I’ll be skipping the recap going forward, so if you haven’t been watching this season’s episodes of “Doctor Who,” you’d better catch up.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for this episode. We’ve known since the first interaction between Danny and Clara that their relationship would be a source of contention with the Doctor. After all, Danny’s a soldier. The Doctor hates soldiers. And both Danny and the Doctor care for Clara.
Since the beginning of the Danny-Clara courtship, Clara’s been rushing around, jumping between her adventures with the Doctor and her social life with Danny. That’s obviously taken a toll on Clara and ultimately affects her relationship with Danny in this episode. Still, it makes for some comedic scenes in the show, as Clara spends most of her time bounding around with wide eyes trying to avert crises in the universe and her own life. The episode definitely did well to capture her perspective; the whole thing felt frantic and rushed, and I did feel bad for Clara. But at the same time, there’s almost a bit of masochism involved. It’s a point Danny himself brings up, a point that obviously bothers him and that should bother us (but perhaps doesn’t because we’re so used to the standard craziness of the Doctor-companion relationship): Clara is following the Doctor like a soldier would follow a commander, willingly but thoughtlessly, without fear, in a demonstration of a level of trust that, if manipulated, could turn out to be fatal for her.
Danny also brings up another problematic aspect of the relationship between Clara and the Doctor: the nature of their bond. There has always been some degree of sexual tension between the Doctor and his companions, and Clara is no different. The rapport between Clara and the eleventh Doctor was undeniable and something that undoubtedly had to change with the introduction of this older, grouchier twelfth Doctor. In fact, the issue was even brought up by Vastia and the Doctor himself in the first episode of the season. The Doctor made sure to set Clara straight, saying, “I’m not your boyfriend.” While Clara and the new Doctor were definitely uncomfortable with each other in the first episodes of the season, trying to adjust to their new relationship, they soon settled into the usual banter, minus the usual flirting and sexual tension. However, once it became apparent that Clara was dating, the Doctor started asking questions and making commentary. The most interesting part of the episode was the Doctor’s assumption that Clara’s secret boyfriend was the professor who somewhat resembled Matt Smith. The Doctor, who on many occasions (including last week’s episode) has shown himself to have some self-hatred, apparently also fancies himself as a “dashing” protagonist who Clara would fall for. If the Doctor so willingly embraces the idea of Clara with someone who he sees as comparable—at least in terms of humans go, because c’mon, you can’t really compare Time Lords and humans—is that a sign of simple vanity, or perhaps a protectiveness borne out of a platonic love, or maybe him projecting his real desire for Clara? Perhaps it’s all three. Either way, Danny is dragged into the fray and his relationship with Clara is threatened by her lies and her relationship with the Doctor.
Can I also just take a second to point out the absurdity of Clara trying to still keep the truth about her and the Doctor under wraps even as Danny had just witnessed a killer robot get zapped into a time vortex? Well, it’s about as absurd as the movement of their relationship, because Clara reveals that she loves Danny in this episode. They just had their second date in “Time Heist,” and we see them going on a few dates in the beginning of the episode, but it still feels like their relationship isn’t more than a few weeks old, tops. Also, does no one care about Clara dropping the L-bomb? It’s not even mentioned. Sure, they’re busy fighting killer robots and saving the world, but what about after that?
The dialogue in this episode was great. Clara and the Doctor, who obnoxiously butts in on everything even though he’s supposed to be undercover, have their usual speedy, funny exchanges, but there’s also the dialogue between the Doctor and Danny. Their exchanges in this episode got pretty heated, and I was surprised to see Danny’s character step up to the challenge of arguing with the Doctor. Honestly, I wasn’t that invested in Danny before, because he seemed very shy, sensitive and predictable, and because once we saw bits of his timeline in “Listen,” it seemed as though there wouldn’t be much else to his character. We have already seen him as a child, we know about his being a soldier and we know he and Clara are going to end up together. So where’s the drama? With the Doctor, apparently. Danny proves just as capable of saving the world (with some utterly ridiculous Olympics-worthy gymnastics moves at that) and holding his own against the great Doctor. It’s clear that Danny cares about Clara, and he’s also got the Doctor’s number. Danny really pushes the Doctor’s buttons, playing off of his hatred for soldiers while also comparing the Doctor to a commanding officer and a member of his society’s aristocracy. And we already know the truth about the origin of the Doctor’s prejudice against soldiers, but the fact that the robot is stopped only because it sees the Doctor as its commanding officer is a nice touch and further proves that Danny knows what’s up.
It’s been a few weeks, but we see Missy again in this episode. And it looks like the Promised Land isn’t just a little garden she has tea in, which is what we’ve seen before. Missy’s got a limbo office and an employee to run it. I’m getting really interested to see what the deal is with this Promised Land.
I’m also curious about the relevance of Courtney Woods, the curious little troublemaker who snoops around the Tardis throughout the episode and later takes a trip into space. There wasn’t much of a point to her in the episode, unless it was simply our introduction to her. She’s a spunky, young girl with a mischievous side (and natural hair that goes everywhere! represent!)—just the Doctor’s kind of companion (and I say that in the least creepiest way possible)—so we’ll see if we get any more of Ms. Woods.
Check in again next week for my review of the next episode, “Kill the Moon.”