Ugh. This hasn’t been a great season, and this is far from the best.
Let’s begin with the very-overused flash forward. It’s getting kind of old. Used well, it can be very effective. But Doctor Who isn’t using it very well. They’ve used it as a cheap dramatic tool. Actually the episode was full of cheap dramatic tools: The arbitrary countdown timer; the introduction of two characters whose sole purpose — almost literally — was to die to ratchet up the tension.
Perhaps the most telling flaw was the absolutely shameless theft of the idea behind Jack Williamson’s “Born of the Sun”, namely, that the solar system bodies were really eggs waiting to hatch. That was awkward in the golden age of pulp, and here it’s just recycled pulp — and not even done as well! The biology is ludicrous and the conclusion laughable. And though I know Doctor Who is not hard sci-fi, I nearly choked on the idea that the egg was just gaining mass. First of all, 1.5 billion tons would not be nearly enough to generate Earth-like gravity, much less world-ending tides. Second, of course, an egg starts off with its full mass, which is merely converted by the embryo into, well, more embryo. It doesn’t magically spawn new mass. The not-quite-spiders are just icing on the screwed-up biology cake, of course, and hardly worth mentioning, since their only role was to pose a false threat and kill the hapless Mexican miners and the two men of the expedition.
Clara is faced with a terrible choice and attempts to punt. (Turn off the lights? Really? What about the half of the planet in daylight? Who’s going to turn off the lights — individuals? Electric companies? Governments? How will it be weighted, by population or by lumens? Luckily, of course, every single human on Earth votes to kill the creature, so at least there’s no awkward need for balancing ayes and nays.) She decides to kill it, then decides not to — and is then mad at the Doctor for making her decide.
“It was cheap, it was pathetic ; it was patronising.” Here, at last, I can find something about Clara Oswald with which I agree. Oh, wait, she wasn’t talking about herself. I think her anger is incoherent and forced. I think she sounds like a spoiled child who, as the Doctor says, hasn’t even taken the training wheels off yet. The emotion of her fight doesn’t ring true to me, and I share the Doctor’s befuddlement if only in trying to understand why I should care that she’s upset.
Up until now, Clara has been meh. Now she’s small. The Christmas special really can’t get here soon enough.