The limited information available about this episode caused many to speculate about potential appearances from previous actors, characters, and monsters. Doctor Who magazine even released a redacted cast list last month, leading to further speculation. Some wondered if Ncuti Gatwa would make an early appearance as the Fifteenth Doctor alongside David Tennant. However, the final episode ended up being a multi-Doctor adventure in a different way than some had anticipated.
This episode primarily focused on Tennant and Catherine Tate’s characters, Donna, as they encountered a familiar theme in Doctor Who – the presence of an indescribable and formless entity that threatens our understanding of the universe. This time, it took the unsettling shape of Tennant and Tate themselves.
The increased funding for the show was noticeable in the episode, particularly in the extensive corridor that the Doctor ran down. The hover-car made the Segways used by the Doctor and Donna in her first appearance in 2006, “The Runaway Bride,” seem inferior. Although the robot seemed like it could have been entertaining, it ended up having limited tasks and moving at a slow pace, which was intentional.
The success of this tale relied heavily on the acting abilities of the two main actors and the efforts of the design and visual effects teams. Tennant and Tate delivered flawless performances. The appearance, atmosphere, and believability of the shape-shifting threat were inconsistent. While it wasn’t as captivating as the previous week’s episode featuring the Star Beast, it ended with a heartwarming appearance by Bernard Cribbins and set the stage for an intense finale in the Fourteenth Doctor’s short but appreciated tenure.
Can you summarize it in one sentence?
The Doctor and Donna are caught in a confusing situation aboard a massive spaceship that is deteriorating at a slow pace…only to realize that they are actually chasing their own selves.
Living on the Tardis
Unfortunately, the events did not occur in the Tardis and the Donna present was not the real one. However, as previously stated by Russell T Davies, this episode solidified the truth that half of the universe was destroyed during Flux and that the Doctor was not born on Gallifrey within the Whoniverse. This may upset a vocal portion of fans who were hoping the new showrunner would erase or reverse the Timeless Child concept introduced during Jodie Whittaker’s time as the Doctor by Chris Chibnall.
Taking into consideration the presence of young viewers, this particular event successfully maintained a delicate equilibrium between the unsettling concept of an individual – or entity – slowly transforming into an identical copy of oneself, and the comically absurd surprise of oversized, stunt arms.
Mysteries and questions
This didn’t feel like it had any elements in it setting up story or character arcs, with the main mystery being why the Doctor usually uses the sonic screwdriver to read every alien spaceship control panel they come across if they can just do it themselves by translating some numbers. And is it really “mavity” now?
Deeper into the vortex
The Hostile Action Displacement System of the Tardis was initially featured in the 1968 story “The Krotons” during the Second Doctor’s era. It was only briefly referenced again when it caused the Eleventh Doctor and Clara to become stranded on a sinking submarine in the 2013 episode “Cold War.”
The Fourth Doctor once told Romana in the Douglas Adams-penned the Pirate Planet that he had to give Isaac Newton “a bit of a prod” to discover mavity – by climbing up a tree, dropping an apple on his head, then explaining it to him “afterwards at dinner”.
The performer portraying the Doctor has engaged in a showdown with their own portrayal of the antagonist in the past. This was evident when Patrick Troughton played both the Time Lord and the malevolent dictator Ramón Salamander in the 1967 episode “Enemy of the World”, and when Tom Baker was transformed into a cactus-like creature as the anti-hero in the 1980 episode “Meglos”.
Neil Patrick Harris, also known as the Celestial Toymaker, is causing chaos with a giggling doll that has been featured in the trailers. We can expect to see Jemma Redgrave reprising her role as Kate Stewart from Unit, in their new Avengers Tower-inspired headquarters in London. Hopefully, we will also get to see a cameo from Bernard Cribbins.