Something to chew on”¦ but not as much as it wants.
This is the first episode of series 4 I’ve had some serious doubts about. After last week’s cliffhanger of sorts, I felt sure that this week would prove to be a real fantastic romp of an episode.
But it’s hampered by an extremely slow start, an initially confusing design for an alien creature and the very title of the episode itself, is never really encapsulated upon to my tastes.
In nuWho, the Doctor is a solitary figure. He’s absolutely alone in the sense that he knows that he is the Last of his kind. So whenever he gets a whisper of possibility that their might be others’ of his species’ still kicking about, he gets very, very scared. And very protective.
But we’ve seen this before in the Master. Despite everything the Master did in the last three episodes of Series 3, the Doctor still found it within himself to grieve, to suffer, to cry, at his eventual death.
Or “˜death’. But that’s another story. On another forum.
Review. So if you’re going to tap into that idea of the Doctor not really being alone, you’d best do something damn different with it.
And for me, the story just never really pulled itself together.
There were two different stories being told here; one about finding a lost child, and the other about how war is very very bad and I don’t understand why you had to have both in the same episode. This could so easily have been a brilliant, tightly focused episode about the Doctor’s psyche, his legend.
You’ve got Martha and Donna in the TARDIS with him when it suddenly careens off from Earth on its own apparent accord. They’re shot through time and space to who knows where, and when they get there they are quickly captured, scanned, and in the Doctor’s situation, his genetic information is extracted and used to create a clone of sorts ““ a daughter.
Except why did the TARDIS take us here? We’re told at the very end of the episode, the TARDIS sensed the existence of Jenny, the Doctor’s Daughter, and it brought them to her, just a little bit before her creation, which in turn meant her creation was ensured, and thus ensuring the paradox. Wouldn’t it just have been more simple to say that some scientists on a medical planet had somehow got a hold of the legendary Timelord’s DNA (he does get around. And not like that), used it to create an imperfect clone, and the TARDIS brings the gang to her, and you then end up with Doc and co. trying to get her away from her creators but keeping the focus very much on their developing relationship and Martha and Donna’s attempts to help their friend?
Ok. Maybe it wouldn’t have been simpler. But I think it would have made for a better focus. Instead the story we have here tries to show so many sides. You’ve got the human side of the war on this planet, the Hath side of the war, the Doctor and Jenny’s burgeoning relationship, and then Martha’s side journey.
There’s just so much going on and you’re pushed from one strand to another, and although it’s all going the same way, it isn’t a comfortable fit.
Wow that was seriously downtrodden. So let me stop there for a minute and reassure that this episode sill had good merits. There are some brilliant moments which outshone the whole.
The delivery of Jenny’s first line for example, “Hi Dad,” whilst cocking a gun and giving us a butter wouldn’t melt smile, is pure joy. In fact, every time Georgia Moffett, a real life Doctor’s daughter as the progeny of the Fifth Doc, Peter Davison, appears on screen, she sparkles. And I honestly think it’s a wasted opportunity they aren’t taking her onboard the TARDIS for a good run. She’d make a brilliant companion, a good foil for the Doctor and show us another side to his character. The way things could be”¦
Then of course there is the interplay between Perfect Ten and Noble Donna ““ its effortless here. Tate and Tennant bounce off of each other perfectly and it’s so much easier to buy into their camaraderie at this point than Rose or Martha’s relationships with the Doc. She’s a very strong, self assured, independent woman who isn’t afraid to stick it to the man, in this story General Cobb, when she needs to. I also like the nicknames she throws around, lobbing in brief moments of popular culture by calling Jenny “˜G.I Jane’ and a young soldier Rambo. As a big fan of Farscape, I always got a kick out of John Crichton insulting, mocking or just generally picking on alien characters by way of similar remarks”¦
Crucially though, when Jenny, Doctor and Donna are all locked in a cell together, it’s Donna that convinces the Doctor to accept and comprehend that this genetic anomaly, construct, clone or whatever you want to call it, is truly a daughter he can let into his heart. She asks for his stethoscope, and promptly uses it to check for two hearts. She’s a Timelord.
Or at least close enough.
And then there are the moments that develop between Jenny and Doctor. He starts to let her in. You can’t tell me that after watching a brief scene between Doc and Donna, as he explains that he’s not sure he could cope with looking at Jenny all the time, reminding him of everything that he lost, you didn’t then enjoy it when they are joking together about the need to run. After all, whenever you’re with the Doctor, you always need to run!
I do feel sorry for Freema Agyeman. I liked Martha in Series 3. A good change from Rose. And here she’s the same character except more independent. But her role in this episode is criminally under utilised. She’s firstly kidnapped by the Hath and then left to talk to the aliens who only speak through bubbled, muffled sounds that we don’t understand. That’s the initially confusing alien design I mentioned earlier. It’s fine when you’re trying to present the alien race as intimidating, inhuman etc. But when you’re watching Martha stand as the only character speaking English as other beings around her bubble and muffle”¦ it just didn’t work for me. And when halfway through the episode and Martha is forced to watch as one of the creatures sacrifices itself to save her”¦ it’s not as heart affecting as the episode seems to think it is.
Credit due, Freema does give it her all. I just think it’s an awful waste of her character. She has stronger ties to the Doctor’s isolation than Donna after all. She watched him grieve for the Master, watched his rage at the Daleks continued survival despite all odds, his disbelief at the Face of Boe’s pronouncement that he was “˜”¦not alone”¦” And she’s a qualified doctor in her own right. She could have been the support he needed.
I know though. The focus isn’t on Martha and the Doctor’s relationship this time; it’s about him and Donna. Each series is really about the journey of the companion. It has to be Donna who helps him work through it.
So it’s not really surprising that near the end, things take a tragic turn as Jenny is shot and lies dying. Perfect Ten holds her in his arms, and I half expected another gut wrenching cry of agony from Tennant, matching his feelings from the death of the Master. But it’s dealt more subtly. He sits. Waiting. Hoping she will regenerate. But Martha shakes her head. She wasn’t a full Timelord. Not enough of one. But the Doctor disagrees. She was too much of a Timelord. That was the problem for him. Jenny was a soldier, born quickly into the world, grown for one purpose. But through knowing the Doctor, she accepted the possibility of choice.
So Jenny slips away. And the Doctor, rather uncharacteristically, picks up the gun that killed her, and holds it to the gunman’s head. For a moment you wonder if you’re watching the right show, but he quickly spins the gun around in his hand and says one, simple, brilliant, character truth:
“I would never.”
And he encourages the people, human and Hath alike, to build a society that thrives on that belief. That no man would ever.
End of the episode now and the Doctor takes Martha home. This is where she wants to be. And the episode puts a very firm stance on this; she doesn’t want to travel with him anymore and she tells Donna it will be the same for her one day to. It’s bittersweet to watch Donna completely deny that possibility ““ she will travel with the Doctor for forever. And you really believe her. Just like we believed Martha. Like we believed Rose.
What’s going to tear her and Perfect Ten apart?
The episode ends oddly though, because then we return to the planet Messaline where this started, and we see Jenny’s body come back to life. It’s not regeneration though because it’s the same actress. She just comes back to life. And it’s not made clear whether it’s a half regeneration or something to do with a terraforming device the Doctor used to help end the war”¦ But the episode ends optimistically for her as she steals a ship and explains how she plans to use it to travel the universe, save worlds, fight the good fight”¦ and always run.
I really hope we’ll see her character again.
So on the whole, a decidedly mixed bag. We were being given two different stories here, one between a father and daughter, and another about war. An eternal war. A ageless war which in lends itself to some interesting ideas. I do like that the war has actually only been fought for 7 days, but since everyone on that planet is grown from genetic material and instantly comes out as an adult, you go through generations quite quickly.
I’m not sure the idea would stand up to intense scrutiny, but then maybe that’s more the point, and more about my own arguments about this show. I watch it for fun. If it goes down the serious route I suggested about an intense story about the Doctor’s isolation and need for companionship, it’s not promising a fun premise. But then neither does the eternal war angle.
These were just two different stories that should not have been blended together. They should have told one or the other.
So, I’m going to give this one”¦ 2 out of control TARDIS for story, but I’m giving it an extra 0.5 just for some really good moments that outshine the whole packaging.
Feel free to disagree.