Doctor Who 11x09 “It Takes You Away” Review
This episode of Doctor Who was…definitely an episode of television, and I definitely watched it.
There were many, many things happening, but I’ll start at the beginning: the Doctor and Team TARDIS end up in modern day Norway and stumble upon a creepy, boarded up house that they decide to investigate (as you do). Inside they find a spunky blind girl, Hanne, dressed like DB Cooper and missing her father, who went missing a few weeks prior. She’s convinced that a monster is to blame, hence the title “It Takes You Away.”
Not all is as it seems, however. Graham stumbles upon a mirror without a reflection and a strange force surrounding it that seems to be pulling everyone in. Upon examination, the Doctor surmises that this is where Hanne’s father ended up. Leaving Ryan to watch over Hanne, the rest of Team TARDIS enter into a cave-like world through the mirror in order to find out what is happening.
Turns out, the mirror is a type of portal. The Doctor figures out that it is a barrier between universes, called an anti-zone, which apparently only pops up when the fabric of the universe is under threat. It’s a protective barrier of sorts, home to flesh eating moths and a strange alien being who offers to lead the Doctor and team to Hanne’s father.
I’m sorry — how did this alien get there? It’s so strange and so out of place, especially when we realize (spoiler alert) that the other end of the anti-zone is yet another mirror, leading to another version of Hanne’s house in another version of Norway. He does fall victim to the flesh eating moths on the way, so I’m not going to waste my time worrying about it.
They find Hanne’s Father living in the other universe along with Hanne’s mother, who died a few months prior but apparently is still alive in whatever version of Norway they ended up in. This guy is a contender for the worst father ever, with Ryan discovering that he had set up speakers around the real house to emit monster like noises in an attempt to get Hanne to say in the house while he hangs out with his dead wife. He seems MUCH too happy abandoning his daughter, which causes a red flag in my mind: in what world would Hanne’s mother be okay with this?
We also get a reference to a previous episode for the first time this season, and it’s a doozy: Grace is back, also hanging around the house in Norway and unsure of how she got there. Graham is obviously shaken, asking her questions that only the real Grace would know in an attempt to figure out what is happening. She knows the answer to everything, and it seems like she’s the real deal. However, just like with Hanne’s mother, there’s another red flag: Grace doesn’t mention Ryan.
Graham is ready to accept that this is indeed the real Grace, but the Doctor knows better. She figures out that this isn’t an alternate universe, but a world created by a sentient universe much like our own, but unable to coexist with us. The Doctor describes this as a child with chicken pox: almost identical to the uninfected children and desperate to be one of them, but unable to exist together. Thank goodness for this analogy, because I had no idea what she was talking about. That’s the downfall of writing an entire season with new aliens: sure, it’s interesting, but it’s a lot of nonsensical information to absorb at the fast pace that the Doctor explains it.
In an attempt to attract human friends, this being created an almost identical universe containing something irresistible: the chance to be with lost loved ones again. However, this isn’t sustainable. Remember the anti-zone? That only popped up because this alternate reality is unraveling, unable to hold the humans that enter it no matter how much this universe wants it.
It takes Hanne (who literally knocked out Ryan and entered the mirror herself, get it girl) showing up to shake this new world. She immediately knows that this woman is not her real mother and that something is wrong. The universe is starting to unravel, and the Doctor is desperately trying to convince Hanne’s father and Graham that none of this is real. It’s the lack of concern for Ryan that really does it for Graham, and the dismissal of Hanne that does it for her father, that sends them back through the portal.
The Doctor is left behind, a desperate attempt by that universe to keep at least one friend. While talking to the Doctor, the alternate Norway disappears and surrounds her with white space, while the universe takes the form of…. A frog.
I am not fucking with you: this whole scene was Jodie Whittaker talking to a frog sitting on a chair. Apparently Grace liked frogs, so they decided this would make the most sense?
This was hands down the most surreal scene of the whole episode. I was genuinely heartbroken at the loneliness of this strange frog universe and at Graham having to say goodbye to Grace again. We also get another shot of depth from the Doctor (I’ve loved more and I’ve lost more), but all of this was juxtaposed with the ridiculous image of that damn frog. I’m so sorry… who authorized this? I will never say this again in a review, but honestly, the choice to make the universe present as a frog was stupid. WHY am I so sad about a poorly animated frog?
It’s sad, really. This could have been a solid episode grounded in very well done surrealism, but the frog ruined the whole thing for me. I understand the point that the frog does add to this surrealism, but in my opinion it was a missed opportunity. The episode would have still been effective if the universe existed as a disembodied voice, or better yet, took the form of someone that the Doctor had loved and lost. It was certainly a missed opportunity.