It’s the last episode in the series…but it’s not like any other ‘series finale’ we’ve seen since Doctor Who came back in 2005.
The Doctor and friends answer a call from a planet emitting nine distress signals, and find a psychotropic field affecting people’s mental state. Protecting themselves with neural neutralisers, they rescue Captain Paltraki, who doesn’t know who he is, and find he’s being blackmailed to bring back an artefact by someone who’s captured his crew. It’s the Ux religion (which consists of two members, Andinio and her apprentice Delph) doing the blackmailing – they worship a being they call the Creator, who turns out to be Tzim-Sha, the Stenza warrior the Doctor and friends fought all the way back in episode 1. The Doctor brings back the artefact and confronts Tzim-Sha, who sends the Ux to transmit his Earth-capturing signal – he’s already captured multiple planets and wants to add Earth to his collection. The Doctor and Yasmin break the connection and persuade the Ux to help them, while Graham and Ryan rescue the crew and send them back to their ship with Paltraki. Graham stays behind, tempted to kill Tzim-Sha, but realises it’d be better to imprison him forever. The Ux travel on with the crew, and the TARDIS team depart. End series!
There’s some nice characterisation here with Graham’s desire for revenge against the creature who caused his wife’s death, and his eventual change of heart. His relationship with Ryan has also been a really nicely done process over the course of the series. I also love the fact that the two of them, working together, manage to imprison Tzim-Sha, despite the Doctor’s conviction earlier in the episode that he’d be too powerful for them to take on. Unfortunately, Yasmin is a bit of a spare part in this episode, just as she was in episodes 8 and 9. I do like all three companions, but this series really has suffered from the ‘crowded TARDIS’ problem that the show had during the Davison years, with the writers seemingly running out of things for them all to do. Furthermore, I don’t feel like I really know the characters like I did previous companions – Graham is a great character, but Ryan and Yasmin still both feel a bit thinly sketched to me.
The return of Tzim-Sha is pretty much the only bit of narrative continuity we’ve had this series in terms of alien threat, and after thirteen years of arc-heavy series from RTD and Moffat it’s honestly felt completely disorientating, and made for a strangely sedate final episode. What do you mean, the fate of the whole universe isn’t at stake? Where’s the big epic face-off against the Daleks/Cybermen/Master?
And that’s the other thing – there hasn’t been a single returning alien species or character this series, other than the Doctor herself. The last time that happened was the 1978-1979 series, which was the one with the Key To Time arc. We’re talking forty years ago, when Tom Baker was still the Doctor. I’m not saying you absolutely need the Daleks and the like for Doctor Who to feel like Doctor Who, but so much has changed for this series that it would have been nice to have had the odd nod or cameo (the polarity reversal in episode 9 was appreciated, but pretty much the only example!).
Still…no spoilers, but it looks like the New Year’s Day episode might be a bit more of a treat for the fans. I’m so looking forward to it.