This was my favourite episode of the series so far – a very creepy little story that would probably’ve given me nightmares if I’d seen it when I was little. And even the more farcical elements of it worked for me.
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I’d assumed at first that the date plot was just part of the frame or a subplot, but it was nicely tied into the whole thing. I’d also thought I’d end up cringing through it, that it would be a sort of romcomish thing of a sort I don’t like. But it was rather well done. I liked that they both stormed out at different points for perfectly reasonable reasons. I rather suspect the chain of causality doesn’t quite work through the whole episode if you inspect it too closely, however, so I shan’t 😉 I’m not quite sure what I think about how this sets up Clara & Danny’s relationship – there’s something a little reminiscent of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife. And I found the central relationship of that book rather disturbing and creepy.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the date bit of it – why on earth didn’t Clara just tell the Doctor who she was on a date with? There didn’t seem any rational reason to me – I mean I get it that she’s not wanting the Doctor involved in her love life in general, particularly given this incarnation’s tendency for faux pas. But once it becomes clear that it’s getting mixed up in what’s going on then I don’t see why she didn’t just explain – well, probably out of earshot of Orson Pink. I can see how discussing your disastrous first date with the 3rd generation offspring of the eventual relationship might be a bit too awkward.
Then again, lies, evasion and hiding were the central themes of the episode. With pretty much every instance of it being just a bit too obvious a lie (or whatever) to be believed. I wonder what else in the episode is a lie/evasion that we just don’t know about yet – it’d be Moffat’s style to have another level of that that becomes clear later in the season.
The main season arc hook wasn’t apparent at all this week – no Promised Land, no Heaven, no Missy. No robots remaking themselves or in need of repair. The other threads – Clara as schoolteacher and the Doctor’s ambivalent relationship with soldiers – were in evidence tho. And obviously the Pink family were front & centre. Presuming it was the Doctor in that barn (and I think they’ve sold it too well for that to turn out to be misdirection*) then we’re being shown his Thing about soldiers is a deep rooted Thing. It feels like we’re getting quite a lot of mirroring between Danny & the Doctor here as well – tho Danny wanted to be a soldier (or at least did after Clara & the Doctor had seen him and messed with his memory anyway) and it seems the Doctor did not (the man in the barn scene talking about his lack of aptitude for the Academy and how he’d have to join the army instead despite not wanting to). But I was definitely wondering about whether this was the Doctor growing up in an orphanage, given the earlier section with Rupert Pink. And of course both picked names they liked better than their birth names once they grew up.
A good episode tho, the season defintely feels like it’s found its feet.