Doctor Who Is Short Of Breath In “Oxygen”

Credit: Des Willie/BBC

For all the time it spends on Earth, Doctor Who is always keen to remind us that space is just as dangerous as a planet, maybe even more so. In space, no one can hear you scream. In space, the tiniest crack, the smallest malfunction can mean death. In space, there’s no air save what you bring with you.

On the Chasm Forge mining station up amongst the stars, the crew is extremely low on oxygen. Two crew members, Ellie and Ivan, are hurrying back inside the station when she’s turned into a zombie by two other equally dead people. It’s this event that ostensibly sends out a distress signal that will pique the Doctor’s interest.

While the Time Lord and Bill are ready for a walkabout in space, Nardole is the wet blanket nagging the Doctor to stay behind. He’s supposed to be guarding the vault at all times. Considering he’s already spent decades doing just that, is it really any surprise that the Doctor takes any opportunity to blast off with a new companion in search of new adventures? Nardole even comes along for the journey, complaining all the way.

Once they land on Chasm Forge, it’s revealed the station doesn’t have any oxygen except what is supplied by the suits because some company has found a way to make you pay for oxygen. Any extra (free) air is expelled, as our trio learns when they’re nearly sucked into space. The TARDIS is stuck on the vacuo side so they can’t reach it. They put on three spare suits and then discover the suits have minds of their own. Bill’s in particular keeps malfunctioning, such as raising her arms. Another suit crushes the sonic screwdriver.

The Doctor, Bill, and Nardole join the four survivors left on the station and are soon attacked by the small horde of zombies. At the cost of one of the survivors, we get a quick demonstration in what these undead do: the suit zaps a living person’s suit and causes their central nervous system to shut down; then the suit takes over their movements. The remaining six people decide out in space is the safest place. But as they are in the decompression chamber, Bill’s suit takes off her helmet and the Doctor can’t get it back on.

Bill slowly passes out and her face freezes over as she’s exposed to the vacuum of space. When she wakes, she learns the Doctor gave her his helmet and helped walk her to safety. The heroic gesture has cost him his eyesight though he reassures her he can fix that once they’re back in the TARDIS. Of course, the zombies figure out a way to get to the survivors so the group has to run for the reactor core. Bill’s suit again malfunctions, preventing her from moving or anyone from lifting her.

With little choice, the Doctor opts to leave her behind but swears she’s not going to die. Bill has little reason to believe and calls out for her mom as the zombie’s zap her and turn her into one of them. At the reactor core, the Doctor shares his theory. Because the station hadn’t been very profitable as of late, the company supplying their oxygen decided it was better to kill the crew and save the oxygen for another venture. The way to stop the killer zombies, or really their killer suits, is by making the survivors valuable. The Doctor accomplishes this by connecting the group’s suits to the reactor, meaning if they die, the station explodes.

Recognizing it’s now more profitable not to kill everyone, the suits give up their oxygen to the survivors. Bill’s suit, which was low on battery, only made her temporary zombified and she easily recovers. Once they’re in the TARDIS, the Doctor’s eyesight is restored and he drops off the last two survivors to lodge a formal complaint about, you know, almost being murdered by their suits.

In the Doctor’s office, Nardole chastises the Time Lord for abandoning his post. If he’d died or been trapped for good, the vault would’ve been left completely unprotected. If the Doctor had returned weakened at all, the vault’s occupant would’ve known and exploited that weakness. And that’s when the Doctor reveals… he’s still blind.

Doctor’s Notes

Bill: “Do people ever hit you?”
The Doctor: “Well only when I’m talking”

Already super tired of Nardole acting as though he’s superior or in charge of the Doctor. Call me old fashioned but the only person I want bringing the Doctor to task is his actual companion not whatever Nardole counts as.

Predictions: Sticking with my theory that Nardole will “betray” the Doctor for the sake of their shared responsibilities. That guy has all the self-righteousness of every former friend who puts rule following above friendship.

Follow me

Stephanie Coats

Stephanie Coats is the Lead Events Editor at 4 Your Excitement. She has a B.A. from Hope International University and an undying passion for all things geeky. In addition to 4YE, she also writes for, and works full-time as a communications coordinator.

You can follow her on Twitter for nerdy posts about Doctor Who, Agent Carter, Agents of SHIELD, Harry Potter and more.
Stephanie Coats
Follow me