Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

In the opening TARDIS scene, the Doctor offers to take Martha to another planet.

This “other planet” turns out to be another Earth.

An alien world?
We’re into the third series of modern Doctor Who now, and still there has only been one story not set on or just next to a planet called Earth.

Also, following the pattern of the last two series, once again we’re opening with a present-day Earth story, followed by one in Earth’s past and one in Earth’s future. All three future Earth episodes (The End Of The World, New Earth and this one) feature the Doctor bumping into the Face Of Boe by pure coincidence. They're also all written by the same person.

New companion Martha is almost identical in concept to old companion Rose – here she even gets to repeat Rose’s regret at joining the Doctor without considering her family, just as Rose did in The End Of The World. Will next week’s episode be another two-parter in the present-day with her family worrying where she is just as Earth gets invaded again, too?

This episode does have some good ideas in it – the notion of a story about spending your whole life stuck on the M25 has a lot of… err… mileage in it, but again it was the familiar pattern of setting up a great hook, and then never answering it. In this case the hook was “why are all these people spending years driving a distance that I walk on a daily basis?”

This one really showed up how copying the US 40-minute format has failed, too. There was nowhere near enough room for this motorway environment to be explored, and certainly not to bring back the Face Of Boe, bring back the macra, bring back the cat woman, poison the atmosphere, wipe-out Earth’s population with a virus and carry a pseudo-religious overtone too.

By the end of this episode the hoards of alien macra, for example, are merely escaped from by our heroes, and noone has time to care or even remember that they are all still there.

There’s also yet another scene promising to tell us about this alleged “time war”, but after two years the writer still appears to have come up with little more than the war's name.

The “you are not alone” line is hardly a revelation either, neither to us or the Doctor. What other direction could the extinction of the Time Lords have gone in, but the same one that the extinction of the Daleks has three times now? (in the stories Dalek, Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways and Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday) No explanation for why the Face Of Boe didn't tell him this earlier.

For all that, the episode is quite fun, proving that the central traffic-jam-of-years concept was a really good one. When Ardal O’Hanlon shows up armed with a litter-ful of cat-gags, you sort of go all dewey-eyed for the joy of that other show he’s famous for.

Are ye all right there, Doctor Who?
For years now I’ve tried to remain positive that the writing on this show would improve (because it is only the writing that lets it down) but unless I see some sort of growth in this latest season – the third now – I can’t see the slack I’ve been cutting them lasting for much longer.

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