TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E05: The Poison Sky

The finale to last week’s less-than-exciting cliffhanger, and while the quality level didn’t leap, it didn’t sink either, and writer Helen Raynor did at least serve up something a little better than last year’s unimpressive Dalek two-parter. Some impressive CGI, a selection of fun moments and a frankly head-scratching cliffhanger couldn’t really make up for a story that felt like ticking items off on a list, and never truly cohered together. The treatment of the Sontarans varied between genuinely good and slightly annoying (why did the Sontaran second in command have to sound like a Radio 2 presenter?), and I can’t help wishing they’d either come up with a different design for their armour (losing the shoulder pads would have been very welcome), or at least make it out of something that didn’t look like foam rubber. The handling of Donna was relatively effective here, Tate wasn’t too OTT, and it’s nice to see their decision to play her status as an ordinary person is working well. On the other hand, there was poor old Martha who was largely wasted for the whole story and given little to do but be an evil clone and get tied up – they really don’t seem to know what to do with her now that the unrequited crush on the Doctor is officially over. Much of Tennant’s perkiness was straying back to the more annoying quirks of season 2, while the teen genius was ferociously overplayed (but at least went out with a fairly heroic bang). It’s stories like this that bring home how the broader, more populist Who really isn’t for me – especially when they manage to spend 90 minutes telling a story they could easily have fitted in 45. Two more episodes, and then it’s the Moffatt two-parter. Before then, we’ve got an Agatha Christie celebrity historical – and next week’s episode, with the not-at-all-spoilerish-in-any-way title ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’. Going by the teaser on The Poison Sky, I am yet to be convinced…

6 thoughts on “TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E05: The Poison Sky

  1. that teaser
    The teaser at the end immediately made me think that RTD wants to spin-off the daughter into some sort of Buffy franchise instead of doing something like, you know, using his power money and influence to actually do something groundbreaking and worthwhile.
    That said, me and the family do enjoy watching new Who, and I thought the production values were generally very good on Poison Sky (smoke/gas was bit pants though). I’m not geeky enough to care about shoulder pads and stuff, but I did think it was obvious that the production could afford more suits than they could for the Cybermen episodes where they were clearly re-using a small number of suits.
    Was Bernard Cribbins in the Dalek movie with Roy Castle or did I imagine that?

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      • Re: that teaser
        True- although Roy Castle was pretty much in pratfall-heavy comic relief mode as well in Doctor Who and the Daleks…

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    • Re: that teaser
      Yes- from a general ‘family entertainment’ angle, The Poison Sky was pretty fun stuff. I know I’m generally viewing Who from a ridiculously biased and demanding viewpoint, and I do try and switch that side of myself off when I’m watching (I managed it succesfully with ‘Partners in Crime’, for instance). I guess my main issue with the Sontaran two-parter is that it featured the return of the Sontarans and UNIT, and yet managed to feel pretty run-of-the-mill and unremarkable. Slickly put together with a minimum of embarrassing moments, but it just reinforces my feeling that when it comes to these kinds of episodes, the show is refining the formula rather than doing anything new with it.
      The complaints about the Sontaran uniforms are mainly me in full-on geek mode, but I do think they’re a poor design, and it would have been nice if they’d actually looked like they’d seen a little combat or been just a little weathered and battered, rather than seeming like the F/X bods had just pulled the plastic armour out of the molds five minutes previously.
      And the teaser… to be honest, a spin-off wouldn’t surprise me (but then, very little does about New Who anymore). I knew about this episode in advance, but it was a little disheartening to see they’re leaping on the superpowered Buffy bandwagon so enthusiastically (“Good lord! She’s nimble! And she kisses men!”). Plus, I really wish they’d stop using clips in the teasers that are so obviously going to be the lead in to the titles for the episode (Most recent offender- Martha’s incredibly creaky “I’m bringing you back to Earth!” in the Sontaran Stratagem teaser). Well, I guess we’ll see in a few days – although I’m placing money on her being some kind of cloning experiment done in the last days of the Time War (They’ve hinted at the Doctor’s family in New Who before, but I don’t know if they’ve got quite enough nerve to actually go there…)

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      • Re: that teaser
        If the Doctor is such a genius, how come he couldn’t figure out how to break a car window? This series has been utter tosh, only the prospect of Stephen Moffat’s episodes keeps me watching.

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