Monday, January 10, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season 4 (2008)

Starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate
Developed by Russell T. Davies

Doctor Who: The Complete Fourth SeriesAfter the incredible heights reached in Season Three, I wasn't sure what would happen with the fourth season of the BBC's "Doctor Who."  Fortunately, while not a disaster, and still featuring some great episodes, it's a definite step down from the previous year. 

After rewriting time to stop the Master from conquering the Earth, the Doctor (David Tennant) parts ways with Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman).  The Doctor finds himself then coming face to face once more with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) who had helped him stop an alien invasion on Christmas the previous year.  Donna joins the Doctor on his travels, facing crazy alien threats like alien armies, creatures made out of human body fat, killer shadows and more. 

But a new threat is rising.  Warnings come to Donna and the Doctor that a darkness is coming, that a malevolent and ancient evil will return.  What is this threat?  What does it have to do with Donna?  And what does it have to do with planets and moons that are mysteriously disappearing all over the universe?  Donna and the Doctor will find out, but both of them will have to pay a price in order to save not just Earth, but all of creation.

As I said, Season Four of "Doctor Who" doesn't quite rise to the level of Season Three.  Part of that is simply that there is nothing that comes even close to how awesome "Blink" is, and part of that has to do with Donna.  Personall, I find the character annoying.  The goal was clearly to create a sort of bickering back and forth for Donna and the Doctor, and sometimes its hilarious but most of the time it's just kind of annoying.  The Donna character comes off as whiny, which makes it difficult to care for her even though the stories that surround her are generally well-written.

One problem is with the three-part season finale, also.  This thing is huge, bringing back pretty much every ally the Doctor has made in the past four years, including Rose (Billie Piper), Mickey (Noel Clark) and Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri), Martha Jones, Martha's mother, Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton) and bringing in the casts of the show's two spinoffs, "Torchwood" and "The Sarah Jane Adventures" including Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen).  They all gather to stop Davros (Julian Bleach), creator of the Daleks, from using his "reality bomb" to destroy all of creation - not just this universe, but all parallel ones as well. 

The problem is that it's SO huge, bringing back SO many characters that it comes off like some sort of crazed fan fiction.  You can find stories like this littered about online Web sites and bulletin boards for pretty much any science fiction show you can think of.  It seems almost ludicrous at times, the ultimate kind of fan-wank that's more interested in throwing out all kinds of references and dream crossovers than in telling a good story.  Sure, it has its moments, and the ending is dramatic and sad, but overall, just too ridiculous to take seriously. 

Probably the most intriguing aspect of the season is the character River Song (Alex Kingston), introduced in a two-part episode before the finale.  Song claims to know a future version of the Doctor, with lots of intimate details of his life in the future which she refuses to reveal.  This ties into a line the Doctor had said in the previous season about living his life out of order.  The genius of River Song is in that concept - the first time the Doctor meets her is the last time she meets him, which is a fascinating concept that you can only get with time travel. 

Ultimately, Season Four is entertaining, but not as good as Season Three.  Donna Noble is fairly annoying, I kept wishing for Martha to return to the Doctor's side, and the season finale is a ridiculous bit of fan-service.  Still, it's hard not to recommend it because it is fun.  The Doctor's jovial personality is electric and impossible to deny, and the wacky situations and clever dialogue are enough to overcome the other shortcomings.

See Also
Season One
Season Two
Season Three