The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Martha to New Earth in the year Five Billion and Forty-Three, where the Face of Boe finally reveals his message to the Time Lord; meanwhile, terrifying beasts are lurking beneath the city of New New York - creatures that the Doctor believed he defeated many, many years ago. Written by
The Face of Boe's final message, finally delivered in this episode, was actually due to be given to the Doctor at the end of Doctor Who: New Earth (2006), but was removed and saved for this story instead because the death of two recurring characters in that story would have been too bleak. See more »
This third episode of Tennant's second season is a cracker. With The Doctor returning to New Earth, we find a world that is grimly disturbing. Inhabitants of the planet's dark underworld resort to emotion-altering drugs dished out from shanty-town vendors while the rest of the population are caught-up in the mother of all traffic-jams. Stuck in an agonisingly slow flow of traffic, the passengers are lucky to move 5 miles in 12 years. Unless, perhaps, they move to the Fast Lane...
With a huge scale, mind-boggling big-scale effects and the return of the Face of Boe and Novice Hame, this is a future classic. The icing on the cake is the totally unexpected appearance of an old (and I really mean old - think Troughton's era!) enemy, produced with The Mill's CGI wizardry.
The New Earth of "Gridlock" is a mix of "Blade Runner"'s rain splattered streets, Judge Dredd's overcrowded Mega-City One and Star Wars' majestic, sky-scraping Coruscant. There's even a nod to Dredd's pinstripe freak, Max Normal, in this tale. Superb stuff.
The cast are excellent as always. The series attracts the UK's best talent and in "Gridlock" we have "Father Ted"'s Ardal O'Hanlon (disguised heavily under brilliant cat make-up) and the lovely Lenora Crichlow. Crichlow was a delight in "Sugar Rush" and she's very watchable here.
This is an ambitious, CGI-reliant episode that hits the mark. Tennant is spot-on with his performance and Agyeman's beautiful Martha Jones is proving to be one of the best companions we've seen. Russell T. Davies displays his usual ability to create genuinely moving scenarios in phantasmagoric settings. Only hours after this episode has aired, I already know of one person who cried during the finale. A nice touch in this episode is The Doctor's description of Gallifrey, i.e. "the burnt orange sky" and "silver trees". This ties up with previous descriptions from earlier incarnations of the Time Lord and is a lovely example of continuity with the "classic" series. Despite a few silly touches (for example, the talking kittens), this is a well written episode that deserves to be recognised as an above-average tale.
On a side note, I think I deserve a prize for guessing what the Face of Boe's last words would be. I bet a few thousand fans will have been in the same position, though. Showing a lot of future thinking, the arcs in "Doctor Who" are elaborate and span seasons rather than mere episodes! Next episode - the dreaded Daleks are back! This is proving to be a very memorable season and one that is not short of treats.
9 out of 10.
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