TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E06: The Doctor’s Daughter

Week six, and things aren’t exactly improving – this episode proved how important an effect Graeme Harper can have on New Who, when we see a typically Harper-esque episode of dark gritty futurewar that isn’t directed by him, and it’s kind of a mess. With Murray Gold in absolute overdrive once again, and the pace cranked up a couple of levels beyond insane, there was barely enough time to work out what was going on, as everything happenned in a flurry of running and badly handled explosions. Now, there were some examples of good visual storytelling here, but there was also some deeply shonky design work – the Haath may have worked at some point in the development process, but the fully realised version onscreen looked like a stuntman wearing an ill-fitting artificial head with a 7-Up bottle thrust in its mouth (And how come the automatic TARDIS translation didn’t work on the Haath?) Tate was once again good at the drama, bloody awful at the comedy, and Tennant showed his stuff once again – but I couldn’t help feeling that this was the kind of story that should have been done over at least a couple of episodes, as going from “I want nothing to do with you” to a tearful death scene (and the subsequent resurrection) within 40 minutes was pushing it severely. As grahamsleight noted on his whoblogging comments here, there’s a nice conceptual puzzle with the dates that actually is the pure kind of SF storytelling I love, and certain aspects of the worldbuilding were well thought out – even if the seven day war was total bunkum of the highest order (so, each generation is wiped out completely with no survivors? How very convenient and unlikely…) There’s (probably unintentional) echoes of the Who story ‘Full Circle’ here, where a civillisation was locked in combat with an enemy without realising that their history was a complete lie, but of course the main DVD of the week appeared to be Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, complete with terraforming conclusion, tragic death, and a resurrection (When the hell will New Who leave Christian imagery alone? And when will Tennant have a tearful death scene with someone who’s actually destined to stay dead?). Georgina Moffet did a pretty good job with a character who was part intriguing, part annoying (even down to it being a simple swift cloning, rather than my suspicion of something left over from the Time War), and it’s hard not to think that there’s another spin-off just waiting in the wings (and what the hell was going on with the delayed recovery without any regeneration?). All in all, an episode much less than the sum of its parts, and which proves once again that there’s nothing that can’t be solved with magic CGI pixie dust, and also that while the CGI is getting better and better, New Who’s visual vocabulary seems to be shrinking every season (Again, as grahamsleight says, I’m wondering exactly how many more crumbling/industrial locations in Cardiff there can be possibly left to use…)

Next week, it’s celebrity historical time yet again, in a highly unremarkable-looking Agatha Christie-centric episode soon to be known as “That one I had to sit through before I got to the Steven Moffatt two-parter”…

12 thoughts on “TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E06: The Doctor’s Daughter

  1. The underwhelimg season opener aside, I’ve been really enjoying this season so far. It’s been nothing revelatory, and as you said last week that’s a flaw in itself, but it’s been very solid and probably more interesting than last season at the same point. Certainly the Sontaran two-parter aced the Dalek two-parter.
    This one, though is very uneven and notably rushed, which is a shame.

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    • Despite my relatively epic moans about the last three episodes, I do kind of agree with you – much of my goodwill for S3 was coloured by episodes 7 onwards (yes, I enjoyed 42) and at this stage last year I wasn’t exactly hugely inspired. In the moments where everything comes together and the show starts working, it’s the strongest it’s ever been – they just aren’t happening often enough (at least for me).
      Plus, I think what will remain my biggest bugbear is still the fact that the episodes are still fitting into convenient New Who categories without any real intent to suprise the audience (I mean, they had an episode called The Doctor’s Daughter, and even if you hadn’t been spoiled by the pre-publicity (or last week’s teaser), the only genuine suprise was in the first five minutes when she actually turned up!), when shaking up the categories and throwing in left-field surprises is, for me, what Who is all about.

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      • True, although the Doctor’s Daughter is a relatively atypical Who story, I think.
        Our TV guide summarises the plot as: “The Doctor meets a mysterious young woman on a war-torn planet who makes a startling claim”, and in the pick of the day as “A mysterious young woman causes chaos when she makes a shocking claim about her relationship to the Doctor.
        This makes me think that a) my TV guide makes this stuff up by watching the trailer, and b) even the title doesn’t give everything away about the episode.

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  2. (And how come the automatic TARDIS translation didn’t work on the Haath?)
    Given how well Martha seemed to be getting along with that one Haath, I assumed that it did work. This may be my sanity self-preservation instinct at work.
    (and what the hell was going on with the delayed recovery without any regeneration?).
    suggests it was a side-effect of the terraforming device, which seems plausible to me (she seemed to exhale some magic pixie dust).

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    • On the Martha/Haath point, the fact that it was something you had to assume is a point against the storytelling, but it’s probably an after-effect of trying to fit far too much into that episode (to rapidly diminishing returns). In dramatic terms, they did seem to be playing the idea of Martha finding a common ground without necessarily understanding what the Haath were saying, which isn’t a bad idea – it’s just that when you’ve got a device like the TARDIS translation (which does get frequently referred to), it would have been nice to at least offer a brief throwaway explanation. AFter all “Bubble bubble bubble bubble” isn’t going to be the easiest thing to translate…
      Again, with the post-terraforming resurrection – it just seemed to conveniently happen, without any decent explanation (The CGI pixie dust could have been the terraforming gloop emerging from her mouth, but it was much closer to the other CGI pixie dust that was coming out of the Doctor’s mouth post-regeneration back in The Christmas Invasion). Although, attributing it somehow to the terraforming does complete the episode’s completely shameless rip-off of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (And, was I the only one watching the scene where the Doctor smashes the Source and thinking “Blimey, I hope it doesn’t actually work in completely the same way as the Genesis Device from Wrath of Khan, because if it does they’re in really deep trouble…”?)

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      • “Blimey, I hope it doesn’t actually work in completely the same way as the Genesis Device from Wrath of Khan, because if it does they’re in really deep trouble…”
        Yep. Although he clearly recognised it and knew how it worked, and hell, he lit the Earth’s atmosphere on fire last week with no ill effects…
        As for the Hath, watching Doctor Who Confidential was something of a surprise. On the location filming for the Puddle o’ Doom sequence, they had someone shouting out the Hath’s lines for Martha to respond to. So it must at one stage have been intended to have overdubbed lines; either that or they were there for reference.
        So for example when Martha shouts “What are you doing”, the Hath shouts “Helping you”. And when it sinks, it says “Goodbye friend”. I think we can all agree that it’s a blessing they removed the Hath dialogue.
        (Interestingly the “Fear Factor” kids on the BBC Doctor Who website rated this episode as the best of the season to date.)

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      • I was trying to quietly ignore the ‘atmosphere ignition’ in the hope that it would go away. Yes, it was spectacular, but in terms of science it made last year’s ‘DNA transmitted as lightning’ moment look pretty mild. I don’t think Helen Raynor is the person to go to for good, old-fashioned SF storytelling…
        And yes, it does sound like we dodged a bullet with the Hath dialogue. Doesn’t surprise me that it’s a murky moment caused by them presumably changing their minds in post production…

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  3. My train of thought was ….
    1. Martha will find a lush green planet on the surface. When she didn’t:
    2. The source is a terraforming device.
    The premise of it being only a 7 day war was a genuine surprise which ultimately fell flat because it was a minor aside to everything else. This was definitely one of the more tedious episodes to get through.
    It’s been too long since I saw Star Trek II to make comparisons, but such plot devices at least go as far back as the 1950s and Philip K Dick short stories.
    At least the Doctor’s daughter wasn’t given a time machine. I hope that small looking shuttle she flew off with was stocked with life support …

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    • Re: My train of thought was ….
      Hadn’t actually thought of the PKD similarities until you mentioned that, but they’re definitely there (if nowhere near as well thought out as PKD ever managed it). To be honest, the other big influence or echo in the story was Star Trek: The Next Generation, particularly the episode where Data constructed a daughter, and generally in the way that you knew some kind of reset button would be hit at the end of the episode. (When is the Doctor going to learn that offering someone a ride in the TARDIS is an at least 70% guarantee that they’ll be expiring by the end of the episode?)
      I doubt the lack of a time machine is going to stop them having Jenny turn up somewhere completely improbable – they retro-engineered Jack having a ‘time bracelet’ so he could go from the far future to modern day Cardiff (poor sod), so they’ll come up with something. And yes, the life support is unlikely to be well stocked… but how the hell is she able to fly it when she’s been generated purely as a soldier, and shouldn’t automatically have any piloting skills?

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      • Re: My train of thought was ….
        I doubt the lack of a time machine is going to stop them having Jenny turn up somewhere completely improbable
        … like a series finale???

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      • Re: My train of thought was ….
        I’d say the chances of Jenny not ‘surprisingly’ turning up to save the day in the series finale are virtually nil. I’d have her down for a heroic sacrifice if she hadn’t already done it (although, thinking about it, New Who has never been afraid of repeating itself before…)

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  4. Hmm, “The Doctor’s Duffter”.
    The Haath. Half human, half fish? So why did one drown in the swamp with Martha? Couldn’t it spit out it’s drink in time? Where’s Patrick Duffy when you need him…
    The ending. Apparently, according to Doctor Who Confidential, It was Steven Moffat who insisted that Jenny be resurrected. RTD and his bunch of cronies wanted her dead!
    One thought about her whole resurrection thing that occured to me. She came back to life with, as you pointed out Sax, cg pixie dust breath akin to that from the post regeneration Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion”.
    From that, I took it to mean that she, like the Doctor, was in her first 24 hours of regeneration (or generation in her case). In which case, the Doctor was able to “mend” himself (and re-grew his hand.) Thus, Jenny (Or “Geni” as it should really be, according to Donna) was able to repair herself too. (Clare Bennet anyone?)
    I also had echoes of “Silent Running” for a moment during the episode too…
    This series so far for me has been disappointing. Ironically the episode that by far worked the best was” Planet of the Ood”. I say ironically, because that was the one I rolled my eyes at when I heard about it before the series began.
    The more I hear about the lead up to the finale, the more I shudder. From what I can tell, everyone and their cat will be thrown in there. Along with “an army of unimaginable size”. As always.
    Lord, please help Steven Moffat deliver the saviour episodes of this series…

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