The last couple of Doctor Who episodes haven’t had bleeding-heart Social Justice Warrior plots – the kind of stories that led someone on ‘Have I Got News For You’ to call the show ‘lectures in Social Justice’ – and I’ve been quite happy with that.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the Social Justice stories. Rosa Parks stands as very powerful TV. But all that worthiness can be exhausting, and we needed a break. Episode 8 The ‘Witchfinders’ offered that very nicely. Yes, of course, abuse of witches is a social justice issue, but not a very current one. We could watch the horrible and illogical (if she dies, she was innocent!) dunking of a witch with some of the comfort of distance. Yes, it is horribly true that women are still treated badly in the modern world. But not as badly as this.
Then criminal aliens imprisoned under Pendle Hill? I loved that. So wacky and fun. Alan Cumming as the comedy King was a delightful break. Kind of like the older Dr. Who episodes – played more for laughs, but with a bit of an edge. The only real issue was the oddness of having a female Witchfinder hunting female witches. I’m pretty sure Witchfinders were all men. There wasn’t gender balance at all. Men had the power, and killed old women who they feared.
Last night’s episode ‘It Takes You Away’ was also creative, and delightful in its idea of a lonely, anti-matter universe sucking in humans to try and feel less alone. It let us deal with some hanging character traits that have largely been on pause – Ryan still dealing with the loss of his gran (and angry that his dad is such a waster), Graham dealing with the same loss while trying to be family to Ryan. Yaz didn’t get anything, but you can’t get something every time.
I quite liked Ryan’s forthrightness with Hanne about her Dad running off. Brutal, and showing his own pain that he hasn’t processed yet. He’s young still and raw. But by the end there was some healing. I expect his Dad issues will come to the fore again. Also Hanne’s Dad, after his poor behaviour, gets another chance. He was broken by grief. Setting up the speakers was really poor, neglectful, but there can be atonement and forgiveness. That’s not so bad.
Also, who doesn’t love a universe that chooses to manifest as a frog? Fun episodes. Developing characters. Maybe we are due some more social justice now. I’m still waiting for the tooth-face guys to come back as the series arc antagonists…