Each week the Blogtor Who team give their first thoughts on the latest episode of Doctor Who. Here’s what we thought of series 11 episode 9 It Takes You Away.
Needless to say, this article contains massive spoilers, so only read on if you’ve already watched It Take You Away.
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In this week’s episode, the Doctor got back to her day job – saving the universe. Ed Hime created a sci-fright fest set against the backdrop of a Norwegian fjord. The Doctor and her companions find a young girl alone in a boarded-up house in the middle of nowhere. Her father has been missing for 4 days, and there’s a monster on the loose. The mystery of where Hanne’s father leads the Doctor and her companions into another universe that plays on the emotions of all especially Graham. Graham shows once again his acting skill. Jodie Whittaker executed a strong performance as the Doctor, and there were some lovely references to past Doctors. One, in particular, will put a smile on fans of the Pertwee era. (I’m sure that you can get what it will be.) There a few flaws in the story such as the over-reliance on the sonic and I didn’t buy the quick understanding of how the Doctor understood the creation of the alternative universe but all in all it, it had a great pace. I must concur with my other writers, the frog was a missed opportunity. Finally, the guest stars the guest stars were excellent this week. No one messed it up – -that one is for you Lisa Stokke – well done. But I must call out Ellie Wallwork who played Hanne and was pivotal to the story. She delivered a stellar performance as the frightened but determined young girl abandoned by her father.
As expected, It Takes You Away proves to be the creepiest story this season. But it’s also surprisingly multi-layered. It’s a testament to Hime’s script that it ties together beautifully as one script. The young Eleanor Wallwork is a particular standout as Hanne. She makes Hanne’s blindness an essential, but non-defining or limiting part of her. And it’s hard to imagine even the most talented sighted actor turning in such a genuine performance. Lisa Stokke as Trine is also deserving as praise. Left room by the dialogue to decide, Stokke understatedly pitches her performance as a being that does know the truth deep down, but is desperate to avoid admitting it even to herself. This episode also surprises with its use of the regulars. Ryan’s cynicism about fathers gives us one of Cole’s best performances so far. And it’s a daring move for his theory to be proven right. Meanwhile, that inevitable moment of Ryan calling Graham ‘Grandad’ it’s nicely played as Ryan acknowledging that acceptance is what Graham needs at that moment, not as Ryan’s view of their relationship has suddenly changed. It Takes You Away represents a beautiful, creepy, self-contained story and a true highlight of the season.
It Takes You Away turned out to be a very different story than the one I was expecting after seeing the trailer and the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode. I had expected it to be a kind of haunted house episode, in a similar vein to Blink or Knock Knock. I was certainly not anticipating how incredibly emotional and heartbreaking this episode would be. It was so bittersweet to be given what is most likely our final moments with Grace. It was even more devastating to see Graham be given the chance to have her back, and then have it cruelly taken away again. In a strange way, it was good to finally see some conflict between the Doctor and her companions, as Graham struggled to choose between the parallel world and his own. I was also quite surprised to see the Doctor so willing to sacrifice herself to save her friends, although it was a shame how easy it was for her to actually leave the parallel dimension in the end. The Doctor did seem to be more ‘in charge’ than she has been for a lot of this series, and echoes of previous Doctors certainly came through in her often quite blunt and matter-of-fact attitude – she’s not all sunshine and rainbows after all! The guest stars also gave fantastic performances, particularly Eleanor Wallwork as Hanne, and Kevin Eldon in his sadly short-lived role as Ribbons. All in all, a very full-on episode which I feel requires a second watch before I can properly decipher what I think of it!
Oh dear. It was all going so well until the frog. To be fair to this episode, the only problem I have with it is the frog. This episode is where we see Jodie Whittaker fully inhabiting the role. The scene showing the Doctor talking to a conscious Universe was the most Doctor Who thing I’ve seen this season. The many thousand year Time Lord history is palpable throughout and it’s extraordinary to watch. Jodie’s performance is imbued with the Doctors who went before her. It Takes You Away is a story of loss and grief. Eleanor Wallwork puts in an astonishing performance as Hanne, a young blind girl left alone by her father following her mother’s death. In the world created by the Solictract (the conscious Universe) Hanne’s mother, Trine, and Graham’s wife, Grace are alive and want their loved ones to stay. The Doctor has to offer herself in order to make Hanne’s father go back to the real Universe with the daughter who so desperately needs him. But it’s Graham who, once again, is the beating heart of this series as he realises that it’s not his Grace and leaves for Ryan who finally (sob) calls Graham ‘Grandad’. Why the frog, though. Why?
A brilliantly atmospheric episode of two halves. The first half was very had a horror feel to it, emphasised by a haunting score and beautiful cinematography – some gorgeous shots of misty Scandinavian landscapes and dark and cold houses and then the in-between world that somewhat evoked Stranger Things’ ‘upside down’. The second half was all about character and relationships and Ryan and Graham were well served by this. Ryan’s father issues were touched on again, Graham struggled with the decision to reject the fake Grace (brilliant to see the wonderful Sharon D Clarke back again) which once again showed the brilliant subtle acting of Bradley Walsh, and we finally got something that we’ve been waiting all season for… Ryan called Graham ‘Grandad’! There were some choices made for the episode as well through – the “something from Timelord fairy tales” trope has, I feel, been played out a bit too many times in modern Who era and its a shame they couldn’t think of something a bit more creative to get that information across. Also the Frog was a very odd choice that I’m not sure worked. It seems like a massive missed opportunity when they could have had someone from the Doctor’s past, who would have had a real emotional impact for the Doctor, be what the entity appeared as. But those niggles aside this was a great penultimate episode of the series.
This week’s episode It Takes You Away was another character-driven instalment to series 11. The episode hooked me in from the start, revelling again in the sheer mystery it provided. For me, the story climaxed at the reveal of Grace standing behind the washing line. The interactions between the two were heartfelt moments for me watching as it provided I feel closure for both Graham and me as a viewer. The whole episode had a solemn feel to it blended with the Doctor’s signature comedic outbursts throughout. The scene in the void was abstract compared to the rest of the episode, reminding me of Arthur Dent and his conversations with the mice in Hitchhiker’s Guide (although in this case, the answer was not 42). After this scene, however, I was still left wanting something concrete to end the episode and I got it. Ryan calling Graham ‘Grandad’ although perhaps cliche perfectly ended the episode and in many ways the Graham story arc that has run underneath the main stories this series. All in all an interesting episode which brought pleasure to my evening. I look forward to seeing what is on offer in the series finale next week.
Doctor Who Series 11 reaches the penultimate episode and started very promisingly. The Nordic setting. Lurking monster outside. Things were going well. But sadly it wasn’t just the house that began to creak. Instead of continuing with this creepy opening, everything went through a sci-fi blender. Viewers were then treated to a return of Ivan Ooze from the Power Rangers movie of the 1990’s. Ribbons was a character who appeared in the story just to be killed off by deadly moths, which itself was surprisingly graphic. When the action moved to the other side of the mirror attempts were finally made to try and make sense of the nonsense. It didn’t help. One of my major issues with this series has been the long scenes of exposition through dialogue and they resurfaced once again. Whilst I applaud the show for trying to be bold with their ideas, they surely have to maintain some logic. The return of a key character proved to be less of a way to trap Graham and his friends in this collapsing mirror universe and more of a method of putting the character, and the audience, through the emotional wringer. Bradley Walsh is without question the shining star of the series. His acting was once again at a very high level and needed to be given the material which he delivered superbly. But as the story unravelled even further, we were left with the Thirteenth Doctor and a talking frog sat on a chair. By this point the realms of incredulity had been pushed too far. Like an elastic band, you can only stretch an idea so far before suddenly it snaps and boy did it snap here. With only one episode left of Doctor Who in 2018, this episode only reinforced a sensation that it’s not quite going to plan.
You can watch It Takes You Away now on BBC iPlayer.
The next episode of Doctor Who – The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos – on BBC at 18:25pm on Sunday 8th December.