Gridlock and Daleks in Manhattan
I mostly remember series three as sub-par. I didn't love Martha (hertofore called Marfa), and I wasn't a fan of the tone of the season. But we watched all of it before introducing it to D, and we've been re-watching it in a piecemeal sort of way to catch him up with where we are now. Tonight, we watched eps three and four.
Gridlock was one of the better episodes of the season, and I did remember liking it, but I didn't remember a whole lot about the events in it. The Doctor and Marfa land on New Earth and quickly get separated, Marfa taken into the depths of permanent traffic jams and the Doctor to a Senate where only Novice Haim and The Face of Boe are still alive, and it's up to the Doctor to put everything right, as usual. The plot is fun, but it's the characters that make this episode-- Brannigan the Cat and his lovely human wife and their litter of hybrid kittens who have never seen the ground; The Sisters, who are actually a married lesbian couple who have been on the road for twenty three years; all the random characters the Doctor drops down on as he hops from car to car, looking for Marfa before Haim kidnaps him. It's fun and it's straight forward, and it's good Who. Not the best, not like Blink, but good, and definitely a high point of the season. But even this is haunted by the fact that the Doctor's heart is broken and he's in willing denial, trying to start over with Marfa without really letting her know anything at all about why he won't talk about things and where he's from and what he's running from. We get some stories of Gallifrey in the end, and it sounds lovely, and we get the all important "you are not alone" that will define the end of the season, but that's not the point of this ep. The point is the Doctor being the Doctor and saving people.
Daleks in Manhattan is another issue all together. It's just not good. I'll admit that on my second watch through, it's not as bad as I remembered, but I know how bad it's going to get, and I think it's because now I know how it all goes, I can be more forgiving. There isn't the shock of it's badness smacking me in the face like before. But it's still bad. Why are there pig slaves? Why pigs? And there's no wait on the big bad's reveal. I mean, we know it's Daleks, but they're right there, plain as day, in the first fifteen minutes and that leaves nothing to the imagination and flattens any excitement the reveal might have had. The Doctor plays with a squishy jellyfish that has no purpose by to tell him where it's from, there's Tallulah who could stand to be less annoying, though I do like her love-conquers-all approach to the fact that her boyfriend's a pig now, and then-- then there's that whole crap with the Worst Villain Evar. D's reaction when he was revealed: 'seriously??', and mine back 'yeah. see?', and then he understood why we didn't want to rewatch this one. The season would be better if these two eps were just removed-- or, better yet, if they were replaced with something better. When I first watched this season as it aired, this was almost enough to make me walk away entirely, and only my love of a certain lead male kept me watching, hoping it would improve, and this two-part set is a large part of why I didn't like this season. One and two were so good, so rich, everything worked and even the dumb eps were passable, but three... three feels like it's limping, damaged, things are missing. If that's what they were aiming for, they hit it dead on. But mostly I think it was missing the joy; a heatbroken Doctor screams too much and has that horrible about-to-cry face that I can hardly stand to look at. And the lack in this season allows this ep to just fall flat.