Burn with me!
Ok, this episode is definitely better than “The Lazarus Experiment”, but there still isn’t anything here that makes me want to watch it over and over again. The plot is better than “The Lazarus Experiment” to be sure, but it still isn’t something that makes me go “awesome!”, and there isn’t enough neat character exploration to make me want to watch and analyze this episode either.
This episode was written by Chris Chibnall. Chibnall has written some decent episodes of Life on Mars, some mediocre episodes of Doctor Who (this one and the Silurian two part story from series 5), some brilliant episodes of Torchwood (Fragments and Exit Wounds), and some horrific episodes of Torchwood (Cyberwoman and Countrycide). So while this episode isn’t the best of his stuff, it’s not as bad as it could have been. The dialogue is still pretty cringe worthy at times, unfortunately.
The plot is… meh. A lot of the tension comes from incredibly obvious and artificial plot devices, specifically that of the sealed doors between the crew and the auxillery engines. It just seems incredibly stupid and contrived in order to generate tension as opposed to really evolving organically from the story. Same goes for the tension created by Martha and Riley jumping into an escape pod. It seems so stupid. Surely Riley knew that was an escape pod. Why would he jump in there when he knows that the thing is trying to kill them and has the ability to override controls? As far as plot goes, the whole “crew getting possessed by an alien life form” is unoringinal. Or maybe I just watched too much Star Trek growing up. Also, living star. LOL. And the situation here is pretty much the same thing that happens in “Amy’s Dream” except instead of falling towards a hot star, they’re falling towards an ice star.
An example of Chibnall’s ~riviting dialogue:
The Doctor: That sun's alive. A living organism. They scooped out its heart. Used it for fuel and now its screaming!
Kath McDonnell: What do you mean? How can a sun be alive? Why is he saying that?
The Doctor: Because it's living *in* me.
The one bit of dialogue that made me laugh was this:
Martha Jones: Who had the most number ones: Elvis or the Beatles? That's *pre*-download.
The Doctor: Elvis. *No*! The Beatles. *No*! Wait, um... um... oh, there was that remix, um... I don't know! I *am* a bit busy.
Martha Jones: Fine, I'll ask someone else.
The Doctor: Now, where was I? "Here Comes The Sun". No, resources!
I love the Beatles and a
I feel like the secondary characters aren’t really explored. A lot of things in this episode are things that are going to be done in “Midnight”, but “Midnight” does it way better. In “Midnight” there is a sort of infection going around, but in that episode, the tension really feels palpable. And we don’t really get to know Korwin OR the captain all that well, so the scene when they go into the star just doesn’t have the same emotional punch as when the Hostess sacrifices herself in “Midnight”.
I’m not 100% sure as to how I feel about Martha’s character journey in this episode. I feel like she kind of treats Riley the exact same way that the Doctor treats her.
I get the impression that Riley fancies Martha a little bit. Their connection and interaction in the escape pod was really sweet. But then when Riley mentions maybe meeting again sometime, Martha is just like “yeah… maybe…” And then kisses him with no intention of ever seeing him again.
The Doctor: I'm scared. I'm so scared.
Martha Jones: Just stay calm. You saved me, now I return the favor. Just believe in me.
It’s also interesting that Martha says “just believe in me”, but that doesn’t really help the Doctor to calm down. He doesn’t have that same faith or trust in Martha (yet) that he did in “The Satan Pit” when he said (regarding Rose), that if he believes in just one thing, “I believe in her”. For most of series 3, I really just am not a fan of the Doctor and Martha as a Doctor/Companion relationship. They’re just not on the same page with regards to each other so it’s always a bit awkward. This doesn’t make the Doctor or Martha bad people, I just really don’t think they worked together as a Doctor/Companion relationship.
The scene where the Doctor gives Martha the key to the Tardis, to me, encapsulates everything that is wrong with the Doctor and Martha as a Doctor/Companion relationship. She worships him. The way that she receives the key with this look of utter reverence isn’t good. (Compare this to when the Doctor gave a key to Rose as a matter of course, an ordinary thing because the Doctor and Rose function as equal partners or when the Doctor gave Donna a key and tried to make a moment of it and Donna made fun of him for it because they’re besties and Donna can rib on him.) The Doctor needs someone who thinks he is a bit of a tosser sometimes and will call him out on it. Martha idolizes the Doctor too much in series 3, I think. Even though theoretically it should be the New Series relationship that is closest to being between equals, the way that it plays out is the least equal of the relationships. Martha comes from a fairly wealthy background and she is well educated. On paper she is a much better match for the Doctor than working class Rose who never got A-levels or Donna, a woman who is in her 30s and still working temp jobs. But Martha accepts the key like it is some great gift from a person so superior to herself.
I think that this becomes most gross in the next two episodes where Martha is literally the Doctor’s servant. I mean Martha really does suffer admirably, but in light of her adoration for the Doctor, it kind of squicks me out. Can you imagine Rose having to be a servant in 1914 for weeks? She was getting really tetchy after being a dinner lady for only a few days. It’s not that the other companions don’t believe in the Doctor because they do. Rose clearly does when she wants to stay behind in “The Satan Pit”, but I don’t get the same sense of unquestioning admiration. But I suppose that it was necessary for her character. Martha's loyalty to and almost deification of the Doctor is central to her saving the day in "The Last of the Time Lords". But that doesn't mean I have to like it.
Oh and I should probably mention the Francine and Saxon storyline bit. It is always nice to see what happens to those left behind (like in “Love and Monsters), and I do think having Francine be used by Saxon’s goons was an interesting choice. But whatever, she was the one who put her faith in Saxon over her daughter’s decision making abilities. And now she’s gotten in over her head.
Anyway, yay! I’m finally done with these two episodes, and now I can finish the rest of series 3 which is all fantastic from here on out!