If you haven't seen the finale of this year's season of Doctor Who, look away now. Go and make some tea or groom the parrot or something. Details will be discussed and spoilers will occur.
So, another season passes us by and, on the whole, it wasn't too painful. Back in February I expressed my concerns about the whole Catherine Tate issue. My problem was (and is) that I didn't like the Donna Noble character in The Runaway Bride. And nor did anyone I know. I thought she was a ghastly woman who looked and sounded like horrid Lauren the schoolgirl character from The Catherine Tate Show but a bit older. I was genuinely concerned that the BBC had made a terrible mistake - that it was Bonnie Langford all over again.
Thirteen episodes later, I can't say that I've completely changed my opinion. But I'll admit that I've mellowed a little as Donna did have some good dialogue at times and, just occasionally, all that bolshiness and attitude moved aside and we saw a warmer, more fragile human being. But I wasn't sad to see her go, I'm afraid. Mind you, she could come back. Every other bugger did this season, didn't they?
Before I tear into the series proper, I must first mention Timecrash and the Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. Timecrash was wonderful. Shown as part of the BBC's Children in Need night, it saw Doctor David Tennant meeting Doctor Peter Davison in a witty, clever and very tight script by Steven Moffat. I thought Davison looked pretty good, considering it's more than 20 years since he last wore the celery. There were some lovely moments, like when Tennant explained that he only wore glasses to look smarter because his Davison regeneration had. And the jokes about Davison's hair loss ('So that's why you wore the hat'). Great stuff. I hope you got to see it. In sharp contrast, the curiously misnamed Voyage of the Damned was clumsy, cliched and horrible. I will never forgive the BBC for the scene where the Doctor steers the ludicrous Titanic spacecraft over the be-curlered head of Queen Liz. The special did have the benefit of Kylie but even that couldn't lift the show above mediocre. Maybe if she'd worn those shorts ...
Episode 1 - Partners in Crime - In which the Doctor and Donna are reunited whilst investigating a company that has invented the ultimate weight loss programme; your fat turns into a cuddly little monster and walks away. A nice idea bordering on silliness and a clever exploration of our obsession with weight loss. If someone did offer us a surefire system, would we take it, despite the fact it was untested and secretive? A nicely paced and directed episode. Just one criticism ... why call the aliens (and the company) Adipose when it's such a well-known English word for fat? That said to me that the writer assumed we're all thick and wouldn't know. Shame on you Russell T.
Episode 2 - Fires of Pompeii - A good script from James Moran but a terrible, terrible monster. Dreadful CGI. Donna's best episode without a shadow of a doubt. In forcing the Doctor to rescue the doomed family, Ms Tate flexed some powerful acting muscles and made a great job of it. Some fine performances all round in fact. Again though ... what's with the crappy and obvious alien names? Pyrovillia? Please ...
Episode 4 - The Sontaran Strategem - Great to have the little guys back. Excellent prosthetics (so much better than CGI) but why did they all look different if they're a clone race? The whole Rattigan Academy for misanthropic genius nerds seemed entirely surplus to requirements. As if the technically advance Sontarans needed human help ... Moderately good fun and nice to see the return of Martha.
Episode 5 - The Poison Sky - More Sontaran shenanigans. Not too shabby. Reminded me of some of the older classic Doctor Whos from the 1970s. Based on a silly premise yet again. If the Potato Heads are warriors who live for glory and warfare, why poison the 'pathetic humans with their puny weapons'? Why talk of honour when they're gassing women and children? Surely they'd have preferred a good scrap? Sontar-ha! Sontar-ha!
Episode 6 - The Doctor's Daughter - A very nice idea indeed. A war being fought by generation after generation but over a period of just a few weeks. Nice one Stephen Greenhorn. And the fishy beasties were an interesting design. I had high hopes that this episode might have explained the Doctor's relationship with Susan - his 'Granddaughter' from the very earliest episodes of Who. Instead, we got the lovely Jenny, complete with full makeup, clothes and hairdo, being generated from the Doctor's DNA. Undoubtedly a character that will return. Or who will get her own series.
Episode 7 - The Unicorn and the Wasp - Words cannot describe how awful that giant wasp was. And what is it with this series and the complete lack of inventive names? Vespiform? Please ... It was a dodgy script full of historical inaccuracies and a dreadful alien. Rescued only by David Tennant's performance during the poisoning scene, this was easily the series' worst episode. Saying that, it was still better than any episode of The Bionic Woman.
Episode 8 - Silence in the Library - From the ridiculous to the sublime. Wow. Loved the enigmatic Dr Song and the hint of a future story there. Great script, excellent direction, brilliant acting. Proof if proof were needed that you don't need to spend millions on CGI or men in rubber suits to get us all hiding behind the sofa. More, more, more.
In fact, that's my main criticism of the series - the lack of originality and invention. Doctor Who doesn't have the budget to compete with Hollywood. It never did. Therefore, it has to rely upon strong scripts and outstanding original ideas. At the moment, Steven Moffat's scripts are way ahead of the pack. Just look at Blink last season. Hardly any expensive CGI, virtually no specialist props needed, and yet the best episode of the season by far. And he did the same this year with his two-parter. There was definite promise from newcomer Mr Greenhorn. And Russell T Davies put in a good show as usual, especially with Turn Left.
I understand that we won't be seeing a whole new series next year, just four feature length movies. So let's hope that only the cream of new British writing, directing, production and design makes it to broadcast. Overall grade for this season?
6/10. Must try harder
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