This is my post-Doctor Who post on last night's new episode. What happened? How did it rate? Let's find out after the spoiler caution.
And we start in 5...
We open with a guy telling us not to watch what happens.
Next we're on a creepy, dimly lit space station with some space soldiers from the future trying to figure out what's up. Also popping up are the Doctor and Clara because it's what they do. It's the 38th century where a month's sleep can be compressed into 5 minutes through a machine called Morpheus. Our cast meets up with the inventor of Morpheus where it seems to process may be a bit off the rails, producing sand creatures that kill.
Then stuff happens, a lot of people die, the Doctor and Clara escape and our narrator tells us that by watching the episode, we're all going to be consumed by sand monsters made out of our dreams.
Well, he did tell us not watch. He laughs maniacally and the episode ends.
Hold on a minute!
OK, I'm not going to lie to you: I came out of this episode a bit confused. Thankfully, I have a teenage daughter who was able to help me fill in the gaps. That's why we have kids: to help us old people with technology and complex science fiction programs.
But if I was confused, I wasn't the only one. "It doesn't make sense!" exclaims the Doctor as Clara hustles him back into the TARDIS near the end of the episode.
There's a lot that is different about this episode that keeps the viewer off balance.
There's no opening theme or credits. This has never happened in the modern era of the show and I don't know of any examples from the classic era either. The story picks up from scene one and doesn't let up until the last scene. It's a neat gimmick to ratchet up tension, a gimmick that is sadly undone over here in the United States where BBC America has a lot of commercials and promos to run*.
*Yes, we know Time Warner Cable is trying not to be douche bags anymore! Yes, we know The Last Kingdom is coming up after Doctor Who. Quit telling us every 10 minutes!
The episode is shot in the style of "found footage" horror movies. Lots of shaky handheld camera movement and shifting between color and black & white, etc. It is not, however, just a cheap device to do something different with Doctor Who just for the sake of doing something different with Doctor Who. The found footage element becomes important in the episode's final reveal.
Our narrator is most unreliable. The footage we're seeing has been assembled by a scientist named Rasmussen who addresses the viewer with words of caution to not watch what he is about to show but that's exactly what he wants you to do. He appears at first to be your typical ego driven scientist who is in denial about the dangerous side effects of his work. But we discover that Rasmussen knows exactly what's going on and the dangers posed are not side effects, it's the whole deal.
The episode doesn't really end; it just stops. After the Doctor and Clara (with one survivor from the space crew) make it aboard the TARDIS, we get one last bit from Rasmussen. The whole thing we just watched was designed to make us watch. And as we watched, the Morpheus machine has implanted its code right through our eye. Soon the sandmen will come for us.
My Whovian friends, this was a very different episode of Doctor Who and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. On one hand, Doctor Who did something daring and quite challenging and for the most part, it worked. The inherent limitations of the found footage genre are overcome by a rather clever and perfectly acceptable Doctor Who sci-fi twist. The fact that it was found footage is actually crucial to the denouement of the episode.
On the other hand, my daughter had to explain some of it to me. I like to think I'm a relatively smart person. I can't be easily fooled. I listen to Public Radio. But at episode's end, I was left saying that thing that will probably be engraved on my tombstone: "Wait! What?"
For good or ill (and I'm leaning towards good) I dare say this will remain one of the most memorable episodes of Doctor Who ever, where the rule book got tossed out the TARDIS doors into a supernova but managed to scare us once more of something mundane.
Er, you've got something.
In the corner of your eye.
That's it for this post. More posts coming up this week from the serious (my reflections on the terror attacks in Paris) to the stupid (another word from this blog's sponsor, Nutcase Nathan's) to the can't possibly be of interest to anyone else but me (I went to see ice skaters!).
And next Sunday, I'll be back here with another post as we review next week's new episode of Doctor Who, Face the Raven.
Until next time, remember to be good to one another.
And sleep well.