Season 29 Episode 7 – 42, by Chris Chibnall

May 11, 2008

review by Martin Odoni.

I did quite enjoy this, although it’s a bit basic and it’s easy to see where everything was dragged in from. Even the Radio Times feature cheerfully admitted in advance that this was essentially a rip-off of Alien, right down to the dreadfully wooden performance of the actress in the sweaty shirt. The Doctor’s OTT screaming agony is almost a carbon copy of Cancer’s death-cries in the Blake’s 7 story Assassin. The living star is just a rather neat variant of the planetary-life-form idea used in countless Dr Who/Blake’s 7 stories. Even cartoon series like The Transformers have done that one. The Captain-wrestling-with-her-own-authority routine is very familiar, and for some reason Michelle Collins reminded me of Beryl Reid in Earthshock, perhaps just because it was an equally-bad case of miscasting. The ‘You can get free calls to your favourite time-zone with TARDIS Telecom Stop-The-Clock’ routine is revisited from The End Of The World. And the opening ten minutes feel very much like a direct lift from The Impossible Planet.

It’s fast and it’s exciting, although the pace is not very even, and the early stages in particular feel hurried. Also, the real-time ingredient they were trying to sell the story on is an obvious sham, and therefore it ceases to be ‘groundbreaking’ (assuming it would’ve been anyway); it is no more a real-time story than The Horror Of Fang Rock, or Countdown from B7.

The logic of bits of the story is weak, particularly the design of the ship (which for some reason looks like a Nebulon-B frigate from Star Wars). All right, at least it means the Doctor has to work at a solution for a change, which was something positive, but why oh why were the control panels for the escape pods’ electromagnetics built on the outer hull? I suppose the flight controls are in the maintenance ducts, and the cargo hold is the tabletop in the mess area?

But it was still good stuff, even if it’s because it was too fast and dramatic for the audience to stop and think about it. DT puts in one of his better performances, screaming throes of agony aside, and it was a nice touch to see Martha being the one to save the day. And once more, it’s good that the whackiness has been massively toned down.

Given that this was written by Chris Chibnall, who was responsible for some of the most abysmal episodes of the ever-abysmal Torchwood, I was fearing far, far worse than this. I give it 7/10, thanks to a bonus point awarded for not giving us another of those tedious interludes with the Doc sulking about Rose.

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