Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Daughter [Episode 4.6]

The Doctor’s Daughter is the 6th episode of the revival series’ fourth episode, starring David Tennant.

Previous Episode:  The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky • Next Episode: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
(I know these are not consecutive – more will be filled in as I have the opportunity.)

Story:  Following on from The Poison Sky, the Tardis takes the Doctor, Donna, and Martha to Planet Messaline, where a generational war is being fought between humans and Hath (a part fish species), who were all once part of the same colonial expedition.  Genetic material is stolen from the Doctor to create a new soldier for the human army, a “daughter” named Jenny.  Martha is captured by the Hath, while General Cobb, the human leader), imprisons the Doctor and Jenny for opposing the war effort to find  “the Source” – an mythical item said to have been involved in the creation of the world.  Jenny is imprisoned as well for coming from the Doctor’s “tainted genetic stock.  They escape and make their way to the Source, while the Doctor convinces Jenny she can be more than just a soldier, and develops a strong relationship with her.  Meanwhile, Martha and a friendly Hath travel over the inhospitable surface to reach the same location, but the Hath dies saving Martha from a bog. Everyone reunites at the Source, which turns out to be an unused device from the original colony ship that will nearly instantly terraform the planet into a habitable colony.  Donna and the Doctor figure out that the war started as a power struggle when the original colony leader died, and that the war has only been going on for a week, with each generation of cloned soldiers only knowing a fractured version of their history.  The Doctor completes the terraforming process, and stops the war.  However, the enraged General Cobb tries to shoot the Doctor and ends up killing Jenny instead.  Martha goes home while the Doctor and Donna continue to travel.  Jenny, however suddenly recovers (in a process similar to regeneration, but without the change of body) and heads off to live a life similar to her father’s.

CommentsThe Doctor’s Daughter is an episode you want to like because of the strength of its emotional journey.  The Doctor’s progression from at first rejecting Jenny, to seeing her potential, to pushing past his fears and embracing her, and finally to losing her, is engaging and captivating.  Georgia Moffett is a lot of fun and very appealing as Jenny, and she and David Tennant have good chemistry (which is all the more interesting as they later got married, making Moffatt, who is the daughter of 5th Doctor Peter Davison both the Doctor’s wife and the Doctor’s daughter).  Jenny’s surprise survival at the end of the story opens the door for a world of future story possibilities, which sadly up until now have gone unrealized (outside of fan fiction, I assume).

The main concept and twist behind what is going on in the story is well done and memorable, but a bit hard to swallow.  Seven days just seems too quick a time to believe for this whole generational war to have happened.  Somehow, even if they’d said two or three weeks, I think the effect would have been the same but the concept easier to buy.  The story contains a debunked creation myth, so I’m not sure if “seven days” is some sort of reference to that.

Beyond this, there are a lot of weak or weird ideas going on.  The Hath are described by Martha as “half man, half fish,” but clearly are barely non-human.  Basically, they look pretty much all man, with a bit of costume and some incessant “glub glub glub” noises going on.  They aren’t developed as a culture and are there just to provide an “other side” to the nearly undeveloped humans in their war.  So they aren’t a race that I’m in any hurry to see again.

Why would the colonists build their city underground if they were just going to terraform the world anyway?  Why not terraform the world first?  Surely that would be easier.  It’s hard to imagine any real reason, except that it gives the episode access to pretty simple sets.

The Doctor’s Daughter is an excellent Donna Noble story, giving further credence to her role as the Doctor’s conscience, in this case the one who recognizes his to have a relationship with Jenny.  She is also the one who figures out the meaning of the numbers (though why the colony builders felt they had to stamp the date everywhere in giant letters is beyond me), and therefore the secret of the generational war between the humans and the Hath.

Martha also features in this story, but to less good effect – probably because she spends most of her time with the Hath.  She’s all right, certainly not bad, but apparently the brief was for Martha just to have a terrible time, so that she’d happily leave again.  Really, it’s quite unnecessary – the character had already moved on, even gotten engaged.  Martha being here, especially after a good guest starring turn in the previous two parter, seems unnecessary.

There are some good lines of dialogue in the story, particularly from Donna and Jenny.

• A typical Donna line, upon being pushed around by a young soldier…

Donna:  Oy!  Oy oy all right, cool the beans, Rambo!

• The Doctor retorting to Jenny about whether she is a Time Lord or not.

Doctor:  You’re an echo, that’s all.  A Time Lord is so much more.  A sum of knowledge, a code, a shared history, a shared suffering…only it’s gone now.  All of it.  Gone forever.

• A conversation in the ongoing development of the Doctor and Jenny’s relationship, about the fact that the Doctor doesn’t have a name.

Jenny:  So, you don’t have a name either!  Are you an anomaly too?
Doctor:  No.
Donna:  Oh come off it, you’re the most anomalous bloke I’ve ever met.
Jenny:  So what do you do?
Doctor:  I travel, through time and space.
Donna:  He saves planets, rescues civilizations, defeats terrible creatures, and runs a lot.  Seriously, there’s an outrageous amount of running involved.

•The Doctor opening up to Donna about his “family history”

Doctor:  Donna I’ve been a family before you know.
Donna:  I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.  Why didn’t you tell me?  You talk all the time but you don’t say anything.
Doctor:  I Know.  When I look at her, I can see them.  The hole they left, all the pain that filled it. I just don’t know if I can face that every day.
Donna:  It won’t stay like that.  She’ll help you.  We both will.
Doctor:  When they died, that part of me died with them.  They’ll never come back.  Not now.
Donna:  I tell you something, Doctor, something I’ve never told you before.  I think you’re wrong.

• And finally, at Jenny’s abrupt departure at the end…

Jenny:  Sorry, can’t stop.  What’d you going to do?  Tell my dad?

Things to watch out for:

• The Doctor’s hand shows up for a couple of moments here, reminding us all of its presence.  It will be important as the season draws to an end.

Making sense of it all (Warning:  blatant spoilers for the rest of the series):
The idea that the Tardis brought the Doctor to Messaline in advance of the reason it was drawn there ends up foreshadowing some stuff that we learn at the end of the season about Donna.

Sadly, Martha doesn’t end up getting married to the guy she’s engaged to in this story, who represents the way that she has actually moved on from her time with the Doctor.  Instead, she ends up inexplicably marrying Mickey Smith.

Last Word:  An story that succeeds because of its core story, even though that story is framed by some less than ideal material.

Previous Episode:  The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky • Next Episode: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead
(I know these are not consecutive – more will be filled in as I have the opportunity.)

One thought on “Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Daughter [Episode 4.6]

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