Arriving in Norway in 2018, the TARDIS team discover a seemingly abandoned cottage. Upon investigating they discover a girl named Hanne (Eleanor Wallwork), looking for her vanished father. With a strange alien portal in her cottage, The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her friends must try to discover the truth of what danger is lurking in the heart of the Norwegian countryside.
Doctor Who has always done gothic thrillers well – back in the 1970s they were a staple of the show’s schedule and particularly vivid during Tom Baker’s era; the atmosphere and tension they elicited were one on the contributing factors to the show’s success.
It Takes You Away is only partly a gothic thriller but it takes the most successful elements of that formula – the atmosphere and the gothic horror elements of it and blends them together with more traditional science fiction elements to create something truly unique and new. Ed Hime’s brilliant literary mind produces a combination between Stranger Things and Classic Doctor Who with It Takes You Away – the horrific idea of the Solitract, the portal between different worlds and the AntiZone allows the story to be both a homage to the classic gothic thriller and a reinvention of the modern science fiction.
Hime gives the story a depth and emotional resonance to it that allows it to be more than a simple adventure story – by allowing the Solitract to resurrect both Grace (Sharon D Clarke) and Trine (Lisa Stokke) and give Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Erik (Christian Rubeck) some form of closure, it means we feel more emotionally invested in the outcome of the story than we might have otherwise had.
The conflict between them wanting to spend time with their loved ones and also knowing they have to leave for their own survival is heartbreaking and gives the episode a great deal of emotional weight to it. Hine is clever to also leave these emotional punches to the latter half of the episode, allowing it to feel more powerful as it takes both the audience and characters by surprise. We have certain expectations going into any drama and by defining those expectations Hine allows the episode to also have a longer shelf life – in years to come fans will be re-watching the story to see if there are any hints as to what is to come. That is the beauty of this story and why it will be remembered for years to come.
Bradley Walsh gives an excellent performance as Graham in this episode. All the anger and fear that he has felt since the loss of Grace in the first episode comes out and his desire for her to be with him again is obvious throughout the second half of the story. The scene in which he discusses with Grace all the travels he’s had with The Doctor is touching in its heart wrenchingness. Walsh emotes clearly through his eyes and facial expressions that he would give anything to have not travelled with The Doctor if he could get his wife back. Similarly, his final scene in the episode with Ryan (Tosin Cole) is truly emotional and the pride that exudes from Graham when Ryan finally calls him “Grandad” is a wonderful moment of character development for both characters and delivered exceptionally well by both actors.
Kevin Eldon gives a great performance as the malevolent Ribbons. Eldon pulls off, with the help of the prosthetics, a truly disturbing and alien portrayal of the AntiZone inhabitant. He moves his body is a shuffling, almost disjointed style which adds to the creepiness of his performance.
It Takes You Away is a hauntingly beautiful story that combines horror, pure science fiction and bittersweet loss into a truly memorable story. It is an episode which will be sure to touch many people and it is one which is unlikely to be forgotten, not simply for the skill of its script but for the nuanced and engaging performances of its cast.
Doctor Who concludes next Sunday on BBC One.