Doctor, I love you! But we only have fourteen minutes to save the Earth! Well, forty-two minutes, actually. Hence the title. And we’re not saving the Earth so much as a cargo ship and its sweaty cranky crew members from crashing into a sun. STILL!
The Doctor doctors Martha up a Super Duper Cell Phone of her very own! “Frequent flier’s privilege,” he says before he locks onto a distress signal (with a jaunty bang of his foot on the console). Ah, it’s land-inside-a-spaceship time! Steam and red-tinged scenery give way to “it’s like a sauna in here!” comments; clearly this place is hot, hot, hot!
While the crew demands who they are, Martha spies why it’s scorching: the ship will crash into a sun in 42 minutes. Great, the “lifeboat” TARDIS just got deadbolt-sealed in the vent chamber. “It’s lava,” a dude named Scannell says uncharitably. Well. You’re lava! Jerk. I love how the Doctor rushes at Captain McDonnell with teeth bared and eyes wild; can you imagine doing multiple takes of that with Tennant? Eeeep!
Off to Engineering and the mess formerly known as “the engines” someone wrecked: “pretty efficiently, too.”
The Doctor wonders if the energy scoop fueling system isn’t, you know, illegal. But no time for debates: to get to the auxiliary systems, two people have to get through twenty-nine password-sealed doors. For real? Who designs these things? Also, they’re dead-locked, so a Sonic Screwdriver’s no use. All righty!
Martha volunteers to help Riley with the questions, which crew members devised nine tours ago whilst completely drunk. One wrong answer? The entire system freezes. And, guess what? The crew changed since that Q&A was composed! *throws hands in air*
Med-center summons McDonnell; her husband Korwin sabotaged the engine, and now he’s delirious, refusing to open his eyes. The Doctor coos over the nifty statis chamber then barks out a care plan. Allons-y!: off to work on engines with the others. Korwin, now sedated, twitches his hands menacingly. Do you think he’s possessed? Because I think he’s possessed. Look at that twitch!
When Riley and Martha get stumped by number sequence questions, the Doctor exasperatedly gives a rapid-fire explanation of Happy Prime numbers. “Don’t they teach Recreational Mathematics anymore?” he laments. Haha, can’t you just see wee!Gallifreyan Mathlete Doctor blathering how Recreational Maths are his favorite?
“I can’t believe our lives depend on some stupid pub quiz,” Martha huffs. The Elvis vs. Beatles question baffles Riley; the Doctor’s a bit busy” devising brilliant solutions. Martha rings her mum, which goes horribly. Shrieking, “Just do it!” is understandable from a “we’re about to HIT THE SUN!” perspective; not so much from a “my daughter’s involved with a stinker, cheating on pub quizzes and ordering me about” POV.
While Martha’s on her mobile, Abi in Med-Center announces Korwin’s “whole biological makeup is changing.” “Urgent assistance!” Abi yells: Korwin approaches, eyes still closed. “Burn with me,” Korwin growls, and eeek, his eyes are white-hot rays! Abi screams; while Francine pleads for her to stay on the line, Martha hangs up without explanation. Placating your mother: you’re doing it wrong!
By the time the Doctor rushes in, Abi’s incinerated, and Korwin’s fled. His test results indicate he’s no longer human (see?). The Doctor’s urgent questions about whether they’ve encountered anything unusual push McDonnell into defensive mode; she protects her crew, though, announcing they should stay away from Korwin.
Lots o’ Impossible Planet/Satan Pit parallels in one ep: quick-cuts to concurrent plotlines, talking/screaming over comm while evil stuff unfolds, a villain picking crew off one by one. It’s classic Alien stuff that comes with suspense and scares built right in; can we blame DW for using it twice? Though I’d rather more time elapse before using the same framework, perhaps that’s because I’m watching DW eps one on the heels of the next.
Korwin, who snagged a scary evil-twin-of-Cyclops’s helmet somewhere, incinerates a scruffy assistant.
Pro tip: if you meet a man with white-hot eyes growling “Burn with me!” don’t back against a wall! You’ll just get incinerated to another ash silhouette!
McDonnell demands straight talk: the Doctor tells her Korwin’s gone. Ashton, another crew member, doesn’t get turned into an ash silhouette, but instead becomes another eye-ray helmet-wearing guy. Man, that’s one misogynistic possessing parasite. Also, no one ever listens when the Doctor says, “Stay here!”
“It’s picking us off, one by one,” McDonnell realizes. Yes, yes; do keep up! Helmet!Korwin recognizes his wife, but growls, “It’s your fault!” McDonnell looks stricken (Michelle Collins capably crafts a complicated character — say that ten times fast). In a last ditch effort to save them, and over McDonnell’s objections, Scannell freezes Helmet!Korwin with ice vents. Take that, fiery eyes!
Helmet!Ashton chases Riley and Martha into an escape pod. To reduce multiple panicked moments: Ashton keeps trying to jettison the pod and Riley keeps stabilizing it. It’s a horrifying prospect, but there’s too much repetition leaches from the suspense. Still, the Solaris-blue of the escape pod’s easy on the eyes.
Finally the Doctor runs in to yell, “What do you want? Why this ship? Tell me!” Helmet!Ashton smashes the keypad; now Riley can no longer override the jettison.
Luckily Ashton and Korwin are symbiotically connected (presumably through donning the latest in evil helmet-wear): when Korwin’s frozen, Ashton reels before charging toward Engineering. The Doctor warns McDonnell and Scannell over intercom they’re getting another helmet-clad visitor.
Realizing the pod’s detaching, the Doctor skids to see Martha banging on the pod’s glass. “I’ll save you!” he yells from the porthole; “Doctor!” she cries in panic. Here’s where a pretty good episode gets amazing. As they’re pulled apart their lips move as they call out to each other, but the camera pulls out into space and there’s total silence.
It’s incredibly moving, and terrifying, to them so violently estranged from one another in the void.
While McDonnell and Scannell argue whether killing Korwin was necessary, the Doctor intercoms he needs a spacesuit in Area 17. In the pod drifting to the sun, Riley gives up while Martha fervently believes the Doctor will rescue them. “I believe in him,” she says with utter assurance, and I BELIEVE IN YOU, MARTHA JONES!
When Scannell says opening the airlock amounts to suicide, the Doctor insists he must cah-jigger the pod back. “I’m not going to lose her,” he says grimly. Though Tennant’s done lots of teeth-gritting this ep, it feels appropriate for the countdown-focused rush of the crisis. His intensity works extremely well here: it’s a great indication how, despite often emotionally withholding from Martha, he’s incredibly invested in her.
Riley doesn’t have anyone he believes in. “No girlfriend? No boyfriend?” Martha asks sympathetically (yay for queer-friendly Martha and DW!). Martha breaks down: if she dies, her family will never know what happened. At Riley’s urging, she calls her mum.
I feel for Martha here; there’s really no one who’s completely aware of what she’s doing, unlike Rose (Mickey was aware from the start, and Jackie knew by “Aliens of London”, 1.04). Here we are past the mid-point of Series 3 (ep 7). Without understanding and support from home, Martha’s in a far lonelier state during her travels with the Doctor.
Francine’s oddly calm when Martha reaches her. Um, that’s not right. CRAP! In the background, a woman taps the call.
Martha tearfully sends her love to the whole family and asks to hear about her mum’s day (wanting mundane details as she’s facing death is so much like the Doctor, who idealizes “normal” life in moments of crisis). Instead, Francine asks, “Is the Doctor with you?” Upset at the needling, Martha hangs up; Riley holds her and kisses her forehead. They’re very sweet with their flirting-between-panicking.
The Doctor clings to the hull of the ship as he attempts to reach the controls (lord only knows why they’re outside) With Scannell shouting encouragement, he manages the feat. He makes it in only to look at the sun with dawning horror. “It’s alive!” he whispers. “I told you! It’s the Doctor!” Martha shouts; the escape pod’s drawn back to the ship.
As Martha runs inside, the Doctor’s on the floor twisting in pain. Ack, he’s got the fiery eyes! Yelling at Martha to stay back, he says to McDonnell, “It’s your fault!” Why? “You mined that sun! Stripped its surface for cheap fuel! You should have scanned for life!” I tell you, it is always about fuel mining on these multiple-door threatened-by- imminent-destruction possessed-crew member ships! Also, POOR SUN! D:
How does he know the sun’s alive? Because it’s living in him, eep! “Humans! You grab whatever’s nearest and bleed it dry!” he shouts. Wow, such a Nine moment! Usually Ten is so, “That’s what I like about you humans!” and “Keep up the good work!” I’m oddly glad he still feels real anger at humanity’s repeated mistakes.
While McDonnell reels at what she’s done, the Doctor shouts, “Stasis chamber! You gotta keep me… below minus 200. Freeze it out of me!!” He can live at below minus 200? Time Lords, so crazy! The countdown continues in the background, reminding us of the urgency of the upcoming sun impact.
As Riley and Scannell continue to trivia-open doors to the generator, Martha refuses McDonnell’s help as she puts the Doctor in cold stasis. The Doctor writhes as he shouts he could kill them all. Oh! Suddenly he’s completely vulnerable: “I’m scared,” he confesses to Martha. “I’m so scared!” *clutches heart* Okay, this ep completely wins me over with its heartbreaking moments!
Martha urges the Doctor to believe in her, as she does in him. Figuring out the machine on her own (a STAR is Martha Jones), she shushes him when he tries to talk about dying (perhaps trying to tell her about regeneration?). The Doctor’s screaming constantly, and she’s doing her level-best to stay utterly calm so she can act the part of the Doctor.
Oh. Nerts! If the Doctor, possessed by the angry sun, can survive frigid temps, who else can? Helmet!Korwin comes back to life and cuts the power to the med-center (those sun-possessed dudes think quickly!). The Doctor’s screams increase as he begins to defrost.
McDonnell runs to confront Korwin. The Doctor, wracked by pain, tells Martha to vent the engines. “Sun particles in the fuel!…Give back what they took!” he pleads. Hey! THE SUN JUST WANTS ITS STUFF BACK? “I’ll be back for you,” Martha promises.
When Helmet!Korwin blocks McDonnell, she lures him away from Engineering. “Everyone. Must. Burn!” he growls. She speaks over comm, telling Riley and Scannell she’s sorry. Redemption and sacrifice ahoy: she opens the airlock hatch as she embraces Korwin, whispering, “I love you.” Embracing, they float toward the sun.
The Doctor falls from the stasis chamber, and wrenches himself upright. Catching up with Martha, he pants, “I can’t fight it,” before losing control: “Burn with me, Martha!”
Martha RUNS LIKE HELL to Scannell and Riley to order them to vent the engines.
“Impact averted!” the ship’s computer announces. Scannell and Riley embrace. Martha runs to find the Doctor. Though he’s only just given up the sun-possessing ghost (his eyes went from fiery to blank back to standard Ten brown seconds ago) and he’s still weak, he picks Martha up as they embrace. Both laugh, giddy at averting disaster.
Scannell marvels at the TARDIS, which the Doctor proudly calls “compact” and “robust!” By the way, when the authorities arrive, no more messing with suns, OKAY? The Doctor steps inside, but Riley holds Martha back, asking if he’ll see her again. No, but “it was nice not dying with you.” Ha, so cute, their near-death flirtation
Martha tells Riley she hopes he’ll find someone to believe in. “I think I already have,” he says shyly. We all believe in Martha Jones, Riley! Martha hesitates, but reaches for him and they kiss. “Well done,” Martha says awkwardly. “Very hot.” Heee!
Martha beams she skips into the TARDIS, but the Doctor looks cold and serious. Uh. Did he watch her kissing Riley onscreen? Martha, deflating, asks how he’s doing. To her disappointment, he changes the subject to their next stop. Then whoooosh! The mood changes as the Doctor holds out a TARDIS key — another “frequent flier’s privilege.” Martha’s beyond thrilled to get keys to his flat, er, ship!
One last call to Francine, so Martha can explain it’s been an “over-emotional, mad day.” Martha agrees to come for tea, but what day is it? “Election day,” Francine says flatly. When Martha hangs up, Francine drops the mobile into a plastic bag for the creepy surveillance woman, now flanked by two security agents. Did Francine vote? Yes, but “don’t expect me to tell you who for,” Francine says coldly. “Mister Saxon will be very grateful,” she’s told.
Whoo eee awhooo aphahooo! Wow, this is a mixed bag of an episode! In some ways it’s very filler-ish; in others, it’s fun old school sci-fi, and reminiscent of Classic Who. Regardless, the emotional moments in the last third are outstanding. I’m looking forward to the Mr. Saxon situation heating up! It’s very alarming Saxon is using Martha’s family to get to the Doctor.
Join me next week for more Series 3 episode recaps, the two-part arc “Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”! And check back at HDJM tomorrow for my recap of the New Who: Doctor Who 7.04 – The Power of Three!