TV OK, let's get the important business out of the way first. The Pope's emergence during Bill's date is one of the funniest tv moments I've seen in quite some time. I laughed loud, I laughed hard, again in a way which I haven't for a while either, and was just the thing after what has, for various reasons been a really stressful day.  If Steven Moffat's good at anything it's writing broad comedy especially when it's based on socio-political themes requiring the viewer to appreciate a certain level of intertextuality.  It's the kind of unexpected juxtaposition which is Stephen Poliakoff's stock in trade but done for laughs and if Pearl has a better bit of reaction business this year, it'll be quite the year.

Except, it didn't happen.  The real Bill wasn't on that date.  It wasn't the real Pope.  Her date hasn't really met her yet and so the whole underlying premise of the scene has rather had its fronds knocked  out from under it.  It's a simulation and however much the conclusion, in copying the Doctor into the experience, attempts to give that half of the episode some relevance, unless there's some updated coding in a future episode can't stop me from being really rather disappointed.  Dreams and alternate realities are Moffat's b-plot when he can't work in a paradox and here's another version and by the end of the episode it left me deflated, immediately DMing a friend with "God, that was boring."

Now clearly, that's a slightly unfair assessment.  The execution of Missy scenes are very well executed and it's refreshing to have an episode structured in a similar way to Lost with a flashback sequence threaded through underpinning the action on the island.  Knowing that even the least knowledgeable of viewers would assume that Missy was in the vault, Moffat successfully provides a few twists even if the Doctor is ultimately trapped in just the same position as Rory and the Pandorica, albeit for different reasons.  Some might criticise the Doctor for using his CV as a deterrent again but as I've said previously, there's nothing especially wrong with the Doctor redeploying old tactics if they work, especially a weapon this powerful.

Hopefully this won't be Missy's denouement and we'll have the "surprise" that when the Doctor opens the vault, John Simm'll be in there, the Master revisiting one of his old faces.  It makes sense that she's leaving though; the Master has to be reconfigured to reflect the Doctor and one of the reasons the Ainley model never did quite jibe with either Six or Seven was because he was too much the opposite of the Sixth, right down to the clothes and outlandish personality.  When Romola Garai does take over from Capaldi, she needs someone who'll play against her strengths which will depend on how they pitch her character, if they go period or contemporary.

Plus the metatextual reference to The Da Vinci Code in the Veritas, a book so awful you want to kill yourself.  Or give it to Oxfam.  A lot.   Part of  Dan Brown's modus operandi is to have his readers question the nature of reality and how everything is connected, an experience these whispers and shadows go through when they realise that there's no such thing as a random sequence of numbers (see also Lost again).  But a version of the episode which isn't set in some other reality and have the Missy b-story could have delved deeper into spoofery with a more intricate mcguffin to investigate, which would have felt a bit more "Doctor Who" to be honest (for whatever that's worth).

But none of this can overcome of the shadow of this being an example of just the sort of episode which writer's bibles and creative writing tutors warn us against.  It's is a relatively novel twist to have a character realise they're not real within the dream rather than the character realising the dream isn't real but on rewatching we'll be seeing scenes between characters that aren't actually happening (within fiction framework of the show) and essentially exist to provide the Doctor with an inciting incident for the next episode which previously has just as easily been explained to a companion by the Time Lord in a console scene during the teaser.

That said, there's something about the lavishness of the production design which suggests this won't be the last we'll see of these locales however important it is have them be convincing enough to fool these also not real Bill and Nardole.  Hum.  In the next episode but one, will we see the invasion itself being played out in just these places, these same characters re-appearing on the "real" Earth?  I wish that the show was simply doing stories set in these places; a stand alone episode featuring the Pentagon would be great fun as would a piece at CERN revisiting one of Torchwood's old locales.  Politics and physics have been potent themes in the past.

In this post-broadcast interview for the Radio Times, Moffat says that if you didn't enjoy Extremis, "there’s a space pyramid on the way. And Ice Warriors. And Mondasian Cybermen, and more Missy, and John Simm’s Master. Damn it, we’ve even got Aberdeen."  I don't think he's saying that because he thinks that some viewers won't be sophisticated enough to enjoy this so here's some of the more simpler hokum.  He could be saying that if this is a creative failure, there's another episode along next week.  If I was Patrick Mulkern the interviewer I would have asked for a clarification but he's quickly on to a question about Missy and the vault.

On the upside we do get to see Nardole, a figure who to me is ranking alongside Jar Jar Binks amongst the very worst genre characters, disappear into a puff of logic.  I realised the other day what my uneasiness with him is.  I just simply don't like Matt Lucas.  Little Britain was infused with some horrendous class tourism and Come Fly With Me with its racist black, brown and yellow face and stereotyping does no one involved any favours especially him and Williams.  We look back at the Minstrel shows with embarrassment and yet here's the modern equivalent and I simply can't abide anyone who thinks this is ok.

So yes, Nardole can sod off now as can the other strand in which the Doctor's become a time travelling Mr Magoo.  Because these scenes occurred in a reality conceived by the antagonists there's a deniability available as to the character's reactions, but that can't draw away from the fact that they're effectively playing a person's inability to see, however temporary, however much its because they're foolishly trying to hide their blindness, for laughs.  I wonder how this is going to go down with those who rely on the episode's audio description to enjoy Doctor Who.  Last week, I was applauding the show for making their hero someone they can identify with.  This now?

Best stop then.  Perhaps with just a couple of episodes of the latest season of Sense8 to watch, much of which has been extraordinary, my expectations for something which is truly "out there" have been raised.  But scratch the surface of Extremis and this wasn't anything Moffat hasn't attempted before and produced better and unlike previous instalments, I can't imagine these niggles will go away on rewatching.  Some people seem to be enjoying this series more than me and good for them, but I can't shake the feeling that for the most part, despite a few high points, the Twelfth Doctor's tenure has been a mismanaged, wasted opportunity.  And now this:

Backwards and Forwards.

Film Almost to the second that I posted this, Star Trek Discovery's trailer was uploaded in different versions, just to show that even if it's set in the past this new series is still moving forward:

Which rather makes Turnabout Intruder look even more foolish and shows just how anomalous the classic series now looks within the larger franchise.

Watching The Whole Of Star Trek In Chronological Order.

TV  For the past ten months, any conversation related to television which began, “Have you seen …” was usually answered with a negative from me, the reason being that for the past ten months I've been watching my way through the whole of Star Trek in stardate order, starting with Enterprise, through to Nemesis before flashing back and crossing realities into the Kelvin timeline. When almost the whole franchise was uploaded to Netflix, however much I tried to look away or find something else to do, the pull was too great. So on 11th July last year, the day after completing a binge through Gilmore Girls, seeking solace after the Brexit vote, I sat myself in front of Broken Bow, Enterprise's first episode and with the odd exception (MARVEL series, Elementary, Supergirl, Girls, Stranger Things, more Gilmore Girls) that's been about the only television drama I've watched since. Like my anniversary run through of Doctor Who and the Buffyverse before that, for the most part it's been an utter pleasure and a trip down memory lane, on this occasion to stories I hadn't seen for twenty years and even in some cases for the first time.

My guide on this journey has been The Star Trek Chronology Project, a thorough attempt to put the whole franchise in narrative order utilising the star dates as a guide. As the compiler acknowledges, some of the time the writers don't adhere to their own rules, in The Original Series (TOS), they seem to have been chosen at random and they don't really exist on Enterprise anyway, but become invaluable in the 24th century era as a way of slipping between the various interconnected series. It's possible now to see how Trek was accomplishing intricate cross franchise storytelling years before the MCU, notably the Maquis storyline which begins with TNG's Journey's End develops to set up part of Voyager’s premise, flows between the latter episodes of TNG into DS9 with characters and plot elements passing between the two more overtly than I remember. A couple of Admirals and Cardassian Guls even manage to appear in all three. It's also possible to see how, when viewed in this context, Enterprise so expertly manages to provide the opening movements of some epic battles which are still being fought years later.

That said, from the off, Enterprise feels like a show which was rushed into production with too many voices speaking behind the scenes. Apparently the initial idea was to show the trials involved in the construction of the ship which wouldn’t launch until late into the first season but the studio forced a rethink. That explains the number of flaccid early episodes with identikit premises which would have worked on any of the series with few modifications. In these initial episodes only T’Pol makes an impression, generally being right about everything and continues to be the linchpin of the show throughout. Like TNG, it’s not until a fresher mind, in this case Manny Cotto, that the show fulfils its potential providing prequels to later stories in other series and offering some deep background on the pre-history of the Federation. The ingenious explanation for how the look of the Klingons changes temporarily utilising Bashir and O'Brien's suggestion from the infamous scene in Trials and Tribble-ations is spectacular.  It’s just a shame they never could work out what to do with Hoshi.

Not having seen most of The Original Series since kidulthood, the biggest surprise is how not rubbish season three actually is, despite its stinky reputation. Granted, there’s some rotting gagh in there, notably Spock’s Brain, And The Children Shall and The Way To Eden. But everyone’s in character for most of the time and honestly, there’s probably as many decent to excellent instalments as previous seasons. There were even a few episodes I’d somehow missed first time around, That Which Survives and The Lights of Zetar both of which are pretty good. Parts of the show haven’t dated well. McCoy’s treatment of Spock is flat out racist at times and the gender politics is shocking. Plus both interracial kisses, usually much lauded, in Plato’s Stepchildren and Elaan of Troilus are against Kirk’s will as if to justify them happening. But when it’s good, it’s great: The Corbamite Manoeuvre, Tomorrow Is Yesterday, Mirror Mirror, Journey To Babel (which feels most like modern Trek with its Spock’s family orientated b-plot), The Tholian Web and of course The City On The Edge of Forever (just a pity Joan Collins didn’t heed the words of Edith Keeler and voted Brexit).

Despite the rudimentary, if pleasingly day-glo animation and shonky continuity (where exactly does Spock sit on the bridge?), The Animated Series is authentic enough that it should be considered the fourth season of TOS. With almost everyone back on voice duty and scripts predominantly written by the original live action writers, there’s some remarkable episodes in here amid the sequels and remakes. DC Fontana’s Yesteryear rightly wins plaudits for its depiction of early society and there’s also the strongly feminist The Lorelei Signal in which the female members of the crew end up saving Kirk, Spock et al for a change. There’s nothing in here that is really against canon. Indeed, much exposition is expended explaining how Harry Mudd escaped the android planet. Plus the comedy episode Bem establishes Tiberius as Kirk’s middle name. The brevity of the episodes, twenty-three minutes each, meant I watched the whole thing over three days (17th to 19th October) which did leave me able to hum along to the half dozen pieces of incidental music repeated ad nauseum.

Then straight into the TOS films ending with the first twenty minutes of Generations.  My assessment of them hasn't changed and it's pretty much as agreed critically, the odd numbered instalments weaker than the evens with The Final Frontier at the nadir, Khan at the top.  What's notable is how sympathetic they are to the source, despite Roddenbery effectively having been supplanted by Harve Bennett who hadn't even seen an episode before taking over.  Partly that's so as not to cheese off the fans which had kept the franchise going during their wilderness years, but it's also because if nothing else the rich mythology is a strong foundation to work within so why deny its existence.  Unlike Doctor Who, whose key asset is its flexibility, Trek's engine is its chronology and ability to build on what's gone before.  It's the films which really develop the verisimilitude which would make this possible feature feel like such a real, complex place even if its not always clear where exactly the various empires and quadrants are supposed to be.

Star Trek: The Next Generation took four months to watch but there’s much to be said for taking some shows slowly with having time to appreciate their merits. After the patchy first couple of seasons, which still have the odd classic like Measure of a Man, once Michael Piller became one of the producers the show began to sing. Perhaps most notably of the “exploration” series is how strongly it works to create an atmosphere of having what amounts to a small town floating in space, the crew members and their families, homes, schools, science labs and recreation although it’s also noticeable how often some writers forget as much when putting the ship in jeopardy. Like TOS, parts of it haven’t aged well; the Geordi and Leah Brahms business is just flat out creepy. But it’s somehow even an the initially one-note character llike Troi evolves into a working professional psychologist and diplomatic assistant not to mention commander who outranks Data. Too many favourite episodes to list, but I’m more of a fan of those with the more oddball fantasy elements like The Next Phase, Time Squared, Parallels, Remember Me and Timescape.

Nevertheless its Deep Space Nine that is probably Trek's masterpiece, a sprawling space opera which after the usual rocky first couple of seasons turns into a deep meditation on the nature of war and the human cost, utilising the future setting to reference almost all the major conflicts of the past century or so.  Like the other nuTrek series, it has its story genres usually about a particular race and I remember hating the Ferengi episodes first time around but now see how the allow the writers to talk about feminism and capitalism in a way which would be impossible with the Star Fleet characters for whom such things have already been overcome.  Dax might well be the cleverest creation that the show ever produced and the transition from Jadzia to Ezri is seamlessly accomplished - the Trill are almost the Time Lords of Star Trek (with apologies to the Q) as the memories but not personality are passed between hosts.  I can't even attempt to choose favourite episodes here.  Glancing through the list its easier to select the one which are just a bit average of which there are too few to mention.

Not so Voyager which is often a desert in its earlier series of derivative stories that pretty much ditch the Maquis culture clash much earlier than drama would usually necessitate.  By the end of season four I'd had enough and with my Who fandom growing apace didn't bother to watch much into the next season back then.  Of course, that's just the moment when the show finds its feet and from about half way through season five, about the time Bryan Fuller takes over, it's smashing.  Partly it's because they have a new toy and there's a period when almost every episode is somehow about Seven of Nine and her attempts to reclaim her humanity, a full on Pygmalion pastiche co-starring The Doctor who himself becomes the focus of a huge number of episodes.  It's delightful even if it leaves some of the blander crew members as nothing more than bystanders until the realities of their situation, the lack of career progress, the idea of bringing up families on board are explored.  If only they'd thought of that earlier.

So in all of the shows there's a moment when each finally realises what it's "about", what the format is capable of.  In TNG that's definitely season three, for DS9 it's four and in Voyager it's clearly five.  In some cases there are enough episodes remaining to explore the potential but in Enterprise and Voyager's case it happens too late.  There's enough in their final instalments to fuel another series or two and I'm rather pining for a season eight for Voyager which explores how the crew copes once they return home.  The final scenes of Endgame aren't quite as abrupt as I'd expected, and its fitting that the show should end with the crew on the ship, but I want to see Seven's first reactions to Earth, how The Doctor gets along, even Harry Kim seeing his parents again after all that time.  Similarly These Are The Voyages is a travesty; I can see why the creators felt like they had to cap off the revival but to have these earlier characters inserted into Enterprise and effectively make its final instalment about them is appalling.

The key problem with the Next Generation films is that although the series was very much about the ensemble with each character becoming the focus each week.  In order to wedge each story into a traditional screenplay structure, Picard and Data are essentially promoted to lead characters on every occasion, with some of their character development rolled back in order to accommodate the hero's journey.  First Contact is the strongest simply because it's also able to give Riker and the rest a sufficiently interesting subplot.  Generations is hurt by having to be a crossover and then wasting the appearance of the classic crew.  Insurrection is helped by simply deciding to make what amounts to a filmed double episode of the series.  Nemesis is similar but never quite feels right, all of the more useful character material in the deleted scenes, cut to make way for generic action sequences.  At least we get to find out what happened to Janeway after Voyager returned home (although I know that in the novels its a bit more complicated).

What's surprising about the "Kelvin" films is how much fidelity they have with the television series, combining genuinely exciting action with character moments in a way which Nemesis entirely fails at.  Plus the opening instalment includes what is, up until now, the final chronological filmed moment in the Prime timeline, as Spock enters the fissure.  In three films, we find seasons worth of incident packed into a few hours, fully embracing the possibilities of the motion picture.  On rewatch, even Into Darkness impresses; although it's clearly weakest when directly referencing old adventures it's no simple retread of Space Seed or The Wrath of Khan.  But it's Beyond which ultimately impresses not least because when watched in this sequence by referencing Enterprise so strongly, offers a decent bookend to the whole experiences.  Even so, When nuKirk mentions the five year mission, it's disappointing that we haven't actually seen those "smaller" adventures.  The IDW comic exists of course, but that still has to tread water somewhat due to the potential for a new film release.

Which is my ultimate take away from all this.  Star Trek is a format which works and works best when it's moving forward.  When Nemesis ends, it's with some sadness because it's the last we'll see of the rich 24th century mythology developed across twenty one seasons of television and four films.  But there's an obsession with the classic series, because of the icons which means that the franchise is currently obsessed with those glories, through prequel series and reboots.  What I would dearly love to see is a series which continues were Voyager completed either directly or further on again so as not to mess with the continuity in the novels with a new crew and a whole other set of challenges in a similar way to Doctor Who's revival.  That Seth MacFarlane has managed to get this spoof off the ground quicker than CBS has got its act together is an embarrassment.  I am looking forward to Discovery, but shouldn't Star Trek be always boldly going forward unable to find reverse?  Now I'm off to watch Galaxy Quest.  It's time.

My Favourite Film of 1899.

Film The first filmed Shakespeare was a one minute short version of King John, the surviving part of a quartet designed to advertise Herbert Beerbohm Tree’s forthcoming production at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. Since there are only a few weeks left of this project and it will be my final opportunity to talk about my love of Shakespeare, I thought I’d list some of the screen versions which have meant the most to me or are just favourites and I haven’t had a chance to talk about yet.

Hamlet (1996)

My Hamlet of Hamlets and would have been in there for 1996 if it hadn’t been for the one film per director rule and director Sir Ken's In The Bleak Midwinter having been released the year before. Everything you would ever want to know about my love for the production is in this old 2009 review and in the intervening years my admiration for his achievement has only increased. Admittedly, I’ve more recently become testy about conflating Shakespeare texts and indeed cutting anything out of them, of the opinion that you would slice away half of a Renoir or expect to read an edited Jane Austen novel, but this is such a celebration of the material, presenting as many of Shakespeare’s words as is coherently possibly, I’m inclined to say this is my favourite film of my second favourite play, perhaps even my favourite film of any Shakespeare play.

Measure for Measure (1978)

One of the finest of the “traditional” approach BBC Shakespeare productions (in other words in period costume and set design), I first watched this during English class, my pubescent mind sucker punched first with full on lust for Kate Nelligan’s Isabella then by the implications of the late Tim Piggott Smith’s Angelo’s similar reaction. Their key scenes in Act II are electrically played in this production, as the Vulcan-like Angelo enters full on pon farr in the face of a woman he can’t have and shouldn’t want. It’s the first occasion I really understood the power of Shakespeare after having to endure Julius Caesar the previous year which the mid-teen version of me found remote and archaic. The productions I’ve seen since have often painted Angelo and Isabella in mono terms, whereas the text and this production implies that every character in the play is morally ambiguous. Plus it doesn’t assume that it’s a comedy trying to wring humour out of lines which are clearly anything but.

As You Like It (2009)

For no other reason that it’s a recording of the very production I saw during my only visit to Shakespeare’s Globe (so far). It’s disconcerting to see just how much of the production is similar to my own memory, right down to what appeared to be moments of improv. There aren’t any pauses for the sound of planes which was definite feature when I attended, and it’s a pleasure to actually see the Seven Ages of Man speech which I inexplicably missed on the day due to a toilet break. Here’s the inevitable blog post about that afternoon. Nearly all of the productions from the Dromgoole era have been gathered in a big boxed set which at £80 seems expensive but considering that they’re otherwise £20 individually, really isn’t.

Romeo and Juliet (1996)

Which also contradicts what I was saying about cutting the text and so forth, but Baz Luhrman’s adaptation which retains the emotional power of the play as well as servicing its aim of presenting the text to a young audience. It’s one of the cinema visits I remember most vividly, in the late Odeon on London Road, filled with teenagers who by the end were split directly by gender, boys scoffing, girls sobbing. Peter David writes about a similar experience in his essay, “On The Terrible and Unexpected Fate” that viewers were reacting as though the ending was a complete surprise even though Shakespeare actually tells us the ending in the prologue. Unlike him, I didn’t get up and berate the audience for their lack of observational skills, reasoning that it takes most cinema audiences a minute or two to settle so they probably just missed it. My only other memory is of buying the VHS release and finding a wining noise in the background throughout which after having tried a couple of replacements turned out to be a mastering error.

Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

I adore the Branagh film which I saw on its opening day in an otherwise empty screen at what’s now the World of Cine on Edge Lane (Virgin Cinemas back then), and find myself sobbing even when listening to the soundtrack and Emma intones with “Sigh no more…” Joss Whedon’s version wins out for a couple of reasons. For a start, Nathan Fillion is that rarest of curiosities, a Dogberry whose funny yet hopelessly poignant in a way which Michael Keaton’s sweaty mugging never is. It’s also an exceedingly mature presentation; these are characters with inner lives, even minor characters with few lines that are often removed from productions, worn down by everything which is happening outside of the bubble of the house. Plus there’s the fan theory that it offers Angel’s Wesley and Fred the chance to redo their relationship in a strange monochrome afterlife. That Whedon achieved all this between shooting and editing The Avengers is a marvel.

Playing Shakespeare (1984)

Not a production, but a series of instructive filmed workshops presented by John Barton, director and producer of the RSC with members of the company past and then present, including David Suchet David Suchet, Lisa Harrow, Alan Howard, Ben Kingsley, Michael Pennington, Patrick Stewart, Susan Fleetwood, Sheila Hancock, SinĂ©ad Cusack, Mike Gwilym, Jane Lapotaire, Ian McKellen, Richard Pasco, Donald Sinden, Michael Williams, Judi Dench, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Norman Rodway, Peggy Ashcroft and Roger Rees. They present an idea of the rehearsal process at the RSC, how the text has been taught actors across the years especially how it’s verbally presented. One of the more valuable lessons is that when reading Shakespeare you should follow the punctuation rather than the line breaks unless he calls attention to them by putting the punctuation there. Follow that process and the words flow. Any actor who pauses at the end of a line is doing it wrong. If you have any interest in Shakespeare at all, I’d urge you to seek this out.


TV It's Sunday night and I've just finished watching Doctoroo, sorry, Doctor Whoer. Another epoch busted, although I have a strange suspicion that due to other commitments I did delay an episode some time in the RTD era. But last night, with Eurovision following quickly on, I decided to save one of the treats from BBC One's viewing feast for this evening and so here you are reading some opinions (which you've probably seen articulated better elsewhere) on a time delay.  There's nothing worse than having a whole day to actual think about what's going to be written here, for me to put some actual thought into it.  That rarely goes well.  Incidentally, the Eurovision result was probably about right, although the performer's sister was the better singer and probably should have entered the song herself.  Oh and O'G3EN from #NED were robbed, as was the UK.  Again.

Through the gimlet prisms of a long term fan, the episodes title has something of a double meaning in that story wise,  Oxygen is as familiar to Doctor Who as human lungs are to breathing.  The set up is a classic base under siege (you can mark your four corners on the Who review bingo card) with the TARDIS inopportunely inaccessible, a small group of humans to save and an implacable enemy hell bent on their destruction.  Even if you've only seen The Sensorites, you pretty much know all the tropes to expect, and if Nicholas Briggs hasn't written one version for Big Finish, he's publicised  several on his Twitter feed.  Depending on your mood, the idea of sitting through all of this stuff again can feel achingly tedious or like a comfortable hug from a big, friendly script editor or show runner (depending on the era) and luckily for us, Oxygen is the latter.

Not that our patience isn't tested.  This series's tendency towards rather bland, single attributed  secondary characters continues.  Back in more recent history, even Chris Chibnall was capable of imbuing the denizens of the S.S. Pentallian with enough character for us to find their death's poignant within a 42 minute time span.  In Jamie Mathieson's Oxygen (his best script to date nonetheless) we meet the shouty one, the beardy one, the blue one and the one who dies early.  There's probably an argument that we're seeing them through the Twelfth Doctor's eyes, or rather lack of them now, in that he doesn't have much interest in them as individuals other than to save them, but it doesn't half lengthen the odds in how sympathetic they're going to be to the viewer which is something which used to be important.  Not sure why it isn't so much now.

Nardole continues to annoy especially due to the way the writers have had to find him something to do, often in scenes were the Doctor orders a piece of investigatory information which the Time Lord himself would more naturally discover and more potently having gone through the motions himself.  In one scene here, the Doctor literally stands around while Nardole goes off and finds a piece of eposition.  The Doctor's Daughter might not be a great story, but at least is justifies Donna's secretarial back story by having her develop a piece of admin which goes overlooked by the big picture Tenth Doctor.  We're once again forced to hope that there's some grand plan in place for Matt Lucas's character which'll cause us to retroactively reconsider his participation in these earlier episodes.  Third wheel companions are always tricky and the otherwise anonymous Nardole's amongst the wheeliest.

But having said all of that the rest of the episode just works.  Much of that has to do with the zombies being genuinely creepy with their cocked heads, grey skin and vacant eyes, organic material serving the suits, their autonomy defiled.  With a full zombie neck or limb mastication out of the question, a death touch, so close to a schoolyard tag or tick, is scary, especially when its inevitable.  Unlike the Borg, whose consciousness is assimilated into the hive mind and contributes towards its journey for perfection, the humans in Oxygen are simply necessary organic matter, existing to give the suits something to hang on to.  Yes, yes, who turned out the lights, but at least when the Vashta Narrada get you, with the exception of the echo, your living embodiment becomes nourishing to them as a chicken wing.  Here, your vacant likeness continues.

The political angle is also immensely impressive, especially for those of us who've been on the sharp end of late capitalism.  I've worked in a bank's call centre were every moment of my day to the nearest second is recorded and available for criticism if "too long" is spent on a toilet break or client queries aren't dealt with below a pre-designated average call time.  The failure to achieve any of this would have resulted in missing out on a bonus and a tetchy meeting with a team leader rather than asphyxiation, but the transformation of a human into the biological conduit for a business process is roughly similar.  Given that pretty much all other necessary human sustenance is now being charged for, the act of inhaling and exhaling N2 and O2 plus trace elements isn't completely unbelievable if some kind of mechanism could be devised.

Other elements of the production are a tour de force.  The exterior shots all seem to have been shot with the minimum of CGI giving them an old school pliability and the elements featuring astronauts on stanchions bring to mind scenes filmed at Elstree for the classic series, before videotape was adopted and made everything seem cheap now matter how well shot (or lit).  Murray Gold's music is really helping the Doctor and Bill's relationship to gel and it's impossible not to feel Tennant era vibes when she embraces here tutor and their collective themes swell.  Not to mention that it's great to see our characters in space suits other than those first seen in The Impossible Planet, especially these with their beautifully patterned gold fish bowls.  Were they created especially for this story or do we recognise them from somewhere else?

Taking the Doctor's sight is a dramatic twist and finally potentially give Nardole something new to do as a human guide dog.  That even without his eyes, the Time Lord will be capable of much will surely be of comfort to children who've also lost their eyesight, so let's hope the audio description does the episode justice.  Like his constant amnesia in his Eighth incarnation, this blindness surely won't be permanent, which isn't to say it wouldn't be brave to keep him in this condition right through to the regeneration.  But it has to be unlikely given that we finally have a version of this character who isn't a complete bastard and to leave him in this state would be a cruel cut.  If as is rumoured, the Christmas special will help explain the intervention of his attack eyebrows in the Day of the Doctor, he's going to need his cue balls intact.

When articles are written about the Twelfth Doctor era, Oxygen is sure to be included in its highlights.  While in some ways still quite simplistic in its characterisation and depth in comparison to earlier eras, partly due to the need to service the series's arc story at the top and bottom of the action, the decision not to soft focus its political message is welcome in the current political climate.  If the Daily Mail hates you, you're probably doing something right.  The trailer for next week's episode is majestic: is that River's diary?  Does it contain secrets about his future and if so, how did she know before her untimely?  Will we discover what's in the vault and does the fact that we know Missy is back mean that it can't be Missy since putting her in the trailer would rather invalidate the surprise?  Or is it a double bluff?  I won't be iPlayering next week, then.