The Doctor explains, “Space: the final frontier – final because it wants to kill us.”
We keep forgetting that because we want to explore. We’re cocky.
A couple of folks in spacesuits are hurdling through space toward a ship. Another pair are on the ship, and one of them (a woman) is talking about how she has come to understand that life is brief. She wants to have a baby with the man in the other suit. Her oxygen levels are low, and her comms aren’t functioning properly, so I guess she’ll have to tell him later.
He makes it to his goal (a “purge alert” handle that opens a hatch). Meanwhile, more spacesuits land by her, and he can’t hear her scream. When he sees a helmet floating away, he turns around, only to find she is zombified and stomping toward him.
The Doctor is in class, explaining all the ways that space kills us -- things like fluid boiling, oxygen bubbles forming in the blood, lungs exploding. One of the students speaks up to point out that it doesn’t have anything to do with the topic at hand (crop rotation).
Nardole doesn’t want The Doctor to break his oath again, but he’s antsy. He wants Bill to be a bad influence and pick a place to visit. While she is deciding, he gets a distress call. He had sent Nardole out for crisps, but he thought for himself and saw it was ruse to get away. He was tasked to keep him at the university by The Doctor, himself – who sees the paradox and playfully threatens him like a bad employee. Nardole has stolen a bit of the TARDIS that The Doctor told him was necessary for flight. Turned out he lied about that, too, and they take off.
The TARDIS lands in a spaceship, and The Doctor expands the TARDIS’s protective oxygen shell to cover the whole ship so that they can explore. There are signs that warn not to waste your breath. Bill is unimpressed – space, so far, has oxygen and (artificial) gravity. Nardole insists on being a wet blanket until The Doctor listens to him.
As they open a door, they see a zombified man still standing – but not chasing, it’s important to note – and The Doctor explains that it’s the suit that’s standing, not the man. Mag boots and gyros are to blame. The space-zombie has plenty of oxygen left, though!
The Doctor quotes the Bible: “Death, where is thy sting?”
Isn’t it usually Dickens or Shakespeare that passes his lips?
Bill is still not used to dead people. She thinks it’s disrespectful to the dead man to leave him standing. She hypothesises that he must have run out of oxygen since there wasn’t any until the TARDIS ported it in, but his tank is pretty full and his force field mask thingie is up. I doubt he suffocated.
The Doctor sees that the station had a crew of 40, and there is a record of 36 life signs terminating. The station was declared non-profitable. Nardole is very much spooked and keeps trying to get them back to the TARDIS. The Doctor doesn’t want to leave because 36 dead means four still alive, and they show their true selves by how they respond to distress calls.
They reluctantly agree and quickly find themselves in the company of a worker in a suit. It’s empty but still going about its job. Actual people are so inefficient. The suit has voice capabilities. The suit is unaware of any deaths and informs them there has never been any oxygen on the ship – but it is available for personal consumption “at competitive prices”. The oxygen is only in the suits, and any unauthorised oxygen in the ship will be expelled.
That includes the TARDIS’s oxygen, I’m guessing.
Right on cue, a klaxon blares, and the ship begins to decompress. Before they (and the TARDIS) can be sucked into the vacuum, The Doctor seals a door – the only problem is that the TARDIS is on the other side of the door.
The comms system comes online with a (human-y) voice demanding that they identify themselves. The Doctor says that the voice must identify itself because, with the other crew all dead, either he is extremely lucky or the killer. He says he is Drill Chief Tasker, and The Doctor says that they are answering the distress call. Before any more chat can go on, he warns them to get out of the repair bay because they need to get away from the suits.
The previously-still space zombie suit grabs the sonic screwdriver, which zaps it, destroying the sonic in the process. They dig a memory card out of the suit, and Nardole reads it to see that it sent a single line of code: “Deactivate your organic component”.
So the suits killed their wearers, and now The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole must get into suits to keep from dying. That sounds like a fantastic plan.
The Doctor speculates that these particular suits are off-network for repairs. And, if he’s wrong, it’s bye-bye Bill and co. (Nardole also points out that 36 dead people means 36 walking suits, and the place is just crawling with them.) They are fitted into their suits, and the suit voice tells them they have an estimated 2500 breaths left. Bill laments that she’s not been told in minutes, but Nardole explains that, when you panic, you breathe faster – you die faster.
They head to meet up with Tasker, and the space zombie suits give chase. When they finally get to him, Tasker is with the remaining survivors, including a blue-skinned alien (Crespallion?) called Dahh-ren (not Darren) who accuses Bill of being racist.
Bill’s suit starts glitching, so she’s taken to get checked out. The suit is a mess, but she gets some relief. Meanwhile, The Doctor is shown a map. They are mining copper ore. Tasker says that the suit AI is dumb, but The Doctor thinks it might be able to learn. As he’s hypothesising, we see a HAL-like red light on a suit focusing in and out on a broken door. It does appear to be learning!
The suit identifies the fault in the door wiring – and then, all together, they identify the suit best, uh, suited to fix it. When the survivors try to make a run for it, Tasker is caught by a suit. It touches his suit, passing along the deactivation message, and he is well-zapped.
Ivan shouts “Airlock!”, and they all rush through and put on their helmets. Bill is very nervous and doesn’t want to go outside or put on her helmet. After they lock in and start to decompress, Bill’s suit malfunctions and removes her helmet.
What follows is nothing short of terrifying. The sound goes. Bill struggles to not hold her breath. Ice begins to form on her cheeks. The colour begins to drain. Her vision is shaky. Her lips turn purple. Her head rolls as everything turns red and whiny.
We get short sequences of suits shooting other suits, and Bill (with helmet) is mag-booting her way toward … The Doctor. With no helmet.
She wakes, sore but alive. She sees lots of the zombie suits, and her suit informs her that it’s offline for diagnostics. She’s found by Nardole and Ivan, who explains that The Doctor put her suit on Auto to walk her outside.
They aren’t scared of the suits because the map didn’t extend to where they are now. Nardole explains: “It’s like when your satnav doesn’t know a new road.” They also tell her that The Doctor gave her his helmet, and they don’t know how he survived. He played a price, though, and is in Section 12.
When the suits hear “Section 12”, they start searching their databases for information about it. I think they might be able to complete their maps!
The Doctor has gone blind from the vacuum. He says it’s temporary until they get back to the TARDIS.
As The Doctor clangs around, they get a ping from a ship. He tells Bill that he’s got no TARDIS, no sonic, and about ten minutes of oxygen left, so can you imagine “how unbearable” he’s going to be when he rescues everyone?
Abby is still less than thrilled with The Doctor’s lack of explanations. She wants to know how a rescue ship is on its way if the rescue ship (The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole) is already there. The Doctor gives a great quip explaining everything you’ll need to know about him: “I’m The Doctor. I will do everything in my power to save all your lives, and, when I do, you will spend the rest of them wondering who I was and why I helped you. If anyone’s offering a better deal, then be my guest.” As Abby points out that he didn’t save Tasker, Dahh-ren’s suit gets touched, and zap he goes.
The evacuate, and Bill’s suit malfunctions, halting her in the hall. It’ll take too long to reboot, and the mag boots won’t let them pick her up and carry her. They can’t trade suits, as The Doctor offers, since hers is jammed. He suddenly realises that there never was a hack aboard the ship; it simply is as was planned.
The Doctor asks Bill if she trusts him. He says she has to stay there and “go through hell”, but he will be waiting on the other side of it. She wants confirmation that it’ll be okay. Would he say the same if she were going to die? Why won’t he tell her a joke before he goes? She calls out for advice from her mum, and her suit is touched.
She gets zapped, and her suit begins to march along with the others. It works at a door, and, meanwhile, The Doctor is rejigging the coolant system. It’s all about dying well. When the suits kill them, the nuclear core will blow the entire ship up. It’s revenge! There is no other rescue ship – it set out before the distress call. They aren’t going to be rescued; they are going to be replaced. They were getting inefficient, so the mining company is going to save the finite resource (oxygen) until the next crew arrives.
Like every worker everywhere, they’re fighting the suits!
They let in the suits, led by Bill, and The Doctor announces they, above all, their deaths will be expensive! The company will make its greatest ever loss. A minute before, they were too expensive to allow to live, and now they are too expensive to kill.
Ah, The Doctor also told them they were all going to be “dead as Bill”, who – surprise! – isn’t dead. He opens a valve on her suit, and she breathes. She’s a bit worse for wear, but her suit battery was too weak to completely zap her.
The suits pass on their personal oxygen (good for business now!), and Ivan has a wee moment with his lady who wanted a baby with him. Bill hugs The Doctor, and Nardole cuddles in.
Aboard the TARDIS, Nardole fixes The Doctor’s eyes. He says he couldn’t share his cunning plan because the suits would have heard, too. Abby apologises for not trusting The Doctor from the off, and he brushes it off as unnecessary. He offers to drop Ivan and Abby off anywhere, but she suggests their company’s Head Office in order to file a formal complaint.
Back in his office, Bill asks The Doctor (in his shades) if the complaint to Head Office works. He says he thinks he remembers a rebellion and the end of capitalism – until the next mistake.
Nardole is very harsh with The Doctor. They almost didn’t make it back. Playful, sweet Nardole is nowhere to be seen. Whatever is in the vault is seriously terrifying him. He demands that The Doctor look at him, as he reminds him he could have come back sick or injured (“Do you think our friend down there won’t know that?”). Oh, he has.
He’s still blind.
The Doctor will be rocking his shades for a while now, it seems, and we’ve gotten confirmation (or so) that whatever is in the vault is a single entity – whether it be of the Doctor, Master, or Cyberman variety. In the preview for next week, we also get the tiniest half-second glimpse of Missy! I doubt they’d blow the whole reveal like that, but she’s definitely involved somehow!
Let us know your latest theories and how much you’re enjoying this series of Doctor Who by chatting with us on Twitter using #PWDW and @PopWrapped. Remember that you can see Doctor Who next Saturday in the UK on BBCOne at 7:25 and at its regular time in the US on BBCAmerica at 9/8c.