THIS EPISODE TAKES
AFTER THE TV EPISODE
"THE POISON SKY"
AND PRIOR TO THE TV
EPISODE "THE UNICORN
AND THE WASP."
'THE COMPLETE FOURTH
SERIES' HMV EXCLUSIVE
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2609) RELEASED IN
On the planet
Messaline, in the
middle of a war,
the Doctor meets
the most important
woman of his life...
10TH MAY 2008
An old friend of mine from university has really got into Doctor Who since its revival. As his knowledge of the classic series is limited to the last couple of Sylvester McCoy seasons and the Paul McGann TV Movie, he will often text me or e-mail me with some question or other about ancient stories or perplexing continuity points. And, after watching the trailer for The Doctor’s Daughter at the end of last week’s episode, he sent
me the following SMS:
What’s next week all about?!? I’m apprehensive!
Someone stole his dna or something?
Soon afterwards, my sister sent me a message much along the same lines and, before I knew it, I was being suffused with questions about the Doctor’s daughter and her lineage. And people seemed surprised when I had to admit that, even after watching / listening to / reading just about every Doctor Who story out there, I didn’t have a clue about either who
the Doctor’s new daughter might be or where she’d come from.
Nevertheless, I did share in everybody else’s trepidation and intrigue. Like many, I feared
a total retconning of the show’s mythology or - worse still - a complete debasement of the ‘mysterious’ Doctor’s character. Happily though, Stephen Greenhorn’s flawless pre-title sequence served not only to alleviate any fears that I may have had in that regard, but also
to get me very excited indeed about the episode. Within the space of a few moments, the Doctor materialises on an unknown alien world in the 61st century; gets captured by Chris from Skins; has a sample of his DNA half-inched (you were right on the money, Michael!); and then watches slack-jawed as his daughter emerges from a progenerative chamber (a progenerative chamber very similar to those used by the Time Lords in many Doctor Who novels, I might add).
Cocking her machine gun and smiling a playful smile, the Doctor’s offspring’s is certainly striking. Despite being genetically woven, the Doctor’s daughter is certainly real and what’s more, she has a distinct and rather endearing personality. Georgia Moffett - daughter of fifth Doctor Peter Davison and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy star Sandra Dickinson – gives an exceptional performance right from her unforgettable first scene. Jenny is quick-witted and even a bit naughty; every bit her father’s daughter.
“He saves planets, rescues civilisations, and defeats terrible creatures, and runs a lot.
Seriously there is an outrageous amount of running involved.”
I love how Greenhorn’s script shows Jenny
learn and grow in such a small space of
time. The Doctor’s Daughter must at most
be set over the course of just a few hours,
yet in that time Jenny is influenced to such
an extent by her father that she renounces
her predilection for killing and adopts her father’s beliefs and lifestyle. This is particularly affecting as it is this infused sense of nobility that gets Jenny killed. And I don’t just mean
in the sense that Jenny throws herself in front of a bullet meant for the Doctor; it’s not that simple. Directly due to the Doctor’s influence, Jenny spares General Cobb’s life only to
later die at his hands.
“Donna I’ve been a father before. I lost all that a long time ago... When I look at her now I can see them.
The hole they left, all the pain that filled it... When they died, that part of me died with them.”
David Tennant really excels himself too, once again plumbing those emotional depths that we so rarely get to see. It’s clear from this episode that deep down, the Doctor is pleased that he has another child, but unfortunately his joy is completely drowned out by sheer terror. Here is a man who lost everything. A son? A daughter? Thirteen sons? We don’t know the extent of his loss, only that it has left a burning great hole inside of him, and every instinct is now telling him to run away from his new “genetic anomaly” of a daughter as fast as he can.
It’s also wonderful to see the Doctor face to face with someone just as brilliant as he is, especially when she’s his own flesh and blood. No matter how much the Doctor wants to dispel Jenny’s martial instincts and change her for the better, she has a well-reasoned answer to every argument that he puts to her.
“You fought, and killed? Then how are we different?”
Quite naturally, the sequence that will be talked about above all others is the astonishingly acrobatic laser-beam set piece. Director Alice Troughton really ought to be given a hell of
a lot of credit here. I mean, what a way to get Jenny over with the audience! She may well have been bred for war but, just like her father, she still takes great delight in showing off
her unique abilities.
“Every child of the machine is born with this knowledge. It’s all we know.”
The Doctor’s eventual acceptance of Jenny is down in no small part to Donna, who once again is on terrific form. In fact, despite this story being heavily constructed around the Doctor, both Catherine Tate and Freema Agyeman are incredibly well catered for by Greenhorn’s script. For her part, Donna not only helps to build a bridge between father
and daughter but also gets to unravel the mystery of Messaline. It’s Donna’s experience
of temping in libraries that allows her to crack the dates and work out that the “countless generations” of war between the humans and the Hath have actually taken place in just
seven days. Meanwhile, Martha befriends the Hath that captured her, treats his injuries,
and then sembarks on an expedition across Messaline’s barren surface in search of her
lost companions with him.
Incidentally, I really like the Hath. Utterly alien, piscine humanoids that don’t even speak,
yet the viewer can understand every word and even feel compassion for the creatures.
The death of Martha’s Hath is a real moment of sorrow; however, this is as nothing when compared to what was almost one of Doctor Who’s biggest tear-jerking endings.
Early in the episode, the Doctor says that being a Time Lord is about a “…sum of know-ledge. A code. A shared history. A shared suffering”, and through his influence over Jenny
he unwittingly inflicts that suffering on her. True to his ideals, the Doctor locates the locates the colonists’ original terraforming device and smashes it, transforming the planet and end-ing the seven-day war between the humans and the Hath. The look on Jenny’s face as he does this shows just how far she has come. There’s admiration there; even pride. And so when General Cobb, the one man on Messaline who can’t stand the idea of peace, takes
a pot shot at her Dad, Jenny takes the bullet for him. Just like that.
Tennant and Moffett are so very good in their final scene together. Jenny’s tears and the Doctor’s desperate hope combine to create a truly gut-wrenching, harrowing experience. And because the Doctor’s loss is so personal and so profound, when he grabs a gun and points it at Cobb’s head, there is a genuine sense of doubt in the air. Watching the episode and hearing Murray Gold’s pugnacious score build up to a crescendo, I have to concede
that I really didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew the Doctor wouldn’t execute Cobb in cold blood but, then again, the man had just killed his daughter. The fact that the Doctor even picked up a weapon and put Cobb in fear seemed to suggest that something in the Time Lord’s head had just snapped. But of course, the Doctor never would. He was making a point. The most selfless and profound of points.
“Make the foundation of this society a man who never would!”
Greenhorn’s writing is absolutely outstanding both here and throughout, and thankfully the performances and the production match it every step of the way. This time last year, though
I did rather enjoy Greenhorn’s Lazarus Experiment, I wasn’t entirely won over by it; I thought that the episode felt more like a comic book movie than it did Doctor Who. But The Doctor’s Daughter is a success in every respect - it manages to break new ground for the Doctor, yet still tell a beguiling and wholly traditional Doctor Who story. And, thanks to a last-minute twist, the door is always open for Jenny for return. I for one am hoping that the Doctor’s daughter (as played by the Doctor’s gorgeous daughter!) is well on her way to becoming the Doctor’s next companion…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Unless otherwise stated, all images on this site are copyrighted to the BBC and are used solely for promotional purposes.
‘Doctor Who’ is copyright © by the BBC. No copyright infringement is intended.