Donna: Just promise me one thing. Find someone.
The Doctor: I don’t need anyone.
Donna: Yes, you do. Because sometimes, I think you need someone to stop you.
From the Christmas Special, The Runaway Bride, 3.X.
The idea of the companion influencing the Doctor’s behaviour is a theme that is continued throughout this season – the “companion effect” as this blog calls it. Please note the season has now been broadcast, so plot details will be discussed here…
Like the previous reviews here of the whole seasons of Nu-Who, this review will focus on the planets and the future-history-continuity – but also this “companion effect”.
Does the Doctor follow Donna’s advice?
The episode Smith and Jones ends (or begins?) with a rather cheeky and playful approach to the mechanics of time travel, an approach that will be carried through the whole season.
With this episode, the Doctor and Martha (not yet his new companion) are on the moon, and Martha gazes across the moonscape to the Earth. Please remember this scene as we will be returning to it later in the review.
Martha: How many people want to go to the Moon? And here we are!
The Doctor: Standing in the earthlight.
Martha: What do you think happened?
The Doctor: What do you think?
She is full of wonder and hope. She hasn’t stepped on board the TARDIS yet – but the Doctor likes her already.
We have another present/past/future opening trio of episodes (3.1, 3.2, 3.3) – with the one set in the past, The Shakespeare Code, adding to the amusingly flippant approach to time travel (with the nods to the Grandfather Paradox and the Butterfly Effect). The flippancy is perhaps continued too far with the referencing of the film Back to the Future, which feels wrong somehow. The third episode Gridlock has a return to a “Planet Zog” from a previous season: the planet New Earth. After his initial welcome to her, the Doctor seems to take his time to fully accept Martha as a companion – and seems to be still pining for Rose.
The next four episodes, 3.4&5, 3.6, 3.7, (which makes three stories as we have another Dalek two-parter) while not as great as the excellent opening trio are still all at least very good (except Evolution of the Daleks which was a real disappointment.)
Planet Skaro is mentioned briefly by both the Doctor and the Daleks. The Lazarus Experiment both resolves and begins ongoing plotlines (the Doctor finally accepts Martha – symbolised by her receiving both TARDIS key and Superphone. The plotlines that begin are: Mr Saxon taking an interest and the appearance of LazLabs technology.)
With the episode 42 we visit the Torajii system, as the cargo transporter S.S. Pentallion plunges toward the sun, and we have returned to the 42nd Century. (The Radio Times Season 2007 preview from RTD gives us the date – and the BBC Podcast commentary notes this is the same century as The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, 2.8&9). The episode 42 also shows Martha and the Doctor bonding a little more, as he expresses his fear to her – the fear of what he may do.
The next three episodes, 3.8&9, and 3.10, (which are two stories) begin a run of astonishing episodes, the like of which had not been seen since Season 18!
The sketchbook of Human Nature provided a moment of wonder for long-term fans as the face of the Eighth Doctor was seen (hopefully resolving any “canon” arguments that were still continuing up to that point.)
At the end of the episode The Family of Blood, the Doctor has been rejected by Joan. The Doctor when alienated from those around him, this blog suggests, is less merciful. (“I used to have so much mercy” he says in School Reunion, 2.3.) As well as feeling distanced from Joan, he is still not really connected with Martha, the “companion effect” is not influencing him, and so, without mercy, he consigns the Family of Blood to their Magic Realism fates.
Blink continues the cheeky approach to time travel. Although the Doctor is very much in the background in this episode, we can see he is bonding more with Martha – and note that one theme of Blink is trying to find people to connect with.
The episode 3.11, Utopia, is ASTOUNDING, and features a new “Planet Zog”: the planet Malcassairo.
The next episode 3.12, The Sound of Drums, surprising long-term fans, features the Doctor describing his planet of origin Gallifrey, and it is depicted on-screen for the first time since the story The Five Doctors, C20.7.
The scene that this blog chooses to highlight from the finale Last of the Time Lords, episode 3.13 is the following:
The Master: I took Lucy to Utopia. A Time Lord and his human companion. I took her to see the stars. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?
Lucy Saxon: Trillions of years into the future, to the end of the universe.
The Master: Tell him what you saw.
Lucy Saxon: Dying. Everything dying. The whole of creation was falling apart and I thought there’s no point. No point to anything. Not ever.
The Master: (to the Doctor) And it’s all your fault.
Compare this scene, (which shows the Master has used his time with his companion to provide her with an experience of hopelessness) – with the scene from Smith and Jones mentioned near the beginning of this review (where Martha’s sense of wonder and hope prompts the Doctor to think of her as his new companion.)
Over the last few episodes he has bonded much more with his companion Martha – so they now work as team. The “companion effect” is once again influencing the Doctor and he is much, much more merciful with the Master than he has ever been before when he defeats him (“I forgive you.”)
In summary, the greatest Nu-Who season yet, and one which can be compared to Seasons 14 and 18.
The stories that featured “Planet Zogs” were excellent, or, in the instance of the story begun by the episode Utopia – one of the greatest Doctor Who stories ever. So, good reasons for more “Planet Zogs” for the 2008 Season surely!