Doctor Who explores war, money, A.I., and a father's love in "Boom"

Steven Moffat returns to the franchise to pen this week's episode, and leaves us wanting more from the beloved former showrunner.
Doctor Who Boom Ncuti Gatwa
Doctor Who Boom Ncuti Gatwa /

Wow, that was a doozy. Did we just spend the last hour watching the Doctor (Ncuti Gatwa) stand on a landmine in the middle of a senseless war on an abandoned planet? Yes, we sure did.

Did we also witness the epic return of former showrunner Steven Moffat who was the creative genius behind this week's episode of Doctor Who, "Boom"? That would be a heck yes!

We can barely wrap our heads around the return of Russell T Davies as showrunner and Steven Moffat as writer. It is an absolutely perfect combination.

In a nutshell, we watch the Doctor and Ruby (Millie Gibson) travel to a war-torn planet that is filled with clerical, Anglican soldiers ruled by an artificial intelligence. The Doctor finds himself standing on a landmine as all hell is about to break loose. It's an episode about how war is built around greed, money, and power, and how it transforms humans into something awful and uncomfortable.

There is also a thread about fatherhood sewn into the episode. It's been interesting how much the Doctor has brought up his family, his prodigy, and his role as a father in these three episodes. I don't know where it is headed, but when you have the genius minds of Davies and Moffat involved, my instinct is that it's somewhere big.

Read ahead for our recap and review of this week's episode of Doctor Who, and remember there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead.

Review: Doctor Who Episode 3, "Boom"

The episode kicks off with the Doctor and Ruby landing in the middle of a planet at war. There are soldiers walking about functioning as clerical Anglicans, so the theme of religion is very much at play as it has been in the past with Moffat episodes.

We meet a blind soldier named John Francis Vater (Joe Anderson) who is being led by a fellow soldier. In the distance we see something that resembles a Dalek, and for a brief moment I truly thought that it was (Moffat clarified to The Hollywood Reporter that the ambiguity was on purpose).

The pseudo-Dalek ends up being an ambulance of sorts which has an avatar that alerts others when combat is detected. It provides medical services, but only to those who have been ordained. The scene turns gruesome when Vater's companion slips and falls onto a landmine and is blown to smithereens. Vater follows suit, and the ambulance decides that his recovery is going to take too long and kills him.

It is Vater's screams of agony that bring the Doctor and Ruby out, but only for the worst possible thing to happen: the Doctor ends up on a landmine instead.

The Doctor and the landmine

Much of the rest of the episode plays out with the Doctor balancing himself on the landmine, trying his best not to make sudden movements and to keep his anxiety as low as possible so as not to trigger it. The Doctor is stuck and forced to witness all the atrocities around him, including Ruby getting hurt and almost dying.

The company that manufactures the landmine is called Villegard, which name hardcore Doctor Who fans will recognize because Moffat has mentioned it before. With Ruby's assistance and immense bravery, the Doctor manages to set one foot down while the other is on the landmine, but there are complications. The landmine can't decide if the Doctor is a threat or not, and Ruby has to quickly step into the role of hero.

We learn that Villegard has created an algorithm to drag on the war and make as much money off it as possible. It's a glaring metaphor for the war economy in our own world. The landmine is fightening device: it holds uncontrollable amount of power that even the Doctor can't put a stop to.

Ending of Doctor Who Episode 3, "Boom," explained

Going back to Vater, we learn that he brought his daughter Splice (Caoilnn Springall) with him to the war zone because she had nowhere else to go. This is a heartbreaking revelation because her father is now dead, and the only person to care for her is a soldier named Mundy (Varada Sethu).

Splice soon learns her father is gone as an A.I. hologram of him appears and informs her what has happened. Mundy explains that this ongoing war is being fought against an unknown enemy; not even the soldiers know what they're fighting because they have never seen them. Once again, you can see this as a metaphor for the reality of wars, past and present.

Mundy and the Doctor have a conversation about religion, which is interesting because the Doctor has never been known to follow a religion. But he has faith, and that faith leads him to believe that even an A.I. Vater can find the love of a father somewhere in there to help save the day.

The Doctor asks the A.I. Vater to hack into the systems and do something before a cataclysmic explosion takes place. Despite all odds, Vater gets into the system, stops the ambulances from killing everyone (which is all part of Villegard's plan to keep the senseless war going despite there being no enemy), and codes the ambulance to help save Ruby, who had seconds to live after being targeted by one of the ambulances.

Thanks to Vater's meddling and the Doctor's faith, the planet is saved and the war comes to an end. It is the type of ending we love when it comes to Doctor Who, the kind that reminds us that the people writing and directing these episodes see the world through an empathetic lens.

Bravo, Moffat, Bravo. Thank you for bringing us back to the beauty and allure of what Doctor Who used to be; us Whovians really appreciate it.

Episode Grade: A-

Next. Doctor Who: "Space Babies" and "The Devil's Chord" kick off Ncuti Gatwa's tenure with a bang. Thanks to showrunner Russell T Davies, new Doctor Ncuti Gatwa, and new companion Millie Gibson, the latest reboot of Doctor Who is epic!. dark

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and Twitter account, sign up for our exclusive newsletterand check out our YouTube channel.