Ryan will be fine in the anti-zone, though, that forces him to face facts.
The Solitract shoves everyone except the Doctor out of the mirror world, after she volunteers to stay in the fake world. She thinks it’s the end…until she suddenly finds herself in a white room.
She faces the Solitract, which is a frog sitting on a white chair who talks like Grace.
That’s a pretty mind-blowing image.
It looks like the frog and the Doctor will exist in the Solitract, but even that doesn’t work. She convinces the frog to let her go and save its reality, although they’ll always be friends. It agrees.
Everyone is soon out of the anti-zone, although the Doctor is a little sad she made friends with a universe but had to leave.
The experience did have other benefits. Ryan finally calls Graham “granddad” and Erik and Henne plan to move back to Oslo.
This season so far has been quite different from previous seasons for the Doctor. Jodie Whittaker has made the role her own, it’s been a clever mix of history lessons and battling alien threats. Still, who would have thought that saving two universes involved something as difficult and necessary as accepting loss? The Solitract frog had to accept losing a close friend the Doctor could have been. Erik had to move on from the death of his wife, and Graham had to say goodbye to Grace one last time. It’s a far cry from epic battles with alien worlds, although that’s likely to happen in the Doctor’s future.
There should also be praise for Ellie, who played Hanne. It’s not too often a blind actor is on the show, and she does a fine job as a girl who wants her dad back, even if there could be a monster in the way. There’s an article about her in the Radio Times, and mentioned she had appeared in Call the Midwife.
Next week, the season ends at a battlefield with a lot of mysteries, and possibly the return of an old enemy.