Doctor Who 4:2 (Spoilers)

The Fires of Pompeii

Super super episode (you can tell RTD didn’t write it). The Doctor and Donna land in Pompeii the day before Vesuvius erupts, and when they rush to the Tardis to escape pre-eruption tremors they find it sold to Peter Capaldi. Not a major event, but when he unveils artwork resembling a computer circuit and both his daughter and the town’s Augur (Phil Davis) identify him as The Doctor, a Time Lord from Gallifrey, things start to get complicated.

In contrast to last week, the script is water tight and the banter between the Doctor and Donna is perfectly timed – Donna’s ‘ you have got to be kidding me’ helps knock so many time travel story conventions into touch, and her attempt to influence history in a very different way to Rose makes her very interesting very quickly. But it’s the acting which really make this episode special. Tennant and Tate have boundless chemistry between them, and Tate in particular takes to the role with unexpected authority, channelling many of her own characters entirely when called for and with charming precision. Rose offered a new beginning, Martha offered depth, whilst Donna in turn now offers a certainty of character she doesn’t even know she has. And she has a point – who does give the Doctor the right to condemn Pompeii to its certain death when while they’re there it’s the present? Having a rebel to take him down a peg seems to make the Tenth Doctor as edgy on occasion as the Sixth, which is a pleasant surprise. The Doctor/Rose love fest was the bedrock upon which the relaunched franchise based itself, but having a likable companion who is prepared to say ‘no’ on moral grounds is far more interesting.

Shooting this episode in Italy makes it all the more vital, and the production values really are impressive. And not only do we have a strong alien/monster concept, but weaving it into history works here in ways in which the Shakespeare episode last year failed so lamentably at. Using the dilemmas he faces to illustrate the Doctor’s ability to see every event in time for what it is, can be, must and mustn’t be even adds depth to him in ways not tried since Paul Cornell’s Family of Blood. Having that central truth of his character under pressure from Donna can only (ahem) augur well for an interesting rest of season four.

One last thing. Before my friends and longtime blog companions start to wonder if I’m going to speculate as wildly this season as the first…hell yeah.

“She is returning.” “There is something on your back.”

The first quote is clearly about Rose, the second about Donna. What they mean though is unclear. Folks we don’t just have a Bad Wolf for season four, we have at least two.

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11 responses to “Doctor Who 4:2 (Spoilers)

  1. Something on your back. So stupid I didn’t realise it was part of the arc. Too busy reading stupid blogs. 🙂 Speaking of stupid blogs, read mine. 😀

  2. Oh yes it’s clearly part of the arc, but what it means is anyone’s guess. The rumours have it that Donna is not what she seems and that Rose is shadowing them as an unrevealed form of protection. But there’s no evidence of either of these two things being true yet, even though it would be very logical for Rose and Donna not being what they seem – Bad Wolf anyone?

  3. Great review! I totally forgot about the back thing till I read it here, but it seems like the Doctor and Donna forgot about it too. I hope it’s not long before we get a couple more hints about that.

  4. I’ve no idea what “you have something on your back” means, but I’m intrigued. And reference to the Medusa Cascades as well. This is interesting, very interesting, as long as they come back to it and don’t let it drop…

  5. Have you also noticed we have two consecutive references to the Shadow Proclamations? RTD has said that series 4 will link to series one – I remember the Ninth Doctor invoking the Shadow Proclamations against the Nestene Consciousness…is this a red herring?

    I wonder if Rose is actually Red Riding Hood and Donna is really the Big Bad Wolf. It would explain why she might be trailing her – she knows what the Bad Wolf really looks like (within its hosts?)…

    Will there be further links to the series’ themes in episode 3?

  6. Ooh, yes, I had meant to mention that one. Though they had said they were going to be more subtle, and we’ve had the Shadow Proclamation mentioned in both episodes. Nine mentioned it when up against the Nestene, and Rose mentioned it when speaking for Earth to the Sycorax, though the latter was far more a case of spouting a bit of anything and everything she’d heard the Doctor mention at that point.

  7. Oh, bugger, I keep posting and remembering things I meant to add – missing planets. The Adiposean breeding planet last week and Pyrovillia this week. That can’t just be coincidence, surely.

  8. Yes it could. Have you watched Doctor Who? Half the planets in it don’t exist, or never exist, or will at some point cease to exist. It’s a law of the Whoniverse!

  9. Well, yes, of course I’ve watched it! Just seems to be more than a little coincidental that there are missing planets being mentioned in 2/2 episodes… It’s not the first time either, though the Time War didn’t get mentioned this time.

  10. It didn’t get mentioned directly, although it was pretty clear that echos of it were being felt by the Doctor when he had to cause the deaths of thousands of people again.

    The missing planets might be significant, they might indeed be a coincidence – two different writers, coordinated by RTD who’s never that precise about his series bibles. They might also be a red herring. Planets disappearing, the Shadow Proclamations being invoked, Rose and Donna being back, neither possibly being what they seem…how does this all fit together? Does it even? I do not want another Bad Wolf let down this year, nor another weak (albeit well meaning) finale!

  11. Pingback: Doctor Who 4:9 (Spoilers) « Cosmodaddy

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