On Friday night at Tannadice Park, the home of my team Dundee United, I saw one of the finest goals I’ve seen scored in years. It was an absolutely blistering strike; a joy to watch.
So when I sat down to watch Oxygen, I hoped my good fortune would continue and that I would see one of the best episodes of Doctor Who in a long time.
What would be the chances of that?
Doctor Who – Oxygen Review: What’s This One About?
An attack on capitalism.
Or if you prefer, Space Zombies!! Aaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!
Thoughts – A Classic Episode, But Not Flawless
As luck would have it, this did turn out to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who I’ve seen in years, and I say that without hyperbole.
Almost everything about it, from the pre-credits sequence – which I might add does the job it should do as a prologue to events rather than just a few scenes before a randomly placed opening credits sequence – it
hits the ground running with great direction, appropriate incidental music and as good visual effects as you could expect from a show with Doctor Who’s non-Hollywood budget.
And from there it flows. There are no lulls, no pointless scenes; it’s one continuous uninterrupted thrill from beginning to end, culminating in that tremendous cliffhanger.
But it wasn’t perfect.
There were parts of it – like some of Nardol’s dialogue about the voice of the suits and where he joins in the hug at the end – that didn’t quite fit in with the overall mood of the episode.
Also, I found the resolution to Bill’s supposed death a little confusing on first viewing and had to go back a second time to double-check.
But those are minor issues that don’t drag down what is an excellent Doctor Who story.
Like The Best of Tom Baker
Remember last week when I said that Knock Knock could only be a Peter Capaldi episode?
Well there’s no question that Oxygen could be an early Tom Baker story. And that’s a good thing.
The setting and set-up is pure Ark in Space, the excitement of answering a distress call has been lifted out of Planet of Evil, while the anti-capitalist agenda is like a modern-day twist on Robert Holmes’s attack on the HMRC in The Sunmakers.
This Is For Children?
It’s a common misconception that Doctor Who is ‘For Children’. It’s a family show aimed at adults and children alike.
Except that Oxygen doesn’t seem like it’s aimed at kids at all.
The sinister suit wearing zombies are the sort of thing that would have kept me awake at night when I started watching the show, while the Doctor’s unusual vulnerability and Bill’s near death must have proved pretty upsetting.
Mind you, I’m all for it.
- With Nardol featuring more heavily – apparently because this is the first broadcast episode where it was written knowing he was a major part of the show – we’ve seen the good and bad of Matt Lucas. As touched upon earlier, I found the stuff with Velma silly, but enjoyed the humorous exchanges with the Doctor in the TARDIS at the start. Best of all though was the scene at the end, where Lucas played it straight and was effective in doing so.
- The incidental music in the vacuum of space reminded me of Four to Doomsday and Enlightenment. I wonder if that was intentional?
- Having the real villains of the piece – the company – never appear was a refreshing touch. Similarly having space suits be the immediate threat proved different to the norm. I liked it.
- I found the explanation that “These suits will probably be offline” to be a trifle convenient.
- Bill seems to have a different hairstyle every week,
- I’m intrigued to see where the blindness angle is going. Perhaps it will be the trigger for the next regeneration.
- Looks like it’s Missy in the vault. Oh…yay.
- Unusually, this episode has been well received by most fans, with the main criticism from people who disliked it being that they felt it had too many speeches. I didn’t really consider that a problem.
- Overall I thought the best scene was the one where Bill’s helmet malfunctions. The quality of direction was spot on and it also moved the action along nicely. Bravo.
In my overall rankings of every Doctor Who story up to Last Christmas – which as you know is available from Amazon as part of Stuart Reviews Doctor Who: Book Two – the highest rated Peter Capaldi story is Listen, while the highest rated Matt Smith one is The Day of the Doctor. At this moment I think Oxygen is better than them both. It’s not better than the next David Tennant story on the list – the thematically similar Waters of Mars – but it runs it close.
So therefore, I can say in all honesty that this is the best Doctor Who story I’ve seen in almost 8 years.
That’s pretty good going.
More Doctor Who Reviews
Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon