Review: Doctor Who – 4×6 – The Doctor’s Daughter

The exception that proves the rule

Well thank heavens for that. For one terrible moment, I thought we were going to go through an entire nu-Who series without there being a completely bollocks episode. 

But praise the Lord, it’s happened. A true piece of rubbish. Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve found this year’s Evolution of the Daleks.

Plot
On the planet Messaline, in the middle of an endless war, the Doctor meets the most important woman of his life. (Hang on, wouldn’t that have been his wife? Or Susan? Bloody BBC web site. Or are they suggesting that she’s important because she’s the continuation of the Time Lords? But he doesn’t know that. Unless she’s coming back… Or… Ho hum)

Was it any good?
Let’s play a game. It’s called Six Degrees of Suckiness. In it, we list the ways the episode sucked

  1. Murray Gold: dreadful rubbish piece of incidental music that would have been shamed by a game of Pong
  2. Sets and direction: I imagine, even though it is the BBC, there’s some sort of budget for making things look pretty with. Apart from some nice use of colour, the whole thing looked dirt cheap and stupid, with stupid fish aliens with stupid water bottles stapled to their stupid heads
  3. Freema: A woman clearly afflicted with a "poor acting" tone of voice. And poor acting.
  4. Dialogue: Awful. A few good moments of moral philosophising and the bit where the Doctor talks about his family was good, but atrocious otherwise.
  5. The plot: This is actually going to be both five and six because it was so awful. Let me elaborate with a few initial nitpicks:

So the TARDIS takes the Doctor to find his not yet created daughter (who apparently turns on his hand in a box as well). She gets created from his tissue sample. I missed the full gobbledygook explanation, but apparently, it’s not true cloning, since it doesn’t produce a copy of the original person. Otherwise, why does it produce a daughter, rather than a Junior Tennant? Yet it knows enough about alien biology to work with a Time Lord.

Anyway, said soldier-producing, super-sophisticated not-quite-clone machine chooses to produce soldiers that not only are fully formed and given military training, they’re also a bit weedy, of varying ages (despite being less than a week old) and fully clothed. 

Okey doke.

As well as military training, linguistics and an entire cultural database to make references with, this machine also give’s them basic tutelage in small talk, gymnastics, sex education, basic flirtation and seduction techniques and more. This despite the fact everything’s a great big mistake and it was all supposed to be for terraforming rather than anything militaristic.

Right.

Over the week since they landed, an entire culture has managed to forget its history because of massive population turnover (with no visible bodies. Certainly none decaying) and created an entirely new history.

That’s plausible. I’ll go with that.

After a great big run round, the soldiers come across their mortal enemies and choose not to shoot them once they’ve seen a glowing ball thing. Hmm. Cos it’s pretty? Despite having less than seven days’ experience of life to work with and nothing but military indoctrination in their brain to extrapolate from? 

Huh.

Jenny gets shot and no one suspects she’s gone into a Time Lord coma to repair herself, despite her having two hearts? Not even the Doctor? And isn’t the TARDIS going to realise, since it can detect her before she’s even been created?

Come again?

Those initial plot nitpicks to one side for the minute, let’s have some other nitpicks.

  • Martha getting captured again then weeping over the fish beast she’s known for two minutes when it’s sinking into a pool? He’s a fish beast – maybe he can breathe using his stupid water bottle. Did you think of that with all your medical training?
  • Doctor’s philosophy on killing: not "because it’s bad" but "because it makes you a bad person"? That’s just crap. Get thee to a university
  • Donna’s constant "I was a temp" refrain is getting old. Yes. We know, love.

Oh dear, it was just wretched. I can’t even string a proper review together, rather than just poke holes in the plot. How shaming.

Jenny was irritating rather than endearing. Donna was a bit dull, with the occasional good line (liked the bit about running). Martha was a pain at all points. Not even the wonderful Nigel Terry could do anything with his role. DT was fine and there was a good Tombo/Pat bit with the wind-up mouse, but we’ve seen the Doctor crying over the Master relatively recently so the Doctor crying over his semi-clone seems a bit "been there, done that" to it. 

Anyway, that’s the bad episode that proves the rule. Fingers crossed, Agatha Christie being attacked by a wasp is going to be brilliant. And you don’t say that every day, do you?

Classic Who references
There were no references to classic Who this episode, other than the fact the entire plot was pinched from the infinitely superior Face of Evil, in which the Doctor comes across a planet in which the descendants of some colonists have split into two tribes over many generations, are fighting an endless war with each other that they’ve forgotten the origins of, and have a basic creation myth that turns out to have a basis in reality. Other than that, no similarities at all…

Other reviews
I’m first for once! But if you’ve seen 17th generation reviews of reviews of the episode, maybe you’d like to leave links to them below so we can annoy some fish people together.




  • Goodness. I take it you really really didn’t like it?
    The Resident Fan Boy (the Classic Who-er in our household) was so caught up in the story that he was startled when it ended. I was not as into it. I can always tell I’m less engaged when I start to notice Murray Gold’s music. Especially the marching Fish Men music. Squelch-squelch. Ecch. I noticed the music a lot in The Sontarian What’s-It which has been my least favourite so far this season.
    This one felt a bit like 42, but nowhere near as bad as Evolution of the Daleks or Fear Her the latter of which I refuse to watch again.
    I don’t feel so violently about this one, though, judging from the polarity of reactions so far (okay, you and Anna Waits) there may be some virtual blood shed in the forums before dawn…

  • I doubt it Persephone – I’ve got a feeling I’ll be in a distinct minority on this one 🙂

  • I actually quite enjoyed this one, despite the occasionally deficient plot and constantly annoying music. For one-shot enemies, I thought the fish boys were good, and the gun moment worked pretty well. I wish Jenny had regenerated, though, even if her appearance had stayed the same.

  • It does also, thinking about it, cheapen the “last of the Time Lords” bit. If all he needs a genetically randomising cloning machine with a brain imprinter, he can just half-inch one, program it with Time Lord knowledge then run off 70-odd* pseudo-clones and hey presto, we have a new race of Time Lords with no schooling needed and he can stop whining about being the last.
    Even if it creates slightly imperfect Time Lords now, all he seemingly has to do is tinker with it a little bit and it’ll be up and running at full veracity in no time, bar some biological weirdness (cue ‘symbiotic nuclei’ guff from The Two Doctors/Big Finish) which can’t be so easily dealt with. But, y’know, he’s the Doctor – he can sort that out, no problem.
    In script terms, it was on a par with 42, Persephone, you’re right, but it didn’t have the direction quality, really, so I downgraded it to Evolution levels.
    * I think someone calculated that 70 is about the minimum number of people needed to create a suitably genetically diverse colony. Depending on the number of chromosomes in Time Lords, it might be a greater or fewer number than that.

  • Anonymous

    Nice review, encapsulates pretty much everything I thought about the episode. Sets so cheap that portable appliance testing labels were clearly visible on machinery in scenes felt right at home in a story that didn’t get past my eight year old nephew’s Bullshit-ometer.

  • OUCH! Dear heavens, was it really that bad for you?! I mean, I expected divisions on the fan front before it was screened – by the end I was almost physically ducking the imagined rage so deafening was its cries. I’m not sure I’d have predicted quite so vociferous a response from you [though I annoying couldn’t recall which storyline the quick-war myth thing came from: thanks for that!]
    Anyway, I’m sticking my neck out here but I was happy right through this: heck, you may not have liked it (and others too have been critical, e.g. on Behind the Sofa) but I thought Tennant was playing a blinder this week with reactions that felt wonderfully Doctor-esque in sourness and melancholy [knowing you, you probably would put that down to wind causing his expressions…]
    I have to admit at this point that although Fear Her isn’t top of my rewatchings it isn’t bottom either: so shoot me. I think it’s because I can’t disassociate the episode from recalling the huge number of screen caps someone did from ‘Fear Her’ of all the Doctor’s hand movements… Tennant has incredibly long fingers…
    Anyway. Sure, by crappy pseudo-science babble the Doctor spawned Buffy [RTD, we get it: you wanted to be Joss Whedon]. Yep, the science was akimbo in so many obvious ways [even the commentary couldn’t bluff its way past a fish drowning for F*cks sake]. And of course there was the underwhelmingness of Martha with almost nothing to do in a 3 for 3 non-hit of being under-used and poorly written in this season, last season and in Torchwood [and Freema, you’re sweet but don’t ad-lib direction with a little ring tugging to hype up the “Invisible Fiance of Invisibleness” – as my friend Persiflage accurately identified Tom.]
    But though JennyWho wasn’t nearly as brilliant a character as we may have wanted from the start, we – like the Doctor – grew to care for her. Yes, I know anvilicious RTD drops prediction clangers everywhere [travel far? you’ll scarcely get out the episode; be with him forever? I don’t think so my dear: Rose said that and look what happened to… erm… yes, well…] but I was rapt throughout this episode and as far as I can tell from my circle of friends so were they and their kids. And whilst JennyWho was clearly a spin-off made in production heaven, I didn’t mind as she rocketed into space: I truly didn’t.
    I respect your views entirely MediumRob, and you always make me laugh in agreement even when my heart/head come to a different conclusion to your response. But I’m more with Anna this week.

  • “Yep, the science was akimbo in so many obvious ways [even the commentary couldn’t bluff its way past a fish drowning for F*cks sake]. ”
    The commentary pretty much spends its time with RTD and David Tennant echoing my questions and not being able to work out the answers (“So why’s Nigel Terry older than the others?” “Maybe he was an earlier generation. Except he can’t be. Or there’s a low power setting on the machine. But…” “We realised it was just like the Master at the end of Last of the Time Lords. So we wanted to do something different so we had him pick up the gun. Of course, you know he’d never use it…”) If they’re having problems…
    I thought Tennant’s acting was good. I thought Georgia Moffet was good. I just thought the script sucked immeasurably. I mean we can all say “Who cares about the plot? It’s sci-fi!” But if it makes literally no sense whatsoever, we’ll end up with McG’s Charlie’s Angels for the small screen, with a series of unconnected scenes thrown together because they seem good, not because they’re logical. It’ll be fun – for a bit. But it won’t last.
    But giant wasps and unicorns next week, so who cares? I’ve already forgotten this week’s episode. What was it about again?

  • I agree that there were too many lines in the script that were cheesy predictable (I let them have the obvious “hello dad” since it worked on enough levels to be forgivable). I could be cruel and remind you what this episode was about, but I’ll let you focus on the upcoming big wasp tale instead. Cos we love ya really!

  • DAVID TENNANT WAS AMAZING.
    That’s pretty much all I can counter all the well-thought analysis with but dammit it’s enough for me.

  • “and fully clothed. ”
    And wearing eyeliner.
    Absolutely rubbish aliens that reminded me of Pertwee Sea Devils…
    The war-in-a-week felt like a six-page 2000AD Futureshock, but not as well thought out…
    The Martha subplot was terrible (and how did she know the sacrificial fish’s name?)…
    It was obviously the same theatre as Evolution of the Daleks, which brough back bad memories…
    Since when is Martha an expert in Gallifreyan/Time Lord physiology?
    And other quibbles.
    But I don’t think it was quite as bad as Evolution. Tennant was good, the Tennant/Tate partnership definitely works, and Georgia Moffet is very cute. And she’s going to be back at the end of the series, obviously.

  • Listening to the podcast does fill in a couple of gaps: Martha knows the fish’s name because the TARDIS translation circuits slowly start working with the fish language over the episode and it tells her its name at some point (apparently, SG named the fish people after old movie stars – Peck and Gable) – we can’t understand them because RTD simply wanted kids to be blowing bubbles in water in the playground today.
    The return of Jenny might be on the cards, but might not, since they were originally going to kill her off, but Stephen Moffat told them that that was a very dumb idea indeed. So they’d have had to rewrite their original season plans to adjust. Not exactly impossible, but not a cert either.
    Georgia Moffet is probably cute, but she’s just a little too young for me to even countenance thinking about whether she’s cute or not without feeling a little dirty.
    Sorry, feeling a bit queasy now. Must go…

  • Stephen Moffat told them that that was a very dumb idea indeed
    coughcoughnewshowrunnercoughcough
    Fish language? What bloody fish language? They blew bubbles! They didn’t even use sign language!
    Honestly, it’s enough to make you want sashimi for lunch.

  • The bubbles were the language apparently. Obviously arse for all sorts of obvious reasons, but I’m willing to go along with it for the sake of a bit of fun.

  • Couldn’t agree more Rob. A clunker in so many unusual and different ways and on so many interestingly bad levels.
    Hopefully that’s the rubbish bit of the season out of the way – but somehow I doubt it.
    My (fairly similar, tbh) review is here for those with too much time on their hands…

  • [Rob, I’m obviously insane since I disagree with you, but…] … I just really wanted to trial your new quick comment (which I feel may have been written for people like me)

  • [dyma lush] I’m glad you’re finding it useful!

  • And me…… 🙂

  • And me…… 🙂

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