Title: “Doctor Who Season 10 Episode 5: Oxygen”
Genre: Science fiction, Drama
Platform: TV – BBC America
Director: Charles Palmer
Writer: Jamie Mathieson
Release: May 13, 2017
Cast: Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Lucas
Feature image: Source
“Space the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us.” The Doctor —Doctor Who
The scene begins with a voiceover from the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), “Space the final frontier. Final because it wants to kill us.” The setting is a space station, the Chasm Forge mining station. Two people, a man and a woman are walking outside the space station, trying to get back in, the oxygen supply in their spacesuits, dwindling. Ellie (Katie Brayben) is trying to tell Ivan (Kieran Bew) she is ready to have a baby with him. Something is interfering with their radio transmission, so he can’t hear her. Some floating dead bodies are behind Ellie, and one of them touches her suit. When Ivan turns around Ellie is dead and she is marching with the other dead people towards him.
The Doctor is giving a lecture; its topic: ‘How Does Space Kill You?’ He enthusiastically explains because of the lack of pressure; if you hold your breath, your lungs will explode. Due to the vacuum of space, your bodily fluids will start to boil. In fifteen seconds, you’ll pass out; in ninety seconds, you’re dead. A student raises her hand and asks, “What’s this got to do with crop rotation?” After the lecture, Nardole (Matt Lucas) tells the Doctor that he misses space. He is afraid the Doctor will take another trip off world.
On the TARDIS, the Doctor asks Bill (Pearl Mackie) to pick a place for them to go. She picks a spot, but the Doctor had already chosen a spot where a distress call is coming from. Bill is curious why he likes distress calls. The Doctor: “You only really see the true face of the universe when it’s asking for your help.” Nardole walks in and tells the Doctor he can’t go anywhere because after his lecture, Nardole took the fluid link out of the TARDIS. Bill: “What’s a fluid link?”
Nardole: “No idea! But the TARDIS can’t go anywhere without it.” The Doctor: “Who told you that?” Nardole: “You did!” The Doctor: “Exactly!” The Doctor pulls a lever and the TARDIS takes off. “Teach you to trust me.”
“The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, we show ours by how we respond.” The Doctor —Doctor Who
The TARDIS materializes in Chasm Forge. There is no oxygen in the station, so the TARDIS provides an air bubble for them to go out and explore. They find a dead body that is standing upright. The Doctor explains to Bill that the suit is keeping the body upright. Bill thinks it is disrespectful to leave the body standing that way. Nardole checks the stations records, it had a crew of 40, 36 are dead; the station is unprofitable. Nardole and Bill are ready to leave after hearing a strange noise. The Doctor isn’t, four survivors still need assistance. He reminds them, “The universe shows its true face when it asks for help, we show ours by how we respond.”
” . . . Relax or die.” Nardole —Doctor Who
An empty suit created the noise they heard; it’s busy working. The suit tells them they can only have oxygen in suits, at a competitive price. Any excess oxygen on the station will be expelled. The oxygen the TARDIS was providing is expelled and the TARDIS is locked behind a door on the other side. Over the station intercom, crew chief Tasker (Justin Salinger) asks them to identify themselves. He tells them to get out of the repair station; there are suits there. The dead crewmember in the suit attacks them and crushes the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. After they deactivate the suit, they find out a command was sent to all suits to deactivate your ‘organic component’. That would be the person in the suit. Oxygen levels are decreasing so they will have to get into the three empty suits that are in the repair station. The Doctor deduces that the three suits were offline for repairs so they did not get the order to deactivate their organic component. They get into the suits. Nardole looks out the port window and reports that the 36 suits with dead humans are heading their way. Bill is panicking and having trouble breathing. Nardole tells her to “relax or die.” They hurry down the corridor to processing. The suits are in close pursuit. Tasker finally opens the door and lets them in.
Bill meets a blue alien named Dahh-Ren (Peter Caulfield). Bill gawks at him and speaks slowly at him. Dahh-Ren responds, “Great. We rescued a racist.” Bill tries to explain she isn’t a racist and tells him she usually is the one who experiences it. He doesn’t know what she is talking about, and she smiles thinking humans aren’t prejudiced against each other in the future. The Doctor immediately starts giving orders; Tasker asks whom the Doctor thinks he is. The Doctor tells them the man who will rescue them. He asks for a map and Tasker commands Abby (Mimi Ndiweni) to give the Doctor one.
Ivan helps Bill with her suit; it is a mess. Tasker explains the four were off line to fix conveyors, so their suits didn’t get the command. They think someone must have hacked into the suits. Nardole asks if what they are mining is worth stealing. No, they are just mining copper, and they haven’t been productive lately. The suits outside are trying to figure out how to get in the room. The Doctor asks if the AI in the suits can figure out how to get into the room. Tasker assures the Doctor they have limited problem solving skills. The suits figure out how to unlock the door and come in. They touch Tasker’s suit and he’s dead. He joins them in pursuing his living crewmembers and the TARDIS crew. To get away from the suits, they have to go outside. They put on their helmets because of the vacuum of space. Bill’s helmet is malfunctioning so her suit takes it off her head. Bill has to go and she remembers what the Doctor said in his lecture. Don’t hold your breath. We hear a beeping sound as a disorientated Bill passes out.
“You will go through hell…and you will come through it. I will be on the other side.” The Doctor —Doctor Who
Disorientated from oxygen deprivation, Bill sees glimpses of what is going on. Someone shoots one of the suits in combat. She has a helmet on because the Doctor hacked the suit. The Doctor gave her his helmet and he was out there too long without one. The consequence, the Doctor is blind. Bill hugs him. He jokes about his condition while he tries to formulate a plan. The suits can’t find them because they are in a section that isn’t recorded on a current map. The suits are trying to locate them. They hear a ship’s transponder; they think a rescue ship is headed their way. Abby is upset about Tasker and blames the Doctor. While he’s trying to come up with a plan, they are nearly out of oxygen. She points her weapon at him, but Ivan is able to calm her down. The suits figure out where they are and they kill Dahh-Ren. They have to get out of there but Bill’s suit magnetizes its boots, preventing her from walking or from anyone being able to lift her up. Bill’s suit says if anyone tries to move her, there will be a fine. Bill responds, “Fined for dying.” That helps the Doctor to figure out what is happening and what to do. The Doctor decides they’ll have to leave Bill. The Doctor tells Bill: “You will go through hell…and you will come through it. I will be on the other side.” The suits reach Bill and touch her suit; she cries for her mother and becomes one of them.
“The only way to argue with a ‘suit’, and save your life, is to reason on a case of expense, it’ll cost more if people die.” The Doctor —Doctor Who
Bill’s suit and the other suits pursue the surviving living people. The Doctor and the survivors head to the reactor room. He connects the reactor’s settings to everyone’s suits. He gives everyone his plan. They have one last option, the one everyone has, to die well. There was never a rescue ship. Because the station was unprofitable, their employers decided to save valuable oxygen by getting rid of the crew. The company sent the message to the suits to deactivate its ‘organic component’. The ship that is coming to the station isn’t coming to rescue them, but to replace them. He set the reactor’s settings to everyone’s suits so if they die; the station explodes. “The only way to argue with a ‘suit’, and save your life, is to reason on a case of expense, it’ll cost more if people die.” Abby doesn’t believe the Doctor at first, but once she sees he is telling the truth, she agrees with his plan. The suits in the station hear his plan and cease their attack. It seems the ‘suits’ in headquarters heard the plan too and called the suits on the station off. They even give all the living crewmembers their oxygen tanks. Even better news, Bill is alive. The Doctor knew this, her battery was low, and so her suit didn’t have enough power to give her a lethal dose. The TARDIS crew has a group hug.
It appears that the TARDIS cured the Doctor’s blindness once they got back aboard. The Doctor drops Abby and Ivan off at company headquarters so they can confront their bosses. He later tells Bill six months after the incident, a revolt happens and it ends capitalism in space. When they get back to the University, Nardole severely scolds the Doctor for putting himself in danger. He could have seriously injured himself, and the person in the vault would know. He demands the Doctor look at him. He can’t; the Doctor is still blind.
The Doctor is blind, and it wasn’t cured at the end of the episode. I’ve seen the Doctor hurt before, but by the end, they’ve found some cure, or the Doctor uses some trick, and he’s back to normal again. The trick this time is; he’s really in trouble. The Doctor can get around the TARDIS okay blind, since he knows her like the back of his hand. The rest of the universe should be a little trickier. Will they be able to regain the Doctor’s sight by the next episode, or is this the beginning of further physical degradation, leading to his regeneration. Some people have speculated the Doctor’s regeneration is going to be a longer process than usual, and this could indicate they are correct.
The employers in this episode take capitalism to its extreme conclusion; they are willing to kill 40 people because productivity was low. Everything they did was to make a profit, even selling oxygen to their employees for their survival. I hope present day corporations don’t get any ideas from this episode. I could see a Texas company selling air conditioning to employees in the summer. It was interesting the way they used suits to mean the actual spacesuits and the ‘suits’ in the corporate office. The Doctor has always been the champion of the people, and opposes any group that mistreats and exploits others. It wouldn’t make him too popular with the people running things in the US now.
I had one major problem with this episode, there was so much going on that I had trouble following it. It took a second viewing before I got a handle on it. Once I did, I enjoyed it. It was good having Nardole on the trip and he brought much needed levity. The suits with the dead crew in them were a frightening sight. I loved the premise of capitalism running amuck, and Bill and the Doctor were able to keep me emotionally involved in the story, even when I wasn’t sure what was going on.
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