Doctor Who reviews: Cold Blood
|REVIEWS - DOCTOR WHO|
Impressive production values bolster a highly entertaining throwback to old-school Who...
The second half of Torchwood writer-showruner Chris Chibnall’s two-parter, directed by Ashley Way, is hearkens back to classic Who, building the tension slowly but grippingly.
The sets are fantastic, from the magisterial, shiny court and place of execution (“Ooh, lovely place, very gleaming.”) to bridges over lava reminiscent of the planet Mustafar from Star Wars Episode III, to the more organic environs of Malokeh’s laboratory. There are even automatic doors with translucent glass, which look very pretty. The sets look artificial, but in the best possible way. As with other aspects of the episode, the set design celebrates the enjoyably cheesy nature of classic Who episodes, while bringing it up to date with vastly improved production values.
Murray Gold’s score builds effectively throughout the episode, creating a sense of thrilling suspense early on, and then moving on to a sense of old-fashioned, epic adventure. For those crazy people who don’t like his usual over-the-top, bombastic uber-epicness (they probably don’t even like Michael Bay movies either), he’s showing his versatility this season by changing up the music, particularly in episodes like Amy’s Choice and this one.
As events escalate from the previous episode, The Hungry Earth, The Doctor (the continually brilliant Matt Smith) tries to avert a war looming between the two species.
The captured Silurian, Alaya (Neve McIntosh), taunts Ambrose by playing on her fears for her father and her son into killing her in order to trigger a war. As Alaya told her captors in the last episode “One of you will kill me”. After Ambrose fatals wounds her, she continues, declaring “I knew it would be you. The one with the most to lose, the weakest...”
Ambrose’s father, Tony Mack (Robert Pugh), remonstrates “We should be better than this!” Similarly, Rory is becoming more like The Doctor, telling Alaya “You’re not dying. I’m not going to let you, not today.” But then she dies, foreshadowing events later in the episode.
Rory is now a lot more heroic than he used to be, but still also the bumbling, nervous Rory. (In the words of Captain Hammer, from the adventures of a different Doctor, “Everyone’s a hero in their own way, in their own not-that-heroic kind of way.”)
The humans then try to get back Amy (Karen Gillan), Mo (Alun Raglan), and Elliot (Samuel Davies) by negotiating an exchange of hostages with Alaya's war-mongering sister Restac (also Neve McIntosh) anyway, with Rory reluctantly stepping up to speak for them. The Doctor, not knowing what’s happened, gives the tragically late warning “Er, not to interrupt, but just a quick reminder to stay calm...”
The negotiations break down, and Restac’s soldiers are about to execute Amy, when the Silurian leader Eldane shows up, wearing what looks like a nightgown, asking “You want to start a war while the rest of us sleep?” One would be excused for thinking that what he actually meant was “Stop making so much noise, we’re trying to sleep.” (You can almost see the sitcom now: The Silurians, with the troublemaker Restac constantly trying to start a war with humanity, her nerdy cousin Malokeh simply trying to conduct his experiments in peace, and Eldane the long-suffering patriarch trying to keep order. And they live in a cave, which paves the way for all sorts of wacky running jokes.)
Joking aside, Stephen Moore is plays the wry humour of Eldane very well. He’s like a mellower, less cynical version of Alan Rickman’s Alexander Dane (“Doc-tor Laz-arus!”) from Galaxy Quest.
The Doctor persuades the two sides to sit down and actually talk about their differences. He gives a stirring speech, and inspiring music plays. The Doctor stands at the head of the table, validating the negotiations with the authority of a Timelord, and then undercuts the seriousness of the moment by poking fun at himself in true Doctor style.
The negotiations themselves are less interesting to watch, with Eldane’s pompous voiceover, but the representatives of the two species soon come to an understanding.
It looks like the two sides are about to co-exist in peace and...ooh, say...harmony, when their newfound hand-holdy-ness is disturbed by the inevitable awakening of an army of Silurian warriors.
Our heroes retreat to Malokeh’s laboratory, where they have to face one of the impossible situations that The Doctor thrives on. This time, though, it’s Eldane who comes up with a crucial part of the plan that allows their escape.
The Doctor is in his element when preparing to executing the plan, telling Amy to “keep reminding me how much time I haven’t got”, and informing everyone in an offhand manner “Follow Nasreen. Look for a blue box. Get ready to run for your lives.”
Tony Mack, infected by Alaya in the previous episode, chooses to stay so that he can use the Silurian decontamination technology, and Nasreen Chaudhry (Meera Syal) chooses to stay with him.
The Doctor hugs Nasreen goodbye, then has a startled “look at my wrist” moment when he realises that time’s running out. Matt Smith has a great, quirky way of checking his watch. It’s one of his delightfully eccentric mannerisms which he’s used several times so far.
The crack in the wall appears again, much to The Doctor’s dismay: “No. Not here. Not now...” He then gets frustrated at not knowing exactly what caused it: “Some sort of space-time cataclysm. ...But what? ...The Angels laughed, and I didn’t know. Prisoner Zero knew. Everybody knows, except me!” This is in striking contrast to Amy’s casual confidence in him earlier in the episode: “The Doctor would know. The Doctor always knows.”
The Doctor then bravely, or stupidly, puts his hand in the crack in the wall, and pulls out something wrapped in a handkerchief.
At this point, though, Restac shows up, having stubborn ignored the alarm warning of the poisonous gas about to be released, and takes a shot at The Doctor with her final breath.
Rory heroically pushes him aside, and so dies saving The Doctor, despite his protestations of having seen his future self: “I was on the hill. I can’t die...” Not only this, but he’s also grabbed and pulled in by the crack in the wall (and in space-time), erasing his very existence. (This seems to have been foreshadowed by Rory saying: “I’d trust The Doctor with my life.” earlier in the episode, and The Doctor declaring “Nobody dies today.” in the previous episode. Although, Rory was erased from time, so in a sense The Doctor’s statement was true.)
The Doctor pulls Amy back to stop her being sucked in as well. Despite her desperation to save him, it’s too late. Back in the Tardis, The Doctor tries to get her to remember as much about Rory as she can, before his very existence is erased forever, and she won’t be able to remember him.
Moments later, Amy seemingly forgets what’s just happened, presumably at the instant when Rory disappears from existence. Amy then waves to herself on the hill where she and Rory waved to themselves in the previous episode (surely a bad idea, but never mind). She tells The Doctor “I thought I saw someone else there for a second,” implying that she might have retained the faintest bit of Rory’s memory. The Doctor looks pensive at this, and it’s ambiguous as to whether or not he remembers.
When Amy goes into the Tardis, The Doctor opens the handkerchief from the crack in time to reveal...a charred piece of the Tardis. And he suddenly gets a faraway yet intensely concerned look in his eyes. This is very promising for the rest of the season.
Next week’s episode, featuring Davy Jones and Sgt. Pete Twamley...sorry, Bill Nighy and Tony Curran, and written by Richard Curtis, looks quite exciting.
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