Monday, June 10, 2013

Doctor Who: Man or Woman? Who Cares


Change my dear. And not a moment too soon.

There's a lot of discussion going on about whether the Doctor should be a man or a woman. Once upon a time I might have had an attack of the vapours about casting a woman as the Doctor. When I was young.

Now, oddly I'd be more worried if they cast an American.

But here's the thing. Or one of the things. There is no real reason why the Doctor can't be a woman. Doctor Who is a very long running series with a very inconsistent canon. Hartnell's Doctor had one heart. Now he's got two. For example. Once Time Lords were "immortal, baring accidents", then they could only regenerate 12 times and now...well who knows. RTD put a throwaway line in the Sarah Jane Adventures that implies the 12 limit is no more. Perhaps the Time Lords chucked it out during the Time War. Perhaps it was never more than a societal limit (as there is almost an implication that the more regenerations down the line you are the more mad you might turn out to be). Perhaps after 12 you swap sex?

Basically we don't know. We don't know because 'The Sex Lives of Gallifreyans' hasn't really been much of a topic for discourse.

Now the Doctor has called himself he. He's been a father. And a grandfather. All these words have implications based on our view of how societies are meant to work. But on Gallifrey these constructs could have totally different meanings. There might be a Gallifreyan word for parent that has no gender connotation at all but which the TARDIS translates into father & grandfather to Earth hearing. Perhaps, like in the great Iain M Banks' Player of Games*, the pronoun you hear/see reflects the dominate gender in the culture you live in.

We don't know.

We don't know if the Doctor has reproductive organs or what they look like because it's never - forgive me - come up.

In the Virgin New Adventures Gallifrey is a barren world and has been for a long, long time. 'Children' are woven from genetic looms. Does gender even exist on Gallifrey?

We don't know.

Yes, waking up with a loved one who has changed sex over night would be a bit of shock. If that's the way you society works. But what if that's an accepted part of Time Lord relationships. After all when you regenerate your entire personality gets shaken up anyway. What happens if the new regeneration doesn't feel a sexual attraction towards you? Perhaps there's no stable Time Lord relationships for that reason.

Do Time Lords even have sex?

We don't know.

Perhaps the Doctor's stuck with appearing to be male because he spends a lot of time on Earth and generally - to steal a riff from Louis CK - being white and male improves your chances of being taken seriously throughout most of Earth's history (well, the written Western bits of it anyway) and it certainly does in Britain, where he spends a lot of his time. Perhaps it's a convenience thing.

Or perhaps because most of the Doctor's regenerations are involuntary and stressful he doesn't have a chance to give it any proper thought so he sticks to the male form by default.

Basically the Moffat has revealed that when the Doctor dies he doesn't leave a corpse but a scar in time that appears to be his time line. It's energy. In the old series dying Time Lords have their minds added to the Matrix. Whose to say Time Lords are even creatures of genuine flesh & blood? Perhaps the thing that is a Time Lord is a creature of pure energy that choses to hang about in a flesh suit for old times sake. Or not.

To cut a long blog short. There are reasons why the Doctor is a man. There are reasons why we're comfortable with that. But there are also a reasons why it doesn't have to stay that way and I might not even have thought of a tenth thousandth of them.

Personally I don't care. All I want is a good actor.

And if we get another man and we want the a woman Time Lord perhaps we can get the BBC to make Romana: The Series or Jenny: The Doctor's Daughter.

Doctor Who is an sf series capable of adapting to big changes. The Doctor being a woman might be a shock and it would be a brave actress that would take on the part knowing that if it all went horribly wrong her casting would be the reason given.

Sorry...back to the conclusion. Fundamentally if the Doctor changes sex the series can find explanations for doing so and if he doesn't, he doesn't. The Doctor Who rules are extremely elastic. There is no bible or canon that people can agree on.

And let's face it Doctor Who fans can find reasons to dislike a current Doctor without gender being an issue.


*RIP Iain M Banks btw. Writer of great books. Much, much too young.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Silence in the Library-Forest of the Dead

 
So that was Silence in the Library - Forest of the Dead that was. Written by Steven Moffat and introducing River Song (played rather wonderfully now and always by Alex Kingston). It's a good couple of episodes.
 
It's atmospheric and tense. It's got a rather clever little creation in the Vashta Nerade, who are minute, swarming motes of stuff that act like the piranhas of the air. They live in the shadows. Not all shadows, just some. They're out there. In the dark. Waiting. Not everyone, as the Doctor points out, comes back from the dark.
 
It's well acted and a likeable set of characters are bumped off one by one whilst the Doctor tries to work out what the hell happened and has happened.
 
In the meantime there's a rather strange little parallel story - connected, of course - featuring a little girl (Eve Newton) and Doctor Moon (Colin Salmon). I've got to pause here to praise Eve Newton whose performance as The Girl is rather lovely. It's hard to get good performances from child actors and Euros Lyn does a fine job here. Their final identities are revealed as the episodes progress by it should be obvious to the viewer who they are before it is to the Doctor as Moffat gives us both stories simultaneous, sowing clues and eventually telling all. It's cleverly structured and because not ever story in the season has the same type of structure refreshingly brilliant.
 
I'm going to say it. I think Moffat writes better Doctor Who when he's not he Show Runner. When there's someone above him to tell him no. Hence some of the best RTD era stories are written by Steven Moffat.
 

Also watching this makes me think that it isn't the Doctor that has a problem with endings, it is Steven Moffat. I wouldn't be as high-falutin' as to think that this is an issue Moffat himself has with death but there's definitely a firm wish that nobody dies.

This story ends with everybody 'saved'. No necessarily alive, but definitely saved. But what is life? Is being conscious and kept in a computerised database version of a real world 'life'? Is it consciousness that makes us 'alive'. Am I thinking far too deeply about two forty-five minute episodes of a family adventure series. Yes, yes I am but I do think Moffat can't say goodbye.

Otherwise why is River Song's story never ending. They tell writer's when editing to 'kill their children', which always struck me as an over-dramatic way of describing a good piece of advice. That sometimes a writer has to be brave enough to take out something that they like: a plot thread, a character, a page, a paragraph and even just a single sentence.  I think Moffat finds that difficult. Hence River Song's story will last until Moffat chooses to leave Doctor Who and he will keep bringing her back. I think Moffat is a little in love with River Song. Like I think RTD was always little in love with the Doctor.

And why not? There both brilliant characters played by excellent actors. I like River Song. I think though that - as with Rose - there is a law of diminishing returns. However I also like Alex Kingston as an actor (and if you've not seen her episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' you really should. It'll make you like her as a person too.)

Obviously all of the above could be utter bollocks. I'm trying to see in to the head of a complicated man via the medium of a couple of episodes of television. So fell free to ignore everything I've written and put it down to the rambling delusions of a man who should probably get out more.

And I've hardly said anything about the episodes themselves.

Well, if you want a proper review there are other reviews out there. Lots of podcasts. I recommend DWM myself they're always pretty good.

There's some nice performances but I think my favourite is Jessika Williams, as Anita. When the Doctor eulogises her in a few seconds towards the end of Forest of the Dead when trying to scare the Vashta Nerade I found myself agreeing with him. I think she'd have made a fine companion. But kudos to everyone really Steve Pemberton, as Strackman Lux; Talulah Riley as the poor, thick Miss Evangelista; Harry Peacock as 'Proper Dave' and O.T. Fagbanie as 'Other Dave'.

I think also a little mention for Jason Pitt as Lee, Donna's 'husband', in the world of the saved. We get some foreshadowing in this episode that Donna's fate isn't a happy one but the moment when Donna and Lee miss each other is probably the saddest moment in the episode. Everybody might live but not perhaps happily ever after.

Catherine Tate and David Tennant do another sterling job. It almost goes without saying now. They're definitely a Doctor-Companion team worth watching. I could rave about them both again but it hardly seems fair on you poor reader.

So well done to all concerned. This was good.

Next up 'Midnight'

The Unicorn & The Wasp

More Tea Vicar

This story, written by Gareth Roberts, wasn't one I warmed to on first watch but this time around I really enjoyed it. Perhaps I just 'got it' this time. Perhaps I've remembered how much of the enjoyment in Doctor Who is in its' infinite variety. Want a Ten Little Indians style Agatha Christie story with added Giant Wasp, then you can have it. You want Agatha Christie in the story too. Why the hell not.

It actually reminded me a little of Black Orchid and Big Finish's Auntie Matter (even though the latter obviously comes later) but oddly I felt it could have been a Season 16-17 Tom Baker and Romana story. That might be me reading too much into Gareth Robert's regular forays into that era but it is my confused mind here so I'm sticking to that.

We're in the English countryside where Lady Edisson (Felicity Kendal) is throwing a party made up of Cluedo characters, including Professor Peach (Ian Barrit); Reverend Golightly (Tom Goodman-Hill), Colonel Curbishly, who is Lady Eddison's husband (the great and glorious Trevor Benjamin); Roger Curbishly* (Adam Rayner); Robina Redmond (Felicity Jones) and Agatha Christie herself, played rather beautifully by Fenella Woolgar. Phew. Of course, being an Agatha Christie story they all have secrets.

I'm going to stop here for a moment and make my usual complaint about New Doctor Who's pseudo-historicals, which is the gentle undermining of the historical character's creativity in the name of time travel jokes. I'm sure I'm almost alone getting irritated by this. It's not just televised Doctor Who either. Big Finish did it with Mary Wollstonecraft. Basically we're told how brilliant a character is: Shakespeare or Christie and then the Doctor (or Donna in this case) 'accidently' feed them their lines, characters or story ideas. Thus making said historical figure less impressively creative and more a stealer of lines and stories.

I know, I hear you cry, I should let it go but I think it does a disservice to real, clever and creative people and it annoys me.

Anyway...Professor Peach (Ian Barritt) gets bumped off early.  Then Miss Chandrakala (Leena Dhingra) gets clunked by a piece of statuary, which reminds me of - I think - the death of a character in a Margery Allingham story...but memory ain't what it was. Miss Chandrakala gives us the first clue by which time we've seen the Giant Wasp in action. The Doctor - after a manic and entertainingly silly interlude where he survives a poisoning attempt - identifies said Giant Wasp as a Vespiform...actually this could go on for a while and you don't need me to regurgitate the action scene by scene. If you want that I suggest you just watch the DVD.

Turns out Lady Edisson had an affair with an alien, gave up the resulting child but now discovers said child has returned home after an incident makes him aware of his true nature. This all comes out in a rather brilliant parody of an Agatha Christie gathering of suspects and summing up.

Turns out the Vespiform wants Lady Edisson's necklace, which is a piece of Vespiform technology that through a mental connection has given the Vespiform a very odd world view. It's basically been programed to see the world as if it were an Agatha Christie novel. Hence it's murderous visit.

It's a combination of The Doctor, Donna and Agatha that all this comes out & Agatha ends up chased by the Vespiform as she flees with the jewel weighed down by the guilt of creating - however accidently - a real murderer. Donna saves the day, although not before the Vespiform does one good thing.

Agatha Christie's mind is shaken up by the link and this becomes the explanation for her genuine ten day disappearance in 1926.

All that garbled explanation probably doesn't help any of us so to cut this blog to the point I should say that this is a well-paced, charmingly performed, Doctor Who pastiche of an Agatha Christie novel. Worth watching for Fennella Woolgar, David Tennant and Catherine Tate. Plus the utter joyful preposterousness of the whole thing.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Doctor's Daughter


It's the Doctor's Daughter. The first in a line of title's that are there to titillate the fan base whilst actually being a tad disingenuous: see The Doctor's Wife and The Name of the Doctor for further examples.

Jenny is 'the Doctor's Daughter' but not quite in the way people expected. She's an instantaneously created progeny drawn from the Doctor's DNA. She's also played by Georgia Moffett, who is Peter Davison's daughter. And now David Tennant's wife. Which makes this retrospectively a little...weird. But only retrospectively.

I like Jenny (and Georgia Moffett). She seems to have inherited a lot from the Doctor's DNA including the more Tiggerish aspects of his personality. Jenny was created to be a soldier. In a war that's lasted so long generations have died fighting it, which produces a rather nice twist near the end (as well as providing Donna with another fine moment). The war is between humans and Hath. The Hath are sort of fish-humans with a flask in their faces, which I assumed is required for breathing.

Truth be told the plot isn't that important in this story, which is more about reiterating what the Doctor stands for and represents. Through his 'daughter' we get to relieve some of the traumas of the destruction of Gallifrey and the impact that had on the Doctor. It's a chance to pop some of the Doctor's pretentions about not being a soldier, but still manages to reiterate that he is 'the man who wouldn't.'

There's also a brief mention of the Doctor's death wish when Martha (Freema Ageyman) says words to effect of "I thought we'd found you something to live for, not another thing for you to die for." I have (briefly) touched on the far darker television series you could make out of the post-Time War Doctor. If you were so inclined. He's a constant survivor of battles. He's the last of the Time Lords. He destroyed his own people and the Daleks (who refuse to stay dead) and he keeps seeing people die. Sometimes it is his fault. His survivors guilt must be terrifying. It's quite possible the Doctor's mad. That perhaps all that 'mad man in a box' stuff is a little more truthful than it sounds.

You can see why I wouldn't be allowed to run the show. I'd drive viewers away in droves.

There's a reminder of the darkness the Doctor brings and the toll it takes on others when Martha has to watch the Hath that saved her die. Martha's response to that is genuinely (and surprisingly) emotional. It's like someone has slide a blade of icy realism into the proceedings. Even more so than Jenny's death.

There's a nice performance here by Nigel Terry as General Cobb. A distant echo of his Excalibur King Arthur. The one odd note is that Cobb is old. He's the only old person on the planet. So when we discover the real length of the war does that imply that Cobb was there at the beginning. If so why doesn't he know what's going on. It's a question I'd like to have answered. A little glitch in the fabric of the story, which I'm sure can be easily explained (and I'm surprised the Doctor doesn't say anything).

Catherine Tate is superb once more. Donna is brilliant. It's almost impossible to imagine how annoying it is going to be when she leaves. Even though how annoying I know it is.

Then there's the ending of the episode. Somewhere out there is Jenny having adventures in space. Trying to make her Dad proud. Perhaps Jenny - the series - is as much a solution to the female Doctor problem as Romana: The Series would be. (And no this is not the time or place for THAT discussion).

Once more to cut a long, rambling blog short, I really enjoyed this. Again more than I did on original viewing. There's something great about Series 4 that I haven't quite put my finger on but I suspect it has a lot to do with Catherine Tate and David Tennant's chemistry.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Sontaran Strategem - The Poison Sky



The Sontaran's are back. And they're short. General Staal  (Christopher Ryan, returning to Doctor Who, from Mindwarp) is your main Sontaran and I like the cut of his jib. The new design is great. I don't know why but Sontarans being short feels right. The gigantic ones from The Two Doctors must have been part of a faulty clone batch or something.

This story also sees the debut of Dan Starkey as Commander Skorr. Starkey is now the go to guy for Sontarans in Doctor Who and does a fine job here of giving a bit of nastiness - especially during the UNIT massacre scenes - the Sontarans need to balance out their comedy touches. The problem with the Sontarans is that they take themselves far too seriously, which makes them easy to mock.

UNIT is back. And the poor buggers still function as the Doctor Who equivalent of Red Shirted Security men in Star Trek. There's an attempt to make these deaths more meaningful by giving us Ross Jenkins (Christian Cooke) to get to know a bit but that doesn't quite work for me. His death seems a tad arbitrary in the end. Almost an excuse for the Doctor to get all sad faced.

UNIT must have the highest casualty rate of any of the UK's armed services. Once upon a time of course they were seconded from the British Armed Forces. Now it looks like they've gone all paramilitary, although their UK officers do seem to be wearing standard army kit. Not that it really matters. Plus for a top secret security organisation their security sucks.

Of course there's no Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, he's stuck in Peru. So we get one of his replacements for the Doctor to mock, scold and annoy. In this case Colonel Mace, played by Richard Holliday-Evans. Holliday-Evans does a good job and I like his belligerent little speech towards the end of The Poison Sky when he gets to basically say what I suspect UNIT have been longing to say for decades: "Stop mocking us, our weapons and our technology because we are sorted and we are coming for you."

The only problem I have with Holliday-Evans is I remember him as one of the 'Double Take Brothers' from Harry Enfield - For You Youngsters Out There - which makes things a bit weird. For me.

There's a nice throwaway line about the Doctor working for UNIT in the 70s (or was it the 80s) that fails to answer the UNIT dating controversy question in the best and most amusing way possible.

Martha is back too. Now she works for UNIT or, as Donna says, "So you made her a soldier." It's an interesting change of tack for Martha. Alas this isn't one of Martha's best adventures as she gets zonked and cloned pretty damn sharpish. The Martha we see for most of the rest of the story is a clone. The Sontarans are clones themselves - even if they're not quite as identical as everyone likes to pretend -  so it makes sense for them to be able to exploit cloning to their advantage. The Doctor, of course, susses the cloned Martha straight off but uses her for his own purposes.

Actually the Doctor is rather rude and ruthless in this story until right at the end and it's the Doctor's bit at the end that doesn't work for me. His 'I'll press this button' bluff is called pretty much instantaneously by General Staal and the rest of the 'I will' stuff from the Doctor just looks silly and as if the Doctor's a bit of a coward. No, I'm not sure how you could have done it better - maybe something River Songesque - but it almost looks like padding. Tennant's another Doctor who isn't that convincing when he's shouting, which as I've said elsewhere I like.

It does give Luke Rattigan (Ryan Sampson) aka the annoying boy genius a chance to redeem himself, although he never struck me as the self-sacrificing type up until that point. His manipulation at the hands of the Sontarans - and how they got in touch with him is not really explained - is rather cruel. The Doctor's nice little speech about intelligence and loneliness is the touchstone for Rattigan. Clearly the brightest guy in the room, it's made him lonely and it's made him desperate and it's made him that classic Doctor Who figure: the man who thinks the end justifies the means.

Martha's appearance of course slightly side lines Donna and gets us a chance to be reminded of families, importance thereof. In Donna's case it's a good thing as we get more time with the quite magnificent Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins). Cribbins is brilliant. Full stop. The more of him we get the better in my view and he plays nicely off of Catherine Tate too.

Donna gets a moment or two of her own though: The 'Super Temp' moment and her stealthy dispatch of a Sontaran being rather brilliantly done because she actually flags up the fact that Doctor Who often ignores: death is a possible outcome. But Leonard Cheshire* always said that he thought the greatest type of courage was that displayed by those people who were afraid but went on and did what they had to do. Donna displays that kind of courage and step-by-step she's becoming a different person.

I haven't mentioned much about the plot. It seems very un-Sontaran in pace and preparation but then you remember that back in The Sontaran Experiment they were willing to let Styre faff around experimenting on people before invading so I suspect for all their bluster the Sontaran's are a race of bureaucrats and box tickers as well as warriors.

Things are nicely paced and having the second episode allows a bit less of a rushed ending but I'm not sure that if the gas is so flammable it wouldn't....and why does ATMOS stop working after the fireball and not...plus there's....

OK so not everything works if you start picking at it but like all of the Fourth Series so far I did enjoy this. It's possibly the most 'traditional' story of Series Four so far but it entertaining and comfortable (if that's the right word). Special effects aside this could be a Doctor Who story from almost any period in its history (well, with a tweak here and there).

To cut a long blog short. I liked it.

Nice cliffhanger into the next episode too.


*World War Two Bomber Pilot, VC winner & founder of the Cheshire Homes. Look him up. Fascinating man.





Sunday, June 2, 2013

Planet of the Ood


Sometimes, when you least expect it, there's a Doctor Who story that reminds you of the reasons you love Doctor Who in the first place. Often it isn't one of the more highly praised classics. Often it's a surprise.

Planet of the Ood is wonderful. There I said it.


It might not be perfect but it is pretty much forty-five minutes of delight that reaffirms (for me) the Doctor's central core. His belief in the 'rightness' of things, as Colin Baker once delightfully put it.

The gradual realisation of what the Ood really are, the way they're treated and what is done to them and the Doctor - and Donna's - righteous indignation are laid out superbly. Each extra step more horrifying than the last. When you realise what is done to them in order to domesticate them it is genuinely shocking.

Plus the moment when the Doctor lets Donna hear the Ood's 'Song of Captivity' is heart-breaking for both us and Donna. So painful that she asks the Doctor to stop it. That little scene is a brilliant (almost) two hander between David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

On the subject of songs I can't stop singing Catherine Tate's praises. There are classic series companions that I have a soft spot for: Ian and Barbara, Jamie, Sarah Jane, Leela, Romana II, Peri and Ace but these three stories have pushed Catherine Tate to the top of one of those pointless lists of 'Best Companions'. She's a proper human being seeing what's out there in the Universe. She's learning the good and the bad. And Catherine Tate is just an astonishingly good actress.

I could go on and on about this. To the point of utter tedium. If there is a companion by which all others are judged for New Doctor Who it is Donna. Give me more of companions like her. Less fantasy, more reality. Less mystery, more truth.

The story is helped by a good solid performance by Tim McInnerny as Halpen who is the villain of the piece. Another illustration of how human beings can be corrupted by something as banal as money. Even in the 42nd century. So corrupted that he can't see - or chooses to ignore - the horror of what he is doing. The banality of evil in a pin striped suit and worrying about sales figures and hair loss. His fate is awesome. The other minor 'jobsworth' sidekicks all get their comeuppance too but their punishments are more Old Testament. Halpen's punishment is an Ovidian metamorphoses type of vengeance.

I love the Ood too. The way that some thought has gone into their culture. Even if that fore brain, hind brain & other brain thing doesn't make a great deal of sense (to me at least). Perhaps there's a biologist out there that can tell me such a thing is possible. But forgive me for some mild scepticism.
Their voice - the work of Silas Carson - sits on the creepy edge of subservient so when they go 'bad' they are genuinely pretty scary.

There's politics in here too: on the human race - explorers or virus; on capitalism and slavery, "Who do you think makes your clothes"; on the dangers of certainty and on animal rights. It's all there. Although picking politics out of Doctor Who is a bit like picking the bits out of the Bible to justify a view. We always miraculously seem to see the bits that suit our political views and miss the bits that don't. So being an old school left-winger I'm bound to see these things. But hey, this is my blog and I'll see what I like.

It's also - like a lot of Doctor Who - a hymn to action. The thing about the Doctor is he doesn't just get cross and write a rude blog or send a sarcastic letter via Friends of the Ood, he gets off of his arse and gets involved. Doctor Who is nothing if not an almost 50 year advert for direct action, even if the Time Lords don't like it. But there I am again with the politics.

To cut a long blog short. Loved it. Absolutely.

PS I was so desperate to crowbar a 'seeing the Ood for the trees' joke but couldn't do it. So I'm throwing it in here for someone to pick up & run with. Good luck.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Fires of Pompeii



I really enjoyed this. More so than I did the first time of watching actually.

First of all it looks great. Filming at the Cinecittà studios gives the external scenes a hook into reality that the story benefits from. Then the Pyrovile's look great and genuinely rather threatening - even if they can be seen off with a bucket of water - and the final explosion of Vesuvius has to be one of the best special effects sequences the programme has ever produced.

Second it's got Catherine Tate in it. I'm sure there are people out there that don't like Donna Noble. Those people are wrong. She's the perfect companion for the Tennant's Doctor, even better than Rose. Yes, she's occasionally loud and mouthy but she also asks interesting questions, tries to understand people and she won't let the Doctor get away with fobbing her off. And the moment she puts her hand on the Tenth Doctor's and the Pyrovile control 'button' so that the Doctor doesn't have to take the responsibility for all the death that follows is one of the most magnificent Doctor - Companion moments in the series history.

The thing about Catherine Tate is that she seems to bring out the best in David Tennant too. The scenes between the two of them debating who lives and who dies are excellently played, adult - in the best sense - and moving. Donna's appeal to the Doctor to 'just save someone' is lovely.

There's also a rather nice bit of dialogue between the two of them that explains how the Doctor (and I assume other Time Lords) see the universe: fixed points and non-fixed points. It makes you wonder how the Doctor functions without getting dizzy at all the alternatives that he must get to see when looking at everything and everyone but it's nicely done.

I love the music in this episode too. Especially for the scenes within the Temple of the Sisterhood (who bare a resemblance to the Sisterhood of Karn outfit wise. Perhaps there's an intergalactic, cross-temporal shop for people to buy bulk outfits: Cults R Us or something. Anyway...)

A great guest cast helps too. Whilst Phil Davis as the seer Dextrus isn't asked to do much except scowl and grump he does so with style. Peter Capaldi, who is like a God in this house, as Caecilius (which must be a nod to the Cambridge Latin Course surely) is also excellent even if again the character isn't given much more than one dimension.

A nod to for Victoria Wicks as the High Priestess (who I'd never have recognized as Sally Smedley from 'Drop the Dead Donkey'); Francesca Fowler as Evelina and Tracey Child as Metella. Obviously this blog can't go by without mention Karen Gillan's first Doctor Who appearance as one of the Sisterhood. So there. I've mentioned it.

O and Phil Cornwell gets to do his Phil Cornwell thing, which is nice.

A couple of quibbles: Donna and the Doctor's escape from the exploding volcano is a tad unbelievable, which I know seems harsh based when reviewing a programme featuring time machines, Time Lords, Pyroviles etc  but you know I'm a incoherent perfectionist.

To conclude: a good story, which might have been improved with stronger supporting characters. The actors themselves do a lovely job. It's the writing that lets them down a bit in my view. But plot wise - miraculous escape aside - nicely done.

Roll on 'Planet of the Ood'

PS Love the Water Pistol stuff.