I will start by saying that after seeing the trailer for this weeks episode I wasn’t sure what kind of episode we were getting other than something with CGI and in my mind CGI is 50/50 every time. Sometimes it works like say a laser blast and then sometimes making people fly like Superman doesn’t work. With Doctor Who I have learned to wait and see what we get, Something this season has taught me with mixed results.
This episode centres on the disappearance of the 9th Roman legion. The story is fairly straight forward, I have to say I love Scottish history myself being that I am Scottish and I will confess this is a new one on me. So it sparked my interest to read more and I do like when Doctor Who throws in some actual history, like the Great Fire of London in the episode Visitation starring Peter Davidson. The episode also goes back to his statement on same sex relationships which is again welcomed. All the little elements of the story work, like explaining why the Scottish clan and the Roman army are young. How seamlessly Matt Lucus's Nardole blends into the clan while he waits on The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) and Bill (Pear Mackie) and to round the episode of we are then back at the Tardis for a chat with Missy.
It's at this point I want to mention Missy. I love Micheal Gomez as Missy. She has been vastly underused this season and the whole vault thing to where we are now has been one long season arc that’s just been a little off point in terms of Doctor Who storylines. That could change if this arc is redeemed in the last two episodes of the season. I suspect that they have tried to invoke a sympathetic emotion between the viewers and Missy before something bad happens or a heart string moment happens. So the arc might work if the story we see next week pulls it together. But back to this week's episode, Missy does little to effect the episode although she does highlight there is almost a trust and bond between her and The Doctor even though he isn't quite ready yet.
The low points of the episode are the feeling I got from this episode. It was very cheaply made. From CGI stones, that stood out to me. The Roman army uniform felt like it was just used again because they had it. It felt like this episode didn’t match the budget of say the episode Smile or even the first episode. CGI monster which I was worried about also seemed like a cast off from another show that used to be on, called Prime Evil. I think sometimes they need to make their monsters practical as this presents us with more believability and it can go into a museum like the Doctor Who experience in Wales. But sometimes it has to be CGI and this time I don’t feel it paid off.
Overall this episode had a lot of highlights. Seeing Matt Lucas break out some small comedy moments helped brighten up a slower episode and Peter and Pearl knocked it out the park when given their moment to shine. Pearl and the scene where she explained she wasn’t into men. Was well handled because it could have become silly, they played it with the right level of comedy and drama. Bringing forth a more open viewpoint from the Romans than many people have today.
The credits rolled fast on this episode which for me was good. Because I knew what was coming. The return of the Cybermen and not just any Cybermen but the Mondasian Cybermen, who have not been seen on the show since William Hartnell's final episode The Tenth Planet. I like their retro design and that show has kept it. Of course, the trailer does suggest two things beside the return of the Cybermen. One is that Missy will have a much larger role and will be out of the Tardis and two a little actor called John Simm is returning as someone called The Master. Yup, next week we will have two regenerations of the Master and two versions of the Cybermen. what a way for Peter Capaldi to start his penultimate story.
7/10 shiny stars.