It’s funny, I seem to recall The Doctor’s Daughter being really bad, but I rather liked it this time. I was probably remembering the story’s weaker elements, which are, admittedly, still a problem. For instance, instead of bringing the Doctor’s fictional daughter back (played by a previous star’s actual daughter, ho-ho!), the episode literally invents one, then kills her off, then decides not to kill her off after all so she can come back for more episodes, and then subsequently does nothing with her for the next six years (and counting). We know very little about the Doctor’s past (as Donna says, he talks a lot but doesn’t say much), but it seems to be outside of the show’s scope to actually fill in any details about his life, such as his family (and, lately, his name). Preserving the mystery is more important.
Anyway, this episode isn’t primarily about the Doctor’s new daughter, it’s about two warring factions on a pre-terraformed colony planet. It’s one of those stories that questions what it means to be a soldier, whether there can be peace without victory, and whether the Doctor is really the pacifist he thinks he is. Yeah, it’s lightweight and the characters are thin, but it’s pretty smart. It also throws a curveball when Donna works out what’s really been going on. Wars that have been raging for longer than collective memory are a common sci-fi trope, but this has a terrific twist that I had completely forgotten about, and for once it’s the companion that works it out. Another point for Donna.
Martha’s story is more incidental, having been accidentally dragged through time in the Tardis at the end of the previous episode. As such, she provides the needed exposition for the Hath’s side of this conflict (and knowledge of Time Lords for Donna’s benefit), but her adventure with her fishy friend just sort of stops when he accidentally dies saving her and nobody else is there to be influenced by it. The ending is also a bit silly, as this advanced terraforming equipment is activated by smashing it on the floor. Yeah, it’s symbolic but it makes little sense. And what exactly happened to Jenny’s gunshot wound at the end? It’s just gone. It smacks of a last minute reshoot.
Aside from that, I liked the episode. It does feel rushed, like a big story crammed into too short a space, but that’s somewhat fitting given what’s actually happening. The Doctor’s a tad preachy in this, but that’s what he does, drop in on people and tell them what they’re doing wrong. The Hath look cheap and so do the sets, but this was probably a low-budget episode and, frankly, it makes a change from the overblown global disaster stuff from the previous episodes. This tells a more personal story and is more effective as a result. On reflection, then, surprisingly good.