Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 3x07: "42"

Written by Chris Chibnall
Directed by Graeme Harper

Martha (to Riley): “Well done, very hot.”

Well I’m glad someone is experiencing some heat because the weather I’m getting is more or less erratic at best and hellishly cold at the worst. Seriously, it’s the middle of May so where’s the start of summer, already?

Some people will quickly assume this episode is something of sequel to last year’s much loved two parter “The Impossible Planet”/“The Satan Pit” and they might be right. Either way, it’s one tense frakking hour (or should that be 42 minutes) worthy of Battlestar Galactica proportions.

Fresh from getting herself a permanent trip on TARDIS, The Doctor’s generosity regarding Martha also extends to upgrading her phone so she can call her mum but when the TARDIS lands quite roughly on the SS Pentallian, hearing the nagging Francine might be the least of Martha’s problems.

Just like “The Impossible Planet”/“The Satan Pit”, The Doctor’s timing is quite delicious with him more or less arriving at the start of a major disaster when the ship’s captain Katherine McDonnell quickly informs The Doctor and Martha that not only is everything dead on the ship but also that they have 42 minutes before hitting the sun.

When I heard this episode was going to be real time, my immediate thoughts switched to the series 24 and when writer Chris Chibnall mentioned his like for the series, a part of me was wondering how the real time would dictate the action and in terms of experiments, I would say excellently.

Upon meeting McDonnell, the next batch of people from this disparate crew included the rather contradictory Scannell as well as emotionally detached Riley, much older Ashton, Kath’s husband Korwin followed by Erina and Abbey Learner. Although this lot aren’t as brilliantly vocalised like the crew run by Zachary Cross Flame, there’s at least some people you will care about that will make this plot work.

The obvious candidate is probably Kath McDonnell, the ship’s leader and clearly the sort of woman who lives in a man’s world and uses this to not only survive but gain respect and keep her crew. I’m not a huge fan of former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins but credit given where it’s due, she does a great job in playing a captain without overacting or underselling any of the frantic moments that McDonnell is put though the episode.

Out of all the crew, McDonnell is the first one to embrace The Doctor and Martha even if her first words to them upon discovering them in the vent chamber is of suspicion but hey, at least the girl is willing to give them a chance and it’s quite surprising how quickly she takes their offer of helping them out.

With a clock constantly counting down the minutes and seconds before the ship actually hits the sun, time becomes the very thing against everyone on board. With the TARDIS trapped in the vent chamber, The Doctor and Martha have to come up with other ways of steering the ship from the sun but the interesting thing is that they are problems on the ship just as harmful as the sun.

Yeah it seems that McDonnell’s husband Korwin is burning up and having his entire oxygen switch to hydrogen that the crew’s attempts of containing him in a stasis chamber does very little to keep him from going on a rampage and trust me, it’s one that makes this ship even hotter than it already is.

Korwin is not only burning up but he’s also able to burn people alive and Abbey is the first victim of her buddy’s abilities as Korwin goes on a killing spree within minutes. Abbey is one of the least vocalised members of SS Pentallian so in some ways while her death is particularly gruesome, it isn’t as impacting as it would’ve been if Korwin’s first victim had been Scannell or Riley who are a huge emphasis in the episode along with Kath.

It’s also kinda funny in a cartoonish type way when the rather tiresome Erina spends a good few seconds complaining about being the crew’s butt monkey and makes the grave error of sarcastically saying “kill me now” before the more seriously possessed Korwin grants her wish. Oh if this was a horror film, I’d be rolling on the ground with laughter of this particular dispatch. Note to self: never say “kill me now” in areas where someone is capable of making good on that.

Anyways back to the sun problem at hand, The Doctor obviously has enough confidence in Martha because during the middle of this entire crisis, while he’s alright to let her help unlocking various doors with the rather delectable Riley, he’s still worried about her and believe me, after this episode, he has got more than enough reasons to as well.

While it’s nice to see a bit of flirtation between Martha and Riley as they efficiently go around unlocking various doors, it’s these two who are also put into serious jeopardy when their escape from Korwin has them in an escape pod, which kept being activated and held until at the end, Martha and Riley found themselves heading to the sun in a much speedier fashion.

To make this moment even more epic, we had everything suddenly go deadly silent as Martha cried for help and The Doctor vowed to get her back. Although there’s a moment where Martha says a line to Riley that Rose said to Zach about The Doctor last season, it’s still an effective one and noting the differences between Martha and Riley’s biological and social lives ups the tension of their predicament.

It’s really this moment that makes me like Riley out of everyone else because while he might be a tad emotionally detached, he encourages a rather freaked out Martha to reach out to her Mum after a disastrous first phone call and suffice to say, the second one isn’t any better either. Still Riley deserves points for his way of comforting Martha in that respect.

As for The Doctor, he may have had no control in how Rose left him but he was damned if he was gonna have Martha eaten by the sun and after getting Scannell onside, he was able to go outside of the ship and managed to even get the escape pod to come back, despite the furious struggle he had in the process.

With about fifteen minutes left in this episode and no sign of the generators being able to override everything to steer the ship away from the sun, the coolest thing about an already complexly plotted episode was that the sun and possessions on boards weren’t quite as they seemed.

The first hint of this is when Korwin was running around and upon hearing Kath’s voice was able to recognise and then blame her for the deaths on boards. This also then disregarded her denial earlier on to The Doctor about her crew coming into contact with any other life forms.

It’s interesting that during Korwin’s killing spree he left Ashton alive and possessed rather than just killing him to survive but also despite excessive repeating how creepy the phrase “burn with me” had become. Usually at this point in an episode, you’d be groaning and muttering “I get it already” but it was still compelling no less.

However the best of this episode was it’s major revelation about the sun being alive and Kath’s crew mining fuel out of it which explains why not only the ship is being sucked with the crew possessed but why Kath is essentially to blame for the disaster facing everyone on board.

Even The Doctor has a go at her and soon enough even he turns on this sun’s influence which pushes Martha into not only freezing him and panicking when half way through the process the power is cut out but also taking control of the situation at hand too and with Kath and Korwin being tossed out to the sun in a skimmed over manner, it’s Martha along with Scannell and Riley who save the day.

Giving back the fuel that they took from the sun was the only way the ship would stop being pulled in and The Doctor would also be released from his possession and when he started on the “burn with me, Martha” spiel, things really did feel very touch and go and that essentially is the episode’s biggest strength because even though you know The Doctor is going to win this, those feelings that he might actually lose are also apparent.

Losing even more members than the ones on Zachary’s crew, the only two people to make it out alive are Scannell and Riley. With Riley largely focused and vocalised with his interactions with Martha, Scannell was kinda vocalised with his interactions between The Doctor and McDonnell and while McDonnell was the one who wanted honesty, Scannell was the one I felt who was honest in how he behaved towards everyone on boards. His interaction with The Doctor on Martha was another goodie too.

With Scannell and Riley receiving some form of an S.O.S. (and Riley getting a cheeky snog from Martha), the next big issues in the episode were the relationships between Martha, The Doctor and Francine and predictably how they all affected each other as well.

The best thing about this week’s instalment is that The Doctor and Martha are efficiently working together as a team and checking out each other back with both of them getting moments where they vowed to save the other and then for them to actually deliver on it. Oh and Martha got herself a TARDIS key so she really is here for the long haul.

However as Martha’s relationship with The Doctor is on solid ground, hers with Francine is far from it and when Francine isn’t doing her best to criticise Martha’s attitude, she’s allowing Mr Saxon’s minions, including a rather smug lady to trace her conversations with Martha.

Okay after that and encountering increasing spoilers, I have to admit that I am going to be very disappointed with the writers if Mr Saxon isn’t revealed to be The Master after all because judging by last week’s antics and the end of this week’s one, there’s all the trappings of The Master trying to lure The Doctor into a trap by using Martha’s mother as intelligence and bait at the same and boy, it also caps this episode off brilliantly.

Also in “42”

With this episode supposedly 42 minutes long, I was worried we wouldn’t get the Opening Credits, especially now that there are rumours of the show being stripped of them like many US programmes nowadays.

The Doctor (re ship): “Now that is hot.”
Martha: “It’s like a sauna in here.”

Isn’t it cool how Martha got both her Super Phone and TARDIS key in the same episode yet Rose got both of them in separate and earlier episodes?

McDonnell: “That is brilliant.”
The Doctor: “I know.”

McDonnell: “He’s as stupid as my husband.”
Ashton: “And he’s sabotaged the ship as well.”

What exactly does Francine do for a living? We know Tish is into PR but with Francine being vocalised a bit more, I’m curious as to what she does.

Francine: “What’s this, a pub quiz?”
Martha: “Yeah, pub quiz.”
Francine: “Using your phone is cheating.”

Martha: “You don’t know The Doctor, I believe in him.”
Riley: “Then you’re lucky. I’ve never found anyone worth believing in.”

Apart from Kath and Korwin being spouses, the only other bit of family intelligence is Riley having a dead father and an awkward relationship with his mother.

Martha (to Francine): “I never say it, I never get the time to think of it but I love you.”
McDonnell: “What happened?”
The Doctor: “It’s your fault Katherine McDonnell.”

Some of the questions for the door locks included number sequences, SS Pentallian’s first flight, Riley’s favourite colour and most downloads between Elvis and The Beatles. I knew the Elvis answer myself.

Scannell (re TARDIS): “This is never your ship.”
The Doctor: “Compact and another word – robust.”

The Doctor: “Thank you.”
Martha: “Don’t mention it.”

Chronology: Although I don’t remember it being mentioned onscreen, it’s supposed to be the 42nd Century as well as the day after “The Lazarus Experiment”, which is also Election Day.

After being deprived of Doctor Who for two weeks, it’s safe to say that my expectation for “42” were huge and it’s even safer to say that this episode excelled my expectations to the freaking rafters as this intense episode was not only an instalment that avoided being a gimmick but it also further forwards the ongoing Mr Saxon saga which is getting more compelling by the minute.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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