Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: David Tennant, Freema Agyuman
The third season of Doctor Who boasts a lot of great ideas, but only a handful of them actually work in practice.
For example, let’s do something outside the box and start this review by picking apart the finale. It is an impressive spectacle. Russell T. Davies admirably attempts something a little different and goes for a three-part story to tell the climax of this season. It starts at the end of humanity’s timeline, bringing up our dystopian future, further than the Doctor has ever gone. It is set up well with impressive set-pieces and John Barrowman’s return to the show. However, an old enemy appears, maybe the most exciting villain in Modern Who yet, and the story jumps all the way to modern day. The second episode in this mini-trilogy sets up the finale beautifully, building the dread up and up, until it is impossible to see how the Doctor can squeeze his way out of this one. The third episode jumps forward in time (a finale that Moffat seems to prefer when he was promoted to showrunner), and seems a nice change of style to the usual grand spectacle. And then, maybe predictably, the finale ends on a cop-out, loses credibility and brings the entire experience to a grinding halt. Maybe T. Davies went too big with the Earth suffering its biggest invasion storyline yet, but he gave us a great villain with a great actor allowed to handle him (two great actors in fact). It really should have been done justice and no matter what other things this season got right, the finale paints the whole affair in a rather dim light.
The filler episodes are of much better quality. Season Three is another season that boasts some of the best episodes of Modern Who yet. Moffat writes a Doctor-Lite episode (an episode where the two leads pay lip service, basically getting a well-earned week off filming), that is up there with the best. Future Hollywood starlet, Carey Mulligan, take on new villains on the block, the Weeping Angels, in one of the creepiest and thrilling 45 minutes of TV to date. Other high points include an opening episode that introduces us to new girl, Martha Jones, amazingly well and a two-parter based on a Doctor Who novel that shies away from the Sci-Fi horror and gives us an emotional drama instead. It was a risky move and the first time I watched it I did not fully appreciate the weight of the episode. However, looking back, I realise just how amazing the writing and direction actually is. Jessica Hynes is an effective guest star, suggesting that this season might have one of the best ratios of guest actors hitting the mark.
Sadly the other two parter misses the mark completely. Needless to say, it starts the embarrassing trend of forced return of the Daleks. They show up in New York, surrounded by irritating accents and characters (guest-starring Andrew Garfield if you wanted more guest stars for the list), come up with some terrible plot to create a Dalek-Human hybrid and get disposed of in a hack-writing way. The actual hybrid looks so ridiculous the Dalek fear factor is laughed into oblivion and it feels like an excuse for the film crew to bag a few vacation to New York (the crew actually joked about this when writing the script). When it comes to the two-parters, I expect something of a higher standard that the filler episodes (if they squeezed this story into 45 minutes, I would have seen it as an annoyance, rather than a devastating loss for the season), and Daleks in Manhattan did not meet that standard.
What about Martha Jones? I have said before that I do not think much of her as an actress. Looking back, she might make her dialogue feel flat, but at the very least she doesn’t get in the way. She is written a lot better than Rose was, I suppose, making her a dependable character rather than an emotionally driven love interest. I like the way Davies makes Martha’s love for the Doctor unrequited, bringing up a new dynamic to the two characters. It is important that the new companion was original enough to break away from Billie Piper, so Martha gets a thumb up in that regard. I guess it depends how OK you are with the co-star of the show being ‘good enough’ rather than good. I thought something that did impress me was how the show handled her being black. It would have seemed silly to not mention the fact that was a dark-skinned woman in Shakespearian times, because yes, that would have been an issue. It was subtly played on and it impressed me the mature way the writers handled that.
And if you are still counting impressive guest stars: John Simms, Hugh Quarshie, Ardal O’Hannon and even veteran actor, Derek Jacobi.
Final Verdict: A pretty decent season, but it fails flat on some of the two-parters and most critically the finale, which stops it from being as impressive as it should have been.