TV Review: Doctor Who S10E5 ‘Oxygen’


So Doctor Who is back, and since I’m neck deep in a film criticism subject at uni I’ve decided to continue this with a ‘Who’ related project! I’ll be reviewing each episode as they air, and posting them here for your enjoyment.

Now it feels like space!”

This week the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole go camping, well, they go to space, but in the Doctor’s eyes it’s the same thing (questionable, I know). I hope I never have a camping trip like this though. This is Doctor Who, so deep space unsurprisingly means deep trouble. As always, before the opening credits roll all seems well. Just a couple of ship mates doing repairs, right? Wrong. Or just about…within minutes we have more space men, but they aren’t space men, at least, they don’t look like space men anymore. If anything, they look more like space zombies – something I never thought I’d write.

So, rolling with the camping metaphor, “To really feel it you need the space equivalent of a wafer-thin sleeping bag and a leaky two-man tent.” Bill gets to choose the ‘campsite’. As far as metaphors go, that disastrous sounding camping trip is the equivalent of what happens once the Doctor, Bill, and Nardole step out of the TARDIS and onto the space station. It is here that they realise this isn’t any ordinary space station. Reason: The lack of oxygen. Pretty necessary for survival, right? Thanks to a very large air bubble created by the TARDIS, the three are free to roam wherever they want. It isn’t long before they find their first space zombie (this is the best term for them – as ‘the walking dead in spacesuits’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it), and if it’s not creepy enough already, it’s completely still, stuck standing in its space suit. The cause of death is obvious, but where are the other thirty-five space zombies which the Doctor’s sonic-screwdriver picks up on the ships scanner. Question two, where are the survivors? The group go forth to find those survivors, and the source of the distress call. Easier said than done – their path is soon blocked by an empty, automated space suit and what appears to be a rather angry ship, if sucking all the air out of the room is anything to go by.

As it turns out, the real reason though behind the deaths of thirty plus workers on a mining space station, apart from the obvious that is, is the suits. The space suits here control the air supply for each worker and there was a crew wide instruction sent out to all suits to “deactivate your organic component”. Not ominous at all then – and the best bit? The only way to breathe on this station is to put on a suit. So, as the Doctor put it, “On the bright side, we’re dying already.”, and on went the suits. This brings up a whole new set of problems. What with the four the doubting survivors, thirty-six space zombies chasing them to the centre of the ship, and Bills faulty suit, you start to question what else could go wrong? Whatever it is you’re thinking, it won’t be that. Trust me.

Despite what promised to be an exciting and even creepy episode, for me, in places it fell short of my expectations. However, that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy what was there. For all the running from space zombies, and Bill’s malfunctioning suit, this episode managed to keep me on the edge of my seat, there is no question of that. So, as the group prepare to go outside the space station to try and reach the centre and Bill’s helmet chooses that timely moment to disable, I was almost as panicked as she was. It is here that the episode started to decline, it was as if it reached the climax too early and was constantly trying to reach that point again. Which brings me to the next big reveal of the episode, and something which will definitely come into play in episodes to come. As the doors continue to open and Bill continues to lose oxygen the Doctor does the only thing he can do to save her – he gives her his helmet.

At this point I am really not coping, it’s not that the episode was actually scary, but the thought of not being able to breath puts me on edge. So, as the montage of disconnected images play to show Bill coming in and out of consciousness I can’t help but hold my breath. The Doctor’s sacrifice of his sight is what really stands out in this episode, not his speech after Bill’s supposed death where the suit that kills her in the first place, in all its dysfunctionality, saves her life. That is what I felt was meant to be the turning point of the episode, but it didn’t quite make it after such a nail-biting series of events.

It will be interesting to see how the Doctor’s loss of sight will play a part in episodes to come, especially as Nardole pointed out that the Prisoner in the Vault can sense any weakness in the Doctor. Still not many clues though as to who the Prisoner is, but time will tell. Overall an exciting episode, but a little lacklustre in terms of its ‘epic’ conclusion. After that bout of crazy though give me a leaking tent over space zombies any day!

Rating: 7/10



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