We're heading down the final stretch of series 12 of Doctor Who, and there is just one episode left after this before the two-part finale. We've still got so many questions about "alt-Doctor," the return of the Master and Captain Jack Harkness, the destruction of Gallifrey (again), and the ongoing mystery of the Timeless Child. Will any of that be answered this week? How about this series? Let's discuss...
The Doctor and her friends are being stalked by someone who is manipulating nightmares, and it turns out that some old-school villains are involved.
Observations (Warning: spoilers ahead)
- We're starting off at what appears to be a mental health hospital in ancient Syria. Is that a hint about this week's overarching theme? We're okay with it if that's where this is going.
- This woman appears to be warning her friend about some sort of sleep demons. There's so much material to work with when it comes to villains who attack in your dreams. We're a sucker for that sort of stuff, so three minutes into the show, there's already a good feeling of dread this week.
- As the TARDIS materializes in modern England, aren't we in front of Rose Tyler's building, and haven't we seen that clip before? If so, the reality is that the BBC was probably just saving some money by reusing that shot, but we like the idea that the TARDIS might miss Rose and is paying her a small tribute here.
- This dialogue between the Doctor and her friends feels natural, at least as natural as a conversation about coordinating time travel schedules can be. The Doctor says she'll find them all again in 24 hours, and it's fun to imagine how many adventures she could have off-screen before she returns to Earth. That's an entire line of Big Finish audio adventures waiting for Jodie Whittaker to record in the future.
- How long do we think this group has been traveling with the Doctor at this point? For that matter, how long do you think the average companion lasts? It's the experience of a lifetime, so say the least, but as we'll see later, there's a price to be paid, and these people are always forever changed by the experience.
- The TARDIS interior looks much brighter than it did last week, which is terrific. If they're going to keep this set, it should always be lit like this. You can see the people, and it doesn't feel like it's time for everyone to go to sleep.
- Baldy is a creepy looking fellow. The villains don't always appear all that scary, but running into this guy can't be fun.
- Ryan's friend Tibo seems to be struggling. Our guess is that he's dealing with depression, but having some weird man haunting his dreams and appearing in his bedroom can't be helping. He's lucky he has a friend who has seen all sorts of weird things by now.
- In case we didn't make it clear, we love dream-based threats. At least, on television. That's a terrifying concept for real life.
- What just happened to Graham? Who was that woman who was asking for help? Were we supposed to recognize her?
- Why is Yaz supposed to have an anniversary dinner with her sister and parents? Did her grandmother die? No, that couldn't have been three years ago.
- Baldie is back and watching Yaz sleep. In addition to being some kind of dream threat, he's apparently a bit of a voyeur, so he's scary and creepy.
- This week's ominous music does a great job of setting the tone.
- Baldie has detachable fingers? Simple trick to effectively make someone frightening.
- Baldie sticks his detachable fingers in his victim's ears to cause their nightmares. That's the grosses wet-willy in the history of the universe.
- Wait, the TARDIS telepathic circuits hurt to use? Didn't Clara Oswald just stick her hands into some glue to find Danny Pink way back when? Graham doesn't seem to be in pain. Is the Doctor just messing with him? That's not nice.
- They've moved to Baldie's base of operations, and much like the TARDIS interior, the set is dark and cluttered, with lines going in every direction across the frame. We're not into the latest interior design trends, but why are these sets often so messy?
- Baldie traps the Doctor and crew, and (for the time being), they all become prisoners of their own nightmares. This could be an entire episode by itself.
- We've got Yaz running away from something, Ryan feeling like he's abandoned his family and friends, and Graham freaking out because his cancer's returned and Grace is angry at him for not saving her.
- Baldie's name is Zellin. Dunno, we might stick with Baldie. Turns out he's an Eternal. That sounds familiar.
- The focus on individual fears/anxieties/nightmares reminds us of the 11th Doctor's adventure, "The God Complex."
- Baldie makes a passing reference to the Toymaker approving of his game, which is a deep cut for longtime Doctor Who fans.
- It turns out that the prisoner is a goddess named Rakaya, she lives on nightmares, and she is apparently more dangerous than Baldie. That can't be good. However, it feels like we're running short on time here. Can we get this story explained and resolved in a satisfying way?
- Hold on, Baldie and Rakaya are both Eternals, and we just remembered those are a 5th Doctor enemy. Where there are Eternals, there are Guardians. What are we to make of this when it comes to the Timeless Child?
- We've seen a few animated "lost" Doctor Who episodes over the years, but this seems like the first time there's been animation in the middle of a complete story. 1) We had a quick Douglas Adams moment while watching it. 2) That's an interesting little experiment, and we might be interested in seeing the powers that be try it again.
- The Doctor gets the old finger-in-the-ear treatment, and her nightmare has something to do with the Master telling her she's been lied to, and the image of a little kid. We assume that's the infamous "Timeless Child," but what's the story, and is that the Doctor? Are the Eternals or the Guardians responsible for the lies the Master mentioned?
- We just get that tease this week, because the Doctor manages to bang her sonic screwdriver from her hip to her hands at an angle that seems to defy physics, and she frees herself and everyone else.
- (Side note: Even in the world of immortal gods and goddesses, this pairing is still an older looking guy with a much younger looking woman. Some things never change.)
- The Doctor and crew manage to trap Baldie and Rakaya back in the prison and stick them with their own nightmares in the blink of an eye. We knew we were running short on time, but that should have taken a little longer.
- That's the end of Baldie and Rakaya for now, but these two would benefit from getting more time, maybe in that Big Finish run we mentioned earlier.
- We were right - Tibo is battling depression, and he agrees to go to a group therapy session. Good for him. No one should have to struggle with that, or any other mental health issue, on their own.
- Also, Tibo seemed to buy into the whole time and space travel idea pretty quickly. Maybe he and Ryan could take turns.
- It turns out Yaz ran away three years earlier because she was being bullied, and then she was talked into going back home by a cop. That's apparently the subject of the anniversary dinner from earlier. Fair enough. It would have been helpful to have some of this background in series 11. However, it may help explain why she seems most like the Doctor and is the most eager to take risks, like when she went on her own without the Doctor's permission last week. That risk-taking spirit reminds us a little of Clara Oswald, and we know how that turned out.
- Graham tells the Doctor he's constantly worried about his cancer returning, and she...has no idea what to say in response. On the one hand, that seems a little off, since she's usually so full of compassion for everyone in the universe. On the other hand, it's pretty consistent with the Time Lord's history. Our guess is that out of all of her past lives, only #'s 5, 8, and 10 would have had any chance of saying something comforting. #11 might have tried it, but it would have come out awkward. Other than that? Intimate discussions like this are not her strong suit.
- Ryan is afraid of what it will mean if he has all of these adventures with the Doctor but eventually becomes disconnected from everyone he cares about (apart from Graham.) Is all of this a hint about a companion shake-up coming soon?
- At the end of the day, everyone has their own nightmares to deal with, and the Doctor can't fix any of them.
This week was fair. There was a decent amount of suspense, and the notion of dream manipulators has a lot of potential. We're also curious how Eternals and Guardians fit into the current storyline. The show also looked better from start to finish than it did during "Praxeus," which makes us wonder if that episode drew the short straw on the production budget. On the flip side, "Can You Hear Me?" felt a little rushed and was trying to do too many things at the same time. We also still find it hard to believe that the Doctor has seen an unknown version of herself, the return of her arch-enemy, and the destruction of her home planet again, and her response is search for a different adventure.
We'd probably rank this fourth or fifth out of seven episodes so far, but we're still curious to see how all of this will play out, so we'll see you back here again next week!
The Doctor and her friends are being targeted. (pic via bbc.co.uk)