Grisenko: 'I need to know... Ultravox! Do they split up?'
opening quote pretty much sums up the episode: funny, sometimes clever,
often cheesy, occasionally suspenseful, and probably the best Mark
Gatiss episode since 'The Unquiet Dead'. (Admittedly, not much of an
accolade.) It also had the Doctor kissing a
dolly, promising to kiss Professor Grisenko, and Ultravox. Surely the
ingredients for a future classic?
I think I enjoyed this. On first watch, I didn't like it at all—then I
turned down the lights, busted out the popcorn, pulled on my Doctor Who
pyjamas, and suddenly it felt far more entertaining. I think you need a
darkened room for the suspense to work. Sadly, a lot of the supporting
characters didn't get much of a chance to shine. I was a little
disappointed that Liam Cunningham's character, Captain Zuckov (not a
suggestive name in the least), didn't get much to do other than sport a
magnificent beard, be gruff, shouty, and ultimately wrong all the time.
And Lieutenant Stepashin was just a red shirt sans the red shirt. (Not
to mention an anagram of 'thespians'.)
But I liked Professor Grisenko. At least he
managed to serve a purpose—that of keeping Clara calm. Not a small
thing when there's a desuited Ice Warrior on the loose. And Clara seemed
to establish her credentials as the perfect companion: rational,
unafraid of getting her feet wet (quite literally), level headed in a
crisis, and looking magnificent in wet clothing. (An absolute must
for the aquatic adventurer.) She did crumble a little at the end. It
may have been half-hearted, but when all seemed lost, she definitely
sung a bar of 'Hungry Like the Wolf', but I've always imagined that
Duran Duran would one day save the planet. They won't, but I like
to imagine it.
I was also impressed by Clara's ability
to assess her own performance at the very height of things going wrong.
Thankfully, the Doctor, although initially curmudgeonly, managed to take
time out of his busy, freaking-out schedule, to reassure her that she
was doing fine. Nice moment that. She's still new to all this, and
presumably this was the first time she's seen mangled human remains. Of
course, that's an assumption. The other two Claras have had more high
adventure than you can shake an overpowered sonic screwdriver at, and we
still don't know how all that fits in. Did Grisenko want Clara
to sing because he thought it would calm her, or because it would calm
him? Probably both.
Disappointingly, some of
Skaldak's lines bordered on the Gorgonzola. His 'There will be a
second red planet, red with the blood of humanity' line has me cringing in the dark—despite this sort of gibberish being stock dialogue for Who
baddies. They really love their super-villain one-liners. Usually they
last just long enough to either effect an escape, or to bring about
their defeat. My other complaint (already hinted at) was the Doctor's
over-reliance on his sonic screwdriver; what with detecting
geographical anomalies, tracking monsters and whatnot, is there anything
it can't do?
Sadly, the ending was another talky resolution.
Sometimes I wish they'd just solve things the old fashioned way: bare
breasted, with child friendly violence, and maybe a smattering of pew
pew noises. I liked that it was Clara who eventually persuaded Skaldak
to show mercy, as I'm not sure the Doctor's bluster was working. Clara
managed to exploit Skaldak's pause in attacking Grisenko perfectly,
buying herself time to reason with him as a father. Pretty smart when
all the Doctor could manage was some shouting, threatening to kill
everyone, and wafting his magic screwdriver around.
In summary, a rather splendid base-under-siege type story, some sharp dialogue, a decent return for an old foe, some effective Alien-style monster shenanigans, and Clara more than earning her monkey nuts.
Oh, and my faith in Mark Gatiss has kind of been restored. Until next
time, anyway. But how long before they reconnect with the TARDIS? With
no TARDIS to get them there, the South Pole seems like an awfully long
—There's always some arsehole with a blow torch eager to melt your ice
specimen and then stand there for ages waiting to be punched in the
—Here's a thing: when the TARDIS is around, it translates, right? Yet, before the TARDIS even appeared on the submarine, we could understand Captain Suck-off and Co. perfectly. How did that happen? Not one Russian sentence or subtitle anywhere. Which I initially found confusing, listening to two English chaps swapping exposition about the Cold War like total pros. So, I can only assume that the TARDIS was in my back kitchen prior to it turning up on the submarine. This would also explain why there are no fish fingers in my freezer and the custard tin is empty.
—Skaldak was voiced by the ever versatile Nicholas Briggs.
—Great submarine setting. The externals looked a little like when I used
to play with toy boats in the bath (last week), but the interiors
—I was vaguely amused by the Doctor telling Clara to wait, and her actually waiting.
—Noooo ! Not a dreaded finger-almost-pressing-the-end-of-the-world-button style finale!
—I'm chuffed that Clara said chuffed.
Doctor: 'Stay here.'
Doctor: 'Stay here. Don't argue.'
Clara: 'I'm not.'
Doctor: 'Professor, I could kiss you.'
Grisenko: 'If you insist.'
Clara: 'Are we going to be okay?'
Doctor: 'Oh, yes.'
Clara: 'Is that a lie.'
Grisenko: 'Why don't we sing a song? Keep my spirits up.'
Clara: 'Yeah, that would work. If this was Pinocchio.'