Well now, it's been a while since we've had a truly boring Doctor Who story. Ever since the reboot of Doctor Who came about in 2005, we've had the occasional calamity, naff monster or moment of mashed potato schmaltz – but never has a story been so snoozy.
Step forward The Doctor's Daughter – the big turkey of Tennant's third season and probably one of the worst duffers of the era. Don't be fooled by the title. In no way does the Doctor suddenly realise that he's misplaced a long-lost daughter in the constellation of Canthares or some other obscure location. There's no jaw-dropping revelation that the Doctor had some late night fumblings with either Romana, Todd from Kinda, or even Rose. All that happens is that the Time Lord puts his hand in some sort of decrepit fruit machine to produce an Instant Daughter who exits through a cloud of thick dry ice as if she's competing in an outer space edition of Stars In Their Eyes.
Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be a boring, non-existent cliché.
It's bad enough that the Doctor's daughter is nothing of the sort, but an artificially created amalgamation created from his DNA. But a bigger problem is that Jenny has absolutely no personality whatsoever. It's as if writer Stephen Greenhorn fast forwarded his complete Buffy The Vampire Slayer DVD box-set and created a generic cipher who kicks butt, looks pretty and pitches in with the occasional wisecrack. The end result is a lazy no-show who displays even less character than say, Aram from Timelash.
I should point out that this is by no means the fault of real-life Doctor's Daughter, Georgia Moffett (daughter of Peter Davison, wife of David Tennant). Some Doctor Who actors and actresses have accepted some pretty thankless roles. Terry Molloy is asked to whizz around on a chair for a whole day, nearly doing in his legs and suffering from bronchitis during Revelation Of The Daleks. John Challis is asked to swim in a freezing cold lake on a freezing November day for The Seeds Of Doom not once, but twice. But poor old Georgia Moffett is asked to inject some sort of life into a character that has – well, no character at all. It's like asking a chef to create a five-course banquet meal without using any kitchen utensils. That she manages to achieve some semblance of likeability and enthusiasm is testament to Moffett's acting skills. But since Moffett was apparently offered the part of Robina Redmond in the following Unicorn And The Wasp, you can't help but feel that she got the raw deal with Jenny, despite getting centre stage.
So what do we learn about Jenny? Well, er, she likes to run a lot. I suppose that's her main raison d’être, given that she's forever bounding up and down corridors while waving a toy gun in the air. She can do Buffy-style leaps and flips to avoid a sizzling booby trap, as if she's entering a large-scale version of The Cube. And for some odd reason, she regenerates at the end after taking a bullet from trigger-happy old goat, Cobb – while keeping the same face. That's pretty selective regenerative powers there, given that Time Lords normally change their faces during this process. Apparently, you can blame Steven Moffat for this last minute change of heart – this was tacked on to the end of the story at Moff's suggestion, and it shows with the hurried dialogue.
The plot of The Doctor's Daughter is just as empty, a tedious trudge through a clichéd alien planet, which seems to have been inspired by some of the worst excesses of the third season of the original Star Trek series. Basically, it's a dull war story in which Cobb's army do battle against a clutch of weird fish men called the Hath. If you're a bit hard of hearing, you may mishear this as The Hoff, conjuring up images of an army of David Hasselhoff clones.
Which is actually a far more terrifying idea than what you get on screen. Both sides are as dull as ditch-water – literally for the lone Hath who sinks into a bog. The Hath are forgettable monsters – all they do is blow bubbles and like Jenny, run around a lot. In the case of the sinking Hath, this makes no sense at all, given that surely as long as it blows through the bubbly water device, then it can breathe. More on this sorry sequence in a minute, with Martha's somewhat OTT reaction.
Cobb's army aren't much better, a faceless band of trigger happy goons. There's the bloke from Skins, Joe Dempsie, who, like Georgia Moffett, has to wrestle with thin air, given that he has no character profile at all. Even more forgettable is Cobb, and while Nigel Terry does his level best with what he's got, I'd guess that he was none too enamoured when the script clattered through his letterbox either. Again, there's little character to work with here – he's a typical, blustering military man whose modus operandi is to shoot first and ask questions later. When he does get to speak, it's in the hokiest fashion possible, reeling out a string of macho clichés that even Eric Saward would have consigned to the dustbin: “The dream died! Broken, along with Hath promises!” “Countless generations marked only by the dead!” “The Source will be inside! You have shown us the way!” Incidentally, how comes Cobb emerges from the dry ice as an old man, given that all the others are fresh-faced pipsqueaks?
Another problem with The Doctor's Daughter is its climax which freely borrows from the end of Last Of The Time Lords. With Jenny apparently no more, again, David Tennant has to put on his best 'Bottom Lip Trembling' face as he mourns the daughter that he never really knew. As well as making yet another pompous speech about how you should never shoot people at the top of his voice. “Make the foundation of this society – a man who never would!” Never Would what though? Never Would sit through this story again?
While David Tennant does, by now, turn in his usual reliably solid performance (apart from the OTT yelling at the end), he's still not well-served by the script either. For the most part, the Doctor's strutting around with the haunted expression of a 17-year-old boy who's just learned that his girlfriend's just got pregnant. As Donna suggests, he's got “Dad shock”, but in fact, it's yet another reference to the fact that his people have all gone. “The hole they left, all the pain that filled it.” The lonely Time Lord shtick is admittedly starting to wear a bit thin, and his sudden acceptance of Jenny by the end of the episode strikes me as being a bit too hollow. He doesn't even stick around for the funeral either – ah well, that's one more stale sausage roll to be eaten by someone else.
While Donna continues to get some good lines, and also gets the chance to use her brain (she works out that the numbers on the walls are dates), the same regrettably can't be said of Martha. If you thought that Martha's unrequited love storyline was the nadir of her journey, take a look at The Doctor's Daughter. All Martha gets to do is get captured by a lone Hath and be led across a large vista of sludge, and then cry unrealistically as the Hath sinks to its doom in a bog.
Not wishing to be horrible here, but this isn't Freema Agyeman's finest hour. That's no great surprise – if I was presented with such a poor script that gave me zilch to do, I wouldn't be too enthusiastic myself. Freema ends up mooching around looking more than a little fed up. The aforementioned bit when she's asked to wail loudly at the sinking Hath is terrible. While Freema's crying is actually pretty good, the action is sloppily assembled and edited, leaving me wondering why Martha's actually kicking up such a stink – the end result is possible one of the most cringe-inducing sequences in Doctor Who ever, ranking alongside Solow's attempts at Kung-Fu on the Myrka.
Embarrassing and dull – not the greatest marriage, and even the realisation of The Doctor's Daughter is a bit lacking. Director Alice Troughton attempts to perk things up, but she's not having much luck with such a drab script. The look of the story is uninspired, all dull corridors, gloomy bogs and swirling mists. None of the guest cast (apart from Georgia Moffett) have their hearts in it, and the whole feeling that I got when watching this one was that everyone's going through the motions without much enthusiasm. The ending of the story is also oddly edited. One minute Jenny's coming back to life. The next, she somehow bypasses Cline and a Hath to reach a departing rocket. Either the master disc of The Doctor's Daughter has a jump-inducing defect or Jenny's learned to teleport. Luckily Troughton would come good with the far superior Midnight, in which she puts her directing talents to far better use – but even Graeme Harper or Douglas Camfield would probably struggle with such an unimaginative story.
The Doctor's Daughter promises so much and yet it delivers so little. There could have been a neat idea here – maybe the Doctor really could have encountered his own daughter from long ago, leaving him to deal with the consequences of his actions. As it was, the actual story dodged the issue in the dullest, most obvious fashion possible. It's strange that Stephen Greenhorn's script is so boring too – The Lazarus Experiment was a superb, fast-paced thrill-seeker, and yet this one moves along with all the energy of a dud battery. Normally, NuWho stories are fast-paced and exciting, and yet for some reason, this story doesn't even attempt to try.
Run away from this one faster than Jenny.
* No Doctor Who after New Year's Day 2019, so why not catch up on some classic episodes from the '70s and '80s with my value for money ebook guides?
JON PERTWEE ERA - £3.86
TOM BAKER ERA VOL 1 - £3.07
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COLIN BAKER/ SYLVESTER MCCOY/PAUL MCGANN ERAS - £3.99