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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Doctor Who - "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

WHOSCALE: 9 out of 10

This episode was written by Gareth Roberts, and is the first to score a 9 on the Whoscale since Moffat's "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances."

I remember seeing the title for this episode before it aired, and I was eager with anticipation to see it, since the title was very intriguing leaving me wondering what it could possibly be about. For me, those kinds of titles work the best, directly referring to elements in the story, but at the same time keeping you from understanding its meaning until the end.

Although my review ranks this one very high, I have on occasion encountered fans who utterly disliked this one, and often rated it the worst of Series Four.

Doctor Who always works well when there's multiple mysteries to solve, and Roberts throws us right into the mix with the with the greatest mystery writer, Agatha Christie. The episode follows the "whodunit" format, allowing The Doctor to slowly work out what's going on, and keeping us attentive to hear his explanation.

Despite this episode almost mirroring a mix of Clue, Mrs. Marple, and various other novels from Christie, the reason for the likeness is explained within the story.

The setting of the episode, the pacing the mood, the characters and even the incidental music were all spot-on, which contributed to this episode's exceptional score.

Fans of the original series should recognize the actor portraying the Colonel as Henry Gordon Jago in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."

In fact, the only drawback to this episode was the obvious gay relationship between Lady Edison's son and Davenport, one of the household staff. A minor drawback, and hardly worth mentioning.

Great dialogue through and through. Best episode Roberts had contributed.

Doctor Who - "The Doctor's Daughter"

WHOSCALE: 8.5 out of 10

I remember when I first saw the title of this episode before it aired, and I recall thinking that it was going to be a total dud, full of wishy-washy, soapy, tear jerking scenes. Of course, at that time I foolishly assumed that the title's reference was literal.

The pre-title sequence to this episode quickly explains the title's REAL meaning: that "The Doctor's Daughter" is not a family member returning from the ashes of Gallifrey, but an anomaly generated by extracting a cell from The Doctor's hand and then growing a clone from it.

Ironically, The Doctor's daughter is portrayed by Georgia Moffett, who is Peter Davison's real life daughter. So, The Doctor's daughter IS The Doctor's daughter.

This episode scored an 8.5 because it was full of classic Who flavor from start to finish. Another world, underground tunnels, a war between the humans and the fish-like Hath, a slate of mysteries to solve, one of The Doctor's companions separated from the group, Donna once again shows off how clever she is, and The Doctor using a little wind-up mouse to distract a guard were all generous amounts of key ingredients that kept me on the edge of my seat....well, actually I watched from the foot of my bed, but you get the idea.

After seeing this one for the first time, I recall instantly considering it one of my favorites, and it still is. The Fourth Series seemed to be the best of the Tennant years as far as being parallel to what Doctor Who is all about.

The only dispute I had was at the very end, where Jenny is shot and The Doctor gets a bit "Captain Kirk preachy." I did wonder if Jenny's revival was a rip off from "Star Trek: The Search for Spock," where a similar terra-forming device, GENESIS, was used and inadvertently reanimated a dead Spock.

It was Moffat's decision to keep Jenny alive, and hats off to him for that. At least we know there is one other Time Lord out there somewhere.

Brilliant episode, and definitely the best of the season so far.

Doctor Who - "The Poison Sky"

WHOSCALE: 8 out of 10

The conclusion to "The Sontaran Stratagem" was just as terrific. For the duration of the episode, The Doctor continues to unravel the reason for the Atmos gas that started filling the skies at the close of the previous episode.

With each of my reviews, I watch the episode from the classic Doctor Who side of the fence, so I often spend my reviews ranting about things I felt were inconsistent with the fundamentals set by the original series. While some people have told me that there is no comparing the two, the fact that fans like myself who grew up with the multi-colored scarf are hooked on the revived series as much as we are the original is proof that in spite of all of Russell T Davies' shortcomings with his vision of the new series, Doctor Who still has the spark that it did all those years ago.

Helen Raynor once again shows that she can keep a plotline afloat for the length of two episodes, just as she did with her Dalek story. I was relieved to see that Sontaran firearms were alien in design, complete with flashing red lights at the tip of their barrels. I know it sounds toyish and cheesy, but just because it's 2008 doesn't mean everything alien has to be exotic in design. The Sontaran weapons weren't too Star Wars-y, in short. Ofcourse, I now distinctly remember a Sontaran in "The Invasion of Time" wielding a weapon shaped more like a wand, with the handle end tailored to better suit a Sontaran's large three fingers.

Another plus I neglected to mention in my review of "The Sontaran Stratagem" was the electronic sounds used as music for the Sontarans. However, I must confess I was also partial to the short trumpet fanfare that played during short Sontaran marching scenes.

About the only minuses I could find with this two parter was the usual RTD dummy marks - scene after scene after scene of news anchors ranting about "stay in your homes," "biblical plagues," and "the end of days," with close ups of the anchors' mouths accompanied with extreme shaky camera work. Completely unnecessary, since audiences would have already worked it out themselves. As I've said, this is always inserted just to give the drama a shot of nitrous oxide.

The other RTD "dummy mark" was, of course, the involvement of Donna's family in the Sontaran crisis, setting the stage for RTD's usual tear-jerker scenes, and that includes Martha's farewell to her clone.

The only other minus was the shaky reality TV camera work as Rattigan attempts to persuade his fellow students to join him on his new world, which ultimately ends up just being an empty promise made to Rattigan by the Sontarans.

Donna is fantastic once again as the companion, showing some full-on calm initiative while under pressure on the Sontaran ship, as well as bravery, something Rose lacked frequently.

The conclusion was a bit puzzling though, as The Doctor ignited all the gas in the sky causing a wall of fire which conveniently seemed to only affect the upper atmosphere, but still clear the gas below.

The episode is full of twists right to the end, where the TARDIS inexplicably sends The Doctor, Martha, and Donna on an adventure without The Doctor touching a thing.

Favorite dialogue? The Doctor in a gas mask: "Are you my mummy?"