Sunday, 11 May 2008

Doctor Who Series 4, Episode 6: The Doctor's Daughter

Here’s a spoiler warning: “The Doctor’s Daughter” is perhaps the weakest episode of Doctor Who we’ve seen under Russell T. Davies’ command yet. From the contrived opening sequence through to the tacky battle sequences and spectacularly uninteresting plot. After a quick bit of blather where Donna, Martha and the Doctor deliver some standard lines about how shocking everything is, the Tardis lands in the middle of an underground tunnel in a world where a group of humans are fighting a group of fish monsters called the Hath. Why? Well, uh… oh look! The Doctor has a clone! Let’s focus on that instead.

Yes, the Doctor gets grabbed as soon as he lands and put into one a DNA machine which looks strangely like the ones in Idiocracy, and a hatch duly opens and releases Jenny upon the world. Technically she’s the daughter of the Doctor, but instead of getting any exploration of this we instead get a lot of bickering and monologues instead. Practically the entire episode is made up of Donna saying “isn’t it amazing that you have a daughter?”, the Doctor denying that she’s really his daughter, and Jenny talking about how much she loves fighting. It gets tiring very very quickly, but the worst thing is that there’s really no need to her to exist at all. The fact she’s created from DNA provided by the Doctor is at no point relevant to the plot – she’s here for one episode, and then she sacrifices herself to save the Doctor. Anyone could have done that. Georgia Moffet is adorable, and you see brings a sparky energy to her role, but the role is so underwritten and uninteresting that everything she does is overshadowed by the clunky plot device that introduces her.

There’s a lot of fighting in this episode between two groups. One group, the humans, are led by Nigel Terry, taking the “wooden plank” approach to leadership. Every line he delivers is flat and monotone, there’s no emotion or feeling behind any of his actions, meaning that when he turns ‘properly’ evil at the end, nobody is surprised. The plot is the barest of threads, and everything hangs off it limply. Speaking of, the giant fish creatures the hath are completely odd, the rubberest looking monsters we’ve seen since… the Autons, who were rubber by nature. Martha gets saddled with them for the B-plot after they kidnap her, and spends most of her time delivering exposition. When she finally gets round to doing something, it seems completely irrelevant and leads to the WORST MOMENT IN DR WHO HISTORY. A swamp is involved. You have to see it to believe it.

Neither of the B-plots eventually go anywhere, and we end up in a big room with all the characters together, as the Doctor gives a big speech about… something. It’s impossible to care about anyone involved here, and the contrivances that bring the plot to a head are just annoying. What’s worse is that writer Stephen Greenhorn’s take on the Doctor seems completely wrong. Instead of being fascinated by the machine which appears from nowhere and replicates a daughter from his DNA, he actively tries to disown her. It feels like a cheap way to distance the Doctor from the audience, and Tennant’s performance is anything but convincing. You can tell when he feels bored with the role, and here he has to deliver a lot of wooden dialogue which goes nowhere, and the desperation and annoyance in his eyes seems to come from Tennant instead of the Doctor. He’s as tired with the premise of the show as we are.

Not everything’s bad, although depending on your feelings about Catherine Tate this next statement may tell you everything you need to know about the ep. Donna is the best thing in it. Her character is smart and witty, and actually shows human emotions that anyone could relate to. Whereas Martha is crying her eyes out because a fish monster died (by drowning! WHAT?) and the humans are fighting because - wait, that was never really explained – Donna is trying to do something about the situation and fix things. She steps into the role of the main companion, and she brings some sense of gravity to proceedings. I know she gets a lot of stick online, but she’s the best thing for the series right now.

Every now and again Doctor Who fumbles an episode – oh Michelle Collins, where art thou – and this is a classic example. The plot makes no sense even in a sci-fi setting, the characterisations are wrong, everything about this episode is awful. And don’t even get me started on that bolted-on epilogue, which seems more like an excuse for another spin-off than anything else. This is a filler episode, but the writers don’t even have the courtesy to make it, at the very least, and entertaining bit of filler. The worst piece of TV I’ve seen in a long while - of Torchwood standard.

Episode Rating: F.

Stray Points:

  • How does Martha know about regeneration? She’s never seen one!
  • That scene where Jenny flips through the wire grid is even worse than it looked on the trailer. What was the point again?
  • At least Martha’s out of the picture, our of the Tardis. I still don’t understand why she needed to be in there in the first place.
  • Line of the Week: Tate had a few, but her revealing that "my friend Nerys mothered twins using a turkey baster" was probaby the funniest.

Next week: A murder-mystery? With Agatha Christie! Golly…


  1. Yes, I wondered about Martha knowing about regeneration- but maybe UNIT told her?
    I pretty much agree with all you say about this ep. It's a shame, I thought it had a lot of promise at the very start but it all kinda went to pieces ver quickly. Also, oh so predictable, non? Especially with what happens to Jenny at the end. As soon as the doctor says all the stuff about his old family, you can guess what's going to happen to her.

  2. I've just caught up on the last three week's DW episodes and I have to say that this one was pretty pants. It had everything that could work for it (a pretty blonde playing the Doc's daughter) but focused on everything that could ruin it (namely Catherine Tate and her sycophantic approach to making the Doctor think more like a human and, if he refuses to, just becoming very very shouty).

    It was obvious the daughter was going to have to die, and then obvious that - because they didn't immediately bury her - she was going to come back to life. Regeneration in to somebody like Jennifer Aniston for a spin-off series would have been much more entertaining, however.

    That all said and done, well-done to the BBC for using Georgia Moffett. Enough Google requests after that episode should see her make an appearance in FHM's Top 100 Women next year, and how many people noticed that she is, ironically, the real-life daughter of a Doctor Who: Peter Davison?