June 2, 2008By Joe Diliberto Posted: Jun 2, 2008
This week's DOCTOR WHO was easily the best of the young season so far for me. It was almost everything I could have hoped for because it was so old school. Soap fans love it when shows play their history, and that's exactly what WHO did this week — it acknowledged that this was far from the Doctor's first tango with the clone warriors and UNIT. It was WHO in the classic sense: The Doctor is proactive in solving the problem instead of goading his companions into fixing things. In fact, Donna is (sort of) kidnapped, just like the companions of yore…. I loved the Doctor cobbling together that atmospheric converter to save the day. There was a time when the Doctor used to do that sort of thing in every story (see, for example, "The Stones of Blood").
But "The Poison Sky" was not perfect: the Sontarans' plan to turn Earth into a giant breeding ground for clones was a bit too reminiscent of the plot of "Partners in Crime" just a few weeks earlier — and even the writer's own Dalek story from last season.
Still, that's just nitpicking, because execution is everything. When the Doctor realized that the Sontarans had stolen the TARDIS and he was trapped on Earth, he asked, "How rubbish is that?" It's exactly what happened to his Third incarnation, when the High Council of Time Lords deactivated his TARDIS, forcing him to throw in with UNIT back in the 1970s.
ROSE!!! That was Rose on the Time/Space Visualizer (which the Doctor needs to use more; it's not necessary to open the TARDIS doors to see what's outside, you know).
Remember when I mentioned the Sontarans have been locked in centuries of war with the Rutans? Here the Doctor mentions that the war against the "Roo-tins" has been going on for 50,000 years.
The Doctor pretends to have a remote control for the TARDIS, but sadly doesn't really have one. His desire for such a device (called a "Stattenheim Remote Control") was last mentioned by his Sixth persona in the in "The Two Doctors" — coincidentally, the last episode to feature the Sontarans (who, I might add, were then taller than humans)!
But my favorite shout-out was the Doctor's longing for the Brigadier. His old ally, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was in charge of UNIT back in the day. It's good to know he's still alive, as "Sir Alistair" — even if he was "stranded in Peru." Classy of Colonel Mace to not be offended. However, surely UNIT's "Code Red: Sontaran" files should have contained mention of their vulnerabilities, and Mace should have ordered the troops to break out their stores of coronic acid? (I think the Doctor himself didn't mention the acid because he didn't want UNIT engaging the Sontarans in battle.)
The funniest moment came when the Doctor donned a gas mask and asked Colonel Mace, "Are you my Mummy?" (See "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances") I actually laughed out loud. Other references to more recent continuity: The Doctor uttering his trademark refrain: "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," to Donna, and the appearance of the Valiant. And did the Doctor actually get a bit racy when he mentioned that CloneMartha shouldn't wear a T-shirt around Captain Jack?
CloneMartha also lead to the story's biggest head-scratcher: Why was the original Martha needed to keep CloneMartha alive? The entire Sontaran race reproduces by cloning, so they know their way around an amniotic vat. After thinking about it, I decided that the Sontarans must have had trouble adapting their cloning technology to human physiognomy. There were still some bugs in the system, so the original needed to be linked to the copy. Pity the clone had to die; imagine the possibilities with two Martha Joneses…. Of course, Martha had compassion for her dying clone, never mind that it tried to replace her and destroy the world…
The Sontaran "transport exchange" device figures prominently in the plot, and it bothered me that the Doctor did not call it a "transmat" (for matter transporter). The Doctor gave Donna a TARDIS key, and in an ironic juxtaposition, I just happened to find my TARDIS key, which I'd misplaced some years earlier. No, not the simple Yale key the Doctor currently employs, this is a pewter replica of the odd, shield-shaped key used in the "classic" series. (Yes, I am a fanboy…)
In summation, having bungled the return of the Daleks last season with the two-parter "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks," former script editor Helen Raynor got this story almost completely right. This is the sort of WHO I remember from back in the day....
Looking at the promos for next week's episode, called "The Doctor's Daughter," I want to go on record as predicting this there will be hijinks afoot — that "daughter" will not prove to be the mother of the Doctor's granddaughter, Susan.
Do you remember where BATTLESTAR GALACTICA left off two weeks ago? Roslin, Baltar and a bunch of Vipers and pilots were (seemingly accidentally) abducted by the Hybrid running the damaged basestar, and Sharon shot Natalie because Sharon feared Nat would kidnap Hera.
Well, this week, the Quorum flips out when Vice President Tom Zarek steps into the power vacuum, and the Old Man refuses to recognize Zarek's administration. But the powder keg doesn't really ignite until Lee Adama suggests that his father will never come around, sparking a military/civil power struggle. (Obviously, Lee isn't much of a politician — he thinks honesty is the best policy!) Perhaps to compensate for his blunder, Lee comes up with a plan to appoint a new president, but not before a powerful scene in which he argues with Zarek — Richard Hatch, who portrayed Apollo in the classic series. Thus, it was Apollo vs. Apollo! Lee assigns cold-hearted attorney Romo Lampkin (who defended Baltar at his war-crimes trial) to find the new honcho.
Meanwhile, Admiral Adama berated Sharon for killing Nat, endangering the alliance with the Cylons. Adama apparently believes the basestar's jump was related to Natalie's shooting. Adama viewed Sharon's move as a personal betrayal, because he trusted her to act in the best interests of the human fleet, not to take sides in the Cylon civil war. Sharon tried to explain that she was motivated by the Opera House vision, but Adama would have none of that mumbo-jumbo and had her brigged.
Still, Adama reserved his true rage for Tigh after learning two disturbing facts: 1. Tigh has been interrogating Caprica Six with the cameras turned off; 2. Six is pregnant! The look of shock on Tigh's face was a thing of beauty — especially since portrayer Michael Hogan only has one eye to work with! Tigh criticizes Adama's conviction that Roslin is still alive and questions his decision to divert resources to searching for her. The two old friends come to blows, and the fight is truly brutal to behold! But when it's over, there appears to be a détente between them. Still, Adama realizes that he has lost objectivity when it comes to Roslin, and resigns his commission, giving Tigh his admiral insignia and putting him in command. The "last time" Tigh was in charge (while the Old Man was in a coma after being shot by Sharon) back in season 2, Tigh declared martial law and riots broke out!
By the end of the episode, Romo has come to the obvious conclusion, and Leland Joseph Adama was sworn in as interim president. Recommissioning his call-sign, Husker, Bill Adama decides to stay behind the fleet and wait for Roslin to appear at the rendezvous point, because he cannot live without her. He sits in a raptor, reading the same dog-eared copy of Searider Falcon that he'd previously shared with her.
Points of interest:
— If Caprica is indeed pregnant by Tigh, this will be the first time a Cylon has impregnated a Cylon. Tyrol's son Nicky had a human mother in Cally, and Karl is the human father of Hera. Recall that skin jobs were unable to conceive together, and believed the reason was because they did not understand love. Since Tigh was visualizing his late wife in place of Caprica, could his love for Ellen be what made the difference? (Perhaps love is what made Romo see visions of Lance the cat in this episode, too.)
— I laughed when Lee presented Romo with Jake the dog. It would have been a perfect opportunity to bring back the daggits from the classic series. All Lee had to say was, "Here's Jake the daggit." Dagnabit!
— The wreckage of the raptors and basestars is rendered in spectacular detail, but — Ack! The battle for the Resurrection Hub happened offscreen?!?!?!
— Pike, the pilot who was found in the raptor, was the same dude Helo pistol-whipped aboard Demetrius when he argued against Kara's plan to meet the rebel Cylon basestar instead of returning to the fleet. I guess he always knew it would end badly…
How about that promo for next week? While it's great that Lucy Lawless will be back, D'Anna is seen to say, "You know about the Final Five but you don't know that you're one of them?" The camera cuts to a shot of Roslin looking stunned. I was stunned! The 12th model cannot be Roslin — if I were show-runners Ronald D. Moore and David Eick I'd scream bloody murder if my years-long plot was spoiled in a "next week" promo. All I can say is, Roslin better not be the last frakkin' model! My prediction: It's Baltar.
I will have the another model of Night Shift next time…