As soon as the name of the writer for this episode came up, we knew what we’d be in for: a reasonable story with an unsatisfactory ending and no interesting female characters. See, Russell T. Davies wrote this episode, and he has proved time and time again that although a good showrunner, he in no way should be allowed to write for the programme. Several oft-repeated ideas returned in the opening episode, from the idea that every woman who appears for some reason has to fancy the doctor (in this case an office-worker who gave him her phone-number) to the forced references to things that will happen in the next few episodes. In the grand tradition of the not-so-subtle references to Bad Wolf or John Saxon, expect to see more about bees in the next few episodes.
Davies’ clichés apart, there was much to like with the first episode. Sarah Lancaster bit into her role as a creepy alien version Mary Poppins with relish, and the fact the effects department chose not to turn into her true form bodes well for the future. We don’t need to see a CGI monster every episode, and instead we got treated to a full episode of Lancaster scowling away like a bedevilled supernanny. Giving her a sonic pen was a nice touch, too. On the other hand, the little Adipose creatures she was growing were meant to be adorable, but didn’t anyone else think them incredibly creepy? When they were swarming down the street, it was surprising that none of the pedestrians watching didn’t try to punt one of them.
David Tennant essentially runs the entire program to his quirky beats, now. He is fully installed in the role, and can even make the Doctor’s questionable ideas seem like they’re smart – escaping in a window-cleaners hatch? When the guards following you have been given machine-guns? Not the smartest move for the Doctor, who for the entire episode seemed to be completely lost without a companion to stop him doing stupid things. This is where Tate steps in. Donna has stopped with the pointless shouting, but instead has turned into a combination of Tate’s sketch-show characters Lauren, swearing Nan, and Derek “how very dare you” Faye. Tate is a great actress, but is given barely anything to do with her character in this episode. Her miming left a lot to be desired too, which made one extended sequence with her and The Doctor mouthing their plans to each other extremely annoying to try and work out.
Although the episode was entertaining, the leaps of faith it continually took in order to progress the plot was distracting. Why did the Doctor, who has a time machine, walk into Lancaster’s lair and wait a day in the broom closet until the staff had left before he made a move? Couldn’t he have, y’know, teleported into the building after dark, and saved a lot of waiting? How come Lancaster took so long to dispatch the Doctor when he was dangling off the side of a building? What rankles the most is the way we are meant to believe her character would be scared of an intergalactic law chamber finding out about her plan. The Daleks have tried to take over the Universe three of four times now, and no intergalactic police have ever tried to stop them. The thought that these aliens here with their super-cool spaceship would be even remotely scared of this seemed illogical, to say the least.
Having said all this, the episode was fun enough, and provided at least one “OhmiGod” moment towards the end (did you see it? Wow!) Season openers are always tricky to get right in terms of tone, and although the plot was nonsensical, Tennant and Tate did a great job of distracting from it.
Episode Rating: B-
- The Doctor has a hand-held tracker device that can miraculously point him to aliens made of human fat? Where did he get that from?
- Why did the fire door explode every time The Doctor used his sonic screwdriver on it?
- I bet Looney Tunes must’ve been dead proud with that “walking on the air” moment experienced by Lancaster’s character just before her demise.
- Line of the Episode: Tennant’s “I’m with health and safety… film department.”
Next week: Looks like Doc and Donna picked a right stupid day to go visit Pompeii.