Sunday 14 May 2017

Doctor Who - Oxygen


Doctor Who - Oxygen
Airdate: 13th May 2017

Warning: Slight spoilers.

I remember very well a Judge Dredd story I read in ‘the galaxy’s greatest comic’ 2000AD when I was a young ‘un. It was fairly early on in the comic’s long history, say around 1978 or possibly 1979. Judge Dredd was relocated off of Earth for a while for a series of stories I really liked where he was the new Judge of Lunar City One on the Moon. This particular story dealt with a bank robbery and in it, the three robbers managed to get away with their loot scot free... however, there was a great little punchline scene at the end of the story which, I would guess, was already a much used idea by the time the writers of 2000AD got around to recycling it. Days or weeks later, I forget which, the criminals were all found dead with their money. It seems, in their haste, one of them had forgotten to pay the Oxygen bill for the supply to their apartment and so their flat was ‘cut off’ by the Oxygen Board until paid. The robbers had quickly suffocated with their ill gotten gains.

It was a nice story and one which stayed with me over the years as something in which a science fiction comic parodied the times we live in and showed how evil corporate greed is when caring nothing about the people who get in the way of not paying up money. After all, we are already paying for stuff like water (something which our planet seems to have in abundance) so how long before we, like the characters in this story, are paying some kind of air tax. You may laugh at that but, honestly, some of the taxes they’ve made up in the UK in the last few decades have been even sillier and less justifiable than an air tax so, you know, when a government needs money... they will make up anything to get it out of the hard working person on the street.

Now this episode of Doctor Who, entitled Oxygen, deals with exactly the same issue. I don’t usually, to be honest, like the spaceship confined episodes of modern Doctor Who... when it’s just a few characters wandering around plastic interiors for the whole episode wearing cumbersome space suits. I usually find it quite dull. This weeks episode of ‘more of the same’ was quite inventive, though. We had spacesuits that walked around by themselves after killing their inhabitants and so unwittingly creating an army of, quite literally, walking dead... zombies in space suits for all intents and purposes. We also had the trio of The Doctor, Bill and Nardole coming to the aid of the four remaining survivors of a space station and, frankly, the episode was not without its sacrifices, both in terms of human lives and something very important for a few future episodes, which I’ll get to in a minute. And all of it was relating back to the same idea of oxygen being sold for corporate greed that made that old Judge Dredd story so memorable.

The episode was pretty well paced and, of course, well acted. The faceless corporate menace with its army of undead was not without its interesting moments and the running around corridors really didn’t get too old, too quickly, truth be told. Which was a relief.

Now Bill came out of this the worst, I think, in being someone who didn’t actually have a lot to do in the episode. However, what she did do was sparkle quite brightly when she had to die... twice. The first time she had to suck on vacuum and passed out, pretty much to death, before The Doctor sacrificed his space helmet to let her live... ending up much worse for wear in the long run, as I’ll discuss in a minute. The second time, The Doctor played a hunch, it seemed to me, and had to watch (well listen at any rate) as she was seemingly killed by her suit and turned into a walking dead girl before it was revealed that the suit didn’t have enough juice in it, seeing as it was in bad repair, to finish the job it started. So although she was painfully underused in the episode... she did have some pretty shiny moments in this one... although I’m now not sure if she is really as innocent and naive  as she seems to be. At least under the surface.

There were two little shocks for fans of Doctor Who in this episode. One was the death of his sonic screwdriver (so he couldn’t use it to get everyone out of danger in a twinkling of an eye, no doubt)... that’s okay, the TARDIS can always make another one. Alas, I am really expecting that The Doctor’s sonic sunglasses may be making a return (a much unwelcome one, as far as I’m concerned) appearance now because we come to the other little sacrifice about this episode... The Doctor’s eyesight. After saving Bill and going for so long unprotected in the vacuum of space, The Doctor is blind and although I believed him when he said it could be fixed when he got back to the TARDIS... after all he’s a bloody Timelord and can regenerate, we’ve seen him regrow another arm a decade ago for goodness’ sake... apparently he is now still blind. So that’s going to be interesting and, I’m sure, used as a plot device in some upcoming adventure. I’m sure blindness will be just what is required to save everyone’s lives before too long... I reckon.

Not too much about the secrets of 'the vault' this week but whatever... or more likely whoever... is in there, the dialogue is set up so you think it must be something or someone really not very nice. All roads lead to Missy or quite possibly the John Simm incarnation of The Master but... I hope not because I feel that would be a bit of a cop out, if I’m being honest about things. I guess time will tell and it looks like Missy will be making a return visit next week so... we shall see what we shall see. In the meantime, Oxygen was another cracking episode of the current series and, asides from the Knock Knock episode of last week (reviewed here) this is turning out to be one of the better seasons of recent years. Fingers crossed that it continues as such.

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