"People with guns to their heads, they cannot mourn. We don't have time to mourn!"
And there it is - the explanation for all Capaldi's seeming callousness this series, and the confirmation of what I've suspected since Into the Dalek. This Doctor still cares about people, but he's almost frighteningly practical about it. Capaldi's attitude to death is actually one of my favourite things about his Doctor so far, and this episode made the absolute most of that.
Something else I love, which got touched on back in our Listen discussion, is how excited he always seems by danger. I thought back then that was just a quirk of his performance, but it turns out this week that it's an intentional and fundamental part of his character. And Clara's too, it seems, as she begins to adopt all of the Doctor's worst qualities - not least of which is the generous application of Rule One.
Hang on. An emotionally detached genius with an adrenaline-junkie sidekick? We've seen this before. But, unlike Sherlock and Watson, the balance between plot and character feels much more comfortable here. Clara's "addiction" is clearly a major piece of the plot - along with soldiers and robots and death - but that plot feels like it's evolving naturally rather than being forced upon us. Series Eight is kicking Seven's arse, in other words.
I really liked this episode, in case you can't tell. It hit all the right notes for me, and I'd have loved to get into all its juicy details with The Companion Piece this week. But, alas, I couldn't make it - there were alpacas to feed and waves to jump in - but the excellent Paul B has stepped up to the (boiler) plate and taken charge on this one. He's done an amazing job, and it was kind of wonderful to experience one of these as a reader for the first time instead of a contributor. The team has some great thoughts on all this so, as always, hit the link below!