The producers have tried something with Doctor Who that we haven't seen in 15 months: A regular, 45 - minute episode. Since The Name of the Doctor was broadcast back on May 18, 2013, we've had only three episodes, and they've all been major events - a huge anniversary, a blockbuster regeneration, and a blockbuster New Doctor episode. For the first time in over a year, it was business as usual, with an ordinary episode - that just happened to be pretty extraordinary. I thought this might have been the most flawless work Doctor Who has done since Season Six, at least.
Leave it to the Daleks to up the game considerably.
We begin in the middle of battle; an entire fleet of the nasty little pepperpots are using a lone human spaceship as target practice, and the young pilot inside the craft is probably wondering why she didn't choose something safer to do with her life, such as bounty hunting or bomb defusal. Her co-pilot, who also happens to be her brother, is dead, she's surrounded by asteroids that have seemed to join the Dalek force as an enormous band of mercenaries, and then, just as it seems her number is up, she gets the scariest jolt of her life:
She materializes inside the Tardis, to be greeted by the universes' most ungracious host, the Doctor. One minute she's being attacked by killing machines, and the next minute she's being frowned upon by Those Eyebrows. Talk about out of the frying pan, into the fire.
What would any sane person in that situation do? She reaches for her gun, of course. Who wouldn't?
The Eyebrows regard her quietly and calmly as he strides across the Tardis bearing two cups of coffee - neither of which, it turns out, were meant for her. Like I said, the Universes' most ungracious host. Of course, who can blame him? Even the Queen's own butler might be hard pressed to provide refreshments to an armed and grieving hysterical guest who is prepared to shoot her way out of the hospitality he wishes to provide. She didn't even say thank you.
The Doctor counters her terrified attack stance with icy, matter-of-fact statements, lightly laced with a delicate layer of exasperated contempt. "I materialized a time capsule exactly round you and saved your life one second before your ship exploded, but do please keep crying."
Funny how this doesn't make her feel any better. The soldier, whose name is Journey Blue, demands that the Doctor take her back to her command capsule.
Grumpy Doctor Grandpa (always happens with the first incarnation in any regeneration cycle, apparently) decides this ungrateful child needs some schooling in basic manners, and makes her say please. But he still doesn't give her any coffee.
Once back at her command capsule, the Aristotle, Journey Blue learns that the Tardis is smaller on the outside and the Doctor learns that the Aristotle is actually a hospital - without any doctors. And apparently, without any real common sense; aboard the Aristotle, the standard reward for saving the life of an officer is immediate execution. Apparently Journey learned her gratitude skills from her superiors. "He might be a duplicate" explains the commander, Journey Blue's Uncle. Well damn, and the Doctor just stopped having all those post-regenerative hallucinations and dizzy spells.
Journey points out that Eyebrows is a Doctor, and they have a patient. As the group marches towards sick bay the Doctor grumbles about things he doesn't like, (soldiers) and coos over things he does like - most notably, the moleculon nanoscaler, a device that shrinks people down to the size of bacteria so that they can operate on patients from the inside. The Doctor thinks this is a great idea for a movie and a terrible idea for a proctologist. Our dark, grumpy Doctor is also a very dryly funny Doctor, and he's becoming more and more one of my favorites every time he opens his mean little mouth.
Once the Doctor sees his patient, however, he may be ready to take his chances with the Aristotle's firing squad.