Posted in Episode by - May 18, 2024

Aired 18 May 2024


Aside from Russell T Davies who spearheaded the return of Doctor Who to screens in 2005, nobody has had as much impact on the modern iteration of the franchise as Steven Moffat who oversaw the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctor eras and who created such iconic threats as the Weeping Angels, Clockwork Droids, and Silence. Yet while the former’s return to the role of showrunner for at least the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Doctors’ eras was surprising enough, the latter’s return to pen what is ostensibly a standalone episode with ‘Boom’ is all the more so. In the midst of war on Kastarion 3, the Doctor is trapped in place after stepping on a landmine, inadvertently putting his companion’s life and the fate of the entire planet at stake.

Known for sprawling and ambitious storylines that often traverse multiple locales and times, Moffat here tells a laser-focused, linear episode that very much brings its characters and themes to the forefront. There is no terrifying alien species or subtlety arising from fears of the unseen or what lurks in the corner of the eye, the threat here instead being the horrors of war and the terrifying algorithm of the corporation supplying the weaponry for the continued fighting. The return of the militarized Anglican church works to further cement this story with certain aspects of continuity, and while faith becomes a major narrative force as the Doctor begins to question just what this war is for and who it is against, love proving to be the most powerful force of all that can overcome even the most significant blockades and hidden truths is a continuing beacon of light on this fiery world on the precipice of destruction.

While Ruby has already been through such traumas as being erased from time and seeing a completely devastated alternate Earth, ‘Boom’ is the first story to truly show her suffering in the moment as she travels with the Doctor. With the story supremely structured to allow new complications to always arrive just as it again seems like there might be a way out, the constant threat of the landmine and the resulting danger that continues to amplify far beyond just the Doctor’s life presents a ceaseless sense of tension that each of the characters vividly sells. It’s here that Ruby also gets her first genuinely defining moment, refusing to throw the Doctor a soldier’s remains to use as a counterweight and insisting that she walk over and hand them to him despite his overt forbidding of any such action that could cost her life. As an encapsulation of the Doctor constantly trying to manage the fears of both himself and his companion which Ncuti Gatwa excels with by showcasing an immense array of emotional turmoil, this scene is a brilliant foundation for their relationship to build off of now that Ruby has shown a steadfast determination to do what is right and unerring devotion to her friend, and Millie Gibson is immense at each and every moment.

‘Boom’ has plenty of surprises along the way, none perhaps bigger than the appearance of Varada Sethu who has been announced to be joining the cast as a companion in the future. Whether Sethu ends up playing Mundy Flynn again when that time comes or not, it seems safe to assume that this will not be a simple doppelganger to that companion like with Freema Agyeman’s first appearance and certainly not a repeat of the Clara Oswald storyline; all possibilities- including ties to the Time Lords or Timeless Child- are possible, and Sethu’s performance here is brilliant and highlights a strong but caring woman who is more than capable of breaking through her conditioning to see the reason behind arguments that go against what she has been told. While the wholly underdeveloped and abruptly-terminated romance that tries to be such an integral part of the story does hamper the overall experience somewhat, Joe Anderson is nonetheless a powerful presence throughout, especially once the Doctor calls upon the love of a father to step outside of his accepted parameters. The bond between father and daughter is written and performed exceedingly well, and Caoilinn Springall as such a young actress magnificently handles and performs the many complex emotions Splice is tasked with experiencing in such short order. Still, while the acceptance of death and the delineation between death and just not being present do speak to a certain maturity in this futuristic wartime setting, this particular point does seem to create a bit of emotional dissonance after such an intimate story to that point.

‘Boom’ isn’t necessarily one of Moffat’s all-time classics, but it ultimately doesn’t need to be. It’s an incredibly focused story both in terms of emotional depth and meaningful exploration of powerful themes such as friendship, love, faith, and even corporate power. Gatwa and Gibson shine throughout as the tension from a seemingly inescapable condition continues to increase dramatically and unexpectedly, creating a surprisingly nuanced but powerful standout for this latest era of Doctor Who still in its infancy that successfully continues to tease at the mysteries at Ruby’s core and of Susan Twist’s many varied appearances.

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