Last night bought loyal viewers something new for Doctor Who, which I have to admit is surprising for a show that is over 50 years old. Never before have we seen an episode with (pretty much) only the Doctor seen and speaking in it.
I went into this episode with high hopes. I was fascinated as to how the sci-fi genre would take the idea of a monologue episode. My concern before the episode started was that it would be too dull and that only having the Doctor would make it slow and hard to watch. However, I remember the episode of EastEnders (don’t judge me) a few years ago where Dot was the only character in and speaking in the episode and they pulled it off very successfully. It was a poignant episode that was insightful for Dot’s character development. There was something in my mind that said if EastEnders could do it successfully, there’s no doubt Doctor Who could as well.
And they did.
I came out of Hell Bent staring at the TV in wonder. It finished and I was sat there lost in a stream of emotions that I had no control over and no idea what they really were. To say a lot happened in the episode would be a lie. However the episode didn’t need a lot to have an impact.
The biggest disappointment from me was what I already knew about the episode. Having read Doctor Who Magazine this month I already knew that “if he survives Gallifrey is waiting for him” which meant when the Doctor finally got through the wall of 400 times stronger than diamond there was no “Holy Shit it’s Gallifrey” moment. At least I didn’t expect there to be. I expected to watch it and be like “Oh yeah, Gallifrey, there’s a surprise.”
What did in fact happen, was the Doctor got through the wall eventually and I saw staring at the TV in unblinking shock while my mind went off like a siren of “GALLIFREYGALLIFREYGALLIFREY.” I had no calm, no chill. I was almost in tears with how beautiful that scene was. It didn’t seem to matter than I knew it was going to end there because when it got there it was so overwhelming.
The episode as a whole was beautiful. I have no other words than that for it than that really. The character of the Doctor was explored in a way that I think really summed him up as a person. A lot of the way he acted, the way he talked in this episode reminded me of Nine but there was also a clear difference. I love this about Capaldi’s Doctor because he has come after the angry-reckless Ninth, the emotional, broken Tenth, and the childish, dangerous Eleventh. The Doctor so many times things he has moved on from the horrors, but Twelve really shows that he hasn’t. Twelve has more maturity than Eleven, less surface emotion than ten and more of the reckless anger like Nine. He’s come so far but he has also reverted because he never grieved in a way to allow him to be able to move past it.
The fears that the Doctor was experiencing in this episode which showed us his own personal hell were exactly the type of things that I, as a long term viewer, can believe to be things that would haunt the Doctor. The thing that made this episode terrifying had very little to do with the Veil but more to do with the fact that the Doctor was scared. Seeing the man who gets out of everything, who saves people and makes everything better afraid and lost made the episode so gripping and scared for the viewer.
When the Doctor was in danger, him arriving within the TARDIS and working it through reflected BBC Sherlock a lot. Sherlock always speaks of having a mind palace where he works through problems. In this episode we see the Doctor’s mind-TARDIS. However, unlike some reviews I’ve seen, I didn’t have a problem with it. I felt like it was more successful in Doctor Who than it was in Sherlock and I feel like it fit the Doctor’s character so well. The idea of a mind-space for working through things is an idea that fascinates me a lot as well, so I was happy to see it outside of BBC Sherlock which I am not the biggest fan of.
I have to be honest and say that I haven’t been Steven Moffat’s biggest fan. I have been one of “those people” who believed Doctor Who to be better under the control of Russell T Davies. However, I have so far enjoyed this series so much more than the three prior to it and I believe this to have been one of Steven Moffat’s strongest episode. I only hope that next week’s finale lives up to it.