It’s been said that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Sometimes it’s a tiny demon flattened by a girl’s foot. In this case, it’s two gods who play with people as if they were Legos. The Doctor will need more than her foot to deal with this type of fear. The resolution comes too quickly, but at least the episode presents a long overdue look into the deep fears of the Companions. They have their worries, but so does a Syrian girl in the 14th Century.
That girl is Tajira (Aruhan Galiera), who claims she’s been seeing something in her nightmares. It turns out to be a werewolf-like beast called a Chagaska who grabs everyone in a local hospital. When it’s first shown, it’s a big claw, but it’s mostly a big werewolf who’s not animated very well. The show has had a problem making CGI monsters.
The real monster is Zellin (Ian Gelder), an immortal who delights in manipulating people and aliens because he is bored. He is especially obsessed with humans because of the “cruelty of their own minds directed toward themselves”. He’s a combination of Freddy Krueger and the Celestial Toymaker, and uses detachable fingers to kidnap people and harness their nightmares.
As the episode begins, the Companions reconnect with family and friends, but don’t say much about how they’ve spent their time. It’s not easy to explain traveling through time and space. The Doctor, though, doesn’t notice Zellin invading the TARDIS, or manipulating her to Aleppo. Graham also sees a vision of a girl who seems to be trapped. Is Zellin to blame?
Thanks to this bit of steampunk tech, they trace the vision to a spaceship, and discover two planets about to collide but being stopped by an orb. That’s where the woman is.
This is where Zellin makes his move, trapping the Doctor and her friends in their own fears.
Yaz finds herself alone on a road with a cop and her sister Sonya (Bhavnisha Parmar) in the distance. Graham finds himself attached to an IV and told his cancer is back…and the nurse is his late wife Grace. Ryan finds himself in a fire with an older version of his roommate Tibo (Buon Tuhngang) nearby. Even the Doctor is put in her own nightmare, seeing what seems to be the “Timeless Child” from “The Ghost Monument”.
Zellin reveals the girl from Graham’s dreams is also a goddess named Rakaya (Clare-Hope Ashitey). She was actually being fed nightmares, and the people who were living on those planets trapped her. Now that both Zellin and Rakaya are free, they plan to feast on the nightmares of Earth. This twist was a bit underwhelming because we’ve seen it many times this season, from the reveal of the new Master to Ruth-Doctor just a few weeks ago.
However, the Doctor wakes up (maybe a little too easily), and awakens the Companions along with Tajira and Tibo. They have to figure out how to stop Zellin and Rakaya, and they do that in an interesting way. They remember the Chagaska came from Tajira’s fears, and that’s why it didn’t hurt her. So, by having her conquer her fear-beast, they use it to beat the dream gods. Zellin was one of the creepiest bad guys the show has had in a while, but the bad guys were defeated too easily this week.
The episode also reveals something about Yaz : she ran away from home in 2017, and it took some words from a cop (Nasreen Hussein) and help from Sonja to get Yaz on the right road. The cop even bet 50 pence Yaz’s life would be better, and Yaz finds the cop to pay the bet. In this case, both won.
Graham, meanwhile, tells the Doc about his cancer fears, and doesn’t exactly gets reassurances. He’s still hopeful.
Ryan’s response is interesting. He’s starting to think about when he’ll step off the TARDIS for the last time, and how he’ll be changed. It’s been reported Tosin Cole will have a big role in a TV mini-series. If Ryan goes, will Graham leave, too? Maybe Yaz? It’s been two years, and usually there is turnover of Companions by now.
For now, the Doctor suggests a new trip: meeting the woman who created Frankenstein. It’s just a diversion before the Lone Cyberman finally arrives, and could change the Doctor’s future or maybe her past.