The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

Well, there is certainly a lot to process here, having experienced this rather epic tale for the first time since broadcast. And I haven’t had to tag this many returning characters since The Five Doctors (or possibly Dimensions In Time). There are more notes to make than I have time; brace yourself for a fuckload of small to medium sized bullet points.

* This is essentially the entire four years of the revival thus far in one go. It’s a pleasantly nostalgic greatest hits package, celebrating a truly brilliant period in the show’s history, but the joy is slightly tempered by the knowledge that they’re going to do all this again in five episodes’ time.

* Well, Torchwood are less sweary and sex-obsessed than usual. They seem to be over Owen and Tosh already, which should save some time come Series 3. Over on the other spin-off, poor old Maria and Clyde weren’t invited to the party, but at least Mr Smith is better now. The last time we saw him, he was intent on killing Sarah Jane and destroying the world, but this was probably not the occasion to dwell on that.

* The obligatory RTD Episode 12 celebrity cameos: Richard Dawkins! Why is he there doing spacey sciencey stuff? He’s a biologist; it should have been Brian Cox or suchlike, but then Brian Cox isn’t married to an ex-companion. Also, Paul O’Grady! And his dog! Ianto’s a big fan, even if the rest of us aren’t.

* Usually when the human race is threatened by aliens, they all band together and look after each other. This time, they react by setting fire to shit and looting, to the extent that nobody notices Rose running round with a big space gun, at least not until she starts threatening people with it.

* Sarah Jane’s reaction to the Daleks nearly got me going. All four former companions were scared, but it was especially emotional when it was Sarah Jane, hearing those voices again after so many years. The sheer terror they inspire in these characters really sells them as a threat. It’s interesting that these days, the villains are shown to react like that upon realising they’re up against The Doctor.

* It’s a shame that The Doctor spends so long poncing around with the Shadow Proclamation while the exciting Dalek stuff happens without him. While he’s there, he says “someone tried to move the Earth before” – I assume he’s talking about Dalek Invasion of Earth, but does the fact that he said “someone” mean that they’ve retroactively decided that Davros was behind that? If so, excellent.

* Speaking of whom, Davros is utterly excellent. He’s got a metal hand! Within moments, he’s shown admonishing a Dalek for sounding proud, keeping their emotions in check. Considering how much they veered from their fundamental principles in their last appearance, it’s a good statement of intent now that their dad’s back.

* The spooky woman in the Shadow Proclamation who tells Donna that she’s “sorry for the loss that’s yet to come” – that’s a dickish thing to do. If you’re a soothsayer and you can see that something terrible is about to happen to someone, either come out with it so that they can prepare, or just say nothing. Don’t vaguely allude to it and then fuck off.

* So, bees are aliens, and they abandoned the planet when they sensed its impending destruction? The last ever bee message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to ingest nectar, process it and store the resultant substance in a honeycomb, but in fact the message was this: “So long and thanks for all the pollen”.

* I have SO MUCH TO SAY on the big Harriet Jones conference call. Highlights include:

  • Cribbins saying that webcams are “naughty”.
  • Sarah Jane telling Torchwood off for using guns, as it’s not suitable for Luke.
  • Martha’s mum getting a cameo for not particular reason, although it’s nice for her to get some closure on her abandonment issues from the fact that Martha subconsciously chose to teleport home.
  • The Mr Copper Foundation? Not sure he quite warranted a mention, but then everyone else from the last four years seems to be getting one.
  • Rose being jealous of Martha, in a neat role reversal.
  • While everyone’s firing up their supercomputers and their secret alien technology, Martha’s big contribution to the effort is forwarding on a phone number.

Wasn’t as keen on Harriet attempting to justify her Belgrano move on the basis that this latest alien invasion proves that you need to kill all aliens. However, her ultimate sacrifice does provide redemption her character deserved.

* When The Doctor joins the party, he says that “everybody except Rose” is there. Everybody? Has he forgotten the dozens of companions he had when his adventures were 4:3? Justice for Dodo.

* Then Jack fucks off to find the Doctor, abandoning Torchwood and leaving Gwen and Ianto to the Daleks, and then comes the big reunion. Despite not having been on board with the returned Rose thus far, it put a big grin on my face and nearly a tear to my eye. How perfectly tragic would have been if the Doctor actually regenerated at this point, so that she got so close but still never touched her Doctor again. The giant fuck-off “TO BE CONTINUED” that followed is a bit stupid, but kind of justified – it really is one of the greatest cliffhangers of all time.

* Sadly, the resolution to said cliffhanger is all very convenient, with each individual threat neutralised by a hitherto unmentioned safety net: Mickey and Jackie turning up (sans Pete, sadly), Torchwood’s magic bubble and The Doctor’s sneaky hand job. It’s not deus ex machina – very few people who use that term as criticism seem to know what it means – it’s just a bit of a shame. They got away with quick and easy cliffhanger resolutions loads in the old days, but that’s because there were at least three of them per story – with this one, the resolution would ideally have matched the epic nature of the set-up.

* A few random notes from the opening stages of Journey’s End: DALEKS SPEAKING GERMAN! It seems so right, for reasons obvious to anyone who’s watched Genesis. / The Doctor is not often this scared. This is good. / When Jack’s body got incinerated, how come his clothes didn’t?

* All these years later, I’m still not sure what I think about the Meta-Crisis Doctor. I mean, it’s a complete waste of a regeneration, considering he thinks it’s his penultimate one, but it’s kind of cool to have a double dose of TV’s greatest hero. That is until he starts talking like Donna. The only thing more annoying than Catherine Tate doing comedy is David Tennant impersonating Catherine Tate doing comedy.

* Davros wants to destroy reality itself. This is certainly in keeping with the core principle that every non-Dalek life-form must be destroyed, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory. Destroying all matter as well as all life would make them supreme masters of absolutely nothing.

* Other than that, absolutely everything Davros-related is amazing. The moment where he recognises Sarah Jane is even better than when she recognised him. On an intellectual level, I think Davros betters The Doctor for the first time; the argument that his companions turn into weapons is not something I would have necessarily agreed with, but Davros convinced me. His final victory indeed. The montage of all the people who have died in The Doctor’s name was RTD going all JNT on our ass.

* It’s the perfect build up to a big climax, with all the ex-companions’ individual plans failing one by one, and the TARDIS rising from the ashes. But then the day is saved by Donna suddenly becoming magic. I know I didn’t complain when it was a magic version of Rose fixing everything, but this is why this blog is a document of an experience, rather than a series of objective reviews – it may not be fair, but it’s how I reacted. I just don’t like Donna very much. And the only thing more annoying that David Tennant doing smug is Catherine Tate impersonating David Tennant doing smug.

* Which is a bugger, because everything else is very good indeed: Sarah and Rose exchanging pleasantries while shoving a malfunctioning Dalek around; Captain Jack’s cheery suggestion of a multi-Doctor orgy; Dalek Caan turning out to be a traitor. I actually shouted “YES!” when K-9 popped up to say hello.

*The Meta-Crisis Doctor is faced with the old do-I-have-the-right dilemma, but he presses the button without thinking twice. That’s not The Doctor. The proper Doctor offers to save Davros, and he’s right to later chastise Pretend Doctor for committing genocide. In his defence, he was forged in battle, like The War Doctor before him. Perhaps the process extrapolated and personified all the worst, most dangerous aspects of The Doctor, like the triplicator in Red Dwarf, or Richard Herring playing himself at snooker.

* Can you imagine the ecological damage that’s done by dragging the Earth from one end of the universe to the other? Nevertheless, it’s a joyous scene to end the episode… except that there’s still ten or fifteen minutes to go. We then get a long sequence of long goodbyes. Why exactly does he drop off Sarah Jane, Jack and Martha all in the same park? Ealing is nowhere near Cardiff.

* I’ve been trying to figure out whether Rose’s return diminishes the impact of her initial departure. I don’t think it does – I still cried like a baby when I rewatched it recently. It’s like how people complain that a cover version “ruins” a song, or a remake “destroys” a movie – no it doesn’t, because the original still exists. However, the beautiful tragedy of these two soulmates being forever separated is certainly altered by Rose being given a Doctor-shaped sex doll. It’s just all a little grubby – he’s not The Doctor, not the same man she fell in love with, but she’s happy to make do with a lookalike, even though he’s out there continuing his life without her? Nah. At the very least, we should have got to finally hear him – either of him – say “I love you” to Rose. That would have at least provided some level of genuine closure for the audience, if not the characters.

* Sadly, if predictably, the “a companion will die” prophecy turns out to be bullshit, as it was before and has been since. The memory wipe isn’t even a particularly stable metaphor for death – it’s actually saving her life. I found the sight of The Doctor enacting the procedure without her consent, while she’s pleading with him not to, a little disturbing. I mean, he’s doing the right thing, but Moff dealt with this issue a lot better with Clara.

* But at least this deed is a promise that Donna will never come back. Wilfred is damn right when he says “she was better with you” – he must be gutted to have to live with the old Runaway Bride Donna again. The permanently miserable Sylvia can do one and all, but Cribbins is just the best. Despite the high levels of emotion throughout, his goodbye to The Doctor was the only moment that made me shed a tear. Seriously, he’s one of the best actors the show’s ever had. Ever.

* Favourite Dalek lines: “The abomination is insane.” / “The males, the females, the descendants.” / “My vision is NOT impaired.” / “Exterminate Torchwood.”

So, what to make of all this, after comfortably the longest post in the history of this blog? Well, The Stolen Earth is one of the best episodes ever, but Journey’s End not so much. As has been the case for much of Series 4, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to look past the faults now that so much time has passed – it’s not the “current” show any more, it’s just one brief chapter in a long history. Rather than having to worry about what state the show is in, or which direction it’s heading, I can just judge it on its sheer entertainment value. On that level: massive, massive win.

RATING: 9

And so I come to the end of a series that I thought I hated, but then when you look at the scores…

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 7.5

  • Seasons/Series watched: 30 of 35.58
  • Stories watched: 198 of 269.67
  • Individual episodes watched: 751 of 834

…the average rating is actually higher than Series 2 (although admittedly, Fear Her is a massive statistical anomaly). I dunno. I still dislike Donna, and I’m definitely starting to go off Tennant by this point, but again, with so much water under bridge, I can now look past those annoyances and see what else each episode has to offer. I guess the conclusion is that there’s very little Doctor Who that’s without a significant amount of merit, but sometimes it’s just a case of taking a few steps back before you can see it.

And now, a short break for a wedding, to coincide with the first of revived Doctor Who‘s short breaks. Join me again in a few days to begin another voyage through a whole bunch of spin-offs and specials.

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Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords

* Yes, I am conflicted about whether this is a three-parter or a single episode followed by a two-parter, but the consensus seems to be the former, which I think is just about right. It’s true that Utopia feels separate from the other two, but it’s got a cliffhanger that Sound of Drums resolves.

* Utopia remains one of my fondest memories of a communal viewing experience. There were a bunch of us watching together, and we were all pretty sure that The Master would be turning up towards to the end, but we certainly didn’t know how it would happen. We were expecting an inconsequential little story about future humans being chased by savages, but then as the focus shifted to Professor Yana, we realised what was going on. Each little clue or reveal was greeted with elation, as if they were goals in a football match. One of my friends summarised the evening perfectly as “we have been sold a dummy, and I’m entirely happy with the price negotiated”.

* Ah, so there’s the Captain Jack that I remember from Doctor Who! Where was he during that interminable fortnight? He’s so much fun here, especially in Utopia before everything gets quite so heavy, and it’s exactly what Torchwood was missing – the guy with the lust for life, who will happily flirt with man, woman or insectoid, no matter how much danger he’s in. The conversation between him and The Doctor while he’s in the radiation-filled room is great, and it should give him closure on a few things, thus making him less of a twat when he gets back to Torchwood for Series 2. Will it, though? Will it bollocks.

* Professor Yana is just adorable. Doctor Who is at its best when it’s making highly respected Shakespearean actors play either bumbling old scholars, or evil supervillains. Jacobi gets to do both, and the episode belongs to him, and Yana’s slow realisation of who he truly is. I only wish there was more time for the Jacobi Master, as those couple of minutes are the most dark and sinister incarnation that there’s ever been. I loved Chantho too, but I was almost egging The Master on to prove himself by killing her.

* Simm’s Master, on the other hand, I have slightly more complicated feelings about. I’ve said before that The Master’s personality is always a reflection of whichever Doctor he’s facing, so it’s only right that Tennant’s nemesis should be young, energetic and extreme. But I think the balance is a little bit off, and I don’t think he has enough sensible moments to counteract the – admittedly highly entertaining – silly stuff. I don’t remember having an issue with it at the time, but now that I’ve seen the every apperance of The Master’s every incarnation, this one doesn’t stack up quite as well.

* The customary celebrity cameos in a finale are fulfilled by Sharon Osbourne, McFly and Ann Widdecombe, thus ensuring some competition for The Master as the most evil entity in the episode. This was before she became a comedy figure on Strictly, so she was just that funny old Tory MP who actively fought against LGBT rights, denied climate change and supported the reintroduction of the death penalty. A strange choice.

* Worldwide mind control or no worldwide mind control, the rise of Harold Saxon is just so unrealistic. As if any civilised country would voluntarily elect as their leader an evil, bigoted psychopath, with no tangible policies, and so many holes in his story, just on the basis of unsubstantiated soundbites and spurious charm? I am saying that The Master is like Donald Trump. Do you see?

* One more thing on The Master. This is the first time, as far as I recall, where he’s actually got what he wanted. He set out to become the Prime Minister and he did, then he wanted to take over the world and he did, and then he wanted to subjugate The Doctor and he did. I’ve always wondered what the next stage would be when a supervillain wins, and the answer is apparently to hang around on a flying aircraft carrier for a year, singing along to the Scissor Sisters and having a big old laugh. Fair enough.

* I find Lucy Saxon to be a fascinating character. The Master has had companions of sorts before at times, but they’ve usually either been there under duress or under his control. Lucy seems to be fully aware that he’s evil, but willingly making the decision to side with him. I love the little moment where she’s tentatively dancing along to Voodoo Child while everything goes mental – she seems to be getting a kick out of the chaos. But then a year later, we see her with a black eye, and it’s never commented on. It’s incredibly effective – an interjection of real life domestic horror, which resonates far more as an illustration of The Master’s character than an abstract off-screen decimation.

* Sadly, the three-parter fumbles the ending a little bit, with the last episode suffering by The Doctor’s absence. The Old Man Doctor is one thing – it’s a great effect and it’s certainly a shocking sight – but it does slightly hamper his ability to affect the story. Although it’s a damn sight better than House Elf Doctor, who’s so far removed from the character we know and love that I find it impossible to get on board with the idea that they are one and the same. Annoyingly, The Master sets it up as a suspension of The Doctor’s past regenerations, with the promise of us seeing all 900 years of his life at once. The possibilities that you infer from that are all way better than what we got.

* I did enjoy Martha’s stuff of travelling around the world. I’d forgotten about the professor turning out to be a rat, but it’s a miracle I’d forgotten anything with all those flashbacks. They’re a useful device when you’re referencing things from past episodes, but it gets a bit ridiculous when you’re flashing back to things that happened five minutes ago.

* It was good that the magic gun turned out to be a McGuffin, and the idea that The Doctor would be able to use The Master’s Archangel network against him is sound. But in practice, the big floating Jesus Doctor is not good. The Doctor is basically resurrected by the power of prayer, then he briefly becomes magic. Nah, not for me. Then there’s the old Superman ending, where time is reversed so that hardly any bad things happened – although the President of the United States did get murdered on British soil. It’s obviously necessary for future series that the events of these episodes are undone, but it can’t help but feel like a bit of a cheat.

* However, beyond the plot, each of the characters got a much more satisfying ending. The Master’s death was exactly the kind of emotional Doctor and Master scene that the episode needed throughout. Despite his previous imperative for self-preservation at all costs, I totally buy him refusing to regenerate just out of spite for The Doctor, even without the possibility that the whole thing was an elaborate ring-based escape plan.

* Meanwhile, Jack is sent back to his role as Chief Grumpy Bastard and Rooftop Stander of Torchwood Cardiff, via some Face of Boe based lols. My theory is that RTD meant it when they filmed it, then changed his mind later on, when he was feeling less giddy, and backtracked. I can see it. They kind of look like each other.

* And then, of course, it’s goodbye to Martha. I like her far more than most fans do. Her unrequited love for The Doctor doesn’t dominate her adventures quite as much as I’d remembered, and instead she just quietly proved herself to be just as brave and capable as Rose, but without the annoying tendency to boast about it all the time. She gets to leave on her own terms, with the promise of an imminent return. Good luck to her – she deserved a longer stay in the TARDIS than she got.

RATING: 9

SEASON AVERAGE RATING: 8.33

  • Seasons/Series watched: 29 of 35
  • Stories watched: 187 of 264
  • Individual episodes watched: 737 of 827

I’m going to have to pause the project briefly there, as I’m once more volunteering at the biennial Red Dwarf convention Dimension Jump this weekend, and I really ought to start getting ready. I’ll be back in roughly one week…

42

I feel like I want to break the format, as is my wont. My rewatch didn’t give me many episode-specific bullet points to work with, but it has stirred up some more general thoughts that I would like to jot down.

My memories of Series 3 are that it starts well, goes to utter shit in the middle, then becomes brilliant for the final six episodes. So far I’ve discovered that it does indeed start well, but time seems to have exaggerated how bad the middle few episodes are. Once again, I’ve discovered that a story I thought I hated is actually not awful, just a bit dull.

Maybe I’ve mellowed with age, or maybe my recent Torchwood binge has reminded me of something I’ve always known: that even an average episode of Doctor Who is significantly more entertaining than most other things. Originally, I think my disappointment with 42 was exacerbated by the extra week’s wait, with the series split in twain by Eurovision. The aforementioned mid-series trailer really had me excited for the second half, plus I was looking forward to seeing a story play out in real time, but 42 doesn’t live up to the promise of either, so I dismissed it as being shit and barely gave it a second thought for ten years.

So I was surprised to find I wasn’t hating it during the rewatch, although I wasn’t particularly enjoying it either. The real time thing is mostly a gimmick – it turns out that 42 minutes is more or less exactly the amount of time it takes to unlock all those doors and turn on the auxiliary engines, so everything else that happens is basically just a series of skits to keep us entertained while we wait for the process to be completed.

But that seems like a facetious criticism, because you could boil pretty much any episode, or indeed any work of fiction, down to those terms if you wanted to. The key is whether the content is successful enough to distract you from noticing the narrative framework it’s hung upon.

However, the main things keeping me distracted were constantly mishearing the infected crew member’s name as “Corbyn”, trying to remember whether Elvis or The Beatles had more number ones before the characters did, and how incongruous it was that the computer voice was giving countdown updates at completely random intervals at the end of each scene. It would have been more satisfying, and a more impressive feat of writing, if the scenes had been structured around the countdown (ie. the scene changing every x minutes), rather than just inserting the countdowns higgledy-piggledy.

And this brings me on to what’s really on my mind: the writer who missed that chance to do something really impressive was Chris Chibnall. Forget Torchwood, that was a grand mess on so many levels, it’s his Doctor Who track record that worries me about his forthcoming tenure as showrunner. I’ll obviously be re-assessing as I go, but I’m pretty sure that as things stand he’s yet to write an episode that hasn’t been run-of-the-mill. A dull episode of Doctor Who is a rare thing indeed, and he’s written several. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but from my point of view, the show is being handed over to a man who, at his best, is yet to match the quality of RTD or Moff at their worst. The show may well continue to be good, but I can’t see where that extra bit of magic to make it brilliant is going to come from.

Sigh. I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the matter at hand, and the plus side is that the most successful part of the episode was the continuing conspiracy surrounding Martha’s mum and Mr Saxon. I think at the time I felt that the new companion’s family ought to occupy the same place in my heart as Rose’s did, but now I appreciate that this would be retreading old ground. It’s so much more interesting to have a potential traitor in the camp, and this story arc is ramping up much more dramatically than the previous two. Bring on the brilliant bit of the series…

RATING: 6

The Lazarus Experiment

* I bet there’s a shit-tonne of fan-fic set during the pre-titles, in the gap between the TARDIS leaving Martha’s bedroom and coming back. The Doctor was being a bit of an arse in his intention to leave her behind, as she’s clearly brilliant. Plus, she’s already been through so much more than Rose had by the time of her first trip back home. No wonder she gave her mum a massive hug, although I couldn’t help noting that she didn’t do the same to her sister or brother. Awks.

* I could have sworn that Gatiss wrote this one as well as starring in it, so my apologies to Stephen Greenhorn for forgetting you existed at some point in the last decade. I always enjoy it when actors are clearly having a whale of time just being in Doctor Who, and Gatiss has blatantly being practicing for this his entire life. He’s as good as you’d expect if you’d seen any of the dozens of other creepy fuckers he’s played over the years. I noted with interest that Lazarus once lived above a butcher’s shop. Did it sell special stuff?

* Always an absolute treat to see Mavis Wilton on the telly, although sadly she wasn’t in it for very long. I would have loved to have seen a version where she survived and stuck by her man, acting as a second villain, maybe even controlling the monster and using him as a weapon. It wasn’t to be, but at least we got to see a young gay man snogging an elderly woman from Coronation Street. That’s what Doctor Who‘s all about.

* You get the feeling that this could have been a really interesting talky story about all the implications of eternal youth and immortality, but every time it started going in that direction, Lazarus turned into a slightly crude CGI scorpion and just scuttled around. The dialogue between Lazarus and The Doctor was pretty good, and there was a spark between Gattis and Tennant, but the monster never felt real enough to be threatening, so it all ends up a little bit limp. Still a fairly fun story, but it could have been so much more.

* I’d forgotten about the mysterious man, credited as “Mysterious Man”, who warns Martha’s mum about The Doctor. It’s possibly over-egging the pudding a little bit, as she was already wary of him after he accidentally implied that he’d been shagging her daughter all night. But after he appears the second time, coupled with all the mentions of Saxon, you start to get the sense of a big conspiracy against The Doctor, and that’s very exciting. I’m pretty sure we’d all figured out exactly who Saxon was way before this point, but I remember it being great fun to spot all the clues and piece them together.

* The resolution to the plot is too fucking noisy. I’d noticed that, on the Bluray, I’d had to turn my volume up a couple of notches higher than normal for this episode, and then they blasted that organ music so bloody loud that it disturbed my cats. It seems intentional, which is a dick move. As is removing the “second half of the series” trailer from the original broadcast and replacing it with a 42-specific one. I firmly believe that home releases should match the original broadcast as precisely as possible, as what I’m buying is a facsimile of a live experience. There’s nothing like watching an episode of one of your favourite shows for the first time, so you want the second and third times to be exactly how you remember them.

RATING: 7

Smith and Jones

* This is an era that I have very strong memories of watching first time round, which is why I refuse to believe that it was just shy of ten years ago. It was a turbulent but very happy time in my life; I was preparing to leave uni, I’d just come out of a long term relationship, and I’d just started a new one that’s still going today. Much of my spare time was being spent at the flat of my friends who were flat-hunting when we watched Doomsday together. They celebrated the new series with a party, in which all the men wore what they’d wear if they were The Doctor, and all the women wore what they’d wear if they were companions. If we held that party today, I’d like to think we’d all be Doctors.

But anyway, this episode always brings back memories of that first communal viewing, right from the very start. I remember someone commenting on what they described as a “not cold opening”, following which we collectively coined the immortal term “warm opening” to describe any episode that doesn’t have a pre-titles. Similarly, I can’t see the Doctor’s demonstration of his time-travelling capabilities without hearing the heartfelt plea from a drunken Yorkshireman of “don’t cross your own timeline, you cunt”.

* Of course, the last episode to have a warm opening was Rose, and the parallels are brazenly apparent. We start small and humdrum, see the companion going about her everyday life, going to work, having something catastrophic happen to her work, and end up running hand-in-hand with The Doctor. It’s the revival’s first deliberately-designed jumping on point, and if the formula ain’t broke…

* I’m not as keen on the family this time round. Individually, they’re all perfectly fine, with the possible exception of the dad and his girlfriend, Stock Outdated Female Stereotype #4. But together, it’s just a big cacophonous mess, and not something I’d ever be interested in seeing more of. In retrospect, they were never used in the same way as Jackie and Mickey, and so there was no need to paint them with anything other than a broad stroke. The problem is that when the episode matches the beats of Rose so precisely, you start to compare the families directly against each other, and that’s not a fair fight.

* Anne Reid! dinnerladies alumni are always welcome in Doctor Who, and in fact in anything I ever watch. She was part of a duel threat with the Judoon, who I really quite like. They’re baddies in this story, but really they’re morally neutral – they’re just diligently carrying out their task, and other than their Vogon-esque devotion to bureaucracy and overzealous use of capital punishment, they don’t do any harm. There’s nothing wrong with those things in their culture, so they probably think of themselves as the goodies.

* Why does everyone start running away when they realise they’re on The Moon? Where are they planning on going? All they’re doing is using up more precious oxygen than is strictly necessary, the pricks.

* Martha is genetically engineered to be the perfect companion from the off. It’s like they’re working through a checklist of attributes to demonstrate: asking pertinent questions, risking her life in order to help out, being open-minded to alien involvement, appreciating the beauty of the universe, taking it all in her stride, trusting The Doctor a little too easily… she does all this within minutes of the hospital moving. Normally, it takes a few adventures for a companion to cover all these moments, and I quite like the change of pace. It feels like the show is acknowledging that the audience has just been on this long journey with Rose, and so by skipping ahead to the finished product, Martha feels like less of an imitation.

* While they’re at it, they also take the opportunity to get a little bit meta, by having Martha question things that fans would take for granted. She points out how daft The Doctor’s name is, and how pompous “Time Lord” sounds, and the theme culminates with all the “bigger on the inside” gags. It’s a sign of the production’s growing confidence – three years in, it’s no longer a fledgling new project, it’s an established part of the TV furniture once more.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Where’s he from, the planet Zovirax?” and “Since when did you watch the news? You can’t handle Quizmania.” Both of which are firmly rooted in 2007, but sod it, they’re both excellent references.

* Downsides? I could have done without The Doctor doing a little jig to rid himself of the radiation via his shoe. It could have worked if it had have been a little more deadpan, but Tennant is often in the habit of gilding the lily. Also, as was the case in New Earth, the kiss felt gratuitous and gimmicky. It worked when Rose and Eccleston kissed because it was the culmination of their relationship, but if you do it within the first half hour of them meeting each other, where do you go from there?

* Something which I don’t recall bothering me at the time, but which did tonight, was the fact that The Doctor is killed, the Judoon pronounce him dead… but then he’s not dead any more. In retrospect, this kind of business is a trend which started around this time. Telling the audience one thing and then telling them that the exact opposite is true basically amounts to a broken promise. It gets harder to become immersed if you start to not trust what you’re seeing, and therefore the overall stakes are lowered.

* Right at the end there, did The Doctor say “welcome aboard, Miss Jones” in a Rigsby-from-Rising Damp voice? If so, I heartily approve.

RATING: 9