Doctor Who | Episode 5 Oxygen
Written by Jamie Mathieson | Directed by Charles Palmer
Do you know what’s worse than zombies? Space zombies. Do you know what’s worse than space zombies? Capitalism. Creepy factor turned up to 11 folks.
Hands down I loved this episode. First of all, I loved the fact that immediately everything goes wrong which serves to ramp up the tension from the very start. The Doctor loses the TARDIS, his sonic and if things weren’t bad enough in order to stay alive the Doctor, Bill and Nardole have to wear the suits they know for a fact is the cause of all the deaths on the spaceship.
Even though I’ve accepted that everything has to change and evolve and the Doctor Who I grew up with isn’t the Doctor Who of today, I loved the throwback of old Doctor Who of an awful lot of running away from things in space trying to kill you. It also helps to remind you that the Doctor isn’t all his gadgets. Although it helps with to sell toys when you have a variety of sonics (including sonic sunglasses) and TARDIS’s on screen, the Doctor is extraordinarily clever and doesn’t always need his deus ex machina gadgets to get him out of trouble. The strength of a Doctor episode often lies in the mystery; what is going on and why and the Doctor is at his best working as a detective trying to solve the mystery whilst also not dying.
Nardole is back in this episode as a companion and I have to say that as of yet he still hasn’t gotten on my nerves and his love/hate banter with the Doctor is still a great source of humour in the episode. The juxtaposition between this relationship and the Doctor’s one with Bill adds to this humour with the Doctor prepared to punch some evil guy for his racist comments towards Bill and even go blind for her compared to him reverting back to a grumpy old man ordering Nardole to get him some crisps. Being River’s former companion, you get the sense that Nardole sometimes knows the Doctor better than he knows himself, the knowledge that he occasionally passes onto Bill, but it never gets irritating as it sometimes did with River. However much the Doctor tries to ignore him, Nardole does remind him of his duty and what he promised to do but it never seems like the Nardole is cleverer than the Doctor.
As I said before I love it when everything goes wrong in an episode of Doctor Who because I love the tension and edge of your seat aspect of viewing. And this was encapsulated when Bill apparently ‘died’ at the hands of the space zombies. Even though as the companion Bill can’t die, at least not yet, and I loved how this moment was foreshadowed with the Doctor sacrificing himself and ultimately his sight in order to save Bill. There was never any doubt that the Doctor would do anything for her but you still the stakes were so high you couldn’t figure out how on earth the Doctor was going to get out of this one.
Huge props to Pearl Mackie who continues to be my favourite part of this season of Doctor Who. The fear in Bill’s eyes before the space zombies kill her was so prominent and since neither the audience nor Bill knew why the Doctor was letting this happen you couldn’t help but empathise with her as well as being partially angry with the Doctor. Creepy space zombies, the perfect amount of humour and a strong ending for this episode of Doctor Who.