The Doctor deals with a rash of nightmares across time and space.
The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) drops her companions off at their homes so they can see their friends and family, but then receives a distress call from 1380 in Aleppo, Syria. A man (Ian Gelder) appears in the TARDIS and then disappears, unobserved by her. The Doctor arrives in Syria and meets a young woman named Tahira (Aruhan Galieva) who is being chased by a werewolf-like creature. The Doctor protects her and finds that the creature has taken everyone else in the mental hospital in the town.
Back in the present, Yaz (Mandip Gill) meets with her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar) while Ryan (Tosin Cole) visits his friend Tibo (Buom Tihngang) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) plays poker. Yaz and Tibo both find themselves plagued by nightmares and Graham starts having visions of a trapped woman (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and colliding planets. That night, Tibo is abducted by the Man from the TARDIS using his severed fingers. The three call the Doctor about their issues and she picks them up with Tahira. She takes them to the site of the colliding planets based on Graham’s visions and finds the Man’s severed fingers in the TARDIS. They discover that there is a prison between the two planets. The TARDIS lands on a ship nearby.
Tahira and the TARDIS Trio get off the ship and are captured by the Man, trapping them in nightmares, including Graham dreaming about his cancer coming back. The Doctor tries to find them and is confronted by the Man, who reveals himself to be Zellin, an immortal god. He manipulated the Doctor to release his partner, the Woman from Graham’s visions, a goddess named Rakaya. Zellin reveals that the pair thrived on chaos over the eons, but they tortured two planets so badly that the inhabitants sent their planets on a collision course and trapped Rakaya between them. Zellin has been using nightmares to send chaotic images to her head and keep her sane. Rakaya is released and the Doctor is trapped in her prison. She escapes while the pair start causing nightmares all over creation. The Doctor frees her companions and Tahira.
The Doctor realizes she can control Zellin’s detached fingers and that Tahira can control the creature that attacked her, because it was born from her nightmares. They lure the gods to Aleppo and manage to trap the pair back in Rakaya’s prison along with Tahira’s monster. It’s revealed that Graham still worries about his cancer coming back, that Yaz was formerly suicidally depressed, and that Ryan is worried about losing touch with his friends.
This episode came so darned close to getting it. It’s got a heavy theme of trying to address mental health issues, ranging from Graham’s stress about his cancer that never quite goes away (as a cancer survivor, that’s accurate) to Yaz’s suicidal history to Ryan’s dread about the world’s future. The episode starts at a mental health hospital in the 1300s and the Doctor starts to comment on how enlightened the Islamic physicians were in their treatment of people with mental health disorders even compared to the modern day, but then it kind of loses the thread by having a bunch of mental health issues being exacerbated by two immortals that thrive on chaos. They try to pull it back together at the end of the episode by talking about how the beauty of humanity being that they can take control of their fears, but that kind of shortcuts the reality that it takes a lot of hard work and sometimes external help to get past mental health issues. It just feels like a squandered opportunity.
The main thing that the episode does get right is actually trying to explore the companions a bit. We find out stuff about them that we hadn’t really gotten to before, and all of it makes them a little more human and a little more relatable. Yaz has depression, Ryan’s friend Tibo has been struggling with it and Ryan feels guilty about not being there, and Graham has anxiety over his cancer. These are all great traits for characters in a show like this.
Ultimately, this wasn’t a great episode of the show, but it wasn’t as bad as some of the recent ones. The fact that they have the Doctor call herself out about her random exposition does give me hope that they’ve realized that they can’t just have her spout educational facts to no one in particular. They also had the Doctor fall for a really obvious trick and had her trap the villains a bit too easily, but it still wasn’t too bad.
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