The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Yaz (Mandip Gill) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) drop onto a forest above a Norwegian fjord, up to date in the depressing year of 2018.
They come across a boarded up cottage, which is home to a lonely blind girl Hanne (Ellie Wallwork) and her absent father (Christian Rubeck). But the house is, of course, squeezed in the middle of a colliding universe hidden behind an upstairs mirror.
With the exception of the first episode, it’s been rare for fierce emotion to rise within the fiction. Sure, there have been some hard-hitting examples of historical injustice, punching tears out and pushing the most profound messages that Doctor Who has had to offer (especially in Rosa), because it’s a reminder of how upsetting things were and are.
But It Takes You Away plunges the Doctor and Co. into a cluster of fictional emotions that, like all great fantasy, have the power to swallow its audience (new and old) and break their hearts.
When the gang move through the mirror (in a scene that combines sci-fi with Jean Cocteau’s Orphée), they enter a dark in-between known as the ‘Antizone’ which leads to a universe that mirrors ours. It’s complicated, but the way that we’re immersed into that journey makes it feel simple. And the writers Ed Hime and Joy Wilkinson take the story on a vital journey with the characters too, as the mimicking universe brings dead loved ones back to life to coexist with the living.
But the Doctor knows this is no miracle or purgatorial convenience and that’s what forms most of the psychological torment in this episode, especially when a familiar face reappears. The story deals with death, trauma, and moving past tragedy, while having a surrealistically absorbing time. Sometimes these heavy themes fall on the unsteady shoulders of Bradley Walsh, who’s better at being funny than being sad, but he’s written and directed well enough to avoid embarrassment.
As well as psychological terrors, there are also physical dangers that push the zombies from episode 8 back in the cheap dirt where they belong. Flesh-eating moths, lethally fluttering around the caverns of the Antizone between universes, are the stuff of nightmares. Even though they’re not given much of a chance to show their potential ferocity, it’s enough to feel shivers in that subterranean hell-hole.
This series, like most series of Doctor Who, gives and takes away – but this episode is a veritable feast, starting in one area then accelerating somewhere completely different. It’s almost a surrealist piece, but wrapped in an exciting fantasy logic. It’s (literally) a smashing piece of television.
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On 02 Dec 18, 6:30 PM – 7:20 PM