Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jumping Back To "The Doctor's Daughter" Reveals An Unremarkable Loose End!

The Good: Moments of character, Pacing, Moments of performance from Catherine Tate
The Bad: Acting from David Tennant and Georgia Moffett, Dull use of Martha Jones
The Basics: "The Doctor's Daughter" is a surprisingly blase episode . . . that feels much more interesting than it objectively is.

There's something unsettling about reviewing two different seasons of Doctor Who at a time. As I write this, the 9th Season of Doctor Who is in mid-stride and between new episodes each week, I'm trying to catch up on reviews of prior season's episodes. Jumping from Capaldi back to Tennant is nowhere near as seamless as one might expect! I'm back to "The Doctor's Daughter," an episode that has thus far never been revisited, despite the potential it represents and the occasional allusion to it.

"The Doctor's Daughter" picks up instantly after "The Poison Sky" (reviewed here!). As that episode wrapped up, Martha Jones visited the TARDIS with The Doctor and Donna Noble when the TARDIS decided to abruptly take off. "The Doctor's Daughter" erupts with no fanfare and the novelty of the episode makes it a harder one to return to later on.

The TARDIS lands abruptly on the planet Messaline where The Doctor is eager to get out and explore. The trio finds themselves in an underground compound and human soldiers instantly appear. Seeing no marks on the visitor's hands, the Doctor's hand is stuck in a machine which instantly generates a new human soldier based on his DNA. The young woman who comes out of the progenation machine is armed, but unable to defend Martha Jones from getting captured by the alien Hath. The Doctor and Donna are escorted to the human colony where they learn from Cobb the history of the planet. Cobb tells them that the humans and Hath are competing over the Source. Martha, for her part, sets a Hath's arm and ingratiates herself to the Hath army.

Cobb refuses to trust Jenny, as Donna names the Doctor's cloned daughter, so he locks her up with Donna and The Doctor. Jenny is excited by The Doctor's tactical knowledge, but he is resistant to accepting his new "daughter." As the Hath move off toward the Source, Donna discovers that Jenny is a Time Lady (biologically, anyway) and the trio escapes. Martha makes her way to the surface of the planet with one of the Hath, but discovers it to be a wasteland. While Donna goads The Doctor into accepting Jenny, The Doctor tries to figure out how to end the war between the humans and the Hath.

"The Doctor's Daughter" is a fun episode in many ways, but the concept is somewhat undermined by the performance. Fans might love seeing David Tennant on screen with the woman who would become his wife, but acting alongside Georgia Moffett is actually one of the problems with the episode. Tennant and Moffett have a palpable chemistry between them and in the scene where The Doctor, Jenny, and Donna are imprisoned is undermined by that chemistry. Tennent smirks his way through most of the scene, which does not work given how resistant the Doctor is supposed to be to the idea of Jenny. Indeed, Tennent's lines ring of the character being offended by the violation of his cells being used to generate Jenny and of being around as the humans prepare to wipe out the Hath, but it's hard to take The Doctor seriously when Tennent's eyes are smiling the whole time.

Donna Noble continues to develop well in "The Doctor's Daughter." Throughout the compound are number plaques and Noble works very hard to figure out what the numbers mean. Noble is used better than Martha Jones who is given a story that feels very much like a tangent. The irony is that the entire fourth season is peppered with Rose appearing in the background until the big, final arc: her reappearance comes as part of a very vital, big story. Martha's appearance in "The Doctor's Daughter" is hardly a compelling character journey. In fact, given how she is now a full-fledged medical professional, it seems odd that she lacks any sense of professional detachment to deal with the death of a Hath who sacrifices itself for her.

The Hath are an interestingly-designed alien species and the prosthetic special effect is offset by the low-tech effect of the laser beam grid. When Jenny flips her way through the laser grid, it is filmed in such a way as to cheat the actual incredible feat.

Ultimately, "The Doctor's Daughter" is very much a bottle episode, which is not particularly impressive in any real way, but does not feel bad.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season of David Tennant as The Doctor here!

For other stories about wars without end, please check out my reviews of:
"Battle Lines" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Episode 29" - Twin Peaks


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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