Series 2, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #167)
Withholding the Doctor for most of the first half of this episode, just giving the viewer a few moments, then putting him back to sleep, should make the moment when he emerges from the Sycorax ship more dramatic than it was. That moment when the TARDIS starts translating Sycoraxic to English, alerting us that the Doctor was back, should have made that moment where he opens the doors and steps out a better payoff than it was. That it felt only overdue might be partly the fault of having him say just a tad too much when he woke up to save Rose & co. from the spinning xmas tree. If the plan was to just tease the viewer and then put him back to sleep, then he was probably awake a bit too long.
|The Doctor answers the most interesting question posed by this story, Sycorax style.|
Now, hold on just a moment, you might say, we just saw her shoot down a retreating vanquished opponent and the Doctor was simply punishing for that act of murder.
Well ... here we come to one of the two interesting questions posed by this episode (we'll take up the other next): did Harriet Jones do the right thing by giving the order to shoot down the retreating ship? The Doctor would have us believe she didn't. Based on the available information though, it's not a clear cut case and I think she actually had a strong argument for the moral authority to act.
|Harriet Jones and staff.|
The case you can make for the Doctor's ruling on the matter is that by taking down the retreating ship, Harriet Jones had become just as dishonorable as the Sycorax. And, well, it's almost a fair cop. The agreement made with even a vanquished foe should be kept as a general rule. Here though, Harriet Jones did not make the agreement, nor did she authorize the Doctor to make the agreement. (You could argue that she was passive while the Doctor stood as champion for the Earth, thereby giving implicit authority represent the Earth, but what, realistically could she have done besides see how the Doctor's gambit played out?)
The Doctor himself said, "No second chances," when he killed the leader of the Sycorax -- who did it have it coming. Yet, what he was punished Harriet Jones for not doing was giving a second chance. That doesn't pass the hypocrisy smell test and it absolutely undercuts the episode.
The second interesting question posed by the episode was: what kind of man is this new Doctor? "Am I funny? Am I sarcastic? Sexy? [clacks his teeth in that very distinctively Tennant way] Right old misery? Life and soul? Right handed? Left handed? A gambler? A fighter? A coward? A traitor? A liar? A nervous wreck?" That's what we all want to know, right? What've we got here after the first regeneration of the new series? And we see right from the start we've got an live wire of a Doctor, with out-sized charm, abundant wit, joie de vivre, and a bright future. He's right when he says at the end that it's going to be fantastic.
|Is he Arthur Dent, whom he namechecks?|
Nah, more Zaphod Beeblebrox, if you ask me.
It's just not quite fantastic yet.