It Takes You Away

Posted in Episode by - December 03, 2018
It Takes You Away

Aired 02 December 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

In a debut series both for the core cast and showrunner that has often put more of a priority on character than sprawling science fiction, it’s perhaps no surprise that the penultimate episode, ‘It Takes You Away’ by Ed Hime, attempts to fuse both with unquestionably the most ambitious plot of the Thirteenth Doctor era yet.

Doctor Who and the science fiction genre in general are the perfect vehicles through which to explore the nuances and inner workings of the horror genre, and with the relatively recent rise in popularity of the unique cinematography and stylings of Scandinavian horror in particular, it only makes perfect sense that this franchise should at some point pay homage to that unique corner of the genre. Without a doubt, the sweeping Norwegian vistas offer a breathtaking backdrop to the isolated and locked cabin that so quickly draws the attention of the Doctor and her companions when they land nearby, and the tension and unease quickly escalate as they find a young blind girl hiding away, warning them of the monster that hunts outside. Ellie Wallwork as the girl Hanne gives an understated but believable performance as this young girl who is so determined both to survive and to believe that her father who has been missing for four days has not fallen victim to the monster nor simply left her behind as Ryan rather callously suggests, and the burgeoning chemistry despite between Wallwork and Tosin Cole as circumstances force them to work together and overcome that initial friction becomes a surprisingly strong element of this episode.

However, as the truth behind the beast in the woods is discovered in rather quick fashion, the tone and scope of the story rather violently changes as the Doctor, Graham, and Yaz enter a mysterious and dimly lit world on the other side of the cabin’s mirror. This locale is also populated by one distinct individual, and Kevin Eldon deserves full marks for bringing the mysterious alien being Ribbons to life as a volatile but sharp character who quickly provides an engaging foil for the travelers who are simply looking for answers to so many burgeoning questions. Sadly, no real explanation is given to explain just how Ribbons came to be in this nightmarish world filled with deadly moths, and unfortunately this being who has proven so adept at surviving in a dangerous world is written out all too quickly when his desire for the sonic screwdriver makes him go against every action that has proven so vital to his survival so far. Still, with only a string for guidance and floating lanterns for light, this is an evocative setting that again has more than enough material to sustain an entire story but that- like the cabin- is cut far too short as the story heads into its third act and completely reinvents itself once more.

A recurring motif of this series is that there is not always a grander evil lurking and waiting to prey upon innocents, and so it should come as no surprise to anyone that the ultimate force behind the strange goings-on as the Doctor, Graham, and Yaz arrive in a similar but distinct cabin to that which they left is hardly the epitome of evil. Unfortunately, the attempt to tie the mirror world and its strange connector into a tale told to Time Lord children about a sentient universe that existed at the beginning of the true universe and that was wholly incompatible with the basic forces that would allow that universe to function quickly descends into a rather verbose and complicated explanation that shows the Doctor going from proclamations of having no idea about what is going on to suddenly understanding everything remarkably quickly in a fashion that asks the audience and her companions to take a lot on faith. This is seemingly the type of development that this series has taken pains to avoid, and while the explanation does make sense within the context of what is offered, it’s still brashly disparate from everything else this episode and, indeed, series has offered to this point.

Yet while the ultimate and oddly poignant conversation between the Doctor and this being is another non-violent triumph for the Doctor and again speaks to the immense heart at the core of this series, there is no denying that the chosen symbol of a talking frog- despite again being wholly logical- is a leap into more fantastic territory that might be a bit too far for some more casual viewers. Still, this strange world on display is absolutely one brimming with potential, and a world in which Hanne’s mother is still alive is certainly an intriguing hook even if the Doctor is perhaps too quick to exclaim that such a notion is impossible given what she has seen in her many adventures. Unfortunately, the revelation that this woman cannot leave this world which has thus resulted in Hanne’s father choosing to remain here for fear of not being able to return, all but disregarding his blind daughter as he says that he left food in the freezer for her, falls flat and paints Erik in a very unflattering light right from the start. There is something to be said about the power of love and the fear of losing someone over again, but his apparent willingness to sacrifice another, especially a blind daughter trapped in a cabin because of his own actions, for someone who cannot exist in his world and may not be real at all is an offputting bit of development that detracts from any empathy intended.

This is a bit strange since Graham has a moment that follows much of the same beats in which he considers staying with Grace even after she mentions letting Ryan die and thus proving her false identity. While Graham and Erik are accordingly both shown to be flawed human beings, Graham has been fleshed out enough on screen that his pain is all too understandable, and Ryan has already lost his mother and is wholly self-sufficient even when not with the Doctor, meaning that leaving him to his own devices is not nearly as heartbreaking as doing so to Hanne who relies so much on her father. Regardless, Bradley Walsh and Sharon D Clarke excel together once again, and the poignant moment in which Ryan finally calls Graham granddad to solidify the bond they have formed is pitch perfect. Sadly, the ride to get to that note is a tumultuous one to say the least, and the ambition on display as essentially three stories are crammed into one is let down in several key moments by the execution and whirlwind pace that glosses over far too much detail.

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