What to Expect when the Doctor Comes Back
(The Fourth Season Previewed)

The Unicorn and the Wasp

All indications are that the fourth season of the Doctor Who revival should debut on the CBC this Friday at 9 p.m. with the opener, Partners in Crime. No word yet on when, or if, the 2007 Christmas Special Voyage of the Damned will air. I have to say that I am disappointed with the CBC’s treatment of Doctor Who since giving it its North American debut in such style back in 2005. The actions of the CBC strongly suggest that the people who purchased the program back in 2005 are no longer around to defend it, and the new crew aren’t too happy to have this program on their shelves.

That said, those of you who haven’t gained access to the episodes through other sources are in for a treat. The fourth season of Doctor Who has its ups and downs, but the ups are huge. Catherine Tate (from The Runaway Bride) reprises her role as Donna Noble this season, and she is a blast of fresh air. Playing the role of the Doctor’s sister, rather than the doe-eyed, twitter-pated young women of Rose and Martha, she is the perfect foil for David Tennant. Comedian Tate proves, time and again, that she has the acting chops to carry a very dramatic role, and there are some laugh out loud moments.

Also, the series-spanning arc, while shoehorned in clumsily, is easy to ignore, and you can allow your attention to focus on the individual episodes. And there are some gems, here. Overall, I’d say that this was my second favourite season of the revival, after the program’s re-launch back in 2005.

So, here’s what you can expect when the Doctor comes back this Friday:

Partners in Crime (by Russell T. Davies; directed by James Strong)

Plot: Donna Noble and the Doctor are reunited while investigating the mysterious goings on at a pharmaceutical company. Their miracle diet pill, Adipose, works, but it works too well. Just what happens to the pounds the users lose every night?

What to Expect: One of the cutest monsters to grace our screens. A lot of cute directorial work as the Doctor and Donna constantly just miss each other in their separate investigations. Great chemistry between the Doctor and Donna once they finally meet. A decent villain and some laugh-out-loud moments.

My Impressions: Not as good an opener as Smith and Jones, but it was still fun to watch and did a good job reintroducing Donna.

My Rating: 7.5/10 (Full review)

The Fires of Pompeii (by James Moran; directed by Colin Teague)

Plot: The Doctor intends to take Donna back to ancient Rome for her first trip as companion on board the TARDIS. He takes her to Pompeii instead, and it’s volcano day. However, an alien influence appears to be giving the residents the power to see the future. What they don’t see is the city’s destruction.

What to Expect: Excellent use of the sets from HBO’s production of Rome. Decent moments of mystery as the Doctor and Donna investigate. Some interesting moral questions about letting the disasters of history happen. Donna’s trial by fire.

My Impressions: It had good moments, but the tone was a little off. Could perhaps have used fewer characters to allow for more depth. Still, a passable entry.

My Rating: 6.5/10 (Full review)

The Planet of the Ood (by Keith Temple; directed by Graeme Harper)

Plot: The Doctor and Donna land on the home planet of the Ood, subservient creatures last seen possessed by the devil in The Satan Pit. Now they’re going berserk on their own. What evil is making these docile creatures go completely wild?

What to Expect: A decent script with some very strong moments of empathy. Catherine Tate has her first big emotional scene here. A satisfying ending is marred by the unwelcome intrusion of the season-spanning plot.

My Impressions: A decent episode that makes full use of the Ood’s cute-and-scary factor. This was the episode that showed me that Catherine Tate’s Donna was truly special.

My Rating: 8/10 (Full review)

The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky (by Helen Raynor; directed by Douglas Mackinnon)

Plot: The Sontarans invade Earth and try to turn its atmosphere into toxic soup. Only the Doctor and U.N.I.T. can stop them. What else do you need to know? Oh, and Martha shows up.

What to Expect: A fun action romp bringing the Sontarans back with style and making U.N.I.T. a force to be reckoned with. Martha makes good use of her return, but there is extra depth here from Donna as she visits her mother and grandfather and they have to deal with her exciting new life.

My Impressions: A lot of fun that doesn’t insult your intelligence. Yes, there are some cliches and some woefully stupid soldiers moving the plot along, but the treatment of the Sontarans and U.N.I.T. respects both of their memories.

My Rating: 8.5/10 (Full review) (Third best of the season)

The Doctor’s Daughter (by Stephen Greenhorn; directed by Alice Troughton)

Plot: The Doctor, Donna and Martha stumble upon a future colony of humans at war with the fish-like Hath. Both sides clone their armies, and as soon as the Doctor shows up, they clone him. The clone machine produces a young woman (Georgia Moffit) with two hearts, and let the angst begin.

What to Expect: Embarrassment. The script means well, but is entirely too serious and predictable. The direction is uninspired, the characters cliché. Only the acting in any way recommends this production, but it’s not enough.

My Impressions: See above.

My Rating: 4/10 (Full review) (Worst of the season; indeed, worst of the revival)

The Unicorn and the Wasp (by Gareth Roberts; directed by Graeme Harper)

Plot: The Doctor and Donna arrive at a twenties English dinner party and meet Agatha Christie.

What to Expect: A fun comedy celebrating and lampooning the clichés of Christie’s mysteries.

My Impressions: The fun script makes up for a multitude of sins that are only revealed after one sits down to think about what happened. The plot doesn’t hold together, and the mystery doesn’t really make sense, but it’s still all in good fun. Just not as good as The Shakespeare Code

My Rating: 7/10 (Full review)

Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead (by Stephen Moffat; directed by Euros Lyn)

Plot: The Doctor and Donna investigate The Library, a library planet that went silent, its 4,400 visitors vanishing from existence 100 years ago. Their visit is complicated by the arrival of an archaeological expedition led by Professor River Song, who clearly knows more about the Doctor than he knows himself. Soon after, the screaming starts. Count the shadows. If you want to live, count the shadows.

What to Expect: What we’ve come to expect from Stephen Moffat these past four years: a fantastically realized monster, great banter between the characters, and some genuinely terrifying moments. Also look for a wonderful performance by Eve Newton as a mysterious little girl. And though it seems odd to mention this in an episode as well written and well directed as this, the set design and location filming are absolutely marvellous.

My Impressions: Almost perfect. There are some plot concerns that come up after the fact, and a sense that in the hands of another director, this story could have been even creepier, though I’m sure it would have fallen afoul of anti-terror legislation if that had been the case. This is an episode I love to watch again and again.

My Rating: 9.5/10 (Full review) (Second best of the season)

Midnight (by Russell T. Davies; directed by Alice Troughton)

Plot: The Doctor and Donna take a vacation on the resort planet of Midnight, renown for its sparkling diamond vistas bathed in the deadly radiation of Midnight’s sun. But when the Doctor takes a four hour trip on a shuttle to see the sapphire falls, the planet reveals itself to be less dead than advertised. As an intelligence possesses one of his fellow passengers, the Doctor must decide where the true threat lies: with the alien, or with his increasingly paranoid fellow passengers?

What to Expect: A taut exercise in paranoia confined largely to a single set with a small group of characters. A really, really creepy monster who strikes terror with only her voice. The Doctor’s strengths prove to be a weakness here.

My Impressions: The surprise hit of the season. It blew me away when I first saw it, but it holds up on subsequent viewings. This is Russell T. Davies best script of the revival, and it sings on the strength of David Tennant and Lesley Sharp’s performances.

My Rating: 10/10 (Full review) (Best of the season, by far)

Turn Left (by Russell T. Davies; directed by Graeme Harper)

Plot: A creature with ties to a being that Sarah Jane Adventures fans may recognize tricks Donna into changing her personal history so that she never met the Doctor. I bet you never guessed how influential Donna was to the security of Earth. But as Donna’s parallel world collapses, she is rescued by a mysterious blonde stranger who knows far more about what’s going on than she is telling.

What to Expect: Catherine Tate carries this episode with conviction, and it is fascinating seeing how the events of previous episodes are retold without the Doctor’s influence. Donna’s final choice to put history to rights is a heart-wrenching one, and there’s a wonderful scorpion’s sting revelation at the end.

My Impressions: This episode retreads old ground, but does it so well that I don’t mind at all. Catherine Tate puts on a marvellous performance and everything holds together with some excellent little touches. This and Midnight were a great way to spare the budget and the schedule while filming.

My Rating: 8/10 (Full review)

The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End (by Russell T. Davies; directed by Graeme Harper)

Plot: The Daleks snatch Earth out of orbit and place it in a void with twenty-six other planets all precisely aligned. The characters of Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures plus other old friends work together to send a distress signal to the Doctor. He comes back, and tries to kick some Dalek butt.

What to Expect: Booms. Lots of booms. And Sarah Jane. And Captain Jack. And Martha. And Rose. And Daleks. And… it’s just a fangeek’s paradise!

My Impressions: Just do yourself a favour and check your brain at the door. You’ll have a lot more fun in the end. This story proves that Doctor Who can do spectacle to match the best that Star Wars can throw at us. What it doesn’t prove is whether it should.

My Rating: 6/10 (Full review here and here)

(If Shown) Voyage of the Damned (by Russell T. Davies; directed by James Strong)

Plot: After the events of Last of the Time Lords, the lonely Doctor finds himself on board an alien spaceship recreating the Titanic. He quickly has to foil a conspiracy to crash the ship on southern England producing a massive loss of life.

What to Expect: A heavy cast list and a lot of deaths, each one with more impact than the last. Kylie Minogue guest stars as the companion character, and she holds her own against more powerful performances. There are also murderous Christmas angels.

My Impressions: This Christmas confection is a lot of fun, and Russell does a good job fleshing out the characters (the better to give their deaths impact). It doesn’t have the depth of previous Christmas specials, however, and while fun, it is ultimately forgettable.

My Rating: 7.5/10 (Full review)

BBAW: Brag On Yourself

The latest assignment for Book Bloggers Apprecation Week, as assigned by My Friend Amy is to point to a book review that you’re particularly proud of. Well, you’ll find my list of book-related posts right here, with a number of reviews among them.

A review I’m very proud of, which came early on in this blog’s history, was a five-part series on Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials sequence. No other book series inspired so much thought from this Christian, which is a testament to the quality of his work. As one who is religious, but not fundamentalist, I do recommend reading this atheist response to the Narnia sequence. It challenged my faith but ultimately made it stronger, which is a good thing.

If you’re not into five-part blog series, then this review of Diana Wynne Jones’ Hexwood is something I’m proud of. It, at least, received comments outside of my blog, and it’s an impressive book too.

And, of course, I’m still receiving comments for my evisceration of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Enjoy!

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