This week, there’s literal nightmare fuel for a pair of eternal beings as everyone – – including the Doctor – – confront their fears in “Can You Hear Me?” As always, spoilers within.
1. Back to the Homefront
The TARDIS takes a detour to Sheffield to allow the human fam a little time with their loved ones, which is a moment for us the viewers to see just how much Yaz and Ryan’s absences affect their family and friends. Ryan’s mate Tibo struggles with depression, and it shows in the condition of his flat. Yaz and her sister share an anniversary meal, but it’s not a celebratory one. Only Graham seems to be happy playing cards with friends, but no doubt the idea of his health is on his mind.
And the time in the TARDIS is affecting the fam as well. Ryan and Yaz have a heart-to-heart that seems to hint Ryan’s time might be coming to an end sooner rather than later. He understands that traveling with the Doctor will leave him changed, but he doesn’t seem to be comfortable with how much it will change him. And no doubt Tibo’s troubles aren’t far from his mind.
I will be rather surprised if one of the three does not leave at the end of the season. We’ll see a moment from Yaz’s past later on that certainly would give her pause to her current lifestyle in the present. Radio Times in the UK reports that Tosin Cole has been cast in an AMC series, so a voluntary departure from Ryan would make the most sense. Then there’s Graham . . . and well, I don’t want to think about how he could or would go. I’ve grown a bit fond of that old boomer.
2. Nightmare Fuel
How appropriate (I guess??) for Valentine’s Day that we get a pair of immortals, Zellin and Rakaya, bonded together by the near-destruction of their planets (which plays out in a delightful animated sequence) and using the nightmares of the humans they call weak to keep themselves sane and get their jollies on. Whether it’s Graham’s fears about his health or the Doctor’s mental torture of the Timeless Child, these two would rather have a box of these with some nougat filling this weekend instead of the Whitman’s Sampler or Cadbury.
They’re both delightfully creepy, chilling in how they take such glee in our pain. Which makes the moment that humans turn the tables on them, a clever twist on using the nightmare fuel that young Syrian Tahira created to trap them in a prison with their nightmares for all eternity.
3. Classic Callbacks
Late last week, my day job’s CEO, who happens to be British, was visiting my office and he remarked on my desktop background, a tableau of the Doctors from the 50th anniversary special. After wondering “where the other two were” we got into a discussion of some of those older specials and moments he remembered of the series from his childhood, hiding behind the couch when the Daleks came on screen.
“Can You Hear Me” had that frightful hide-behind-the-couch tone all over it, the horror that made those classic Who serials so chilling (well, when you were a child, that is). The disembodied fingers off of Zellin’s hand flying into ears to suck out one’s nightmares, the malevolent joy of Zellin – – let’s just say I am sleeping with some earplugs and maybe the bedroom door locked tonight.
And it should also be added that Zellin and Rakaya are part of a race called the Eternals (not those ones, Marvel fans), that made their first appearance in the Peter Davison era. Throw in the Tron-esque style of that orbital platform for all the captured humans and their nightmares and a few passing mentions of the Celestial Toymaker and the Black Guardian, and it’s the Messers. Baker and Davison era all over again, just with a better budget for costumes and CGI.
All this classic Whovian history coming home to roost though . . . I love it.
4. The Timeless Child
And there’s that Timeless Child again, showing up in the Doctor’s nightmares! Not much more to say about that as this is a very fleeting and blurry glimpse, but its presence again suggests more about this mystery is en route.Continued below
Part of “Can You Hear Me” takes place in 14th century Aleppo, Syria — a “beautiful city” per the Doctor, though certainly less so today after the ravages of war. While some cursory research doesn’t reveal anything to lend truth to the Doctor’s claim that Islamic hospitals were revolutionary in their approach to mental health (if anyone has any sources on this, please share them in the comments), these hospitals did well to advance the treatment of medicine. They provided cutting-edge treatments for cataracts, development of surgical tools, study in the epidemiology of diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis, and one of the most famous works of medicine of all time.
They also took great care to serve any and all patients, from rich to poor, being a true philanthropy. American medical system, take note.
“Can You Hear Me” gives us a key moment from Yaz’s past (#FinallySomeBackstory) that may explain some of her future. Three years ago, she was a runaway looking to escape a rough patch in school: bullying, bad grades, family that doesn’t understand – – and it’s very strongly hinted she was looking for more drastic means to end her pain. (According to friends in the UK, the closing credits included a PSA for one the UK’s mental health help lines, in the event viewers were strongly affected by this episode.) It’s the kindness of a police officer that assures her that this is just a “moment” in her life that will pass, one that brings Yaz back home and direction to her future career. Even more touching is their reunion in the present; this woman who saved Yaz’s life never did forget her.
No doubt Yaz is musing more on this moment – – that first time she ran away – – and wondering if her trips in the TARDIS are just a case of history repeating itself. Could she be the one to say farewell to the fam and head back home?
– Game of Thrones fans will recognize Zellin (Ian Gelder) as Kevan Lannister, Tywin’s brother
Line of the night:
The Doctor: “Blundering. Top of my CV along with ‘Plays well with others’ and ‘Tap dances well in a crisis.’ “