Doctor Who - Episode 10.05 - Oxygen - Review
This week's episode of Doctor Who is brought to you by Jamie Mathieson who has written some of the best Capaldi-Era episodes to date ("Flatline", "Mummy on the Orient Express" etc.) "Oxygen" was no different. In an already strong season, he might have penned the best one yet. Keep reading to get a breakdown of "Oxygen". (Spoilers ahead.)
We are in the day and age where people can be unashamed of their fandom. So it was a nice treat to have The Doctor drop some Star Trek lines to open the episode. (Can we have Peter Capaldi narrate the whole opening of Star Trek somewhere please?)
The "space station" crew theme has been done a million times, but it is pretty intriguing when done correctly. The trick with the space station crew episodes is to see if you want a spinoff with those characters. I wanted one with the crew from "The Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit" two parter from season 2. I wanted one here as well. There was character development from the very first scene. In a show like Doctor Who where the supporting cast always changes, having a strong ensemble that you remember afterward is vital (even if you'll never see them again.)
Jamie Mathieson is Steven Moffat's Steven Moffat. Moffat had the strongest episodes of the Russell T. Davies era and Mathieson has that title for the Moffat era in my book. If I needed to present proof, I would say that this is the first non-Moffat episode that features Matt Lucas's Nardole in a proper role. Episodes 2-5 featured him fleetingly at the beginning and end. Moffat seems to trust him to write the character properly. Not only was he featured as much as Bill, but Pearl Mackie and Peter Capaldi play wonderfully off of him. The chemistry this season has been amazing! I hope it carries over next season after the regime change.
This episode, which could have been called "Capitalism in Space", was about relying too much on machines instead of humans. There is definitely a possible future where machines are less indispensable than humans. Doctor Who which always teaches a lesson (like a fable), has the value of human beings over machines this week.
There were many great moments in a very strong story. There were many great quotes throughout as well, which is evident by how many have been used in the various trailers. One moment was a great addition to the racism commentary seen in "Thin Ice". But this time, it was about a blue alien. The way it plays out is great and Matt Lucas was able to say a line influenced by the great John Candy from Spaceballs. "Some of my best friends are bluish!"
The sonic screwdriver broke as well. That has happened several times throughout the series but I like when it happens because it means they can't use it as a lazy way to solve problems. It also set up the return of the sonic sunglasses, but there is a good reason for those to appear again, and it will bleed into next episode.
The small details in this episode were pleasing. For instance, the Doctor recovering in "Section 12" is a quintessential Moffat-Era Doctor Who trait. Matt Smith's Doctor had a lot of "Eleven" references, and Peter Capaldi's has "Twelve" references. It is a bit on the nose, but I don't tire of that gag. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is the first time the Doctor has worn a different spacesuit from his usual orange one since the show came back in 2005.
The Doctor always wins by outsmarting his enemies. It is in every episode; sometimes it is written well and sometimes it is not. It is written very well in this episode and adds the layer that The Doctor has no TARDIS, no sonic screwdriver, 10 minutes of oxygen left and no eyesight. The more the deck is stacked against him, the better he thrives. (It reminded me very much of "The Eleventh Hour" in that sense.) But if done by a lesser writer than Matheison then the episode suffers.
There was a lot of "season arc" stuff this episode too. A few little things that can help with the bigger picture. The Doctor said to Nardole "I'm docking your pay for this". Now that could just be a sarcastic throwaway line, but it could also be true. However, the other quote when the Doctor encounters a spacesuit robot might contradict that. He says "You better watch your step, you'll be out of a job," insinuating that Nardole is a robot. I knew he was at least an android but if he is a full on robot, would he really need to be paid? So maybe those lines mean nothing. Nardole does care about the vault, whether its for money or not. He steals a liquid from the TARDIS which he thinks will ground it because he wants the Doctor to stay and protect the vault more than anything. Nardole forgot rule number 1: The Doctor lies! So of course that liquid was useless.
It is still amazing to me (especially after a few stumbles in season 9) how good this season is. It is one of the strongest seasons in the entire run of "NuWho", and the episodes keep getting better. The pessimist in me gets depressed that the deeper we get into the season the less we have of this TARDIS team, and Chibnall's new team will have enormous shoes to fill. That goes especially so for Pearl Mackie, who I hope can stick around longer than this season.
Next week is the start of a much advertised "three parter" which is written by Steven Moffat (I love that he wants to tackle the Doctor being blind!) and is called "Extremis" which is a title that fans of Iron Man 3 should be familiar with.