It is not often that I watch an episode of one of my most beloved television shows only to feel the need to turn it off after ten minutes. For me, the latest season of Doctor Who has declined into the realms of predictability and frustration, and when I eventually sat through the entirety of ‘It Takes You Away’, I was left angry and afraid for my own loyalty to a show I have been religiously watching for over a decade.
The episode begins in Norway, where our heroes spot a cabin which, inexplicably, has no smoke coming from its chimney in the middle of winter. Sure, as Ryan quite cleverly remarked, “They could just be out,” but with a forty minute runtime to fill—there sure as hell had to be a mystery somewhere! We then meet Hanna, a blind girl whose father is missing, hear some monstrous noises from the woods, and are shown a mirror with no reflections. This mirror is a portal (because, we didn’t see that coming!) into another realm of existence and… things get surreal from there.
This episode has been heralded as ‘trying new ideas’ but, to me, the incompetence in the writing of dialogue and character and the inaccessibility of these surreal and sometimes embarrassingly convoluted plot threads made the episode almost unbearable. Ryan, once an interesting and engaging character, was relegated to crushing the dreams of a blind girl because his dad left him—hers must be a terrible parent too! What’s worse is that in the end, he was right—sort of—validating his idiotic behaviour. When he’s not being broody about his daddy issues, he fills his usual role of speak-and-spell, pointing at objects and telling the audience what they are. Yaz has a few lines, and none of them are any good. Graham is a gem, a shining beacon trying to put some hope into my breaking heart. Unfortunately, the script tries its best to run his character’s arc into the ground, and it’s only with Bradley Walsh’s performance that otherwise terrible lines are given a sense of relatability and gravitas.
At the end of the episode The Doctor gives a speech, albeit a beautiful one, to a sentient universe taking the form of a frog. Whittaker gives a wonderful performance here: her particular monologue felt as if it would have been an apt audition tape, highlighting everything engaging and interesting her doctor could be. However, the absolute abysmal writing up to that particular point, and the fact she was saying all of this to a FROG of all things, made something that could have been spectacular, well… sad. I have spent the last nine weeks wishing for Jodie’s Doctor to be given something, anything, that would highlight her merits as an actress. I wanted her to be given a scene that would allow everything to click in my mind, for me to be able to finally say, “Yep, this is The Doctor.” Unfortunately, this moment had to be surrounded by so much tripe it ended up making me feel more sour than inspired.
Next week, Mark Addy is in it. At this point, that’s the only thing that makes me excited to tune in. What started off as quality television has descended into a sea of ‘meh’ episodes, and for the penultimate outing of the show’s eleventh series to be so utterly ridiculous, I am finding myself becoming jaded. If the rumours are true, Chibnall will be leaving the series after the next series… and I’m hoping to God Jodie doesn’t leave with him. Unfortunately, like all things, this show must come to an end some day. I am just afraid that, after giving me so much joy, this show won’t end with a bang, but with a whimper.