I think the main problem I have with this episode is that I don’t care about Danny and Clara’s relationship.
Much as with River and the Doctor (referenced in this episode) we never see what brings them together. We never see them get to know each other better or begin to fall in love. Yet the showrunner expects us to accept them as a couple, because he says so. I fell for Rose and the Doctor, because the evolution from distrust to friendship to love was so natural and organic in its development. I even bought Amy and Rory in the end, because there was so much honest passion and emotion there – and just enough back story. But Clara and Danny I don’t get. The adventures teased in the beginning – the chains in the desert, the fish people, the running – any of them would have made a better story.
Of course I also have trouble with the lying.
What do you tell someone you care about when you are seeing and doing impossible things they would likely never believe? It’s certainly a barrier to having an honest relationship, as Gwen Cooper discovered. I understand that Clara wants to keep her two lives separate, which is impossible and part of the problem, but if she cares for Danny as she claims to, she needed to tell him the truth from the start. His disbelief might threaten their relationship, but her lying and continuing to lie only make it worse.
I also have a problem with his extracting promises from her. What’s he doing but replacing her “superior officer” with himself? What makes him any better qualified for the job? She caves of course, as she does, though she has no real intention of keeping the promise. Clara has guts, but she fails to stand up for herself when it actually is important.
Still, there is enough to like about this episode. The Doctor’s stubborn cluelessness reaches new heights. Courtney Woods is a fun addition. Three classic monsters are referenced in the opening sequence: the plastic human forms of the Autons, the single blue eye of the Daleks, the metal leg of the Cybermen. The monster itself makes for some exciting sequences. The Doctor’s rage, and his passionate defense of humanity in spite of it, is always a joy to watch. I saw shades of the Tenth Doctor in his gagetry and shouting.
I do think, however, that this takes us into a low point in the season. I just want to skip ahead to ‘Mummy.’