WILD BLUE YONDER

Wow. We were not expecting that.

And you know what? We absolutely bloody loved it.

We think probably everyone who watches Doctor Who wants something different from it. Some people like the monsters. Some people like the SF factor. Some people like the companions or the cast of the week. Some people ship the Doctor.

Nothing wrong with any of that. Weíre all different. And in sixty years, thereís something to make pretty much everyone happy. Us? Our ideal episode is a Doctor and companion two-hander that shows off both the Doctorís character and their relationship with the companion, while seriously weird and creepy science fictiony stuff is going on in the background.

Thatís why Wild Blue Yonder is one of our favourite Doctor Who episodes ever. And in the Whoniverse, ever is a long time. This is absolutely stellar.

It doesnít start that way, though. The Isaac Newton scene is what weíd call classic RTD: heavy-handed comedy which (sorry) deftly dodges any pixel of actual amusingness. Our hearts were sinking faster than a lead-lined apple. This again?

But in a way, itís almost an advantage the scene is in there, because it further underlines how much better the rest of Wild Blue Yonder is than business as usual RTD. Not that it needs that.

The question mark spaceship at the edge of creation (creation? Not very sciency, is it?) is really striking. Some bits of it look better than others (letís quickly hurry past the green screen work), but overall, what we like the most is that it doesnít give anything away by following the usual trope of gloom and dereliction you get with scary spaceships. Apart from a bit of rust here and there, like on the ancient robot, it messes with us by being confusingly shiny. Nice.

The whole scenario is genuinely intriguing: the ship is baffling and the location at the edge of everything is awe-inspiring. Mixed with that is the Doctor and Donna doing some absolutely primo riffing. Without doubt, this is David Tennantís best Who performance by six galaxies and a wormhole. We donít think he could have been this amazing fifteen years ago, although we might be maligning him. Maybe it was just that the writing never gave him the opportunity. And Catherine Tate turns in a creditable performance too: itís particularly nice that she gets out of the outraged shouty mode Donna gets stuck in far too often. We were as gripped by their conversation as we were by the mysterioso ship.

Then something weird happens: thereís a very fast cut from the Doctor in one room to the Doctor in the room weíd seen him in before. At first we thought it was a bad edit, but it was rapidly clear that something very weird was happening to one each of the Doctors and Donnas.

Here, both Tennantís and Tateís performances kick up a gear, and we love the way it plays strictly fair with the audience. At first the difference between them is subtle, but itís there if you pay enough attention. Then we find out whatís going on and the performances go into overdrive.

The scariest Doctor Who monsters to us are the Autons. Itís that uncanny valley thing where theyíre almost human, but horribly wrong. And Wild Blue Yonder uses that here to enormous effect. Even though they occasionally take it down a notch with a little bit of comedy (not to scare the kiddos too much, we assume), the body horror is genuinely terrifying. Itís real behind the sofa stuff. And weíre wildly in love with both the alt Doctor and the alt Donnaís being different enough to be clearly something else altogether, but still with a mesmerising resemblance to the originals.

The rest of the plot, powerful alien something or others bent on spreading dark evil throughout the universe and look out heís got a bomb, is routine (although the slomo countdown is a nice touch), but it absolutely doesnít matter. What matters is the incredible atmosphere. The corridor-running isnít filler, itís genuinely tense. There are real stakes both for the universe and for the Doctor and Donna. And Tennant and Tate sell it all with total conviction, particularly Tennant. Heís magnetic here: every word, every reaction lets us see for once the millennia-old Doctor instead of keeping it at RTDís usual much shallower level. We see expressions from him no other Doctor has ever made, and itís fascinating.

We didnít even mind them dragging the Flux into it. Even more miraculously, Murray Goldís score was fine! It was fine! It doesnít get any better than that.

At the end, we really thought RTD was going to let Donna die. Given that weíre not fans of him undoing her previous fate, we would have been up for that, especially as the imminent death part is genuinely emotional. But that's OK. With this episode we think she earned her last-minute rescue.

And at the even endier end, possibly the biggest treat of all: Bernard Cribbinsís last performance. Itís wonderful, of course, just as he has always been.

So other than the pretty horrific green screen and Newton scene, is there anything wrong with this? Well, itís still an RTD episode, so naturally itís got stuff in it that makes us grind our teeth. Needless to say, ordinary life is triumphant so Donna has to spend the requisite amount of time fretting about getting back to her faaaamily. This annoyed us when Barbara and Ian did it, and itís still just as annoying now. As weíve been forced to say so often: itís a time machine. Theyíre not waiting. (We mean yes, it turns out they actually are waiting in this case, but Donna doesnít know that mid-fret.) Also, what kind of nong would turn down jaunting around in time and space in favour of putting the bins out? They can sell us ordinary life all they want, but nope. No sale.

And one more thing. As evidenced by the Previously On speeches in Star Beast, theyíre clearly trying to pick up a new audience with this season. But we wonder what someone new to Who would have made of this episode. Itís so predicated on the Doctor and Donnaís relationship and the difference between the Doctor now and the Doctor then that we think much of it would have sailed right over a new viewerís head.

Hey, nothingís perfect. Wild Blue Yonder isnít either. But for us, itís pretty close to as good as it gets.

OUTTAKES

THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO

Thereís a tiny little moment of extreme joy when David Tennant and Catherine Tate do their Parker/Lady Penelope impressions. More Tennant and Tate than Doctor and Donna, but we were enchanted.

BUMMER

ďItís a life form with a bum.Ē If RTD can write lines like this, why is he torturing us with his other horrible comedy?

HOW VERY DARE YOU

The Doctor chokes on, we dunno, space fumes or something, but itís all a hilarious jape. If it had been real, Donna would have been left on that ship on her own, yet when it turns out to be a joke she doesnít bat an eye. The Donna Noble we know would have walloped him one.

ITíS A SMALL SMALL WORLD

Weíre starting to suspect that theyíre putting a potential Disneyland ride in every episode.

TIMESLIDES

Just to show that even after sixty years you can do something novel with the TARDIS, the Doctor scooters it along the corridor. Spiffy.