I missed the Day of the Doctor due to the Just Because book launch. As such I am not watching it until I have the Matt Smith episodes watched.
The word count on these are getting out of control, so I’m splitting them up into three parts: the first half of the season, the second half, and the five specials which ran from Christmas 2008 to January 2010. Now, to channel River Song, tap my TARDIS-blue notebook and say, ‘Spoilers…’
By the end of Series Four of the New Who, I had come to the conclusion I was never letting any future kids of mine watch this show without knowing the name of a good child psychologist. For this season- and its specials- feature, deep breath, suicide, murder, genocide, slavery, lobotomy, exhaust poisoning, some serious psychological horror, nuclear annihilation, labour camps, and our beloved hero having a mental breakdown and using his powers in ways he really shouldn’t.
Anyway, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The previous season ended with the Titanic crashing into the TARDIS along with the Tenth Doctor’s trademark “What? WHAT? What.” Of course, it isn’t the actual Titanic (that would be silly) but rather a futuristic, cruise-spaceship replica of Earth’s most famous ship. “Did they tell you why it was famous?” the Doctor deadpans.
On board he meets a cute little maid (played by the cute little Kylie Minogue). They flirt, visit earth, battle evil robot angels. Y’know the usual.
The episode ends with the Doctor steering Titanic within centimetres of Buckingham Palace and the Queen waving him off with a thank you. She must have forgiven him for making her great-great-grandmother a bit werewolf-y. However, the cheese is dissipated with Astrid’s ultimate bittersweet fate- scattered across the stars for all eternity. There’s a lot of death in this Christmas special. Unlike the real Titanic, the only survivors of the disaster are exclusively male; the caddish Rickston Slade, the aspiring Earthologist Mr Copper, Midshipman Alonso Frame and the Doctor.
Astrid’s death leaves the Doctor, once again, companion-less. Until, out of all the girls in London, he bumps into Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) again.
Both he and Donna are separately investigating Adipose Industries, a company which is revolutionising the diet industry by selling a diet pill that actually works. People take it, go to sleep, and wake up a kilo lighter. But where does the fat go?
It goes into tiny, jelly-like alien babies, which, despite being made of human fat, are adorable. Turns out Adipose Industries is the front for Mrs Foster, the Supernanny-like alien who intends on farming a new race out of our very overweight planet.
It’s a wonderful re-introduction to Donna, who, in the Doctor’s absence, has matured. I loved Donna as a companion. She doesn’t have the booksmarts of Martha or Rose’s emotional intuition, but she has plenty of life experience. Due to her career as a permanent temp, she has also acquired plenty of odd talents, such as an innate understanding of office records and library reference systems. She also has a strong moral compass and a fierce sense of justice, something it becomes ever apparent that the Doctor really needs.
Best of all, there’s zero romantic tension between them. The Doctor offers her a place in the TARDIS after watching the Adipose babies float off, but following the Rose and Martha hoo-ha, he just needs a friend. Donna reassures him he’s not her type (“you’re just a long streak of nothing… alien nothing!”). After a minor misunderstanding (“You’re not mating with me, sunshine!”) they fly off to ancient Pompeii.
‘The Fires of Pompeii’ was a troubled production in Italy, the first time the revived series has been shot outside of Britain, and everything that could go wrong, went wrong. It shows in the final product, which is a rather lacklustre affair. It’s notable for the appearance of the future 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, as a Roman merchant. There’s also the wonderful moment where a priestess is about the plunge the knife into Donna, declaiming, “This prattling voice will cease forever!” The Doctor saunters in and quips, “Oh, that’ll be the day.”
Far better is ‘The Planet of the Ood’, where the Doctor is reunited with the tentacle-faced servant race, the Ood. Poor David Tennant faces the greatest assault on his English accent since the Judoon platoon upon the moon. As you might remember, the Ood are a suggestible lot, immediately turning against their masters in ‘The Impossible Planet‘ because the Beast hijacked their telepathic field. However, they are still being used as slaves in the 42nd century. Donna and the Doctor wonder why anyone would settle for a life of servitude and humiliation, but then they discover the horrible truth; the Ood are lobotomised. With the help of Ood Sigma, the PA of the nasty Mr Halpen, the Doctor liberates them. For his trouble they warn him that his song is ending soon. Aw man, does it have to?
Back into the TARDIS, and soon the Doctor gets a phone call. It’s Martha, now with UNIT, and the earth is in trouble. Fifty-two people across the globe have died in mysterious car accidents, and the common denominator is the emissions purifying system, ATMOS.
ATMOS was developed by an irksome Mark Zuckerberg wannabe named Rattigan. Turns out he’s got some strange backers; the Sontarans, the classic warmongering villains. A rollicking pair of episodes ensue, which will have you giving your car the side-eye for week or two.
‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ is a tightly plotted, involving episode which introduces Jenny, the Doctor’s daughter. But it’s not like you think… This episode is notable too, because Georgia Moffett, who played Jenny, is now David Tennant’s real-life wife. Altogether now… aww!
Next comes ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp’. It’s the 1920s, and Donna and the Doctor attend a dinner party where the illustrious Agatha Christie is a guest. Unsurprisingly, there’s a murder. In fact, there’s a couple of murders, and every guest has a secret. It’s a highly enjoyable and riotously funny episode, affectionately parodying many elements of Christie’s stories and the numerous TV and film adaptations of her work. The harp-accompanied flashbacks are a particular highlight.
It’s a season of two halves (Jeff) and the second half is immeasurably darker than the first. Allons-y, I suppose…