Monday 3 December 2018

It Takes You Away - A Review

Now this one I really liked. Even the talking frog.
Only a couple of minor niggles with this episode, so I'll get them out of the way quickly. First of all, if that is the north of Norway in winter then I am the brother of the parent of an arboreal Simiiforme. Then we had the Doctor describe the house as "deserted", despite having just seen someone at the window and with the door heavily bolted from the inside. Also, maybe I missed it, but was it ever explained why Erik hadn't simply taken Hanne to where her mother was still alive, instead of leaving her for four days to fend for herself, believing there was a monster on the loose. Pretty dire parenting, as was pointed out in the dialogue. One other gripe - a bigger one - was that neither the Doctor nor Yaz was confronted by a dead loved one when they entered the alternate dimension. Only Graham saw his wife, Grace. It would have made far more sense if the Solitract looked and sounded like a loved one of the Doctor's, as it was she who was staying behind. Instead, it sounded like Grace and looked like one of her favourite things (the frog), despite Graham already having been expelled back to the Anti-zone.
I went into this story with low expectations. Knowing that one of the principal characters was going to be kid, I expected the worst. As it was, Eleanor Wallwork was superb as Hanne.
I also suspected that this story might be a little more fairy tale (something like In The Forest of the Night) and, in a way it was, but nowhere near as twee.
What we had was a portal to another dimension within the house which young Hanne shared with her father, Erik. Her mother had died some time ago. The portal was in a mirror, and the dimension was accessed via an intermediate domain known as an Anti-zone. Here we met Mr Ribbons - Ribbons of the 7 Stomachs - as played by Kevin Eldon. He was great, and it was shame that we did not get to see more of him. He was a very well realised character, defining everything he did through barter for food. The Fleshmoths (which eventually devoured him) were such a simple yet effective threat. Apart from the brutality of witch duckings last week, and the shocking racism of Episode 3, this series has generally shied away from overt horrific images (going out at 6.30pm on a Sunday, after all) but here we saw one of the moths crawling out of Ribbons' flesh-stripped skull. The series has sorely missed this kind of thing lately.

The alternate dimension beyond the Anti-zone is the domain of the Solitract - a force from the beginning of the universe which is a sort of disorganising principle, incompatible with the rest of the universe. In order for the universe to exist, it had to be exiled away into this place, where it is feeling rather lonely - hence its luring of Erik away with a reunion with his dead wife, and creating a false Grace to make Graham stay. We've had fake loved ones in the programme before, but it was all well handled here.
The monster in the woods which the title alludes to turned out to have been faked by Erik to stop Hanne following him. Monsters that have proven not to be so has been a sore point with me all season, but this time it fitted the plot - though you could argue that it was a rather convoluted and downright sick thing for Erik to have done. Couldn't he have just told Hanne he was going to be away for a few days and she shouldn't answer the door to strangers?
Once again Graham was brilliant. From the early humour (carrying a sandwich as he has noticed they keep missing meals) to his apparent reunion with his dead spouse, Bradley Walsh proves yet again to be the most watchable of the companions. Yaz was a lot stronger this week, and for once Ryan did not bleat too much about his terrible life. I've been waiting in vain for a punch-the-air moment this series, expecting it to come from the Doctor, but the closest we've come was Ryan finally calling Graham "granddad".
All in all, I'd be happy to see writer Ed Hime brought back for future stories.
By this stage in the proceedings I am usually very excited about the season finale. This is not the case this year. Next week is just another episode as far as I'm concerned. If Chibnall is going to finally go all story-arc on us then he has left it very late indeed. I strongly suspect that the lacklustre Stenza will be the villains, with references back to those earlier, disappointing, episodes which he wrote. Are we really expected to get excited about something which hasn't been mentioned since Episode Two? We know that all the companions survive, as we've seen them all in a photo from the New Year Special.
Hopefully the finale will see some proper TARDIS interior scenes - otherwise you have to ask yourself why they bothered redesigning it at all.


  1. I agree. This felt like Who to me, even with the new aesthetic. I never realized until this series how much I actually enjoyed the fact that they didn't connect every dot and often had hurried, even absurd resolutions.

    I'm glad they did this one because, when piled on top of the new feel of their historical episodes, it really means the series adds up to something significant, in total.


    I did think about how that didn't look like I pictured WINTER in Norway, though.

  2. Hmm, on the whole a very enjoyable episode, however I thought the talking frog detracted somewhat from the awe of the occasion. They definitely missed a trick by not having the Doctor meet a loved one. I dare say River Song could have coped with the Doctor’s gender change, though Rose might have found it a bit too much. Of course if the Doctor had met someone it would have to have been Missy. The comic potential there is off the scale.

  3. I think the two most likely people she would have met would have been her wife, River, or her grand-daughter, Susan, if the deceased were always loved ones.

  4. Are you saying that the Master/Missy isn’t a loved one? I’m not so sure (Anthony Ainley over the top style laughter....)

  5. "Loved one" might be too strong a phrase to describe their relationship. Best frenemies is probably the apposite epithet.

  6. Well how about this for a theory? The Master/Missy is Susan’s father/mother (and therefore the Doctor’s son-in-law/daughter-in-law). Actually don’t tell Mr Chibnall or he’ll probably make that the next season story arc. And on the subject of Susan, would she change her name if she regenerated into a male Time Lord? Answers on a postcard to BBC Wood Lane etc.