Doctor Who: Revisiting IT TAKES YOU AWAY - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting IT TAKES YOU AWAY

Moo pauses for reflection.

The penultimate episode of Jodie Whittaker’s debut season, It Takes You Away is a rarity for revival era Doctor Who, stepping into that tradition of such stories as Warriors’ Gate or Ghost Light that experiment and try pushing the show in a unique direction. Does it work? That depends who you ask.

Some will say it becomes really stupid and laughable when it ends with the Doctor blowing a parting kiss to a sentient frog universe, to which I respond that it’s Doctor Who and if this show can’t try something like this once in a while then what’s the point of them still making it?

There is a lot to like before all that. The setting for example, taking the action and placing it in a remote corner of Norway leads to some beautiful visuals and a unique tone. Combine this with the fact that it’s all centred around Hanne, a blind abandoned little girl, and you get a strong result – The isolation of the characters from any outside influence really convinces. It makes the apparent threat being built up throughout the first half feel real, no small feat in today’s televisual landscape. When the reveal comes that the threat in question is entirely fake, you don’t feel cheated. Instead you empathise with the characters in their newfound determination to know what is really going on.

The eventual reveal that Hanne’s father found his way somehow into a parallel universe to settle down with his dead wife, seemingly alive after all, works really well as a sudden shift in the story. You could easily place a cliffhanger there if this was made in the original 63-89 run. Then it gets more complicated and hits home for the Doctor’s crew when Graham’s late wife Grace is also present.

Bradley Walsh and Sharon D. Clarke steal the show here, with her trying to sell it that she’s alive and needs him to stay. Walsh has to convincingly act as Graham, knowing Grace is dead but also wanting her not to be. Where Erik was won over by a second chance with his wife and set up a recording to stop his daughter running away, Graham is well aware it’s not real but chooses to believe it is anyway. Bradley Walsh pulling this off gives one of the best performances by any of the Doctor Who companions you’ll ever see. Who knew the host of The Chase had it in him?

The Fake-Grace gives the game away when she’s less concerned about Ryan than she ought to be. That’s enough for Graham to drop it and make the sad decision to move on. And thus the facade falls away and the Doctor finds herself talking to the sentient universal entity that created this whole mess in the first place.

And naturally it looks like a frog… because Grace likes frogs apparently.

That could’ve been set up better, like say in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, so It Takes You Away is required to spend some time taking you out of the story a little to set it up instead. But it just about works.

Just as well, because it results in one of the most memorably surreal visuals in any Doctor Who episode – and that’s up against some serious competition! There’s something very endearing about seeing the Doctor trapped in a temporal loop for all eternity with an amphibious sentient universe voiced by one of her dead friends.

Jodie Whittaker gives what is arguably her greatest performance in the role (at least within her debut season) in these scenes. The Doctor sees a lot of herself in the Solitract. Sure it impersonated two dead spouses and misled two vulnerable men who did not deserve it, but it was, at least from its perspective, doing it for good reasons. It does a bad thing but for what it considers a good reason, and isn’t that just like a Time Lord?

The episode ends with everyone back in their proper universe and a lovely moment where Ryan finally acknowledges Graham as his grandfather. Again a nice moment set up poorly in previous episodes, which seems to be a recurring theme in the Chris Chibnall era of Doctor Who. But taken in isolation it works fine, it’s a really good character beat for them both.

And that’s the thing – nothing about It Takes You Away should work. Building something around the grief of two older white guys for their dead women doesn’t on paper read very well in the climate of 2018 and beyond, but it works really well here. Having the Doctor talk with a frog about becoming friends for all eternity shouldn’t work either. But it all does! And the end result is a clear highlight, not just within Jodie Whittaker’s first season but a terrific Doctor Who experience in general. Outstanding stuff.

“Moo” is the pseudonym used by this Doctor Who fan. He can usually be found procrastinating by thinking about Doctor Who. Follow him on Twitter @z_p_moo for more of his unusual takes, but do so at your own risk.

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