So here we have the final episode of the first Chibnall series, let’s discuss it.
Much like some of the other later episodes in the series this one seems to suffer from the lack of two partners. A great deal of this episode spends its time crafting a world of which most doesn’t end up ever mattering for the movement of the plot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as exposition is interesting, but there’s been an issue where out of 45-50 minute episodes all the real detail of the episode is ending up only being talked about in the last third and then resolved out of nowhere in the final few minutes. Here once again there was material that could’ve easily made up two episodes of content, with an episode ending when they come face to face with Tim Shaw and another that then has a better paced conclusion to the story.
As mentioned though what material is in the episode remains of a great quality. The episode maintains a strong mystery vibe throughout with the team and audience trying to uncover what did happen on this planet, with nothing given away too soon and twists not being foreshadowed in any noticeable way outside a villain’s reappearance but even that is worked into the plot in an interesting way, with Tim Shaw’s return having been due to a technical glitch the Doctor had caused.
The episode also contains some references to moral qualms along with this Doctor’s hypocrisies and contradictions on them, with a number of references to the Doctor’s claims to not be violent before saying she’s fine with grenades. While it isn’t a great deal of detail or exploration of that as a theme, or enough to fully justify the appearance of these contradictions in previous episodes, the willingness to even talk about the Doctor’s flaws is a good one when for so long they’ve been portrayed as a unquestionable figure. Other moral qualms are handled with less grace, with a “qualm” of having to choose between killing two or 7 billion at the plots conclusion resolved less than 3 seconds later.
The real highlight of the episode however has to be Graham’s inner conflict with what to do with Tim Shaw. To begin with Graham has a worryingly detached acceptance that he’ll kill Shaw upon finding him, believing it to be the just resolution to having killed Grace. As the episode goes on however and he comes face to face with the choice of killing he instead has further introspection, instead wounding Shaw and, with Ryan’s help, locking him in stasis for good. It’s one of the few arcs over the course of this series and it feels like a well-deserved pay off to his journey of grief and trying to honour Grace’s memory.
Less well-executed however are the Ux, who feel at times little more than a plot device and slight commentary on religious orthodoxy, and Mark Addy’s Paltraki who feels little more than an exposition machine throughout. Both parties feel more in service to the Tim Shaw arc than their own developments leaving you rather uncaring for what happens to them as a result. The Ux do get a big moment towards the end of the episode, where they save whole planets from Tim Shaw’s intentions, but it’s so quick that it doesn’t give you time to digest it.
What should quickly be mentioned however is that the production quality is once again outstanding and a real joy to watch.
Overall this is a very good episode in terms of what’s there but it’s shortcoming in pacing and lack of time to develop in just one episode are readily apparent, leaving you with a bitter taste of what could’ve been at the same time.