**Spoiler Warning – spoilers ahead for Doctor Who season 10 episode 5 “Oxygen”. Stop reading if you don’t want to know what happens!
Most of the episodes so far in Doctor Who season 10 have had a little bit of levity in them. The introduction of the new companion Bill Potts and the banter between Bill, The Doctor and Nardole has kept things light even when they are in tough situations. But episode 5, “Oxygen” took a dark turn.
The episode opens on a space station where two astronauts in space suits are desperately trying to reach the airlock from outside on the station. Just as they are about to make it through, one of the astronauts is attacked by what looks like a zombie in a space suit. The female astronaut who was attacked dies and becomes a zombie while the other astronaut makes it inside to safety.
Back On Earth
The Doctor is regretting his commitment to stay and guard whoever is locked in the vault. He wants a space adventure but Nardole is adamant that he stay and protect the vault. In the last episode The Doctor brought dinner to whoever is locked in the vault and went in the vault to spend time with that person (or being) so it must be someone that The Doctor knows pretty well.
Disregarding Nardole, The Doctor and Bill start planning a space adventure inside the TARDIS. A distress call comes in from the space station. Nardole is not in favor of answering the call but The Doctor tells him, “The Universe shows its true face when it asks for help.” And The Doctor intends to answer that call.
The Doctor puts the TARDIS into motion and they land on the station, which is owned by a corporation called Ganymeade. There is no oxygen on the station, so the TARDIS throws out a pretty big oxygen field so the group can go out and check things out. Just inside the station they find a dead man that is being held upright by his space suit. The suits are computerized with an artificial intelligence unit inside. The AI keeps the suit standing upright with the dead man inside. This is how the space zombie that was seen in the opening was walking. The suit is the intelligence driving the remains of the human that is inside the suit.
As Bill, The Doctor and Nardole investigate what happened on the station they find out that the station had a crew of 40, and 36 of the crew are dead. They make contact with four survivors who are holed up in the safety of sealed off compartment. They fill in the blanks of what happened. The computerized suits were all sent a command to kill the “organic components” or humans inside the suits. The survivors suspect the suits were hacked.
Capitalism At Work
There is no oxygen on the station. The oxygen is distributed through a personal force field in the suit. Anyone wearing the suit is charged for the oxygen. If they run out of credits then they run out of oxygen and die. In order to keep a monopoly on the supply of oxygen the station is designed to decompress and expel any oxygen that isn’t company branded. So the station expels the TARDIS and locks it out of the station. The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole are trapped.
Fighting For Survival
The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a bay where non working suits are kept for repairs. They put on three suits that are offline from the main computer system. Since they are offline the suits do not have the command to kill the humans inside. The suits are actively hunting the survivors, who are also wearing suits that were offline. Since the suits have an active GPS map of the station they are able to hunt the survivors through the station.
At one point the survivors try to go outside the station through the airlock to survive. But they need helmets to keep the oxygen force fields intact in the vacuum of space. Bill’s helmet malfunctions and she is thrust out into space without a helmet. She starts to die. The Doctor takes his helmet off and put it on Bill. But as a result of being in space with no helmet he is left blind. Without access to the TARDIS he is unable to cure himself. The Doctor has to somehow save them while blind. Bill’s suit malfunctions again as the space zombies are chasing them. Regretfully the survivors leave Bill in the corridor where she gets swarmed by the zombies. She appears to die and become one of them.
The Doctor reconfigures the computer in the core of the station where the survivors are holed up. He links their life signs to the core. So, if they die the core will blow up and obliterate the station. As the survivors are freaking out because they don’t want to die, he finally reveals his plan. The station is an exercise in extreme capitalism. He has figured out that the suits were not hacked. They were sent the command to kill by the corporation. The station had become unprofitable, so the workers would be killed and replacements sent to get the station profitable again.
The Doctor opens the doors to the core and lets the zombies in. He announces that if they die the station will blow up, which will cost the corporation money. The zombies stop attacking at a command from corporate when they realize that The Doctor is right. The zombies give their oxygen tanks to the survivors. Because it would be a massive financial loss to the company if the station blew up and the survivors were allowed to live. Simple cost management. The indictment of the callous disregard for human life inherent in capitalism is clear in “Oxygen”.
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