In the fourth episode of the fourth series of Doctor Who, Martha Jones calls the Doctor back to earth when she helps discover that a satellite navigation system installed in cars around the globe are starting to kill their owners. Then SHIT GETS SO REAL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
Guys. Guys. I really, really, really need to say this. And right now:
I FUCKING LOVE DOCTOR WHO. LIKE A LOT.
My reviews have teetered between fanboyish gushing and highly critical bouts of SHOUTY MANGER. But I haven’t come out to say, succinctly, that I am having the time of my life with this show. It’s not that I haven’t realized it until recently. I knew by the end of series one that I was going to really enjoy the show. The thing is…IT’S SO FUN. Yes, scripts can fall apart. Yes, the show tries really hard to go straight for “epic” every time and sometimes they miss the mark. But good lord, this is so fun. It’s like a science fiction party every day I watch the show. I think, for me, “The Sontaran Stratagem,” was just such a solid story that I couldn’t ignore the obvious: THIS IS AWESOME.
Actually, there’s something else that inspired this bit of focused joy. The show does do one thing right nearly every time: they spend a great deal of time making sure to develop the main cast to a point that the mere appearance of them in an episode is enough to send me into a tizzy. No one spoiled Martha’s re-appearance in the show for me. (Someone almost did, but my mods snatched the comment and beat it up behind the twisty slide after school. Hey, asshole: STOP POSTING ABOUT THE FUTURE. Yes, I am talking to you.) But seriously, think about that: just seeing Martha Jones (or Billie Piper, in the series premiere) made me go ABSOLUTELY WILD. And it’s because it only took me just thirteen episodes to feel like the character of Martha Jones was a real person and it was like seeing an old friend again.
This is what Doctor Who does very well. You may not like the main characters, which is fine, but good lord, they are so recognizable and whole. And I love it.
I never expected to see Martha Jones again, flat out. (Well, I also never thought I’d see Rose either, but THERE SHE WAS. Also: HOW HOW HOW.) In the brief time she’s been gone, she’s sided with UNIT and BECOME A DOCTOR. Which I knew!!! I knew about UNIT because of “The Three Doctors,” so I finally felt like I (somewhat) understood what the Doctor was talking about during this episode.
In a way, I feel like this story has some subtle parallels to “Gridlock,” though it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. This time around, humans are actually trying to fix the carbon emissions and that’s what gets them in trouble. All of this is linked back to Luke Rattigan, a child genius responsible for developing the ATMOS system, who has kind of like the most perfect bone structure in his face and it’s really distracting? Right? It scares me.
The first obvious conflict, though, doesn’t involve ATMOS or the Sontarans returning to the show. I was eagerly concerned with the immediate problem: Martha Jones was going to find out that she’d been replaced. But you know, I should have given Donna some credit before I worried that she’d dislike Martha Jones. It was obvious that neither felt threatened by the other and Donna clearly respected what Martha had done for the Doctor. In fact, it was nice to see them take the piss out of the Doctor right in front of him. You know, I think that if the two of them had fought, it would have been unbearably distracting. Right? The thing is, I get the sense that both Martha and Donna are aware that there’s a lot more to worry about than getting huffy over the Doctor. You know, since FIFTY-TWO PEOPLE ALL DIED THE SAME WAY AT THE EXACT SAME MOMENT ALL OVER THE WORLD.
I knew that Rattigan couldn’t be behind this whole thing along, and that’s when I was introduced to a classic Who villain I’d not seen before: Sontarans. I have no idea what their history is on the show, but I like them already. They’re a species of clones built for war, with fantastically proper speech and a dislike for being dishonored. In short, there’s not a villain like them on the entire show. Their sincerity is almost…adorable? Plus, as Ross Jenkins said, they look like giant baked potatoes! It’s so cute!
What the Sontaran do is not as cute, though. Props to writer Helen Raymor, who wrote last series’s not-so-great Dalek episodes, for keeping me guessing right up to the cliffhanger at the end. I’m still unsure how the clone in the green goo, the poisonous gas, the cars, and the Sontarans are all tied together. It wasn’t even until Martha Jones’s clone rose from the goo that I understood how the two soldiers were “transformed” by the Sontarans. But what’s their master plan? How are they going to conquer earth in this manner? And OH MY GOD Martha nooooooooo YOU CAN’T BE A CLONE oh god please don’t let her die.
Actually, backing up a bit, I really liked the conversation Martha and Donna had about the dangers of traveling with the Doctor. I don’t know if that is this series’s story arc. If it’s not, them I’m really being fooled so far. But Martha being turned into a clone is indicative of this theme brought up in every episode. Martha warns Donna that getting involved with the Doctor ends with someone getting harmed, and ironically, by the end of this episode, she’s the one who ends up trapped and harmed. But she does inspire Donna to take a moment to get away from the Doctor to see her family for a few hours. (The Doctor’s goodbye speech to Donna was SO SAD and I totally was in the same place he was and then OH WAIT, SHE’S NOT LEAVING PERMANENTLY. Oh. OH OK I WAS REALLY WORRIED, GUYS.
Donna heads back to her home and we get to see Wilfred Mott again and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. I’m glad he’s just as excited as Donna is about her traveling with the Doctor. It’s great because he’s so open-minded while still being concerned with her welfare. That’s why it’s all the more heart-breaking at the end of this episode that he’s the one who gets trapped in the car filling with that mysterious gas that comes from the ATMOS device.
I’m worried at this point. I love Donna as the Doctor’s companion. She’s quickly becoming my favorite companion at this point. I love the chemistry she has with the Doctor. But with Martha’s last words to her being a warning about the collateral damage of the Doctor’s actions, I have to wonder: if her grandfather dies in front of her, is she going to stop traveling with the Doctor? I wouldn’t blame her, for the record, but she can’t ignore that Martha was right.
HOW IS THIS GOING TO BE FIXED. I DON’T GET IT
- I love listening to the Sontarans talk. Again, probably not the effect they’d want, but they are SO ADORABLE TO ME.
- “Do you know what you are? A great big outer space dunce.” LOVE YOU FOREVER, DONNA.
- “Aw, that’s not a very good nickname. What if you do get defeated? Staal the Not-Quite-So-Undefeated-Anymore-But-Nevermind?”
- “That is just so cool!” “Is the temperature significant?” “No…that’s…that’s just a phrase.” LOL’N ALL OVER.
- I’m kind of terrified by drowning so no, thank you, I will not watch that cold open again. Just no.
- TOM MILLIGAN! I forgot that he’s still alive since time got reversed. AMAZING.
- “He is too skinny for words. You give him a hug, you get a paper cut!”
- Intruder window!