Solitary grave digging, an ancient and labyrinthine haunted castle, a sea of skulls, a shambling and shrouded figure; things are getting pretty gothic in the new Doctor Who. And it's good, a clever puzzle written by Stephen Moffat and effectively directed by Rachel Talalay, the director of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare and Tank Girl. I'm kind of curious about those films now. But she likely wasn't working with a comparable screenplay or location:
If you're going to have the Doctor trapped somewhere alone for an entire episode it might as well be somewhere gorgeous. I can't seem to find information on the castle used for filming, I'm not even sure all the interiors belong to the same castle, at least one room looked similar to one I remember seeing in 1970's Cromwell.
Not just a puzzle, I should say this episode's format of having the Doctor alone helps emphasise the absence of Clara. The way he keeps talking to her, compulsively, showing how he's used to framing his thoughts as half of a discussion with her is great.
The puzzle, though, is nice and not just clever but supportive of the themes, reflective of the Doctor's loneliness and commitment. It reminded me a lot of some of the more experimental audio plays.
Part of the puzzle actually comes from something that fans have talked about related to Star Trek. But to anyone who would say Doctor Who is stealing from Star Trek I would just point out again that the Borg were "created" almost twenty years after the Cybermen so Star Trek owes Doctor Who big time and not just for that. Anyway, it's a trivial detail. Unlike the Borg which are a main course. But it's cool, Trekkies.
How great is Peter Capaldi? This whole season has really showcased him better than the previous season, where he still had many fine moments. This episode, though, where so much of it is entirely in his reaction shots and internal dialogue, it's lengthy evidence of his greatness.