The usual warning applies here: this review contains spoilers of last night’s episode.
I sat down to watch this special last night with a certain degree of anticipation because I have been craving new Who since the Easter special ‘The Planet of the Dead’. As a Who story, it works. The characters and the emotions they exhibit are believable, while the acting is good all round. It gives the typical drama, nice continuity references, epic music and soulful walk away from destruction that you expect from this long-running programme.
As one of my friends pointed out rather hilariously in his blog, The Doctor is fighting water in this episode. On paper, this sounds like the sort of idea that would’ve come from the stories of old Who, where the cast could’ve been ‘menaced’ of a spray of water coming from a garden hose. Because of this, the alien menace is shown entirely with broken-skin make-up, hoses and contact lenses. The only CGI was the space shuttle. So yes, the effects sound like they are out of old Who.
David Tennant is very convincing here as the Time Lord who is trying to flip the laws of time on their head and (sort of) succeeds. The other cast members are also convincing as the doomed colonists, although somewhat less convincing as the embodiment of some sort of water infection. All they have to do is open their mouths and a hose of water starts gushing out.
But in some ways, the special disappointed me. About five minutes in, they had a series of cuts where The Doctor meets a character and remembers (from the Wikipedia of 2059) that they died on the exact date that he arrived. We could’ve gathered from three characters that they were due to die on this day, but no; they had to show us this cut for every single character. Consider that this happens about eight times (maybe more – for obvious reasons I wasn’t counting), and you’ll get some idea of why my brother and I were practically screaming: “Get on with it already!”
Now for my least favourite part of the episode: The Doctor himself. I can appreciate how his heart got broken by the screaming of the dying and the thought that he has a time machine and could therefore save them. All this leads to a plot twist any savvy watcher of sci-fi will be able to guess from the beginning: that he does in fact break the laws of time. I’m not saying that saving the few colonists he could was a bad idea, but why not just let history think that they’re dead while they survive in obscurity somewhere? The Doctor is fast turning into a unlikeable character if this newfound arrogance with the laws of time keeps up. I normally like him, but I think he’s finally snapped and has gone absolutely mad with power. Presumably this is the point of the upcoming specials, and a form of character development for the Doctor. Although it was a pretty nice touch that as he leaned sadly against the Tardis console, the Cloister bell started ringing in the background ominously.
Overall, I liked this special. It wasn’t the best episode, but it was far from being the worst, and I can’t wait to see how the next ones turn out. But with the expectations of me and fellow Who fans, will it be epic enough for our tastes?