Doctor Who Mini-Reviews: Series 4

Cartoon version of the TardisEdmund and I have been re-watching the Doctor Who reboot from the beginning, and I’m writing mini-reviews; I post them one season at a time. The info is cribbed from Wikipedia, and I added my scores and comments.

The scores go thus:

  1. This is embarrassing.  Go away.
  2. Weak.  I’m not going to try convincing my friends to watch the show based on this.
  3. Average for a Doctor Who episode.
  4. That was a good one!
  5. One of the best ever.

This one is for “Series 4″ of the recent collection, released in 2008-9 and starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and Catherine Tate as Donna Noble.

No Title Score Comments Code Episodes Writer Director Original airdate
189 Partners in Crime 3.5 I wasn’t keen on seeing Donna Noble again, but she was better written this episode, with more agency. I liked that she was conducting her independent investigation. The Adipose plot didn’t make much sense but the rhythm and storytelling were good. Also, ack! the theme music gets less good every season. As I recall, I started actually hating it with next season’s version. 4.1 1 episode (50 mins) Russell T Davies James Strong 5 April 2008
190 The Fires of Pompeii 3.5 Not a very sterling plot but I liked that Catherine Tate showed some good acting, infusing dignity and depth into a character who will be all too often written as shallow comic relief. The visuals were good, especially in Pompeii proper. However, new writer James Moran did a terrible job on the cosmic-level dialogue, though he was fine on the day-to-day, street level talk. 4.3 1 episode (50 mins) James Moran (and Russell T Davies) Colin Teague 12 April 2008
191 Planet of the Ood 3.5 I like the Ood and the juxtaposition of foreboding and compassion they bring. For the third episode in a row, Catherine Tate does a good job of being, well, Noble and the voice of conscience. I may have to reconsider Donna as a character, darn it. 4.2 1 episode Keith Temple Graeme Harper 19 April 2008
192 The Sontaran Stratagem
The Poison Sky
3 I liked seeing Martha Jones again and the dynamic that developed between her and Donna. Alas, mid-way through the first episode until nearly the end of the second, Martha became a damsel in distress/football, while Donna started snivelling inexplicably after being so much tougher earlier. Also, dead tired of hearing the Companions tell us all how wonderful Doctor Mary Sue is. 4.4
4.5
2 episodes Helen Raynor Douglas Mackinnon 26 April 2008
3 May 2008
193 The Doctor’s Daughter 3 I loved the idea of a Doctor’s daughter, and the plot was not sterling but it did have a few nice twists. Nothing strenuous for the brain. 4.6 1 episode Stephen Greenhorn Alice Troughton 10 May 2008
194 The Unicorn and the Wasp 2.5 How I wanted to like this one! I like Fenella Woolgar as Agatha Christie, and I love big set-piece mysteries, but the Vespiform plot? With the medallion? The inexplicable guilt trip for Christie, who had nothing to do with what happened? and the wince-worthy wasp special effects? No. 4.7 1 episode Gareth Roberts Graeme Harper 17 May 2008
195 Silence in the Library
Forest of the Dead
4/3.5 The setting is a gigantic library, that’s hard for me to resist; and the biolink ghosts echoing provide good atmosphere. I’m also a fan of River Song, except in a few of later episodes in Season 6. Unfortunately, we now see Donna’s character dumbed down, the way I remembered it before the re-watch. Lower score for the second half because the resolution is a bit dumb. 4.9
4.10
2 episodes Steven Moffat Euros Lyn 31 May 2008
7 June 2008
196 Midnight 3.5 As with “The Weeping Angels” or “Silence in the Library”, the best terrors are unseen. The first part is very nice because for once it shows us what is great about the Doctor instead of telling us, as he gets everyone to talk and laugh and he shows genuine interest. Unfortunately, the resolution takes a little too long, we get past suspense-building and into, ahem, repetition. The episode would be great if it could be edited down by 5 or 10 minutes. 4.8 1 episode Russell T Davies Alice Troughton 14 June 2008
197 Turn Left 2.5 Good concept but uneven execution. The side glance at events from the three previous seasons was a nice, but there are three things I’m really tired of: Companions having crushes on the Doctor, every character telling us how great the Doctor is, and every Companion telling us how ordinary and unimportant they are. By now, the writers should allow Donna more self-confidence and less screeching in denial. 4.11 1 episode (50 mins) Russell T Davies Graeme Harper 21 June 2008
198 The Stolen Earth
Journey’s End
2.5/3 Oy. It was really nice to see all the guest characters—even the ones who were woefully underused—but that was one and a half episodes’ worth of plot spread over two-and-half episodes’ worth of reel time. Plus the Replacement Doctor plot for Rose is tacky, and the final, complete denial of agency for Donna is abominable. Donna has already made the big choice three times at this point—once in the primary timeline in “Partners in Crime”, once in an alternate timeline in “Turn Left”, and right here at the end of this episode, not to mention every time she embraced that choice all over again by travelling with the Doctor instead of returning home. Yet after she has explicitly made her choice, the Doctor takes it from her, regardless of what she wants, because he prefers it that way. 4.12
4.13
2 episodes
(4.13 is 65 mins)
Russell T Davies Graeme Harper 28 June 2008
5 July 2008
199 The Next Doctor 3.5 Really good pre-credit intro, and a great performance by David Morissey as, well, the Doctor. I was disappointed that his character was (as usual) stripped of agency when he realized his connection with the Doctor. Dervla Kirwan showed lovely poise as Mercy Hartigan. 4.14 Christmas special (60 mins) Russell T Davies Andy Goddard 25 December 2008
200 Planet of the Dead 3 Let me get this straight: you get a woman with organization and leadership skills, a man with mechanical knowledge, another with an understanding of physics, a bona fide psychic, plus three others whose talents we didn’t bother checking, but the Doctor does everything. Heck, you’d think that the passengers would have gotten that bus back on schedule on their own, but no… 4.15 Easter special (60 mins) Russell T Davies & Gareth Roberts James Strong 11 April 2009
201 The Waters of Mars 3 Nice sets, nice atmosphere, good performances especially from Lindsay Duncan as Captain Brooke until the characters turn into water zombies, but weak scenario. Brooke? Is that an allusion to River and Pond plots? She’s a fixed point in time and nicely tied into previous episodes. The detail work in script-writing is far superior to the actual plotting. 4.16 Autumn special (60 mins) Russell T Davies & Phil Ford Graeme Harper 15 November 2009
202 The End of Time 3/3 John Simm as the Master (yay!) and Bernards Cribbins as Wilfred Noble are the best things about this two-parter. Seriously, Russell Davies just has to have every character tell us, over and over, how cool the Doctor is. 4.17
4.18
Christmas special (60 mins)
New Year’s special (75 mins)
Russell T Davies Euros Lyn 25 December 2009
1 January 2010

Note:

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One thought on “Doctor Who Mini-Reviews: Series 4

  1. The Doctor is a mixture of angsty mass-murderer and inexplicable sex-appeal. He’s a bit like a pudding made out of Hannibal Lecter and Justin Bieber.

    As with most fictional characters, the Doctor is at his best when he is being cool and smart and brave and thoughtful, and at his worst when other fictional characters are telling us how cool and smart and brave and thoughtful he is.

    There is also something of a disconnect between a couple of different story ideas throughout the season –

    1) the idea that the Doctor travels throughout the universe saving whole planets and civilizations and such, but no one ever thanks him for it

    2) the number of people throughout the season who practically wet themselves like ecstatic puppies when meeting him, fall all over themselves talking about how amazing he is, and generally fawn all over him (or at least act like he is a big-name celebrity)

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