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‘Doctor Who’: There Really Is Always a Twist, Huh? BOOM

By Hannah Sole | TV | May 20, 2024 |

By Hannah Sole | TV | May 20, 2024 |


Previously, on Doctor Who: Fifteen and Ruby found some space babies, took pity on a snot monster, met the Beatles, and had a classical music improv battle with a god who eats tunes and unattended scenery. The new season’s opening two episodes were daft romps, for sure, but Gatwa and Gibson established themselves as a double act full of energy and fun, and the Big Mystery of who Ruby Sunday’s mum might be was teased but not lingered on for too long. That’s a story for another day.

This week: Fifteen and Ruby find themselves in the middle of a mysterious war and there’s rather less running around this time as Fifteen’s stuck on a landmine that will go off if he doesn’t stay completely calm and still. Spoilers are ahead for ‘Boom’!

Before we even get into the episode, we have some notable figures in the credits who need a mention. First up is the return of Moffat as a writer, and oh boy, if you like Moffaty dialogue, ‘Boom’ won’t disappoint. We also have the first Whoniverse appearance of Varada Sethu as Mundy Flynn. Sethu is playing a companion next season, either as Mundy or as part of the fine Whovian tradition of upcycling actors (see Freema Agyeman, Karen Gillan, Peter Capaldi).

My favourite bit of credits fun at the moment though is the Susan Twist of it all. Fifteen’s song last week, ‘There’s always a twist in the end’, whilst super catchy, is also an amusing nod at this season’s most intriguing returning actor, Susan Twist, whose repeated casting is allegedly nothing to see here. It would be hilarious if this is just a massive red herring, but we’re getting more Twist than we got Bad Wolf references with Nine, so Twist is a solid candidate for one of the big twists of this season, whether she’s Ruby’s mum, The One Who Waits, the Master or the new Impossible Girl. If it’s all a prank, bravo! Maybe RTD read some online commentary on how his showrunner style wasn’t twisty enough, thought LOL, cracked his knuckles and had a laugh with casting. Let’s enjoy playing some Twisty Bingo for now though. Here’s where she’s popped up so far:

This week in Twist-watch, Twist is the face and voice of a murderous ambulance, apparently gone rogue in a war zone, but really doing exactly what was programmed by the ruthless war-perpetuating capitalist algorithm of death, where saving lives needs to be cost-effective and casualty rates are optimised for profit. Wait, I thought this was an alien planet?

Fifteen and Ruby are on Kastarion 3 for a bit of sight-seeing, but find instead a war-torn wasteland, thanks to some Anglicans who arrived one day, yelled surrender, and then started fighting the natives to claim the territory for themselves and WAIT, I THOUGHT THIS WAS AN ALIEN PLANET?

The Anglican marines (who you might remember from Iain Glen battling the Weeping Angels) are fighting natives they have never seen, but are assumed to be in the mud or the fog. Their equipment has gone rogue, their ambulances killing off their soldiers at the first sign of injury, if the mines don’t get them first. Occupational Health reviews are brutal on Kastarion 3, eh?

Dropped into the middle of this, Fifteen sprints towards the sound of screams, so focused on someone needing help that he doesn’t look where he’s going, and steps right on a land mine. Gatwa’s performance so far has been so energetic that staying perfectly still gives him a chance to show what else he can do, and logistically, means that the action has to come to him. Ruby is soon joined by Splice, the daughter of John Vater, Twisty Ambulance’s first victim, and then her honorary auntie Mundy Flynn follows, and fellow marine Canterbury follows Mundy to protect his crush. The AI hologram of Splice’s dad, projected from his grossly hilarious smelted remains, completes Team No More Boom Today Thank You Please.

The temporary solution to the landmine threatening to go off, aka Keep Calm and Gingerly Arabesque, has plenty of its own challenges, what with the war zone, murder ambulance, panicking grieving child, lethal misunderstanding leading to Ruby almost dying and stuff, but the first horrid truth is that the mine will go off after a short time anyway, no matter how many times Fifteen takes a deep breath and sings the Skye Boat Song. Horrid truth number 2 is that the wider explosive power comes from the subject being vaporised, and the Doctor’s regeneration energy would be a much bigger bang than your garden variety human.

To disarm the mine completely and not destroy the planet, Fifteen needs to stop the whole war, and horrid truth number 3 is that the Anglicans are fighting themselves all along; there are no Kastarians. This has all been managed by the Villengard weapons algorithm, which has worked out the optimal casualty rate for wars to continue indefinitely, ensuring ongoing weapons sales. Our Anglican marines are not high up enough to call the whole thing off, so instead, AI Ghost Daddy takes a trip in the system and deactivates all the Villengard weapons to save his daughter. Without the dastardly algorithm calling the shots, Twisty Ambo can revive poor Ruby too.

The titular boom is not, thankfully, half the planet getting blown up, but rather Fifteen’s mic drop. Blind faith in an organisation is dumb, but faith in people, in love, saves the day. Thoughts and prayers are hollow; war is a pointless, horrible waste; dead doesn’t mean gone… Literally two episodes ago, we were dealing with a snot monster and some talking babies with flame-throwers, and now? I’m going to call this season ‘unpredictable’ rather than tonally jarring because a little bit of chaos makes this show great, and if it’s daft one week and shatteringly profound the next, well, I guess we all know now, there’s always a twist in the end…

Wibbly-Wobbly Timey-Wimey Stuff

There are tons of joyous timey-wimey references for long-time viewers to do the Leo meme at, and I will have missed some!

— Two used to play the Skye Boat Song on his recorder.

— Nine blew up the Villengard factory — or at least implied that he did. It’s totally on brand for Nine. Fantastic.

— When Fifteen is muttering a story to himself about the President’s wife and the moon, this is a nod to his time with Missy.

— Life-saving tech going awry might make you think of the nanobots of ‘Are you my Mummy’ fame.

— Some of Fifteen’s lines directly mirrored Twelve’s, which was a treat; Capaldi was awesome at the Big Profound Poetic lines and the Angry At Stupid People Doing Stupid Things lines and it’s great to see Gatwa doing these as well as the pithy throw-away gags.

— The Anglicans wonder if they are fighting “sentient mud” — Thirteen would know that’s not as weird as it sounds!

— Fifteen still loves fish fingers and custard — hey, once you’ve stumbled on a perfect hangover cure, it’s the only thing that works. I’m looking at you, pickled onion flavour crisps.

— Fifteen refers to himself as being a parent a few times this week, which means I’m still thinking we might see the return of Jenny, and she’s still my favourite pick for Ruby’s mum. Trying to figure out Ruby’s next of kin almost broke Twisty Ambo and caused the spooky snow to return so today is not the day we get this answer!

Next time: Are we ready for some weirdness in Wales? ALWAYS