This one’s a bit spoilery. Be warned, because it’s not possible to discuss Saturday’s Doctor Who without talking about the last ten minutes. Oh, those last ten minutes. Cold Blood (BBC1, Saturday) was a heartbreaker. It took a while to get there, but it more than paid off.
However, one thing needs to be said first – Stephen Moore. Stephen Bloody Moore in Doctor Who! I think I’m in heaven. Those hangdog, kindly eyes peering out from under heavy Silurian makeup just about papered over any cracks (ho-ho) that this episode might have had. I love that man. One of my very favourite actors, and I’ve waited a long time for him to turn up on screen. He’s already been inducted into the family via the audio adventures, and here he is on my telly. Bliss.
So – having spent a week waiting to see if the second part of this adventure would pay off, how did it all work out? Weeeeell… tell you one thing, The Doctor should just turn around and go somewhere else any time the Silurians turn up, because it never, ever works out. You wonder why he bothers trying to broker a peace between Reptile and Ape. The two viewpoints would appear to be fundamentally opposed.
That said, some great work was done this week showing that there are good people and hot-heads on both sides. Ambrose acts out of fear for her family, Restac acts out of an urge to protect her race. Both are blinded by prejudice, and both undo the good work done by others. It seems to be a constant of any story involving this lot – at least during the Pertwee years – that it all goes west just as the big breakthrough occurs (Warriors of The Deep bucked that trend somewhat by being a bloodbath from one end to the other). As a love letter to the work of Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, this worked terribly well. I think Mac would have loved the idea of a pyrrhic victory in which humanity gets a thousand years to sort itself out.
Thankfully, we seem to be off to a good start – just look at Elliot’s repulsed reaction when he finds out what his Mum has done. Hopefully Ambrose will take to heart Eleven’s little pep-talk. I get the feeling that there’s a lot of work to be done there because quite frankly I can’t remember liking a character in Doctor Who less. Pretty much at every turn, Ambrose gets it completely and fundamentally wrong. Here’s hoping that Elliot proves to be substantially different in his outlook. He certainly seems to get the message. He’ll be splendid.
It’s interesting how this first season of Moffat’s reign seems to be revisiting various themes from the immediately preceding era, and twisting them slightly. Here, we revisit the idea of word-of-mouth and storytelling being used to create something powerful. It’s slightly longer term than Martha’s year as a mobile Jackanory unit, but the principle is the same. In this case, we’re going from generation to generation in the hopes that by the time our scaly friends re-emerge, they’ll be greeted with a more understanding, caring humanity. Unfortunately, I suspect they’ll re-emerge to be confronted by all the weaponry that humanity has spent the intervening thousand years developing to wipe them out.
Thankfully, Eldane has Nasreen and Ambrose’s kindly, wise old dad to show him that not everyone is irredeemable. I’ve loved the supporting cast in this two-parter, but Meera Syal needs special praise. As an example of just how good humanity can be, Nasreen’s been unbeatable. The look of pain that passes briefly over her face before she gives up her life’s work is merely one exquisite example of how a great actor, well cast, can lift a story up several notches just by being there. Top stuff.
Likewise, despite bringing back bad memories of Frank Ashmore’s return in “V” as his identical brother (“we were cloned from the same zygote”), Neve MacIntosh did sterling work as two equally unpleasant characters. Alaya taunts her way to what she thinks is a martyr’s death. Restac… quite apart from blowing the fragile peace wide apart, she also… hang on a minute, I’ve got something in my eye.
Oh, Rory. Poor, poor Rory. He dies a heroic death. And then it’s all undone mere seconds later. And it’s all The Doctor’s fault. As ever, curiosity is his downfall. If he hadn’t stopped to investigate the crack in time, and had done what he’s promised over and over again to do – to keep innocents safe – things might have been alright. But once again, as in the best tragedies the hero has one flaw that brings him down. I don’t doubt but that this is the start of everything landing on Eleven’s head by the end of the series. Rory is merely the first to fall.
I’m going to miss Arthur Darvill. In a mere five episodes he’s worked miracles. I loved the dynamic between the three regulars and last night it actually hurt to watch Rory die. It hurt even more as slowly, inexorably, he faded out of existence. The scene in the Tardis between Eleven and Amy as she roars with inconsolable grief then slowly changes to her usual happy-go-lucky, carefree self – it broke my heart. Yours too, probably. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan played a total blinder, Eleven desperately trying to save Rory’s memory, Amy’s inability to do so, and the look of devastation that passes across his features as he realises the battle is lost. Beautifully played and I’m unashamed to admit that there was a tear in my eye.
When Donna “dies”, she completely forgets everything about her new life, and it’s left to everyone else to carry the burden of remembering what’s been lost. Here, Rory dies and nobody remembers. It’s a burden The Doctor has to carry alone. His race, wiped out of existence. An individual, fallen in his service. I’d say that was equally as important to him, or at least to the character as I like to think of him.
But hang on – the engagement ring is still in existence. I wonder if this might be more than a little significant? Surely it would have gone too? I hope so, because I’d dearly like to think that Rory will turn up again. It might be a harbinger of disaster if he does, but given the theme of the season seems to be that time can be rewritten, undone, changed – who knows?
One thing’s certain – no good can come of this. At the end of the episode time has rewritten itself. Future Amy’s alone on the hillside, The Doctor is left clutching a fragment of shattered Tardis shell. It’s all downhill from here. Just four weeks to go. Where do we go from here? I still have no idea. But I’ll be counting down the days until next Saturday. I can’t wait to find out.