I might as well start this review by saying I absolutely loved this episode. My favourite episode of series 10 so far and proves to me once again why Jamie Mathieson is one of my favourite writers for New Who (along with Sarah Dollard, Toby Whithouse and Peter Harness). This is also one of my favourite Capaldi episodes that’s been written so, to conclude, it’s getting a perfect score! If you want to find out why I loved it so much then read on!
P.S. by the way, due to the lateness of this review I’m going to keep it short so I can move on to “Extremis”. I’ve been sitting on a thought for this episode for a while that I need to process before I could review it.
“Oxygen” sees the Doctor, Bill and Nardole arrive on Chasm Forge where the air you breathe is being used as a currency and space zombies roam around the station. This episode was a proper scary one, and some of the scenes really left me overjoyed as someone who loves horror within the show. While I enjoyed those aspects in “Knock, Knock” this took it to the lengths I liked. The base setting as well as the threat really lent to a real claustrophobic feel to the episode, and the oxygen running out added that ticking clock that made the episode feel very urgent all throughout. The pre-title sequence was also phenomenally dark and I knew from the instant that I saw it that I’d love that. The reveal that it was the suits that were the issue and that the episode was commentary on capitalism was also an amazing addition to the story.
I really enjoyed cast of this one too. Peter Capaldi did an amazing job in this story, and it was possibly one of his strongest performances in a standard episode. “Heaven Sent” will always be his finest work on Doctor Who because realistically how could he exceed that, but in terms of a standard episode of the show this is one of the best. The twist that he lost his sight was brilliant and I’m very glad that they kept that up. This is the sort of character arc that we’d probably have never seen in the Smith era because it totally would’ve been played for comedy rather than showing that it actually makes the Doctor more vulnerable.
Nardole was also brilliant in this. After a few minutes of just being a secondary character it was great to see Matt Lucas come front and centre in this episode, and I’ll admit I absolutely adore Nardole now. In particular his rage at the Doctor at the end of the story was particularly great to see as we are now getting that range from him that we were promised. It is strange watching “The Husbands of River Song” now though as Nardole is TOTALLY different in that. Everything from his posture to his voice are totally different in that story that it’s so hard to see how they are the same character. The supporting cast was great too, in particular Kieran Bew as Ivan.
Now onto the thing that had been bothering me and what held me back from reviewing it immediately after I saw it. I’m probably in the minority but… I really disliked Bill in this episode. And I haven’t particularly liked her since “Thin Ice”. Like I said in my review for “Knock, Knock” I felt that she was really hostile towards the Doctor in that episode for no reason, which I found very off-putting from a companion, especially after that’s how Clara seemed to act towards Twelve a lot during series 8 as well. And then in this episode… she just seemed like such a nuisance. Now I am aware that the suit was messed up, but it just felt like she was constantly a hindrance to the Doctor saving the day for the entirety of the episode, and it just really got on my nerves. And then her total blasé vibe leaving the Doctor’s office, like her adventures with him are no longer the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to her like she said in “The Pilot”. I’ve really hated this separation of Doctor life and real life that has been done since series 7 and I’m disappointed that the trend has followed with Bill as it seems like she’s not totally in love with the idea of adventures. I thought that by setting up that she is unhappy in her home life that we’d be reverting back to the traditional companion set up but I was wrong to think that. I hope that “Extremis” can remedy these feelings.
Brief rant over, other than that I did love “Oxygen” and it currently stands as my favourite episode of series 10. Even though Bill annoyed me I genuinely feel I can’t give it anything other than full marks. Thanks so much everyone for read, come back later for my review of “Extremis”. Love you long time!