Doctor Who Series Three : A Press Start to Begin

Oh good, it’s my turn! Now we’ve come to third installment of the Doctor Who series as part of our series of reviews where we look back on each season of Modern Who. Sadly last season, we said a heart-breaking farewell to the much beloved Rose Tyler. But this time around, the Doctor welcomes aboard the Tardis a new companion, plus a chance encounter with who will come in the next season. We welcome back one of the Doctor’s closet’s friend in the ever flirtatious Captain Jack Harkness, as well as the Doctor notorious arch-nemesis.

Let us begin shall we!

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THE RUNAWAY BRIDE

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Euros Lyn

The episode begins immediately following the events of “Doomsday” where the Doctor, still heartbroken over the loss of Rose Tyler, is shocked to find a woman in a wedding dress standing before him in the TARDIS console room. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Donna Noble! She angrily accuses the Doctor of kidnapping her and demands she be return her before she misses her wedding. The Doctor, quickly switching gears, is incredibly fascinated at this loud-mouth woman whose suddenly appeared out of nowhere and ignores her demands as his minds starts going a mile a minute trying to figure her out. Of course Donna doesn’t have time for his nonsense and tries to leave the TARDIS…only to find out that she’s in space.

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Upon returning Donna to Earth, both she and the Doctor come to realize that she’s being hunted down by murderous robot Santas (same ones that appeared in Tennant’s first appearance of the show). After saving Donna from being kidnapped, the Doctor returns her to wedding reception, which is already in session. Unfortunately for both of them, the party is crashed when the Santas return. Through some clever deducing, the Doctor figures out who is after Donna, the Empress of the Racnoss, a spider-like species that was wiped out by the Time Lords.

I found this episode to be so enjoyable on so many levels. First off, the introduction of Donna Noble was just so brilliantly funny and witty. Her character was not just enjoyable but also so welcoming after the loss of Rose. As a fan, I worried on how they were going to replace a character I loved so much. Thankfully Catherine Tate was a perfect choice. The chemistry between Donna and the Doctor was instant, but not in the same manner that he and Rose shared. This time, it felt more of a brother/sister relationship, both fighting to prove which one is smarter but still caring for the other.

Another great thing about this episode is that we see the effect that losing Rose had on the Doctor. Like with all his companions, they all hold a special place in the Doctor’s two hearts, so the loss (especially one as special as Rose) takes a toll on him. At the end of the episode, we get a glimpse of the dark side of the Doctor and how sometimes that darkness can be truly frightening. He needs someone to pull him back, to save him from himself. In a sense, to remind him of his humanity. It’s this episode which really emphasizes how important his companions are to him, which, I guess, makes the loss of Rose a harder thing to accept by the time the episode is over.

I loved this episode. It had great action, a scary-looking villain and a great character that I absolutely loved in Donna Noble. Sadly, we wouldn’t see her again as a full time companion until next series. This was another great Christmas special that was goofy and comical and kept me wanting more Donna.

8/10 = EXCELLENT

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Smith and Jones

Director: Charles Palmer

Writer: Russell T Davies

With Donna Noble gone, we begin with medical student Martha Jones on her way to work at a London hospital when she’s suddenly stopped by a strange man who appears out of nowhere “like so”, removes his tie and then walks away. Arriving at work, she is surprised to see that the same man is now one of her patients under the name “John Smith”.

The Doctor as "John Smith"

The Doctor as “John Smith”

All seems normal when suddenly the hospital is unexpectedly transported to the moon, leaving the staff and patients in a state of absolute panic. Expect for Martha who keeps her cool and strangely finds her change of surroundings actually quite fascinating. Someone who also finds the situation fascinating is, of course, the Doctor who springs right into action. Before long, the hospital is visited by the Judoon, the intergalactic police force who are searching for a Plasmavore, a criminal on the run for murder. The Judoon begin to scan and catalogue the humans in an attempt to weed out who is now non-human, which means big trouble for the Doctor. The Judoon have a shoot to kill orders and aren’t hesitant to comply.

This episode is a very good introduction for Martha Jones, showcasing her a smart, brave and very right-to-work type of person just like the Doctor. She does not hesitant to try and get a handle of an otherwise crazy situation, while still taking the time to be fascinated by it. She, like most of the Doctor’s companions he’s collected over the years, has no idea what is going but goes along with the Doctor to the very end.

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However, even with a proper introduction, this episode is so-so. The main villain, the Plasmavore, is in the guise of an old woman that sucks blood through a straw. Really? A straw? I’m sorry but when I think a blood-sucking alien, a sippy-straw doesn’t come to mind. The Judoon posed a far more interesting villain, even though they are technically good guys. Not a bad beginning for Martha Jones. Good, but not great.

6/10 = FAIR

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The Shakespeare Code

Director: Charles Palmer

Writer: Garth Roberts

So what’s Martha’s first stop as the Doctor’s new companion?

How about Elizabethan England, 1599? Promising to take Martha on just trip, the TARDIS lands in Elizabethan London at the Globe theater where they meet William Shakespeare performing “Love Labour’s Lost“. And the end of the play, William Shakespeare announces a forthcoming sequel entitled “Love’s Labour’s Won“, a lost play that neither Martha or the Doctor can resist to see. However, something evil is afoot when they discover that a coven of witches, or rather, an alien race known as the Carrionites intend to use the powerful words of Love’s Labour’s Won to break their species out of eternal imprisonment.

This episode was pretty simple and very ordinary as most Doctor Who episodes go. There wasn’t much to it in terms of flashiness or much originality. In fact, it felt more like fan fiction than anything. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less entertaining. The true enjoyment comes in watching the interaction between Shakespeare and the Doctor who is clearly a fan of him and his writing. The little mentions of Shakespeare’s plays and the Doctor’s possible influence on them were quite funny and enjoyable. This episode may not have been anything ground-breaking, but it was great fun.

7/10= FAIR

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Gridlock

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Richard Clark

For her second trip, the Doctor takes Marthafive billion and fifty three and the city of New New York on the planet New Earth, a place the Doctor previously visited with Rose which Martha finds a little disappointing. As they are exploring, Martha is abruptly kidnapped at gunpoint by a couple who franticly explain that they need her to enter the motorway. An enraged Doctor follows  and chasing after the kidnappers only arrive at the motorway, a completely enclosed underground highway filled with thousands of hover vans stuck in a slow moving gridlock. The Doctor hitches a ride with another couple and learns that the motorway is practically at a stand-still with cars only moving very short distances and can take years to get anywhere. To make matters worse, there is something lurking in the lower levels that is killing motorists.

In the meantime, a very old friend is searching for the Doctor with a way to not just free the trapped motorists and to save the city above, and also has one last message to give him before his death.

This episode is one of my absolute favorites. While the story is bleak at times, it also perfectly demonstrates the power of the Doctor and how he is able to bring the light and hope to a world that has never known it. Which is what the Doctor is all about.  I was absolutely moved to tears at the end, seeing the hope in the ears in the motorists as they saw the sky for the first time and knowing that they were free to go anywhere. Moments such as when the hymns are sung among all the motorists which shows the community they’ve established was another thing that made me sniffle.

The relationship with Martha and the Doctor, thankfully, grows a bit more in this episode which was something I was really thankful to see. Up until now, the Doctor has been hiding his grief about losing people and it takes nearly losing Martha to finally get him to confront it. This is one of those episodes where we get a glimpse at the how valuable the Doctor and how much he treasures his companions. He will never admit it, but by this episode we come to understand that loneliness is his worst enemy. And by the end of the episode, we can take heart in knowing that he “is not alone.”

10/10= EXCELLENT

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Darleks in Manhattan & Evolution of the Darleks

Writer: Helen Raynor

Director: James Strong

These next two episodes are essentially two parters. Arriving in 1930 New York during the Great Depression, Martha and the Doctor come across a rumor in a tent city of unemployed works that some of their friends have been reported missing after looking for work from the wealthy businessman named Mr. Diagoras. At first intrigued, the Doctor suddenly makes the frightening discovery that he has once again come face-to-face with his old enemies, the Darleks. Even worse, it is the Cult of Skaro, the same group he once fought the day Rose Tyler was lost. The Doctor learns that the Darleks are planning to fuse human and Darlek together to create a genetically super being in hopes of preserving the future of the Cult of Skaro.

I got to admit; this entire two-part episode was just too weird for me. And that’s saying a lot. A Doctor Who episode that was too weird? Hard to believe but true. The whole concept of a human Darlek felt way too silly to me to get behind. It’s an interesting concept, don’t get me wrong, but the execution wasn’t what I had hoped. The costume of the human-Darlek just made me laugh myself silly when it was really meant to frighten me. Not even the human pig-slaves were scary; they just looked ridiculous, not at all threatening and a poor choices for soldiers. I found myself wondering throughout these two episodes “Why pigs? Why would the Darleks, the most fearsome race in the galaxy alone, would choose pigs?”

 Frankly, these two episodes bored me. I was hoping for something more than pig-men and annoying New York accents. Not even the appearance of a pre-Spiderman Andrew Garfield was enough to save it.

2/10=POOR

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The Lazarus Experiment

Writer: Stephan Greenhorn

Director: Richard Clark

The Doctor returns Martha back home, preparing to say good-bye, only to promptly return in seconds after watching a news reporter about a man named Professor Richard Lazarus who is planning a banquet and claims that he “will change what it means to be human.”  At the banquet, Lazarus showcases his newest invention, a machine that can manipulate the DNA of a subject and make them young again. Lazarus uses the machine on himself, and in front of a shocked crowd, Lazarus emerges a young man.

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However, things quickly start to go wrong, as  Lazarus’s body begins to undergo another transformation, mutating into a rampaging scorpion-like monster with a hunger for human DNA. So of course, it’s up to the Doctor and his trusty companion, to stop the monstrous mad scientist from going on a rampage.

This episode had a very comic-book feel to it which I very much loved. The Doctor and Martha taking on the persona of a Batman/Robin team, and I couldn’t help by enjoy every minute of it. Aside from all the action, I’ve always enjoyed episodes where the adventure slows down and the Doctor takes the time to interact with the day-to-day life’s of his companions.  Although it’s not his cup of tea, it’s defiantly mine. One of favorite things about this episode has the be the villain of Lazarus, played by Mark Gatiss who is best known as Mycroft from Sherlock and who would later become the show’s co-writer. Mark does a wonderful performance of an almost Bond-esque greedy mad man, who speaks in a swave tone and who stares at you with a cold demeanor. This is one of my favorites and defiantly worth watching.

8/10 = GOOD

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42

Writer: Christ Chibnall

Director: Graeme Harper

The TARDIS receives a distress signal from a failing ship that is falling towards a burning star with only 42 minutes left before all crew members are killed on board. To make matters worse, a mysterious presence has invaded the ship, possessing the crew and sabotaging the life-saving equipment. The Doctor soon learns that the star is actually a living creature that is out to collect something that the crew has stolen and is possessing the crew to kill them slowly. It doesn’t take long before the Doctor himself is possessed.

Any fan of Aliens will love this episode. The tension and suspense grabs you by the throat from the very beginning and NEVER lets go from even a moment. I found myself completely on edge until the very end, and even then, it was hard to decompress. This is one of those episodes you watch and by the time it’s over, you damn well exhausted. Part of that goes to the fantastic musical score that never seemed to slow down. This was also one of the great moments that really showcased the importance of Martha Jones character and shows just how valuable she is to the team. It takes a special kind of companion that step up and take charge when the Doctor is out of commission and Martha did just that beautifully.

8/10 = GREAT

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Human Nature & The Family of Blood

Writer: Peter Cornell

Director: Charles Palmer

Another two-part episode, it begins with the Doctor and Martha running for their lives into the TARDIS as an unseen enemy fires at them. The Doctor attempts to flee through the time vortex but suddenly realizes that they are being pursued by the a race known as the Family of Blood, who seek to use the Doctor’s Time Lord life force to keep them from dying. Left with very little option, the Doctor improvises a plan to hide himself and Martha somewhere where the Family can’t find them. To do so, he must become human. Using a device known as a Chameleon Arch, the Doctor transfers all his memories into a fob watch and asks that Martha to safeguard it.

Hiding in the year 1913, the Doctor takes on the persona of John Smith, a mild mannered teacher for a school for boys while Martha takes on a job as a maid to keep an eye on the Doctor. Life is ordinary for the teacher Smith who occasionally has dreams of an adventurer that travels through time. Dismissing them as simple dreams, Smith keeps a journal and writes them as short stories. Unexpectedly, Smith finds himself falling in love with the school nurse which worries Martha. It’s not long before the fob watch is stolen by a student which alerts the Family of his presence. It’s up to Martha to find a way to bring the Doctor back. A task that proves more difficult than thought as the Doctor has grown accustomed to his human life.

This story is, without a doubt, fantastic. Much like in Cornell’s original novel, “Human Nature” that involved the Seventh Doctor with the same story premise, seeing the Doctor take on the role as a human was a refreshing change. Having to experience him as someone new and seeing how he manages being human was truly entertaining.

Original novel cover written by Peter Cornell featuring the Seventh Doctor.

Original novel cover written by Peter Cornell featuring the Seventh Doctor.

The writing was superb, the suspense, the drama and horror were all great. I found the Family of Blood was practically frightening.  I found this episode to be both creative in terms of the ‘what-if’ scenario, but also heart-breaking at the same time.

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In one of the iconic scenes of Doctor Who, the Doctor is given a glimpse of what life could be like if he remained human. A happy life with a wife a children; something that the Doctor hasn’t had in a very long time. It is a very tempting offer not just for the Doctor but also for us as an audience. This episode was both a terrific story that was both emotional and exciting and another one on my favorites list.

10/10 = EXCELLENT

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Blink

Writer: Steven Moffet

Director: Hettie MacDonald

In the episode, and quite possibly the most popular episode in Doctor Who in the history of the show,  the Doctor and  Martha find themselves  trapped in the past without the add of the TARDIS thanks to interference of an alien species known as the Weeping Angels. They try to warn a young woman, Sally Sparrow  of the Angels, leaving messages throughout London on how to prevent the Angels from taking control of the TARDIS. In order to solve the mystery and to rescue the marooned Doctor, Sally must find a way of outwitting the Angels next move before she becomes their next victim.

Whenever I try to explain the creative genius behind Doctor Who to someone who has never seen it before, I find myself referring to this one episode. This is by far one of the best written, creepiest and cleverest episodes perhaps in the entire series of modern Doctor Who. Some of the best quotes for future episodes come from this one episode such as the now iconic phrase “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” and “Don’t Blink. Blink, and You’re Dead.” Most of my friends that I introduced the show to all say that this stands as the episode that truly frightened them, and with good reason. The Weeping Angels themselves are terrifying creatures and have become as iconic as the Darleks themselves and as believable as our everyday Boogey Man. This is, by far, the BEST episode of this season, and that’s a pretty bold statement to make seeing as how there still remains three episodes left.

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10/10 = EXCELLENT

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Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Graeme Harper, Colin Teague

The episode opens up with the Doctor and Martha landing in Cardiff for a pit stop to refuel the TARDIS over the Cardiff Rift. After a mere twenty seconds, the Doctor notices that outside, Captain Jack Harkness is making a bee line straight towards him (episode picks up immediately following the first series finale of Torchwood). While trying to flee, Jack clings to the outside the TARDIS causing it go off course straight to the end of the universe. They arrive to find that the universe is nearing the end and encounter a lone human running for his life from the Futurekind, cannibalistic humanoids are hunting him. He is attempting to reach a nearby missile silo to get transport to “Utopia”, the last hope and refuge of the human race. The Doctor, Jack, and Martha help the man reach the silo. While there they meet the elderly Professor Yana and his insectoid assistant where The Professor asks the Doctor for help with their rocket engine, repair it. During the repairs, the Professor repeatedly hears a rhythmic drumbeat in his head. The Professor explains that he has heard the drums for as long as he can remember, but he does not know what they mean. As repairs are underway, and the Professor begins to learn more about the Doctor, it triggers something in his memory and the drumming becomes louder and more overpowering. Soon, Martha discovers that he is in possession of a fob watch, leading her to believe that Yana is actually a Time Lord.

This news at first excites Martha as she rushes to tell the Doctor, but this news quickly turns to panic, as a frantic Doctor suddenly learns that Yana is not just a Time Lord, but his oldest nemesis The Master. Yana opens the fob watch and all his memories are returned to him. The Master steals the TARDIS but not before his assistant shoots him. Before leaving the Doctor, Jack and Martha behind, the shoot triggers his regeneration and the Master flees to London.

The Master— now in the form of Harold Saxon, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom—arrives in the 21st century, and the soon the entire world is virtually held hostage when the Master announces an encounter with an unknown alien race he calls the “Toclafane”. The Master uses the Toclanfane as his personal police dogs to reek havoc across humanity and practically redeems not just the Doctor helpless but the entire world. It seems at every turn, the Doctor is bested by his rival and once again, he must put his trust and faith into his companions to save not just him but all of humanity

The Master mocks an aged Doctor with his plan

The Master mocks an aged Doctor with his plan

I have to admit something; my knowledge of Doctor Who is somewhat is limited to the modern era but even I know the importance the character the Master was to the series. In most cases, bringing back such an iconic villain can be difficult especially in a reboot. But in this case, these three episodes did it so well! Bringing back someone as iconic and recognized as The Master is as difficult job, about as difficult as rebooting the Doctor Who series itself. Yet they manage to do just that incredible and successfully revitalize The Master into someone much to be feared for a whole new audience. I also must applaud the performance of David Tennant. I’ve noticed a trend throughout the entire season since the loss of Rose that the Doctor is realizing how lonely a person he is. So lonely in fact that he would rather save the life of his nemesis than be the last of his kind. In the end, when the Doctor begs the Master to regenerate, the full weight of his loneliness comes crashing down upon him. It is a truly powerful moment that really got to me.

10/10=EXCELLENT

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And so ends Series 3. Truth be told, I feel as though this series wasn’t the strongest one of the modern Who era. For what it’s worth, the series did have some very strong and very memorable episodes such as Blink, Human Nature, and Utopia. Episodes such as these, I feel, helped moved in carrying the series to a place that made it much more enjoyable. However, the problem I feel with this series has to be the Doctor and his companion. Oh don’t get me wrong! I like Martha Jones! I found that she was one of the more ‘hands-on’ companion that was willing to dive right in and to get her hands dirty whenever the Doctor wasn’t able to. She was very a no-nonsense kind of gal who didn’t wait around for someone to tell her what to do, and for that I love her!

However, following the departure of Rose Tyler, she felt more like a replacement than an actual companion for the longest time. She had a clearly infatuation from the start and unfortunately for her, the Doctor thought of her nothing more than a friend. Martha certainly felt like she was more of the ‘rebound girl’, as did the audience. The worst part of it is that viewers had gone close to duo of the Doctor and Rose for the longest time, so the arrival of a new companion I believe made the transition difficult. Also the dynamic between the two never seemed to the evolve or grow. I’m not saying that I would have liked to see a relationship such as that with Rose. There was an element missing with these two that’s hard to explain.

All in all, Series 3 of Doctor Who was a great, exciting ride with new and old characters that I loved filled with monsters and memorable villains that I loved even more. We may say goodbye to Martha Jones (for now) but make way for a new companion. And who knows? Maybe we’ll see some old friends again!

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One comment on “Doctor Who Series Three : A Press Start to Begin

  1. Great reviews! Very thoughtful and in-depth. A couple of comments, related to backstory, that might be interesting. Did you know that the Daleks were created from a humanoid species? The Kaleds and the Thals were both completely human-looking races locked in a war, and Davros, a Kaled, created the Daleks by mutating them to select specific traits to make them the ultimate soldiers and locking them into the Dalek shell. So a human/Dalek hybrid isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem at first.

    The other thing is the Doctor/Master relationship. The Doctor wasn’t just trying to save the life of just his nemesis. When they were young, before they had the names “Doctor” and “Master,” they were best friends. The entire history of the two characters in the TV show revolved around the fact that they are both enemies and nearly blood-brothers. The death of the Master in “The Last of the Time Lords” brings tears to my eyes every time because of their complex relationship and the loss the Doctor is experiencing. And it’s fantastic that the scene also works on the level that you described, for those viewers who don’t know the whole history.

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