Series Twelve, Episode Seven
In which we go to the past, the future, in people’s heads and get signs of where things are heading further down the line.
The Doctor drops her friends off home, saying they’ll meet tomorrow lunchtime. She considers just skipping straight to tomorrow lunchtime with the TARDIS, but she gets a signal about something strange going on in Aleppo in 1380.
When she gets to the specific location, it is in “one of the oldest hospitals in the world”. But it is empty, there is only one person there, a woman named Tahira (Aruhan Galieva), who says some creatures have come and taken everyone else – and one of those creatures is still there, on the ceiling above them!
Back in the present day, the Doctor’s friends are all in different flats. Graham is in his own, playing cards with some friends. Yasmin is with her sister in the family home, and Ryan has gone to the flat of his friend Tibo (Buom Tihngang).
Graham, while in the middle of the card game, begins to have visions of a woman in outer space saying she is trapped.
Ryan has gone over to Tibo’s with a bag of chips to play on a FIFA video game. But he notices that Tibo is different, his flat is usually neat and tidy and it isn’t now. Tibo tells Ryan “You ain’t been around”. He says that he has been having a lot of problems lately. But he goes on to say he’s been having recurring nightmares in the last few days, and the really weird thing is he’s started to see the man who is in his nightmares around in real life too. He asks Ryan if he’ll stay over tonight, and Ryan says he will.
Yasmin is having dinner with her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar) and they are talking about something which happened many years ago. Yasmin says she still has dreams about it sometimes. She falls asleep on the sofa, and dreams of being on a remote country road. There is a police woman there. Yasmin wakes up, and sees a mysterious man in black robes, who disappears.
The same man is seen in Tibo’s room. The man’s fingers come loose, and one sticks in Tibo’s ear. Yes, really. Then the man, and Tibo, disappear in black smoke.
Graham, Ryan and Yaz all call the Doctor at the same time. Even the Doctor can’t be in that many different places at once, but she can try solving many different problems at once. She takes Tahira with her into the TARDIS and collects her friends. The Doctor tests some hairs from the creature she saw in Aleppo. The test results are that the creature doesn’t exist, and it never will exist!
The Doctor uses the TARDIS telepathic circuits to read the vision Graham got, and the TARDIS will take them to where the vision is coming from. It goes to deep space in the far future. They are at a space station, which is witnessing two planets about to collide, though something in between the planets appears to be stopping the collision happening. It’s a giant orb, and the woman in Graham’s vision is trapped in it.
Tahira, Graham, Ryan and Yaz go to look around, and the man in black robes is there, his fingers come loose again, and stick in the ears of the four.
Yaz is back in her dream. Sonya is there, telling her that nobody is coming.
Ryan dreams of a post-apocalyptic Earth which is burning. He sees Tibo who is an old man now, and the Dregs from ‘Orphan 55’!
Graham dreams he is back in hospital. Grace (Sharon D. Clarke) is there, and she coldly tells him his cancer has returned, it’s a very aggressive form and he will be dead in a couple of hours. At first, it seems like Grace doesn’t know him well (she addresses him as “Mr. O’Brien” rather than as “Graham”), but then she asks him “Why didn’t you save me?”.
Back at the space station, the man comes to the Doctor, saying he’s watched her “stumbling around the universe”. He introduces himself as Zellin (Ian Gelder). The
Doctor has heard of him, but didn’t believe he existed. He is a mythical god. He has been extracting nightmares from humans and projecting them into the mind of the woman in the orb. The Doctor is digusted with this torture, and manages to free the woman.
However… that’s exactly what Zellin wanted her to do! In fact, he lured her there to do just that! He tells her “You saw the right answer, but you weren’t asking the right questions.”
The woman is in fact Rakaya (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a goddess and part of a duo with Zellin. They turned two neighbouring planets against each other, just for their own amusement. After many centuries of war, the two planets got wise to it, managed to trap Rakaya and set the two planets on a collision course. It seems that Rakaya feeds off nightmares, and Zellin extracts them for her. They trap the Doctor, and go off to Earth to get some more nightmares.
The Doctor dreams of the Timeless Child, but she soon wakes up and manages to free herself, then her friends, Tahira and Tibo.
The gods get a signal from the creatures in Aleppo in 1380, so decide to go there. The Doctor is there, and says because the creature is a product of Tahira’s imagination it can’t harm her, then she traps the two gods in a special box. So God(s) Into Machine as opposed to God Out Of Machine, I guess.
There is a flashback to three years earlier. It is the same location Yaz has been dreaming about. Yaz ran away from home and ended up here three years ago. The police woman is there too. She is named Anita Patel (Nasreen Hussain) and she tells Yaz that Sonya called the police as she was worried about Yaz. Apparently Yaz has been getting bullied at school. There is an implication that Yaz has been contemplating suicide. Anita tells Yaz that, these bad things that are going on for Yaz, what if they are just a moment, something that will pass and she’ll get through? Anita says why don’t they do a bet – if she’s wrong, if things don’t get better for Yaz, she can look her up in three years time and Anita will pay her. If
not, Yaz owes her 50p.
Yaz finds Anita’s house, and thinks Anita won’t remember her. She does, and Yaz gives her the 50p.
Tibo, with Ryan’s encouragement, goes to counselling to deal with some of the issues he has been having. In the TARDIS, Ryan later talks to Yaz. He wonders how long can they travel with the Doctor. It’s starting to affect their lives. They might technically be able to leave at any moment and pick off from exactly the moment they left, but they are still aging. They are still missing out on the lives of their families and friends, and becoming further away from them. But, to be fair, as Yaz notes, the Doctor did tell them from the start that this would happen.
Graham talks to the Doctor about his worries that his cancer will return. The Doctor says she’s still “socially awkward”, and she wishes she had something helpful to say, but unfortunately she doesn’t.
That moment was extremely unpopular with many viewers, the BBC even had complaints about how the Doctor handled Graham opening up to her about his cancer. While it
did come across as insensitive, I think it was a case that the Doctor wanted to say something reassuring and smart that would make Graham feel better, but she geniunely can’t think of anything. To be honest, I didn’t think it was totally out of character. The Doctor doesn’t have mortality in the way humans do. Yes, she can “die”, but she’ll regenerate into another form, even if it’s one that looks, acts and feels slightly different. That’s a luxury humans don’t have , so she can’t fully appreciate the gravity of it.
Cancer is an extremely emotive issue, and as viewers of this show we like the Doctor, so the Doctor handling something badly, even if she’s aware of it, well, I can see why people found it unpleasant.
This episode had way too much going on. There’s events in 1380 Aleppo, and the gods in deep space in far future, and nightmares revealing deep fears of the characters, and some backstory of the companions, and a couple of nods to ongoing series arcs, and a mental health message. All crammed into one episode, which means a lot of it is confusing to keep track of, there isn’t enough time to deal with all of it, and it ends up feeling a bit splintered.
The Aleppo story was the one that was most publicised before the episode aired, but it’s probably the most unnecessary. They could have cut that out and not lost very much. I suppose it goes with the mental health stuff with it being one of the earliest mental hospitals, and regarded as one of the most enlightened ones in history, but there didn’t seem to be much point to it. I personally found the gods to be annoying with how pompous they were, and they are defeated so easily. It did look like they wanted to sweep that storyline aside quickly.
We did learn a bit more about Yaz, who, to be honest, has been very underused. ‘Demons Of The Punjab’ was about her grandmother’s past, but we haven’t found much out about her. This was probably the best part of the episode, the scenes with Yaz and Anita were very moving. This encounter with Anita very likely inspired Yaz to go for a career in the police as well. It delivers a good message too, as suicidal thoughts, while they can be incredibly overwhelming to the person feeling them, they do tend to pass.
Tibo had a more general “if things are getting on top of you, get help, and it’s not as scary as it might seem” message, which I suppose was all it could have been given that this is a character we’ve only been introduced to in this episode, and in an episode with so many things going on in it at that. But it’s still a good message.
In terms of the future of the series, well there’s a reference to “the timeless child” that doesn’t tell us anything, but one thing that does appear clearly signposted is that the current set of companions are likely going to leave soon. Ryan in particular talks about how travelling with the Doctor is affecting his life in a negative way, and there is a sense the Doctor and her companions are slowly but surely drifting apart.