Our rating: 4 out of 5
reviewed by: Charity Bishop
Five years ago I would never have given a show like Doctor Who another glance, it appeared so strange to my non-sci-fi tastes, but now it's right down my alley. It has a fabulous leading man who has much more on the brain than romance, and never fails to pack an emotional punch.
After the loss of his two-year assistant and love interest, the Doctor (David Tennant) is shocked when a woman dressed for a wedding mysteriously appears in the Tardis, his time travel machine cleverly disguised as a police box. Donna (British funny girl Catherine Tate) was halfway down the isle when she merely vanished right before everyone's eyes. Infuriated that a "Martian" interrupted her wedding, she demands to be restored to the church before it's too late. But in their wild traipse through London, the Doctor realizes all is not as it seems. Robotic figures seem intent on abducting the bride, leading him to a discovery that threatens the whole of mankind's existence. Still suffering from separation from the woman he loved, the Doctor finds a new time travel assistant in the form of Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), a medical student transported along with the rest of the hospital to the moon's surface and subjected to extraterrestrial justice in an intergalactic search for an alien entity.
From the inn where Shakespeare wrote his greatest plays to the furthest reaches of humanity billions of years in the future, the Doctor and Martha face down all forms of nemesis, new and old, eventually pitted against one of the oldest and most deadly adversaries, the last of the time lords. This season is by far the best in the show's history, since it contains numerous arcs that build on one another toward a dramatic conclusion. I loved almost every episode, particularly the two-parter where the Doctor is human for a time, as well as the episode that leads into the grand finale, where stage and screen thespian Derek Jacobi lends his talents to an extraordinary story. The special effects are much improved this year, as are some of the "less important" characters. There's a bonus in the fact that this season contains one of the most terrifying episodes in the series' history, "Blink," in which the Doctor and Martha take a backseat to a young photographer (Carey Mulligan) who discovers an old house surrounded by stone angels harbors a terrifying secret.
It also surprised me how many times the show managed to hit me on an emotional level. Between the Doctor mourning the loss of Rose, to the frantic hope that he is not alone in the universe, to his stint as a weak and impressionable, even terrified human, David Tennant is at the top of his game. It's not hard to see why Martha falls in love with the quirky, beyond eccentric, two-hearted hero. Content is rather minor compared to most sci-fi shows, but "The Shakespeare Code" might disconcert some viewers, as it contains a heavy emphasis on witchcraft. To its credit, the witches are depicted as deplorable, hateful, hideous creatures and their actions are evil both in intent and origin. Still, they cause various deaths, cast spells over Shakespeare and the people around him, and create general chaos until the Doctor puts them in their place. "Human Nature" and "The Family of Blood" have human casualties, and the punishment on the beings responsible is rather cruel (but nonviolent). Another grisly aspect has a blood-sucker on the loose.
There are the usual explosions and whatnot, as well as physical peril from all forms of creatures -- giant spiders, robotic creatures, animated scarecrows, and a particularly amusing but ultimately lethal time lord. There's not a large amount of profanity, but it does feature the most in the first episode (mild at worst). Sensuality is limited to some innuendo. There's an old lesbian couple in "Gridlocked," and nudity (nonsexual) is somewhat obscured in "The Lazarus Experiment." Overall it was the most fun I had watching television in a long time, but if you rather fancy stories that H.G. Wells would find absolutely fantastic, it's just your cup of tea. Just watch out for shape-shifters and sonic screwdrivers.