The Satanic Mill

Posted in Audio by - December 06, 2018
The Satanic Mill

Released October 2015

 Following the Eleven to a Victorian factory floating in space near the Sun, the Doctor, Liv and Helen prepare for a final confrontation with unimaginable consequences as the finale to Doom Coalition 1 unfolds in Edward Collier’s ‘The Satanic Mill.’

Crafting a satisfying finale to any box set is a difficult task, let alone for a set that began so dynamically with the thrilling introduction of the Eleven and then Helen Sinclair in consecutive stories, and almost inevitably ‘The Satanic Mill’ can’t manage to live up to those lofty standards while it ultimately forms just another stepping point in what will carry on through twelve more serials. Part of this is down to the treatment of the Eleven himself in his first true appearance outside of the confines of Gallifrey. This is through no fault of Mark Bonnar who remains intensely engaging as he seemingly effortlessly flits between the many distinct personalities that comprise his foe due to his unique condition, but the Eleven here is presented as the Master in all but name as he puts an overly complicated plan into motion that for no reason other than a personal desire and vendetta necessitates the Doctor to function. Indeed, the Eleven has already contracted mercenaries in the previous story to bring the Doctor here, and although the Doctor chose to willingly walk into this trap after vanquishing those foes, it’s unnecessary that the Eleven should reconfigure this station as a Victorian workhouse replete with overworked slaves to ensure he gets the Doctor’s attention. And while the prospect of the Eleven using a stellar manipulator to destroy the Earth and the entire Solar System unquestionably raises the stakes of this series as a whole and ensures the Doctor’s undivided devotion, the Doctor being chosen as the one Time Lord to power it as he is exposed to the full might of the Sun without hope for regeneration is fraught with far too much danger to make sense, and the Eleven leaving the Doctor behind with his sonic screwdriver and an accomplice is an all too glaring fault for a villain with so much potential.

Still, this plot that has been presented in many forms throughout the long history of Doctor Who as the Doctor confronts Gallifreyan technology being used for evil is saved to some extent by the immense imagery that the visceral and visual nature of this station that hails from the Dark Times and the overworked labour force needed to power it. Unfortunately, the same detail and enthusiasm is not applied to the characters, and though Nicola Walker and Hattie Morahan continue to develop an immense chemistry as Liv and Helen, respectively, the Doctor is surprisingly not terribly integral to how affairs play out and the Eleven is reduced almost to a rambling madman spewing empty threats rather than as the cunning mastermind he was introduced as. Even the inevitable confrontation between the two Time Lords is missing that spark that longer-standing foes forge, and the Doctor refusing to accept responsibility for the people that Helen insists on saving is a strange note for this incarnation in particular that doesn’t carry quite enough explanation to carry weight. To a certain degree, however, a lack of explanation is arguably the most pressing concern throughout the running time of ‘The Satanic Mill,’ and whether as a conclusion to Doom Coalition 1 or as a stepping stone to Doom Coalition 2, this is a rare misfire in terms of both plot and score that even the typically strong core cast and direction simply cannot manage to overcome. There remains, of course, plenty of potential for the this saga as a whole given the incredible highs it achieved at its start, and hopefully those earlier stories will be the standard for future sets with this one a forgotten blip that ends just as awkwardly with the Doctor asking about taking a holiday.

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