Sunday, June 01, 2008

Doctor Who, "The Poison Sky": Are you my Martha?

Brief "Doctor Who" spoilers coming up just as soon as I do something really clever...

Under Russell T. Davies, every season of "Doctor Who" has to hit certain signposts, and one of my least favorite is the early season two-parter, which tends to be loud and busy and not that memorable. The Slitheen two-parter in season one and the Dalek two-parter last season were arguably each season's respective low point. (The first Cyberman story from season two was slightly better, owing mostly to the personal connection for Rose with the parallel versions of her parents and Mickey.)

We still have quite a lot of season four to go, but I'm hopeful that when it's over I'll be able to look back on this Sontaran storyline as the low point. Because other than a few isolated moments with Donna and Martha, these episodes left me very cold. I know that "Doctor Who" is a show that's designed for children, but it's only when the farting aliens or these guys show up that it feels like it's only for children.

Since we're now a couple of days away from the broadcast and I'm otherwise in a good mood, I'll just rattle off the few bits that I felt worked:
  • Though Donna wasn't featured as much here as she was in the season's first few episodes, the moments that she had were choice, notably her absolute terror of leaving the TARDIS to walk through the Sontaran ship ("But he'll kill me!") and, while Martha's being all lovey-dovey about The Doctor's survival, Donna punches him in the arm out of frustration for the emotional wringer he put her through. (I also liked her reaction to getting the TARDIS key.)
  • I quite liked Martha during her stint on "Torchwood," and continue to like her here, as a companion who's managed, quite quickly, to accept, and even embrace, her post-Doctor existence. I'm glad to see she'll be around for at least one more episode -- and, in sticking to her new character arc, is being dragged along against her will.
  • Someone had to point this out to me, but when The Doctor is first trying to speak to Donna while pretending to speak to the Sontarans, you can see Rose on the TARDIS monitor for a second or two, and she appears to be screaming out "Doctor!!!!"
  • Tennant putting on a gas mask and saying "Are you my mummy?," a reference to the high point of the Christopher Eccleston season (the London Blitz two-parter, which was written by Steven Moffat and therefore exempt from the series' usual two-parter issues), cracked me up.
  • I liked The Doctor's brief bonding with Ross from UNIT in the first part of the story, which made his reaction to Ross' death feel like one of the few genuine moments of the second part. As I've mentioned often in the past, the series is (usually) very good at establishing the guest stars, particularly those destined to die, with minimal effort and screen time.
What did everybody else think?


Alan Sepinwall said...

Also, the usual reminder: please respect the American air schedule, and do not discuss, even obliquely, episodes that have only aired in Great Britain so far.

Anna said...

This episode fell completely flat for me. Obviously it was supposed to be all emotional when Martha was talking to her clone and when the kid traded places with the Doctor, but there was just nothing there.

It's always only the first two-parter with the problems. The second one is always amazing. Slitheen vs. Nanogenes, Cybermen vs. Satan, Daleks vs. Family of Blood (and, I would imagine in the case of this season, Helen Raynor vs. Steven Moffat).

Oh, also, I think Rose might actually be yelling "Donna!" With a British accent, both have very similar, um, mouth movements.

dark tyler said...

The level of restraint I'm forcing upon myself to not discuss Steven Moffat's master-- erm, episode, is unprecedented! ;)

So, um, this one sucked. Yeah.

The one thing I found particularly funny; the way the Doctor would have totally burnt the whole atmosphere with his nifty trick at the end. Almost funnier that the no breaking the glass thing in last episode's 'cliffhanger'.

(This one reminded me a lot of early 'Alias': Bad guy points gun at Sydney's head, episode ends, next episode begins, Sydney punches guy in the mouth. Amazing.)

Dani In NC said...

I totally missed the brief Rose moment, too.

I didn't think this two-parter was terrible, but I agree with you that the really good ones are usually at the end of the season. I normally think of Brit series as not having filler episodes, but perhaps these two-parters are filler.

Anonymous said...

Still totally worth it to see Sontarans and for those giddy five minutes in the first part of the two-parter. But yeah, the 2nd part was a waste of time.

Also: Spoiler spoiler Steven Moffat spoiler spoiler spoiler spoiler oblique spoiler.

Anonymous said...

Man, this episode was really, really bad. Who wrote this crap?

Mapeel said...

I liked the "Donna, nobis pacem". There's just a lot you can do with that name.

Nicole said...

The "are you my mummy" moment was my favourite although it went so fast I had to rewind to make sure that was actually what I heard. The Rose flash was also okay because it builds the mystery, and I had to watch this again and still can't tell if she says Doctor or Donna. But I guess that I'm just not thrilled that Rose looks to be back (and this is not a spoiler based on the UK episodes because there is no answer to that question so far) because Rose was put on such a pedestal after she left, that I really started to dislike her. RTD seems fixated on her, whereas I think her "memory" hampered Martha's development last year, and it's only this year that Donna seems to be helping the Doctor move past this. I hope Steven Moffat doesn't like Rose and just moves on when he takes over.

The genius American kid with bad accent was still mostly annoying, but at least he redeemed himself at the end. It was obvious because there was no way the Doctor would have actually "died" or regenerated so early in the run.

Helen Raynor wrote a better two parter than last year (which for me were the two worst episodes in the entire run - I don't mind Love and Monsters) but she needs to stop putting Americans with bad accents in her episodes. The BBC can't seem to hire people to do them properly, so just don't do them. Or get Hugh Laurie.

Antid Oto said...

The level of restraint I'm forcing upon myself to not discuss Steven Moffat's master-- erm, episode, is unprecedented! ;)

Me too. It's great. But no spoilers!

afoglia said...

Hey, Alan, did you catch any of "The Sarah Jane Adventures?" I started watching them because Sci-Fi showed them at 8. Yes, it's geared a little more towards children, but not much. And more importantly, it's better than "Torchwood." Maybe because it's not constantly trying to be adult, and normal "Doctor Who" stories aren't that much different, that it works where "Torchwood" failed.

dark tyler said...

And more importantly, it's better than "Torchwood." Maybe because it's not constantly trying to be adult, and normal "Doctor Who" stories aren't that much different, that it works where "Torchwood" failed.

I agree with every single word of this quote. I really appreciated the little kid show, it was so much better that 'Torchwood' and it even never hit the Raynor-like lows of 'Doctor Who'.

Has 'Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?' aired yet? Amazing episode.

Anonymous said...

You are right about the fact that the two-parters are usually not as interesting as other episodes, but this one rocked loads for me (and probably for everyone who knows Old Who a little bit) simply because of the return of the Sontarans. I'm still giggling at "Is the temperature significant?"

Oh, and yes, we liked Ross. A lot.