You’ve explained me to him. You haven’t explained him to me.
One of the things I always love about Doctor Who is the juxtaposition of the mundane and the ordinary. I know, so original! I imagine that just about every person commenting on Doctor Who ever has brought that up. In fact, I am fairly certain that I learnt the word “juxtaposition” from a Doctor Who documentary.
But, of course, the reason why people always mention this is because it’s true. It’s one of the things Doctor Who does best! And it’s never more apparent than in episodes set in schools. Personally, I always find it stranger to see the characters in a school rather than just in contemporary Earth, but I suppose that’s because I spend quite a lot of time in school still. Perhaps one day the Doctor in an office block will be the most disconcerting thing ever.
I digress, however. Review time. So, as per the usual, starting with the good. And there’s a lot of it!
It’s a wonderful concept, an absolutely fantastic idea. There’s been similar episodes before, on the fringes of the topic, like School Reunion or The Lodger, but there’s still a remarkable amount of mileage in the idea. Coupled with the fact that the school is also Clara’s workplace adds another dimension to it again. The focus on Clara here was nice, especially because it did, once again, develop her character some more. They’ve really stepped things up with regards to Clara this time around, and it’s nice to see the possibilities for the character.
As is probably to be expected with Gareth Roberts writing, it’s a really funny episode. Just, throughout, there’s lots of brilliant jokes. The Jane Austen exchange and the Doctor whistling We Don’t Need No Education were both quite memorable, but the obvious best was the one surrounding the similarities between Adrian the teacher and the Eleventh Doctor. It was almost quite sad really, but also very, very funny.
Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi did really well again here. That must be so boring to read over and over in a review, mustn’t it? It’s never boring to watch, certainly. (I know it’s a strange thing to pick out, actually, but I really liked his intonation at the start, when talking about sinister puddles. It just… I’m not quite sure I could put my finger on it really, but it felt very distinctively Twelfth Doctor-y, as opposed to a line any Doctor could say.)
The strange thing to note, however, is that one of the best exchanges of the episode also highlights the biggest problem.
The exchange I refer to is the one which takes place in the TARDIS between the Doctor and Danny, with regards to the aristocracy and soldiers vs officers. It’s really well written, and it’s remarkably well acted, particularly by Samuel Anderson. It’s also a relatively different take on the Doctor vs Boyfriend conflict we’ve had over the years, because here the cause of the conflict isn’t (wholly, anyway) to do with Clara, but the Doctor’s own prejudice against soldiers.
Except… I mean, lets just come right out and say it. This is a plot device. It’s totally and completely contrived, and simply a reason to engender conflict. Arguably an unnecessary conflict really – if you want to do something new, which this is meant to be, why not have the Doctor and the Boyfriend take an instant shine to one another, and be friends from the start?
(This basically out of thin air hatred of soldiers was almost, actually, handled quite well in Into the Dalek, where the implication was that the Doctor disliked soldiers because the way the power their weapons gave them could be a corruptive influence. That could be tied into the aristocracy idea – only certain people can handle power, in his opinion? – or a reflection on the Doctor’s past – he believed he had that power because of his Time Lord heritage, which corrupted him, which is why he made those mistakes he referred to in Deep Breath. It’s also somewhat topical, actually, given the nature of events around the world currently.)
Largely, you can ignore this. Certainly, it bothered me more on first viewing; by the time of the rewatch, I was more accepting of it, and I could see the merits of the rest of the episode. And, hey, maybe the disdain for soldiers will receive some more development soon.
Another good episode, yes, but one affected by a relatively large flaw. Thankfully though, unlike Listen, this flaw doesn’t overpower the rest of the episode. 7/10.