In the run-up to this episode, fans were speculating that it would attempt to be the new “Blink” – standalone episode written by Steven Moffat with a one-word title.
And was it? Well… no.
But that’s not a bad thing, because what it still is is very good. Excellent, in-fact.
Moffat’s first Whoniverse story was “Continuity Errors“, which he wrote for “Decalog 3: Consequences” (edited by Andy Lane & Justin Richards). The story featured a miserable git in the Library of Alexandria whom the Doctor visits throughout her life in order to change her into a nicer person. Such things encountered along the way are the lines “What do monsters have nightmares about?”/”Me!” and Prof. Candy, who’d feature in “Let’s Kill Hitler“.
But does that make this the archetypal Moffat episode, the one’d I cite as an example of his works? Well… yeah. Not necessarily his archetypal story in any medium, that probably would be the aforementioned short. But in terms of TV show relevance, this will be his Signature Story; just how former Head Writer’s Russell T. Davies’ Signature Story was “Love & Monsters“. Make of that statement what you will. (Also just how Andrew Cartmel’s Signature Story was “Silver Nemesis“.)
And that’s because this episode includes what Moffat does best:
- a monster evolved to a concept allowing it to exist everywhere without our knowledge (from “Blink” and “The Impossible Astronaut“, not to mention the heavy breathing sound the astronaut makes)
- two people awkwardly interacting through parallel flashback/forward editing (from “Into The Dalek“, co-written with Phil Ford)
- something being under the bed (from “The Girl In The Fireplace“)
- a children’s home (from “Day Of The Moon“)
- meeting a character in their childhood before adulthood (from “The Eleventh Hour“)
- the three acts of the show being divided by Clara’s domestic life (from “The Time Of The Doctor“)
- the last planet (like the first planet from “The Pandorica Opens“)
- fear of the dark (from “Silence In The Library“)
- Clara having not a plan but a “thing” (from “Flesh And Stone“)
- the Doctor’s barn (from “The Day Of The Doctor“)
- Clara meeting the First Doctor in a way that affects the purpose of his character (from “The Name Of The Doctor“)
Not to mention that like the Decalog, this episode is a series of interconnected short stories on the same theme.
- Story one takes place in West Country Children’s Home, in-which the Doctor saves Rupert Pink from either an unseen monster or someone playing a prank.
- Story two takes place on the last planet, in-which the Doctor saves Orson Pink from either an unseen monster or noises the ship makes at night.
- Story three takes place on Gallifrey, in-which Clara makes the Doctor think there’s a monster under his bed, explaining his paranoia in the previous two.
The story structure is very reminiscent of “The Day Of The Doctor“, especially with a significant object becoming important in the following two acts, which all ties-up by revealing something about the Doctor using an analogy of another character. Danny Pink’s already been compared to the Doctor in “Into The Dalek“, and Oswald’s character development this season – balancing two lives – makes them very similar. This sums-up who the Doctor is, but manages to accomplish that in a way that doesn’t have to be epic or paradigm-defying. It just introduces two similar ideas and combines them to show us something about the Doctor that was already there, so it doesn’t ruin anything. Which is why this is the episode I’d use to introduce people to the show, and I expect in ten years time, when BBC America are showing an updated version of “The Doctors Revisited“, this episode will be used to represent the Peter Capaldi era: it’s dark, it’s creepy, but it also doesn’t have the weight of pretentiousness previously shown this season.
Which isn’t to say I think this is the best episode of the season, because it’s very “ideas-y”, and the plot focuses more on those ideas than the story it wants to tell (or at least that’s just what I felt), but it’s definitely my second favourite of the year so far.
“Listen“: anthology episode highlighting writer’s strengths 8/10