13c – Specials – David Tennant (Again)


The Star Beast

Somehow the Doctor keeps running into Donna, which is a problem, because if she remembers him she will die. But the Universe seems to be determined to bring her in. A space capsule lands in her backyard, and it contains an alien creature. It is being chased by other alien creatures. And Donna’s daughter, who is named Rose has found this creature, and is trying to help it. UNIT gets involved, and then all hell breaks loose. And Rose is a trans woman in the story, and is played by a trans actress. She is taunted by some boys who use her “dead name” of Jason, and the actress says it reflected things she went through in school. Many things are not what they seem, and in the end Donna regains her memory but does not die, which you had to know was coming because there are two more specials to come and she is presumably in both.

This is a self-contained story, so you can watch it by itself and be completely satisfied. And Russell has said that this is true of all three of the specials. The story is not perfect, but it is a very satisfying story with non-stop action. And the Meep very ominously says he is going to tell “The Boss” about the Doctor. Whatever could that mean?

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Wild Blue Yonder

This is an interesting episode in which the Doctor and Donna are abandoned on a space ship that seems to be completely empty because the TARDIS takes off. There is a mechanism called the Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS), first introduced in the Second Doctor story The Krotons, by which the TARDIS takes itself away automatically if it senses it is in danger, and it seems to have kicked in here, and leaves the Doctor and Donna all alone on this abandoned spaceship. And an added plus is the TARDIS took the sonic screwdriver with it, so they need to solve this without that Deus Ex Machina.

It is a huge ship, and they go exploring, but eventually discover it has some kind of inhabitants. They aren’t the people who built the spaceship and ran it, though, they are invaders and dangerous. And they can read the Doctor’s and Donna’s minds and learn things that they can use to invade our part of the universe. And the problem our heroes face is that the harder they think, the more these aliens can pick up from them. Yet how can you defeat an enemy without thinking?

It is interesting to note that the events from the previous series are brought up. The Flux is referenced, and the Doctor displays the signs of trauma from that.

This episode is the one of the three specials that got no publicity at all. We got no clips, no photos of the filming, and just had to wait to see it. But this is the scary episode of the three, per Russell T. Davies, and I agree. One other thing worth mentioning is that I see echos of Midnight in this story, and of course both stories were written by Russell T. Davies. And I notice that many of the reviews below also note a resemblance.

Finally, the cold open sucks. Just ignore it, it doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of the story.

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The Giggle

There is a cold open that is part of the story and is linked to the invention of Television. Or perhaps, an invention of Television. This is John Logie Baird, who created a system in England involving a spinning disk. In the US, and inventor named Philo T. Farnsworth invented a different system that was all-electronic and is the basis for Television today. Anyway, Baird transmitted a picture of a doll’s head, and that is where this all ties in. We see Baird’s assistant go into a toy store to buy the doll from a somehow sinister store owner.

Meanwhile, back in contemporary London things are bizarre. This was set up in the final scene of Wild Blue Yonder, and we see that the entire world is going mad. The Doctor is picked up by UNIT, and we see that this is really worldwide. Tracing where it all came from the Doctor and Donna go back to the 1920s and visit that same toy store, and we find that the owner is the Toymaker, last seen in the first Doctor story The Celestial Toymaker. And of course for him everything is a game. There is another linkback to Midnight when the Doctor/Marionette says “I thought I was clever.” We later discover that what the Toymaker did to everyone was implant in everyone’s head the idea that they are always in the right. This means they always win, but as the Doctor points out, they also always lose. This is really a critique of our polarized culture where if you aren’t winning, you are losing. One thing I really found significant was when the Toymaker started going through the history of all the companions who died, or came close to it. The theme of this episode, and maybe of all three specials, is that the Doctor has been through too much and is “running on fumes”.

In the end the Doctor is mortally wounded and starts to regenerate, but instead of becoming a new Doctor, he splits (called Bi-generation) and now there are two Doctors. They defeat the Toymaker, then David Tennant’s Doctor basically retires to live with Donna’s family while Ncuti Gatwa’s Doctor goes off to continue the adventure. And I suspect the gold tooth may come back again in some form. It was a lot like The Last of the Time Lords, and we know how that turned out in End of Time Part 1. And we were told it has very interesting contents. And since we already have had two Masters simultaneously and the world didn’t end, I guess having two Doctors will not immanentize the Eschaton. This is a kind of reflection back to Turn Left. You see, Turn Left was all about how the universe would totally go to hell if the Doctor stopped going around fighting and fixing. But this Doctor is burned out. He did not feel he had the right to stop. But with a new and energetic Doctor taking over, he could set down his burden and achieve the kind of happiness he glimpsed in Human Nature/The Family of Blood. He can have a family and enjoy the simple pleasures at last.

This is the heavy psychology episode, and done very well. I did not anticipate the ending, but it makes sense. The Doctor has been carrying an intense burden ever since Christopher Eccleston and the burden is finally placed down. Bravo.

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The Specials as a Whole

All in all I felt these three specials were really good, but they also had a problem of expectations. Having RTD come back and bringing back David Tennant and Catherine Tate set up the idea that this would be the pinnacle of Doctor Who, and it wasn’t. We got three really good stories, and Neil Patrick Harris was awesome. But the 50th anniversary was better in my opinion. Still, three good stories is not a bad thing, and I could rewatch any of these with pleasure.

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