What I Like About Who: No. 13

This is the thirteenth column in a weekly series from Rob Hull, Figures and More. Check back Mondays for a weekly journey through time and space, or read all of our adventures here

I can’t believe we are at the penultimate episode of season 11 already. It’s been a mixed bag, full of some amazing highs and some truly awful lows, but the episode that sends us to the finale is a touching, emotional episode about the lengths people will go to for their heart’s desire.

In present day Norway, the Doctor and friends encounter a young blind girl names Hanne, who is shut up in a house due to a monster outside who has taken her father. Investigating the house, the Doctor finds a mirror that is a portal to another universe. That universe is inhabited by a being that entices people to stay there by manifesting as the deceased individual they are most emotionally connected to. For Hanne’s father, it is his dead wife. He found the portal, and discovering she was still alive in the other world, he has stayed there. This situation takes a particular toll on Graham, because the being takes Grace’s form. This forces Grace to deal with all of the grief and longing he has been bottling up since he left with the Doctor after Grace’s death. They all pass through a “buffer zone” between universes, created because the two universes cannot exist together. In order to get back to their universe, they must reject their resurrected loved ones. In the end, the Doctor makes friends with the creature, but convinces it to let her go. And Graham finally earns Ryan’s acceptance, as Ryan calls him Grandad.

Again, there is great supporting cast for this episode. The star of the supporting cast is, by far, Eleanor Wallwork, who plays Hanne. Eleanor is the first blind actress in the history of Doctor Who, and she is incredible in the episode. I think it is awesome that they were able to use a blind actress in this part, as it adds a layer of realism. On top of it, she has a great emotional range.

The token alien in this episode is Ribbons, who is played by Kevin Eldon. He looks and acts very much like a classic Doctor Who monster. He looks like some sort of evil gremlin or goblin and the first thing I thought of when I saw him was the Remans from Star Trek: Nemesis. He is an evil, conniving being, and I did not feel terribly sad when he got his comeuppance.

Hanne’s Dad, Erik, is played by Christian Rubeck. He has been lost ever since his wife died. Although that is no excuse to LEAVE your daughter in fear of a fake monster YOU CREATED! He will NOT be winning any Father of the Year awards. He would rather be in the alternate universe where his wife is alive that the “real” universe where his daughter is. In the end, he finds the courage to reject the other universe, but it is very difficult for him to let go.

The other two guest stars in the episode play the embodiment of the Solitract. Hanne’s Mom, Trine, is played by Lisa Stokke. Although Erik is taken in by her deception, Hanne senses immediately that she is not her mother, and is quick to reject her.

The other figure chosen to represent the Solitract is Grace, and she is again played by the amazing Sharon D. Clarke, and she again reminds us how much we miss the character. In the end, the Doctor encounters the final representation of the Solitarct, a talking frog with Grace’s voice. The Solitract simply missed “our” universe, so it called out in it’s loneliness.

In terms of Team TARDIS, this episode does contain some great character moments for Ryan. His feelings of abandonment color his first reaction to Hanne’s situation with her Dad disappearing, and they make Hanne very cold towards him afterwards. When Ryan goes after her, and ends up helping to rescue her Dad, she hugs him in thanks. Also, seeing Graham work through his grief over Grace finally breaks down the wall between him, and he finally calls Graham “Grandad” at the end of the episode.

But, this episode belongs to Bradley Walsh, as Graham gets his spotlight. When the Solitract takes the form of Grace, Graham wants to believe he has her back with all of his heart. He wants to take Grace back to “our” universe, which the Doctor knows is impossible. The scenes between the Doctor and Graham, where she must force him to reject her, are among some of the most emotionally charged this series. You can literally see Graham’s heart breaking all over again, as he must leave Grace behind again. But, it is her cavalier attitude towards Ryan that allows Graham to see through illusion, choosing to save him and reject her. This was truly Graham’s moment in the spotlight, and Bradley Walsh played it beautifully.

Again in this episode, Jodie showed us several different sides of the Doctor in this episode. Showing the goofy, silly, side when she eats the soil to get her bearings. Then, she displays the serious side when she is investigating the mirror and putting the pieces of the puzzle together. And, she reminds us all that the Doctor has to make heartbreaking choices when she must leave the Solitract behind at the end of the episode, promising it that they will be friends forever.

In the end, this episode was at times creepy and at times thought provoking, and any episode that makes you think as much as this one truly embodies one of the mission statements of the show.

Next Week, it’s the end of the road, as the season finale shows us The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos.


DID WHO KNOW?

  • This episode features the latest in a long history of moments in which the Doctor is forced to let someone go. Other instances include the Tenth Doctor and Rose, the Eleventh Doctor and Amy, and the Twelfth Doctor and Clara.
  • The Doctor has visited Norway before, most notably during the tenure of the Tenth Doctor when Rose and her family were transported to Darlig Ulv Stranden – Bad Wolf Bay.
  • The “empty house” is a classic Doctor Who trope. In fact, it is in the course of investigating an empty house that the Eleventh Doctor initially meets Amy Pond.
  • The Eleventh Doctor and Clara investigate a similar empty house in Hide.
  • The casting of Eleanor Wallwork represents another first in the 55-year history of Doctor Who. She is the first blind actress to appear in the series.