10. Were The Aleppo Scenes Really Necessary?
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.