Series 7, Story 10 (Overall Series Story #235)
Doctor Who has a rich tradition of gothic, ghostly, horror-tinged stories. "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" is a personal favorite and "Horror of Fang Rock" also leaps to mind, but we could go on and: "Planet of Evil," "The Daemons," "The Brain of Morbius," "The Pyramids of Mars," and I'm sure many others. I suppose we need to include the McCoy-era "Ghost Light," at least. More recently we've had "The God Complex," "Asylum of the Daleks," "Night Terrors," and "The Eleventh Hour."
|4 and Leela in Victorian London. Not related to this episode,|
just establishing a dark and shadowy mood.
Intolerant of superstitious mumbo-jumbo, as I am, these episodes tend to appeal to the humanist-rationalist aspect of my worldview. Just like the old Scooby-Doo cartoons, where I enjoyed the revelation in each one that the mystery never had anything to do with actual ghosts, zombies, cryptids, aliens, or what have you, there was always a con-man behind the whole thing for our intrepid investigators to unmask. In Doctor Who, we have to substitute the alien, generally speaking, for the human agent behind the mystery, but the same satisfaction can be derived from the debunking of the supernatural explanation. Those vampires in Venice? Aliens with a human-understandable motive. The witches at Shakespeare's Globe Theater? Aliens with a human-understandable motive. Ghosts and re-animated corpses running across Dickens in Cardiff? Aliens with a human-understandable motive. Werewolf in Scotland? Alien with human-understandable motive, natch. (Yeah, so those were all episodes I could have listed in the show's horror tradition as well. It's an oft-tapped vein.)
|Check out Fred's arm in that scarecrow unmasking. O_o|
That the trip to visit the empathic psychic turned out to be a dead-end in the Doctor's investigation into Clara was fine. Some lines of inquiry don't pan out, that's how it goes. Her warning to Clara about the sliver of ice in the Doctor's heart was a deft touch and set the stage for Clara's probing the Doctor for answers about why he would care about humans at all when we must all be ghosts to him.
All that said, I can see why some of the initial response to the episode has been frustration. It didn't seem to move the season's arc at all -- though who knows what might have been a clue that we all missed. Some diligent frame-by-frame dissecter had already started reading into the brand of wine on an upside-down crate in one of the scenes in the time between the show's broadcast in the U.K. and its airing here in the U.S. (Trying too hard on that front, I think.) I also felt like the whole TARDIS not liking Clara thing was hammered a bit too hard, and I'm starting to suspect we're being beaten with a red herring. We get it, so either make it mean something or give it a rest. Last nitpick: the Professor with the rich past as a WWII special agent seemed too young, as played by Dougray Scott (mid-40s in age I reckon), considering the story is set thirty years after war ended. I was confused at first whether he was meant to be a veteran of Vietnam, Korea, or WWII -- but he already looked too old to be a love interest for Emma, either both those roles needed to be cast with older actors, or the setting should have a been at least five, if not ten, years earlier.
As far as the season goes, my favorite theory to this point -- meaning it's bound to be off by a mile and I'll have to admit later I was completely fooled -- is that Clara is the Doctor's great-granddaughter via Susan, who must have been chameleon-arched at some point after leaving the TARDIS. Sadly, this makes almost no sense and would do nothing to explain why Clara is popping up throughout time with the same name. Still, I like it.