Doctor Who Review: “Oxygen”

 

 

***Spoilers ahead, Sweetie**

The Doctor: “Here’s all the gruesome ways in which space can kill you!”

Also the Doctor: *goes on a trip into space STRAIGHT AFTER GIVING A LECTURE ON HOW SPACE CAN KILL YOU*.

You cannot make this kind of stuff up.

** Spoilers ahead, Sweetie **

A Brief Overview of What Happened

No, honestly, what I wrote above was not made up. The beginning of the episode features the Doctor, back at the university. He’s supposed to be giving a lecture on crop rotation, but as we already know, we just talk about whatever he feels like. In this case, he’s talking about space, how deadly it is, and how it can kill you. Bill and Nardole are also present for this lecture. And then, later in the evening, the Doctor takes the three of them on a trip. Into space.

The reason for going into space? Itchy feet could be part of the reason, but the Doctor’s also received a distress call, which he refers to as his “theme tune”. So, naturally, he goes to check it out.

The exact date of when this episode is set is unknown, but it is undoubtedly in the future. A future where capitalism is rife. So much so that people having to pay for the oxygen they need to live. I’ll be getting back to that. Oxygen is only available via purchase, and can only be accessed in the individual’s space suit. BUT the space suits seem to be taking the air away. The last order given to them being to remove their organic component, AKA the people that are in the suits.

There is a lot of action that goes on in between the Doctor witnessing the problem, identifying the cause of it and then finding a solution. Action that mostly involves Bill’s suit constantly becoming faulty at the worst times possible. One time it happens when they’re about to enter space vacuum. The Doctor’s only way to save her is to give her his helmet/force field of air and try and survive the vacuum himself. He succeeds, but at the cost of his eyesight. Which he lies to Bill at the end about being fixed, when his blindness is a permanent thing.

Anyway! Back to the suits. The order to kill the people using the suits turns out to have come from their employer. Having ‘workers’ is now costly, and it is cheaper to have empty suits running on automatic. To save money, they have given the new empty suits to kill the people upon arrival. The only way to stop it is for the Doctor to programme the space station to blow upon should they all die. This meaning it’s now more expensive for them to die than to live, so the order to kill is terminated.

A Return of The Political Undertones

Well for one, I was exhausted after watching this. After years of watching this show I keep forgetting that episodes in space are sometimes the most action packed, fast paced ones. Even after watching it three times I feel like I’ve missed some things.

Whether you like the message or not, this episode most carries a political message with it. And once again, it couldn’t have come at a better time, for us Brits at least. In season 9 we saw Twelve give his great “anti-war” speech in “The Zygon Inversion”, which came not longer after the Paris attacks. Without delving too much into politics, for those non-Brits, we’re in the final run up to a general election, where we choose who runs our government for the next five years. We’re famous for our NHS, where healthcare is delivered to anyone in need of it free at the point of use. Currently that is under threat of privatisation (meaning we’d have an American style healthcare system with health insurance etc.) with our current leadership, and will be threatened even more if we re-elect them.

In a way, I think the episode was trying to speak to us about that through their plot line of people having to pay for oxygen. You need oxygen to breathe, and you need to breathe to live, so surely you shouldn’t have to pay to live? Substitute oxygen for healthcare, and you have the argument the writers were probably trying to make. The Doctor said, “It’s the end point of capitalism. A bottom line where human life has no value at all.” In this episode, money is more important that life, and the writer was trying to warn us of a worst-case scenario thing here. Also, the double meaning of “fighting the suits” was awesome.

It was also nice to see Nardole being involved a lot more in this episode. In the last Christmas episode, when he made his return, I really was not keen on him. I barely remembered his character from “The Husbands of River Song”, and wondered why the hell Moffat had bothered to bring such a forgettable character back. But he’s growing on me. I do not care for him being used as comic relief. Those lines are more cringy than funny 90% of the time. However, Nardole really comes into himself when you see him trying to hold the Doctor to account and encourage him to keep his promise. Granted he’s failing at it right now. But trying to stop an ageless god, with the mental age of an 8-year-old, from doing whatever the hell he wants to do seems really bloody hard. Especially when you can’t trust him.

Bill’s paralysing fear of dying breaks my bloody heart as well. I’m not too sure whether this has been officially confirmed or denied, but there’s been rumours running around that Bill might actually be leaving us after this season. While it’ll be nice to have a higher turnaround of companions so they don’t out stay their welcome, and keep things fresher and more interesting, I’m really worried about what Bill’s fate is. I’d love nothing more than her to follow in Martha’s footsteps and leave on her own terms. But is all this death stuff a foreshadowing of what’s to come?

The next episode sees Missy return, and I honestly can’t wait to see what trouble she has in store for us (this is her last season too, by the way). Given the Doctor is still blind, and seemingly will be until the he regenerates, I feel like Missy is going to keep him on his toes a lot more than usual.


Johanna an avid writer and lifelong Doctor Who fan living in the UK. By day she is a student, studying Media and Film Production, and by night she fangirls about all things TV/Film related on Twitter and writes posts for a variety of blogs as well as her own lifestyle blog.

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