I honestly believe Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 9 probably pissed me off more than any show I've watched this year. But I'm not totally sure it's completely warranted.
Where I'll usually pick apart some moral ambiguities or technical/continuity gaps, my problem with the episode is the ginormous emotional sledgehammer used to beat us viewers into a state of dumbfounded trauma.
Maybe I'm just the wrong audience for this kind of script. I don't like crying over a plot-line. I don't like being emotionally manipulated into a state of dysphoria. I certainly don't like watching a character get a metaphorical knife thrust into his gaping wound of loss. Call me crazy.
Graham's been a solid Companion throughout this season. He's been able to provide straight-man humor with believable emotional depth. Pretty much universally throughout the fandom, he's been well-liked.
I've mentioned before that Graham asks the questions I'd ask if I was traveling with The Doctor. The fact that he reveals that he's been carrying emergency sandwiches with him every time they leave the T.A.R.D.I.S. just cements the idea that he's my spirit-Companion.
Not hungry are you? Because these days, I always carry a cheese and pickle sarnie. Y'know, just for emergencies.Graham
So, cut the guy a break. Bringing Grace back is not only a low-blow, it's HURTFUL. Yes, he was skeptical. He did everything right when faced with the impossibility of having her back.
But you could SEE that he WANTED to believe. And believing was going to break his heart again.
That's pretty much my main beef with this offering. It made me feel bad for Graham and I don't think it was necessary.
Besides the Graham-beating, there are multiple logistical issues:
1) How did those puny speakers make enough noise to simulate some sort of mythical monster?
2) How did Ryan and Hanne elude the flesh moths when they hid in the cave crevice?
3) Why was The Doctor's severed string still taut when Hanne found it? And did she EXPECT there to be a string for her to follow? How did she know it was left by The Doctor?
4) Where were those moths when the travelers were individually punted back into the anti-zone? It should've been like a buffet delivery dropping out of the sky for them.
5) If Ribbons had always been in the anti-zone, how did he keep the moths away from his workbench?
6) SO many issues with the whole concept of the Solitract Plane...
You are the maddest, most beautiful thing I've ever experienced and I haven't even scratched the surface. I wish I could stay. But if either of us are going to survive, you're going to have to let me go and keep on being brilliant by yourself.The Doctor
So, in a nutshell, we start with a lightly humorous foray into Norway where The Doctor is tasting soil to get the local lay of the land.
It develops into a potential horror situation with a blind child held prisoner by fear of a mysterious creature in the woods.
Throw in a dimensional portal with an in-between space infested with flesh moths and a nasty tour guide.
And land it all in a Monkey's Paw universe where the sheer presence of the visitors tears the fabric of existence apart.
Yeah, it was a bit of a kitchen sink episode.
Finally, there's not a single guest character to appreciate.
Consider the horrendous parenting example set by Erik. He not only abandons his blind daughter in a boarded-up cottage in the middle of nowhere, Norway, but rigs a sound system to play monster roars on a daily schedule to scare her into staying in the house.
I would've paid good money to see Yaz hit him.
And, even with the world about to collapse and having seen his "wife" blast their (blind!) daughter through the portal for rejecting her, he still can't see she's not the real Trine until she starts to show interest in The Doctor.
This woman is clearly an alien force, collapsing two realities and impersonating your dead wife. Time to move on, mate!The Doctor
Hanne isn't super likable but she's about as realistic a teenager as we're likely to see on TV these days. She's sulky, holds a grudge, can't follow instructions, and dives headlong into dangerous situations. Also, she basically mugs Ryan for that key.
Ribbons is incredibly interesting. But not likable. He would make an entertaining villain.
I would've liked him to have been a more relevant character instead of a peripheral one whose sole purpose was to introduce flesh moths.
Ribbons: Bird is lunch. Maybe codger is tea.
Graham: Who are you calling a codger? It's you who stinks of his own wee.
Ribbons: That's not my wee.
The Doctor: Let him go cause you do not want those words to be your last ones.
He is what I imagine a love-child of Lord of the Rings' Gollum and a (Star Trek) Ferengi would be like.
Hungry and sly with a compulsive need to collect shiny objects. Pretty sure those lanterns were made of rat bladders or something. Ingenious, indeed.
The Doctor: What did he look like? This man.
Ribbons: No horns. One mouth. So ugly. Like you. But such nice big boots.
So, ultimately, the most sympathetic guest entity was the frog that nearly destroys two dimensions out of sheer loneliness.
In all fairness, it WAS a very nice fjord. But winter in the "frilly bits" at the top of Norway should definitely have more snow. Or even some snow.
Also, I should give kudos to some strong performances by both Graham and The Doctor. As emotionally manipulative as Grace's appearance was, Bradley Walsh was nuanced in his response - hopeful, scared, joyful, conflicted, resigned.
The Doctor's offer to take Erik's place really hit the tone needed to entice an entire universe to pick her over some nobody dad.
Her exchange and escape from the Solitract was textbook deus ex machina (once again). Although this time, there actually is a de facto god. I like the frog animation too. But I like frogs in general.
The Doctor: The Solitract is a frog? Who talks like Grace?
Solitract Frog: My own form is endless but this frog is a form that delights me as it once delighted Grace.
The Doctor: There's me thinking the day had no more surprises left.
(Slightly off-topic, I want to know more about The Doctor's Granny Two, the alleged spy for the Zygons. Who's with me on that?)
With the season finale next week, this is a stellar time to review and watch Doctor Who online.
Were you touched by Ryan's "Granddad" comment at the end? Or was it too little, too light?
Who else expected Ribbons to have a second knife? It was pretty obvious he was a multiple-blade sort of dude.
In a hypothetical scenario, who do you think would win in a fight between a P'Ting and a swarm of flesh moths?
And thinking about the P'Ting, will we see familiar faces on the finale? The Stenza? The race marshall from Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 2? How about Avocado Pear?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.