Friday, December 20, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Fifty-four - Dr.Who: Series 4, Episodes 5-11, "Double Duty Diablo Days!"

I'm going to do my best to hit the end of Doctor Who... if that means doing six or seven episodes every other night, then so be it! Tonight's binge of Tennant and Tate (and Agyeman... and a little Piper) takes us from Modern London to several different far flung futures and the somewhat recent past, where alien and human threats abound!

Starting off is a two-parter where Martha Jones recalls The Doctor to Earth to help her and U.N.I.T. investigate a GPS/CleanAir system that can kill. It seems that a wunderkind is teamed up with the Sontarans to war with humanity and it's up to The Doctor and Donna to save the day. I'd add Martha to that list, but she gets kidnapped rather early on and has to be rescued from her evil doppelganger self.

The Sontarans are actually a pretty fun villain, despite their "back of the neck" weak spot. I rather like their martial sensibilities, even if their ultimate plan goes against their strict codes and their tactics are laughable at best. I mean, honestly, half the stuff The Doctor tricks them into should've been easily avoided by their superior tactical minds. Instead it's just simple action/reaction from them. Still, nice to see U.N.I.T. again after all the Saxon fascism from the end of last season.

After modern times are saved, The Doctor, Martha, and Donna find themselves in the middle of a human/alien conflict fought by generation after generation of clones who cannot remember the true origins of their war, it being shrouded in the mysteries of one of the biggest games of telephone in such a short time span ever. I say that because Donna figures out that the war has only been going on for seven days. Seven days of generations of clones spawning, dying, and being reborn with the story getting more abstract as it goes. This is happening on BOTH sides, mind you, not just with the humans.

This episode is a standout due to the fact that the cloning machine makes a haploid clone of The Doctor, which just so happens to be female... and is David Tennant's wife in real life (granted, they didn't get married until later). I rather enjoyed watching The Doctor first reject his "daughter" then grow to love her only to lose her to death. While her resurrection is a bit too convenient, I do like that it happened after the TARDIS left so that she wasn't an add-on companion and was off to have her own adventures.

Moving on, after dropping Martha back in her own time, Donna and The Doctor go back almost a century to the age of Agatha Christie and a murder mystery dinner party high on the melodrama and sporting a giant alien wasp-creature. Cute little nods are made to Donna and The Doctor inspiring Agatha towards works she hadn't yet written by quoting titles and characters from her unpenned books. Kind of a paradox, but it sort of resolves itself by the end of her episode with a mindwipe. While I wasn't that impressed with the murder mystery itself (or the cheesy revelation sequence), having The Doctor and Agatha both being clever in tandem was entertaining.

Phew... still several episodes left to go... starting with another two-parter which introduces MY FAVORITE WHOVIAN CHARACTER OF ALL TIME: Doctor River Song!

Oh, how I love River Song (and her actress, Alex Kingston)... a great character, a great actress, and a great concept in story telling, River Song is an intimate companion to The Doctor who is running on timelines almost opposite to his. Their first meeting from The Doctor's perspective is her last as, spoilers, she dies saving both him and thousands of trapped souls in a planet-sized library that is being guarded/hunted by the Vashta Nerada, a species of mite-like carnivores that hide in the shadows... well, are the shadows, really... and begin to kill and impersonate the members of Doctor Song's archaeological team.

River Song is probably the most intriguing character I've encountered in time travel scifi save, perhaps, for Delenn in Babylon 5. She accepts The Doctor as one who, naturally, has known and trusted him forever, and can both cater to his needs and push him in the right directions when he needs it, and this is all evident from these two short episodes almost immediately. I very much look forward to the rest of her appearances.

Finally, after the triumph and tragedy at the Library, The Doctor and Martha take a vacation on a trendy future tourist locale on the planet Midnight, where travel is restricted to closed box rolligons with shuttered windows and sealed doors. This is mostly a Doctor episode where he and a bunch of vacationers get trapped with an alien menace which tests the bounds of their charity and humanity by preying on their baser, paranoid natures.

To describe it, I'd call it a bottle episode as most of the episode takes place on a single small set with just The Doctor and six or so other people. The actually alien threat, itself, is boring and gimmicky, but the panic that it inspires in the passengers and how quickly they turn on one another is pretty decent. I can't say I'm happy with the Driver/Mechanic just being dropped halfway through the episode for convenience sake (and after they'd JUST been introduced, too), but the human drama that takes up the majority of the epi is decent.

Keep an eye out for quick cameos by Billy Piper's Rose in the backgrounds. I forgot to mention, but she showed up for a second during Donna's reintroduction and has been on monitors and the like just out of The Doctor's sight for several episodes now.

While I'm not won over yet (though, dancing pretty close thanks to Alex Kingston), I can definitely say that the quality of the series has gone up over the continuum I've watched. Now, let's see if we can plow through the rest of Series 4 on Sunday (as I need something non-Whovian and Christmasy for Saturday).

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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