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Doctor Who Series 12: Ten Huge Questions After Can You Hear Me?

10. Were The Aleppo Scenes Really Necessary?

BBC

It has taken a while, but the Doctor’s family may just have won over our affections. One of the dangers of Chibnall’s ‘TARDIS fam’ approach is that the characters could end up underdeveloped and underused. This isn’t a soap opera, there’s little time for filler material, or for ‘getting to know you’ scenes.

Refreshingly, by using Graham, Yaz and Ryan’s nightmares as the fuel for a couple of entitled Eternals, Charlene James and Chibnall take us inside their heads in a way that both furthers the plot and reminds us that they are more than simply companions. They have lives, and minds, outside the TARDIS.

The Doctor correctly deduces that the TARDIS fam have been targeted. We soon discover this is because the immortals need her. The Doctor is the only person in the universe who can open the quantum fluctuation lock and set Rakaya free.

With the companions taking centre stage, the Aleppo scenes weren’t strictly necessary. Zellin could have gained the Doctor’s attention without summoning Tahira’s nightmare monsters. True, the gods are feeding off human nightmares as a way of coping with the boredom of eternity and imprisonment, but despite the reference to Islamic mental health care, the choice of setting felt random.

We should applaud the move to include a city from 14th century Syria in the series and to present the region and its people in a positive light, but it also felt like a missed opportunity. Connections were there to be made between Yaz’s faith as a Muslim and Tahira’s, but the two characters barely interact. How the treatment of mental illness differs between cultures and times is also never addressed.

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Paul Driscoll is a freelance writer and author across a range of subjects from Cult TV to religion and social policy. He is a passionate Doctor Who fan and January 2017 will see the publication of his first extended study of the series (based on Toby Whithouse's series six episode, The God Complex) in the critically acclaimed Black Archive range by Obverse Books. He is a regular writer for the fan site Doctor Who Worldwide and has contributed several essays to Watching Books' You and Who range. Recently he has branched out into fiction writing, with two short stories in the charity Doctor Who anthology Seasons of War (Chinbeard Books). Paul's work will also feature in the forthcoming Iris Wildthyme collection (A Clockwork Iris, Obverse Books) and Chinbeard Books' collection of drabbles, A Time Lord for Change.