The TARDIS lands in Bristol, but her external dimensions have been reduced. The Doctor becomes trapped in the ship and it’s up to Clara to investigate a spate of mysterious disappearances. Bristol is under attack by beings from a two-dimensional universe.
After having most of the series with the ‘less user-friendly’ Twelfth Doctor, emotionally more distant from Clara and apparently alienating some viewers, this episode cleverly gives us a different perspective. The two characters haven’t been able to see things from each other’s point of view, particularly in Kill The Moon.
“I see what you see.”
In this story the Doctor literally sees things from Clara’s point of view, while Clara walks in the Doctor’s shoes. This incarnation pays scant attention to those around him, at times struggling to discern one human from another and rarely listening to a full sentence. But starved of all other stimulus except the feed from Clara’s eyes he notices much more. This distance gives him another perspective on his actions, and he is forced to confront his own modus operandi by watching it play out on television. The answer to the ‘Am I good man?’ question from Into the Dalek evolves from that ‘he tries to be’, to be something more complex. He is forced into the role he plays by monsters.
“You were an exceptional Doctor, Clara… Goodness had nothing to do with that.”
Goodness is mainly defined here as whether or not to lie. Clara is becoming very adept at lying, the Doctor even compliments her on her ability to deceive him. She is now regularly lying to Danny about travelling with the Doctor. After her discomfort at lying to Maisie in Mummy on the Orient Express last week, she has no such qualms now. Her solution to getting the Doctor back also relies on deception. By playing the Doctor’s role in the narrative Clara gets a new perspective on why he lies, and the choices he has to make for the greater good.
One of the most telling moments in how Clara has changed is when she takes no interest in Brigsy’s graffiti. The Doctor doesn’t really care about anyone’s lives either. He is all about the job of saving them, not taking an interest in them. This is a marked difference from her insisting that Courtney was special.
There’s a lot pleasure in stories about the absence of the Doctor, and that delayed gratification of him showing up to save the day. It’s one of the things that make The Christmas Invasion and Human Nature/Family of Blood so effective. It’s especially rewarding here because there’s no guarantee that the Twelfth Doctor can or will save the other characters. He’s been wrong, made mistakes and deliberately abandoned his friends this series. It’s a real punch-the-air moment when he strides out of the TARDIS and defeats the Boneless.
This episode is amazingly visually inventive. The realisation of the full-sized Doctor in the shrunken TARDIS is excellent, as are the Boneless themselves. These all stem from a script that shines with ideas, escalate the tension of the threat and provides sparkling dialogue between the two leads. Somehow Douglas Mackinnon’s direction of the stand-out scene where the Doctor moves the TARDIS with his hand goes from having you laughing with joy, to actually making both the Doctor and the TARDIS seem fragile and in real danger, when they are the two most invulnerable elements of the programme.
One of the lovely touches in this episode is the pocket-sized TARDIS, just about the size of the 5″ figure range, so it adds another dimension (pun intended) for kid’s playing with these toys. Likewise, the scene in the flat with Clara and Briggsy on the chair is like the childhood game of not stepping on the carpet.
Originally posted on my Doctor Who blog: Trap One.