As the fine folks on The Incomparable’s TeeVee podcast pointed out, this is a story with a pretty weird structure. In a way, it’s sort of reminiscent of some of Moffat’s crazier breakneck stories in season six, like ‘The Impossible Astronaut’. Short story with the Doctor pondering. Short story with the Doctor and Clara investigating Danny’s childhood. Short story about Clara’s awful date (still awkward! still awesome!). Short story about an astronaut from the future. Short story about Clara travelling back into the Doctor’s past. Again.
I wasn’t a huge fan of season six, but this sort of approach can work very well for me, when the time is taken to actually tell the small stories properly. And here, it felt like it was. Even though I’m not a huge fan of people talking to themselves.
If you’d told me before I watched the story that once again, Clara was going to start mucking around in the Doctor’s history, I’d have been very, very annoyed. But in context… it actually worked for me. It felt like the difference between 'fanwank’ and actually trying to add some mystery to the story of Doctor Who; a subtle distinction, I’ll grant you, and a line that different people will draw in different places. I found the final scenes more intriguing than irritating, with deft hints and plenty left to our imagination.
Unlike, say, the Time War in Day of the Doctor. I’m still, still bitter.
At this point, I’m a big fan of Clara, I’m a big fan of Danny, and I’m a massive fan of the new Doctor, especially his coffee-stealing skills. Ostensibly, this story is a stand-alone, but like 'Into the Dalek’, it’s delivered some solid exploration of the regulars. After only four episodes, I feel like we really know them well. That’s a pretty good effort: after all, I never felt like I got a handle on Martha’s mum.
And I love seeing an astronaut wandering into a restaurant. That alone elevates the episode.