It Takes You Away

Story No. 309 The Solitract
Production Code Series 11, Episode 9
Dates December 2, 2018

With Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill
Written by Ed Hime Directed by Jamie Childs
Executive Producers: Chris Chibnall, Matt Strevens, Sam Hoyle

Synopsis: A widower in Norway has disappeared, leaving his blind daughter behind.


A Frog is a Universe by Basil Unsworth 5/10/20

It Takes You Away is a story that stands out from the rest of Series 11 by primarily trying to deal with a whole mash-up of sci-fi concepts and go cinematic, instead of characters and making points about humanity (a theme Chibnall continues into Series 12). But in a way, that is also it's weakness. It all seems a little crammed, and nothing gets a proper explanation. This could be overlooked had there been much action, but since the story relies on the audience to just be amazed by the concepts, it does fall down a little.

For the first ten minutes, we get some properly Doctor Who elements, an abandoned building, the Doctor name-dropping (about sheep of all things!), a mysterious object (a mirror) and an apparent base-under-siege with a missing father and abandoned blind daughter. However, even though I said this story didn't seem to be about characters, each of the TARDIS team do get a moment to shine without any acting being forced like in some episodes.

This all means it is quite successful in creating mystery and thus far the story really holds its own.

That really is concept one: The Mystery of the Fjord!

Then we get concept two: The Atmosphere!

This section is a clear Twilight Zone pastiche, which flops a little. We are presented with Ribbons, who isn't the greatest villain but, just as with the Fjord, we are presented with a beautiful set (meaning atmosphere) and magnificent prosthetics, which really is what this section must be about (or Ed Hime just really could only write villains that were as shallow as a puddle). Though what Ribbons does do for a (very) short while is convince us that he's the reason that Hanne's Dad is missing. This does add a bit to the flop actually, as he seems his only purpose is as a red herring, rather than a villain in his own right.

Now for concept three: The Big Reveal!

So, Hanne's mum is alive. And so is her dad. But this all falls a little flat compared to the next revelation: Grace is alive (or is she?). Unfortunately, this is where it all flops again. We are just over halfway through the story, and the character amount has practically doubled since the start of concept two, possibly explaining the lack of explanation, as it's all going into giving everyone something to say.

Then we get a nice little anecdote from the Doctor about one of her aunt's stories. But this seems a little off kilter, since a moment ago she had no idea of what was happening. Either the Doctor's inclination needed to happen sooner or just get rid of the anecdote, however lovely it is.

This is where the main problem starts happening. As with the lack of room for explanation due to character, the red herring that is Ribbons and his moths seems to have squashed this section down. Especially since we are flicking back also finding out about what Yaz and Ryan have discovered.

Then the next few minutes go smoothly, with some nice exposition from Graham, but apart from that nothing particularly special since we know it can't really be Grace, but Sharon D Clarke does give a good performance anyhow. But it is nice to think about for a few moments. All of this means the build-up is somewhat anticlimactic. Then again, maybe that's deliberate, since we about to have a sudden burst of drama.

With the Solitract collapsing, the Doctor is having to say some tough things to Graham, and we see Bradley Walsh show proper emotion in a heart-wrenching scene but, should you have watched The Curse of Fenric, you can tell she doesn't mean it, which detracts a little. But then we get either, depending on your point of view, a complete 'uh' or something quite cool. With a universe sounding like Grace in the form of a frog (given the quality of sets, couldn't they have put more than 3p into a frog puppet?), this somewhat detracts from the pace, peril and tension of the previous scene whilst giving you a chuckle or shows you something mad that people will love, however bonkers it may seem, summing up Doctor Who.

Then we are back home, in gorgeous Norway.

This story does have a few ups that aren't just about atmosphere: to name but one, there's Yanne, who is bolshy and who throws any stereotypes about blind people out of the cabin window.

Because of the clash and overload of concepts, centring around a story written for atmosphere, I'd rather they'd have cut the Ribbons section and expanded the Solitract concept and Mystery of the Fjord concept.

In conclusion, this story had a good tone and atmosphere and overall good acting.