In previous seasons we’ve had episodes that are Doctor and companion “light” in order to give the stars a little recovery time. This season they took a slightly different approach so this week we get a Donna “light” episode and next week it will be a Doctor “light” episode.
We’re also now at the start of a short run of episodes by Russell T. Davies to round out the season. That will be a good or bad thing depending on your general view of Davies writing for Doctor Who.
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Having been on a couple of very long plane flights recently I found the early scenes painfully accurate. It all starts off very light hearted and then it takes an abrupt shift towards a darker tone.
In some ways this episode harkens back to older Doctor Who episodes. We’re given a situation where the Doctor finds himself stuck in the middle of no where with just a handful of people and something nasty is coming for them.
The emphasis here is on the psychological as the passengers react first to the impossible situation they find themselves in and then to the alien that comes among them. It’s fascinating to watch them start to turn on each other.
The pressure just builds and builds as the creature inflitrates their thoughts. The constant speech repetition is remarkably effective. Excellent acting all round and it was a pleasant change to see this particularly indestructible Doctor actually at a loss for once.
There will be some perhaps who dislike the lack of explanation. However I think that ascribing any motivation to this alien would make it seem more human and weaken the overall effect of the episode.
I’ve seen criticisms of the use of “Xtonic” radiation instead of real radiation. But that rather misses the point. Doctor Who has never been about pure science. It doesn’t matter that the radiation isn’t reall. What matters is that it will vaporize you.
Davies has written quite a few episodes of the new Doctor Who, but I think this episode is my favorite of his by far. Of course he has a few more left in which to top this.