REVIEW: Doctor Who Series 9 prequel, The Doctor's Meditation

The Doctor’s Meditation
by Steven Moffat

Starring Peter Capaldi

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Review by Nick Fraser

What’s on the Doctor’s mind? He’s clearly making a monumental effort to prepare for something, having decided to embark upon a course of secluded, contemplative thought in a castle.

Only – it doesn’t quite work for him. Having seemingly achieved the necessary inner stillness, we discover he’s managed only a few hours rather than the several days he’d been aiming for. Trust a Time Lord to have no idea of the passage of time. This most mercurial of Time Lords is more of a bee in a box than a penitent in a cell.

“Someone I know is very sick. They want to see me before…”. Hmmm…, who is the cause of the slow burning sense of foreboding? Why do they want to see him? The Doctor’s castle companion Bors thinks it might be an old friend. The reaction to that (and accompanying incidental music) suggests the Doctor is preparing for a rather less appealing reunion.

In the short space provided by this “minisode”, there’s a palpable loyalty and friendship between Bors and the Doctor, which must have been well-won if the latter’s spiky banter is anything to go by. There’s almost a hint of affection between the two, and a genuine sense of concern expressed by Bors about what the Doctor is about to embark upon.

But rather than cogitating further, there follows a mad burst of displacement activity as the Doctor decides that his meditative labours can only be truly effective whilst quaffing the perfect goblet of water. Which means leading a merry band on a 12 day search around the castle grounds for the best place to dig a well. Once dug, there’s a burst of (off-screen) Doctor Does Grand Designs.

And then out of the blue, a perceptive question from Bors, “What is it that you dread?”

The Doctor has run away from Big Events in the past, or fought to delay the seemingly inevitable (particularly during his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations), but this time having apparently let someone down, he’s seeking to make reparations. But who is the recipient? I’m guessing it’s not Sara Kingdom. Damn.

But even on his last night before the battles to come, meditation is a poor alternative to the prospect of an impromptu fencing session, armed with a spoon.

It scarcely needs saying, but Peter Capaldi is brilliant in this, flitting from brooding contemplation to Tommy Cooper and back again in the space of six minutes. We’ll find out over the next twelve weeks just what’s on the Doctor’s mind. Question is though, is everyone going to survive this time?

Review by Nick Fraser

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