Doctor Who: 42
(1 episode, s03e07, 2007)
Would you like to swing into a star?
As the TARDIS careens through time and space, the Doctor hooks Martha up with a superphone, calling it a privilege of her status as a frequent flyer. The TARDIS jolts to a stop on a crippled starship that only has forty-two minutes until it crashes into a nearby star.
The starship is automated and the entire crew is assembled with the Doctor and Martha, but the compartment where the TARDIS landed is too hot to pass through. Basically, the travelers have no choice but to help save the ship. The engines look like they were intentionally destroyed and the auxiliary engines are protected by password-locked blast doors. The sonic screwdriver is no use. Martha goes with crewman Riley Vashtee to figure out how to access the auxiliaries while the Doctor joins the rest of the team in the infirmary. The captain’s husband, Hal Korwin, is literally burning up. The Doctor sedates him and leaves Abi Lerner (the ship’s medical attendant) in charge to conduct bioscans while they get back to work on the engines.
Martha and Riley are moving quickly through their tasks (with a little help on happy primes from the Doctor) as the crew works out their plan. Martha calls home with her next question (“classical” music regarding The Beatles and Elvis Presley) but her mother is unimpressed with her urgent attitude. Meanwhile, Korwin wakes up and attacks Abi with sun-hot eyes while telling her to “burn with me.” All the Doctor’s group find is a vaporized shadow on the bulkhead. The test results puzzle the Doctor and Captain Kath McDonnell tells everyone to watch out for Korwin.
Unfortunately, the warning comes too late for crewman Erina Lessak.
As the Doctor and McDonnell discuss Korwin’s condition, Korwin finds Dev Ashton and infects him with whatever this condition is. Ashton then pursues Martha and Riley, cornering them in an airlock. Ashton attempts to jettison them, but the Doctor is able to stall him.
Meanwhile, Korwin finds McDonnell and tells her that it’s her fault. Scannell freezes Korwin, momentarily stopping Ashton, but the Doctor is too late to prevent Martha and Riley from being ejected toward the sun. The Doctor calls Scannell and demands a spacesuit, leaving McDonnell alone with the engines and her dead husband.
Martha implores Riley to have faith in the Doctor as they plummet toward the sun. Riley’s family is all but gone, and Martha takes a moment to call home and say goodbye. Her mother probes about the Doctor (while an agent of Harold Saxon monitors the call) as Martha asks about trivial life matters. Tearfully, Martha disconnects.
As the Doctor suits up, McDonnell traps and kills Ashton. The Doctor goes outside and magnetizes the hull, pulling the escape pod back to the ship. While he’s out there, he finally sees what’s threatening them: The sun is alive. When he comes back inside, he’s infected with the same affliction and understands what has happened. The crew bled the star dry for fuel and now it wants revenge. The Doctor demands to be placed in the same stasis chamber that killed Ashton in order to freeze the star out of him.
At the same time, Korwin comes back to life and interferes with the freezing process. While McDonnell goes to deal with Korwin, the Doctor orders Martha to dump the fuel pods. McDonnell lures Korwin to the airlock and blows them both out into the star.
Riley and Scannell finally reach the auxiliaries just as Martha orders them to dump the fuel. As the particles return to the star, they crewmen restore the engines and the Doctor is freed of the star-being’s influence. The ship is safe.
Riley and Scannell are left alone on the ship as the Doctor and Martha say their farewells. Martha shares a kiss with Riley as she closes the door, then sharing a moment with the Doctor as he gives her a key to the TARDIS. She calls home and her mother asks her to come by for dinner or tea. Martha asks what day it is, and Francine replies that it’s Election Day. After they disconnect, Francine hands her phone to Saxon’s agents.
Dark times lay ahead.
The pace and pressure were frantic throughout this episode as everyone just tried to stay alive. The Doctor’s mood swings during his possession by the star are a tribute to David Tennant’s acting skills. Malevolent and creepy one second, then frightened and apologetic the next. Simply beautiful.
The creeping menace of Saxon’s influence over Francine is also a nice touch, showing us a reverse on the Rose/Jackie relationship. While both mothers are concerned for their daughters, Jackie trusted the Doctor to a degree.
Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.