Steven Moffat delivers an excellent one-hander with Peter Capaldi continuing to shine in the role of the Doctor. A highly intelligent script that plays with time the most inventively since Blink makes for compelling viewing.
The Doctor is trapped and alone in a moving castle populated by his greatest fears. Placing any decent actor in this situation would create highly watchable drama, but having Peter Capaldi makes this a truly standout piece of television. Doctor Who may often be dismissed as light-hearted family entertainment but this episode is the perfect example of how it can showcase serious and complex character studies. Those involved in television awards take note.
A week has passed for us since Clara met her death on a Trap-Street in London. For the Doctor, mere seconds as he steps from the teleport chamber. Capaldi portrays the perfect balance between anguish and anger as he moodily condemns those with a part in her demise. Considering this episode is (almost) entirely a solo outing for the Doctor it may sound strange that he has any lines at all. This is where an ingenious Moffat works his script magic, always giving a logical reason for the Doctor’s musings and explanations. I’ve always felt Moffat stories have dipped in quality since he took on the reigns of show-runner but this episode sees him back to his former-glory.
The Veil is perhaps Doctor Who’s slowest moving monster but that doesn’t make it any less menacing. Even when unseen its presence is always felt as if it’s lingering off-screen nearby. Its relentlessness is what makes it scary; the Doctor can run all he wants but it will always catch up eventually, which of course it does again and again and again. The backdrop of the gloomy castle, shifting its walls with moving cogs like a torture chamber Hogwarts is a hugely impressive sight. Hats off to director Rachel Talalay for pulling it all off in what was originally conceived as the money-saving episode of the series.
Hints at clever time-travel are made as the Doctor finds his outfit already drying in front of the fire as he emerges from a death-defying dive into the water below. The taunting portrait of Clara seems to be centuries-old and the stars in the sky don’t make sense for the time-period much to the Doctor’s confusion. It’s only when the Doctor knocks one of the many skulls knocking about the place into the water, for it to sink below to a landfill of the dead that the sinister truth begins to reveal itself. The revelation that the Doctor has died countless times, over billions of years in agony to slowly chip away at the walls of his prison is truly horrifying. Describing this as the Doctor’s personal hell would be no understatement and Moffat is clearly pulling no punches in pushing the Doctor to the edge of his sanity.
The episode deals with grief in a truly heart-breaking way, with the Doctor often making clever remarks to turn around and realise Clara isn’t beside him. He retreats into his own mind (resembling the TARDIS, where else?) to deal with his trauma. This episode is not just a timey-wimey adventure it’s also directly dealing with mourning and depression. The Doctor pushes through his pain, miraculously fighting on but coming out the other side who knows where he will go next?
All we know is he’s back on Gallifrey and extremely pissed off. “I am the hybrid!” he angrily exclaims. What he means by this and what he’ll do next nobody knows but I wish it was next week already. So join me next Saturday for the series finale, where judging by this week’s offering we’ll be back in some very dark territory.