It Takes You Away – Doctor Who Review

There’s an awful lot to reflect on in this episode. It Takes You Away is a cunning exploration of trust, grief, and longing. Jamie Childs direction pours atmosphere and beauty into every scene that guarantees it will leave an impression. What’s more, we finally get a little bit of character closure as well as some very strange friends.

The title of this episode echoes the 2014 horror movie It Follows, and as such the tone and feel of the story is eerie and tense. Something is out there, and something is coming. But the story plays with those expectations, too, through a cunning bit of misdirection. We are all expecting something to come from the woods, only for the threat to emerge from within.

Mirror Mirror

The use of mirrors in fiction is a long and complex tradition. It Takes You Away bears an echo of, perhaps, one of the earliest. As the episode developed and we discovered what was motivating Erik, I was reminded of the story of Narcissus. Albeit in a roundabout sort of way. He who fell in love with and pined for his own reflection in a pool of water, and thus came to his downfall.

Erik is lured into a mirror, enamoured of what he finds there, abandoning all else in order to stay there. It is a selfish desire to satisfy his own needs, to live in his own happiness at the expense of his daughter. Perhaps even at the expense of the universe itself.

The Solitract exists as a mirror image of our universe in some ways. It exists in polar opposite, as an opposing force that simply cannot interact with our plane. One might almost mistake it for the antimatter universe where Omega was sealed away. Perhaps they would have gotten on.

Toxic

The theme of toxic relationships echoes through this story. We hear hints of Ryan’s unhealthy relationship with his dad and how it has left him cynical towards Hanne’s. Yas’ training as a police officer has left her perhaps a little more equipped to deal with Hanne’s situation, but Ryan is a quick learner. He at least tries to implement what he learns anyway.

When we see the Solitract and how it interacts with people, trying to give them what they want, it at first seems ideal. Bringing back loved ones, giving people a second chance at happiness. Where it turns toxic is in the Solitract’s desire to be all consuming, to push away all other relationships in a person’s life and become the only one that gets to own a person. This is unsustainable and will ultimately lead to the collapse of both universes if it continues.

The analogy may be a little on the nose, but it is apt. We, as a society, are still learning to deal with the idea of toxic relationships and how to portray them on screen. I do wish we had spent a little more time on the idea and delved into it.

Grandad

Much has already been said elsewhere about Bradley Walsh’s performances this year. It Takes You Away was no exception and he was once again tasked with showing his emotional range. In many ways, he has become the heart of this series.

This is a great development for a family show, and one that is one of the BBC’s flagship properties. Few enough male characters get to be visibly emotional, let alone emotionally vulnerable. Graham doesn’t display anger, or wallow in angst, but wears his grief on his sleeve. He’s not ashamed of it, and he’s not afraid to ask for help in dealing with it.

What’s more, he holds the Doctor in respect, and shows no signs of being humiliated by letting her be in charge. Graham is certainly an interesting and important character for this age and I only hope we get to see more of him going forward.

Final Thoughts

As we approach the finale of Jodie Whittaker’s first series, we need to ask ourselves just how has it been going?

While I will put together more detailed thoughts after the whole thing is out, for now the series has had its ups and downs. Some scenes have felt a little rushed and out of place, as if rewrites had been ordered at last minutes. Meanwhile, others have felt finely tuned and worked remarkably well.

Jodie has put on a stellar performance, as has Bradley Walsh. Tosin Cole and Mandip Gill have had less to work with, but if they stick around into next year, I hope we see them grow.

So far, this series has felt a little experimental in places. As if Chibnall is trying things out, testing the waters to see what people like. While this can work and inform later series, for now it has the effect of making this series feel a little unfocussed.

I wonder about the decision to have no story arcs and suspect it may not have been Chibnall’s idea. He’s good at story arcs and binding a series together. I find it frustrating that he is not playing to his strengths.

All this and more I can talk about in depth another time. But for now, series eleven is rated ‘okay’ to ‘pretty good’ in my estimations.

Next time