Sunday’s episode of Doctor Who is titled “It Takes You Away” — and it certainly does.
Written by first-time guest writer Ed Hime, the episode first sees the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions land in modern-day Norway. There they find a blind teenage girl named Hanne (Ellie Wallwork) hiding from what she believes is a monster, with her father having been gone for days with no explanation. But what seems to be a routine episode of the Doctor saving the day at the beginning quickly becomes a deeply unsettling mystery that continues to unravel further and further.
Alternate dimensions, parallel worlds and philosophical questions about the fabric of the universe combine to make an episode with not just one compelling premise, but three, all of which come together to make a compelling episode of Doctor Who that is equally unnerving, funny and heartbreaking.
Hanne is a central key to the plot, yet comes off as a onenote, scared and distrusting teenager. Erik (Christian Rubeck), Hanne’s missing father, represents a conflict made irrelevant by the much more compelling conflict of Graham (Bradley Walsh). Ribbons (Kevin Eldon) provides some much-needed comic relief as a strange and Gollum-like alien guide, though his role in the episode is limited. In fact, most of the small supporting cast of characters don’t take up too much time, making more room for the main cast to have their last moments of characterization before the finale.
Well, some of them, at least. Ryan (Tosin Cole) is given more of a paternal role, mainly looking after Hanne while the rest of the cast goes on their adventure. This gives more insight to Ryan’s strained relationship with his own father, and while he shares a touching moment with Graham near the end, it comes at the cost of him not being present for the most interesting moments of the episode. Yaz (Mandip Gill) disappointingly reverts back to having very little importance or impact for the entire duration, offering little more than asking questions and tagging along with everyone else.
The real stars of the show are the Doctor, as always, and Graham. Both find Sirens in the strange parallel world that are nearly impossible for them to resist, and their anguish at letting go is palpable.
The Doctor finds a mystical being that manipulates the world around it in a way entirely foreign and original to Doctor Who, and it presents a mystery that she cannot solve if she wants to save her friends.
Graham’s (and Erick’s, but he’s less interesting) plight is admittedly more relatable to human audiences, as he has to turn away a phantom of one he loves. Seeing him break down in the struggle provides some of the most heart-wrenching material in the season. By the end, however, each character aside from Yaz, comes out the strongest they’ve ever been, and the events of the episode serve as a test to see just how far everyone has come throughout the season.
Whatever is waiting for the Doctor and Team TARDIS in the finale, they’re ready.
Doctor Who airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on BBC America.