The Doctor has always been a character prone to running. A lot of running. And considering the situations he has historically gotten into, it's usually a good plan of action.
Well, Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 2 definitely gets the cardio in along with a heap of hiking, a bit of boating, and a scoop of Doctor-approved pacifism.
Considering we were left at the end of Doctor Who Season 11 Episode 1 with all four of our newly-minted heroes floating in the icy vacuum of space, it was an easy assumption that they'd be rescued QUICKLY.
Yaz: You can be honest with me. Are we going to die?
The Doctor: One day, yes. Comes to us all.
What I was pleasantly surprised by was the fact they were picked up by TWO different rescuers, competing against each other, and (it turns out) only picking them up because they thought these people floating in the abyss of space were "bonuses" for the competition they are in.
Epzo and Angstrom are a little bit stock in their presentation. Epzo's all tough machismo, mercenary in his approach to the race, and obsessed with lighting his victory cigar. The story about his mother's trust "lesson" is both callous and predictable and The Doctor seems quite offended by the whole account and his life philosophy.
We're all alone. It's how we start and end, and it's the natural state of all points in between.Epzo
It may be that there's a soft side to him, or that he learns from his experience with the group, but, ultimately, it's the tough guy act that gets the satisfactory results from the holographic race marshall and I have to admit that being able to frighten a man physically sitting light-years away indicates a level of reputation worth respecting.
Angstrom's got the sob story background. She's competing to win the prize so that her family can live their lives in safety. She is grateful for The Doctor's assistance and connects emotionally with both Yaz and Graham.
Although she appears to be the better competitor (eg. has the better ship, lands it competently, figures out that shooting the sniper-bots isn't a good idea), she does come across as a bit weepy at times.
The two are so obviously written to be each other's opposite that their interactions are almost as featureless as Desolation's landscape.
With the newcomers being quite uninteresting in their way, it did allow the Companions some time to develop more unique personalities. We get to hear about Yaz's family. Ryan and Graham have a moment to discuss Grace's death. The Doctor even starts to figure out how to relate to each of them.
Oh, by the way, welcome to what I presume is your first alien planet. Don't touch anything.The Doctor
It's unquestionably exciting to watch the group stumble through the obstacles they are forced to face. Ryan running out to take down the sniper-bots like it's a first-person-shooter video game only to see them reanimate immediately was chuckle-worthy.
(Mind you, the fact that Epzo is the only one the bots were able to hit makes me wonder exactly how deadly a shot they were designed to be.)
The Doctor reiterates her stance on violence in multiple scenes. Using her Venusian Aikido Pinkie Paralysis move on Epzo is both dramatic and somehow begs a comparison to Xena: Warrior Princess.
Her "brains over bullets" mantra is clear as well. She intimated the same philosophy when she scolded Carl for kicking the Stenza warrior off the crane in the premiere.
And that brings us to the Stenza. The season's Big Bad are really developing into more than toothy boogeymen, aren't they?
As funny as the phonetics of "Tim Shaw" were in our first encounter with them, the idea that they would hold the families of scientists hostage to make them invent horrible killing devices ups the ante considerably.
We gave them our minds, and they made us the creators of Death.The Doctor [reading]
The Doctor's reading of the last testimonial of the scientists, scrawled on the floor of their lab, is reminiscent of the reveal in the film Serenity when the crew discovers that the Reavers were people driven mad by a chemical meant to pacify the population.
Ultimately, the secret of Desolation, that its inhabitants were imprisoned there with the sole purpose of destroying all life there, isn't so much a revelation for The Doctor as a breadcrumb to understanding the enemy they will eventually face again.
There are other breadcrumbs I'm wondering about as well. Who is the "Timeless Child" the cloth creatures mention? Why is The Doctor so reactive to that name? Also, who else thought the talking cloth creatures were kind of hybridized Dementor-Boggarts from Harry Potter?
What seems obvious to me so far is that the theme for the season will involve the concept of family.
It's been wielded a bit like a sledgehammer throughout so perhaps the "Timeless Child" has something to do with The Doctor's Gallifreyan family as well. Also, the Doctor's childhood was explored a bit during the Twelfth Doctor's tenure as well so this might be a serious long-game sort of arc.
I'm really good in a tight spot. At least I have been historically. I'm sure I still am.The Doctor
With a true extra-terrestrial adventure under her belt and her T.A.R.D.I.S. back, I'm hoping to see The Doctor grow in confidence in her abilities and, perhaps also grow to accept the presence of her new Companions. To paraphrase her own words, they are stronger together.
As you watch Doctor Who online to take in all the details of the revamped T.A.R.D.I.S. as well as the very trippy, T.A.R.D.I.S.-less credits, riddle me this: In moving forward with an evolving Who-verse, are we in fact, simply reimagining the very beginnings again?
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.