Valerie: He's completely insane!
Brannigan: That, and a bit magnificent!
I like this episode a lot. It concludes what I think are the strongest three opening episodes for a series. I like the plot and the character development, but idk. I can write down all the reasons why I like it, but it doesn’t connect with me emotionally like other episodes do, so this episode only gets a B. I want to get a couple of comments about the casting out of the way first.
I love Being Human so much, and I love Annie in it. The actress who plays Annie also plays the female kidnapper here. So now rewatching “Gridlock”, I’m finding myself on Team Kidnappers instead of Team Martha. Hahaha. Don’t worry Martha! She probably just wants to make you tea!!! (Being Human also features Russel Tovey who plays Alonso in “Voyage of the Damned”.)
And now a brief note on Brannigan. First of all, LMAO. His full name is Thomas Kinkade Brannigan. Sometimes I adore RTD. Secondly, the actor who plays Brannigan was also in one of my favorite British sitcoms, Father Ted. I would embed a clip, but since apparently Channel 4 really doesn’t want people to be able to embed things, I’m going to setting for linking you to them.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzYzVMcgWhg – My Lovely Horse (Father Ted and Dougal write an entry for A Song for Ireland. It's pretty much the best song ever.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98hO97ky-sA – Teaching Dougal about perspective
Ok now to start talking about the episode itself. I rather like a lot of things about the plot in this episode. The little bit with the people in the undercity selling moods is a nice commentary on humans and our tendancy to self medicate, but instead of just being that, it is also integral to the entire plot of the Bliss virus leading to the people of the undercity being sealed off. (Also, it was pretty much all I could think about when I was watching SyFy's Alice.) And the entire plot of the people being trapped on the motorway has a suitably creepy sci fi feel to it. Also, RTD loves vertical chase scenes and we get a really great one here where the Doctor is headed down to find Martha and he, in turn, is being followed by Novice Haine. My favorite thing about this story is that this is one of those stories where there isn’t some bad guy that the Doctor has to defeat. The Macra are just beasts at this point. They’re not exactly evil. And the quarantine is unfortunate, but it was an attempt to save people.
Anyway, I really do love the “being trapped on the motorway” concept. And even though as someone who is a pretty devout Christian I should be offended that RTD is using one of my favorite hymns to make a point about religion as the opiate of the masses, I don’t really care. I seriously just love that song and that scene so much. It’s nice seeing all those people on the motorway being connected through singing the hymn. It makes them feel connected to the other people on the motorway.
This episode also has a few moments that explore the Doctor’s character.
The Doctor: How about another planet?
Martha Jones: Can we go to yours?
The Doctor: Nah, there's plenty of other places.
Martha Jones: Come on, though. I mean "Planet of the Time Lords". That's gotta be worth a look. What's it like?
The Doctor: It's beautiful, yeah... The sky's burnt orange, with the citadel enclosed in a mighty glass dome, shining under the twin suns. Beyond that, the mountains go on forever. Slopes of deep red grass, capped with snow.
Martha Jones: Can we go there?
The Doctor: Nah, where's the fun for me? I don't want to go home.
Oh Doctor. I see you, avoiding your problems. I see you. I also see you taking Martha to a place where you had had a grand old time with Rose. I really don’t know what that’s about. I can’t decide if he wants to revisit places where he’d been happy with Rose or if he just wants to impress Martha by taking her somewhere he knows is neat. Suffice to say, the Doctor has Issues.
Thomas Kincade Brannigan: This Martha, she must mean a lot to you.
The Doctor: Hardly know her. I was too busy showing off.
And now he feels guilty. In his eagerness to show off, he brought Martha somewhere that wasn’t safe and he got her in danger. This is a pretty marked change from the conversation that the Doctor had with Rose while trapped in the cellar in the third episode of the first series. The Doctor is in a completely different emotional state her and thus he hasn't let himself actually care about Martha or get to know her. But he still feels really guilty about getting her into this situation.
And you can't talk about this episode without talking about this moment. It's possibly the high light of this episode. The Doctor plays with kittens!!!!!
One of my favorite Martha moments in series three also happens in this episode. I love that she figures out to turn the car off because of what she’s seen in submarine movies. I’m pretty sure that if I were to ever find myself in any sort of dangerous situation, I would base my survival skills on movies that I’ve seen.
I also adore that moment at the end when Martha sits down and refuses to leave until the Doctor talks to her. It was the first inkling of the Martha that would show up in “The Last of the Time Lords”. Unfortunately, in spite of this promising scene, that Martha pretty much went into hibernation for another 10 episodes.
The Doctor: I lied to you, 'cause I liked it. I could pretend, just for a bit, I could imagine they were still alive underneath the burnt orange sky. I'm not just a Time Lord: I'm the last of the Time Lords. The Face of Boe was wrong. There's no one else.
Martha Jones: What happened?
The Doctor: There was a war. A Time War. The last great Time War. My people fought a race called the Daleks for the sake of all creation, and they lost. They lost. Everyone lost. They're all gone now, my family, my friends, even that sky. Ah, you should have seen it, that old planet. The second sun would rise in the south, the mountains would shine. The leaves on the trees were silver. When they caught the light every morning, they lit the forest on fire. We always had...
And one last thing before I finish this recap.
LOL. Jack!Face of Boe. LOL. I still think that is the most cracktastic thing RTD has ever done. And that’s including superpowered Master, tinkerbell!Jesus!Doctor and Gollum! Doctor.