Ten Thoughts About Doctor Who – Oxygen. Pay Per Breath…

This… is probably the best of the season so far. No, definitely… spoilers of course.


1. In Space, No One Can Hear You Say You Want Another Spaceman's Baby

Never have any kind of emotional ambition when you are doing a space walk. Like signing the death sentence, yours, your lover's, your non-existent space-baby.

But did anyone hear Nardole talk about fluid link K57, removed by himself from the TARDIS? The first Dalek story way back when had the Doctor claiming there was something missng from his TARDIS that he had to find in order to make it work again – and that was a ruse too – "fluid links" of mercury labelled K7…


2. Zombies On A Spaceship

Why didn't they call it that? But the automatic suits create a sci-fi version of the arm of the undead very effectively. Even down to the outstretched arms and slow gait. Not sure why they couldn't be running zombies given recent developments in that degree. Can't suits run?


3. The Doctor – A Prophet Of Profit

In 1977, the same year Alien came out, Doctor Who aired The Sun Makers. In which the inhabitants of Pluto in the far future are taxed to desperation, with one so overwhelmed by the size of his tax bill that he tries to take his own life. False suns have been created around Pluto to provide life but the Company which owns the suns and the buildings on Pluto is using its economic stranglehold to extort ever growing taxes through extreme usury. It has the reputation of being the most anti-capitalist Doctor Who story ever, but many saw it as anti-statist. Either way, tonight, Doctor Who got that beat. Pricing oxygen, destroying air to keep market prices high, and engaging in all possibilities to extract the maximum from employees. Right now, some employees are forced to pay for their own uniforms. In the future, the uniforms are freemium instead, and oxygen is the expression of that. And as to a prophet, you know the best soothsayers were always sightless…


4. A Space Oddity

The suits' cameras are also rather HAL of Staley Kubrick's 2001 – but his malfunction that doomed the ship's crew was one of unintended error, if caused by humans and greed. This goes far beyond that. As investment, advertising, more and more turn to algorithms, the future is taken out of human hands entirely, we become walking suits of meat, inefficient ones at that, and Doctor Who places itself directly in between our present and that… also-present.


5. Stay Away From The Suits

The wordplay was on fire with this episode. As the suits both provided the undead zombies, they were also… "suits", the faceless men of the company, there grinding the man down. Or in this case, deciding that he was surplus to requirements. But add in the Microsoft Word-like "you appear to be running, would you like help with that" or Nardole's "some of my best friends are blue-ish" and this was an episode dripping with text, subtext, double meanings, triple meanings, allusions and just plain bad jokes. Following Mummy On The Orient Express, The Girl Who Died and FlatlineJamie Mathieson has established himself as the best Doctor Who writer right now. He also gives the Doctor a yo-yo again from time to time.

Also suits… the emoji robots and Nardole himself – foreshadowing for the Mondasian Cybermen to come?


6. Racists In Space

And, since this is the future, we have a world where the idea that anyone could be racist to black people is beyond the pale. As it were. But because, apparently, people still have to be racist towards someone, you have the blue people now.

And so, obviously, the blue person won't make it out of this haunted house alive. There are trope traditions to maintain.


7. Life Flashing Before Your Eyes

More shots of Bill's mother as she loses consciousness. There is no way we're getting out of this series without meeting her, before she died. After all, as we know, the Doctor was there. Was Bill as well?

But the Doctor had his own sacrifice to make, and handily set up by his lecture about the vacuum of space right at the begin. More of that blind soothsaying…


8. Oxygen Of Public Relations

Distance measurement in average breaths is just one of those perfect ways of showing a world in a different perspective, by focusing on what is important to another group of people and seeing how that affects the way they see everything, with different values and measurements. And, in the process, transforming a Doctor Who staple, that of running in corridors. Every breath you take… It would be the weekend that institutions and companies across the world were targeted by ransomware hackers, of course. They were after pure profit too. What if…?


9. Mutual Assured Profit

The Doctor rewrites the rules, Kobayashi Muru-style, whooshy doors or not. And then uses judo to spark a revolution. Just don't ask why the suits don't reprogramme the nuclear cooling and fix the algorithms themselves…


10. Did You See This Cliffhanger Coming?

Doctor Who has a habit of pressing the reset button. Having whatever injury or medical emergency has been caused undone by the technology of the TARDIS. But the return of the sunglasses and the double meaning of not being able to look at Nardole after what the Doctor had done should have twigged you.

And a proper cliffhanger without having to have a double episode. You know, a regeneration would totally fix that. Talking of which isn't this coming at some point?


Just not for a while…

Coming Soon…


Is that River's diary? Yeah, yeah and Missy and The Pope. Oh, the possibilities…

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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