I warned our son before we got started that this is the most bleak episode of Doctor Who. He asked what bleak means, and he’ll probably associate the word with this story from here on out. He hated it. It was too scary in the first place, and the horror movie deaths of everybody, culminating in Adelaide’s suicide (!), was one nail in the heart too many. It’s brilliantly made, a co-write by Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, and everything from the scene above in the airlock to the destruction of the shuttle is just amazing, but there’s certainly no joy or happiness in this one.
The story is set on Bowie Base One in 2059. One day about five years ago, not too long before he died, it occurred to me that David Bowie would make the greatest companion in all of Doctor Who. Not as an actor, as himself. Just imagine Capaldi’s Doctor in the usual silly Christmas romp, a celebrity historical where the celebrity plays himself. And at the end of it, the planet saved from Santas or Christmas Trees or Little Drummer Boys or whatever dopey holiday thing they come up with, the Doctor says his goodbyes to Bowie like he did Dickens and Shakespeare and “Herbert” Wells and Christie and whoever and Bowie says “You know, I think I’ll stick around. Do a little traveling. Broaden the mind.” Maybe not for a series – but why not? – but maybe five or six episodes.
We all learned too soon after I spent that evening licking my lips at the magic of my idea that Bowie was far too ill in 2015 to have done anything of the sort. Later still, I learned that they did something somewhat similar in one of the comic books. I’ve never been tempted to read it. Maybe one day down the line, one of Who‘s producers will break the modern companion mold in a huge way and let our hero travel with somebody internationally famous, or historically famous, even if they cast a present-day actor to play somebody incredibly unlikely like Ray Bradbury or Rod Serling. It’d make a great change from twentysomething British girls.