Doctor Doctor Who Guide


06 May 200742, by Adam Leslie
06 May 200742, by Peter Chapman
06 May 200742, by Rob Stickler
06 May 200742, by Will Valentino
06 May 200742, by Frank Collins
06 May 200742, by Eddy Wolverson
06 May 200742, by Billy Higgins
06 May 200742, by Shaun Lyon
06 May 200742, by Paul Clarke
06 May 200742, by Paul Hayes
06 May 200742, by A.D. Morrison
06 May 200742, by Angus Gulliver
06 May 200742, by Vincent Vargas

In 25 years time, all the nostalgia-obsessed 30-somethings will be discussing TV shows they watched when they were little and recalling that episode of Doctor Who in which there's a spaceship falling into the sun with a crew of strange aliens that need glowing balls to communicate, Martha gets blasted off in an escape pod, the Doctor's eyes glow, he puts on a red space-suit, goes down into a dark pit and meets Satan. And the guys in the gas-masks with hieroglyphics all over their bodies burning people up.

Yes, it's the Satan Pit all over again - if not in story, then certainly in look and feel. It's another patchwork homage to sundry genre movies, mostly too obvious to list here (though most effectively in the beautiful Space Odyssey-esque moment of silence as Martha's pod is ejected towards the raging computery sun-graphics). And like The Lazarus Experiment before it, it's an efficiently-entertaining romp... never dull, but hardly pushing boundaries; disposable amusement that doesn't linger in the imagination much beyond the end credits (unlike, for example, the haunting Girl In The Fireplace).

There are some howlers too, mainly concerning Martha's escape pod. Why put the controls for the pod on the outside of the ship? Why put them just out of reach of the airlock door? Why wasn't the Doctor frazzled?

All in all, I'd say it was a very effective episode 3 and 4: plenty of action, plenty of danger, a nice high body count. Now, if only we could find out what happened to parts 1 and 2, we'd have a perfect Doctor Who story!

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

This, my friends, was a sad day for Doctor Who, the first truly dud episode of Series 3, only the second in the whole of the new series (the other being the mind-numbingly dull 'Fear Her' towards the end of Series 2, best not to get me started on that one).

Firstly, in defence of the episode, expectations were unfairly high, having followed by far the two weakest Dalek episodes in the new series and the rather one-dimensional Lazarus Experiment, and then a two-week break for Eurovision.

The episode certainly had its up sides, I for one think the premise was very interesting, a ship hurtling towards a sun in the far future, even if it has been done before, Doctor Who has a habit of improving on ideas, even when they are recycled from elsewhere. I also very much liked the idea that they could change their fate if only they could get to the cockpit, blocked not by the usual culprits like falling rubble, lack of atmosphere, or super-high temperatures, but by the simple fact that the doors would take too long to open, I thought this was a nice touch.

Also, visually the episode is breathtaking, being up there with The End Of The World and The Satan Pit. It did bear a striking similarity to the latter, both in terms of feel and story. The title was very neat, as was the idea of a real-time episode.

However, while comparing the episode to the aforementioned Satan Pit, let us consider the differences between the two. I should mention that, possibly excluding certain stories involving Daleks, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit are my favourite episodes of the new series, and so 42 should have been right up my street, another one set in the future, with all in mortal peril and a mysterious force possessing members of the crew.

I found that 42 was rather like The Satan Pit with all the really good bits taken out. There was none of the Devil mythology stuff, which I thought really made the episode stand out. Instead there was some preposterous theory that 'the star is alive.' Ok, I'm sure Doctor Who could make that idea work, but there was never any time to explain it in the slightest, which I found very frustrating.

There was nothing like the fear factor of The Impossible Planet, and while there was a certain element of steadily growing tension, it couldn't touch the "He is awake" moments of the former, or the colossal crescendo of power as Lucifer broke free.

As for demonic possession of the crew, the bad guys in this were totally unoriginal, both in appearance and power (come on, I remember a certain member of the X-Men doing that in a cartoon when I was 5 years old). I will admit that "Burn with me!" was a rather cool catch phrase, but I doubt many would accuse it of originality. I urge you to contrast this with the immortal image of Toby, red-eyed and tattooed in ancient heiroglyphs, standing on the atmosphereless surface of a barren asteroid, a black hole behind him, his hand outstretched and slowly beckoning, a look of pure, ancient evil in his eyes (I think that moment is the best acting the series has seen to date, I would even go so far as to say best acting I've ever seen). Not only that, but they had the Ood as well, probably the most menacing-looking alien species of the new series. Alongside this, two men in Breen-like gas masks with visors can't quite compete.

As for the good guys, the crew of the spaceship in 42 were instantly forgettable, and had little or no backstories whatsoever. Quite why Martha liked one of them is utterly beyond me. Yes, female spaceship captain, gotta be the first time we've ever seen that... except Star Trek Voyager did that in 1995, and I didn't think it was a very big deal even back then. After all, this is sci-fi, we've had female leads since Alien first came out in 1979. Again, contrast this to Satan Pit, where the odd line here and there suggested a great wealth of backstories for the crew, many of which we heard about in detail, providing a much more believable human element for the story, and creating characters that were actually cared about when put in danger.

As for the structure of the story, at first it all seemed to be going well, they have to go through all the bulkhead doors, reach the cockpit, and turn on the engines, while there's someone trying to kill them off from within. Except all that went out the window when they decided to start launching escape pods, suddenly the previous plot appeared completely forgotten, leaving the Doctor to scream "I'll save you!" again and again, because clearly he had nothing better to do. That alone I could overlook, but since I'm being critical it seems a shame to leave basic storytelling out.

All that would have made a poor episode, but it is the gaping holes in science and logic that really tore the episode apart. Yes, I know that in the Satan Pit they're orbiting a black hole, a scientific impossibility, that's one of the things that made it so good though, a deep-seated feeling of being uncomfortable, if you know what I mean. This was solved by the presence of Satan, I don't think science can argue with that too much. However, 42 was just getting silly. The idea that you could get that close to the sun without melting, for one thing, is ridiculous. I don't even remember if they tried to explain this with 'shields,' but it seems unlikely that shields would be online when the engines weren't, no? The TARDIS being trapped in a really hot room, ok, I'll go along with that, that bit was possibly better handled than Satan Pit, where it miraculously turned up at the end. But the real problem was the escape pod scene. That escape pod had been falling towards the sun for quite a while, and then with a press of one button, it comes flying back to the mothership, courtesy of electromagnets. Que? Has it not occurred to them that it's falling towards a star, the biggest source of gravity in the whole solar system? So large, in fact, that the mothership is being pulled towards it at high speed? Yet, press the magic button, the escape pod comes flying back from nearly touching the surface of the star, without even a scratch. A friend of mine then pointed out that not only is a star a huge gravity signature, it's also a giant electromagnet in itself. I really feel the writers would have benefited from a half-decent grasp of at least GCSE physics, and common sense would have helped considerably as well. As for the escape pod recall button being on the outside of the ship, it's probably best to ignore that entirely.

And so, to recap:
Story premise - Not half bad, but not overly original.
Real-time storytelling - A nice idea, but didn't leave nearly enough time for explanations
Characters - Universally terrible
Bad guys - Also completely dire
Deeper 'drama' messages/thoughts - Unless a star really is alive, none whatsoever
Realism/Physics - Shockingly poor

I found the discovery that the episode was written by the main writer of Torchwood explained quite a lot, all of the episodes that the writer has been credited with have been terrible (not to keep going on about it, but how does 'End Of Days' in any way appeal to a Satan Pit fan? And this is supposed to be the 'more mature' series, Pingu would have been better at revisiting the Devil-from-the-dawn-of-time idea than Torchwood). As for 'Cyberwoman,' the makers of Conan The Barbarian could have managed a more subtle costume for the title character, and probably a better story too.

However, I leave you on a good note - this evening was the airing of Human Nature, a welcome return to form. And, on an even better note, it's not long now until we can quote the tagline of a certain pirate film that's rather big at the moment - Captain Jack's back!

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

Chris Chibnall has come in for a lot of flack since he scripted the absolute worst episode of Torchwood. The title Cyberwoman sends a shiver down many a spine even after all these months. It is difficult to defend the very nadir of what was at best a patchily successful series but it is worth remembering that much of what was wrong with Cyberwoman (the high heels; the flinching from barbecue sauce, deadly to Cyberwomen of course) were failures in the design or direction rather than faults in the script. Chibnall's other Torchwood scripts were good and his two Life on Mars episodes ranked among the best.

Where does all that leave 42, Chibnall's first crack at Doctor Who? Like some of the scripts mentioned above many of the elements of 42 are derived from other works; the setting strongly echoes last years Impossible Planet, there are similarities to The Planet of Evil, the realtime element of 24 (although Who previously borrowed that conceit with less fuss in The End of the World during series one), and yes it is possible to say that the elements of possession, sentient suns and spinning into the heart of a cosmological disaster have all been used before. However some excellent performances - especially from the stupendous Mr Tennant, and the supertight direction of Uber-Whooey Graham Harper mean that what you end up with is an edge of the seat thriller putting the Doctor at the greatest risk he has yet seen and laying grim portents for the series finale.

The plot device of the ship being sucked into the sun exists to fuel the real time concept - a tried and tested method of generating pace and tension which is resoundingly successful here.

In order to save the ship Martha and Riley must get from one side of the ship to the other. Unfortunately there are an awful lot of sealed doors in the way. Incidentally these doors are 'deadlock sealed' thus rendering the sonic screwdriver of limited use once again. It's good to see the production team take even little criticisms on board. To get through these seals you have to enter the right code but instead of numeric or maths problems the alarm codes rely on general knowledge. This leads to a great comic moment as the Doctor tries to remember who had more number ones pre-download out of the Beatles and Elvis. Mundane trivia becomes a matter of life and death in the race across the crippled ship.

Martha's conversations with her Mother take us back to the present day to further foreshadow the inevitable showdown between the Doctor and the mysterious Mr Saxon. As black suited cronies listen in on Martha's conversation we can once again reflect on how very well prepared Mr Saxon is for the Doctor's arrival.

Martha's mother continues to be a source of concern. The character seems to have a strange attitude towards parenting and you must wonder why she would agree to her phone being tapped. She has been convinced of the danger that the Doctor represents very easily and her behaviour is suspect. It's almost as if she had been hypnotised. Adjoa Andoh gives a much better performance in her brief scenes here than she did in The Lazarus Experiment.

Of the guest cast Anthony Flanagan gives us a very down-to-earth spaceman. The crew of the Pentallian are more similar to oil riggers or builders than space adventurers which shows us that even blasting through space in the future will seem mundane. Michelle Collins' performance as the Captain is satisfactory, if a little undynamic. William Ash as Riley is an engaging foil for Martha to bounce her emotional turmoil off, not to mention a little love interest for Martha.

David Tennant gives another extraordinary performance in 42. Something that Christopher Eccleston commented on about playing the Doctor was that it is difficult to play a character that doesn't change or grow. He is the same every week and can't really vary from that established character. I wonder what he would have made of the Doctor being frightened when possessed by the sun, or of what's to befall him in the next episode Human Nature, or his love affair with Madame De Pompadour, or the heartbreak of losing Rose. The point Eccleston was making is valid and yet the series seems to find many ways to challenge that static character of the Doctor. David Tennant's Doctor does change, he does develop and he definitely does suffer. In 42 he struggles terribly to control himself while under the influence of the Sun and there is little more frightening than seeing our hero scared.

This episode has buckets of pace and is visually stunning. The jeopardy that the Doctor finds himself in and the constant countdown to the ship crashing into the sun add to the urgency and gravity of the situation. The real standout moment comes as Martha's rings tap against the escape pod window as she drifts away through the vacuum of space and towards a toasty death in the sun.

In the final analysis it doesn't really matter if a story borrows elements from preceding episodes if it provides forty two minutes of exciting, colourful and emotional television like 42. Series three, having had a stronger opening than it's predecessors, suffered a little wobble with Evolution of the Daleks. As enjoyable as The Lazarus Experiment was it somehow wasn't enough to set things right. 42 does a much better job and with Paul Cornell's adaptation of his beautiful novel Human Nature next up and Captain Jack and Mr Saxon waiting just over the horizon series three may just end up being the best yet.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

Since 1963, Doctor Who has been a survivor because of one elemental strength. The series, it characters, and its premise has always embraced change rather than resist it. Change has enabled the series to continually regenerate itself over the years and has been it's elemental strength and protocol since its inception.

"42" by Chris Chibnall is on the surface a tightly written, suspense action thriller set against a backdrop of a burning sun and a spaceship that has 42 minutes to clear itself of its freefall, or burn up in its fireball. In the hands of the extremely capable Graeme Harper, this story comes to life and sparkles, each scene beautifully framed and plotted, every scene acted with believability on an Adult level. Harper has always directed DOCTOR WHO for its adult audience. He understands the art and employs it once again to the highest level a skilled director can give a television show. His resume speaks for itself and "42' can certainly be added to that curriculum vitae with all the pride of a well tooled and crafted work of art. The episode showcases one of the absolute best opening sequences in DOCTOR WHO history as the Doctor and Martha discover they have 42 minutes to save a spaceship from a freefall orbit into a burning fireball. The sight of the Doctor and Martha looking into the glare of a burning sun as the ship drifts by, closer every second to the sun is perhaps one of the most powerfully, and unexpected scenes ever realized in DOCTOR WHO. A harbinger of a great episode surely!

If "42' had been an episode in the first season of the newly realized DOCTOR WHO, I am certain it would have been a strong candidate for one of the best episodes of the season. The script does deliver a somewhat disappointing and predictable ending and is tied up in an unimaginative fashion with its explanation of the sun being a living entity. This is itself a retread of the ideas employed in 'Planet of Evil" and when you think about it, the episode probably has borrowed a lot from that famous Tom Baker serial which dealt with a Science ship scooping the heart out of a living planet and then is forced to return what it took, and to much better effect than a special effects laden "42" could ever have given us.

Having said this, in reference to the PLANET OF EVIL, I must say"42" suffers mostly because we have already seen this episode not ONCE as PLANET OF EVIL ... but actually TWICE, and as recently as last season with THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET and THE SATAN PIT. Oh, its lost a character here or two in the translation, and is a more concise, lower budget treatment of its concepts, but the episode almost totally plagiarizes the concepts in these two episodes in a fast paced summarization that hardly attempts to disguise itself beyond changing the names to protect the innocent . While there is an understanding that drama and science fiction often have formulaic structures that are reused time and time again, ?the antagonist, and protagonist and the mandatory love interest, the planet, the evil alien, and so on, you rarely see it as obvious and transparent as "42" apparently is. Consider the claustrophobic spaceship, the infected crewmember, the evil baritone voice, and the spaceship falling into the sun, instead of a black hole. You have to wonder at what desperate level does a producer and his production teams decide to con its very loyal audience into accepting such a recycled unoriginal idea as entertaining? One thing that Russell T Davies must understand is that there are only 13 or 14 episodes produced yearly that must satisfy fans of this series; why not give the fans originality and quality throughout? The hardcore fan is certainly going to see the masquerade and even the casual viewer may say, " now wait a minute " and then dismiss it, but may never return again as a viewer after being duped so imperiously. This is something that would concern me if I were Mr. Davies, probably biting his nails because the workload of having to oversee the all these Doctor Who spin offs, as well as the original series is so great. Last season, there seemed to be a better quality of script and story, more attention to details of story and characters. This year it is obvious the rubber band continues to stretch and test the quality levels of the series, and I think it really is beginning to show and split apart at the seams. Again, you have to wonder how the Production executives could not have seen this, unless of course that team has reached a level of desperation or frustration or exhaustion.

This season had begun if not brilliantly, then certainly with a spark of promise and who could not help fall in love with Martha Jones and Freema's sparkling portrayal of her, of course, except for the Doctor who at season's start is still struggling with Rose's loss. In past reviews I expressed some concern about certain parallels between the relationship of the Doctor and Martha and Rose. The Doctor takes Martha to all the same places he did Rose, but Martha calls him on it, and its still okay. Once again we were introduced to the loving and dysfunctional soap opera family of Martha, and you can still step back and say, "Ok". Finally, Martha's mother is concerned for her safety and in "Lazarus Experiment" slaps the Doctor in the face, and finally, in "42" we are reintroduced to the Universal Roaming feature on Martha's cell phone and now we are one kiss away from the total transformation of Martha into Rose. Just One Kiss, and maybe a blonde wig away from total repetition.

This is so disappointing because the new series helmed by Russell T. Davies has been always imaginative, groundbreaking and anything but repetitive and its hard to imagine why a skilled and experienced production team is falling back on vehicles that worked for the series once before and are attempting to perpetuate clones rather than pursue originality. There seems to be little faith in trying to navigate new territory with Martha's character. This, as a long time fan concerns me, since DOCTOR WHO is all about change. Romana would never have slipped into Leela's warrior skins. One would argue even each successive new series seem to follow a formulaic pattern - space adventure, historical adventure, space opera with a space ship on the far side of the universe, linking arcs to be resolved in the final episodes, and finally once again we have mom on the cell phone with suspicions of the Doctor's identity that will no doubt be resolved in the series finale.

Doctor Who is all about change, movement and progression. Its existence and reintroduction to a modern audience is owed to this. Uncle Russell please take note. It's time to pay off those high universal roaming charges and find new sources of wonder in new ORIGINAL ideas.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

There is silence. Martha's fingernails are tapping frantically on the pod window. The Doctor is mouthing , 'I'll save you' through the airlock window as the distance between them elongates. The shots keep frantically intercutting between his agonising observation and Martha's face at the window of the pod as it slowly pulls away and falls into the sun.

If '42' is remembered for one sequence then it should be for that moment as 'proper companion' Martha is separated from the Doctor in a literal baptism of fire. This is real jeopardy and the sort that mere 'passengers' in the TARDIS manage to avoid (most of the time) and for Martha it's a real sense of the death drive that propels the Doctor through his travels in time and space. It's a masterful example of performance, direction, editing and production design all fusing into one moment that sums up the heart of the series. A very Graeme Harper moment, too.

Although I'd felt Chris Chibnall's work on 'Torchwood' suffered from adolescent over-indulgence, here he kept it simple, linear and provocative for all the right reasons. The 'real-time' element was a good idea and something new to bring to the series but it lacked the necessary hook to make it a special element. Where '24' indulges in split screens and clocks on screen to remind you of the format, '42' did it backwards, with a countdown , but more as an after thought, without split screen gimmicks. I'd have liked more to have been made of this idea.

It didn't matter because Graeme Harper kept the pace rolling along, with no pauses for breath, sharp camera moves and deep focus all adding to the feeling that this was the ultimate in Doctor Who 'running down corridors' episodes. And Harper loves his primary colours, doesn't he! Bold reds, yellows, blues in the lighting and set design all helped make this one very rich visually, especially combined with the steam, smoke, flares of light and reflections liberally applied therein.

Oh, and any similarities to 'Solaris' and 'Sunshine' , the dirty futures of 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' are fine by me and likewise the nod to Sorenson's transformation in the classic series' 'Planet Of Evil' and the S.S. Pentallion referencing a certain 'drive' in 'Revenge Of The Cybermen'. And Ashton's possession by Korwin , head wreathed in smoke was surely an homage to 'Pyramids Of Mars'. I like my references.

The idea of a sentient world is a pulp SF trope that's been knocking around for a while and everyone from Arthur C. Clarke to 'Blake's 7' have been in on the act. For me, the sentient sun is a symbol full of contradictions. Not only is it a manifestation of the godhead, a form of celestial epiphany for the Doctor and Martha when they look upon it, but the rising and setting of the sun is a journey into and out of the darkness, guiding souls through the darkness whilst also burning and killing at a glance. Both the Doctor and Korwin are fried and frozen, possessed with burning knowledge and then forced to drop below the horizon like a setting sun.

The sun-filter masks are also linked into the destructive power of the sun. The masks worn by the possessed are an external aspect of the vengeful ego and trap and control the vast forces that can be unleashed from the sub-conscious. The Doctor, Korwin and Ashton are symbolic prisoner and captor, representing two interchanging forces in one body.

The episode is also another voyage into the realm of the feminine principle with both McDonnell and Martha as pivotal to the resolution of the crisis. Martha is Dante's Beatrice, guiding the Doctor through Purgatory and McDonnell is the agent of sacrifice through love. Both women become what Plato describes as 'the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual' in that they find the innate goodness within themselves despite past mistakes ? Martha's dispute with her mum, McDonnell's failure to identify the sentient nature of the sun.

And talking of Martha's mum Francine, I'm pleased to see that the seeds sown in 'The Lazarus Experiment' have started to grow with her now being drawn into the web of intrigue that surrounds the mysterious Harold Saxon. These scenes, together with the mobile phone upgrade, nicely echoed Rose's conversation with Jackie in 'End Of The World' but they've taken that idea and added the dark twist of Saxon's interest in Martha and the Doctor. Oh, Francine, what have you done!

A good, solid episode with some outstanding work from Freema Agyeman, especially her scenes with William Ash as Riley, and David Tennant really on form again and showing us a vulnerable, frightened Doctor for a change; excellent, pacy direction from Harper and handsome production design from Ed Thomas and his team that shifts the series into its next gear and aims us towards what looks to be a gripping finale.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

42 could only have ever gone one of two ways for me. After a fortnight's deprivation, this episode was either going to satisfy two weeks worth of pent-up cravings or it was going to crash and burn. Now whilst the Pentallian may have avoided that particular fate, in my opinion Chris Chibnall's episode did not.

To try and focus on the positive, I enjoyed Joseph Lidster's prologue that he posted on the official Doctor Who website last weekend. It took me back to the days of the Doctor Who Magazine / New Adventures prologues, which is quite fitting considering that we are headed back into Virgin territory next week.

I should also say that I love both the gimmick of "42" and also Chibnall's cryptic episode title. A 'real time' Doctor Who adventure, 24-style, is hardly unprecedented but it's definitely a first for the TV series. And unlike the advert-ridden 24, "42" is actually an adventure set in real time. No three-minute recaps. No commercial breaks. "42" clocks in at just under forty-five minutes (a good six or seven minutes longer than most episodes of 24) and they truly are forty-five minutes of real time action.

And as for the title, it has so many possible connotations. We have the obvious ? "42", because at the start of the episode the Pentallian has just over forty-two minutes before it will crash into a star. "42", because the episode is (supposedly) set in the forty-second century. "42", because it is the meaning of life, at least according to Douglas Adams, and in his novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe his characters face a similar dilemma to the protagonists in this story. "42", because it's 24 backwards, a television series which this episode emulates in microcosm. And "42", because Russell T. Davies wanted to chuckle at the Radio Times billing: 42 7/13.

"A playful title" doesn't quite cover it. It's almost X-Files worthy.

However, a clever title alone does not a good episode make and more importantly, in a real time setting it is vital to keep things moving quickly and keep things interesting. Watching 24, for example, I often find it hard to believe how quickly the minutes tick by; so much so that I have my doubts about just how accurate that ticking clock actually is. In "42", unfortunately, I experienced the polar opposite sensation. I thought they'd slowed the clock down! 34 minutes to impact? You must be joking?

"The wonderful world of space travel. The prettier it looks, the more likely it is to kill ya."

If nothing else though, visually "42" is a thing of beauty. The red, orange and brown grading really helps the viewer feel the heat. Both the look of the episode and some of the plot elements reminded me very much of last year's superb "The Satan Pit" two-parter, but sadly I found "42" to lack the same punch. Both stories see the Doctor in a situation that he has never really been in before ? which after nearly forty-five years has to be praised! ? but whereas "The Satan Pit" put the Doctor up against the Devil himself, "42" can't decide whether it's baddie wants to be Darth Vader from Star Wars or Cyclops from X-Men. That's if it's a baddie at all, when you think about it?

David Tennant made me laugh on Doctor Who Confidential when he said that Michelle Collins "in a vest and smothered in baby oil" was one of the best things about the episode; with that I can agree wholeheartedly. The vest and the baby oil help, obviously, but so does Collins' wonderful performance. She certainly makes the best of a very poor script, as does Graeme Harper with his direction. One of the most memorable scenes in the whole episode sees McConnell open the airlock and have herself and what is left of her husband blown out in to space. The shot of them both floating above the sun is a stunning and powerful image, romantic even.

Similarly, David Tennant and Freema Agyeman both give phenomenal performances. "42" documents Martha's first trip in the TARDIS as a 'proper' companion, as it were. She gets her phone jazzed up by the Doctor ? "universal roaming" ? and, in one especially emotional scene at the end, he gives her the key to the TARDIS. Most important of all though, "42" sees Martha truly step up to the plate and become the Doctor's equal.

MARTHA You don't know the Doctor. I believe in him.

RILEY Then you're lucky. I've never found anyone worth believing in.

First of all, it is down to the Doctor to save Martha. Once again, Harper excels in his direction. The escape pod is jettisoned and Martha drifts silently and gracefully away from the Pentallian; no music, no sound. It's another beautiful piece of television.

"I'm scared. I'm so scared? it's burning through me."

And then Martha has to return the favour, just like Rose always did. Here though, I concede that this does feel just that little bit more important. I couldn't say for certain ? believe it or not I can't quote every single Doctor Who story verbatim ? but I'm pretty sure that the Doctor hasn't freely admitted to being afraid before and even if he has, he has certainly never cried out that he's scared as he does here. Sure, he's said "I know, me too" and things to that effect, and I do remember reading Andy Lane's New Adventure "Original Sin" and being gobsmacked to see the Doctor admit to being afraid of death, but this is really something else. To coin a phrase, this is a fate worse than death; the Doctor's worse nightmare. Worse than the Valeyard. He'd not only become a killer, but a mindless killer.

And to be completely fair to Chibnall, from T-10 minutes and onwards "42" improves dramatically. It is like suddenly someone has turned up the volume to eleven! The scenes with the Doctor on the outside of the ship, where he first becomes infected, are breathtaking, and Murray Gold's score really kicks in full force. The momentous piece of music that we first heard a fortnight ago accompanying the 'coming soon' trailer is used here with spectacular effect. I'm something of a soundtrack connoisseur ? nothing beats John Williams' Star Wars Trilogy score in my book but, especially when you consider that he is prolifically churning this stuff out for episodic television, Murray Gold can't be far away from such greatness.

"It's alive? that sun's alive? a living organism. They scooped out it's heart, used it for fuel and now it's screaming? it's living in me. Humans! You grab whatever is nearest and bleed it dry!"

There were a few other things that I did enjoy about the episode. The shot where the light leaves the Doctor's eyes towards the end stands out as a superb bit of C.G.I., and I also liked the pub quiz-like fashion in which Martha and Riley had to try and open the bulkhead doors. The Elvis vs The Beatles question was good fun, especially the 'classical music' joke ? a nod to Vicky's comment in "The Chase", perhaps?

MARTHA: It was nice, not dying with you. I think you'll find someone worth believing in.
RILEY: I think I already did.
MARTHA: Well done. Very hot.

I also liked the fact that Martha got to have a bit of thing with Riley. Until now she's been a bit of a doormat for the Doctor really, but at the end of "42" she certainly wastes no time with Riley. What I'm not sure about though is whether the Doctor saw their kiss or not on the scanner. Inside the TARDIS he's clearly very shook up about what he has just been through, but his vacant expression says more than that. Much more.

"Have you voted? Mr. Saxon will be very grateful."

For me, the most interesting part of "42" was the whole Martha's Mum / Mister Saxon segment (Hang on, Mister Saxon? Isn't that an anagram of Master Number Six?) I'm developing a massive dislike for Martha's mother (just as I'm supposed to), and although whether she is being leant on by Saxon's people or whether she is happily assisting the sexy and sinister Miss Dexter (Elize du Toit) in her investigations is unclear, things are certainly getting very interesting very quickly. It's 'Election Day'?

Whilst I'm on this point, was it my imagination or was is it Phil Collinson playing Miss Dexter's bodyguard on the left hand side of the screen?

So in the light of the above, why do I not have a higher opinion of "42"? In short, because I think that the plot is absolute rubbish; words like 'dreary' and 'predictable' do not do it justice. Ten minutes of high-octane action at the end cannot excuse over thirty minutes of tedium. I really cannot get my head round how Chibnall could write four of the best hours of British television in recent memory ? the fantastic Torchwood episodes "Day One"; "Cyberwoman"; "Countrycide"; and "End of Days" ? and then when he gets the chance to write for the big one, to write for Doctor Who, to screw it up so utterly! It's tragic really as all the other elements in "42" work so well ? all the actors' performances; the direction; the effects; the music?

A waste.

In fact, so massive was my disappointment with this episode that I would go so far as to say that it is not only the worst episode of Series Three so far, not only the worst episode of the new series so far, but the worst televised story since "The Greatest Show In The Galaxy" back in 1989. Even the Confidential team, who have until now this year quite comfortably filled their expanded 40-minute time slot with new series material, had to resort to a lengthy trip down memory lane to examine the spaceships of the classic series.

However, I am often guilty of reactively judging episodes a little too harshly only to have them grow on me over time. To make doubly sure, I watched "42" again this morning and again, I got bored after about three minutes.

Furthermore, I haven't seen such a divide in the opinions of fans since "Love & Monsters" aired last year. I posted a bulletin on to ask my friends on there what their thoughts were, and comments ranged from 'one of my favourite episodes' and 'a future classic' to 'a bit of a disappointment' and 'total let down'. I guess it all depends on how you like your Doctor Who ? I admit that I'm not usually into the hardcore sci-fi episodes (unless they are particularly strong on the human element).

So whilst "42" certainly has it's fans out there, in my book at least the new series producers have churned out their first true clanger. For the first time since 2005 I have to say that this week, Doctor Who wasn't the highlight of my viewing ? an especially hilarious edition of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (incidentally featuring John Barrowman and an exclusive clip of "Utopia") has stolen that honour.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

The midway point of Series 3 sees The Doctor and Martha return to the future for a real-time (give or take a few minutes) adventure set on a spaceship in a similar futuristic era to last season's excellent The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit.

This was, in effect, Martha's first trip as an "official" companion, and she's afforded the kudos of some Doctorly "jiggery pokery" to her mobile to enable her to call home in the pre-credits scenes in the TARDIS - which is to prove highly significant later in the episode (and, indeed, with respect to happenings later in the series).

The TARDIS answers a distress call from a cargo ship 42 minutes (hence the episode title) from being engulfed by a sun after suffering engine failure. Quickly separated from the TARDIS, which is trapped in a superheated hold, The Doctor and Martha find themselves in the same race against time for survival as the crew, headed by Kath McDonnell.

While Martha goes off to assist crew member Riley battle through a series of puzzles to open the ship doors leading to the auxiliary engines, which will be required to power the ship away from the sun, The Doctor is called upon to investigate the mystery of why McDonnell's husband, Korwin, has been possessed, and is vapourising the rest of the crew, one by one.

Martha and Riley are cast adrift in an escape pod by Korwin, but The Doctor risks his life by climbing outside the spaceship to restore the magnetic field which pulls the pod back. In doing so, The Doctor gazes into the sun, and discovers that it is a living organism and McDonnell has scooped out its heart for fuel.

Now possessed himself, The Doctor fears he will kill Martha and the rest of the crew unless the burning sun inside him is frozen out and the stolen solar particles restored back to the sun - but Korwin turns off the freezing chamber.

Shocked by the results of what she has done, McDonnell lures her possessed husband away, and propels both of them to their death out of an airlock, to buy the others some time. With The Doctor incapacitated, it is left to Martha to inform the surviving crew members to jettison the fuel back to the sun, and they reach the auxiliary engines in time to avert flying into the sun.

The Doctor is "dispossessed" and rewards Martha for saving his life by presenting her with the TARDIS key. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Martha's mother, worried about her daughter's involvement with The Doctor, is having Martha's calls home monitored by a mysterious black-suited woman . . .

This was effectively a mini space movie truncated into a 45-minute TV programme. Impossible to pull off. But they did it. Terrific efforts - even by the magnificently-high standards this production team have set - from all departments.

Firstly, it was an excellent Doctor Who scripting debut from Chris Chibnall. As Torchwood's head writer, Chibnall is well versed in what Doctor Who's head writer, Russell T Davies, requires, and is seen seen as a safe pair of hands.

Chibnall's script rattled along at an electrifying pace, and it was beautifully complemented by Martha's "phone homes" to her mum. In 42 (obviously a play on 24, and a great title), this served as a breather for the viewer from the action and it was a fascinating diversion, from a character point of view, to explore the mother/daughter dynamic right in the heat of a life-or-death struggle. And calling your mum from a spaceship to find out whether Elvis or The Beatles had more number ones is pure Doctor Who gold!

From a series point of view, advancing the "Saxon arc" by having Martha's calls monitored by a "sinister woman", as the credits brilliantly described her, was an added bonus for viewers.

The direction, from the Doctor Who legend Graeme Harper, was top drawer, as you would expect. This one had the air of the classic amongst classics, Caves Of Androzani, and was full of energy. As, to be fair, most DW stories are. But 42 started in top gear and pretty much maintained the level. I loved the lighting here - very different from the bright white sets of spaceships and stations in the future during the classic series. However, the movie-style darker, smoke-filled sets depicted, as in Gridlock, a brave new world which isn't all high-tech and shiny droids. In fact, it's all falling apart! Bit like nowadays . . .

I also adored Murray Gold's score here - it built and built and built, and accentuated the action perfectly. Super moment, too, when the music dropped all together when The Doctor watched Martha drift away in the pod, and mouthed, "I'll save you."

More fabulous work from The Mill, too. Another great spaceship, and their sun was reminiscent of their Impossible Planet black hole, but none the less effective.

Excellent performances from the guest cast, notably Michelle Collins as doomed Captain McDonnell. No camping it up whatsoever, and treating the material seriously paid dividends. Collins and Anthony Flanagan (Scannell) are both lead actors, so further evidence of Doctor Who's pulling powers that such big names are on board. Some good moments between Riley (William Ash) and Martha, too, when they thought their death was imminent.

Great script for Freema Agyeman as Martha, with plenty of action and getting to save the day (dare I say it, Rose-style). And she got the key to the door! But Freema's been great since Day One, and there's no sign of a drop-off in the quality nor enthusiasm she brings to the part. And the character is a massive part of the series.

There was a fascinating - and unexpected - twist to The Doctor's character. It's very rare that we see him a) scared and b) actually admitting he's scared, both of which happened here after his possession. Christopher Eccleston's Doctor certainly displayed real terror when encountering the Dalek in Utah, but this was the most afraid David Tennant's incarnation has ever been.

Clearly, this possession had a profound effect on The Doctor - as underlined by his not joining in with the "traditional" end-of-adventure jolity with Martha. But will this experience prove significant later in the series, perhaps even in the next episode?

Eight and a half out of 10, and the pick of the series so far.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

I prefer to think of "42" as homage. The setup is rather obvious: "Alien," one of the all-time great horror films and science fiction classics, featured seven people trapped aboard a starship with a killer alien they accidentally picked up. Substitute an impending crash for the alien nasty, and what you have is a taut little thriller of the kind that "Doctor Who" has rarely done in its three-year history since the show's modern return. Which is surprising, because the one-shot episodes the show's featured have largely been there to further ongoing plotlines ("Boom Town," "The Long Game") or spirited romps that meet varying degrees of success ("Love and Monsters," "Gridlock" or "Fear Me" if you really want to get down to the "all you need is love" aspect). The homage doesn't end there, either -- forget, for a moment, the bonk-you-over-the-head dues paid to "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in the title, and the play on both the name of and plotting of the series "24".

In "42" we have what may be the season's first real moments of genuine terror. (The Judoon weren't really menacing, the Macra were just a bit creepy, the Lazarus beast a bit laughable and, well, the Daleks were never scary this year.) Surprising, then, that it doesn't come from an alien menace -- instead, it's a 42-minute play on real-time as the Doctor and Martha are literally stuck beyond any hope of rescue. (It's a plot device used before, at the onset of "The Impossible Planet," but why quibble?) That leaves our heroes to become very involved, very quickly, in the story.

And there is a story, despite the fact that I've heard varying comments suggesting that there isn't. It's not a particularly complex story, granted, but "Doctor Who" doesn't need to be -- the presentation of a problem, and the Doctor's journey to the solution, is what got us through much of the show's first twenty-six years. The Doctor's problem is how to save this ship and, and the same time, retrieve his TARDIS. And, eventually, to rescue Martha, who's trapped in an escape pod with a rather nice young man she finds a few moments to flirt with. Substitute Martha for any number of companions in days long gone and it could be your standard "Doctor Who" episode.

What sets "42" apart from the others in this similar mould is that it doesn't let up; it keeps going when you'd expect to catch your breath. The reason why the ship is in this predicament is explained fully; in fact, most everything is pretty much explained to satisfaction, barring the quibble of how Martha and Riley survive the elements in your basic tin can with a window that's hovering within the corona of a star and how, oh how, they manage to be yanked back to the ship (not to mention, why the method for doing so is on the OUTSIDE!) Yes, it's a silly moment, but no "Doctor Who" serial is without its flaws...

Director Graeme Harper is unusually gifted at making a serial look 'lived in' and he is on rare form with "42". It always feels like a spaceship, hollow and booming and largely empty. Harper adds a gorgeous canvas of reds, yellows and oranges that bring the heat of the star to bear on the cast and their surroundings. While I was not a fan of some of writer Chris Chibnall's earlier work in the genre (the meat-eater episode of "Torchwood" was just plain yukky), he does a terrific job presenting a crew at the end of their ropes, and the Doctor and Martha's dialogue are by now quite familiar. I must also mention the bits with the mobile phone -- presented like Chekhov's gun, in that if it's featured at the start of the episode, it must be used in the episode. It presents a rather nice segue into the continuing storyline this year concerning Mr. Saxon...

All in all, "42" is a treat -- a moment of interstellar science fiction on a starship doomed to disaster. (Who'd have thought in this day and age of mostly Earth-bound "Doctor Who"... ?) It's nice to get David Tennant and Freema Agyeman into space, even for a brief interlude, with the kinds of stories I've been aching to see. Destined to be known as a filler, it's in fact a rare little gem.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

Against all the odds, Chris Chibnall, writer of three and a half very bad Torchwood episodes, writes a blinder. There's little original about '42': a doomed spaceship plunges towards a sun whilst the crew desperately try to save themselves and a mysterious alien presence hunts them down one by one. What makes it work is the titular gimmick, as the episode unfolds in real time, and veteran Doctor Who director Graeme Harper exploits the frenetic pace to astonishing effect. The cast is superb, with former EastEnders star Michelle Collins proving the biggest surprise, and they all put in sweaty and frantic performances. The episode looks great too, from the sunlight bursting from behind the eyes of those possessed, and the rusty, dirt-streaked ship a far cry from the brightly lit gleaming white interiors of the eighties. But this isn't what really surprised me about the episode.

Most of the new series episodes I've liked have been those that have remained truest to the spirit of the classic series and succeeded in spite of the trappings that I associate negatively with Russell T. Davies' Doctor Who. It helps considerably that Chibnall uses a throwaway line to render the Davies ex Machina useless early on, but this doesn't change the astonishing fact that he uses all of the other key ingredients of the new series and it actually *works*. We get pop culture references, but they serve a purpose, as Martha and Riley struggle to crack a series of security questions drunkenly chosen by the crew in the past. We get a judgemental Doctor filled with self-righteous condemnation of the humans and a tendency to portentously declare his refusal to lose a companion, but it also works firstly because David Tennant puts in possibly his best performance in the series thus far. We also get nods to this year's ongoing story arc, and therein lies the biggest surprise of all: integrating the "Mister Saxon" subplot into the series more prominently than was done with the Bad Wolf/Torchwood references previously is proving to be a striking success, as the Doctor is drawn further and further into a trap that he's currently blissfully unaware of. More strikingly, it is inserted into '42' by a contrivance that I thought I never wanted to see again, as the Doctor gives Martha's mobile "universal roaming".

Tying the series to Earth via Rose's ghastly mother felt to me like a squandering of the series' potential, rooting it in real life purely to appeal the stupider members of the audience who won't watch anything that doesn't in some crushingly obvious way reflect their lives. Since Martha has joined, we've only seen her reunited with her family in 'The Lazarus Experiment' and there, as here, we see them serving a more interesting purpose as the mysterious Mister Saxon tries to use them to get at the Doctor via his companion. It's an interesting approach, and it helps here that Martha's desire to 'phone her mum is entirely convincing on both occasions, first to ask her to search the internet for the answer to one of the life-saving questions, and more memorably because she thinks she's going to die. If I was stuck in an escape pod with a hunky young man who's not had sex in ages and is clearly up for it and knew I only had minutes to live, I'd probably think of some other way to spend my remaining time on this mortal coil than phoning my mother, but nonetheless it is an entirely believable reaction. Indeed, most of the emotion on display here works well, avoiding the soap opera leanings of previous episodes largely thanks to Harper's direction: the sight of the Doctor mouthing "I'll save you" through the window as Martha drifts slowly away could have been cloying, but Harper leaves it silent, so we don't get Murray Gold's syrupy musical nonsense telling us how to feel in the most overblown way imaginable. And having Kath appeal to the spirit of her husband inside the monster that he's become is one of the oldest clich?s in science fiction, but Harper's direction, Chibnall's script, and the actors' performance make her sacrifice seem like fitting redemption rather than predictable rot.

The two regulars are, incidentally, very good here. I've already mentioned Tennant, and having demonstrated hammy tendencies in the past, here he avoids the temptation so that the Doctor's agony when possessed by the sentient sun is utterly convincing, especially when he cries out that he's terrified. Freema Agyeman is also very good again, and it's refreshing to see that when faced with death she doesn't start regretting that she hasn't shagged the Doctor, she decides to say goodbye to her mum. She also kisses ??? just before she leaves and tells him he's hot, which pleasingly creates the impression that she's generally looking for a boyfriend rather than specifically obsessing over the Doctor like Rose did. And in that context, her previous musings on whether or not he ever really notices her seem far more acceptable.

Overall, '42' is a great episode, and great in ways that I wouldn't have anticipated. It also proves that Chris Chibnall can write decent, solid episodes when he's not allowed to fill them with juvenile and gratuitous sex, which is something he really ought to learn from.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

Last year's two-parter The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit was not one of the most successful instalments of new Doctor Who in terms of viewing figures. But it did seem to go down very well with reviewers, particularly those within fandom, and was a story with which the production team themselves appeared very pleased. Perhaps, in that context, it's no surprise that in 42 we were given an episode so similar to that story in so many ways.

Indeed, some of the many similarities were a little eyebrow-raising, to say the least. We have a small spaceship crew confined to one very industrial-looking setting. We have a desperate commanding officer trying to keep them all together and get them out of their plight. Instead of a mysterious life form at the heart of a black hole we have a mysterious life form at the heart of a sun, but we still lose access to the TARDIS -- the use of which could have saved everyone's trouble within five minutes -- at the very start of the episode.

Having said all of that, I actually felt that 42 was a bit more successful than Matt Jones's two-parter, and a very enjoyable episode in its own right. For one thing, the pace seemed better -- I liked The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit, but they did seem to flag a little in places, whereas 42 was pretty much exactly right, bar perhaps integrating the Doctor and Martha with the rest of the crew a touch too rapidly at the beginning. The 'real time' conceit may be a bit of a hoary old clich? by now, and indeed one Doctor Who itself has already pretty much done with less fanfare in The End of the World, but it was still an interesting hook upon which to hang the episode.

The End of the World also had the much-debated Galaxy Quest-style fans sequence, and you do have to wonder whether the twenty-eight password-sealed doors that the crew had to get through with their pub quiz trivia questions here really served any function other than to impede the progress of the characters and heighten the drama during an emergency. I know Riley had a line about them being a precaution in the event of a hi-jack, but I don't think Chibnall did quite enough to justify it. However, as it ended up giving us the Doctor's lines about "recreational mathematics" and an excuse for Martha's phone calls home, I suppose he just about gets away with it.

The rest of Chibnall's writing seemed pretty confident and assured, and I don't know whether it was he or Davies who decided to add the sinister Saxon bits to Mrs Jones's segments -- probably Davies -- but they served as an intriguing increase to the enigma of this year's 'arc'. An unexpected one, too -- I had assumed this episode would stand completely alone, as locked off and isolated as the crew of the spaceship upon which it was set, but evidently not.

One aspect of the script that did pull me up short and make me wonder was the small moment when the Doctor is on the outside in the space suit attempting to activate the process to remagnetise the escape pod dock and pull the pod back in. No, it wasn't so much the idea that such a system would be put in such a stupidly inaccessible place -- although now I think of it, that was a bit strange -- it was Scannell's sudden encouragement to him over the radio. He'd been so pessimistic and cynical about everything up to this point, why was he suddenly so encouraging? Just stuck me as a tad odd, really.

Graeme Harper's name attached to a Doctor Who story is more often than not an indicator of good quality, so it was very nice to see him back again on the new series, and from the look of things on the associated Confidential episode he's still as energetic and enthusiastic as ever about his work on the programme. I have to admit that I am not usually one to pick up on either good or bad direction unless it's so far either way as to really smack you around the face, but I did really like some of Harper's touches here. Standing out was the silence that accompanied the escape pod drifting away from the ship as the Doctor shouted soundlessly to Martha that he was going to save her -- a terrific piece of direction that seemed quite different to anything else we've seen since Doctor Who's return. I also liked the splashes of red across the deep blue lighting of the escape pod interior as Martha and Riley thought they were drifting to their deaths, and McDonnell and Korwin's balletic floating to their own demise near the end of the episode.

McDonnell's casting had slightly concerned me when it was announced that she was to be played by Michelle Collins, as it's so difficult to disassociate her from the character she played in EastEnders for all those years, Cindy Beale. Cindy was an emotional cripple who was frankly weird at times in her limited range of responses and actions, and despite Collins having acted in a great many dramas for the BBC and ITV since Cindy was unceremoniously given an off-screen death in the soap opera, Collins played the part for so long that actress and character are forever indelibly linked.

Collins managed to overcome such audience prejudices and preconceptions quite successfully though, I thought. She gave McDonnell a toughness that you could see was inspired by the likes of Ripley in the Alien films, but also a more vulnerable, emotional side in her relationship with her husband and her reaction to his possession by the sun creatures that made her sacrifice at the end all the more effective.

Full marks must also go to the two survivors of the ship's crew, Anthony Flanagan as Scannell and William Ash as Riley. Flanagan is a very familiar face to most television drama viewers these days from his regular role in the first three years of Paul Abbott's Shameless, and also played the killer in last year's one-off Cracker revival. I hadn't actually heard about his casting before seeing the episode and was quite surprised when I recognised him -- I thought that his career was on such an upward trajectory at the moment that a comparatively minor guest role in Doctor Who would have been a bit of a comedown for him. It's nice to see that such talented and successful actors want to be involved in the series at such a level, and that the programme has the power to attract such talent.

I'm not as familiar with the previous work of William Ash, but I thought he was very good as Riley, making him seem a very realistic character. His scenes with Martha in the escape pod were some of the highlights of the episode, and it's a sign of a good performance that even when delivering the somewhat corny and clich?d lines about having fallen out with his family he never made it seem too melodramatic and played it pitch perfect.

Murray Gold's score was good -- not being a great one for judging the quality of music it's hard to be any more specific than that, but only one moment really jarred. It was at the end, as we cut back to Martha's mother on the phone when Martha has hung up, and we hear the sound of horns. I assumed for some reason they were car horns blaring on the street outside her flat, but they turned out to be part of the incidental music.

Quibbles aside, I found this to be one of the best episodes so far of this series, and the first one since Gridlock that I've watched again after its initial broadcast. It seems that Doctor Who is the better for its two-week break, so let's hope the adaptation of Human Nature which begins next week keeps the quality on an upward level.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

One of the better gap-fillers of the past three seasons, 42 is really a paler version of last year's seasonal peak, The Impossible Planet. It lacks the latter's detail and scenario, and characterisations, hinting at a reprise of the same supernatural menace, but rather strangely taking a sidestep away and avoiding being the Snakedance to Impossible's Kinda. This is a bit confusing as not only does 42 very much look like Impossible Planet, simply re-alligning the latter episode's scenario of a space station hurtling towards a black hole with an equally sweaty spaceship hurtling towards a distant sun, but the menacing 'burn with me' catchphrase also mirrors uncannily the 'don't turn round' chiller of Impossible Planet's Sutekh-esque invisible menace. But this time, instead of a disturbingly tattooed possessed crew member with red eyes, we have various possessees donning 2001-style space helmets and opening visors sporadically to emit leathel sun-rays on the victims. We also again have subtle allusions to Sutekh of the classic Pyramids of Mars with one of the possessed killing a crew member by clutching their face while smoke steams out seemingly from his hands.

Mostly this episode was well done, looked good, and served its purpose - that purpose being to my mind to simply plug a gap between stronger episodes (assuming Human Nature is going to live up to our expectations that is, which I think it will). This episode really only serves a purpose in its own right at showing the Doctor in an unusually powerless position, thus emphasizing his mortal vulnerability to fly in the face of the 'lonely God/immortal wanderer' spin of the new series so far. The Doctor is after all mortal, in spite of his Timelord makeup; he can only regenerate 12 times as all older fans know, so no harm in showing for once how he can sometimes be out of his depth and actually have to rely on a lesser mortal, ie his companion, to get him out of the fix. The scenes in which the Doctor is possessed and clearly in severe pain and distress are very well handled here, though I feel go overboard, and are not to my mind suitable for children to watch. I think 42 pushed out the boat of horror just a little too far, and I personally think this is because it had to, as the episode itself is weak and rather empty. The karmic element is refreshing (also slightly reminiscent of the incomparably deeper and more compelling Kinda of the Davison era), and was actually a nice little philosophical and moral twist to the episode. One might look on this as a comment on man's abuse of his environment, of the sun, and of nuclear energy.

42's script lacked generally, though was, broadly-speaking, adequate for what it was trying to do. The characters had little room to develop, with Michelle Collins's rather blanched portrayal being redemed ultimately only by her attoning self-sacrifice.

The script slipped up badly in places, especially with the ludicrous 'Come on my son!' from the Doctor as he struggled to save the day in possibly his most excrutiatingly desperate setting yet - so, very bad scripting there. The silly question about who had the most number ones, the Beatles or Elvis, was initially treated quite well with the crew member reading it pronouncing Beatles as Be-atles and referring to the subject as classical music. But having the Doctor brainstorming for the answer as if in a surreal pub quiz, and remembering the recent Elvis remix, was frankly embarrassing.

The scene in the escape pod provided the token 'still moment' in the adrenalin-pumping episode, but really served no purpose except to attempt some depth with Martha, and rather jarred with the real time pace of the rest of the story.

I'm assuming the crisis endured by the Doctor in this particularly trying episode is to lead in to his subsequent need to seek a new, quieter life and identity in the upcoming two-parter, so in this sense 42 has a place in the season. But frankly any past incarnation put through the same amount of pain as the 10th is in this episode would have inevitably regenerated (remember the 3rd Doctor's draining by the crystal on Metabelis in Planet of Spiders and the 5th's ravaging by spectrox in Caves of Androzani?).

All in all an acceptable episode, well-executed but ultimately rather limp and unsatisfying. A missed opportunity I think, as if you are going to duplicate a previous episode so obviously (ie Impossible Planet) you may as well make some sort of sequal and further develop the original through it. Instead we had what feels like a bit of a repeat session, but with a less satisfying plot. Nevertheless, 42 is still poles apart from the first two episodes of the season, both of which are still inexplicably lauded by many reviewers on this site - (I will simply never understand the appeal of The Shakespeare Code, which is to my mind the worst episode so far this season, and the biggest jingoistic sell out of new Who so far).

42 = 5/10.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

Something different for Doctor Who, a "realtime" epsiode. My dad asked what that meant when he read it in his TV guide. So we knew we were in for something of a rollercoaster ride.

The Doctor and Martha answer a distress call and find themselves aboard a space ship which is crippled and headed for collision with a sun. Later it becomes clear that the sun, or something in its corona is alive and in illegally scooping up the star's energy for their engines the crew have sucked up the "heart" of the entity into thier ship....and understandably the creature is not overly happy about this!

One of the crew is taken over by the entity, whcih proceeds to take its revenge by picking off the crew one by one. Wearing a rather creepy face mask, every time it lifts the visor it shines what looks like sunlight onto its victim who is incinerated.

The Doctor and Martha of course have 42 minutes to save the day, which they do by finally realising what has happened and dumping the contents of the fuel chambers back into the area they scooped it from.

I liked the concept of a different kind of entity/lifeform. Its not entirely original but its unusual, a better idea perhaps than the Isolus from last year's "Fear Her".

Martha as a character came into her own when she was separated from the Doctor and trapped into an escape pod with a crew member. In that scene she earned her stripes as a top class character, companion and Freema is undisputably an excellent actress. The pod slowly, agonisingly moves away...and Martha bangs on the window asking for help, while the Doctor says "I'll save you" but of course neither can hear the other.

The tention is built up skillfully, something to do I think with Graeme Harper's direction and Chris Chibnal's script. At times this had a similar feel to "The Satan Pit", perhaps because of the claustrophobic space ship setting. The resolution was satisfactory, and we were finally treated to the poignant moment where the Doctor gives Martha the TARDIS key as a "frequent flier" bonus.

Then, the final scene...where Mrs Jones is clearly helping Mr Saxon track down the Doctor. Of course she believes Saxon is doing good, and is worried about her daughter. That was all done well. the Saxon references and the Jones family are being handled better than Torchwood and the Tylers generally were in 2005/6.

Overall I enjoyed, but it seems this series is stuck in fourth gear and unable to go up into top. Rather fourth than second, however.


Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television

The inner core of "42," Chris Chibnall's seventh episode of this year's season, is all about the current state of uncertainty in British politics as Tony Blair gets ready this summer to leave No. 10. The current worldwide mistrust of politicians and total dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, so evident on the streets of London these days, is clear in this episode's scenes where it is revealed that Mrs. Jones is cooperating with intelligence agents from a political party who is out to destroy the Doctor. They are wiretapping her mobile phone conversations with her daughter. One of these conversations involves Martha calling up her mother fearing that this will be their last phone conversation, as her space pod is being sucked into the gravitational pull of a living sun. The scene painfully reminds us of the countless mobile exchanges that occurred at the World Trade Center on September 11 when parents and children professed their love for one another for the last time. The fact that during Martha and her mum's conversations the UK is in the middle of Election Day makes the political implications of this episode crystal clear.

The episode's numerical title is apt as well in these days when the body count in Iraq keeps rising and the number of years of involvement in the war flies as out of control as the space craft where the TARDIS has landed. Thankfully, the fact that the number 42 is a magical mystical number for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and also the age when Elvis Presley died brings the episode back to the world of entertainment. Politics aside, Mr. Chibnall has not forgotten that Dr. Who is not didactic Brechtian epic theater, and his "42" is one of the most entertaining shows of the season, a non-stop rollercoaster ride the likes of which we have not had this season.

Even though the episode's world is rooted in the ethos of Post-Modernism, with quotes and references to various contemporary novels, shows, and movies, the inner core of "42" goes back to Western Civilization's earliest "textbook" on how to write fiction: the Poetics of Aristotle, and in particular, the Aristotelian unities of time which this episode maintains. The entire episode is a race to the finish in which the main characters try to save one another before the clock runs out. In its own post-modern way, "42" also shares much in common with "Life Time" a 1979 M*A*S*H episode, dramatized in real time, where a very visible on-screen clock counts down the minutes that show the plight of a soldier who will suffer permanent injury or death if he isn't treated in the episode's 20 minutes. Back in its heyday that M*A*S*H episode was a television landmark. "42" is not out to make history, it just wants to use one of the oldest tricks in the book and get us to engage in some real-time nail biting.

The juicier parts of "42" are the postmodern moments that make us smile with a sense of artistic recognition. For instance, the moment when the Doctor looks intensely at a living organism in outer space and utters Dr. Frankenstein's immortal lines from the Universal 1931 classic: "It's alive! It's alive!" This wonderful moment happens while the crew of a ship in distress is being systematically eliminated, one by one, by an alien force that has managed to creep onboard; the members of the crew, and the ship itself being sufficiently reminiscent of James Cameron's world in the film Aliens for us to recognize its homage. Michelle Collins, looking a little older and a little wiser from her EastEnders days, makes a great Sigourney Weaver-like character -- complete with sexy tank top. It's great to see Ms. Collins back on TV after her stint on the West End musical Daddy Cool. Towards the conclusion of this episode there is an illusion to one of last year's great films. When the Sinister Woman, dressed in black, who has been wiretapping away phone conversations throughout, takes Martha's mother's mobile phone after she has finished talking with her daughter, she asks mum the following: "Have you voted?... Mr. Saxon will be very grateful." Mr. Saxon's name is as British as they come. Is "42" promising to offer us, in the upcoming weeks, an Orwellian look at a Britain that will soon start rounding up its aliens, as in Alfonso Cuar?n's brilliant Children of Men? The promise of a look at a modern xenophobic British dystopia is certainly an engrossing proposition for the current series to explore given the modern state of world politics and Britain's own unique problems with immigration.

The visual landscape of "42" is one of the stars of the show. The episode is all about sweat and steam, all photographed by Ernie Vincze, BSC in dominant reds and greens that juxtapose each other like deadly acids. Certainly one of the best looking shows of the season, its cinematography equals or surpasses many current theatrical films.

The episode also features the Doctor in distress -- always a problem, because if he can't save us who can! Luckily, Martha Jones, a doctor herself, comes to the rescue and manages to increase her importance as one of the most resourceful companions in the history of the series. We also get to experience what can surely be called Time Lord jealousy, as the Doctor is certainly not amused after he realizes that Martha's cup of emotions are running over when it comes to Riley, a member of the crew with whom she got stuck inside a escape pod. At the end of the show, Riley and Martha share an erstwhile kiss, which potentially complicates her relationship with the Doctor even more. Martha's comment after the kiss: "Well done, very hot," is one of the many references to heat through the clever script. My particular favorite, though, is when the Doctor mentions one of George Harrison's finest songs "Here Comes the Sun" from the album "Abbey Road" as the ship where they are trapped continues to spin out of control towards their certain burning death.

"42" concludes with the sense that all is right with the universe once more. More importantly, the relationship between Martha and the Doctor seems to be on the right track once they both reach the relative safety of the TARDIS. The Doctor has shown us that at times he can be "human," but he has also realized that Martha's fling with Riley is all part of human nature. We will see more "Human Nature" at play next week.

Filters: Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor Television