04b – Specials – David Tennant

The Next Doctor

This was a good joke on people because David Tennant announced his departure about a month before this aired, and no one knew who the next Doctor would be. Maybe this would be the way they did it. But no, it was something else. The Doctor arrives in London in 1851 on Christmas Eve, and while walking around hears a woman scream and call for The Doctor. He runs to where she is and starts to take charge, but she keeps calling for The Doctor. When Tennant says “Here I am”, she looks at him and says “Who are you?” Then another man runs up, and pushes both of them back so he can take charge. He calls himself The Doctor. He says he has a “sonic screwdriver”, but it is just an ordinary screwdriver. He says he has a TARDIS, but it turns out to be a balloon. Eventually we figure out how he got all of that into his head, meanwhile they are battling the Cybermen in Victorian London. A nice Christmas special, but I thought the ending was interesting, when the “Pseudo-Doctor”, played by David Morrisey, and who is now back to being his real self, notes that the Doctor always has a companion, but this Doctor seems to be alone, and Tennant’s Doctor replies that well the companions leave for a variety of reasons, and then sadly notes that it leaves him heartbroken. Of course, we just went through Journey’s End and what looked like the last of Donna Noble as a companion, and Rose now back locked up in the parallel universe, so we get it. A good story with lots of action that moves right along, and a nice puzzle at the heart.

David Morrisey as Jackson Lake aka “The Doctor” is magnificent in this. He would probably have made a great Doctor, but as a character in this story I regard him as the highlight. In the first half, when he thinks he is The Doctor, he portrays the role like Tennant does, just slightly exaggerated. And in doing that he makes it clear that Tennant’s Doctor is just a bit much at times.


Planet of the Dead

This episode starts off with a wonderful theft of a priceless artifact by Michelle Ryan, who did her own stunts, being winched down from the ceiling to steal it from the midst of armed guards. We’ve seen this before in movies, but it was well done. Then she is on the run as police close in, and decides to get on a bus to escape the officers. The Detective Inspector notices her in bus as it goes by, and starts off a chase with lights and sirens. But the bus goes into a tunnel, and somehow never comes out. And the reason is that the bus has gone through a rift in the fabric of space. Of course the Doctor got on the bus as well since he is tracking this unusual phenomenon. And now the bus is on a desert planet somewhere across the universe. Also on the bus is a woman who seems to have gift of prophecy, or maybe just knowing things no one else can see, that part is not entirely clear, but the Doctor believes her.

Of course, the title of the episode tells you that things are not going to be peachy on this planet, and indeed there is deadly menace, and they want to go through the rift and start devouring the Earth. Can the Doctor manage to get everyone home and stop the menace? Well, of course he can, he’s the Doctor. But it is a nice enough story, and Michelle Ryan as Lady Christina de Souza is brilliant. The idea of a pairing of David Tennant’s Doctor with Michelle Ryan’s Lady Christina is absolutely delicious, but of course it was not be. At the end there is a scene with the clairvoyant lady that both echoes Plant of the Ood, and sets up the finale.

In the final analysis this is a good ordinary episode. If it appeared in a 13 episode season it would not be out of place. Calling it a “special” is giving it importance it does not deserve.


The Waters of Mars

What happens if the Doctor completely loses it? That is what this story explores. It takes the Doctor to the first Mars base, and when he checks the date he realizes it is famous date because the base was destroyed on this date. Uh-oh. And he should not be here because it is an important fixed point in history, and it is vitally important that these fixed points are never altered in any way. What transpires it that there is some kind of virus in the water that turns humans into monsters, and when those monsters discover that the Earth has tons of water they immediately want go there. Of course if they do that they will infect the rest of the human race, and that will be the end. History has recorded that the Captain of the base blew it up on this day, but the people on Earth have no idea why. But what the history does show is that the granddaughter of Captain Adelaide Brooke becomes motivated to end up leading the first human interstellar expedition to Proxima Centauri years later. So the Doctor know this has to play out exactly as recorded in History. But at the last minute he snaps.

He decides that since he is the last of the Time Lords he can do whatever he wants. The people who wrote the Laws of Time are all dead, so why should he pay attention to them. He is now the only authority alive, and the Laws of Time will from now on be whatever he decides they are. And in the actions he takes he endangers the entire history of the human race. He declares that there no power in the universe that is capable of over-ruling him and saying “No,” and refers to himself as Time Lord Victorious. It is only the heroic sacrifice of Captain Brooke at the end that snaps the Doctor back to the realization that he went way over the line. I think you can see in this story hints of the stress and sadness experienced by the Doctor that will later be addressed in the 2023 60th Anniversary specials. And I also recall from Voyage of the Damned the line “If you could choose who lives and who dies that would make you a monster” and the Doctor briefly becomes a monster here. Thankfully it is brief, but it took the suicide of Captain Brooke to get that through to him.

This was shot in 2009, and later in 2020 the BBC created a multi-media story arc called Time Lord Victorious that featured Big Finish audios, comics, web animations, and so on. It clearly grabbed the name from this episode, but is otherwise a separate story in my opinion.


The End of Time – Part One

This is the setup of the two-part ending to the story of the 10th Doctor as portrayed by David Tennant. At the end of Planet of the Dead the clairvoyant woman made two statements: first, that the doctor’s song was ending, and second, that “he will knock four times”. The part about the song ending was first said by the Ood at the end of Planet of the Ood. And at the end of the Waters of Mars Ood Sigma appeared briefly in what might have been an apparition, or maybe a telepathic signal. Now this story starts off with the Doctor being summoned by the Ood. The Doctor is chastised for not coming sooner, and mentions that he has in meantime married Queen Elizabeth I, which explains why she was so angry in The Shakespeare Code. Obviously he married her and then took off. We’ll see more about this later in the Day of the Doctor.

Lots of stuff in this story either picks up past elements or puts in details that will pay off in future stories. The Ood tell him that a great danger threatens all of the universe. They show him visions that include the Master as portrayed by John Simm. There was a scene at the very end of Last of the Time Lords where we see the Doctor burning the body of the Master, and then see see the Master’s ring fall and get picked up by a woman’s hand. This pays off in a resurrection scene with shades of Harry Potter where the Master is brought back.

The part about “knock four times” is kind of a red herring, since we already know that in the Master’s head there is “the sound of drums” in 4 beat pattern, and that is emphasized again in this story. We are all supposed to think this means the Master will kill the Doctor. And the Doctor also believes this. But it turns out to be something else.

We also see the after effects from Waters of Mars as the Doctor meets up with Wilf hints at bad things he has done. Wilf doesn’t understand, but we do. This will continue through both parts of the story.

The plot of this part has the Master imprinting his pattern on every human on the planet except for Donna and Wilf. Why Wilf avoids it is not entirely clear, but in Donna’s case it is revealed the Doctor left her with some protection.


The End of Time – Part Two

The plot thickens when the Time Lords are brought into the picture. It transpires the Doctor had locked them in another dimension, which we won’t see happen until Day of the Doctor, but I guess this the idea of Time being a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, or something like that. What is never explained is why the Ninth Doctor was convinced he had killed them all, and in Day of the Doctor the War Doctor says he will never remember what he had done. In any case, the Time Lords are ready to break out and ascend into beings of pure consciousness, and in so doing bring about the End of Time and the destruction of the universe. This is another examination of the problem brought out in the Waters of Mars, when the Doctor starts to feel that only he matters, and everyone else is little people of no account. Apparently this is at least a common failing among Time Lords in general.

The Doctor knows that this is far more dangerous than anything the Master has done, and that this is the danger the Ood were warning him about. This is set up for the Doctor by a scene where Wilf urges him to take a gun and kill the Master to save himself, because at this point everyone is sure the Master will kill the Doctor. But the Doctor refuses to take it. He will not do this. Then he learns that the time Lords are coming, and grabs the gun and heads for a confrontation. This places him in the middle between the Master and the Time Lords, and he has a gun. But what will he do with it? As the Doctor should, he resolves the situation without shooting a person, and that ends the threat. All of the humans have the Master’s imprint removed. But the final redemption of this Doctor comes when Wilf is locked in a booth that is about to be flooded with deadly radiation, and knocks four times for the Doctor to let him out. As the Doctor does so, and takes the dose himself, he simply says to Wilf that it is an honor.


Season Review

Reviews of David Tennant

Russell T. Davies Era Reviewed

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