This post is a little late, but I’ve been thinking about it, and I felt that I did have a few things to say.
I’ll begin by saying that compared to the previous episodes in this season, I really enjoyed this one. It had that level of suspense and danger and creativity that is so distinct of Doctor Who, but that I felt was missing in this season thus far.
However, the ending of the episode turned everything that had happened into a big hot mess of plot holes and confusion.
In the beginning of the episode, we have a monologue from the Doctor on his own in the TARDIS. He talks about how, if evolution had created a creature who was perfect at hiding, we would never know about its existence, except for when we feel the need to talk to ourselves out loud. He asks the empty room around him what a creature like that would do if they existed. As he turns around, the piece of chalk he had been using is not on the table. It rolls toward his feet on the floor, and the Doctor sees that his chalkboard now displays a single word: “Listen.”
This launches the Doctor into an investigation with the hypothesis that throughout all of history, every person has had the same nightmare. Every person has dreamt that somewhere in the darkness of their room in the middle of the night, something was there, waiting.
The Doctor teams up with his companion Clara to return to her past as she was having that nightmare, and find out exactly what it was that was waiting in the darkness. They travel to the wrong area, and find themselves in the bedroom of young Rupert Pink, but luckily for this experiment, they’ve hit the right moment.
Rupert is scared that there is something under his bed. Clara takes him under the bed to show him that there is in fact nothing there, only to find that a mysterious being is now on top of the bed covered in a bedspread. They determine that no one else lives in Rupert’s room, and no one had come into the room, so who is it?
The Doctor appears and tells Clara and Rupert to turn around, don’t look at it, not even its reflection. As they close their eyes, the creature can be seen removing the bedspread from itself, and the viewer is shown an out of focus look at its face. The curiosity gets the best of them, and they turn, only to find that the creature has left (and taken the bedspread with it).
We then take a break from this storyline to go back into Clara’s personal life. The Doctor makes some more unnecessary remarks about her appearance. There is more social awkwardness.
The plot then sends the viewer to the very distant future, when there is no more life, with an astronaut related to the young Rupert Pink. This astronaut has been alone for 6 months, trapped in this future, with the door locked. Why is the door locked? If there is no more life, what is there to be keeping out?
This is where the plot begins to unravel. The Doctor sends Clara and the astronaut into the TARDIS while he stays to determine who it is outside the door. The Doctor ends up having to be rescued by the astronaut, and Clara transports them elsewhere to escape whatever danger lies outside the TARDIS doors.
The point in time that the viewer finds themselves at is when the Doctor is a small child, crying in the darkness. In order to avoid being seen, Clara hides under his bed. As the young Doctor is about to accidentally see the TARDIS, she reaches out from under his bed and grabs his ankle, telling him to go to sleep and it’s all just a dream.
After this, what’s the point of the episode? The writer is clearly implying that everything that has happened thus far is all in the Doctor’s imagination or that he’s the one who started this belief of beings in the dark.
What about the chalk in the beginning? Who did that? What about the person under the bedspread? Who was that? To just imply that every event in the episode happened because the Doctor was afraid of the dark makes no sense, and I think it’s a little disrespectful to the viewer.
If the message of the episode was supposed to be about paranoia, then I think they went after it in the wrong way. You can’t say that the events are from the paranoia of one person being spread to another if everyone physically sees and interacts with the same thing. The best part that hinted at it all just being paranoia was in the end when there was no life left and someone was knocking at the door.
Overall, as much as I hate to say it, I’m not liking this season very much. I do like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, but I’m just not enjoying the writing. It’s disappointing.