"Release the Doctor — or the killing will start."
An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor.
What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat — unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die.
Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards?
When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...
A very strange Doctor Who story, The Blood Cell is told entirely through the eyes of a secondary character – the Governor – who encounters the Doctor and Clara when a strange old man is incarcerated in the prison he runs. As strange things begin to happen and the prison turns against the inmates and the guards, the Governor is forced to turn to the Doctor for help…
As a Doctor Who story told through the eyes of a secondary character, The Blood Cell works. As a science fiction story disassociated from the Doctor Who franchise, The Blood Cell works even better. The Governor is an interesting narrator, full of contradictions and secrets that beg to be revealed. The situation - an inescapable prison where prisoners are disappearing - dealt cleverly with some basic sci-fi tropes. As the story progresses and the stakes mount, I for one found the story gripping, wondering who was behind the prison's problems, who the Governor really was and how the whole thing was going to resolve itself.
Unfortunately, as a Twelfth Doctor story, The Blood Cell fails at one vital hurdle – the Doctor himself. While I could definitely see the Eleventh or Tenth Doctors acting in the way this Doctor does, what we have seen of Capaldi so far just does not gel with this wise-cracking, pop-culture spouting character. This Doctor does not have the darkness that Capaldi has brought to the role and while his relationship with Clara does share some of the antagonism of the on-screen partners, there was definitely something essential missing. If you can tell yourself that this is a lost Matt Smith story, great. If not, you may have the same problems with The Blood Cell that I did.
I gave The Blood Cell 3 stars.