Let’s leap right into Jodie Whittaker’s second episode, with giddy abandon and spoilers and stuff! Thirteen hit the ground running last week with her intro episode, saving Sheffield from Toothy Tim Shaw and making some new friends and a new sonic along the way. Our heroes ended the episode floating in space, following Thirteen’s slight oopsy with Tim’s transporter pad. Following the NEW CREDITS WHOOP WHOOP, that particular peril was quickly resolved by two mid-space rescues, two mysterious guest stars, and some special medipods. Crisis over! Yay!
Well, kind of yay. Out of the deadly vacuum of space, into the deadly Hunger Games planet. That’s right, a whole planet that actively wants to kill you. Their new friends Epzo (Shaun Dooley) and Angstrom (Susan Lynch) are the finalists of The Rally of the Twelve Galaxies, a kind of cross between Battle Royale (but IN SPACE!) and Rat Race (but IN SPACE!), where the winner gets a small fortune (probably — the currency is a bit of a mystery) and the loser/s get marooned on Planet Desolation. Wow, they really weren’t going for the tourist money with that name, huh?
The challenge is extended by a hologram of Ilin (an underused Art Malik). Ilin’s role is Sinister Exposition Man; he chills out in his virtual tent, issuing the rules of the final stage of the game. Desolation is basically like the maze in the Triwizard Tournament: first one to get past the monsters and find the magical finish line, the eponymous ghost monument — a certain errant blue box — wins the game. Unlike Battle Royale and The Hunger Games (and Fortnite — isn’t that what all the kids are into nowadays?), contestants are not allowed to murder, injure or sabotage each other, because this is a family show, and more importantly, the planet is more than capable of doing the murdering for you.
Team ‘Dude Where’s My TARDIS’ have two options: tag along, or die. Feeling a bit mortified about the almost lethal mistake from earlier, Thirteen promises Yas, Graham and Ryan that she will get them home, and so an uneasy truce is established with Epzo and Angstrom — a truce that provides us with some potential cannon fodder on the apparently deserted planet, and gives us a few more clues about what’s to come…
It turns out Toothy Tim Shaw wasn’t just a throwaway Baddy after all. The Stenza might just be this season’s Big Bad, and that’s cool — it makes a change from OH LOOK THERE’S A DALEK AGAIN. So that’s something. If Desolation is anything to go by, those Stenza are Properly Nasty Buggers. Kidnapping scientists to weaponise a planet, not to mention ethnic cleansing, and WAIT ISN’T THIS MEANT TO BE A FAMILY SHOW?
The main part of the episode was watching the team work together to get through the various horrors the planet had to offer, like those sniper bots, and the bits of fabric that come to life at night and try to choke you. To quote my sister, “the Sorting Hat’s gone evil!” These challenges provided some great opportunities for bonding and banter, as well as a chance for the new folks to show their worth as companions. (Step) Granddad Graham gives reassuring pep talks. Ryan figures out how to fix the boat as well as the science behind the Gassy Field. Yas has had a little less to do, but is quietly putting those police skills to good use.
But Thirteen is having a blast. She’s so good with Ryan, encouraging and supporting him where she can, and scolding him for having a Call of Duty moment in the ruins. She brandishes the sonic with a real flourish. She reminds them of the importance of a Zigzag Run when being shot at. But the most beautiful moment was when a familiar VWORP VWORP noise was heard in the distance.
Having turned Epzo and Angstrom into allies who successfully negotiated a bold Hunger Games tie result in the Rally, Team TARDIS are left behind. They are at the site of the ghost monument, but the little blue box takes its time to appear. For a moment, Thirteen loses hope, and suddenly the roles switch: The team, whose faith in her had been somewhat tested what with the whole HOLY CRAP WE NEARLY DIED IN SPACE incident, give her the pep talk, and then that noise, that lovely scrapey sound that promises all is not lost, starts up in the distance.
“Come to Daddy — I mean Mummy!”
Was there ever such a look of wondrous joy as there was when Thirteen was reunited with her TARDIS? Every new doctor needs a new and improved TARDIS, and Thirteen’s is full of crystal pillars and mood lighting. It’s like a magical cave. But with a special custard cream dispenser and a mini model of itself on the dash, because Doctors like biscuits and whimsy. (Don’t we all?) And with that, the whole team is assembled.
Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Bits
We don’t know if Chibnall is dropping little breadcrumbs for an elaborate overarching plot, but let’s imagine that he is, and see what we might need to make a mental note of.
Albar is the name of Angstrom’s planet, the one being ‘systematically cleansed’.
Walking through the desert, under the burning light of three suns, would have been the only acceptable use of sonic shades.
Pythagoras wore shades when he had a hangover. Now that, I want to see.
The ‘timeless child’ was mentioned by the Evil Blankies (voiced by Ian Gelder). This definitely wasn’t a throwaway line… (Also, the Evil Blankies are really called the Remnants, but as that’s a positively disgusting word, I wanted to avoid using it as much as possible. I feel sullied even putting it in now. Remnants. Ugh.)
Venusian aikido: Classic Doctor moves, there.
As Team TARDIS were on an alien world without having been in the TARDIS (and so, were wandering around without the special translation update), the role of Who-gle Translate was played by implants from those medipods. Handy!
Finally: All naps shall henceforth be referred to as “heroic naps”. And we are all Moomin Beings.
Next week: Rosa Parks!
Header Image Source: BBC