Doctor Who S09E04: He’s Not Russian, He’s Taking His Time

Welcome to this week’s Doctor Who recap! Due to laziness and unexpected technical problems (it’s an 80/20 split tbph) I am unable to include screencaps this time so instead I’ll be using “relevant” GIFs.

This week has a little prologue where the Doctor gives a straight-to-the-camera speech about how he was the #1 Beethoven fan in herstory and tried to go back in time to meet him, but oops, Beethoven didn’t exist so he had to have all of Beethoven’s music published himself, thereby becoming Beethoven. It ends with him being like “But who wrote the music, bro?” while playing Beethoven’s 5th on an electric guitar because apparently that’s still a thing.

After the opening credits we join back up with the Doctor and the two crew members who managed to get on the TARDIS with him last week. We’re going to call them Wimpy and Keen because the scientist guy is wimpy and voms in the TARDIS and Keen is a dorky Doctor aficionado who knows the names of all his old companions and geeks out about the TARDIS being bigger on the inside.

Anyhow, they are in the deserted army town pre-flood and it’s all decked out Russian-style because I guess it was a training ground to get soldiers ready to battle the Ruskies. The spaceship that started this whole mess is parked there and the suspended animation pod and the missing power cell are present and accounted for. There’s also a giant wrapped up body on a slab, because SURPRISE! this is a space hearse.

The very much alive Tophat Guy, who you may remember as a murderous ghost in last week’s episode, comes running up to greet them and explains that the body is that of the “Fisher King” who I guess is some kind of space warlord who enslaved his planet. See, TG is a member of an alien species who are even wimpier than Wimpy and basically they love being conquered so somebody will tell them what to do all the time, and consequently their planet gets invaded like every two weeks. We met one of his kind a few seasons ago in The God Complex and he was very useless.

The Doctor accuses him of being responsible for the death signal and Tophat Guy is like “I don’t know what you’re talking about but between you and me, I’m looking to be enslaved so if you wanna come back to the ship I’ve got plenty of tools you can enslave me with” and I don’t know if this was the intention but it comes off like he’s angling for a little 50 Shades of Gallifrey, if you catch my drift.

The Doctor is like “Um, I’ll pass. Gotta go back to the TARDIS and confer with Clara.”

Clara is currently not feeling so great on account of the Doctor ghost chilling out in the lake and mouthing things at her and her buds. Cass determines that his ghost is not saying the same thing as the other ghosts, but is instead reciting all of their names over and over. Clara is like “WTF” and then gets a call from past Doctor. She doesn’t beat around the bush about his present ghostliness and the Doctor is like “Well fuck, guess I’m gonna die then.” Clara is like “Oh HELL no” and tells him that he can buy the farm on the next companion’s watch because she needs him to keep her life interesting. He’s like “Everybody’s gotta die someday” and now I’m starting to worry that Clara’s exit from the show is going to be more death-related than recent companions’ and that will make me very mad! Anyway, she bullies him into promising that he’ll try to change it so he doesn’t die even though he says that it could have Butterfly Effect-esque consequences.

Perhaps tired of being ignored in favor of his live self, the Doctor ghost passes through the glass and into the dining room. The Doctor asks for a little phone facetime with his dead self and tries to initiate conversation, but this just seems to piss the ghost off and he opens the Faraday cage (where the other ghosts have been trapped) and starts mouthing “The chamber will open tonight.”

He tells Clara that they’ll have to go back into the cage now that the ghosts are free, and that her phone won’t work in there so she’ll have to keep it in view of the window in case he feels like chatting. He tries to get Keen to stay in the TARDIS in case Clara calls but Keen is way too keen and refuses. Instead of having Wimpy stay in her place, which seems like a role that suits him perfectly, they all head back out to Russia Town.

Unfortunately while the Doctor was Skyping in the TARDIS, Tophat Guy stumbled into the spaceship to find the corpse bag empty and the spooky symbols scratched into the wall. An unseen figure blasts him into perpetual ghostdom so I guess we’ll never see if he could have talked the Doctor into some light bondage.

So apparently the Fisher King’s corpse was not so much a corpse as a warlord taking a catnap and now he’s out roaming the fake Russian village and roaring menacingly. He also seems to have dragged the suspended animation pod into the fake church, and moved the TARDIS behind a wall somehow. The Doctor, Wimpy and Keen go running through a building to get to it and Keen is like “I have the greatest idea of all time that has never had any negative consequences in the history of anything. Let’s split up!” She hides behind a wall while the Doctor and Wimpy barricade themselves in a room. And who do you think the Fisher King immediately finds and murders? Keen, of course!

With her dying breath she tells Wimpy he has to live because she only insisted on not staying in the TARDIS so she could keep an eye on his stupid ass. Then she croaks and Wimpy is like “Hey asshole, I was too dumb to figure this out before but your ghost in the future was TOTALLY reciting our names in the order that we die! You should have tried harder to save Keen and you are a selfish shithead who will only change the future to save himself!” The Doctor is like “Girl you are seriously the dumbest dummie to ever dumb. I’m changing history to save Clara because her name is next on the death list!”

Clara meanwhile is in the Faraday cage gazing out the window at her phone when suddenly Keen’s ghost pops up! They’re all like “Shit” and then “Double shit” when Ghost Keen appears grabs the phone and floats away with it. Seriously though, leaving the phone outside was one of the Doctor’s dumber ideas.

So the Doctor has decided that he’s going to just say fuck it to the rules of time and space and TARDIS back to Clara-times and save her. But the TARDIS is like “Nope” and instead transports him 30 minutes in the past, still in fake Russia. He and Wimpy then have a Prisoner of Azkaban-esque view of their recent past selves talking to Tophat Guy and wandering around. Wimpy wants to save Tophat Guy and Keen from the alien but the Doctor is like “Please rent season one of this show and watch the episode Father’s Day I don’t feel like explaining why that’s a terrible idea right now.”

After Tophat Guy goes into the ship to meet his doom the Doctor notices that his sleeve is ripped in the same place his future ghost self’s sleeve was ripped and he’s like “Ugh guess I have to face this asshole Fisher King now!”

Meanwhile in the Faraday cage Clara is like “It has somehow taken me this long to figure out that the ghosts didn’t kill Lunn because he was the only one who didn’t look at the message in the ship. So he can safely go out and get my phone back!” Cass is basically like

but Lunn translates it to a slightly more polite “Were you always this cavalier about sending other people off into danger or did the Doctor do that to you?” But Lunn thinks this plan is solid and agrees to go.

He wanders around and comes across a ghost conference, but much like last week they just sniff him and then go about their business. He finds Clara’s phone on a dining table and grabs it, but unfortunately all the dining room doors close and lock when he does. Also unfortunately, everybody seems to have forgotten that “The chamber will open tonight” bit from the ghost Doctor earlier and over in the spaceship room a menacing red light starts blinking on the suspended animation chamber.

The Doctor meanwhile heads into the church where he sees the suspended animation chamber sitting open in the middle of the room. The Fisher King is skulking around in the shadows and in a very Mufasa-y voice tells the Doctor that he plans to make enough ghosts to get an armada to join him on Earth and enslave all humans. He looms over the Doctor while standing pretty much groin to groin with him. I don’t know what it is but the Doctor must be emitting some strong pheromones today because everybody he meets in Russia Town meets him and goes straight to

Anyway, the Doctor is like “That doesn’t really work for me, and I’d rather accidentally cause cats to take over the universe or whatevertf by changing the future than let you take over the world so suck it, lamebrain.”

Back on the base Cass is getting very impatient and decides to go looking for Lunn. Clara is like “Are you high?” but Cass just stink-eyes her until she finally decides that they’ll go look for him together. Of course Clara immediately forgets that Cass is deaf and gets separated from her, and Cass ends up wandering by herself while Moran follows behind her dragging an axe. Eventually she senses that something is amiss and she feels the ground for rumbling, allowing her to dodge the axe at the last second.

She runs into Clara and they find Lunn and he’s like

But it’s not a super good trap because the doors are open now and the ghosts try to surround them but just kind of float there eerily. So our friends start trying to get back to the Faraday cage but the ghosts keeps cutting them off.

Back in fake Russia the Doctor is like “Guess what chump? I erased your message from the ship and now the future I came from will never happen!” The Fisher King is like

and runs back to the ship to try to fix it. In the shadowy church he looked pretty tough but in the harsh light of day he looks a lot more like a cosplayer than a scary monster tbh.

He peeks inside the ship and sees that the message is still there and is like “You’ve bamboozled me!” The power cell is missing though, and that’s because at some point the Doctor turned it into a bomb and put it in the dam. It explodes and the town is flooded, killing that jerk stone dead. Inside the TARDIS, where Wimpy is waiting wimpily, a Doctor hologram pops up and is like “Emergency flight mode activated, please hold onto your butts.”

Our friends on the base make it into the room where the suspended animation chamber is waiting, and it very obligingly opens to reveal the Doctor. See, the Doctor ghost was actually a hologram the whole time! He has the hologram stationed in the Faraday cage making Fisher King roaring sounds to summon the rest of the ghosts, and they get locked in again.

The Doctor uses his sonic sunglasses (still ugh) to erase the memory of the message from the survivors’ brains and explains that UNIT will drag the Faraday cage into space so the ghosts will fade (something to do with electromagnetic signals; just go with it (in my first draft I accidentally said “just ghost with it” which I actually like better)).

Wimpy is very sad because he and Keen had mutual crushes but were too wimpy to do anything about it while she was alive. Clara is like “Speaking from personal experience, life goes on.” But Wimpy is like “Well as long as I have a grief pass, hey Lunn, tell Cass that you’re in love with her because who knows, you could both be ghosts in like two seconds.” So he does, and they kiss. I don’t know why whoever wrote this episode felt that we wouldn’t sympathize with the crew after all their troubles without shoehorning in multiple romances at the last minute, but I guess it’s not that far a stretch that a bunch of hot people stuck in a space base together might get some heart boners.

After they say goodbye to the remaining crew members, the Doctor further debriefs Clara in the TARDIS about how he programmed his hologram to say her name next on the list after Keen because he knew that would get his past ass in gear to fix things. But he also says it’s totally like the Beethoven thing from the beginning of the episode because the only way he knew how to program those messages is because he saw the hologram say the messages in the past. So who came up with the idea?

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Catweazle is an 11th century wizard trying to make his way through the modern world while living in a disused water tower with his pet toad.
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4 Responses to Doctor Who S09E04: He’s Not Russian, He’s Taking His Time

  1. old man fatima says:

    The sonic sunglasses make me want to light my arms on fire out of embarrassment/horror/frustration. Why did they do that?? Stop trying to make the Doctor earnestly cool, nobody is earnestly cool anymore!

    I liked these two episodes. They had their ridiculous explanations and implausible escapes and that bondage guy who is too silly for words, but overall it was a good story. I’m getting pretty sick of this season’s “the Doctor will die” fake-outs. If they do it one more time, they had god damn better actually kill him off or I’m out. Like, I don’t want them to do that, but I would prefer it to the continual empty threats. There is zero dramatic tension because obvs they won’t do it, so just stop it already. We know you aren’t really going to turn the car around, mom.

    • Simon Spiderfleek says:

      I’ve changed my mind a bit about this new “cool dad” version of the Doctor. I think the show is more aware of how ridiculous his attempts to be “cool” are than I initially gave it credit for. The riding-on-a-tank-while-playing-guitar was way too much, especially as an introduction to the season, but after spending a bit more time with it I’m starting to develop a fondness for the Doctor’s apparent midlife crisis.

      But yeah, they have to stop with the “Death Of The Doctor!” bullshit. It worked a lot better in these two episodes than it did in the first two, but having it happen twice in two consecutive stories was so stupid I can’t help but think Moffat didn’t have a chance to read this script before writing his own. Still, taken alone, these were two really good episodes. And funny! The cue cards bit makes no logical sense but I loved it anyway.

      So after a brief disenchantment, I’m excited about Doctor Who again.

      • old man fatima says:

        I actually really liked the cue card gag too! So dumb, but so good.

        The Doctor’s fake-out death in the first two episodes was definitely a lot sillier than this one. They’ve used it as a device before, but it’s always been for a reason. The Impossible Astronaut let the Doctor reset himself after getting too big for his britches, when Matt Smith left it gave the writers a way to address the fact that there are only supposed to be a set number of regenerations, this one was a way for the Doctor to trick the ghosts. The Dalek episodes didn’t really have a reason for it? It didn’t play into the overall story line in any way, they never explained why he thought he was dying and there were a zillion better ways to get him to Skaros.

        We’ve officially given this more thought than the writers at this point, I’d say.

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