Well. That was…
Er, I suppose if you squint a little…
Yeah, I didn’t get that at all.
I mean, I can understand the plot–a war breaks out, largely fought by clone-soldiers who are so quickly killed and replicated that the origins of the war are lost across generations of clones within seven days–even if the execution of said plot is, to put it kindly, haphazard (this is not helped by Sci Fi’s worst editing butchery of the season–surely there’s a scene between Donna calling the Doctor’s cloned offspring “G.I. Jane” and the clone introducing herself as “Jenny” to explain why she doesn’t call herself, you know, Jane).
But I don’t understand the story. So much of New Who is about the Doctor’s loneliness and isolation, leading to the construction of his non-Time Lord “family.” But where does this new “daughter” fit into everything? Is she supposed to be like him, or not? Since when did Martha Jones, wonderful though she is, become an expert on Time Lord physiology, and why are we listening to her when she immediately says Jenny will neither survive nor regenerate? After all, they’ve made it amply clear that she and the Doctor weren’t, well, playing doctor. Why would they bother to take Jenny away from the Doctor but then not have her be dead after all, especially when so much of the new series has been about taking everything they can away from the Doctor?
Most frustrating is that this story should have been wonderful. As is typical, David Tennant is brilliant in cracking open the door on what the Doctor lost in the Time War, but those moments are tiny gems amid such nonsense as making sure Donna and Martha aren’t cloned, too, or gymnastic tributes to Britney Spears (I’m not joking). Georgia Moffett, despite having been cloned with copious amounts of eyeliner, is charismatic and open as Jenny. And Catherine Tate continues to shine as her Donna solves both the mystery of the base and the mystery of the Doctor’s reluctance. It’s hard not to feel as though these actors are having to work awfully hard to keep a bunch of random bits afloat, though. So often it seems like Doctor Who isn’t able to generate enough story to fill both halves of a two-parter, but this episode would have benefited from room to stretch out into a second episode so the Doctor’s gradual thaw toward his sorta-daughter could have weight and meaning behind it, rather than her “death” seeming like a retread of the Master’s demise. According to the show’s BBC podcast, Jenny was supposed to remain dead but was saved at the last minute at the request of Steven Moffat. Given the recent news that Moffat is taking over the Who show-running duties, we can presume that we haven’t seen the last of Jenny–but will her place in the Doctor’s story make any more sense when we see her next?
Speaking of the podcast, may I suggest you seek it out? That way, instead of listening to me bristle about plot holes the size of the TARDIS interior, you can listen to certified geek Tennant poke at them instead. First, he’s more genial about it than I would be; second, he’s sitting right next to executive producer Russell T Davies, so you can hear the weak sauce excuses in real time. Greatest hits include:
—If the TARDIS is right there, why can’t it translate the Hath language? (It is! Sort of. Can’t you hear it?)
—General Cobb is older than all the other soldiers–is he an original settler, or a clone that’s survived more than one generation, or…huh? (Yes. Maybe. Or maybe sometimes the cloning machine just makes older copies. And I quote Davies here: “Did you like the way I just made that up?” No. No, I did not.)
—Did that fish just drown?! (Yes–didn’t you hear the glass-breaking sound we added so you’ll think the Hath’s gas mask broke?)
Perhaps in the end, we’ll go with Neil Gaiman’s take on things:
Maddy and I agreed that there were bits of plot in “The Doctor’s Daughter” that necessitated not just suspension of one’s disbelief but the surgical extraction of said disbelief before dangling it over a vat of bubbling acid in the hopes that it would shut up.
If anyone knows what tools are best suited for extracting one’s disbelief, please forward before this episode is rebroadcast. Thanking you in advance.