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"Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii (#4.2)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Doctor Who" The Fires of Pompeii (2008)

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30 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

A cinematic "Who" experience

Author: DVD_Connoisseur from England
12 April 2008

Following the trend of the "new" series, the second episode of the season takes a trip into history. In "The Fires of Pompeii", The Doctor and Donna explore ancient Rome.

This is big-scale "Doctor Who" with the production moved to Italy for realistic studio work. Accompanied by sumptuous CGI, this is a vision for sore eyes.

The script is sharp and Catherine Tate continues to prove a major strength. Never have I been so wrong about a companion...I hang my head in shame. Not only does Tate deliver lines brilliantly, her ability to carry the drama of this episode tugged at my heart strings.

10 out of 10. I laughed, I cried...I simply cannot wait for next week's Ood-tastic tale.

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29 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

James Moran makes his mark with a great Doctor Who story

Author: ametaphysicalshark from prejudicemadeplausible.wordpress.com
12 April 2008

After seeing "The Fires of Pompeii" I am confident that James Moran is here to stay and to become an excellent Doctor Who writer in the future. Moran's previous work is the screenplay for the horror/comedy "Severance" and for an episode of Doctor Who spin off "Torchwood". His script for "The Fires of Pompeii" shows real gratitude to and respect for the legacy of Doctor Who, as Moran does not attempt to introduce more spaceships to London's skies, but rather writes a surprisingly effective and very exciting story in the vein of classic Doctor Who stories from the 70's and 80's.

I love anything that addresses the TARDIS translating languages because that's one I always get asked when people attempt to ridicule Doctor Who. Anyway, this story's guest actors all do a terrific job and the script itself is really a fantastic piece of writing, combining classic Doctor Who elements with wonderful bits of humor and some of the best drama in this incarnation of Doctor Who outside of Steven Moffat's episode, as well as rousing adventure and action scenes. I'm loving Catherine Tate as Donna too, she makes an excellent companion.

By writing a smart, balanced script with a tinge of classic Who added in for good measure, James Moran has crafted one of the best debuts for a writer in Doctor Who's history. I look forward to more from him. Great stuff, and boy did it look good as well.

9/10

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

This is an episode that's everything an episode of Doctor who should be

8/10
Author: cameron-burn from United Kingdom
22 May 2008

A great one-off. This episode is great fun to watch. Not only is there a "baffling" mystery to be solved, but there's amazing tension because a huge argument is brewing between the doctor and Donna about whether they should leave Pompeii or not. Each of them is convinced they're doing the right thing.

That alone would make this a stand-out episode, but there are also some of the best special effects yet seen on the show.

Aswella as a few more tantalising hints about what might be coming later in the series.....

overall Grade A for this episode.

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15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

MUCH better than cutesy fat marshmallow men

8/10
Author: movieman_kev from United States
11 May 2008

Donna and the Doctor wanting to visit ancient Rome, instead wind up in Pompeii on the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This causes a wee bit of a clash between the two as to who can and can not be saved. This is a much better episode then the silly premiere or the Christmas episode simply because this time the tale is given the backbone of something interesting, a nice moral dilemma and shows the truly tragic weight that lays on the Doctor's shoulders all the time. Donna is actually quite likable in this episode, not as annoying as when she first appeared (although she does have a few moments) All in all a fairly good episode.

My Grade: B

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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

"Vene vide vici," "Me, no speak Celtic!"

10/10
Author: farleyflavors10 from United States
29 May 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of my personal joys of Doctor Who is how versatile the show is, owing heavily to the way it bends genres and is able to switch from being humorous to dead serious without breaking a sweat and the new series accomplishes this feat like Joss Whedon on a really good day. That's why I didn't mind that the Series Four premiere "Partners In Crime" was a lightweight (no pun intended), fun spirited story. I also didn't mind the whimsical nature of that episode because it was pretty much a dead giveaway that story about Pompeii was not going to be all wine and roses, and especially with a show like Doctor Who in mind with only 13 to 14 episodes per series it's important that the array of stories within are a mixed bag and with a companion like Donna it was almost essential that her return story be more whimsical so that way her (official) maiden voyage could be more sobering, and that's one of the big reasons why "The Fires of Pompeii" is such an important and effective episode.

What's important is that it serves to show Donna that Travelling with The Doctor may wield amazing vistas and singular cultures but it also carries heavy decisions. It essentially rocks Donna's preconceptions about what life with The Doctor will be like and that her previous encounters with him have barely prepared her for what is to come and by the end of this story she finally begins to comprehend the essence of that bigger picture that The Doctor always encouraged her to see. So when she decides to help The Doctor throw the big switch to set off Vesuvius, it's a big step for her growth as a companion and the fact the she is able to take such a big leap when she starts off says a lot about where she is going as a companion.

Moran's writing abilities display remarkable flexibility, with "Pompeii" he deceives us into thinking in the beginning that it's going to be one of those "race against time" scenarios with a moralistic twist and pretty much up until they see that marble circuit that's what you think it's going to be. The marble circuit was a stellar device for the story cause it was the first real hook to keep The Doctor from just running off, and we know The Doctor. If it attracts his attention then it's evident that something is off.

Another element which really aids the audience to attach themselves emotionally to the inevitable disaster is that of the Caecillius family. You meet them in the first few minutes and from the get go you basically see a family who are disjointed and separate. The father and mother are focused on status, the son is apathetic and unaffected and the daughter is suffering from an influence beyond her parents comprehension. I think what is a remarkably nimble feat in Moran's writing is how he can show this family from the start and make them invariably appealing and likable in lieu of their flaws. Ironically I was sold on them pretty from from the father's first line "MODERN ART!" cause I actually agree with him, and because I agreed with him I was able to be interested in him and the characters close to him, and it does actually give Donna's argument more weight that there are good, innocent people who die in Pompeii and who don't deserve the fate that may befall them, and as their story with The Doctor progresses you see them gradually work past their detachment. The son becomes more driven to do good, the daughter becomes an independent thinker. The mother and father become more attentive to their children and less towards their status (which is all the more reason of how important the epilogue was and it's a travesty that the sci-fi channel cut it off).

I've heard people say that they shouldn't have been saved but that basically would have ruined Donna's contribution to the story. After saving the Caecillius family, The Doctor realizes that there are times that even he doesn't know best and that he needs someone with him to see the things he doesn't, because we keep forgetting is that in spite of the fact The Doctor may frequent Earth and is abreast of all it's customs and cultures he is still, ipso facto, an alien and he knows that the thing which pushes him to do right is that human element, and that has been the definitive traits from all of The Doctor's Earthling companions spanning all the way back to day one. That's why the family's salvation at Donna's insistence is so essential to both the story and the Doctor's constant evolution, and let's not forget he acknowledges that Donna was right to force him.

The whole concept of the Soothsayers has been done before but I noticed some subtleties in this story which elevate these characters in the story and much of it has to do with the fact that their power sparks The Doctor's curiosity owing to a sort of otherworldly accuracy which serves as the first few breadcrumbs on the trail. The soothsayers, if anything serve more as a means to carry the story along, which they do quite effectively and the scene where The Doctor rescues Donna and interrogates the High Preistess makes for an excellent transition to the final revelation of the Pyrovile's plans.

In conclusion, series four is kicking off with a sort of unpredictable variety which makes one truly curious as to where this series is taking us this year. but for now I say applause to James Moran, Colin Teague, Tennant and Tate, and all of the visiting supporting actors this was truly a milestone of Who-History

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16 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Good Story That Should Have Been A Classic

7/10
Author: Theo Robertson from Isle Of Bute, Scotland
22 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After the atrocity I witnessed the previous week I was expecting The Fires Of Ponpeii to be a massive improvement . Let's be honest here , Partners In Crime is arguably one of the worst pieces of DOCTOR WHO , classic or NuWho to be transmitted so this story didn't have much to live up to . After initially seeing and enjoying the episode I soon found myself being disappointed the more I thought about it

It's difficult to know who to blame - the writer James Moran or the production team . Moran's script does contain one or two small flaws such as the highly anachronistic mannerisms of street traders in Pompeii . Worse there's a teenage boy who almost blurts out " Hey Mom can I borrow dad's car for the weekend " which is not something you'd expect to hear in ancient Pompeii . The major problem involved in the writing occurs when The Doctor and Donna have to escape the destruction of Pompeii leaving a family to burn to death . Donna pleads with The Doctor to save them . Not only does this moral dilemma have a wimp out ending but it also contradicts previous stories like EarthShock and Father's Day . So now The Doctor can save anyone in the past if his companion weeps and grinds her teeth enough ?

A pity because this episode contains superb production values in sets that were actually filmed in Rome ! Moran also knows what makes DOCTOR WHO works on a fear level so involves scary monsters and body horror and the inclusion of The Sisterhood brings back memories of The Brain Of Morbuis . It's just a pity there wasn't enough emphasis on The Doctor not being able to interfere with history because if the family had been left to burn we'd have seen one of the most heart rending and poignant dramas broadcast under the DOCTOR WHO banner

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Hot stuff, Fires of Pompeii is visually stunning, and Catherine Tate is sizzling!!

9/10
Author: Paul Evans from Swansea, United Kingdom
21 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Doctor and Donna travel to Ancient Rome, Pompeii, and arrive on Volcano day. Mount Vesuveus is due to erupt, but there are even more problems, the Oracle and soothsayers are seeing more then they should, knowing exactly who both the Doctor and Donna are, and where they've come from. Donna lands in trouble for false prophecy and ends up at the mercy of the Sisterhood, and there are huge fiery monsters in the Mountains.

Donna continues to be tremendous, and raises questions that have yet to be asked. The energy Catherine Tate puts in is excellent, she has been a joy to watch. Donna's character is a revelation, her despair at not being able to help at the end was immensely moving, one of the best companion performances to date.

Italy proves to be a glorious setting, the episode looks wonderful, it feels epic. The sets are stunning and look so right. The effects also are mesmerising.

The Sibylline Sisterhood look wonderfully effective, reminiscent of the Sisterhood of Karn. The design on their hands works so well.

Seeing Peter Capaldi is truly surreal, I wonder if there'll ever be a link to the Doctor, he's such a good actor.

This is a wonderful episode, so much going on, but it's coherent and bursting with energy, it gives some wonderful hints to the remainder of the glorious Series 4. Catherine Tate steals the show, I cannot applaud her highly enough.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Volcanic Dilemma

10/10
Author: hellraiser7 from United States
17 March 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Warning do not read unless seen episode.

This is another favorite Doctor Who episode of mine as it's not just another adventure but an engaging drama.

Though watching this episode is equally interesting and ironic as Karan Gillian whom we know as Amy Pond plays the Soothsayer. But Peter Capadi whom we now know as the twelfth doctor plays the father. So you can say this episode the tenth Doctor gets to meet both Amy Pond and the twelfth Doctor in this episode.

One of the things that really make the episode stand out is the family of Pompeli that it focuses on as well as both the Doctor and Donnas back and forth with them. You really like and know them. It's interesting seeing what the family dynamic was at that period of time just showing how it's not any different from our own. As the father (whom is my favorite character in the episode, let alone the fact Peter Capadi plays him) is worried about status because having high status would me bigger and better things not just for his career but the well being of his own family. It's much like with ourselves, whom desire a promotion of some sort so our families can have more. This little piece of relatability makes us all the more feel pathos for them, for what's about to come.

The theme of the episode is about heroism, from it's hard choices, prime directives but also limitations. As well as justifies the importance of the companions of the Doctor.

We then see both the Doctor and Donna have to deal with some sort of volcanic alien monster that is set to destroy all mankind. But they are armed and ready as there is a device that can destroy the monster. Unfortunately there is one terrible catch, despite destroying the monster it will also cause the famous volcanic cataclysm that destroyed Pompeli. That's pretty heavy, both the Doctor and Donna both face the Ulitarianism philosophical dilemma which was always about one or few live to save billions.

And of course you can see what comes next, it was heart sinking as we see Donna try to at least get most of the people to listen to her to go to the hills for safety. But their futile gestures as her cries are not heard and she sees most people perish. At that moment she learns the hard way about the limitations of heroism. Heroism is about saving lives but not everyones because logically it's impossible.

It then gets to another emotional tugging moment as we see the Doctor and Donna get to the Tardis but they don't take the family with them despite their pleas for help. Donna of course is yelling at the Doctor to go back and open the doors of the Tardis, but the Doctor says no because of the threat of breaking the rule on not changing the past. But when he says no you can easily see in his eyes it's killing his soul.

Donna then makes a plea which is just to save someone and not the whole town. Personally I think that is a genuine plea, saving the family isn't against the rules of time travel. Not saving them would be dishonorable a violation of Prime Directives 1 and 2 serve the public trust and protect the innocent. But seeing that moment of the plea really justified the importance of the Doctor having companions because they really do help the Doctor make the right choices, steer him away from making a terrible mistake, but most importantly help him continue being a hero.

We then see a nice moment when in the end the Doctor does what he should do, in fact what every good human being should always do.

Rating: 4 stars

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Up Pompeii!

9/10
Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
27 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite concerns over the earlier time-slot ( 6.20 P.M. ), 'Partners In Crime' drew an impressive overnight rating of 8.4 million viewers. 'The Fires Of Pompeii' is an altogether different affair. Here we have the show in serious mode again. The Doctor and Donna have gone back to A.D. 79, just before the eruption of Mount Etna. She sees a sign in English - he explains the Tardis enables her to mentally translate Latin. But when she speaks the language, the locals think she is using Gaelic! A stall holder sells the Tardis to the family of Caecillus ( Peter Capaldi ). As soon as they realise where and when they are, our heroes want nothing more than to get the hell out of there. Predictably, they get caught up in events beyond their control. Caecillus knows who the Doctor is ( the alias 'Spartacus' doesn't fool him! ). A time rift has opened up, giving the Romans psychic powers. A Sisterhood of witches is led by a High Priestess ( Victoria Wicks of 'Drop The Dead Donkey' ) who has mutated into a Pyroville - grotesque heat monsters not unlike the 'Fossil Men' from 'Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea' - inside the volcano. Lucius ( Phil Davis, excellent as 'Wilfred Brambell' in B.B.C.-4's 'The Curse Of Steptoe' ) has built an energy converter. To get his people off the planet he has to kill everyone on it. The Doctor is faced with a moral dilemma - to destroy the creatures he must cause the demise of Pompeii. He does so, but Donna pleads with him to save Caecillus' family...

Like 'The Time Warrior' from 1974 and 1982's 'The Visitation', this tells a science fiction story against a colourful background of history. Good script by James Moran, though it could have done without anachronisms such as "Lovely Jubbly!" and the Doctor's use of a water pistol to kill the Pyroviles. Loved the reference to 1964's 'The Romans' though! Capaldi ( himself a long-term 'Who' fan ) and Davis are good. Tate proves here that there is more to 'Donna' than simply shouting. She rivals Tennant in the acting stakes. "She is Coming!" - yes another hint about the impending return of 'Rose'. Much of this was filmed in the Cinecitta studios in Rome, marking the first location filming for 'Who' ( not counting the 1996 T.V. movie ) since 1985's 'The Two Doctors'. The eruption of the volcano would not have disgraced an Emmerich/Devlin picture. The touching ending did not seem forced either. Very good episode overall.

Things To Look Out For - Karen Gillan, future companion, playing a 'Soothsayer'.

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8 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

I've seen better

6/10
Author: DoctorWhoFanatic from United States
22 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Weird in the beginning, depressing at the end. The cult was weird, and while I don't know much about history, it just didn't seem to fit in. The battle of the seers between Evelina and Lucius reveled more information about the Doctor than any character on Doctor Who has a right to know upon their first meeting with the Doctor. Also, the family seemed too modern-day, especially at the end when Evelina says, "Don't start dad, its what all the girls in Rome are wearing. See you later." And the "household gods" thing when the Doctor and Donna become the new household gods, thats just overdoing it.

But now for the good. I like Donna in this, she's really caring and wants to save everybody, but she can't. And she gives the Doctor a very important lesson: While he might not be able to save everybody due to a fixed history, that doesn't mean he can't save somebody. This really lightens up the gloomy ending and proves to the Doctor that he really does need someone, going against what he said in the Christmas episode of season 3 in which we first meet Donna.

And finally, a really theory-sparking message by Lucius: "Doctor, she is returning." OOO! Could this mean Rose, or perhaps... *drum roll please* ... The Doctor's Daughter?! *pokes the upcoming episode 6* Either way, OOO!

So, overall, four points for Donna, one point for "she is returning," and one point for just being Doctor Who, making a grand total of 6/10.

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