The Christmas Invasion
Tooth and Claw
The Girl In The Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen
The Age of Steel
The Idiot's Lantern
The Impossible Planet
The Satan Pit
Love and Monsters
Army of Ghosts
The Runaway Bride
Smith and Jones
The Shakespeare Code
Daleks In Manhattan
Evolution of the Daleks
The Lazarus Experiment
Family of Blood
The Sound of Drums
Last of the Time Lords
Voyage of the Damned
Partners in Crime
The Fires of Pompeii
Planet of the Ood
The Sontaran Stratagem
The Doctor's Daughter
The Unicorn and the Wasp
Silence in the Library
Forest of the Dead
The Stolen Earth
The Infinite Quest
The Next Doctor
Planet of the Dead
Waters of Mars
End of Time I
End of Time II
The Wedding of Sarah Jane
The Doctor -
Rose Tyler -
Martha Jones -
Donna Noble -
Jack Harkness -
Sarah Jane Smith -
The Sarah Jane Adventures
TIME TRAVEL SHOWS
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
The Flipside of Dominick Hyde
THE CHRISTMAS INVASION transmitted December 25th 2005
The Doctor's regeneration has left him unconscious and Rose helpless. Managing to get back to Earth at Christmas, he is confined to bed whilst Rose bonds with boyfriend Mickey and her mother. Unfortunately, bad santas attack at the local market and a killer Christmas tree launches an assault on the flat. The Doctor, delirious, tells them that this is only a precursor to the main problem and that something else is coming. That something turns out to be a giant spaceship that sends a third of the population to high places in preparation for suicide unless the world surrenders. With the Doctor out of commission can Rose save the day?
A Christmas Special episode of Doctor Who? It is a tribute to the success of the Time Lord's rebirth that he provides the central anchor to the BBC's Christmas Day programming, but can the team pull it off, and with a new Doctor? Thankfully, the answer is yes. A new Doctor it may be, but the rest of the new formula remains unchanged. This is a fun episode, not a lot to scare the kiddies, but plenty of action and comedy and fun. The attack of the killer santas is nothing new on the nestene mannequins that kicked off the Eccleston series in red suits, but the killer Christmas tree, despite sounding desperate, is a real delight. The new aliens are, at first sight, something of a disappointment, but first sight proves to be deceiving.
Billie Piper keeps up the good work as Rose, coming to terms with her new Doctor and Penelope Wilton is also wonderful as the new British Prime Minister. There are hints about the new spin off series Torchwood and all the support players do their jobs well.
The big question, though, remains unanswered. Do we like David Tennant as the new Doctor? It's too early to tell, not least because he spends most of the episode in bed asleep, but the signs are good. The clips that ended the show showing all the pleasures to come in the new series whetted out appetites here at the Sci-Fi Freak Site and we just love the fact that it's OK to get excited about a new DR WHO series again.
NEW EARTH transmitted April 15th 2006
The Doctor takes Rose further than he ever has before, both in terms of time and space. Following the destruction of Earth in last series episode The End of the World, mankind found a new planet to call Earth. The Doctor has been summoned by an old friend, the Face of Bo. He is in hospital, close to death and being attended by humanoid cats. Whilst visiting, Rose finds that Cassandra is still alive and then has her body taken over by her. The Doctor discovers that there are thousands of clones being used as test animals for the incredible cures being doled out in the hospital. Deliberately infected with all the worst diseases there are, these clones get released and set about trying to touch their neighbours for the first time. Unfortunately, their touch is instant death to the healthy.
DR WHO is back with a bang. This is a fantastic episode that has just about everything that you could ask. It starts off light and fluffy, but then goes to some very dark places indeed. The diseased clones are disgusting and then pretty scary (this is not one for the very young, be warned), but ultimately to be pitied.
Cassandra also makes a welcome comeback. She starts off in her normal duplicitous fashion and her possession of Rose's body is very, very funny. EVen she, though, gains some redemption and her final moments are actually very touching. It's also nice to see Zoe Wanamaker get her real face on the show as well.
In his first full outing as the Doctor, David Tennant lays to rest any concerns that we may ever have had about him. His performance is spot on and he takes over from Christopher Eccleston with barely a beat. Billie Piper gets to have some fun with her alternative personality as well.
The special effects are excellent, most especially the sisters of plenitude, the cat nurses. They are never anything less than utterly convincing.
The Doctor is back and all is good with the world.
TOOTH AND CLAW transmitted April 22nd 2006
Aiming for an Ian Dury concert in 1970s London, the Doctor and Rose end up in the 1870s and Scotland. There, they meet Queen Victoria just at the point where she takes up residence in a remote house on the way to Balmoral, not knowing that said house has been taken over by a brotherhood of monks with a secret, a secret that could threaten the whole future of the human race.
Well, it had to happen. There had to be a disappointing episode of the new Doctor Who. The difficult question is why this should be it. The plot is very clever and wonderfully played out, coming to to thoroughly satisfactory ending. Both Rose and the Doctor are given a lot of stuff to do and there is some quite wonderful dialogue (not least Rose's attempts to get the Queen to say that she is not amused). There are noble deaths and surprise twists along the way. The supporting characters are strongly drawn and defined as well. The settings are marvellously rendered and the CGI werewolf, whilst being not all that convincing, is easily the equal of those in films such as Underworld Evolution with a much larger budget.
Why, then, was Tooth and Claw so unsatisfactory? First and foremost, I think that this is too much of a gothic horror story for DR WHO. There have been those before, but they have never been quite so accurately and completely within that gothic horror world. Take out the Doctor and say it was written by Bram Stoker or Mary Shelley Woolstencraft and you would barely need to change a thing. The dialogue also, being of that period, is not what we are used to either. Oh, and the martial arts monks in the midst of 1870s Scotland just really doesn't work. And enough of the plugs for Torchwood. It was ok in The Christmas Invasion, but enough's enough already.
That said, it is a measure of this particular series that even a disappointing episode is entertaining and has so much to offer. David Tennant continues to be a whirlwind of a Doctor and Pauline Collins is perfectly cast as Queen Elizabeth. Plus, we get to see a preview of the return of Sarah Jane in next week's show.
SCHOOL REUNION transmitted April 29th 2006
The Doctor and Rose go undercover in a school that is enjoying suspiciously good results following a UFO sighting. They are joined there by an investigative journalist researching the same story. This journalist, though, has a history with the Doctor and Rose comes face to face with her own future.
School Reunion doesn't just put DOCTOR WHO back on course after last week's hiccup, but raises the bar so far that you wonder how anything is going to match it. This is not a story about aliens using human youth as both food and computer chips, but is an examination of love, loss and loneliness. True, there are aliens led by the inestimable Anthony Head who can do this kind of scary threat on autopilot, but they are the excuse to get the Doctor back together with Sarah Jane Smith.
There can't be that many shows that would dare to base a whole episode around the meeting of old friends, but that is just what this does and the writing is beautiful, with acting to match. Nobody who lived through the Sarah Jane Smith stories (in the last golden age of DR WHO will be able to get through this show without major throat lumpage. It's a sheer delight to see Elisabeth Sladen back in the role of the Doctor's greatest companion (don't even dare to dream Rose Tyler), but the delight is a bittersweet one. Her exchanges with the Doctor are full of disappointment, bitterness and the immeasureable sadness of lost dreams and wasted lives. Sarah hasn't been able to pick up her life in the years since she left the Doctor, how could anything compare? She's always been waiting for him to return and he never has.
On the Doctor's side, the sadness is reflected, but this time from a being who does not grow old as his companions grow old and who must face the heartbreak of parting many times over, preferring that to watching those he loves grow old and die.
There's a chance that younger viewers will wonder why the show is wasting time with this older woman when there are aliens to be defeated, but this is an episode unashamedly for the long time viewers and plays on all their emotions just as it shows the emotions of the characters more nakedly than ever before. This is more human drama than sciecne fiction. Keep a dry eye if you can.
THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE transmitted May 6th 2006
Mickey's first trip in the Tardis takes him 3,000 years into the future a a pretty beaten up spaceship. The ship is full of windows in time, all of them seeming to link to the life of Madame de Pomapadour, mistress to the king of France. Using the windows, the Doctor saves the girl from the appearance of clockwork killing machines that are looking to take the girl's brain when she is 'finished'. As the Doctor grows closer to the free spirited woman he finds that the only way he can save her is to trap himself in eighteenth century France and abandon Rose and Mickey in the future.
How do you follow the sheer genius of last week's episode? This'll do it. Another rollicking adventure that mixes up the far future with the historical past. The clockwork androids are an elegant enemy and the plot that the Doctor pieces together makes some sort of sense by the time that the last shot of the episode puts the final piece into place. The historical setting is sumptuous and makes for a great contrast with the broken down derelict spaceship.
The theme is once again that of loss and the Doctor's loneliness and perhaps it would have been nice not to have laboured the point in two episodes in a row, but it's not overplayed and really comes to the fore in the final moments which are redolent with loss and prove to be somewhat downbeat. David Tennant plays all of this with skill and is now so settled in the role that you cannot imagine why you had doubts about him at all. The moment when he bursts in on the trapped Mickey and Rose about to chopped up singing 'I could have danced all night' is laugh out loud funny and there are plenty of other funny lines and great moments.
Sophia Miles matches him as the young and ambitious french courtesan and she needs to be good for the emotion at the end of the story to work. Fortunately, she is up to the task and for the second week in a row you are left wondering whether the Doctor has kept the right people in the Tardis.
One dodgy moment of CGI aside (involving the Doctor, a horse and a mirror) this is a top class episode that keeps the standard almost unbelievably high.
RISE OF THE CYBERMEN transmitted May 13th 2006
The Tardis is knocked out of the time vortex into a parallel dimension where Earth is not quite the same as it was. For one thing, Rose's dad is still alive and so is Mickey's grandma. The rest of humanity is hooked up into the ultimate in communications, not knowing that they are being controlled by it and by a businessman who intends for mankind to be given the ultimate upgrade.
This is the first two-parter of the new season and you can tell. The sharp pacing of the previous episodes is missing as the set up unwinds in a fashion that is just a little bit too leisurely.
That, though, is about the only criticism that can be raised against another very entertaining show. The alternate London is cleverly rendered with both the (literal) highlights of the zeppelins and the underlying decay. The extrapolating from the modern world of mobile phones, bluetooth connections and pdas to the headsets that link directly into the brain isn't farfetched at all and making it a parallel universe means that jettisoning all that we know about the cybermen's past is perfectly legitimate.
And let's be in no doubt, the success of this story is going to live or die by the depiction of one of the fans' favourite villains - the Cybermen. They are impressive, extremely so, making up for the winged CGI beasties in School Reunion, though it might have been better to separate them away from the clockwork robots of last week by a couple of episodes. It also might have been better not to have given them a catchphrase. 'Delete' is never going to be quite a scary as 'Exterminate', but it does highlight the fact that the cybermen are a bit like Daleks with a human shape.
Still, the set-up's complete, the cliffhanger's a good one and next week's episode should be a rip-roarer.
THE AGE OF STEEL transmitted May 20th 2006
London is in the grip of the new cybermen and all of its people are being 'upgraded'. The Doctor and his small band of revolutionaries organise an attack on the central factory responsible, based in Battersea power station. It's an act of desperation and even if it succeeds, some people have some decisions about their future to make.
If last week's episode was all set up, then this week is pure payoff. There is precious little plot at all. The whole episode is made up of the attack on the factory and finding a way to deal with the metal monsters. It plays out pretty well and not all of the characters make it to the end.
The cybermen have a lesser effect this week as all they seem to do is to stamp around in a metal-shod two-step. There is no hint of how they are keeping the rest of the nation's military at bay and as the population are all acting like compliant sheep, they don't have to do anything to keep them in line either.
David Tennant is good value as the Doctor and even has a Tom Baker moment as he wonders whether he can kill all the cybermen. He also empathises with the people that once were and are now imprisoned. His solution is a torture to them. It's also a surprise goodbye to a character that has come a long way.
Not in the top drawer of stories, to be sure, but showing that the show is now good that even a lesser story can still entertain so completely.
THE IDIOT'S LANTERN transmitted May 27th 2006
Aiming for New York, the Doctor and Rose find themselves in London on the eve of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Things are not quite right, though. People are being found with their faces wiped clean and their minds just as blank, they are being taken from their homes in the middle of the night by secret police and everybody seems to have a new television.
Now that the Cybermen are out of the way, DOCTOR WHO can get back to doing what it does best, creating a monster for a story, not a story around a monster. The original story is woven around the time and the place. This is about the advent of television and the sense of occasion and hope for the future that the event meant to the British people. Fortunately, the recreation of that time and that place are flawless. The picture below is just about the grooviest image DOCTOR WHO has ever produced.
The plot itself is not quite as original as it would like to be. Electric monsters have been around in quite a lot of shows and the faceless people look like they were taken straight out of Sapphire and Steel's fourth story, but the incidental delights of the writing far outweigh that quibble. David Tennant is so in tune with the character now that he makes the absolute most of the material and Billie Piper has her moments as well.
David Tennant is good value as the Doctor and even has a Tom Baker moment as he wonders whether he can kill all the cybermen. He also empathises with the people that once were and are now imprisoned. His solution is a torture to them. It's also a surprise goodbye to a character that has come a long way.
Whilst it sometimes feels like writer Mark Gatiss might be using this episode to work out some issues that he had with his father we are absolutely assured that this is not the case, and anyway it all adds to the period setting and another top quality episode.
THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET transmitted June 3rd 2006
The Doctor and Rose arrive on a planet orbiting a black hole in a stable orbit against all the laws of physics. There they discover a group of humans, mining down ten miles to the source of the planet's power and a strange alien race called Ood who seem to exist only to serve. Something else is there, however, something that is communicating directly into the Oods' brains, something that can take over humans and allow them to stand unprotected in a vaccuum and something that is not afraid to kill.
There is a slight sense of Deja Vu about this set up. It comes a bit from previous Dr Who episode The Robots of Death (human miners, apparently docile slave labourers) and also in part from the number of sci-fi films that have been set on mining colonies and the like or take place principally in spaceship/station corridors (OUTLAND,ALIEN, EVENT HORIZON), but that aside it is a rollicking episode.
The Ood are quite possible the most alien of the creatures yet to appear in the Doctor's last two incarnations and are certainly amongst the best rendered. Their first appearance is definitely a bit scary for the younger audience and they remain creepy throughout.
And creepy is what this episode is all about. Though it is set on an alien planet under a black hole (very impressive black hole it is too), but it is the air of portent, of approaching doom, that fills the air. It leaves the Doctor on a cracking cliffhanger as well.
THE SATAN PIT transmitted June 10th 2006
The Ood are on the rampage and the Doctor's lost 10 miles underground at the top of the pit in which resides Satan (or so Satan says anyway). As Rose rallies the troops to sort out the above ground problems, the Doctor decides to throw himself into the pit with virtually no chance of survival. In the end, both Rose and the Doctor must choose to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the universe.
It's an episode of two halves. Rose and the humans are ripping off the film "ALIENS in their fight against the Ood whilst the Doctor quietly considers the infinite and questions of philosophy regarding the nature of evil.
Surprisingly, it all holds together remarkably well, the excitement of the struggle to stay alive on the surface contrasting well with the quieter moments of introspection.
And then there's Satan. Whatever it is, it's the biggest CG bad guy that the team have come up with yet and it's very impressive, even though it doesn't get to do very much. It's hard to see how the next monster is going to match up.
LOVE AND MONSTERS transmitted June 17th 2006
Elton encountered the Doctor when he was a very young boy. As a result, he has been obsessed ever since. Using the internet, he encounters other people like himself who meet up to form a self-help group. As they are getting along well, a stranger appears and forms them into a search party that successfully tracks down Rose's mother, but the stranger is not all he seems and has plans for the Doctor.
We love the new DOCTOR WHO. We love Russell T Davies and his team for bringing him back so fantastically well. We have not only agreed with, but openly embraced all of the tweaks and updates that they have brought to the format. All of which makes this the hardest review we have ever had to put up.
LOVE AND MONSTERS is not badly written. It's not badly acted and it's not badly directed either. One other thing it's not is DOCTOR WHO. The format of the show is very flexible and a great many things have been done with it, but virtually eliminating the Doctor to a very minor character in his own show just isn't the way to go. This episode is just plain wrong.
If we had wanted to watch an ELO fan's video blog about his life, we could have found that on the internet. The show is called DOCTOR WHO after all and not Elton's Life. It might have good things about it, it just isn't what we signed up for and I have to ask whether the idea would have passed the editing process had it come from any of the other writers that Russell T himself.
There is a decent plot in here and some very nice ideas that we would have like to have seen done properly. The idea of showing the effect on the lives of the very minor characters that the Doctor has touched and left behind is a good one and I would have just loved to have seen the Doctor's (and Rose's) reaction to walking into a meeting of the self-help group for Doctor-sufferers.
Sadly, we just hated this. For all its good ideas, we just really hated it. Mess with the format at your peril Russell T. Please don't do it again. We hate having to say that we hated it and would prefer not to have to say it again.
FEAR HER transmitted June 24th 2006
It's 2012 and the Olympic opening ceremony is only a few hours away. The Olympic torch is due to pass the end of Dame Kelly Holmes Drive on its way to the stadium. Residents of the drive, though, are not celebrating. They live in fear. Their children are disappearing, vanishing without trace in the blink of an eye. A previously normal young girl is locked up in her bedroom and something strange is happening to her drawings.
That's it! DOCTOR WHO is back after last week's aberration with a cracking tale in a brilliant setting. The idea of playing on the anticipation of the 2012 Olympics is inspired and the way that it is used is brilliant. You just know, as soon as you hear the route of the torch bearer, that the Doctor is somehow going to end up lighting the flame, but how it happens is wonderful.
The threat itself is pretty scary, especially for younger viewers as it manifests itself through a child, but the idea of living drawings is also well realised. Rose being attacked by an angry scribble sounds daft, but it comes across really well. The reason why the alien entity is doing all this is also new and fresh, rather than the usual alien invasion schtick.
Humour is also well-represented in this episode with the Tardis's first arrival being laugh out loud funny and one man's rant on Rose's misuse of council property being another highlight.
One slight criticism is that fathers are getting a really bad press in this particular series. Even the Doctor's bombshell revelation to Rose that he had been a father once (had you forgotten that his first companion, Susan, was his granddaughter?) didn't manage to wash away that slight distaste.
Doctor, it's great to have you back in control of your own show and next week's looks like a belter with the return of this year's big baddies - the Cybermen.
ARMY OF GHOSTS transmitted July 1st 2006
The Doctor and Rose pop back to see her mother only to find that the whole world is being visited by ghosts. The Doctor immediately sets out to find the source of these manifestations and follows the signal all the way to Torchwood, an institute using alien technology for the benefit of the British Empire. They are responsible for the ghosts, trying to enlarge a spatial anomaly caused by a giant sphere. When the ghosts break through, they turn out to Cybermen and enough to take over the whole planet. Then the sphere opens and something even worse emerges.
It's the penultimate episode of the series and so it's setting up the big finale, but what a set up it is. Russell T Davies banishes any lingering thoughts of blame for Love and Monsters by crafting the near perfect DOCTOR WHO episode. First there's the mystery, then there's the secret organisations, then the invasion and finally a sucker punch last scene that sets up the ultimate smackdown between two of the Doctor's worst nightmares.
With a plot like that you could coast by on the premise alone, but that doesn't happen here. Everything is top notch. The direction is unfussy, the special effects are brilliant and the acting is spot on. Tennant is getting wilder every episode in his depiction of the Doctor and the moment that he challenges the director of Torchwood to destroy the planet is excellent. Some of Russell T Davies's dialogue is sublime and the cast do it full justice.
Even the fact that it's yet another advert for the upcoming Torchwood series doesn't grate.
Absolutely excellent in every way and one thing is for certain, next week's show is now the very definition of Unmissable.
DOOMSDAY transmitted July 8th 2006
Things aren't looking too good for the Doctor. Not only has the world been pretty much taken over by the army of cybermen from the alternative Earth, but four daleks have emerged from the sphere and want to open something called the Genesis Ark, something that is of Time Lord origin. There is, however, always hope and this is, after all, the Doctor we're talking about. He has a plan, but he will need Rose's help and perhaps she can't hold on as well as he can.
The series finale and what a way to end it. A face off between the daleks and the cybermen. There's no doubt as to the winners, with 4 daleks taking out an awful lot of the metal men, but their first meeting is delightful with the Cybermen proposing an alliance and the daleks responding with catty, bitchy remarks. Very funny.
Then there is the resolution to the situation (that's not a spoiler, you always knew the Doctor was going to win). It's a bit deus ex machina as it was in the series one finale, but it is acceptable enough and also explains why the Doctor has taken to wearing 3D glasses all of a sudden.
And don't think that this is a story about metal things shooting each other either. This is a story about family, the Tyler family to be precise. Both Rose's father and mother have lost their partners in their respective parallel worlds and their coming together is a lovely sequence. It's also a story about loss, the Doctor's loss of another friend and Rose's loss of the most important thing in her life.
Billie Piper was an important part of the mix that brought DOCTOR WHO back to us, but it has already survived the loss of one doctor. The loss of his assistant won't be enough to dent the show. We look forward to the doctor's Xmas return with Runaway Brides to deal with.
THE RUNAWAY BRIDE transmitted December 25th 2006
On the day of her wedding, a woman appears in the Tardis and immediately blames the Doctor for these inexplicable events. He tries to get her back to the church, but something is affecting the Tardis. It turns out to be particles not used since nearly the dawn of time and the bride has been poisoned with them. Despite the urge just to let her die, he saves her from the robot santas of last year, a new festive terror off the Xmas trees and a spider empress.
The Runaway Bride starts off at a shout and never comes down from that volume for a single second. It's played at fever pitch from start to finish with only a single quiet moment atop a tower block where the Bride and the Doctor share their disappointments. He is still suffering from the loss of Rose and she is aware, deep down, that somehow her marriage isn't right.
A lot of the shoutiness comes from television comic Catherine Tate as Donna, the bride suddenly snatched from the aisle and dumped in the Tardis. The explanations for all this are rattled off by David Tennant as if the Doctor has been popping uppers all morning, or at the very least drinking way too much coffee, and when Donna slaps him to calm him down, it's something that we wish we could have done to the whole show right at the very start.
That said, there is much to enjoy here. Russell T Davies plays with expectations following last year's Christmas special The Christmas Invasion, setting up familiar situations and coming up with new surprises (no killer christmas trees, but exploding baubles). There's even a car chase involving the Tardis (yes, you did read that right). The spider empress who finally arrives is a very impressive special effect, although she could have moved around a bit more rather than just standing still and telling the Doctor what was about to happen.
This is an episode that might improve on a second viewing when all the breathless shouting won't be such a shock and more of the dialogue and plot can be followed. Kids already hyperactive on the sugar rush of Christmas sweets might just be able to keep up with it.
SMITH AND JONES transmitted March 31st 2007
Martha Jones is training to be a doctor in a London hospital. After bumping into the Doctor, her day becomes more bizarre as the whole hospital is kidnapped and placed on the moon, surrounded by a force bubble. A force of space rhino police beings land and start cataloguing the people inside the hospital, looking for someone not human, which is not good news for the Doctor.
The new style DOCTOR WHO is back for his third season with an episode that is light and frothy and has enough fizz for a whole case of champagne. What it doesn't have is any depth at all, a fact that isn't hidden by the pace at which it rattles past.
The plot starts of intriguing enough with the hospital being transported to the moon for reasons unknown and the threats play out well enough, but this is an introductory episode, introducing the Freema Agyeman as the new companion. Her introduction, all normal life and dysfunctional family is all too reminiscent of Rose, the episode that introduced Billie Piper, but Martha is different enough from Rose Tyler whilst retaining the self-reliance and strength of her predecessor to show a lot of promise.
David Tennant is carrying on exactly where he left off, all breathless activity and big expressions. The Doctor can now control huge amounts of radiation and channel them into a single item of clothing, something that would have come in handy when Jon Pertwee faced the giant spiders at the end of his reign as the Doctor, but that's just the geek in us talking.
Also deeply unconvincing are the space rhinos. Clearly animatronic and not for a moment passing muster, the creature was plainly expensive as only one of them takes his helmet off. The recreation of the moon and the landing of the alien police ships is very impressive.
Smith and Jones isn't a classic episode, but it has more than enough fun to be going on with.
THE SHAKESPEARE CODE transmitted April 7th 2007
For her first trip in the Tardis, the Doctor takes Martha back to Elizabethan times to witness a play by William Shakespeare and to meet the man himself. When he announces that there will be a production of his play Loves Labours Won the following night, the Doctor realises time is being threatened and determines to find out by whom.
Although it owes good deal of its set up and tone to the film SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE this is a lovely episode with a lively wit and a breathless pace (it would be nice to have an episode that wasn't played out at a full sprint though). There wordplay is nicely done, as you would hope from an episode centred on Shakespeare, with nice references to the bard's works scattered throughout. The evocation of Elizabethan London is spot on, never once faltering and really helping you believe in the place and the time.
The enemy this time around are, fittingly enough, three witches. They plan to release the rest of their kind from captivity to purge the earth. Their appearance is suitably crone-like, but the apparitions of their lost fellows appearing in the sky are a CGI step too cheap. Their magic is based on words and shape. How this is used against them at the end is the weakest bit of the episode, never for a moment being believable. There are, however, more than enough moments of delight to get this episode placed quite high up in the rankings of the new style DOCTOR WHO.
GRIDLOCK transmitted April 14th 2007
The Doctor decides to allow Martha a look at the future as well as the past and whips her off to New Earth, but they end up in the drug-paralysed lower sections. Martha is kidnapped onto the 'Motorway' and the Doctor gives chase, discovering that hundreds of thousands of people are locked on decades long journeys in which they might move a hundred yards a day. Get three passengers, though, and you gain access to The Fast Lane, but there are stories that not all is well when you get down there.
Russell T Davies is the writer of this episode and it's utterly bonkers, but enormous fun. The set up is excellent and the story races along as the Doctor gets to the bottom of what's going on, but there's a reason for that. The moment that the show's over and you stop to think about it, it's revealed as a con trick, smoke and mirrors, utter nonsense. Brilliant fun though.
What is important here are the four words that the Face of Bo promised the Doctor way back in New Earth - 'You are not alone'. There can't be a DOCTOR WHO who wasn't absolutely thrilled by the potential in those four, enigmatic words. We are going to have no end of fun finding out.
DALEKS IN MANHATTAN transmitted April 21st 2007
The Doctor takes Martha on a trip to New York (the real one) just before the completion of the Empire State Building. His interest is piqued by tales of people going missing from the camp of displaced people in Central Park (this being the Depression after all). The disappearances are the work of the Daleks and their pig-headed (literally) servants, but what is their ultimate aim?
It's a dalek story, so it's going to be great, but the fact that the Doctor's nemeses are revealed so early on in the episode is surprising, until you find out what they are really up to. The creature revealed at the end of the episode is scarier in principle than the realisation and didn't we do intelligent pigs (sort of) in the Eccleston series?
There's also quite a lot of exposition going on in the early part of the episode as well, which is a shame as the sense of place and time is really well realised and doesn't need any help from the scripter.
Still, it's a dalek story and it's great.
EVOLUTION OF THE DALEKS transmitted April 28th 2007
Dalek Sec, now a human/dalek hybrid, reveals his plans for the dalek future, plans that the Doctor finds to be dangerously attractive. The other daleks, however, turn on their leader and set about transforming his plan into the creation of an army of humans ruled by true dalek minds. Can the Doctor avert a disaster that could end the human race and give rise to a new dalek golden age?
Wow there are some interesting ideas here for dalek watchers of any age. The aim of dalek purity has led to the failure of the species, the quartet forming the Cult of Skaro being the only survivors. How then can they be the supreme beings? IN order to survive, they have to evolve and that means taking on the characteristics of the ultimate survivors, humanity. This is clever, subtle stuff.
Sadly, the rest of the plot doesn't match up to it. The Doctor has to come up with whole new way of recombining dalek and human DNA in just under 11 minutes and only saves the day by using his own body as a lightning conductor, passing sense of freedom onto the human dalek army. There's also a bit too much of the running around stuff. All of the plot exposition happened last week and so that's pretty much all that's left.
Dalek Sec is also a disappointment. It's not just the animatronic head of the beast that fails to impress, but the fact that the first human/dalek hybrid talks with an effete american accent really ruins the image.
On the other hand, David Tennant is brilliant, the daleks get to do some flying and destroying, the kids will love it all and there's some real meat for fans and passing adults to think about.
THE LAZARUS EXPERIMENT transmitted May 5th 2007
The Doctor drops Martha off back home at the end of her trip, but decides to check out an experiment being carried out by a Professor for whom Martha's sister is working. With the whole family at the presentation, Martha introduces the Doctor before Lazarus demonstrates how his machine makes him young again. Unfortunately, it also destabilises his DNA which then mutates him into an alternate state of humanity, a giant scorpion monster thing that needs to kill ordinary humans to survive.
The Lazarus Experiment is the first truly disappointing episode of DOCTOR WHO since Love and Monsters. There's a lot of running around, mainly being chased by a dreadfully CGI'd monster that convinces for barely a second. That's about it.
The domestic stuff with Martha's family is nice enough and there is a mysterious man (billed in the credits as 'mysterious man') who seems to know more about the Doctor than can be good, which bodes well for the future, but the rest is sadly a letdown.
42 transmitted May 19th 2007
Martha and the Doctor find themselves trapped on a spaceship plunging into the heart of an alien sun. There are only 42 minutes before impact, hence the title. The ship has been sabotaged and one of the dead crew is walking around killing his ex-colleagues. With the engines wrecked, options are running out.
Having a constantly running countdown in the background is an easy to way to build and maintain tension as the final sequences of ALIEN can easily attest, but there needs to be a lot more going on than just the countdown. This episode certainly has a lot of stuff going on, though how much of it makes sense is another question. Wrecked engines are being fixed, locked doors are being opened by way of a pub quiz, unprotected lifepods are plunging towards the sun and alien-enhanced humans are stalking the corridors. It's played out at a breathless pace throughout and the cast must have been pretty breathless themselves considering the amount of running up and down corridors that they have to do. The corridors look real enough, but the running harkens back to days when stories needed to be padded out.
The plot echoes Tarkovsky's SOLARIS with touches of Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE clearly an influence on the basic idea. The alien menace also has a device ripped straight from Cyclops in the X-MEN films. The core audience of kids might not have seen those films and therefore get those references, but fans of the genre certainly will. There are also problems like the way that nobody stays where they're put for more than a few seconds, causing most of the problems and the vital switches and handles are on the outside of the ship just out of reach - why?
These are, though, mainly quibbles because the episode is so kinetic and action-packed that it really doesn't matter at all whilst you're watching it and it is certainly a step up from The Lazarus Experiment.
HUMAN NATURE transmitted May 26th 2007
Something terrible called The Family is after the Doctor and it scares him, scares him enough to m ake him run and hide. How do you hide the last Time Lord from a species that can smell him hundreds of miles away? You stop him being a Time Lord. The Doctor becomes human and takes refuge in a boy's boarding school in 1913, his real personality locked away in a pocket watch with Martha his only hope of getting it back. Matters are complicated further by his falling in love with a human woman. Not to mention the pocket watch going missing just as the family arrive.
This is the first of a two part story and it moves with a languid, peaceful pace in stark contrast to 42, which was all about pace and not a lot else. It's really rather charming to see the Doctor as bumbling school teacher, slowly making his way towards a touching relationship with the school matron. Martha's feelings of abandonment, fear and loss with all this are nicely written and well played by Freema Agyeman.
One jarring aspect is the living scarecrows that the family use as soldiers. They are so obviously cribbed from Batman Begins that you wonder if the originality is starting to drain from the show.
Because of its nature as a set up episode, this is not the most satisfying one that we have seen, but judgement must be reserved until the end of next week's story.
FAMILY OF BLOOD transmitted June 2nd 2007
Martha, the Doctor and Joan, the woman that the now-human Doctor loves, escape the Family and hole up in the boarding school. There, the children set up to fight against the scarecrow soldiers of the aliens. When the missing watch is revealed, John Smith is faced with the decision to give up the life that he really wants in order to travel the universe in unending loneliness.
The two part story concludes in a lovely manner that has more to say about war and killing and the effect on the young men that have to fight it than it does about aliens and walking scarecrows. There is a real sense of melancholy with the impending approach of World War One, mixed with the sense of loss that Joan has faced and the loss that John Smith is going to have to make to save them all.
This is all beautifully played by David Tennant as a man who is being forced to give up everything he is or wants or has ever believed in for reasons that he cannot understand. His final farewell with his human love is marvellous in the way that it avoids cliche and even the coda where the Doctor and Martha visit a specific Remembrance Sunday service is also quite moving.
BLINK transmitted June 9th 2007
A girl called Sally Sparrow breaks into an old house in order to take photographs. What she finds there is a message scrawled on the wall in 1969 from the Doctor telling her to duck. When she comes back with a friend, that friend is transported to 1920. When she goes to the police, the policeman is transported to 1969. Then there are the DVDs, DVDs that have a message on them from the Doctor, a message that says she is deadly danger and that the statues move if you blink.
This is season 3's Love and Monsters, a Doctor Who story in which the Doctor barely appears. Unlike Love and Monsters, however, this is actually quite good. Firstly, it tells an actual story, substituting the character of Sally Sparrow (appealingly played by Carey Mulligan) in the Doctor's role as central focus. Her unravelling of the mystery she is faced with proves to be diverting and fun.
Then there is the menace, and the gimmick, behind the episode - the weeping angels. Really alien beings who are fast and deadly, but turn to stone when they are looked at (OK stupid when you think about it) they are a very effective device, each new position filled with threat until the final moments when they turn on a strobe light and close in on the heroes in slow motion.
Why the writers feel the need to marginalise the Doctor in his own show I still don't understand, but as long as when they do they do it like this rather than the last effort then we can live with it.
UTOPIA transmitted June 16th 2007
The Doctor and Martha stop off in Cardiff to fuel up the Tardis on the time rift. At the last moment, Captain Jack Harkness hitches a lift and the Tardis tumbles through the Vortex to the very end of the Universe, a place where the stars have gone out and the last remnants of mankind are struggling to evade the pointy-toothed Futurekind and get a giant rocket working so that they can get to a place of safety known as Utopia. The dream is being led by an ailing man known as Professor Yana, a man who turns out to have a secret - and a pocket watch. The Futurekind also have a secret, a way into the compound.
First off, it's important to know that this is the first of a multi-part episode. If you didn't know that then you be left wondering what the hell was the point of the Futurekind after all because they don't do a hell of a lot. What they do most, and best, is look like rejects from JOHN CARPENTER'S GHOSTS OF MARS.
The real story, though, is going on inside the compound. We knew that he was coming back, ever since the Face of Bo told the Doctor that he was not alone it could only mean one thing, but the manner of the Master's return is brilliant stuff. It helps that he's played by Derek Jacobi, of course, and it is a shame that he could not continue to play the role because he is utterly brilliant, turning the character unutterably evil in the space of a few seconds with compelling believability. The tying in of the pocket watches and time lords turning human with Human Nature and Family of Blood is inspired. The moment when the Doctor eulogises the efforts of the Professor become chillingly hollow when his true identity is finally revealed and the relationship between them is stunning realised in just a few moments by both David Tennant and Derek Jacobi.
Captain Jack Harkness is back, not just in the show, but the character as he was before he became manically depressed (and depressing) in TORCHWOOD. It's nice to see John Barrowman smiling again. Perhaps this will allow some of that old fire and magic to come back again in the second series of the spin-off. He doesn't play a pivotal role in the story, but his not dying comes in handy in the room of killer radiation (Spock couldn't do that in STAR TREK 2 THE WRATH OF KHAN from which this scene was ripped off.
After a patchy start, the show has hit a real string of form of late and next week just can't come fast enough.
THE SOUND OF DRUMS transmitted June 23rd 2007
Escaping from the futurekind by way of Captain Jack's time wristwatch thingy, the Doctor, Jack and Martha return to present day Earth to find that the Master, under the guise of John Saxon, has become Prime Minister and announced first contact with an alien species. When the trio try to reveal the Master's true identity to a brainwashed world, he ages the Doctor by a hundred years and sends down a rain of alien robot things to wipe out one tenth of the population of the planet.
When it comes to series finales, Russell T Davies doesn't believe in letting Earth off easy. Daleks beat the daylights out of it for Christopher Eccleston and then returned last year to fight a war with the Cybermen on it and now hordes of alien globes are tearing out 10% of the population. The plot doesn't really make a lot of sense, but then it is the first part of a two parter and the full extent of the Master's plans have yet to be explained. Once again, the pace at which the episode is run jams in enough incident (deaths of reporters, kidnapping of Martha's family, bombs aimed at Martha etc) that it doesn't matter at all and when the final confrontation aboard the Valiant skyship it's all stunning cliffhanger stuff. There is no way that we could not be there for the resolution of all this next week, short of something terminal and even then the grim reaper would have to be prepared for a fight.
It's not perfect, of course, with neither Martha nor Jack actually adding anything to proceedings. The alien globes look suspiciously like Darth Vader's torture globe out of STAR WARS and Gerry Anderson really ought to get his lawyer interested as the Valiant airship lifts the design of Cloudbase directly out of CAPTAIN SCARLET.
The incidental moments more than make up for that, though, with the Master offering jelly babies around and generally making the American President look like a pompous ass before killing him (got to be at least one Prime Minister's fondest fantasy). He's not the Master of old, all dark pronouncements and solemn evil, but a dark copy of the current doctor, revelling in his superiority and the deaths that he can inflict with the same delight as the Doctor has in saving the innocent. It's a nice performance by John Simm, though it might not suit the purists.
The episode also describes how the Master came to be (and came to be again) with some nice flashbacks to Gallifrey in its prime and teases with the idea that if the Doctor knew what was inside the alien globes it would break both his hearts.
In short, really cracking stuff.
LAST OF THE TIME LORDS transmitted June 30th 2007
The planet Earth is devastated, the Master is in total control, Captain Jack is in chains and an attempted coup has just failed. In a fit of rage, the Master ages the Doctor to the very end of his regenerations, but Martha is coming back and she has a plan. It's the Doctor's plan and it involves the human race in open revolt.
When Russell T Davies wrote the return of the Doctor, he was immediately raised to divine status in the eyes of the SCI FI FREAK SITE. NOt only did he make it good, he made it great. Since then, though, his divinity has been shaken by writing some of the episodes that have been thought as lesser adventures. Now, with Last of the Time Lords his divinity is not only restored, but raised to the rank of archdeity with the keys to all the main heavens that exist.
That might seem a bit much, but it is no more than the man deserves because this season finale is not just 'FAB' as one friend of the site excitedly texted, but can be described as no less than utterly magnificent. There are so many things that are good in this episode that it is hard to believe they could be all fitted in to 45 minutes, however sublime. Where to start? The identity of the metal sphere aliens turns out to be superbly revealed and horrifying, but finally makes sense of Utopia. The Doctor's plan to save the day is just wonderful, again making sense, but coming from so far left-field that nobody could possibly have predicted it. What follows between the Doctor and the Master is amazing stuff that only a long time fan of the series could really get the full benefit of, but which should touch even those that tuned in to this season as their first.
The only bit we're not too sure about is the CGI'd Doctor at the end of his regenerations. Somehow it's hard to believe that a Time Lord, even this one, could possibly be reduced to this poor creature.
But the absolute piece de resistance comes in a small postcript speech by Captain Jack where the future of one character is revealed and the past of another is resolved. It's a moment of nothing less than pure genius and it had us laughing, applauding and cheering for so long afterwards that we had to watch Martha's leaving scene on the recorded copy.
There were times in this season when we weren't sure if some of the steam wasn't running out of the Time Lord's regeneration, but all faith has been restored and this highlight will go right up there with some of the Doctor's finest moments.
VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED transmitted December 25th 2007
Recovering from the surprise of the Tardis being rammed by the Titanic, the Doctor joins the party and discovers that the ship is, in fact, a space liner orbiting Earth to give the rich and famous a chance to encounter a barbaric civilisation. The first signs of problems come with the Host (robot servants) starting to fail, but then the Captain drops the shields and three meteors rip through the vessel. The Doctor takes on a mis-matched bunch of survivors and heads for the bridge, but the Host have turned homicidal and the ship is plunging earthwards with a star drive that will wipe out all life in Earth on impact.
Say what you like about Russell T Davies, but he certainly knows how to steal ideas from all the best sources and weld them together into a rip-roaring adventure. The most obvious steal is from Christmas fave movie THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE with the Shelley Winters death sequence played out in full, but there are nods to many other disaster movies and a cheeky salute to early CGI caper TRON. He's even willing to plunder his own back ctalogue. The Host are very similar to the homicidal Santas in The Christmas Invasion and direct decendants of the robots in Tom Baker story The Robots of Death
Liberal 'borrowing', though, is not enough and is certainly not all that there is. RT Davies' script is full of sparkling dialogue and manages to make the characters likeable enough quickly enough for their survival to matter. As in any disaster movie, not everyone will survive and there's no telling who's going to get to the end and who won't.
David Tennant is his usual good value as the Doctor, barely containing his energy and delivering his lines at breakneck speeds. He gets excellent support from Kylie Minogue as the plucky, determined waitress Astrid. As Astrid is written no differently from the Doctor's last two female assistants, it is down to Ms Minogue that she breaks out of their shadow.
Bernard Cribbens appears in a cameo in-joke (he was in the Dr Who film DALEK INVASION EARTH - 2150AD) that doesn't add very much and the whole Queen in peril at Buckingham Palace is a farce too far that threatens to spoil the whole thing, but doesn't quite manage it.
Once again, Russell T Davies and DOCTOR WHO deliver a Christmas special that is truly worthy of the name.
THE INFINITE QUEST transmitted December 29th 2007*
Sometime after dealing with a threat to Earth at the hands of the evil Balthazar, the Doctor learns that he has been released from prison and is searching for the Infinite, a relic of the Great Ones from the time of chaos before our reality existed. The path to the Infinite is to be found through a series of data clips scattered throughout the universe, each one leading to the next step in the chain. The find the Infinite, the Doctor will have to deal with oil rig pirates, bug wars and automated prisons. His greatest challenge will come, however, on the Infinite itself.
This animated adventure was *first shown as a series of shorter episodes on the CBBC children's show TOTALLY DOCTOR WHO before being transmitted on BBC 1. It stars David Tennant as the voice of the Doctor Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones and Anthony Head as the evil Balthazar.
As its source suggests, this is a story aimed directly at the Doctor's younger fans and will be of little interest to the more adult audience. The animation is of a fairly cheap quality, but the design work that has gone into it shows some great imagination. The mobile oil rigs, for example, look great. The animated opening credits are also a fun variation.
Characterisation is something severely lacking in the story. OK it is aimed at kids, but that is no excuse for pirates as pathetic as these (not to mention severely ripped off from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN or the sudden unexplained switch from caring warden to murderer of all prisoners that the automated warden goes through (yes, the Doctor does uninhibit him, but it is simply too abrupt a change). David Tennant's usual effervescence is toned down and Martha's personality all but disappears. Anthony Head's urbane tones don't manage to invest a lacklustre main villain with any depth at all either.
THE INFINITE QUEST may well please the children's audience and it certainly is short enough not to outstay its welcome, but I can't see it igniting a demand for a whole new animated franchise for the Time Lord.
PARTNERS IN CRIME transmitted April 5th 2008
There's a new slimming drug on the market, one that actually appears to work. Overnight, the weight literally appears to drop off people. The Doctor is not convinced that this is quite normal, so he investigates. Also investigating is Donna, who once had an adventure with him (The Runaway Bride) and who has been looking for him ever since. Seperately, they learn the truth and together they try save millions of lives.
The first episodes of each new series of the refashioned DOCTOR WHO have each of them been amongst the weakest. This episode is unfortunately amongst the weakest of the weakest. The moment that the little 'fat monsters' appear as cute little bad CGI creations then you just can't help flashing back to some of the worst creations of the old-style programme and cringe inside. Of course, they might appeal to the younger audience members, but DOCTOR WHO has never been a show that was aimed solely at one part of its audience and we can only hope that this is not the shape of things to come.
Catherine Tate's Donna was always going to be the most contentious aspect of the show from the moment her return was announced, but she is a softened character here, less abrasive and more rounded. You could almost imagine that the 'fat monsters' were created solely for there to be something that the fanboys would scream about more than her. In fact some of her moments, especially those with Bernard Cribbins, are amongst the better ones of the story. Otherwise there is a lot of running around, a lot of gobbledygook about the machine that's going to reduce a million people to fat monsters and a climax in which the Doctor decides to let them all go.
David Tennant steps back into the role as though he never left it and there are some nice lines for both the principals to play with, but it's all completely undermined by the fat monsters. Let us hopw that we never see their like again and that the seeason improves from this low point in a hurry.
FIRES OF POMPEII transmitted April 12th 2008
The Doctor takes Donna to visit ancient Rome only this being the Doctor they end up in Pompeii 24 hours before Vesuvius is about to explode. Planning only to get out of the way, the Doctor stumbles upon carvings that are circuit boards, seers who really can see the future and a race of beings made of stone and fire. There's a decision to be made and it's going to cost the lives of 20,000 people.
Those people who harboured doubts about Catherine Tate as the Doctor's companion must surely put those behind them following her scenes with David Tennant in this episode. Whilst it starts off light and silly with conversations about how the Tardis can make them speak latin, but what happens when they actually say something in latin and a family that act and speak just like inner city London folk, it slowly metamorphs into a bog standard aliens hiding the volcano story before finally pulling out the big dramatic guns as the Doctor and Donna have to decided between Pompeii and the world and fight over the value of saving even a single life. This is really dramatic stuff, the Doctor agonising over what he can and cannot, and must do with Donna fighting for humanity - his as well as her own. It is these scenes that remain after the dust has settled.
Oh but what dust! The destruction of Pompeii is stunningly realised, providing an appropriately apocalyptic backdrop to the emotions on display. Also impressive are the Pyroviles, the creatures living in the heart of the volcano. Whilst we never really get to know them at all, they are an impressive conglomeration of THE LORD OF THE RINGS' ents and balrogs. Certainly they wipe away the bad memory of the fat baby monsters of Partners in Crime.
After a hiccup, the series is back in its stride and showing everyone how it is done.
PLANET OF THE OOD transmitted April 19th 2008
It's Donna's first alien planet and one picked at random. Not so random, however, as it turns out to be the home planet of the Ood, the servants of the second great human empire. A disease, known as 'red eye' is turning the normally placid Ood into killers and the corporation that breeds, trains, markets and sells them are working frantically to find out what is causing it. Could it be something to do with the secret of what lies within Warehouse 15?
Mankind, it seems, is destined to do nothing but exploit alien creatures. This episode is pretty much the same plotline as those used in TORCHWOOD episodes Meat and Reset with the slavery of the Ood replacing the flesh and pharmaceutical properties of the aliens in those stories. Bad humanity exploits aliens and good heroes stop them.
What this episode does have, however, is the Ood. First seen in The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit, they are a wonderful creation, truly alien too behold, believable and ugly. There is no way that you can tell what an Ood is thinking by looking at it. The idea of a species that evolves holding its brains in its hands is somewhat beyond the realms of believability (on a planet this cold and harsh something so vital and fragile could not survive), but the life cycle of Ood makes the utterly alien creatures vulnerable and worth caring about. The idea of their singing harks back to the slave songs of human history, but is also reminiscent of the carrion eaters who proved to be the creators of beautiful music in BABYLON 5. Exactly what is to be gained by turning the head of the company into an Ood, though, is lost. Is it purely revenge?
There's some nice banter between the Doctor and Donna, although if she is going to cry each week to prove her sensitivity then it could get a bit repetitive.
Planet of the Ood borrows ideas from all over the place, but it looks great and makes the most of one of the most impressive and original creatures the revamped show has yet come up with.
THE SONTARAN STRATAGEM transmitted April 26th 2008
Martha Jones calls the Doctor back to Earth when a number of people die at the exact same instant across the world. the only link is Atmos, a pollution-negating gizmo that also controls the car's satnav system. The Doctor realises that the Atmos system is alien in origin and, through it's teenage 'creator', learns that it's all some sort of plot put in motion by Sontarans, an old enemy, a race of militaristic clones.
The pace at which this story moves make it almost impossible to review because so much happens so quickly that it's over before you can either appreciate or criticise. It is rare to complain about too much plot, but when there's this much to get through coherence takes a knock and younger audiences might have a hard time keeping up. Anyone might have a hard time keeping up with the dialogue, which the principals rattle off so fast that it's hard to follow at times. It's not just David Tennant's Doctor that talks ten to the dozen either, with both Donna and Martha getting in on the act as well.
Yes, after a short stint on TORCHWOOD, Freema Agyeman's Martha is back, but apart from a bit of bonding with Donna and sparring with the Doctor over her new job with UNIT she doesn't really have a big impact. Donna's moment with the Doctor when she announces she is going to go home is priceless and leads to the set up of the climax in which both the personal and the worldwide threats coincide. Using cars as the weapons it cleverly plays on the pollution and environmental fears of the day.
What really works in this episode, though, are the special effects. The Sontarans, always one of the better realised monsters, have never looked so good, but the secret weapon is the creature in the cloning vats. This is likely to put the frighteners on younger audience members and is pretty creepy for everyone.
As this is a set up episode the plotting is a little unsatisfying, but the cliffhanger is one of the better ones as the Doctor fights to save Donna's grandfather and looks at a situation that threatens the whole world.
THE POISON SKY transmitted May 3rd 2008
The Sontaran plan is well underway with millions of cars chucking out choking poison gas and a clone of Martha Jones blocking UNIT's attempts to intervene. The Sontarans capture the Tardis with Donna inside it and things are looking very bleak indeed. Then UNIT shows what it can really do and that gives the Doctor an idea.
This is a cracking adventure story ending to the two-parter. The Earth is brought to its knees and the Doctor seems utterly helpless, but when UNIT's little flying toy arrives and the soldiers turn on the seemingly all powerful Sontarans and show them that mankind is a race with teeth it's a moment to make you proud to be British (oh and human).
There are a couple of failings, of course. It seems that when everyone complained about Catherine Tate becoming the next assistant all the writers were instructed to find ways of softening the character. This has translated into Donna having a crying scene in just about every story to date and it's getting a bit tedious.
The story of the boy genius who supposedly invented the Atmos devices and was working with the Sontarans in the expectation of finding a chance to restart the human race in his own image seems like a bit of an afterthought and way of getting the Doctor off the hook after his self-sacrifice plan all goes a bit pear-shaped. It's also far from new harking back to the likes of Invasion of the Dinosaurs to MOONRAKER.
All quibbles, though, as the rattlingly good story powers through to a satisfying conclusion and the Doctor, Donna and Martha are thrown into what promises to be a very surprising next adventure.
THE DOCTOR'S DAUGHTER transmitted May 10th 2008
The Doctor, Donna and Martha are taken to a planet where humans and Hath are locked in a war that has spanned generations. By generations, this means new children born of a machine that takes a DNA sample and extrapolates a child from it, a grown up child that is already programmed with the knowledge and will to fight and be victorious. The Doctor is less than pleased when his dna is taken to create a daughter, Jenny, who is a soldier, but he is more concerned about Martha, who is stranded with the Hath, and stopping the endless bloodshed.
So it's not a real daughter for the Doctor - something that he struggles with throughout the episode. She's not a clone exactly, but Georgia Moffett is full of the Doctor's life and energy without ever trying to ape David Tennant's manic performance. She quickly makes an impact, but somehow not enough to make her inevitable shooting as moving as that of, say, Kylie Minogue's character in Voyage of the Damned. That said, she's a lot of fun to be around and it's a fair bet that this episode isn't the last that we see of her.
As for the rest, the Hath make for OK aliens. The liquid that keeps the fish monsters alive in air is well done, but the big failing is the eyes, making them seem never close to real. Still Freema Agyeman manages to make her relationship with one of the creatures believable and fun despite the fact that she can't understand a word he's bubbling.
The plot of a war that has been going for generations is nothing new. The Sontarans have been going through something very similar with the Rutons and the creation of the new fighters isn't exactly a million miles away from the cloning processes of the dome-headed creatures either. Also the revelation about the length of the war belies the age of the human commanding officer, played as a man straight in from Devon's fields by Nigel Terry.
The scene where Jenny (the daugther) flick flacks her way through a laser beam trap is far from believable. And just when you thought you were going to be locked in a cheap maze of tunnels, Martha steps out onto a desolate surface that is stunningly realised.
The Doctor's Daughter isn't the strongest episode of the show, but it is a solidly entertaining entry.
THE UNICORN AND THE WASP transmitted May 17th 2008
The Doctor and Donna arrive back in the 1920s at a garden party being put on in honour of the mystery writer Agatha Christie. When Professor Peach is killed in the study with the lead pipe, the Doctor and Agatha investigate, but it is Donna who makes the discovery that the real killer is, in fact, a giant alien wasp.
What starts off pleasantly enough with the set up of the garden party descends into a lot of running around and shouting as the wasp makes its appearance. The intial witty riffs on the works of Agatha Christie (Donna accidentally gives the writer the idea for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, the scene in the parlour where everyone's secrets are unravelled and killer exposed, the flashbacks to where everyone was at the time etc) and Cluedo give way to hysterical babbling and a desperately unfunny game of charades as the Doctor fights off being poisoned.
Time and place are neatly established with the period cars and costumes and Donna's attempts to sound posh and there is a nice support performance from Felicity Kendal, but the main plus is FEnella Woolgar as Agatha Christie. Despite having a very thinly written character to work with, she manages to bring some depth to the uncertain author.
This is the third author that the Doctor has visited since his return (Dickens in The Unquiet Dead and Shakespeare in The Shakespeare Code, but it is also the least of them. The fast-paced romp and impressively realised wasp will satisfy the younger audience, but the older members of the family will be left wanting something a bit more.
SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY transmitted May 31st 2008
The Tardis materialises in the largest library ever constructed in the universe, so large that it covers a whole planet. It also appears to be the figment of a little girl's imagination. The only things missing are the people. Recorded messages warn them to stay out of the shadows. An expedition arrives with a woman who seems to know the Doctor very, very well, but who seems reluctant to give her name. Then, the dying starts.
This is a two-part story and as such is allowed more time to develop itself. This is the most obvious as the team gather around a dead colleague to stay with her as the technology in her suit allows her personality to continue for a short period. It's a touching scene that sets up a sense of atmosphere even if it does mean that Catherine Tate's Donna gets to do the crying thing again. The angry, hard-headed woman of The Runaway Bride has been turned into a right waterworks.
'There's something in the dark'should be a potent source of scares, but it somehow isn't, partly because the library is full of shaddows that don't seem to contain anything and partly because the Doctor goes around feeding the tiny 'piranha's chicken. The skeleton walking around asking who turned the lights out is a clear throwback to the child asking 'Are you my mummy?'in The Empty Child, but has a less scary catchphrase and moves too slowly to be really scary, even though it is a skeleton in a spacesuit.
More intriguing is the identity of the woman who clearly has a history with the Doctor, a history that lies in his future. This does mean that we know the Doctor isn't going to die until he's gone to Asgard, thus eliminating any threat to him, but as this is his show we never really expect him to die anyway. More obvious is the answer as to why the little girl is dreaming of the library and what happened to the four thousand people who were saved, but not survivors. That the Doctor hasn't figured that one out by the end is suprising. Why there were only four thousand people on a library the size of a planet is never explained.
A solid story, entertaining and energetic, but there is something missing that means that this story isn't the horror tale that it clearly wants to be. Perhaps the second episode will sort that out.
FOREST OF THE DEAD transmitted June 7th 2008
Donna finds herself in a hospital being treated for mental illness. She meets a man, gets marries, has children. Then she finds out that it's all a lie, a virtual reality created by the library's central computer to keep her sane in her new world. In the real world, the Doctor tries to negotiate with the swarm in the shadows and finds a way to bring back the survivors of the massacre that were saved into the same virtual world that Donna is inhabiting, but it will cost him either his life or the woman who would become his dear companion.
There are lots of echoes of other things in this concluding episode of the two part story started in Silence in the Library, but the familiarity doesn't spoil the effect. The story rattles by at the breakneck speed that we have become used to in DOCTOR WHO, barely giving the audience time to think, let alone breathe. Only in Donna's dreamworld do we find a respite from the pace and it is no surprise that these are the most effective and affecting moments. Donna has a family and loves her family and reacts as any woman would when that family is threatened. This again gives Catherine Tate a chance to show what she can do.
The revelations are all exactly as the older audience will have guessed them to be at the very start of Silence in the Library, so there are no surprises and you might wonder why it takes the Doctor so long to work it out, but this again is a niggle in another fine episode of a truly family show.
MIDNIGHT transmitted June 14th 2008
The Doctor leaves Donna sunbathing in a pleasure dome built on a totally inimical world to take a trip to see the fabled waterfalls of sapphire. The transport breaks down halfway through the four hour outward journey and something outside the ship manages to work its way inside, taking over one of the passengers and bringing the others to the point of throwing the innocent out onto the deadly surface.
After the epic scope of the shenanigans in the planet-sized library of Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead, Midnight puts ten characters in a confined space with an unseen nasty and watches them implode. There's something of Arthur C Clarke's classic adventure story A FALL OF MOONDUST in this scenario and a lot of the dialogue is simply one character repeating what another has just said or everyone talking at once so that you can't hear what anyone's saying, but when it's over you realise that the time has passed more quickly than any episode yet.
Having the possessed passenger played by Lesley Sharp (AFTERLIFE) is a masterstroke as he manages to invest an unmoving woman who simply repeats whatever is being said by anyone else with a terrible sinister terror that cannot be denied. Then she starts to say what others are saying at the exact same moment and then she starts to speak for the Doctor and he is the one repeating. It's simple and it really shouldn't be scary at all, but it is; scary as hell.
There isn't enough time to build up the tensions and breakdowns amongst the other passengers believably, so there has to be a mind control element thrown into the mix to explain the immediate hysteria that descends, but that's an issue with the format and doesn't spoil what is, in every other way, a standout episode of the season so far.
TURN LEFT transmitted June 21st 2008
In a bazaar on a strange planet, Donna is offered a free reading by a fortune teller. As she remembers a tiny decision that was made which changed her life, a creature climbs onto her back and that decision is changed. Instead of turning left at a junction, she turns right. As a result, she never meets the Doctor and he dies because she wasn't there to save him. When a hospital is taken to the moon everyone dies including a woman called Martha Jones. Another event takes the life of crusading journalist Sarah Jane Smith and her young friends. The Torchwood team narrowly avert a Sontaran invasion, but are all killed. Finally, a bizarre event wipes out the South East of England and Donna and her family are left refugees. Throughout it all, though, there is a young woman that keeps popping up, a woman who won't give her name.
Russell T Davies puts together a raft of his greatest hits in this episode, an alternative view of what Donna's life might be. In many other series we have derided episodes like this as being 'gimmick' episodes, but this one manages to get by on its own cleverness. The weaving together of alternate views of the events in The Runaway Bride, Smith and Jones, Voyage of the Damned, Partners in Crime and Poison Sky into the background of Donna's new life is smart and funny, though there are problems to be had with it (such as the fact that the Titanic falling on London in Voyage of the Damned would have destroyed the whole world according to the Doctor) and the fact that Rose Tyler, the new-style Doctor's first companion, keeps popping up is intriguing enough to keep us wanting to know what's going to happen.
It is, however, an alternate universe story being weaved around Donna by the insect on her back (not the giant spiders of Planet of the Spiders on which it is clearly based but some kind of a beetle) and therefore the threat is never felt of as being real because we always feel that the Doctor can walk into the fortune teller's and stop the reading at any moment's notice, but the resolution actually turns out to be acheived by other means reminiscent of those taken by Rose's father in Father's Day.
It's a shock to the system to have Billie Piper back as Rose as we have moved beyond her and so she is something of an intrusion and is less welcome than we might have imagined. Still, she brings with her a plot that sees the stars going out and utters the words 'Bad Wolf', which traditionally presages very bad news.
If this a tribute by Rusell T Davies to his own back catalogue of stories then we can allow him that for so memorably resurrecting our hero. Next week, however, it's on with the story and an old enemy is back. We, quite frankly, can't wait.
THE STOLEN EARTH transmitted June 28th 2008
The Tardis arrives back on Earth only for the planet to disappear from under it. Unable to understand what has happened, the Doctor races to the Shadow Proclamation where he discovers that 27 planets are missing and seem to together create some sort of cosmic generator. Finding a trail, he follows it as far as he can until it runs out. Meanwhile, on Earth, Rose Tyler slips through the barriers from her universe back into ours and joins with Sarah Jane Smith, the Torchwood crew and one Harriet Jones, ex-prime minister, to bring him the rest of the way, but the Daleks are behind it all and always seem to be one step ahead.
After last week's 'best of' compilation of Russell T Davies episodes, he now presents us with a 'best of' compilation of companions and villains. Rose is back from her alternate universe, Sarah Jane Smith sweeps in from THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, the remaining TORCHWOOD team members harness the energy of the rift (which apparently is fixed to Cardiff and not to a particular point in space), Martha Jones is based with UNIT in New York (for all those watching on BBC America) and one ex-prime minister turns up to unite them all in getting the one man together who can sort it all out. That's a lot people to deal with in one episode and it does lead to a fragmented plot and lots of repetition. When the daleks appear, for example, we see each of them going 'oh no' one after the other. When the computers link up they each go 'who the hell is that?' one after the other. Each one of them wonders in turn 'where are you Doctor?'. We're not complaining, though, as it allowed for priceless moments such as Captain Jack hitting on Sarah Jane Smith, Rose's reaction to Martha and Donna and the tension between Sarah and the other two groups' use of guns.
That said, the plot whistled by so fast that you're not left with enough time to catch your breath to think about the poorer moments. The Shadow Proclamation is a let down. We still have no idea what Davros (yes he's back and he's looking fine) is up to or what happened to the freaky psychic, mumbling dalek. Captain Jack saluting the ex-Prime Minister's declaration that her life is not important is horribly overacted, but the daleks assertion that they know who she is proves to be a running joke taken to its ultimate. And then Russell T Davies detonates his A-bomb. As if leaving Sarah Jane Smith in direct line of fire from the daleks wasn't enough, the situation the Doctor is left in might be the most stunning surprise that the show has ever pulled.
There can be only one truth in all of this - next week's finale is now the most eagerly awaited episode since the very first one rebooted the series.
JOURNEY'S END transmitted July 5th 2008
The Doctor channels the power of his regeneration through the hand he lost in The Christmas Invasion, enabling himself to heal without changing. That's about the only thing that does go right as the Tardis captured and powered down by Davros. Martha prepares to destroy the Earth and Captain Jack and Sarah Jane have another plan of mass destruction, but that is nothing compared to what the daleks are planning. The Doctor is powerless to stop them, but they have not counted on the power of the Doctordonna.
At the end of The Stolen Earth the possibility of a totally unexpected regeneration left us stunned and screaming at the injustice of having to wait a week to find out what was going to happen. That matter is resolved in the first couple of minutes of the episode in a fairly expected turn of events, so it feels like a bit of a let down, but the story still has places to go. The revelation of the dalek plan, nothing trivial for them - just the entire destruction of all reality except for themselves, the arrival of more companions and the small matter of a world that is far from where it ought to be.
Considering the amount of plot that there is to be resolved in this season finale, it could be forgiven for being merely a mass of action, running, technobabble and explosions and, to be fair, it is that, but it is also so much more. The scenes in which Davros confronts the Doctor with what he considers to be the truth of the Time Lord's life and legacy is pure character and there are relationship resolutions to be sorted out as well. Unexpected relationship resolutions.
There are also some more classic comedy moments such as Daleks speaking German (totally logical, but bizarre and funny all the same) and Donna desperately trying to get Captain Jack to hug her. Best of all, however, is the turn of fate that means that the daleks are faced suddenly with three incarnations of the Doctor. One they might be able to handle, but three? They never stood a chance.
From here on in, the show is going to be run by Stephen Moffatt and the decks are cleared to allow him to do what he wants. The Doctor once again has the whole universe to travel in, but true to Russell T Davies form not everyone gets a happy ending. The Doctor is left alone and Donna, well the psychic dalek's promise that one companion will die has a surprisingly cruel outcome.
JOURNEY'S END is a fitting finale not only to the season, but to the show's resurrection under Russell T Davies. It's the end of an era to be sure, but what an era and what an ending.
THE NEXT DOCTOR transmitted December 25th 2008
The Doctor, travelling alone, arrives in Dickensian London at Christmastime. The pleasure, though, is short-lived as screams for his assistance brings him into contact with a new incarnation of the dreaded Cybermen and a man who claims to the Doctor, the one and only.
The first of the special episodes that will see out the reigns of David Tennant as the Time Lord and Russell T Davies as the writer-in-charge is a qualified success, but there is more success than qualification. It cannot, however be properly reviewed without huge spoilers, so if you haven't seen it yet stop reading now!
The story revolves around David Morrisey as a man claiming to be the Doctor, perhaps the next one. He acts a lot like the Doctor, he has an assistant and a Tardis and he is on the trail of the Cybermen. Morrisey's performance, however is far too broad to be convincing right from the start as anyone who saw the opening sequence first shown as part of the Children in Need telethon programme will be aware. He is a better actor than this, so the mystery of whether or not he is one of the Doctor's future selves is never a mystery, though the mystery of why and how he believes himself to be the Doctor takes a while to resolve and is centred around cylindrical devices belonging to the Cybermen.
Ah yes, the Cybermen. In the new version of DOCTOR WHO, the Cybermen have proven to be the least charismatic enemy of all. Robotic they might be, but dull needn't be part of the job description. Fortunately, they are fronted by Dervla Kerwan as the vengeful Mrs Hartigan. She plays her deranged suffragette at full tilt from the outset. Were she a man she'd be tying girls to the train tracks and twirling her moustache. She brings the personality that the cybermen lack and makes up for the terrible dog/cat/ape cybercreatures that never look like anything other than a man in a monkey suit with a cyber mask stuck on.
This being Russell T Davies, the plot barely sits still long enough for anyone to pick up on the inevitable holes. David Tennant's kinetic performance is able to keep up with it, but the quieter moments are swamped by the louder whole. The revelation of the truth about Morrissey's Doctor is the only exception to this, but the sudden appearance of a significant child is sadly fluffed.
There's plenty of crowd-pleasing gags for regular viewers (we especially liked the fob watch) and snappy dialogue that cast and audience lap up alike. The plot loses it all a bit towards the end as a giant cyberman rises from the river Thames to start destroying the city, but it's a Christmas special and so needs to be on a bigger scale.
The Next Doctor won't convert the doubters, but it's a rollicking adventure with lots of fun to be had and, at Christmas, what more could you ask?
PLANET OF THE DEAD transmitted April 11th 2009
The Doctor is trailling a small rip in the fabric of space when it turns around and swallows up the number 200 bus he is on. Lost on a far desert planet with a woman fresh from stealing precious artefacts, he has to find a way to get the bus back through the spatial portal when it's up to its axles in sand and out of petrol. At the same time, he has an crashed ship containing an insectoid crew and a swarm of metal aliens to deal with.
This Easter special proves to be less special than many of the episodes in the main seasons, but that's not to say that it isn't good. It has an exotic locale, fabulous metal flying monsters, dodgy fly-headed monsters and UNIT. What more could you ask for?
What you wouldn't ask for is Michelle (BIONIC WOMAN) Ryan as a high class lady with a penchant for stealing ancient artefacts for fun. Honestly, a couple of bra sizes is all that stops her being a Lara Croft clone. Except that Lara Croft is someone you might enjoy spending time and certainly far more emotionally convincing and animated than the character here. Lee Evans as a scatty, but brilliant UNIT scientist also stretches things a bit far in the over the top performance stakes. After all, this is a show that has the on-the-edge-of-mania David Tennant's Doctor. One like that is enough per episode.
The pace of the plotting is a little off as well as the distant storm is introduced early on and then just hangs around doing nothing whilst the Doctor wanders around the insectoids' ship for a while before getting back to the job in hand. The rest of the characters on the bus don't get much of a look in either, barely being sketched let alone fleshed out.
Still, there is some lovely dialogue, well-rendered alien monsters, some hints about the Doctor's end and it was easily the most fun thing on over the whole holiday.
WATERS OF MARS first transmitted November 15th 2009
The Doctor arrives at Bowie Base 1, the first colony station on Mars. There, he meets the woman who is destined to inspire the human race to reach out into the galaxy. Unfortunately, she manages this inspiration by dying, and today. Others of the crew are being turned into zombies that flood infected water everywhere and they want to be taken to Earth to infect those there. The Doctor would like to intervene, but this is one of those fixed moments in time when any intervention will either fail, or be disastrous to the established timeline.
And so we come to the penultimate story of David Tennant's reign as the last of the time lords. Admittedly, there are two more episodes to come at Christmas, but this story is the beginning of the end. It was billed as possibly the scariest DOCTOR WHO of all time, something that it quite definitely is not. Blink, Midnight and the double bill story of The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances were all far scarier, but the water-flooding zombies (initially a bit creepy, but ultimately a bit rubbish) are not the focus of this particular episode.
This is about the Doctor's emotional journey. Here, he is up against a fixed moment in time, a moment where he cannot intervene, where he must just watch (or in this case listen) and let people die. Tennant's wordless performance as the increasingly desperate actions of the doomed crew come through his radio is some of the best work that he has done on the show and shows the face of soul in torment.
And then, shockingly, he breaks. He sets himself up above the rules of time itself as some sort of Master of the Universe. When you have seen what he has seen, done what he has done it would it not be right to consider oneself a God? And would not the universe turn around and kick you in the pants for doing so? These are dark and deep themes, the sign of Russell T Davies (and fellow story writer Phil Ford) letting him go all out towards the end of his own reign as the creative director of the show. He really has managed to get under the skin of the Time Lord.
Speaking of Masters of the Universe, the 'coming soon' section sees the return of John Simm as the Master and promises all sorts of good things. We can't wait.
DREAMLAND first transmitted (TV) December 5th 2009
It's 1958 and the Doctor arrives close to Dreamland, the military base where Area 51 is said to exist. He meets Cassie and Jimmy at the local diner where a piece of space junk is proudly displayed. Only this isn't space junk, it's part of a weapon that could destroy all life on Earth and everyone seems to want to get their hands on it.
This is the second full length animation based on David Tennant's Doctor to be transmitted and the first to be rendered in CGI. Writer Phil Ford certainly has a background in this sort of stuff following his work on the excellent NEW CAPTAIN SCARLET series for Gerry Anderson. The animation work done there is of Pixar quality compared to that in Dreamland. The characters look OK, a bit stylised, but that's fine. What isn't fine is the way they move. This is cheap computer animation akin to low grade gaming graphics and it is a constant distraction from what is going on.
What is going on is a story that borrows heavily from the likes of THEM, ALIENS (James Cameron could easily sue over the appearance of the insect alien queen), STARSHIP TROOPERS, MEN IN BLACK, the crate scene from the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK - the list could go on. So many disparate elements makes for a lot of movement, but not a lot of sense, depth or any pause to use the mind at all. This is partially down, however, to the original structure of the piece which was in six much smaller sections.
The animation can't possibly keep up with David Tennant's enthusiasm and it feels like the actor has reigned himself in to match with the restrictions of the project. He is joined by Georgia (The Doctor's Daughter) Moffat as Cassie, a waitress who is completely without personality or accent, and David Warner as the head of an alien bug army.
Younger audiences will currently lap up anything that sports the DOCTOR WHO name, but even they might get restless halfway through DREAMLAND.
THE END OF TIME Part 1 first transmitted December 25th 2009
The Doctor follows the Ood that has a prophecy about his future. He takes part in a dreaming ceremony that shows the Master being reborn on Earth. He races there, but the deed has already been done. The Master is using his life energy to give him powers beyond the normal, but before the Doctor can help him, he is kidnapped by a rich man who wants to use a piece of stolen alien technology to make his daughter immortal and needs the Time Lord's expertise. The Master, not above eating any form of meat now, is eager to help, but only because he has a whole other plan for the technology.
And so the last adventure for David Tennant's Doctor and Russell T Davies as showrunner begins, the first of a two part story that brings back John Simms as the Master and, as the first part of many two part stories can be, it's actually a disappointing one. The story is more a sequence of events that happen than a tightly-knit narrative. The Doctor gets the warning and goes to Earth to find the Master already resurrected. The Master eats a few people. He then shoots the Doctor with lightning. The is then found by Donna's grandfather (Bernard Cribbins again) and confesses to his transgressions in the episodes only quiet (and best) moment. Then the kidnapped Master is tracked to the lair of the rich man and immediately seizes the opportunity to misuse the alien technology that is presented to him. Just a series of events, with the real plot (ie the Master's plan) coming in the last third of the episode.
Russell T Davies is nobody's fool, however, and knowing that this is the last outing for the Doctor's current incarnation he keeps confounding expectations by throwing in moments that might be the regeneration starter (blasted by lightning, shot etc). What he keeps up his sleeve however is even better. Firstly, for all the audience, there is the Master's plan, something that is as audacious as it is funny as it is utterly ridiculous.
Then there is the very last shot of the episode. Explaining the dreadful and portentous voiceover and why ex-Bond Timothy Dalton keeps popping up with nothing to do, it is a final revelation that will take the breath away of any true fan of the show. It's pure genius and, whilst this episode is a disappointment, it ensures that the big finale is (as though it was ever anything else) utterly unmissable.
THE END OF TIME Part 2 first transmitted January 1st 2010
The Master has turned all of the inhabitants of Earth into copies of himself, but their bodies are not enough to contain his energy, so when he discovers the drumbeat in his head is, in fact, a message from the Time Lords waiting to break back out of their time bubble and into the real world, he engineers the path for them to return. He soon learns, however, that he might be less than a match for the greatest Time Lord of them all, Rassilon, and that leaves only the Doctor to stand in the way of the Time Lords' final plan to destroy the whole of time.
This is David Tennant's last episode as the Time Lord and the whole episode is waiting for that great event, the regeneration into a new Doctor, hopefully one to be loved, but possibly one to bring down the show all over again. It's an excitement that means everything that goes before it is likely to be a bit of anticlimax.
There are a couple of things to get out of the way before that can happen, however. The first is the Master's ridiculous plan to make everyone into copies of him. Now that this has succeeded, there are lots of pictures of multiple John Simms, but nowhere really for the plot to go. And why is that, after at least a day, some of the 'Master race' are still dressed as women? All of this is silly, but not more silly than the Time Lord plot. It is said that nothing can get in or out of the time locked bubble in which they are stranded except that which already exists, such as the drumbeat in the Master's head. How then is Rassilon able to send a diamond to Earth by simply popping it into a hologram? And have all the Time Lords gone bonkers now that they want to destroy the whole of time itself? It's hard enough to swallow that from daleks, but supposedly thinking Time Lords? Nonsense. Even with ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton doing his best shakespearean overacting, this makes no sense at all.
And then we get to the goodbyes. This episode of DOCTOR WHO has more farewells than LORD OF THE RINGS:THE RETURN OF THE KING. In that time he visits Martha, Mickey, Sarah Jane, Donna and, finally, Rose Tyler. Anyone who's been following the Doctor since his return (or even longer) won't be able to get past all of these without sobbing into the sofa cushions at some point. It's a wallow in nostalgia and all the better for it.
The goodbyes allow David Tennant a chance to do some quieter, more subtle acting than the pantomime runaround before it. There are moments in the main plot that are ripped off from STAR WARS so blatantly that George Lucas must be suing even as we type, lots of running, lots of blowing systems up to only repair them a few minutes later and a leap into the air that beggars belief.
But then there's the death scene, predictable in its coming about, but well played for all that as the Doctor is forced into an action he doesn't want to take. There's Bernard Cribbins as Donna's grandad who we just have to see again. And there are all those goodbyes.
The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor and David Tennant...we will remember you.