Maureen re-visits one of her favourite gothic horror films in time for Halloween …
Argh apologies all for the delay in getting this one up. Ben did his bit but I had some sad news about a friend and didn’t touch anything writing or blogging related for a full fortnight. Also, let’s be honest. We all know this Dalek…
Ah Gridlock, the intense traffic jam episode with bonus Face of Boe, how I’ve always enjoyed you! Really, this season is quite good!!! Fair warning re this review: Ben got a bit carried away with his write-up and was so enthusiastic, I let him dominate in this week’s review 🙂 He has a lot of great stuff to say.
The Pre-Titles Sequence
Ben: This episode opens with a strange mix of old-timey fashion – the couple is very American Gothic – mixed with futuristic tech – it feels very Blade Runner (yes, I know Blade Runner was very fashion forward, but it’s more the mix of new and old I’m talking about). Anyways, the scene ends with the couple dying what sounds to be a painful death at the hands of something unknown. Cue The Doctor to come save the day!
Maureen: I know what you mean about the Blade Runner vibe, Ben. This is one of the Doctor Who sci fi concept episodes that does a lot of world-building very quickly. It’s a proper old-style Who episode! Even the smiling bureaucrat reminded me a little of Blade Runner!
Ben: Poor Martha has a bit of a bad run this episode; first she asks The Doctor about Gallifrey, then he takes her to a place he’s already been with Rose, and not even to the nice parts! And then, to add insult to injury, she gets kidnapped! She’s doing a pretty good job managing on her own until her kidnappers drop the bombshell that their 10-mile trip to Brooklyn is going to take them 6 years!! According to her captors they’ve brought enough supplies to last them the trip, including such fun things as artificial muscle stimulants to fight off atrophy. What a world Martha and The Doctor have found themselves in!
Maureen: I just loved all the little world-building add-ons like the artifical muscle stimulants and that awfully disturbing scene where a woman bought mood pills to forget her own parents. But no, Martha was NOT having a good time. I love that The Doctor can’t help himself – he claimed he’d only take Martha on two adventures but now he can’t stop! I quite enjoyed the Gallifrey speech Ten made and his quip that going home wouldn’t be any fun and then whoops, Martha is kidnapped! I actually noted that this set-up reminds me a lot of Australian sci-fi shorts I’ve read. This episode really shows how often Doctor Who opts for fantasy tropes over sci fi ones. Though I enjoy both, it’s nice to have a change.
Ben: Things really start to go pear-shaped when the car Martha’s in makes it down to the fast lane at the bottom of the highway. And with all the turnoffs closed, there’s no way out of the fast lane and whatever else lives down there. It takes a black cat lady in what appears to be fetish gear invoking Jehovah’s name and then dying in the fast lane 50 yards behind them for Martha’s kidnappers to accept there is in fact something down there with them, and by then it’s too late to get out of the fast lane. (maybe that’s supposed to be a metaphor for living life in the fast lane … nah I’m probably overthinking things). Anyways, Martha’s quick thinking buys them some time when the Macra start attacking them, she’s the one who powers down the car – the Macra can’t detect them when they go dark.
Maureen: I am really loving how clever Martha is. I can’t believe I never appreciated this element of her character as a teen and a young adult. She feels much more consistently written than Rose so far. Even the irritating Doctor love is at least consistent with everything that’s come before.
Martha: You’ve got your hymns. I’ve got The Doctor.
That quote by the way, fits pretty neatly with the Season Three finale. This is probably one of the reasons why Season Three was always my overall favourite of the RTD era, even with the Doctor Jesus flaws.
Ben: Next, we get a great scene with Martha where she muses on the possible mistake she made in travelling with this strange man who calls himself The Doctor – she doesn’t know anything about him, her parents have no idea where she is. She could die billions of years into the future on a distant planet and nobody would know what has happened to her. This kind of reflection is completely different from anything we got from Rose, who jumped at the chance to travel with The Doctor and never looked back. She’s put her life in the hands of a complete stranger (who isn’t a medical doctor and therefore automatically trustworthy).
Maureen: I wonder how old Martha is meant to be? Early twenties vs. Rose’s nineteen? She feels a lot more mature and again I love how her musings here fit in with her finale exit. I suspect that if Martha ever met Rory, she’d get on with him like a house on fire.
Ben: After her introspective speech, Martha needs to get the power back on so she and her kidnappers don’t suffocate, so it’s back to dodging gigantic crab claws as best she can. I know they can’t move properly into the next lane up, but surely they can move up a little bit, just to be out of range of the claws. Luckily The Doctor manages to save the day, and Martha finally puts her foot down and gets some proper backstory out of The Doctor – he’s not just a Time Lord, he’s the last of the Time Lords. It’s been a while since The Doctor has gotten this serious, and it’s a great way to end the episode, mirroring how it started, with The Doctor telling Martha about Gallifrey.
Ben: Tennant does some pretty great acting at the start when Martha asks the Doctor about Gallifrey. The sad music playing as the Doctor describes the planet he lost to the Time War was getting close to tear inducing.
Maureen: God, I love the season three soundtrack! And the Gallifrey theme Murray Gold wrote for it is one of the best until ‘I am the Doctor’ came along in Season Five and blew everything that came before out of the water … but I digress.
Ben: The Doctor’s introspection doesn’t last long, as he chases adventure to defer grief. Bring on the 15th New York! After a very dramatic introduction to the city, the Doctor rushes off to rescue Martha – but not before pulling his angry holier-than-thou act on the street vendors who sell the emotions. Sure, going for the little guys is really gonna solve shit, Ten!
Maureen: Ah, Ten. This is why you’re not my favourite. You’re just so sanctimonious at the drop of a hat. Like, maybe try a little empathy for these people and the harsh world they live in? But then, The Doctor can be judgmental and at least Ten managed violent emotion, which is more than Thirteen managed in her entire season :/
Ben: Anyway, cutting to the motorway, The Doctor manages to hitch a ride with a lovely catman, his human wife and their kittens! Such an adorable little family THAT’S BEEN DRIVING ON THE MOTORWAY FOR TWELVE YEARS?!? Anyways, thanks to the assistance of a little old lady (I wonder how long her and her wife have been on the motorway for) who likes to carspot, the Doctor is able to pinpoint the car that Martha is in. The question now is how to get to her. It’s also the Doctor who realises what no one’s been wanting to say – that the highway has been abandoned by New New York – no police, no ambulance, just the motorway. I particularly loved the sequence of the Doctor jumping through car after car to get down to the fast lane – all the different car interiors and passengers was just really fun. Anyways, once The Doctor gets to the row of cars just above the fast lane we finally get a look at what’s really down there, and we find out the cat lady Boe sent to find the Doctor is hot on his tail! Novice Hame catches up to the Doctor just as he discovers the Macra and whisks him away to the Overcity of New New York. And THAT is when shit gets real.
24 years ago the entire population of NNY was wiped out by a new chemical called Bliss – a virus mutated inside Bliss and became airborne, killing everyone in 7 minutes. The only way to save the Undercity was to seal it off. The highway has been running on automatic for 24 years, with the Face of Boe and Novice Hame keeping everything running as best they can. Hell, Boe even wired himself to the mainframe, giving his lifeforce to keep things running and prevent the Undercity from falling into the sea. They couldn’t even call for help because the planet is under quarantine for 100 years.
Given this new information, The Doctor struggles to work his magic with what little power there is left in the system, which is when the Face of Boe gives everything he has left to power the system – enabling The Doctor to open the roof of the motorway and free everyone who’s been trapped there. Before Boe dies he gets to say his tearful (for everyone else) farewells, and impart a final secret to the Doctor – that he’s not alone, he isn’t in fact the last of the Time Lords.
Face of Boe: You are not alone, Doctor!
Maureen: Well, I have nothing to add to Ben. He’s on fire this week!
The Monster of the Week
Ben: Right from the beginning of the episode we know there’s something big and bad out there, big enough to break through a transport to get to the people inside. First, all we hear is some ominous creaking and groaning from below the car carrying Martha and we’re assured it’s just the air vents (which Martha points out are obviously non-functioning considering all the smog). Although we do then get a folk tale about how there’s in fact a huge scary monster down there who’s the reason a whole bunch of people have gone missing. I wonder which of the two reasons will turn out to be true … Well, if you guessed option B you’d be correct! Turns out it’s giant crabs called Macra that thrive in gas – the filthier the better according to The Doctor. Apparently, billions of years ago they used to rule the galaxy, with humans as their slaves. I dunno how crabs without opposable thumbs can rule anything, but I guess stranger things have happened. Anyways, they’ve devolved somewhat since then, but they’re still enough of a threat to the occasional carload of people who get within claw range. They don’t really suffer a defeat in the climax of the episode so much as everyone is able to move far enough away that they’re no longer a problem. So, victory? I guess?
Maureen: I sort of feel like there wasn’t really a villain this week. The Macra were minding their own business in the smog. It was only when humans got too close that they attacked. The humans with the synthetic emotions were making money off trauma, but well, why shouldn’t they in such a bleak dystopia? Maybe it was a civil service. As to the cat lady and the Face of Boe, they are ambiguous as to their innocence or villainy at first, but by the end of the episode we know the traffic jams have been caused for the greater good in a move of ultimate sacrifice on the part of Boe. Incidentally, I thought it was incredibly chilling when Martha and The Doctor walked through the skeletons of The Senate (how prequel Star Wars). That scene really showed why Boe did what he did, even if that meant consigning humanity to a boring and cruel existence in the smog indefinitely.
Ben: The Face of Boe showing up was a happy surprise, and initially with his cat companion arming her weapon I though he had nefarious designs for The Doctor. Turns out, no! And then adding to this vision of a dystopian future, there’s street vendors selling synthetic moods and feelings. 21st century drugs have nothing on them, that’s for sure. Selling a young woman ‘forget’ so she could forget her parents who went on the motorway? Oof. The world-building in this episode is insanely good. All those cars, spitting all those fumes inside a tunnel for decades! No wonder there’s a monster down there picking off cars. We get some more excellent world building in the second half of the episode with the dead Overcity, and a great dramatic conclusion to the episode with the Face of Boe making the ultimate sacrifice to save the city (and Martha). All in all, I really loved this episode, and any faults I have with it are relatively minor. I’m going to give it a 9/10.
Maureen: I think this is a weird Doctor Who episode. It’s not showy. It’s not wildly ambitious like some of Moffat’s work, but it tells an interesting future-set story with great world-building and doesn’t shy away from tough moral choices. And yes, I was happy to see the return of Boe. I also think this episode works hard to set-up Season Three’s overarching themes about what it is to be the last of your kind, what it is to travel as a human companion with The Doctor and why The Doctor matters. I loved this episode from the first time I saw it and my opinion on it has never changed. I also give Gridlock 9/10 inky stars
Boy do I enjoy these historical throw-back episodes. I didn’t remember how this one panned out to be honest, though I remembered it dealt with the colour of Martha’s skin early on in and was pretty funny. Ben and I had a blast watching this…
Wow, it took me an age to get started on reviewing this odd beast of a Christmas special in which plastic santas make a come back and Donna Noble makes her debut entrance. Every time I re-watch, I oscillate wildly between enjoying the experience and passionate loathing (a not uncommon experience for me with RTD era Christmas specials). This time was no exception. Onwards!
The Pre-title Sequence
Maureen: Quick aside: God, I hate that Thirteen doesn’t have pre-title sequences. They are just so silly and fun. Anyway. The Runaway Bride. I love the earth shot they start with every new series y’all. It makes me unreasonably happy inside. Also, even though I think Catherine Tate took some time to find her feet and definitely over-acted in her opening number (vanishing from her own wedding in gold light, materializing in the TARDIS), she was at least refreshingly different in her reaction to finding herself with The Doctor. Also, the Donna theme is gorgeous. Go Murray Gold!
Ben: Yeah, this episode certainly started off with a bang, with Catherine Tate screaming her way down the aisle in a truly hideous wedding dress, followed by her screaming at The Doctor when she suddenly vanishes from her wedding and reappears inside the TARDIS mere moments after he said goodbye to Rose. Talk about whiplash! It was, I guess, an acceptably interesting introduction to the episode.
Maureen: LOL. My summary was, ‘The Doctor repeats ‘what?’ over and over like a right numb skull and CT overacts.’ Moving on.
Ben: Look, I’ll be honest, I hated Donna in this episode. She was shouty and over dramatic and scenery chewing in the worst kind of way. The best way for me to describe her is that she was acting as a caricature of the Donna we meet in Season Four with all the worst parts over-exaggerated. And the wedding dress was hateful.
Maureen: This is the first time in ages we’ve disagreed about something, Ben! When I was younger, I really hated Donna, including most of Series Four (the first time round I never finished it), but now I find her kind of refreshing. Yes, the humour was overdone this special. Yes, it took Catherine Tate time to figure out how to play things, but overall I liked Donna. What I didn’t like about her and about this episode was more to do with RTD’s writing, than the character herself.
Ben: Her ‘it’s smaller on the outside’ moment was all right, I guess, but it didn’t make up for all the attitude she gave The Doctor. Maybe she can blame it on the Huon particles?
Maureen: This is where we differ. I liked her saying the TARDIS was smaller on the outside (it’s a change!). I liked her being a bit freaked out by an alien and hey, if you were at a wedding and then suddenly on a spaceship, it would feel like an abduction. I thought a lot of the dialogue was quite funny upfront.
Donna: My husband, when he is my husband, him and I are gonna sue the backside of ya!
Donna: Yeah. Is that an option?
Doctor: For me it is.
Donna: Are you an alien?
Donna: How many women have you abducted? [in relation to Rose] … where’s she gone? For a space walk?
But even leaving aside the humour, I think sometimes Ten is a right wanker and he needs someone like Donna to put him in his place. I didn’t mind her slapping him. He deserved it.
Ben: I guess, but my main gripe was that none of the jokes/comedy involving Donna were remotely funny, and a fair few of them were just plain offensive. The joke about Donna missing all the previous alien escapades on Earth for ridiculous reasons was really the only exception to that, but it was then followed up with a ‘joke’ about how Donna is basically worthless and not special apart from the mysterious Huon particles, so it didn’t really count.
Maureen: OK, I see your point of view here. I didn’t like this either. Ten being a sanctimonious arsehat again. Woot.
Ben: And then there’s the scene with Donna harassing Lance into marrying her? Like, was that meant to be incredibly unfunny and cringe-worthy?
Maureen: Yeah, I don’t know what RTD was going for here. I quite liked Donna till this scene and then that turned me right off her. Harassment is never funny. I feel like aside from this moment however, the rooftop scene was quite beautiful and Catherine Tate calmed down enough to deliver her lines sans shouting. That whole scene was like a promise of what was to come with her friendship with Ten later. I wish the whole episode could have been this.
Ben: And honestly, the less said about the reception scenes the better.
Maureen: Oii, what was wrong with them? I didn’t like Donna’s Mum (does anyone?), but RTD has some weird thing about writing bitchy Mum’s so *shrugs.* I thought it was sad, showing how bland and poor Donna’s life is, but also the scene where she fake cried shows she is cleverer than she acts, another hint as to the depths she will achieve in Series Four.
Ben: Meh. The scene where Lance is revealed as a double crosser was incredibly brutal, and perhaps the only good scene in the first forty minutes of the episode. Really, this whole episode was like a ‘let’s everyone pile on Donna’ that everyone was in on except her. And the to add insult to injury she sees her fiancé die, and then is swung into a metal something by The Doctor. Which, again, is played for comedy and not ‘Gee Donna, you basically fell from the roof into a hard metal surface, are you all right?’
Maureen: I agree that the everyone piling on Donna thing for cheap laughs was weird and icky, but I think that was less about Donna the character and more about how the writer, RTD, positioned her in the story. Here is why I think RTD is more sexist than Moffat by the way. His sexism is far more insidious and permeates every story line. In my opinion, Moffat’s sexism comes down to crack writing nine times out of ten, rather than actual sexism, but that’s an essay you can read elsewhere.
Ben: At least by the end of the episode the caricature of Donna had settled down somewhat, and we got a good serious conversation between her and The Doctor. There may have been talk about how Donna was nobody special throughout the episode, but she fully has The Doctor’s number, talking about how he needs someone to travel with to tell him when to stop. Oof. Even the shouting at the end of the episode was better. All I can say is, I’m excited to see more of this Donna in season four!
Maureen: Me too! The end scene was aces!!! I loved Donna claiming she would go see the world (even though we know she won’t), I love Ten telling Donna to be magnificent and I love Donna telling Ten he needs human companions to keep him in line. Ironically, I think Donna understood The Doctor more than any other new who companion bar maybe Amy Pond.
Ben: The poor Doctor was really put through the ringer this episode by this over-dramatic woman who was hell bent on getting to her wedding. There were a few moments that I think were supposed to be funny? Or something? Like when the Doctor was in a hurry to get cash and had to wait behind some slow person using the ATM.
Maureen: I also had question marks over this scene. I really noticed The Doctor over-relying on the sonic this episode, but also with him getting cash from the ATM, who exactly was giving him that cash? Was he robbing other people? Inquiring minds wish to know. Also, when him and Donna flagged down a taxi and realised they didn’t have money so were turned out, my first thought was, ‘Y U no pay at the church?’ The amount of times I have paid a taxi driver at the end of a trip running into the house to find cash isn’t even funny.
Ben: Mostly, it felt like all these ridiculous scenes were padding out an episode that really had nothing going for it. I’m not sure if the TARDIS flying down the highway was supposed to be funny or impressive, but I just found it nonsensical. How did he even find Donna? The whole scene with the bio-dampener in the shape of a ring was just so on the nose, another scene with an attempt at comedy that just fell flat? I guess we’ll never know. Plus, the whole absentminded mutterings about how she’s not special as he scans her were really frustrating. Anywho, moving on to the reception, where the less said about the scene at the reception the better. You’re gonna supercharge a phone to find out more about HC Clements and then just hand it back?
Maureen: As usual, Ben thinks through the story logic more than I do (which is ironic really!). I didn’t think of any of this at the reception scene. I was more thinking, OH LOOK PLASTIC SANTA, OH LOOK CHRISTMAS TREE, OH LOOK BAUBLES FLOATING AROUND THE PLACE. IS THIS CHRISTMASSY ENOUGH YET, IS IT? Also, I feel like the reception song was significant. It sounded like its lyrics alluded to Ten/Rose with, ‘coz my body’s tired of travelling and my heart don’t wish to roam,’ and ‘Now, all I have’s this anguished heart, for you have vanished too. Oh, my girl, my girl, my precious girl, just what is this man to do?’
Ben: One thing I did appreciate is that the technobabble this episode had some logical consistency, e.g. The Doctor’s analogy and usage of the Huon particles made sense. And, on the plus side, Donna calls out The Doctor on him enjoying the danger too much and gives him a well-deserved slap or two.
Maureen: I counted three slaps in total this episode and I was cheering Donna on!
Ben: I appreciate that The Doctor treated Donna with kindness after the betrayal of Lance, and really after that scene I noticed a marked improvement in the overall quality of the episode. I’m not sure if the production team decided that because Catherine Tate, comedienne extraordinaire was in the episode they needed to ramp up the comedy, but it really just didn’t work in any way, shape, or form. Anyways, the conclusion of the episode was quite satisfactory, we got some good Dark Doctor faces as he drowned the Racnoss babies, and a touching conversation with Donna at the end where he asks her to travel with him.
Maureen: I actually hate that bit where Ten drowns The Racnoss. He just looks so damn whiny and I just know the angst gets dialled up to eleven in later episodes. I’m so glad Donna came back to call him out on his shitty behavior in a later season! PS: Sorry guys, I don’t like Ten.
The Alien of the Week
Ben: The Santa army is back! Such shenanigans and tomfoolery abound. And of course, the killer Christmas Trees return too. In continuing with the nonsensical slapstick humour, one of the party goers gets hit by one of the killer tree baubles and goes face first into the wedding cake? Time and place, people …
Maureen: Damn, I forgot about that! Thanks for bloody reminding me!
Ben: Also, how does the queen alien lady (correction, Empress of the Racnoss) know that it’s Christmas Eve? She has a strangely comprehensive knowledge of Earth. And what was with the over dramatic camera shots of her over acting at the camera? It was all very unnecessary. Plus!! She laughs at the ‘this time, it’s personnel’ joke. And then she makes a wedding joke! She really was a very naturalised alien.
Maureen: She was definitely not the strong point of the episode, that’s for sure. The SFX have really dated and her voice was grating and her jokes kind of weird. As you say, Ben, a lot of the jokes don’t land properly this episode. I did kind of lol at the ‘I do,’ ‘I don’t,’ bit in a cheesy B grade horror movie kind of way. Also, I dig the delivery of Catherine’s ‘a spider’s just a spider and an axe is an axe,’ line. I don’t know why actually.
Ben: I’m not entirely sure how the Racnoss babies and ship survived for billions of years under immense pressure inside the core of the Earth, or why it took the Queen of the Racnoss so long to initiate her plan for global domination, or even why Lance decided to be her consort or whatever, but she did come to satisfying end. But like, is it not worth checking out the Racnoss ship to disable things or something? Surely that can’t be the end of that.
Maureen: The Lance thing is really under-developed. Like the episode claims he did it because the Queen showed him how small human life was in the scale of the universe or some shit, but like, what? Surely he’s smart enough to know she’s going to bump him off at the first opportunity. I really feel like Lance got short-changed in the characterization department. My notebook comment on The Racnoss storyline is, ‘the whole alien of the week storyline is a bit ridic.’
Ben: I really didn’t enjoy this episode (except for the last 20 minutes or so). Donna was awful. None of the jokes have aged particularly well. And like, why could the Doctor not just take Donna back to just after she vanished? This ‘not going back on someone’s personal timeline’ is such rubbish and is only used as a clumsy plot device whenever the writers get lazy. The whole episode just reminded me of Rose. The Doctor rescues a damsel in distress, there’s her boyfriend that she has no chemistry with, the ditzy caricature of a mother, a secret base hidden underneath a London landmark, and an alien who’s the last of their kind and has decided Earth is the ideal planet from which to repopulate. Unoriginal, unfunny, and just horrendous treatment of Donna as a character. And why, oh why, did they think having them use Segways as transport was going to age well. Another example of a scene that I think was supposed to be funny when it aired but just reeks of disappointment and wasted air time now. Things picked up in the final twenty minutes, and we got some really good moments from Donna and The Doctor, but it really wasn’t enough to make up for the truly awful first forty minutes. I’m giving it a 3/10
Maureen: This is the first time in quite some time I’ve disagreed with Ben. I don’t think this was a good episode. I think it highlights a lot of RTD’s more problematic writing styles and choices. I think the alien of the week story was silly and that Lance and Donna’s Mum were boring caricatures, but I like Donna, even with Catherine Tate over-acting in parts. I liked the scene on the roof-top when Donna gives up on making her wedding, and the scene at the end, and I like that Donna doesn’t just succumb to Ten’s charms immediately. She displays some critical thought, which I liked. Also, I liked the Torchwood references and re the use of segways as transport. I liked it. My notebook comment is, ‘Donna/Lance/Ten riding segways is true zany Who personified and I unreasonably love it.’ I oscillate wildly between hating and enjoying this episode every time I re-watch it so I’m going to give this 5/10 inky stars.
This is weird. My memory told me Love and Monsters and this episode were the two worst Doctor Who episodes of the RTD era. My memory has lied in a happy accident. Or maybe it’s just I really am not feeling the Thirteenth Doc so the re-watches seem better than they are? I dunno. Either way, this was bad, but not as bad as I remembered.
Ben: This episode started with a feeling of disquiet between the warnings of the old lady, Maeve, and Chloe singing Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree. Then a kid named Dale gets trapped in a drawing! I wonder how Maeve knew it was about to happen? Plus, it’s pretty clear that Trish knows what’s going on from the beginning and doesn’t know what to do. #mysterious
Maureen: I was too busy being all,’hey didn’t this come out in 2006 and like wasn’t the Olympics in 2012? Was the UK forward planning that much? Damn!’ and ‘what have I seen the actress playing Trish in before’ and ‘why an aussie song? How very specific.’ Ahem. I promise I can be a TV critic! Anyway, I thought the opening had a great sense of horror atmosphere until the cheesy drawing of the kid wearing the Union Jack shirt.
Ben: Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching the current season of Doctor Who and the Thirteenth Doctor and her three companions just don’t have any chemistry to speak of, but I could practically feel the crackling in the air between Rose and the Doctor.
Maureen: OMG BEN I AM SO HAPPY YOU THINK THIS BECAUSE I WAS BEGINNING TO THINK I WAS GOING MAD. But enough current show slamming. I am not the biggest fan of Ten/Rose, but there’s no denying that they’re always better sans Mickey and other quasi companions. If Mickey had never existed on this show, I would have dug these two a lot more. You can just tell that in the scenes where it’s all on Billie and David, they are having a right laugh and it bleeds into every scene. I loved them laughing over hot banana and I even shipped them at the end when they held hands and I never ship these two.
Ben: Plus, her hair and makeup was nice.
Maureen: Superficial. But I cannot deny it. I wrote that in my notebook too. Also, yellow does not Billie Piper suit when the fake tan she embraces.
Ben: I also (to be a broken record) really loved how much Rose got to do this episode. She was the first one to suspect Chloe, not the Doctor. And she was the one who investigated Chloe’s room, and the one who figured out where the Isolus’ ship was! Not only that, but she’s instrumental in restoring the ship to a working order, and guided Chloe and her mum through the attack by nightmare dad. You go Rose! Her and the Doctor have become a great team in the time they’ve been together, but that doesn’t mean she can’t do her own thing if she has to!
Maureen: Yeah, which is why I’ve never understood the show’s obsession with having Rose spout lines about being nothing without The Doctor (but more on that in next week’s episode). Also, nice callback to The Idiot’s Lantern as The Doctor runs off as Rose is mid-sentence … again. My favourite Rose moment was actually the scene in Chloe’s room when she’s all, I’m not gonna open it (the box), I’m not gonna open it, and does only to get attacked by a scribble.
Ben: Ahh yes! It’s been awhile since we’ve had a ‘the Doctor can’t drive the TARDIS’ gag.
Maureen: God, I can’t wait for River Song!
Ben: And then we get the whole ‘Doctor gets lost in his memories and ignores his companion pointing something abnormal out’ chestnut. And then we get the ‘Doctor gets too focused on checking out A Clue™ and gets himself in trouble’ situation. Luckily the psychic paper sorts that out quick.
Maureen: I’m loving these trope names. You missed the whole lonely God trope though, which is surprising, BECAUSE THIS IS ALL OF TEN’S SHTICK.
Ben: The gag with the cat and the back combing was worth a chortle or two. Then we get to the heavy stuff, as the Doctor deduces Chloe is using ionic energy to trap people in her drawings. It’s just a shame that the parallels between the Doctor and the Isolus never really were explored, but they’re both lonely travellers who’ve been travelling the universe for years upon years.
Maureen: Wait. What? I thought they were about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But then, I have like bells going off in my head or something every time there’s even a hint of Ten’s lonely God. I present to you the key last of my kind moment:
Rose: You knew the Isolus was lonely before it told you. How?
Doctor: I know what it is to be alone.
But also, I found this throw away line intriguing.
Rose: Kids can’t have it all their own way.
Ten: They deserve understanding … I had a son once.
From such dialogue whole new series arcs are born. I was way less keen on everything that happened from The TARDIS vanishing. So Rose whispers ‘the magic of love’ to Chloe and somehow that makes the alien leave Chloe, except the leftover alien energy manifests as Chloe’s violent and abusive Dad? What now? Also The Doctor running with the Olympic flame and the onscreen reporter saying he’s a symbol of love and hope can fuck right on off. Leave the love stuff to Moffat. And even then not always.
The Alien of the Week
Ben: The episode’s premise was really interesting to begin with – children vanishing, energy being drained from the street, and the strange smell of ionised air left behind wherever someone vanished. Then we see the kids living in Chloe’s drawings, and the nightmare dad coming to life in her closet. It’s a shame Chloe’s actress was a bit out of her depth as the Isolus and it’s motivations were really quite compelling, plus they set up the parallels between it and Chloe – two lonely kids just managing the best they can in a bad situation. It made a lot of sense that the Isolus is a child, it makes emotional and illogical decisions and can’t be reasoned with. It’s also a shame that the resolution of this episode was rather ridiculous, with the Olympic torch and the power of love reawakening the Isolus’ ship. And then we get the ridiculous spectre of nightmare dad, which really didn’t make sense to me.
Maureen: What Ben said. I also felt like the abusive dad side story and Mum not talking about him could have made for deeper exploration. I wondered at the end with the rushed sugar sweet denouement if this shouldn’t have been a two-parter.
Ben: Having an episode set in 2012 being in the not too distant future definitely made me feel old. And in a lot of ways this episode reminded me of The Idiot’s Lantern episode, a good/interesting premise let down by a shocker of an ending. The shoehorning in of the Olympics was a bit awkward too, similar to the Queen’s coronation. Additionally, Chloe’s mum Trish was really the highlight of this episode. She’s an excellent actress portraying a complicated woman. A woman who’s scared of her child, but at the same time trying to protect her. Which unfortunately only helped to highlight how bad Chloe’s acting was. The casual racism at the start of the episode also felt really out of place with the accusation of the black council worker of being behind the vanishing kids, but I guess is now surprisingly realistic in today’s climate. All in all, it was an episode that started off well but then lost it’s way. I’m giving it a 5/10.
Maureen: I’m with Ben as usual. I think you’re right about The Idiot’s Lantern comparisons. With a second script edit and perhaps a second part, this could have been a lot stronger. Given the rushed and cheesy ending and some bad acting at times, I’m giving this 4/10 inky stars. I gave it one star less than Idiot’s Lantern because my attention wondered after the first twenty minutes in a way it didn’t with the latter.