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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “The Doctor’s Daughter”

(tons of spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode! and no comments from party poopers — this is a love fest only / previous: Episode 5: “The Poison Sky”)

The Doctor Who writers are in my head again, stealing all my fanfic ideas, which has mostly been okay so far: it’s because the new show is so in line with stuff I’ve known forever about the Doctor (even if the old show never touched on it) that I’ve fallen so hard for it. But this was bound to happen eventually: they stole my ideas but got it all wrong.
It’s not a bad concept, of course, the generational war and the need to pump out as much cannon fodder as many soldiers as possible as quickly as possible. But the execution of it is altogether too cutesy. Why would “Jenny” hop out of the clone machine and call the Doctor “Dad”? Isn’t she entirely too together for a newborn, even one that’s had military strategy and such downloaded directly into her brain? It would have been fascinating if she were sort of robotic, an organic fighting machine, but instead she’s simply adorable. Does the clone machine really pump out the chicks with beautifully plucked eyebrows and nicely applied eyeliner? It’s as if you can feel the whole episode tittering — it’s a bit too self-consciously in love with the idea of, you know, the Doctor… with a daughter! OMG!

“They stole a tissue sample at gunpoint and processed it,” the Doctor explains to Donna when she’s upset at how poorly the Doctor is taking to the concept of fatherhood (or so she thinks). And perhaps we might not expect Doctor Who to touch too much on the horrific upshot of what is, basically, a kind of rape. But here we go too far in the other direction: toward sentimentality, which has been the one thing the show has avoided, for the most part, so far. It’s been emotional, sure, but the emotion has been genuine, and yet here even the Doctor, not just we viewers, is being forced into feeling something that doesn’t come naturally. The Doctor is right about not inferring a relationship between him and Jenny based purely on biology, and yet he gets cast almost as a villain for this. How does it change anything at all that Jenny has two hearts? Why would that even be a surprise? If she’s genetically his daughter, of course she’d have two hearts. And yet this somehow touches the Doctor, even though it shouldn’t, and negates nothing he’s already said. We’re meant to see that he’s wrong about this father-daughter thing, but I don’t see it.

And then the episode cheats again: we’re supposed to believe the Doctor has had a big turnaround regarding Jenny, and then he’s just going to leave her dead body there? If he was really feeling a connection, would he do that? But of course he must do so, purely for the plot reason of setting up the twist ending, and, clearly, setting the Doctor up for a surprise in a future episode. (“Hey, Dad! I’m not dead!”) And then there are more cheats! If Jenny was gonna regenerate, then she should have actually regenerated.

The more I watch this episode, the more it annoys me. It’s hard to be love festy with this one. It’s a great idea, a child for the Doctor — I’m dealing with it myself here — but this is exactly the wrong way to go about it. So much of how he reacts to it seems out of character for the Doctor. He’s right when he says to Jenny, “You’re an echo, that’s all. A Time Lord is so much more. A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering.” And that all gets ignored… which is unfair to the Doctor. Writers shouldn’t betray their characters like that.

But then there is that wonderful scene between the Doctor and Donna, which starts out with her teasing him about “dadshock” and him getting very serious and confessional — which, Donna notes, he never does (“You talk all the time but you don’t say anything”). It’s great stuff between Tennant and Tate, that bit that starts with “Donna, I’ve been a father before…,” and sure, it’s good to delve into the Doctor’s grief some more. It’s really a pity that this episode didn’t get it right.

Random thoughts on “The Doctor’s Daughter”:

• Jenny is played by Georgia Moffat, who is, in real life, the daughter of actor Peter Davison… who played Doctor No. 5. Which kinda makes my head want to explode. (Her mother is Sandra Dickinson, who played Trillian in the 1980s miniseries of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.)

• Clever Donna, figuring out what the numbered labels mean. She’s even ahead of the Doctor on this score. Good for her.

• Why doesn’t the TARDIS translate for the fish people? They look pretty cool, though: I love how their articulated gills and eyes give them a real sense of expression. Too bad they were mostly just pets for Martha, and not beings with anything like a real culture (at least that we saw).

• And hey, if the human colonists and the Hath were obviously friends, arriving on the same ship with the intent of colonizing the planet together, how do they communicate with one another? How do they speak to one another?

• Wait. Is there nobody left on either side of this war who’s older than a week? That seems kinda unlikely…

• And hey, how does Martha know anything, medically speaking, about regeneration? She’s never seen a regeneration. How can she possibly speak to there be a “sign” or not of Jenny’s ability, or lack thereof, to regenerate? And why would the Doctor take her word on it?

• The corridor with the crisscrossed laser beams makes me think of the chopper blocks from Galaxy Quest

• Ah, the Source is a Genesis device!

• Look at that face:

Poor Martha — she is so not over the Doctor. And who can blame her?

• Great quotes:

“Just because I share certain physiological traits with simian primates doesn’t make me a monkey’s uncle, does it?” –the Doctor

“This is a theater…” –Donna
“Maybe they’re doing Miss Saigon.” –the Doctor

“You’re the most anomalous bloke I’ve ever met.” –Donna, to the Doctor

“We’re not even the same species. There’s probably laws against it.” –Donna, when it is suggested, yet again, that she and the Doctor are a couple. (In my fanfic, at least in stories that I never got around to writing, the Time Lords didn’t need laws against it because the idea of doing that with humans or other non-Gallifreyans was so revolting that it didn’t need to be illegal… and the Time Lords would consider the Doctor mentally ill for merely hanging around with humans, never mind doing anything more intimate than that. And maybe the Time Lords weren’t wrong about the Doctor, either. I was always intrigued by the idea that we monkeyboys could consider the Doctor so perfectly wonderful while at the same time his own people would think him a sick freak, and that in fact no one was actually mistaken…)

“How could I ever go back to normal life after seeing all this? I’m gonna travel with that man forever.” –Donna, to Martha, about the Doctor. And yet, somehow I suspect that Donna is doomed to a short life with the Doctor… and maybe a short life, period.

(next: Episode 7: “The Unicorn and the Wasp”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
posted in:
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  • Yeah, and the scene where Martha’s fish drowned and made her cry was a rare foray into unintentional hilarity.

  • JSW

    Fortunately yesterday’s episode pretty much makes up for the lacklustre season so far.

    I can’t wait for season 31/5 when Moffat takes over.

  • Joanne

    I actually liked this episode a lot more than I thought I would, mainly because I think Tennant is brilliant in it and so is Tate – it’s a good Donna episode. And I like the working through of what it means to be a soldier, and how the Doctor’s really kidding himself when he pretends he’s not one.

    Regarding Martha and regeneration: as the Master’s dying the Doctor’s begging him to regenerate. It’s not implausible to me that Martha, being a doctor, would at some point either have asked the Doctor about regeneration, or more simply would have done some reading on joining UNIT. UNIT, after all, was witness to the aftermath of Two’s regeneration into Three, and the Brig and Sarah Jane were there for Three into Four. Plus Harry, a medic, was on hand for that one to make notes. So that’s never struck me as odd, really, that Martha knows about regeneration.

  • It’s still a love fest, just more of a Tough Love Fest. I felt the exact same way about the episode. However, the amazing Steven Moffat two-parter more than made up for it.

  • Jack

    Here’s my thoughts on your thoughts-

    Martha and regen – There was that period in the series 3 finale, and also in 42 the Doctor explained regeneration to Martha.

    Jenny and regen – They featured the hand fairly prominently, right? And it grew back since between regeneration and hand-cutting was less than 15 hours, right? Maybe Jenny didn’t need to regenerate, since the whole episode only takes a couple hours – who knows, birth may very well give off the same energy as regeneration. And since the shot was apparently lethal, it would make sense to take longer to heal.

  • Frank

    Another random thought to make your head explode: the Doctor is dating his daughter.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1023940/David-Tennant-finds-love-Doctor-Whos-daughter.html

  • MaryAnn

    I *knew* someone was gonna mention that.

    That doesn’t make my head explode.

  • Debbie Coley

    I was wondering – how could a fish drown?

  • soundacious

    Another goofus bit of trivia:

    Sandra Dickinson (Georgia’s mom) is the voice that says “Tiiiime for Teletubbies!”

  • But here we go too far in the other direction: toward sentimentality, which has been the one thing the show has avoided, for the most part, so far.
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    It’s official. MaryAnn and I are living in parallel universes.

    But of course he must do so, purely for the plot reason of setting up the twist ending, and, clearly, setting the Doctor up for a surprise in a future episode. (“Hey, Dad! I’m not dead!”)
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    Actually that last twist was supposed to be Steve “Everybody Lives” Moffat’s idea. Russell T. Davies’ original intention was to kill her off.

    Clever Donna…
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    Yes, she is.

    “How could I ever go back to normal life after seeing all this? I’m gonna travel with that man forever.” –Donna, to Martha, about the Doctor. And yet, somehow I suspect that Donna is doomed to a short life with the Doctor… and maybe a short life, period.
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    Sigh.

    Mega-sigh.

    Why not have Donna paint a target on her chest and shout “ready, aim, fire” if we’re going to be this subtle?

  • MaryAnn

    Well, sure. But Donna doesn’t know that, does she?

    And I don’t care whose idea it was not to let Jenny stay dead: it doesn’t ring true here. I may trust that Moffat will do something interesting with her later, but I’m looking at this episode right here. There had to be a better way to handle this.

  • And I don’t care whose idea it was not to let Jenny stay dead: it doesn’t ring true here.
    –MaryAnn Johanson

    I’m not disagreeing with you on the ringing true thing. I thought her resurrection was every bit as contrived as her death–and for that matter, her “birth.” I was just pointing something that has been mentioned on more than a few other sites.

    Moffat apparently does have feet of clay, damn it! ;-)

  • I too think that time-period on the conflict was too short, for no really good reason.

    I AM expecting Jenny to be taken in by the Master in the future though.

  • Les Carr

    Several commentators have asked how a fish can drown. I assume it’s because they breathe oxygen dissolved in water, so that when they become trapped inside a gunky old tar pit they have the same issues with respiration that a human would.

    Also, the comment about the TARDIS translating for the Hath – isn’t that the way that Martha understood them?

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t think Martha did understand them, except in the way that any people who don’t speak the same language can make themselves understood to a limited degree.

    Anyway, if Martha was understanding them, so should we have been able to. It would have been weird for the show to suddenly deviate from that convention, and for no reason.

  • Karen

    I’m coming very late to the commenting party for this page, but I’ve only just watched the episode, having waited patiently for the dvd set to come out. I’m wondering if I’m imagining things or whether anyone else heard, when Jenny made her smiling appearance (I think it was right before she called the Doctor “dad”) a tiny little snippet of music that I swear sounded very much like the theme to Hitchhiker’s Guide. If I’m not wrong about it, I like how they made a little nod to the actress’ mother’s scifi past. And if I am wrong about it, then just write me off as delusional :) – I had been watching DW for several hours straight after all, that’s bound to trigger some sort of seizure I guess…

  • Elizabeth

    Okay, so I’m almost a year late with this comment, but I only started watching the show a few months ago.

    Just saw the episode for the second time, and as it happened in the intervening time I happened to rewatch Star Trek 2. (I’d only seen it once before, and was advised I should refresh my memory with it before seeing the new ST movie.) Anyway, happened to see the Doctor’s Daughter again and it occurred to me — perhaps the resurrection of Jenny is not an oddly staged regeneration but, rather, an artifact of the Source (i.e., the Genesis device)?

    Just a thought. (I’m not normally one for drawing parallels between these series, but the comparison to the genesis device is pretty blatant, and Jenny’s reawakening is otherwise just plain odd, so — there you are.)

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