Doctor Who – ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’

Firstly, I’m not doing a separate review for last week’s episode, The Poison Sky: by and large it continued the good work of the first instalment. Good CGI in places, liked that. Nice reference to the Brigadier – though they should have elevated him to the Lords, not just a knighthood!

And now… The Doctor’s Daughter is an episode that will have divided fandom. The trailing of it did rather imply Georgia Moffett would be playing some long-lost descendant, and as this would entail the Doctor having had some sort of reproductive congress in the past this would have been a big no-no for many fans (jealous of their hero for actually getting some action at some point in the last 900 years, no doubt). What we actually got was rather different – although the idea of the Doctor having a family still on Gallifrey at the time of the Time War is a bit implausible given the number of times he visited the planet in the old series without so much as dropping in for a cup of tea… Still, you can probably explain it away if you wish. And then there’s his grand-daughter Susan, living on a future Earth… Perhaps it’s just sad to get bothered by it, but for the most part RTD’s Doctor Who has invoked past elements of the show without massive contradictions or even ret-conning, and it’s a bit disappointing he’s not managed to strike the balance here…

Anyway, back, at length, to this week’s episode. First observation: it didn’t half look cheap. All those interiors, small cast… Second observation: contrary to claims in Doctor Who Confidential, Jenny’s death at the end of the episode was utterly predictable. In a pattern we’re already well familiar with, after Lynda-with-a-Y in Parting of the Ways and Madame de Pompadour in Girl In the Fireplace (I’m sure there’s at least one other example that’s escaping me), once the Doctor gets as far as saying he’s willing to welcome someone on board the TARDIS who hasn’t been announced as a new companion in the press, you know they’re a goner. That said, while the lack of a regeneration is a bit perplexing from an internal logic point of view, it’s good to see a new potential recurring character, particularly a slightly ambivalent Doctor-ish figure: it’s something RTD’s Whoniverse has lacked.

Overall, I actually rather liked this episode. The business of the short timeframe of the war was an original idea, and gave a neat pay-off to the business of Donna obsessing over the numbers. The interplay between Jenny and the Doctor was excellent, as their similarities gradually emerged and she challenged his moral authority. The pace of the running around was nicely judged, and Joe “Chris from Skins” Dempsie was engaging to watch.

I’ve no idea why Martha was brought along for this episode rather than left on Earth at the end of the last one: her runaround with the Hath seemed utterly tacked-on for the sake of getting her out of the way, and the self-sacrifice of her companion Hath was rather predictable and tedious. Nor am I totally sure whether I think the Hath design was totally successful, thinking about it – their initial appearance storming through the tunnels was eery, grotesque and striking… but prolonged screen time did make them look a bit silly.

Cob too was a failure as a character: a hackneyed mindless soldier of the type the series, both old and new, has presented far too often. But I don’t wish to criticise Stephen Greenhorn too much – for the Jenny-Doctor interplay alone his script deserves to be remembered with admiration.

I’ve paid relatively little attention to the running order of this series, to the point where, unlike for the last two years, I don’t know what episode is coming up next until the throw-forward at the end of the episode. Perhaps this series rewards that approach, as I’m enjoying it rather more than last year’s, to which I was paying closer attention. Not sure if this is a mark of good TV, but nevertheless this episode struck me as another that was, on balance, successful. But I hope there are higher peaks to come from this series – role on the Steven Moffat two-parter!

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