The Doctor: Keep moving fast as you can.
Production Code: 3.7.
Doctor Who Season: S29 (Ep7).
Story Number: 184.
As I described in my review of Gridlock, as Doctor Who stories can be set anytime, anywhere, so Russell T guards against the show feeling incoherent by having us visit certain times and places again…
This episode shares some of the cinematic influences of that two-parter (e.g. the Alien films) but the clean, blue lines of the escape pod demonstrate that Soderbergh’s version of the film Solaris is also an inspiration. (The idea of a sentient celestial body is also similar to Solaris.)
The escape pod sequence, although partly inspired by Soderbergh with the image of Martha receding into the distance, has another wonderful accompanying image of the Doctor silently mouthing “I’ll save you!”. This must be the most poetic sequence of images since Nu-Who appeared in March 2005. (Well done Graeme Harper.)
Just as the 50 million and first Century is sometimes portrayed as whimsical (as I describe in my review of Gridlock), there is a harder aspect to the stories set in the 42nd Century and to the science depicted (e.g. with this episode illustrating -273 degrees C).
The stirring theme that I liked so much in Gridlock is back here to underscore the peril in the story as the Doctor strives to save Martha. This episode looks great and sounds great. Chris Chibnall has harsh critics for his scripts for Torchwood, but I thought Cyberwoman and End of Days were great fun, and this Doctor Who episode is a slightly more serious though similarly fast-paced story.
The ongoing arc storylines seem tightly woven this year, with the appearance of Elize Du Toit as Sinister Woman tracking the Doctor for Mister Saxon, after the previous episode began this idea of Saxon’s interest in the Doctor. Martha is finally accepted by the Doctor here, with his surprising admission that he is scared showing he is finally able to speak to her without evasion.
The season continues with another good episode.
2012 thoughts: This will be the last of the “Originally published on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide” reviews! Six new-for-2012 reviews for the spectacular rest of the season, one new review each week for the next six weeks.
Thinking about the influences of this story more, the whole “drifting-in-space pods, the hero must spacesuit-up” thing has a definite precedent in 2001: A Space Odyssey!