Tag Archives: aliens

The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

Epic finales have capped the past four and a bit seasons, so it was no surprise that season 5 went all out. In a scene reminiscent of what Russell T Davies probably intended in The Stolen Earth, every single available alien, robot and creature from the past five years gathers together at Stonehenge 102 AD (including, bizarrely, the Silurians, who shouldn’t even be awake at this point) to trap the Doctor in a giant box, thus stopping him from destroying the Universe when his Tardis explodes in the future.

The Universe's largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

The Universe’s largest recorded INTERVENTION meeting.

It’s a good twist, because you spend most of the first episode thinking there’s a monster inside the Pandorica, but in fact the monster is the Doctor and all the bad guys are there to save the Universe for a change. It must have taken an incredible amount of planning on their part, though. They had to read a psychic imprint of Amy’s mind to create the trap, ensure the coordinates were written on a painting that would get passed down to River Song, who would find a way to escape prison and bring the Doctor to the right place. Convoluted isn’t the word! You also have to wonder, if keeping the Doctor sealed away for eternity is so important, why make the Pandorica so easy to open again from the outside?

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

Auton-duplicate Roman Rory, now with sonic screwdriver action.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

The Doctor tells the alien spaceships over Stonehenge to bugger off for a while.

Okay kid, this is where it gets complicated. With the first episode ending on the most extreme of cliffhangers, the Tardis exploding, the Doctor trapped forever, and the lights in the Universe blinking out of existence, it takes a hell of a job to undo it, but this is one of those occasions where it mostly works satisfyingly, thanks to Steven Moffat’s knack for planning out long-winded and complex plots and believing in the audience enough to keep up with it. Through a series of time jumps, the Doctor sets into motion an elaborate plan to rescue himself and works out how to undo the erasure of the Universe. These sequences are both amusing and clever, not to mention logically consistent (a rarity in a show that supposedly deals with time travel), so it’s a shame that a large part of the climax revolves around, basically, magic.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

I wear a fez now. Fezzes are cool.

This annoys me, because the story could rely on its use of hard temporal mechanics to sort itself out, but instead descends into wishy-washy metaphor. Erased from existence, the Doctor is brought back into the Universe by the power of memories or love or some such nonsense. How does that make any sense? The mind is not some magical thing that can overcome the laws of physics – either somebody exists in spacetime or they don’t. So now we have a situation where the Tardis was actually blown up, but now it wasn’t because it was undone, except that it still did happen because they remember it and still need to work out who was responsible for it, even though it quite obviously didn’t happen because the Tardis still exists. The Doctor was at the heart of the Big Bang version 2, except he clearly wasn’t because he still exists, and he only exists because Amy and Rory remember him… and so on, and so forth.

It's not quite as bad as "the whole world prays for the Doctor" but it's the same sort of thing.

It’s not quite as bad as “the whole world prays for the Doctor” but it’s the same sort of thing.

Well, whatever issues there are with the plot, I can’t deny that it’s bloody ambitious. I also love how the previous episodes from the season are incorporated into it, with Vincent’s painting passed down through history, and then later with the Doctor revisiting Amy in their previous adventures and finally explaining that weird scene from Flesh and Stone. Amy’s story arc also reaches a conclusion, with the mystery of her vanishing parents solved, the crack in her room being sealed, and Rory coming back into existence in time for their wedding day.

It's hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words "something old, something new, something borrowed... something blue". Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

It’s hard not to feel a twinge of emotion as the Tardis materialises during the reception, to the words “something old, something new, something borrowed… something blue”. Yes, very clever, Steven. How long had you been waiting to write that?

I suppose what I liked most about this finale is that all the overblown threat is contained with a minimum of bluster within part 1. After the big incident, the second part is relatively low-key. There’s this wonderful mix of the utterly bleak (all the stars have gone out, the Tardis is burning in the sky for two millennia, and the Earth will soon disappear), the heartwarmingly lovely (Auton-duplicate Rory standing guard over Amy for 2000 years) and the bloody funny (the stuff with the mop and the fez). There was never any doubt that everything would turn out fine in the end, but getting there is a fascinating journey. For that reason, it’s the best season finale of the new series, despite the problems I had with it.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

The exploding Tardis painting makes for a lovely piece of wall art.

I was hoping to have revisited Matt Smith’s entire run before season 8 begins, but as I type this, Peter Capaldi’s debut is just days away, so I’m going to take this opportunity to take a ‘deep breath’, enjoy the new series and come back to this in a little while.


The Vampires of Venice

The Vampires of the Venice is one of those forgettable mid-season episodes that I often get confused with earlier episodes that are distinctly similar. Historical setting, aliens disguised as humans (fishy vampires, in this case) and, goodness, it even ends with the Doctor climbing up a tower in a storm to disable some sort of equipment at the last possible moment, which he’s done at least twice since the revival.

I don't know whether to be aroused or terrified.

I don’t know whether to be aroused or terrified.

It has a certain old-school feel, like the classic serials, in places. The Venice setting looks a bit small and stage-like (though that’s probably unintentional), and the Tardis Team works together as an ensemble, cooking up a plan together, with Amy getting herself captured on purpose and Rory getting into a swordfight (with a broomstick). But it’s fairly breezy and handles dark themes with humour. Rory is an excellent addition to the cast, as Amy already takes this dangerous life for granted. Plus, his delivery is just perfect. I’m glad he’s sticking around for a bit longer.

Amy and Rory try to enjoy their romantic getaway to 1580 Venice, before the inevitable danger arises. Seriously, what are the odds?

Amy and Rory try to enjoy their romantic getaway to 1580 Venice, before the inevitable danger arises. Seriously, what are the odds?

As Doctor Who likes to do, the mythical creatures are explained as being aliens, and all their quirks (lack of reflection, drinking blood) are explained away with “science”. There are no surprises or twists and I was honestly getting bored by the final act, as tidal waves threaten to sink Venice and the special effects struggle to keep up. There is a cryptic reference made to the the Silence at the end, but it’s meaningless at this point.

With their perception filter switched off, the Saturnynians revert to their true form.

With their perception filter switched off, the Saturnynians revert to their true form.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the episode is the brief injection of dramatic conflict as Rory confronts the Doctor about putting people in danger, or rather, making people want to impress him by putting themselves in danger. I like it when the Doctor’s motives and actions are examined by others, as it helps us to learn what drives him. There’s actually a much better exchange in Meanwhile in the Tardis Part 2 (set immediately prior to the events of this episode) where the Doctor explains why he needs fresh eyes with him to see the Universe with wonder again. There’s nothing quite that good in Vampires of Venice; it’s rather… ordinary. Not bad, certainly funny in parts, but run-of-the-mill.

The Eleventh Hour

A new showrunner, a new Doctor, a new companion, a new Tardis, new logo, new titles and a whole new story arc, The Eleventh Hour wipes the slate clean and says “time for something new”. It’s one of the freshest and most confident season openers since Spearhead from Space saw Jon Pertwee tumbling out of the Tardis in colour.

"I was in the swimming pool." "You said you were in the library." "So was the swimming pool."

“I was in the swimming pool.” “You said you were in the library.” “So was the swimming pool.”

I’ve moaned about introductory episodes being set on Earth during some sort of invasion, and while The Eleventh Hour is no exception, this is an example of when it can work really well. As the title suggests, the Doctor is up against the clock and has to stop the Atraxi ships from incinerating the Earth while stuck in a small English village (with a closed post office), without his Tardis or sonic screwdriver, and he only has twenty minutes. Not the sort of thing you want to have to do on your first day.

The Doctor tells the Atraxi to bugger off.

The Doctor tells the Atraxi to bugger off.

There’s so much new stuff to cram into this episode, it’s a testament to Steven Moffat’s efficient plotting that it all fits and makes sense. New girl Amy Pond has to be introduced twice, once as a little girl and again twelve years later (her character somewhat mirroring the other ‘girl who waited’ from The Girl in the Fireplace), introduce Rory, the boyfriend competing with Amy’s obsession over her ‘imaginary’ friend, the Doctor has to find his feet, eat fishfingers and custard, investigate the mysterious crack in the Universe that has manifested itself as a crack Amelia’s bedroom wall, explain dimensional barriers, perception filters, Prisoner Zero escaping and then convince a scientific consortium to help him reprogram every clock in the world using a mobile phone. It’s just insane.

This crack will follow the Doctor through time and space for a while.

This crack will follow the Doctor through time and space for a while.

The script is full of wonderful one-liners and witty banter, the plot has some great misdirection (who Amy is, what ‘the human residence’ means) and clever ideas like the man barking like his dog because he didn’t know which voice was which. There’s a good mix of creepy and whimsical; I loved all the creepy stuff with the extra room in the house and the door in the corner of your eye, but it’s just one of many ideas that whoosh by too fast.

Amy comes face-to-face with Prisoner Zero's true form.

Amy comes face-to-face with Prisoner Zero’s true form.

Matt Smith makes a terrific first impression. Inevitably, the manic style of the Tenth Doctor has taken grip now, so there’s no change there, but the mannerisms are more alien and weird. The eleventh Doctor doesn’t quite understand human customs or good manners. He’s more of a fairy tale character here. His weirdness is amplified due to being newly regenerated, but to be honest, he doesn’t change much going forward.

"You're Scottish, fry something." The Doctor finally discovers his craving for fishfingers and custard.

“You’re Scottish, fry something.” The Doctor finally discovers his craving for fishfingers and custard.

While I think this is an incredibly strong opening, there are some less favourable elements creeping in. Murray Gold’s music is bombastic and overbearing, and “that theme” that he keeps reusing starts here. This is also the start of the Doctor’s “don’t mess with me, look what I did to all my other enemies” phase, when he becomes increasingly arrogant. No, perhaps it started earlier with David Tennant, but it’s blossomed into its own thing now and will continue to get worse. Finally, while I enjoy mysteries and story arcs, I seem to recall the Crack™ doesn’t get a satisfactory resolution. In fact, its appearance in this story (as a gateway to a prison dimension?) doesn’t correlate with what we later learn about it. Much of the story arc is incredibly convoluted as far as I can recall, but I’ll re-appraise that properly at a later date.

The End of Time

So, this is it. After three and a bit seasons and five Christmas specials, David Tennant’s turn as the tenth Time Lord reaches its dramatic conclusion. It’s Russell T Davies’ second chance to write the ultimate conclusion to end all conclusions, to wrap up the most popular incarnation of the character and to end his time on this show, and I’m pleased to say that he does a better job of it than the season 4 finale. Although a chimpanzee with a typewriter would have done a better job of that, so it’s not saying much.

The Ood elder tells the Doctor of his prophecy.

The Ood elder tells the Doctor of his prophecy.

And it’s my second chance to watch this two-and-a-quarter hour double bill, of which I have only the vaguest memories, mostly of the Master dressed like a scruffy hoodie with a glowing transparent skull and Timothy motherflipping Dalton turning up with his posse of Time Lords and spitting a lot. I had somehow erased the memories of the Master turning the entire human race into clones of himself (including a bad lookalike of President Obama) and the whole thing again with the drum rhythm, knocking four times, and the sound of a Time Lord heartbeat (ooh, nice touch, I’d almost think this was planned all along). There is a wonderful moment when, finally, after all the bluffs, the prophecy of the Doctor’s death (he will knock four times) turns out to be Wilf knocking on the glass door of the radiation chamber, asking to be let out, and a calm realisation spreads over the Doctor’s face. If I take away anything good from this episode, it will be that moment. It’s lovely.

Tap-tap-tap-tap, and it all makes sense.

Tap-tap-tap-tap, and it all makes sense.

Bernard Cribbins does a fantastic job as Wilfred, even if he does look like he’s on the verge of tears in every scene (or maybe because of that!). Wilf is essential in keeping this story grounded in human drama while insane things are happening around them. His scenes with the Doctor where they do nothing but talk to each other in a café are some of the best. The rest of the story concerns itself with big but flimsy ideas like destiny, prophecies and, yet again, the death of the entire human race and the end of the existence of time as we know it. Because, obviously, you can’t have a finale without something ridiculous happening. I don’t know why Russell T Davies has to write so many stories involving “everybody in the world”, because it immediately loses its believability if you stop to think about it for two seconds. Every single person on the planet turning into a copy of the Master would wreak absolute havoc. Planes would fall out of the sky, cars would crash in the street, people of different sizes, like children, could be crushed to death in seats and harnesses, and what about pregnant women? Are there mini-Masters inside Masters, or did all the foetuses die? I feel like I’ve said this a hundred times now, but you cannot do such big events like this without thinking about the consequences.

"Look, ma, I'm the president!"

“Look, ma, I’m the president!”

Timothy Dalton is fantastic. Having previously appeared in Hot Fuzz, he was obviously deemed a good fit for the role of the villain again. He exudes charisma and presence both as the narrator to the events of part 1 and as the president of the Time Lords. This is the first time we see Gallifrey and the high council since the 1980s and the scale of these scenes is a vast improvement, beautifully captured by the VFX team without appearing overly “greenscreen-y”. The Time Lords have always been corrupt, but the time war has sent them over the edge of evilness. I was surprised to hear the council talking about the Doctor’s search for “the Moment” that will end their existence. I hadn’t realised the events of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ had been so explicitly foreshadowed. Side note: The Doctor travels a lot before coming to see the Ood at the start of the episode, during which time he marries Queen Liz!

The Time Lords, and Gallifrey, return. Briefly.

The Time Lords, and Gallifrey, return. Briefly.

It’s a shame the Master is a little wasted here, turned into a rampaging monster that wants to eat people. This would have been a good opportunity to cast a different actor and do a whole new take on the character, rather than bringing back John Simm. There’s a good chance this will happen in the upcoming series, given his fate at the end. As for the Doctor’s fate, the radiation chamber is as contrived a setup as you can imagine, leading to the most drawn-out death scene ever. There’s literally fifteen minutes of screen time after the accident in which every major character the tenth Doctor has ever met is bid farewell. To say it’s indulgent is putting it mildly. I suppose I can’t really blame Russell T Davies for wanting to add these scenes; this is just as much a finale for him as a writer as it is for the tenth Doctor as a character, but I must say, the way the Doctor clings onto his life is like a petulant child. He’s been through at least nine regenerations by this point, he knows the drill. He should have had more dignified last words than “I don’t want to go.”

I don't understand why Martha and Mickey are suddenly married. Wasn't she already engaged to somebody else?

I don’t understand why Martha and Mickey are suddenly married. Wasn’t she already engaged to somebody else?

While I enjoyed parts of this finale and felt it was quite cleverly wrapped up, there’s a lot that doesn’t work so well or doesn’t make sense if you think about it too much. The high stakes are implausible – why would a device capable of transforming the population of an entire planet (it’s basically a weapon of mass destruction) be so casually discarded, with only a pair of bumbling alien scientists to come and salvage it? The Doctor falling from their ship and crashing through a glass ceiling, and surviving with just a few scratches, is possibly the most ridiculous thing he’s ever done. He’s not superman!

The Doctor's explosive regeneration wrecks the Tardis.

The Doctor’s explosive regeneration wrecks the Tardis.

As this is the end of the tenth Doctor’s run, I will briefly comment on the character and David Tennant’s portrayal. I think David Tennant defined the character almost as much as Tom Baker did. Not just because he was really popular and stayed on for so long; he’s a fantastic actor, whether he’s doing his comedy thing, his angry shouty thing or his quiet solemn thing. You only have to watch episodes like The Family of Blood to see the sort of range he’s capable of. His style and characteristics became synonymous with Doctor Who. He’s a tough act to follow.

The tenth Doctor is more human-like than many of the others, excepting Paul McGann as the eighth. Like him, he’s got a romantic side but actually (more or less) falls in love, which is a first. It’s not a trait I particularly care for as I feel the Doctor should be more alien and weird (something Matt Smith nails). The Doctor has always been a caring character (that’s basically what he does) but, with Ten, this empathy is more explicit, leading to more instances of him being visibly rattled, distraught or affected by events. Like Nine, his cheerful comedy routine is just to cover up his true feelings.

Any version of the Doctor (yes, even Tom Baker) wears thin over time. As I was rewatching his first season, I found him extremely likeable, but as time goes on, the character picks up annoying little habits (“weeeelllll…”), catchphrases (“allons-y!”) or traits that begin to grate (“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”). A lot of this is down to the writing, of course. I would have liked to see more of the tenth Doctor under the new writing team (when he reappears in the 50th anniversary special, he’s actually excellent). The Tenth Doctor is merciful, even to his greatest enemies, always looking for a solution other than killing, and he is fascinated by human culture to the point of coming across like an excitable space tourist.

Anyway, I’m not going to put David Tennant in ranking order with all the others, because I haven’t bothered doing those for the new series – the style of the programme is too different to compare them fairly with the old serials – but I will say that I like him more than I liked Christopher Eccleston.

Here’s my pick of favourite episodes from the past three seasons. Thanks for reading, and here’s to the next Doctor!

The Girl in the Fireplace.
A scary, sweet and clever adventure that crosses time and space.

The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit
Excellent visual design and another scary story in an impossible situation.

Human Nature / The Family of Blood
A tragic love story and David Tennant’s best performance.

The best Doctor Who episode doesn’t star the Doctor. Ingenious and frightening.

Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
Moffat crams more out-of-this-world ideas and scares into this two-parter.

Turn Left
A wonderful “what-if” tale where the Doctor never saved the world.

Planet of the Dead

The Doctor, now a lonely wanderer, winds up back in London on the trail of a wormhole, hops on a number 200 bus (this is the 200th serial, sort of) with an assortment of characters, including a cat burglar on the run, and accidentally gets transported to an alien planet. I guess they just wanted a reason to show a London bus in the middle of a desert, and to be fair, it is a strikingly memorable image.

Last stop, San Helios. Or is it Tatooine?

Last stop, San Helios. Or is it Tatooine?

What I find partially refreshing about this episode is the simplicity of the characters’ predicament. There’s no contrived reason for being trapped on the alien planet – they simply can’t pass back through the wormhole alive unless they’re protected by a metal container, and the bus is stuck in the sand, mere metres away from it. It takes a bit of good old-fashioned ingenuity to get them back rather than a wave of the magic screwdriver or a neutron polarity reversal or whatever. I like that.

#Stingraaaaay... stingray! Da-da-daa-daa-daa-daa!#

#Stingraaaaay… stingray! Da-da-daa-daa-daa-daa!#

There’s also no “bad guys” in this episode. The threat they face is a biological force of nature, a swarm of metal-coated stingray aliens, flying from planet to planet, consuming it as part of their natural life cycle. There’s no menace, just survival instinct. The marooned fly-like aliens, the Tritovores, are friendly as well, despite their appearances (animals as aliens again, really?). With no villain, then, this becomes a simple story of survival, but one with a more jovial tone than perhaps it ought to. The music is more whimsical than usual and the presence of Lee Evans as the scientist bloke is for comic relief, but I quite like his character (more than his stand-up routines, anyway).

UNIT's latest scientific advisor, Malcolm Taylor, speaks to his hero.

UNIT’s latest scientific advisor, Malcolm Taylor, speaks to his hero.

Michelle Ryan plays the Lady Christina, a rich thrill-seeker who just robbed a museum of a very valuable gold chalice, just for fun. Goodness knows, Doctor Who needs better female characters, but is this the answer? Christina is, much like the Doctor, overly-confident, authoritative and clever, but she’s barely passable as a human being and seems to be having far too much fun in every scene. She’s easy on the eyes, for sure, but what is her drive, her motivation? Who is she, other than “sassy, smart-talking, sexy thief”? The other bus passengers aren’t exactly three-dimensional either, which is unusual for a Russell T Davies story, and the Doctor doesn’t seem to care very much when the bus driver gets himself fried. The prophetic old woman is pulled from the Big Book of Clichés, teasingly informing the Doctor that his time is coming to an end. Apparently, psychic power in humans is nothing to worry about.

Formal request: Could everybody please stop kissing the Doctor? Thanks.

Formal request: Could everybody please stop kissing the Doctor? Thanks.

On the whole, I found enough to enjoy here. The big concept science fiction premise is appealingly simple and the imagery is excellent. There are, however, a few too many silly moments that take me right out of it. The incompetent security guards who stand with their backs to the chalice that they’re supposedly guarding, with no protection on top, is one thing, but then the police later are similarly dumb, keeping their police car door unlocked on the inside! It’s farcical!

With no Tardis to translate, the Doctor talks to the Tritovores with clicks and squeaks, until they use their own device.

With no Tardis to translate, the Doctor talks to the Tritovores with clicks and squeaks, until they use their own device.

Planet of the Dead is the first ever episode of Doctor Who to be made and shown in high definition. The location shooting in Dubai looks great. Some of the special effects do look a bit iffy, particularly the stingrays and some shots of the flying bus, but on the whole it’s a good looking production.

The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

Journey’s End is everything that is wrong with modern Doctor Who all rolled into one. I was torn over whether this is worse than Voyage of the Damned, but I think it has to pip it. It… is… terrible! It’s a melting pot of ideas thrown together and stirred until it’s nothing but fanboy pulp; it’s Russell T Davies writing from the point of view of a ten-year-old playing with his Doctor Who action figures and going “and then Jack turns up and then the Daleks fight them and then Torchwood and Sarah Jane help them and then Mickey comes back and then Martha and she teleports and then they explode and then there’s two Doctors and then-…”. There is no restraint shown, it’s just trash. It’s hard to believe this is the same writer coming from Turn Left and Midnight.

It's telling that Davies wanted the Shadow Proclamation scene to be much bigger and include hordes of aliens from the past four years but they ran out of money so it had to be some Judoon and a woman with red contact lenses instead.

It’s telling that Davies wanted the Shadow Proclamation scene to be much bigger and include hordes of aliens from the past four years but they ran out of money so it had to be some Judoon and a woman with red contact lenses instead.

It’s simultaneously overblown and boring. It’s full of rambling exposition and ridiculous technobabble. It even makes fun of its own technobabble, but continues to use it to solve the plot anyway; meanwhile, interesting setups (like the Osterhagen key) go literally nowhere. A bluff amongst other bluffs with no consequence. Devices work and break and work again, people teleport in and out. Despite the two parts and extended length, the cast of characters is still too huge to get enough screen time. Even previously satisfying conclusions, such as Rose’s farewell in season 2, are undone, like prodding at a corpse to make it twitch. Rose now comes back then returns to the parallel world for really poor reasons, with a half-human double of the Doctor to spend her life with, just to thoroughly undermine one of the few good things about Doomsday.

She's back, and she's got a great big gun.

She’s back, and she’s got a great big gun.

As for the Daleks, I think they’ve given up any pretence that they’re an endangered species now. Time War? Void ships? Pah! Despite Rose eliminating “all Daleks” from existence with her godly powers, there’s somehow another army of them, grown from the cells of Davros himself, with enough power to move entire planets and destroy the Universe. No, not just the Universe, that’s not big enough anymore. We have to go bigger. All Universes! All parallel worlds, alternative timelines, past, present and future. All of reality and unreality and everything in between. The Daleks will destroy all of it. Don’t worry, though, the duplicate Doctor presses some buttons and all the Daleks are destroyed.

The 27 missing planets, pulled out of time and space, are used as a power source for the Daleks' Reality Bomb, within the Medusa Cascade. Also something about bees.

The 27 missing planets, pulled out of time and space, are used as a power source for the Daleks’ Reality Bomb, within the Medusa Cascade. Also something about bees.

I hated pretty much everything about this. Every little cliché that all the “big event” episodes have. All those TV news reports from around the world, celebrity cameos, disastrous events having no apparent consequences on everyday life, big fleets of CGI things swarming over the Earth while overbearingly bombastic music plays, the Doctor running about shouting plot things at people, and so on. There’s even a ratings-grabbing tease of a cliffhanger as it seems like the Doctor is going to regenerate (ooh, they kept that a secret!) but actually he comes back as David Tennant again because… yeah. The planet Earth being carried through space by the Tardis is the giant cherry on top of a very cheesy cake, and not in a good way.

The Doctor, the other Doctor, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Rose's mum, take the controls of the Tardis.

The Doctor, the other Doctor, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Rose’s mum, take the controls of the Tardis.

It’s not all bad, but it almost is. Admittedly, amongst all the running around, there’s some nice moments between the reunited characters. Wilf is good, as he always is. Doing a crossover with The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood is an interesting idea, and I’ve been keeping up with both shows in parallel, so the events line up properly, but I can’t imagine the average viewer doing the same, given the target demographic for them. The return of Davros is a big moment and he is as bonkers as ever and looks disgusting, as he should. Oh, and German Daleks. It’s almost worth it for German Daleks. “Exterminieren!” Aaaaand… that’s it. That’s basically the extent of anything good in this finale.

Davros' new hand is shocking! Sorry.

Davros’ new hand is shocking! Sorry.

Even Donna has to leave, and to make sure she can never come back, there has to be some memory-enabled killswitch in her head, because in modern Doctor Who, you can’t just part ways like ordinary people. Donna has, frankly, been fantastic, and she deserves a better end than this. She has been the moral compass for the Doctor on more than one occasion, and the best decision they made was in removing any possibility of romance right from the start so that she could have balanced motives and behave in a more human fashion. She will be missed.

Unable to retain the Time Lord knowledge, Donna's memory is wiped. Because the Doctor can do that, apparently.

Unable to retain the Time Lord knowledge, Donna’s memory is wiped. Because the Doctor can do that, apparently.

Season 4 has been really good, so it’s a shame that it had to end on such a duff note. This is the ultimate lesson in why “less is more”.

The Doctor’s Daughter

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.

Now that she's married to David Tennant, I wonder if she still calls him Daddy. Actually, I don't want to know.

Now that she’s married to David Tennant, I wonder if she still calls him Daddy. Actually, I don’t want to know.

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 is welcomed by the Hath.

Martha is welcomed by the Hath.

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.

The terraforming machine, the source of the colonists' creation myth.

The terraforming machine, the source of the colonists’ creation myth.

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.