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Doctor Who - Oxygen - Review: "Breathtaking"

© BBC Pictures
Episode: 10.05 "Oxygen"
Directed by: Charles Palmer
Written by: Jamie Mathieson
Air date: 13 May 2017

Reviews so far:
Episode 10.01 - "The Pilot"
Episode 10.02 - "Smile"
Episode 10.03 - "Thin Ice"
Episode 10.04 - "Knock Knock"

This was one powerful episode with quite a few memorable, breathtaking moments. And not just because of the oxygen running out for the Doctor and his friends. The twist at the end really took me by surprise and I wonder just how long the consequences of this adventure in space will last. Is it beginning of the end for Twelfth Doctor? How will Bill react to the news? And just how big of the challenge will this turn out to be for the Doctor? But for now, let's take a closer look at the episode.

First, a quick recap. We start back at school with the Doctor clearly missing his time in space and arguing with Nardole about the need to stay in place and guard the vault. After a short exchange the Doctor, Bill and Nardole all end up at a mining space station where somebody just sent a distress call picked up by the TARDIS. It doesn't take long for the group to realize that the station is designed not to hold any unauthorized (by the owners) oxygen and the only way people can survive there is by wearing robotic (and surprisingly independent) spacesuits and purchase oxygen for personal use. The only problem is that the suits recently received the command to "deactivate the organic components", meaning people wearing them, and most of the crew on the station is already dead, walking around like zombies to get to the remaining four workers. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole are forced to wear the suits and find a way out for themselves and the other survivors. Unfortunately when Bill's suit malfunctions the Doctor gives her his helmet during the spacewalk outside of the station which saves them both but causes the vacuum to damage Doctor's eyes, leaving him blind. Though eventually the Doctor figures out it was the company's automated profit-making system that led to the deaths and the only safe way out is to convince the mine owners that killing everyone would cost them more than keeping them alive, it takes another terrifying experience to save Bill's life. While the Doctor, his friends and two of the remaining crew members manage to leave the station safely, in the end, it's revealed that despite him telling Bill otherwise the Doctor's still blind.

Now that's something I never would expect to see on the show. The Doctor, the one who travels through time and space to save people and see the wonders of the world is no longer able to see a thing. And to make it even harder it's the price the Doctor pays for saving Bill's life. It's a tragic change for the Time Lord yet knowing him there's really no doubt that if given the chance he would still do the same thing under these circumstances. Thinking back to the introduction of Twelfth Doctor and the way he was acting at first it's impossible not to notice just how far he has come and grown during his time on the show. The man Clara met back in season 8 premiere was barely at the beginning of this new and wonderful story. Just like Peter Capaldi has found his way of portraying the character and made it his own, the Doctor found himself again, somehow both different and yet so similar to his previous incarnations. It's the true measure of the success of the show. How despite different faces, behaviors, new friends and adventures, there's still the same man at the heart of it all. Carrying the weight of time and space on his shoulders but strong and hopeful, ready to save the world with his friends by his side. Peter Capaldi has done such a spectacular job in the role, only getting better with each episode and making me miss him already. Losing the Doctor and waiting for him to resurface under a different face is certainly not getting any easier with all these wonderful actors putting their heart and soul to become the Doctor we all come back to watch and root for in the next story.

While the Doctor comes out injured after the events of the episode, he's not the only one who gets seriously hurt during the hour. It's a truly powerful and important one for Bill as well. Both physically and emotionally exhausting experience leaves her truly afraid, in pain and alone in quite a few significant moments. When watching the episode I realized that every fan who ever expressed doubts about the companions' actions when following the Doctor without fear should appreciate how much we can all relate to Bill. She loves the adventures but when things get hard she's just as scared as anyone could be yet chooses to fight her fear and stay by the Doctor's side. Despite their relatively short history she puts a lot of faith in him and even after going through such an undoubtedly hard experience she puts her life in his hands, with trust and support. Their relationship is already wonderfully portrayed and written, and we've barely started to get to know Bill. Two of the most powerful and memorable scenes in the episode are focused on her character. First, when she's exposed to the vacuum and slowly fades away, as we watch the world disappearing from her perspective and later when the Doctor is forced to leave her behind, knowing she won't die but will be knocked unconscious and put through a horrifying scenario, walking alongside the dead, hurt and controlled by the suit she's wearing. Pearl Mackie does a fantastic job in both these scenes and I also loved Bill's reaction after she realizes what the Doctor has done for her and the moment when she's "resurrected". The interactions between these two main characters continue to be brilliant.

And then there's Nardole. Like I mentioned in the previous review, I'm glad to see more of him and understand his perspective a little better. I really liked him in the hour. He doesn't really remind me of any of the Doctor's other companions yet seems like a right choice for one. As it turns out, he's looking out for the Doctor and keeping the vault safe per the Time Lord's own request. He appears to serve as the Doctor's reminder of an important promise and is very loyal and aware of the magnitude of the task. Their interactions at the beginning of the episode proved to be funny and entertaining, with Nardole becoming a bit of comic relief later during the hour until the more important things took precedence. He seems to genuinely care about Bill and the Doctor even though he doesn't necessarily show it. Considering the final scene he might just be the eyes the Doctor will need in the near future. Good work by Matt Lucas. About time to officially welcome you aboard!

Looking at the next episode's promo, the Doctor has to face one of his biggest challenges yet, made even harder by keeping it secret from Bill. And as we're getting ready for Missy's return I can't wait to see what will be her response to the current events and just how the Doctor will be able to overcome this unexpected change in his life.

Whovian notes and questions:
1. This might just be my favorite episode of the season so far. Certainly one with the most powerful scenes and brilliant performances by the actors. But I honestly still need to process the unexpected twist at the end. The Doctor's blind. Hopefully it will not last especially as our time with Twelfth Doctor is running out... Seeing just how important the injury is, is there anything you would like to see highlighted in this storyline?
2. Missy's return is next. Are you a fan of the character? Excited or rather hopeful it's just a quick reappearance this time? Any theories about what might be her next plan?
3. Nardole's getting to be more involved in the story, what are your thoughts on the character so far?
4. Didn't have a chance to mention more about the workers but I found them to be a pretty good group, mostly supportive and helpful throughout the episode. Bill's conversation with Dahn-Ren was nicely done and I really liked Ivan. He sent the distress call, helped out Bill and trusted the Doctor when it mattered the most. Him being there made quite a difference in the end.
5. As there are news coming in saying that the secret of the vault will be revealed in episode six, how about a final poll? What do you guys think?

Memorable quotes:
1. Bill: "Doctor… I think I’m alive!"
The Doctor: "Yes, you seem to be under that impression."
2. Velma: "You look like you’re trying to run. Would you like some help with that?"
3. The Doctor: "They’re not your rescuers. They’re your replacements. The endpoint of capitalism. Bottom line. Where human life has no value at all. We’re fighting an algorithm. A spreadsheet. Like every worker everywhere, we’re fighting the suits!"
4. Bill: "Do people ever hit you!?"
The Doctor: "Well, only when I’m talking."
5. The Doctor: "The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, we show ours by how we respond."

What did you think about "Oxygen"? Any favorite scenes, quotes or theories? Feel free to let us know in the comments. Check out the press release & promo for the next episode "Extremis". As always, thanks for reading!

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