Doctor Who – Boom – Review

Spoilers

And just like that, any lingering doubts about the new era was crushed with the best episode since Wild Blue Yonder, and if we’re being genuine, the best episode since Twice Upon a Time. Steven Moffat’s back in the hotseat for a fired-up, anti-capitalist, anti-war masterclass of a take that switches gears dramatically from the first two episodes, the campiness of Space Babies and The Devil’s Chord, and proves he should have been the one to return to Who, not Russell T Davies, but then again, he always excels. And if Who is recycling showrunners again, the idea of a Moffat 2.0 stint just got all the more appealing.

The Doctor arrives in a war zone and rushes to help a blind man, who’s just been healed by an ambulance for the illness of being blind. But the cure is death, and in the process, he steps on a land mine, which will, given the body DNA of the Time Lord that he inhabits, create a chain reaction that will destroy everything around them. Can Ruby save the day – without moving? Trust Moffat to come up with such a clever concept all over again – it’s a bottle episode that feels played out to perfection. The old-school Moffat structure probably means Boom may end up being the best of the entire RTD2 run.

Who’s pacing structure can be a bit off at times and there are observations like The Doctor only now taking Ruby to an alien planet if we believe that they’ve been travelling for six months, where has he been taking her if she hasn’t seen The Beatles or travelled to an alien planet yet? Yet it’s only minor issues, a victim of the editing of this era being far from perfect – disjointed even. To call it intentional and part of a grand scheme feels a bit early at this stage – but we’ll see what happens if Russell can put all the peices together, there has already been speculation of The Trickster returning and what a treat that’d be for Sarah Jane Adventures fans.

The bond of father/daughter being enough to save the universe is peak Moffat – the callbacks to his past work are nothing short of extraordinary, this man is a fan of the show and it shows in his writing. He made a comment that “After Everything has to end sometime, or nothing would ever get started” there was a line that “Snow isn’t snow till it falls” which is repurposed here, and the Doctor still likes fish fingers and custard. There’s a lot of callbacks here, Moffat revelling in returning to the writers chair. It’s also peak Who introducing Munday Flynn – played by Varada Sethu, the new Who companion who will be replacing Millie Gibson early – it feels mad that we know this already but it’s a classic Who trick, and Sethu makes a fantastic first impression.

The anti-capitalist nature of the series “thoughts and prayers” being a direct potshot at Republican’s pathetic response to gun violence in America, the enemy being a capitalist-driven weapons manufacture that creates its own wars and leaves the poor doomed soldiers fighting against an enemy they can’t see or hear that turns out is no enemy at all, is such a great moment and a great way to tear down the system from within. Gatwa acts the role of The Doctor with the performance a lifetime; he’s not quite had his big Pandorica Opens speech yet but then this was a close as he got, with some great moments for Gibson as well – Gibson embracing the enthusiasm of someone who’s never seen an alien planet before with the touch of class.

Caoilinn Springall’s performance reminded me a lot of young Leia in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Her performance helps make the world of Kastari 3 feel lived in and real, and it’s a best example of the old adage of world-building – George Lucas didn’t create all of Mos Eisley, he just created one street, and made it lived in and real. The ditch of the battlefield is full of life and energy and the enemy lurking in the mud and the fog makes for some fantastic moments that give The Doctor early clues that something is amiss – and Ruby almost dying in front of him may mean that the episode isn’t quite as unpredictable as it could’ve been, we know she’s never going this early in the series and especially not like that, but it creates a heightened sense of suspense and tension all the same.

The religious military has been a theme that Moffat has explored in Matt Smith’s run and here he gets a chance to explore the faith-based concept of it all and tackle religion vs capitalism head on – corporate greed and reliance on AI all feel very relevant in today’s modern era and there’s nothing quite like Moffat coming out with all guns blazing on multiple accounts, you could tell he wasn’t a fan of Kerblam and the way it made The Doctor a champion of an Amazon-esque corporate practice and that was one of the missteps of an otherwise solid Chris Chibnall era, but it’s good to see it improved upon here. There is no enemy is such a great twist to make villains of the Villengard algorithm – and it’s so so chilling in practice how could it not be villains? A callback to Oxygen in tone feels like a nice structure – and having two religious soldiers come to accept the cause they’ve been fighting for is a lie is peak Who.

Just as is peak father’s love winning the day the kind of cheerful optimism that I want from this show. It’s just firing on all cylinders, back in the driving seat – Boom shows what Who can truly be capable of when pushed to the limit and Moffat excels in the best way possible. It’s the strongest episode of this era of Who so far, and I really hope he gets to return after the Christmas special.

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