Thoughts on: The Doctor’s Daughter

The Doctor’s Daughter was both a fun and powerful story, managing to insert solemn and compellingly-explored moral themes into what was at the same time a fun romp about the Doctor’s cloned “daughter”. Jenny was simply awesome. Apart from being completely gorgeous, Georgia Moffett’s character was sweet, adorably exuberant, feisty and spirited. Who, honestly, watched Jenny seduce the guard to steal his gun, or somersault her way through the laser beams, without a broad grin on their face? (By the way, where did she learn to seduce like that? Surely she didn’t get it from the Doctor…?) I think the audience would have been left exceedingly fond of Jenny by the end of the episode, looking forward to seeing her begin travelling with the Doctor. I was, at least. She would have made an excellent companion to the Doctor, I think. At the very least, her character had too much potential for nothing more to be done with her, especially given that very suggestive final scene. It’s an enormous shame that her character has been all but forgotten about ever since, and too much time has passed for something substantial to be done with her. Even a one-off appearance would have been nice (would still be nice?)

Another great aspect of this episode was its exploring of the Doctor’s feelings about the Time Lords and his lost home. The Doctor at first refused to accept that Jenny was a Time Lord, considering that to call her a Time Lord would be an insult to the memory of his lost civilisation. “You’re an echo, that’s all. A Time Lord is so much more. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering. Only it’s gone now, all of it. Gone forever.” Tennant portrayed, as always, the Doctor’s pain and suppressed trauma over the loss of his planet and people really powerfully, saying so little but expressing so much. Tennant does that very well. The Doctor warmed to Jenny when he saw that she was more like him than he realised, although uncertain how he would deal with being constantly reminded of the Time War if Jenny were to come with him. The Doctor admitted something very telling when he agreed with Donna when she said “You talk all the time, but you don’t say anything.” The Doctor grieves in private. From the rare instances where we see the Doctor open up about the Time War, it’s obvious that his grief and pain is simply too much to bear talking about, to even bear thinking about. So what do you do when you’re in emotional suffering but find things to distract yourself with? That about sums up the Doctor of the revived series.

Donna was exemplary in this episode. Again she showed what a caring and compassionate person she is when she made the Doctor see Jenny for who she is, his daughter; and in her not unsuccessful efforts at getting the Doctor to open up about his feelings (something I think Martha would not have had success in doing). The writers have really put a lot of attention into making Donna a quality companion whom the audience cares about, and Donna truly is a great companion to the Doctor as a result, in every sense of the word. Donna also showed her resourcefulness in figuring out the mystery behind the numbers printed everywhere, showing she’s more than just a good mate to the Doctor.

The setting was really intriguing, and the war between the humans and Hath made for a great opportunity to discuss the futility of war and the morality of fighting. I sometimes find it remarkable that, after all this time, the Doctor still holds to his lofty, some would say naïve, pacifistic ideals. Surely after 900 years and having seen war and bloodshed everywhere he goes, and having engaged in his fair share of violence himself, he would be jaded and resigned to the reality of an unrelentingly violent world? I think, in this story, we’re given a compelling answer to that particular question: it’s exactly because of all the violence the Doctor has seen and done that he continues to so abhor it. He said, very tellingly, to Jenny: “The killing. After a while, it infects you. And once it does, you’re never rid of it.” He’s as good as admitting that his own experiences in war, probably one war in particular, caused him to develop a terrible revulsion of violence, and repelled him from ever contemplating violence again. Excellent writing in any case, particularly the very powerful “I never would” moment. Wonderful stuff.

Rating: 8/10.

Thoughts on: The Lazarus Experiment

I thought this was the first misfire of Series 3. Actually, I thought it was an idea with great potential, but was poorly written and executed. The idea, of the dangers of toying with nature—specifically of playing with human genetics in pursuit of otherwise laudable objectives—contained the seed of a great story. I would have lapped up a mature discussion of the desirability of playing with nature in the name of “progress”, and, at certain moments, this episode came close (for example when the Doctor confronted Lazarus in the cathedral), but the absolutely ridiculous mutant beast thing really made a mockery of any serious thematic arguments the writers were trying to convey. It was really so overblown and preposterous that it quite ruined the episode for me. I’ll give the episode points for having a good idea and a few genuinely good moments and instances of dialogue pursuing that idea, but the absurd Lazarus beast is the great, writhing, mutated elephant in the room which I’m finding impossible to ignore.

A secondary theme this episode dealt with (again, compromised by the Lazarus beast), was reversing ageing and life extension. Lazarus and his experiment reminded me of Aubrey de Grey and his exciting research into “rejuvenation”. Although I don’t agree with them, Doctor Who’s contribution to the debate surrounding this and other anti-ageing scientific research raises valid concerns that humanity might have about the proliferation of medical remedies to “defeat” ageing, by reversing its effects (as de Grey is looking at doing) or otherwise. The Doctor’s monologue on the curse of a long life was particularly good:

I’m old enough to know that a longer life isn’t always a better one. In the end, you just get tired. Tired of the struggle, tired of losing everyone that matters to you, tired of watching everything turn to dust. If you live long enough, Lazarus, the only certainty left is that you’ll end up alone.

Again, this could have made for the theme of a really relevant and penetrating story, but it’s hard to take the message seriously when age-reversal technology is depicted as turning a man into a giant, freakish, murderous, stampeding beast.

I’m glad the Doctor finally gave in and took Martha on full time. He knew he wanted to, right from the start, and it was plain that his heart wasn’t really in it when he was going to leave Martha at the beginning. I think, rewatching Series 3 for the first time in a long while, that Martha is cementing her place as my second favourite companion of the revived series (after Amy). She continues to be brilliant—however, I’ve waxed lyrical about Martha in the last four reviews, so I’ll spare you this time. I thought Mark Gatiss was exceptional in this episode. I thought he was the right choice for the part: he’s very good at portraying the old man in a younger man’s body, while the more intense moments, such as that in the cathedral, he delivered impeccably.

Rating: 5/10.