A big shift up from last week: a scary episode with some overt political commentary. The main recycled idea this week is dead people in shambling space-suits from Silence in the Library. This time no spooky aliens but rather autonomous space suits clunking away after their occupants have been killed. So all the aesthetics of space-zombies but without any actual space-zombies.
The main premise of the story is privatised air – I think some old 2000AD Future Shocks may have done that idea before. Like many SF short fiction ideas, it’s enough to build a story around but the wider mechanics of it probably don’t stand up to too much examination. Oxygen is possibly not the most expensive resource for a space economy but the episode shows how neatly it can be commoditised and then, under the guise of a simple economic exchange, used as means of authoritarian control.
What the episode did surprisingly well was the atmosphere (sorry) of real threat and predicament. Bill is placed repeatedly in danger that feels plausible and the Doctor suffers a substantial injury that is unresolved by the end of the episode. Will it all be fine in the end? Well obviously it will, but this episode felt threatening in a way that is inherently difficult for Doctor Who to do when the titular character is a living Deus Ex Machina.
The not-actually-space-zombies themselves became rapidly less creepy with familiarity. The clunk-clunk of the magnetic boots and their ruthless efforts meant that they quickly went from freaky to just another variant on Cybermen. I assume this was intentional.
Teaser for the next episode (apparently a 3 parter) involves the Pope, libraries and the return of Missy.