Hello dear Reader, Soooooo how did you feel about the green frog? When you saw it, did you think what the four xxxx was that sitting on a chair? Yes, the episode is almost over-turned by that darned frog appearing sitting on a chair and talking in the voice of Grace. It’s the huge stomping elephant in the room when reviewing the episode. The internet and Twitter exploded I imagine at that point on the first transmission. There were a lot of views expressed that I’ve seen that the frog took you out of the episode. That was me on the first watch. Not exploding of course but open-mouthed in incredulity.
Or did you think (saying this bit out loud at this point) just WHY out of all the forms in the universe did a conscious universe have to take the form of a frog? That was me on the second watch. I know it was explained that it was a form that pleased it but from a credibility point of view couldn’t it have picked something or someone else. Susan maybe? Or did you think alright its daft but it’s a conscious universe able to take any form it pleases? Me on the third watch.
I have to be honest I hadn’t heard of Ed Hime but looking him up he is a vastly experienced playwright and radio drama author and a lot of his previous work is in the sphere of science fiction. So, based on that I shouldn’t really be surprised at all the disparate elements that are at play in this story. But I was really surprised by this story so much so on first viewing that I didn’t like it. I realised after a lot of thought the reason was because over the last few weeks the style of stories hadn’t really challenged me with a proper science fiction slant that when I was presented with a more complex story jumping one reality to another, including a green Frog seemingly just to be quirky, it confounded my expectations.
But after a couple more watches I’ve realised It Takes You Away is an accomplished story, not perfect in every way but there is an internal logic to the way the plot unfolds which makes it a pleasure to watch (except for the frog which will always be like an itch you can’t get to). I like the way it subverts your expectations quite deliberately. The synopsis for this story where on the edge of a Norwegian fjord the team discover a boarded-up cottage and a girl named Hanne in need of their help suggests a “creature feature” with a monster lurking in the woods. Cue as they approach the cottage, the framing of the camera behind the front door, the hand at the glass, and then inside the cottage, the wood interior and lighting giving nothing away before Hanne was discovered. The atmosphere was built up with the background music so heightened the fear of ‘The monster’. The roar of the monster also added some urgency to the proceedings. So far so scary and I was absolutely loving it. Probably my favourite part of the episode.
I really liked the pace of the story and how it gradually got bigger in scope. It’s one of the strengths of the episode that it layered many ideas one on top of each other that they could each have merited episodes of their own and going in quite separate directions. Hanne on her own in danger from a creature in the wood with her father disappeared, the anti-zone, the Solitrack universe.
The journey through the portal could have been instantaneous, into the other world but Ed Hime took time to create a hostile world within the anti-zone. Ribbons of the Seven Stomachs played a suitably devious creature in a Gollum Lord of the Rings type way. I liked the conversational to and fro between him and the Doctor about the Doctor’s “tubular” The flesh moths were an interesting addition to the anti-zone. I wonder if they were there as a kind of antiseptic there to prevent people from moving from one world to another? How Ribbons survived there so long is a miracle.
It Takes You Away makes a good attempt at exploring the themes of loss and loneliness. Many people have imagined of being reunited with someone that they have lost. There is no purer pain than that grief of loss which sends your world spinning and Hanne, Erik, Graham, Ryan, even the Solitract were living with that pain. I loved how it was that Graham discovered the portal. I wonder it was a deliberate ploy on behalf of the conscious universe to lure particularly him in. Would it have done the same to Ryan or was it able to sense Graham’s bereavement and target him?
I enjoyed watching the ease showed by the false Trine and Grace to try and trap their husbands permanently in the Solitract universe. Persuading but completely lacking warmth and compassion. I liked how Hanne being blind, made her other senses sharper that she wasn’t fooled by Trine whereas the men saw what they wanted to see. Erik was completely fooled by Trine that he abandoned his daughter knowingly which made him an unsympathetic character, a weak uncaring father which we don’t see very often portrayed in Who and which was only redeemed in part. I don’t know how I feel about his actions as it would be completely anathema to me to imagine doing that to a child. I felt the Doctors ‘Time to move on mate ‘comment rather unkind but I guess Erik was living with grief too and was taken advantage of. Graham’s desperation to believe the lie was heart-breaking and one could see it was something that affected him deeply even after he returned to our universe, the normal world. He has become of all the companions the most interesting to watch for me. So many different facets to his character to enjoy.
One of the other themes I noticed was around friendship and bonding. I liked Ryan looking after Hanne. It gave him something to do and also allowed for the friction between him and Hanne over what happened to her father and their later friendship. He has abandonment issues for sure so that he called Graham grandad was a surprise in some ways. Was the grandad moment earned between Ryan and Graham? For me, it didn’t feel the right moment as Ryan never saw his grandmother in the Solitract universe but I understand why others might have liked it. Yaz follows the Doctor around like a puppy and I think she is far better than that as a character.
You are the maddest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced and I haven’t even scratched the surface. I wish I could stay. But if either of us is going to survive, you’re going to have to let me go and keep on being brilliant by yourself.
What of Jodie’s Doctor? The comedy falls a bit flat at the beginning with the Doctor rather scatty with the soil eating and sheep rebellion business which I didn’t enjoy that much. The interaction with Ribbons was solid enough too as she fought against his deviousness. Some of the talking to herself where she thought out loud seemed incessant but I enjoyed her wonder at the Solitract and how she gradually had to say goodbye. It became a rather touching wistful moment and now we know who she blew a kiss goodbye to from the original series trailer. Not as expected to a Dalek or Cyberman fleet being destroyed but an entire conscious universe who would have to get used to being alone.
A compelling concept from a new writer 8.5 / 10