Oxygen by Jamie Mathieson
Mathieson has a pretty good record on Who. ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ and ‘Flatline’ were two very strong showings in series 8, while ‘The Girl Who Died’s flaws came more from the weak cast that the script. On Paper, Oxygen looked like one of the ones worth waiting for in the first 5 episodes. Did he deliver?
It’s actually hard to say. I thought parts of it were excellent (The Doctor’s opening monologue, Bill’s Asphyxiation, the Blind Doctor) but overall I felt a bit underwhelmed by this episode. For the first time this series, the slow pace really didn’t work for me. Zombie stories are generally all about two things: frenzied action or high tension. This was too slow and not scary enough for me. I’m not blaming the direction, which was fine if unspectacular. I blame Murray Gold (not a sentence I’d normally write on this blog) as the music really doesn’t ramp up the tension as much as it needs to. Also, zombies tend to work better in lower lighting (particularly if their appearance isn’t all that scary) so the station being well lit seemed an odd choice.
Also for the first time this series, I didn’t like Bill in this episode. She was too whiny and nervous throughout. I hope she gets more into travelling in the TARDIS as the series goes on, because her near-lack of enthusiasm is starting to go too far the other way from Clara’s death-wish love of adventure. Also, while Nardole got a couple of decent lines, his inclusion didn’t feel like it added much. Hopefully both those problems will be fixed next week when Moffat takes over the writing again.
I did like how, for once, the dangerous circumstances have a real consequence to them, as the Doctor is struck blind while saving Bill in a vacuum. If I had to guess, this blindless will either last up to the end of the incoming 3-part story, or will be a constant feature until Capaldi regenerates. The guest cast were also good, although we weren’t really given enough reasons to care about them. The whole ‘company values money above people’ cliché is used so often in sci-fi it didn’t seem particularly interesting.
Overall, there were a lot of good ideas flying around, but the execution could have been better, and needed to be scarier. The cast are performing well, but Mathieson didn’t write Nardole or Bill all that well as far as I’m concerned.
Rating: 3 out of 5. This series needs a big hit soon, cause right now it’s coasting along a bit too much. Next Week should fix that though, if the trailer’s anything to go by.
Next Time: Hey Missy you so fine… The 12th Doctor’s nemesis is back, along with some sinister Monks and Steven Moffat.