The non-spoiler version: I quite liked it. It wasn't my favourite episode, and there were some plot flaws, but only minor, and all in all, it was fun. And it told it's story well. More behind the cut...
My main worry going into this episode was an over-reliance on Rose related emo - a worry which had been exascerbated somewhat by some of the comments in the OG spoiler section after the press screening. Of course, I forgot the important fact that when you know little about an episode, everything you do know seems a lot more huge than it probably is - and, of course, there's Ye Olde Friend context.
So, I was rather pleased with the way it was handled. The Doctor upset about Rose, but still being, well, the Doctor, and latching onto the next one who comes along. And only mentioning her when pushed about it - which fits with what we know about the Doctor (and makes me wonder why Rose apparently didn't push him on what happened about Jack). The only thing I felt was a little unnecessary were the flashbacks at the party, which we really didn't need to understand what was going on there - Tennant's acting got it across clearly enough.
I also felt, to borrow an idea I have pinched from someone else's review, that there was very much a feeling of coming full circle with this episode. If the end of Doomsday was the Doctor giving Rose some closure, this episode would be the show giving the Tyler era (Mickey and Jackie included - so glad to hear the Doctor talk about having Christmas dinner with them!) closure. We started with that Earth zoom, which we got for the introduction of Rose and the Tenth Doctor, and finished up with a mention of Rose in the past tense. With the Doctor asking someone to come along with him, just like he did after the Nestene. It feels sort of... fitting. And then, we start anew S3.
Another reflection was taking Donna to the start of the Earth, as opposed to Rose seeing it end, and with a line rather similar to that one from New Earth. It interests me that the New Series is starting to develop as it's own creation, with it's own building mythology and all, and it's an interesting way to take on it.
I liked also the through a dark mirror irony of Lance teaming up with the Empress to see the universe, in opposition to the Doctor and Donna - or any companion, really. How the Empress was so casual with someone who had sworn her loyalty to him, and yet the Doctor defended someone he barely knew.
Speaking of Donna, I have to say, I never quite understood the outrage over having Catherine Tate on Doctor Who. And you know what? I still don't get it. Yeah, she was a bit irritating and shouty to start with, but if you listen to the lines from the other characters, you get the impression she was supposed to be a naggy drama queen type. And so it made sense, even if we had some temporary Capslock Of Rage. But, beyond that, once we had the rooftop scene and onward, she was, well, good. Caught up in something she really didn't want to be, but still wanting to help the Doctor and defend him. Hurt by Lance's betrayal, and upset by what she had lost, but very true to herself, and to wanting to move on and make a better life of it in the end.
Also: She called the Doctor on his actions, and went around slapping him. And gave a little companion creed, about needing someone to hold the Doctor back (which again gives me good vibes for S3). All in all, Donna was awesome.
And the needing someone to hold him back stuff - so true. It's been said, numerous times, that Tennant does cold anger better than the shouty kind, so seeing the Doctor be a ruthless bastard to the Empress? Cool as fuck. It was ruthless and nasty, and reminds me all over again why I think manipulative, vaguely Ten is so easy to imagine. Especially when he went on his "greater good" tangent earlier on. The Doctor's scary not because he knows it's wrong, but because he thinks it's right.
Some faith in how Rusty will be handling Martha has been restored to me. Hooray!
That said, if I could ask him one question about Martha, it would be if he has a plot arc worked out for her - or, at very least an end in mind. Partially because the whole having a medical student as a companion for the Doctor... That just gives me vibes of being a set-up for something. Not sure what, yet, but it's an interesting thematic thing to have, and I'm curious to see what is done with it.
Other random S3 thoughts - I also find it interesting that the guy who apparently makes him self young again (played by one Mark Gattiss - no offence to him, but I hope I like his performance better than I did both his stories) is called Doctor Lazarus. Not only is it another Doctor, but Biblically, Lazarus was the name of the man who was resurrected from the dead by Jesus - and had a sister named Martha. This is also, as far as I can tell, the sixth episode and the first apart from Smith and Jones that has Martha's family in it. And the biblical stuff with the talk of miracles... I'm probably reading too much in here, but the whole resonances of family and Doctors is interesting me.
(Random note on Martha's family: according to the Jo Whiley radio thing, Leo is a younger brother of Martha's. No idea where the sister Tish fits in. Oh, and I think I heard mention that the parents aren't getting on spectacularly)
Oh, and on the "You're not replacing Rose" bit of the trailer - I can actually see this making sense, if Martha pulls a Donna, and asks the Doctor about something of Rose's that she finds lying about. Also, time will have passed since the loss (which is why I think the Doctor seems rather less pained to mention it). I like her reaction to it, mind.
Some random comments from the rest of the trailer: I love the bit when Martha says her "if I ever pass my exams." The shot just looks lovely, and the line amuses me. Also: male catpeople!
But back to the actual episode:
- The Monster was a bit eh. They should have had it moving round more.
- The joke about Donna missing both the Sycorax and the Cybermen invasion amused me, as well as indicated that the show is actually aware that people should know about these things. It might become an injoke, though. I'd love it if Martha's reaction to aliens was totally blase, mind.
- Some awesome dialogue and one liners. Ten's can't-shit-up-ness continues to amuse. (As has been commented on the OG, it's one thing that would actually make him a good companionless Doctor - and, might bode well for Big Finish in times to come)
- Doctor/TARDIS OTP. Always and forever.
- Donna and the Doctor had some wonderful sarky banter. I was much amused.
- The plot was silly, but in a silly but still mostly making sense way. Technobabble, psuedo-science and the Doctor having tricks up his sleeve.
- Speaking of, dimensionally transendental pockets, hee!
- I applaud their strength in putting in neither a black widow or Incy-Wincy Spider gag.
- I liked the TARDIS tricks. Fun. Esoecially the Doctor putting on a bit of a show for Donna. Bless him, he wants to impress her.
And finally: HE SAID GALLIFREY!
Okay, I now need some S3 trailer and Runaway Bride icons.