I don’t really have much to say about this episode. I enjoyed it, probably more than I should have. It was fun, lighthearted, delightfully camp, and exactly the kind of thing you want to sit back and put your feet up to on Christmas night (or Boxing Day night for us in the Antipodes). In the greater scheme of things, it was a pretty mediocre episode of Doctor Who with an unimaginative plot, an extremely camp villain, and overblown action sequences padding out 60 minutes due to the dearth of substantive story. But I didn’t even mind. This episode wasn’t trying to be ambitious or even trying to be a serious episode of Doctor Who, it was some mindless, entertaining fun to settle down to after a tiring day of cooking and feasting and socialising with relatives. In that respect, it did what it set out to do admirably, and I can’t really fault it for not being, or even trying to be, something else.
One aspect of this episode I really liked, though, was the partnership of the Tenth Doctor and Donna. David Tennant and Catherine Tate clearly have great chemistry together, and their characters, more or less from their first encounter, are an absolute joy to watch together. Their personalities complement each other so perfectly, bouncing off each other brilliantly. I would say that, even from this episode alone, the Tenth Doctor and Donna work better together onscreen than did Ten and Rose. I mean, Ten and Rose were cute, but Ten and Donna are genuinely funny. I can definitely see why Russell T Davies jumped at the opportunity to bring Donna back as a proper companion, as he did.
Another thing I liked about this episode was the way the Doctor’s execution of the Racnoss children was portrayed. That was a really, uncharacteristically intense moment in this episode, with the haunting screams of the Racnoss Empress and the flames and flood engulfing the Doctor. It was another of the Tenth Doctor’s “dark” moments. I’ve mentioned before the idea that the Tenth Doctor may have actually been the darkest of all the Doctors, a darkness that, most of the time, he suppresses behind a jovial and affable exterior, but which comes out when he loses control. We catch only glimpses of Ten’s dark side as it comes out only infrequently, but it’s definitely there, lying just beneath the surface, suppressed but not quashed. The Racnoss death scene was a very powerful moment, in general and in terms of the Doctor’s characterisation. The theory is a really compelling one which I’m inclined to think is true, which would make Ten a far more interesting incarnation of the Doctor than he’s usually given credit for. The Doctor definitely has a very dark side to his persona, which waxes and wanes between his incarnations just as his other characteristics do. All of the revival Doctors have had fairly prominent dark sides, due to the lingering effects of the Time War upon the Doctor, and the Seventh Doctor displayed the most darkness of the classic Doctors. I like my Doctors to have a dark side, so I really appreciated this scene.