TL;DR – While this episode looks back to the past, I feel it might have the ability to steer the show into the future while also getting to be a romp in its own right.
Disclosure – I watched this on ABC iView.
Doctor Who Review –
When it comes to Doctor Who, well, it is a history of highs and lows. Some of those early memories of the show linger in my consciousness. One look at a gas mask and I get ripped back in time, you walk into an extensive library, and suddenly, there is a hint of concern. But no matter how much I tried, I fell off the recent series. Every time I jump back in, like with Revolution Of The Daleks, I bounce back off again. But with Jodie Whittaker’s time coming to an end, I thought I should give it one more time.
So to set the scene, we open in as emergency transmission from the Torajii Transport Network blares out across all frequencies because they are about to be hijacked by Cybermen. The guards kill the Cybermen, but when things seem safe, the Cybermen start to regenerate. But the ship’s call for help does not go unanswered as The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), Yaz (Mandip Gill), and Dan (John Bishop) jump from the TARDIS to help. But things onboard go from bad to worse as the Cybermen are after ‘The Cargo’, and they are not Cybermen but Cybermasters. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Well, let us pull that Band-Aid off quickly and be clear that I fundamentally liked this special. There were aspects of the story that felt classic Who, and no, I am not just talking about the avalanche of cameos that permeate the show. Only in Sci-fi can you stand in front of a quarry somewhere in Wales and have a profound moment and have that moment land. It doesn’t matter if it was the bombastic dialogue with irritated Daleks or a quiet ice cream between two old friends. You felt the emotion on show.
If I had an MVP for this episode, it would have to be Sacha Dhawan as The Master. There was not a single piece of scenery he didn’t chew in every moment he was on screen. I am not sure I have ever seen someone be menacing while dancing along to Boney M.’s Rasputin. But then, I have never seen someone dance along to Boney M.’s Rasputin while also being Rasputin dancing to disco in 1916 in the Winter Palace surrounded by Cybermen and Daleks while gloating over the soon-to-be ruin of your greatest foe. For the first time in a while, you felt like they nailed the manipulative side of The Master, someone who intimately understands The Doctor after hundreds of years of contestation.
The rest of the cast is also swinging for the fences, ensuring every significant reveal lands with a gasp. While A Lot of this episode was spoiled in the lead-up [and the few hours I was at work and unable to watch it yet], this was an episode where there was a new reveal at almost every turn. Indeed, just when you thought it was over, there were even more. Ace (Sophie Aldred) and Tegan (Janet Fielding) anchor this side of things as our main links to the past, both weapons to use against The Doctor but also embodiments of the best parts of The Doctor.
Besides the link to forced-regeneration, the narrative was reality straightforward. We get introduced to a couple of problems that can’t be linked. The Master forces The Doctor to fall into a trap. It looks like they have, but lo and behold. But while the framework is boilerplate, this episode shines in the details. You can feel that Jodie is going into these performances knowing it was her last in this role, and they left nothing on the table. There was a good understanding of both the joys that The Doctor can bring and the loss when that time comes to an end. On that front, Yaz becomes the focal point, and you feel those emotions that they have to navigate all those emotions as the world collapses around her.
While on the whole, I thought the production design and visual effects worked, there were some moments, including Vinder’s (Jacob Anderson) ship, that needed more time with the compositing. Also, I am not quite sure why Dan (John Bishop) is in this special, given he gets jettisoned right at the start and then thematically replaced by Graham (Bradley Walsh). While I think most of the emotional moments landed, there was something in the last conversation between The Doctor and Yaz that felt like it didn’t quite come together as well as it could have.
In the end, do we recommend Doctor Who: The Power of The Doctor? Yes, yes, we would. It has been a long time since a Doctor Who narrative has landed with me, and if this is a good jumping-off point, I look forward to seeing what the future holds.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Doctor Who
Directed by – Jamie Magnus Stone
Written by – Chris Chibnall
Production/Distribution Companies – BBC Studios, ABC & BBC
Starring – Jodie Whittaker, Mandip Gill, Sacha Dhawan, John Bishop, Sophie Aldred, Janet Fielding & Jemma Redgrave with Jacob Anderson, Bradley Walsh, Patrick O’Kane, Joe Sims, Sanchia McCormack, Anna Andresen, Richard Dempsey, Nicholas Briggs, Barnaby Edwards, Bonnie Langford, Katy Manning & William Russell and David Bradley, Colin Baker, Peter Davidson, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Jo Martin & David Tennant