In the 1980s Peter Capaldi was in a punk rock band called the Dreamboys. The drummer was future Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson while Capaldi was lead singer and guitarist. As tonight’s episode opens, the Doctor strums his electric guitar and tells us about the works of Beethoven, while revealing to us the “Bootstrap Paradox”. A time traveller is a big Beethoven fan, so he goes back to meet his idol, but he finds that he doesn’t exist. His family hasn’t heard of Ludwig, the symphonies haven’t been written, there is no Beethoven. But the time traveller has all of Beethoven’s sheet music (to get autographed) so he copies it out and releases the works himself. He’s essentially become Beethoven. But who wrote the symphonies in the first place? “The Bootstrap Paradox: Google it.” the Doctor says. In a brilliant bit of fourth wall shattering, we get a hint to the Doctor’s plan, and possibly a foreshadowing of the resolution to tonight’s ghost story… (note to readers, I do type parts of my episode reviews up as I’m watching, so I guess commercials are good for one thing)
I think the theme for this season is “paradox” because this is two stories (E1&2, E3&4) that have revolved around them. As we watch though we see how the Doctor has orchestrated this future, since he knew he was going to die he had nothing to lose. It is now 1980, and a remote Scottish village has been dressed up as a mock Russian town for training purposes as we are at the height of the Cold War. The spaceship is sitting in the middle of the square and we learn that it is a “hearse”, piloted by Prentis, a Tivolian who are the most conquered race in the galaxy (“If you occupied us, you’d be home by now.”). The Tivolians were conquered by the Arcateenians, who deposed the Fisher King who apparently died and was being brought to a remote, unimportant place (our planet, not just the village) to lie for eternity. Somehow though he wasn’t dead and awoke from the ship to kill Prentis who became his first ghost who, along with the mysterious writing on the wall, initiated the Fisher King’s plan to use the electromagnetic energy of his victim’s “souls” to set up a beacon so his people could come and find him, and enslave the population of the Earth.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor calls Clara to learn that there is a fourth ghost, and it is his. Now he must come up with a plan to stop himself from dying, even though that would mean breaking the laws of time. As the ghosts in the future trap and torment Clara, Cass and Lunn, the Doctor confronts the Fisher King in the past where he tricks the alien warlord into thinking he will circumvent the laws of time to save himself and his friends and prevent the future he’s already seen, simply by erasing the writing scrawled on the walls of the spaceship. The writing puts a kind of psychic plant in the minds of all who see it, “tuning” them to the Fisher King’s frequency almost, and then using them to kill others to strengthen the signal they will send to the King’s people for his rescue. Racing back to the ship to see the writing is actually still there, the dam explodes and floods the city, but does it kill the Fisher King? In the future, the suspended animation chamber is opening to release it’s occupant…..
Of course that occupant is the Doctor who reveals that he wasn’t ever killed and wasn’t really a ghost, it was just a pre-programmed hologram he came up with that he used to then capture the remaining ghosts in the Faraday cage, and then save the day, but how did he get that idea? His ghost was saying the names of the crew members and the Fisher King’s victims, and he knew the order the names the “ghost” was saying because Clara told him. And she only could tell him because it was already saying them….and we’ve looped back around to the opening of the show and the Bootstrap Paradox.
I enjoyed this episode again, but maybe not as much as the first part. It was cleverly written and actually explained itself up front when it basically came out and told the audience how the episode was going to solve itself with a paradox. It was clever, but it didn’t feel like it was a “taunting” clever like some of the paradox type episodes in past seasons did. This one didn’t feel like it was just there to preach to us about how smart, clever and tricky the writer could be. It still had some thrills, and some chills, and it may have seemed like Clara didn’t really do much this episode, but she really did. She gave the Doctor the inspiration to fight on, to risk breaking the laws of time to save her, and she actually helped fulfill the Bootstrap Paradox.
- Very cool to stop the background sound and the music when we’re seeing things from Cass’ point of view. Sophie Stone did make history by becoming the first deaf actress to appear on an episode of Doctor Who last week.
- It may have been a bit cheese and really really obvious to have the Doctor wake up in the suspended animation chamber, but I still smiled.
- Nice nod to The Idiot’s Lantern in the cold open. The amplifier the Doctor plugs his electric guitar into has a plaque reading Magpie Electronics.
- Clara calls out to a deaf woman so she can find her…well at least she realized she was being an idiot then.
- All the characters that I think would make great companions seem to die off….sorry O’Donnell.
- The Fisher King itself. It looked like a cross between a lobster and a vampire from one of the Blade movies. For all the thrills and tension built up by the ghosts, this slow walking “monster” really was a let down. It didn’t really do much or show why it was such a dangerous creature.
- Seemed to be a few plot holes this week. Well, not so much plot holes but things just felt rushed and the audience was just supposed to accept the simple “because” explanation. (How come the Fisher King isn’t dead in the hearse/ship? He just isn’t, don’t worry about it)
Next week: vikings!