You... brought back Donna Noble...
Most TV shows try to start each series with a stronger episode, but not this one. There's nothing actually wrong with this, but bringing back such an unpopular guest-character as Donna to be a regular is... erm... well, very brave.
And I think they know this. Donna's last appearance – in The Runaway Bride – was toe-curling from the second-scene onwards. You see, she shouts. A lot.
That's not actually a bad thing in a light-hearted family show, but Donna started off by shouting at the top of her voice, leaving her nowhere else to go with it for the rest of that specially-extended episode. As a result, she spent pretty well most of the next hour, yelling at the same wearing volume. Or that's the way I remember it, the truth is that I really don't like remembering it. If she'd started-off by furiously whispering, and then gradually built-up to her top volume, then I think that could have been quite funny, but she didn't.
Anyway, all that to say, the Doctor Who writers seem to have taken this on board, and in this – her first return episode – she hardly shouts at all. Breathe-out - ahhhhhhh... :)
In fact, after a long-winded opening twenty-minutes, in which she and the Doctor are both investigating the same company but without discovering each other's presence, they actually bless us with a scene in which she's completely mute.
She and the Doctor are both spying on the baddies, through facing windows on opposite sides of the same room, when they finally spot each other and have an entire silent conversation by miming.
Oh yeah, this writer knows how painful all that shouting was last time...
Bernard Cribbins reprises his role as the street-vendor from Voyage Of The Damned, who now turns-out to also be Donna's grandad. This is a nice touch, except that of course he wasn't at her wedding...
At the end of the episode, when Donna joins the Doctor, things are actually looking quite promising for the series. I'll admit that I'm seriously concerned that this 'new' companion – exactly like the last two – is a young airhead woman from present-day London with a family that includes an overbearing mum. Given that the same author is responsible for introducing all three companions in the same way, that's just... well, there's a great deal of room for creativity.
But on the other hand previous companions Rose and Martha, despite being airheads, were both repeatedly presented to us as being clever, despite the impossibility of demonstrating this in such dumbed-down plots.
However, this is where Donna has the edge. Originally created for a one-off episode, she didn't suffer from that pretentiousness, and was acknowledged by all around her as shallow.
The point I'm making is that Doctor Who has always been a comedy on the surface, and now that it finally has two comic performers playing two larger-than-life characters as its leads, this could be the start of great things.
Finally, as if to prove the contrast, just before the end of this episode Rose makes a return guest-appearance. Donna, not realising who she is, asks her to give her mum a message, before leaving. Rose, true to her stroppy prideful character, says nothing and then just leaves, with no attempt whatsoever to help.
I do hope this doesn't mean that they're going to force Rose into the background of several episodes this season. Foreshadowing is really not this team's strong point, a weakness accentuated by the way they only think to foreshadow the final story of each series.