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07 March 2015 @ 05:15 pm
NuWho Rewatch: The Doctor's Daughter  
This is an odd episode in that it feels more significant than it actually is, not only with the introduction of Jenny, but as its place in the season ARC with both Donna and Martha on board the TARDIS.

Jenny is actually very likeable for a character which, one assumes, was at least 50% about stunt casting (I'm inclined to assume the thinking started with "wouldn't it be cool to cast Peter Davison's daughter as the Doctor's daughter" rather than as "we need the Doctor to have a daughter - hey, look, for extra publicity maybe we can cast Davison's daughter" but maybe I'm being overly cynical). Longer term she might have become a bit overwhelmingly perky but she works well here as a contrast to the Doctor's extended sulk over her very existence. The dynamic between the Doctor, Donna and Jenny is also excellent. They are both working to ground him in different ways because they have different strengths when it comes to calling him out. Jenny has the same quick, inquiring mind and inventiveness and he can't hand wave answers. Meanwhile Donna, as always, has homed in on the need for the Doctor to display some humanity and, in particular, to acknowledge Jenny as his own.

Martha, on the other hand, is immediately separated from them and you vaguely wonder what the idea behind her presence was. I have a feeling the point was to underscore her decision to stay behind. Her grief over the Hath's death is her central character beat in the episode - although its a shame that he largely dies because she's pulled a trick worthy of a 1980s companion by falling down a shallow incline and then panicking. It's possible the point is to underscore the extent to which she is a doctor as well as a soldier.

Which leads me on to the fact that I think that this episode and the previous one are trying do, is to elaborate on the themes of the Doctor's relationship to soldiers and his capacity to transform his companions into soldiers. He treats UNIT in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky remarkably poorly because they are soldiers and part of his initial rejection of Jenny is that she's been created as a soldier. This will, of course, be revisited in the series finale. It's interesting, from this distance, that this season is having the same discussion about the Doctor and soldiering as we saw last season, played out between the twelfth Doctor and Danny, though the issue is framed differently. Here the end point is a discussion about those around him becoming soldiers, while the end point of series 8 is about the Doctor's own role as commander and general (though that is a point that gets raised in passing here as well).

Scuttlebut at the time was that Moffat specifically asked Davies not to kill Jenny at the end of this adventure because he had a interest in reusing the character. If that is true, it's interesting that he hasn't. Of course he may just not have found a story that needs her, or he may have disliked the performance, but one also wonders if there is some politics involved given Geogia Moffat is now married to Tennant (which always freaks me a little when I think about it) and, though he mostly appears a consummate professional, one gets the sense that Tennant was Davies' man.

The world-building, as with a lot of Davies era world-building, doesn't quite hold together. The people just aren't dying fast enough, that we see, for quite so many generations to have come and gone in seven days, and certainly for there to be no one around who actually remembers what was happening seven days ago. One also wonders why half the map is hidden just waiting for the Doctor to come along.

It's a good story, though I think its best part is the Doctor, Donna, Jenny dynamic but then that dynamic is really what the story is about. Everything else is set dressing.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/146231.html.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 7th, 2015 08:35 pm (UTC)
My understanding is that Moffat suggested (not asked) that Jenny should survive simply because the audience would assume she would die, so it would be more surprising.

I loathed this story on broadcast and again when I rewatched it when going through Doctor Who in order. Not only did I find it slow, boring, uninspired and illogical (poor world-building, rubbish science, plot holes you mentioned), it seemed to chicken out of the real issue here, the Doctor's paternity. Jenny is not Susan's mother. She is not really the Doctor's daughter. She is the Doctor's clone (so... shouldn't she be male? Perhaps not, now we know Time Lords can change gender), forcibly taken from him. The story was commissioned specifically to show writer Stephen Greenhorn that the Doctor could change, yet the events of the story have no lasting impact on him (the Doctor, not Stephen Greenhorn), not least because the story is followed by a comedy episode. It seemed to sum up the creative drought I found the series in at that time: repetitive, boring and not following through on its promises, with shoddily-crafted arcs and no character development. Looking back at my review from original broadcast, I see I also objected to "macho posturing" and Tennant and Tate shouting instead of acting; I had largely forgotten this, but the "I never would!" speech lingers on...

I may well re-watch new Who in order later this year and it will be interesting to see if my opinion has changed at all! I have mellowed recently regarding some stories I saw as clunkers, new and old. But I suspect this will remain a clunker.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 8th, 2015 09:46 am (UTC)
My understanding is that Moffat suggested (not asked) that Jenny should survive simply because the audience would assume she would die, so it would be more surprising.

Ah! That's a shame. NLSS Child would certainly have liked to see her again. The character would have needed some work to give it a little more depth, but there was nothing really wrong with it in this episode beyond being a bit one note.

What a strange idea to commission an episode to demonstrate the Doctor is capable of change and not build that into an arc of some sort. Obviously arc building over multiple writers is non-trivial (and I have a vague memory that The Unicorn and the Wasp was filmed first so maybe they intended it to air earlier in the season) but to do it in some kind of arc-free way just seems a bit potty... and come to think of it, if Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead had followed straight on from this then you would have two stories in a row in which first the Doctor and then Donna have to come to terms with the loss of children which might have worked better, although given this season isn't really building up to anything particularly about family in the way it is building up to something about soldiers, I suspect it would still have seemed a little awkward.

daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 8th, 2015 02:09 pm (UTC)
Well, I think character development has been handled badly in new Who, under both Davies and Moffat. I know that sounds bizarre, as everyone says it's better than the old series, but I'm not convinced! I think there's a lot of talk of development and big character episodes (like this one), but little consistent development (the Eccleston season being the big exception). Perhaps the most notorious example is Amy and Rory not being bothered by the loss of their daughter after Let's Kill Hitler (about the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent, the situation with Mels notwithstanding), but this is very similar. Too often the reset switch is hit, either overtly or through things just go back to how they were.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 8th, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
The old series had its moments. Most notably Ace, though Turlough's first three stories (or at least the first and third) work on his development, and I think you could make the case that some thought went into the first Romana over her first season, and there was some development of Jo as well, though its unclear how much of that was deliberate.

But for large parts of its run it was just as guilty of inconsistency, saved possibly by the fact that it so rarely brought companion's families into things after the first episode.

I'm not so bothered by the Amy and Rory's reaction to losing River, we are given to understand that they had several months off-screen to adjust both to the idea that there was a daughter and that they had lost her so quickly. Given the strangeness of the whole situation and the rapidity with which they gain a daughter, lose a daughter and then re-gain her as an adult (all within a few hours) it seems plausible to me that after a few months the lingering emotion is acceptance of the situation they are in paired with regret that they were not able to do the parenting themselves and hence the bad way they handle Amy's subsequent infertility. It's a shame that the final resolution (the adopted child) never makes it to the screen, but I don't think the fall out from what happened was ignored.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on March 8th, 2015 06:31 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean that the original series handled character better than the new series, merely that it was the same. I'd agree with your examples, though, and add Ian, Barbara and the Doctor in the first few stories.

I can see your point about Amy and Rory, but somehow the situation didn't ring true to me.
dm12 on March 8th, 2015 01:43 pm (UTC)
It upset me that they never used Jenny again. Once again, we have this setup, only to be left hanging.

The best thing, I think, about this episode, is that Donna hit the nail on the head when she told the Doctor that he's constantly talking, but he isn't saying anything. It's as if he can't stand silence, so he just fills it with chatter. She got him to reveal a little of himself when he told her he'd been a father before and that the idea of doing it all again just hurt too much after losing them.

You're right about Martha, though, it seemed she was a bit extraneous to the plot this time around. Somehow, I suspect that a lot of this season was the powers that be making a decision that Donna wasn't good enough on her own, that other companions were needed. I think the exact opposite happened. Donna really shone through with her compassion and her insights.

I don't think Jenny should have been a throwaway character, especially since they added that bit at the end. It wasn't a true regeneration, though. I'm thinking that the planet terraforming device also revived her. If they wanted to throw her away, it would have been more powerful just to leave her dead.

What really is strange is that the Doctor doesn't stay and collect the body. He's so careful that his DNA/blood, etc. doesn't get into anyone else's hands, and he left? Also, I would think Donna and Martha would have wanted to stay for the funeral, especially Donna since she named Jenny and formed an attachment to her. I think she felt the loss as much as the Doctor.

I agree, to follow this immediately with "The Unicorn and the Wasp" was a bit of a let down. It seems like they both just walked away, no consequences. And then that was followed by disaster after disaster for Donna.

Edited at 2015-03-08 01:45 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on March 8th, 2015 05:49 pm (UTC)
This is the season that is covered in The Writers' Tale and I'm trying to recall what is said about Martha there. Nothing is coming to mind though. I don't think there was particular concern that Tate couldn't carry the companion roll. Mostly what I remember is Davies endlessly worrying about how to resolve the Rose plot line.

IIRC there were vague plans afoot to move Martha over into Torchwood, so its also possible that her presence here was somehow intended to segue into that (though her exit at the end of Journey's End) makes more sense of that. Of course, she may be supposed to serve a similar purpose to Adam in season 1 and Mickey in season 2, to shake up the dynamics a little and highlight the companion via a contrast, but then shunting her into a separate plot line makes no real sense.