The Case For… The Doctor’s Daughter
Guest contributor Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull makes the case for the Series 4 episode.
The idea of the Doctor’s family has dated back until the premiere of the series in 1963. Before he met school teachers Ian and Barbara (played by the brilliant William Russell and Jacqueline Hill respectively), the First Doctor travelled with his granddaughter Susan, whose origins were never really explored. Susan is the only companion to have a direct blood link to the Time Lord. In the revived series, Amy and Rory Pond (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill) are the Doctor’s in-laws due to his marriage to River Song (played by ER actress Alex Kingston). The possibility of the Doctor being a father has been mentioned lightly in The End of Time, Fear Her and The Empty Child. Unless you count Susan, there have been no other blood-related relatives of the Doctor, so when the sixth episode of Series Four was called The Doctor’s Daughter, fans went crazy.
The character of Jenny was a clever trick to delve further into the mysterious Time Lord’s background. Russell T Davies and the episode’s writer, Stephen Greenhorn both said that Jenny was created as, in part, a way to raise the titular companion’s back-story. Of course her ‘birth’ wasn’t methodical or particularly smart but it did justice to the character. I prefer that Jenny was the by-product of the Doctor’s tissue sample. If she had been produced as a Time Lady from Gallifrey or a rogue member of the Doctor’s race then it would have possibly ruined some of the enigmatic charm the Doctor carries. She is sort of a blood relative, her creation happened because of a tissue sample taken from the Doctor so yes, she carries some of the Doctor’s genes.
Many fans and critics look down on the episode because of the admittedly rushed first five minutes. If you look past the slightly implausible ‘birth’ then you’ve got a solid episode, an underrated classic in my view.
In the final scenes of the previous Sontaran two-parter, The Poison Sky, the Doctor, Donna and Martha are whisked off by the TARDIS to an unknown location. I first noted that this trick has been often used in the classic series (The Web Planet, Death to the Daleks, each episode involves the TARDIS landing somewhere unexpectedly due to a power drain or a strange force). The episode is very much an echo to the Tom Baker era, featuring crudely designed monsters, dark corridors, and warring factions, everything that made Baker’s episodes so good.
The TARDIS lands on the barren planet of Messaline where they are instantly confronted by a bunch of pubertal soldiers (if you watch carefully all the soldiers at Jenny’s creation are young men). A tissue sample of the Doctor is taken by gunpoint, a machine whirrs and out pops Jenny (short for “Generated Anomaly”).
Georgia Moffett’s portrayal of Jenny is well acted, she grasps the character’s military background well but then cleverly softens into a pacifistic individual. The Doctor teaches her throughout the episode that there is always a choice in a warred circumstance, a trait he implores in himself. Stephen Greenhorn clearly has a firm view of the way people in a tense militaristic situation speak as his script is superb, a clear step up from The Lazarus Experiment.
Freema Agyeman plays Martha rather plainly in this episode, a different side from the curious and novice character of Series Three. Catherine Tate begins to mould the character of Donna into a mature and independent woman whilst David Tennant gives his best as usual as the Doctor, although he shouts a bit too much. From what I can tell from reviews, one of the downfalls that critics feel of the episode is that the logic is riddled with plot-holes. I completely disagree. Yes, Jenny’s creation was unconventional but the idea that the war had degraded into myth through seven days is brilliant. If you think about it, it really works. Donna’s interpretation of the date is believable and foreshadows the ‘Doctor/Donna’ in the series finale. Unfortunately Martha gets left out for most of the episode, being stuck with the bizarre Hath within the space of ten minutes. Her rapport with the fish-like aliens is credible due to her previous travels with the Time Lord. Sadly the Doctor only seems to care about her once before forgetting about her and carrying on with the episode. Catherine Tate brings a light level of humour with her “womanly wiles” scene that had me laughing out loud. Murray Gold’s thundering soundtrack goes along nicely with many scenes… almost everything about the episode worked.
Whenever the Doctor offers someone a place as companion on his time machine, that person always dies before its too late. Some chief examples include Lynda Moss, Astrid Peth, and Madame de Pompadour, all of whom died before the end of the episode they starred in. Fans of Jenny bit their lips tightly when she was asked to join the TARDIS crew and she alas, joined Lynda, Astrid and Jeanne. Her death scene was dramatic and Tennant’s acting when nursing his fatally wounded onscreen daughter is superlative. You could instantly tell that this would have a lasting effect on him. The Doctor never really shows this effect but it is always there, the audience can always tell.
Stephen Greenhorn’s idea of ‘the Source’ being a terraforming device is clever and the planet is occupied quickly as humans and Hath live together. Yes, I haven’t covered the Hath but personally they weren’t that bad, I saw little fault in them except their slightly crude appearance.
All in all, The Doctor’s Daughter is an underrated, little known classic that apart from the odd implausibility is very enjoyable. The characters are convincing and for the most part well acted. The premise is one of the best ideas of the revived series and it was conducted perfectly with a great direction from Alice Troughton. Doctor Who always has minor plot flaws and The Doctor’s Daughter suffers from them but they are so minute that you look past them completely.
So with that, I leave you with this quote:
Jenny: So, you don’t have a name either? Are you an anomaly too?
The Doctor: No.
Donna Noble: Oh come off it, you’re the most anomalous bloke I’ve ever met.
So, did you look down at this episode upon first viewing, or are you a fan of it? Please leave your opinions on the episode and the article in the comments.