2nd Opinion, Take 1 “Wild Blue Yonder” – Wonderful
Gustaff Behr reviews the second 60th anniversary special.
Now, this is what I’m talking about. This special captures the essence of what Doctor Who fans have been waiting for. Russell T Davies’ return marks a significant moment, making it the first time in over seven years that I have finished watching an episode of Doctor Who, only to immediately rewatch it. Thank you, Mr. Davies for a wonderful second installment. Still not sure where the ‘celebration of sixty years of Who’ is, but I will take what I can get.
And what we get is confirmation that the cheque from Disney did in fact clear. I mean how could it not? Did you see that spaceship? Utterly gorgeous, inside and out. The CGI is top-notch, creating a cinematic feel. While not flawless, with noticeable gaps in effects, the overall presentation is impressive. The corridor scenes stand out as a testament to the advancements since “Gridlock” in 2007.
The synergy between practical and CGI elements, particularly with the Not-Things, adds to the episode’s appeal. I confess at first I thought David’s enormous hands were the product of cutting-edge CGI and was pleasantly surprised to learn from the behind-the-scenes show that they were prosthetic. The episode employs other minute, but clever details to trick our brains, such as giving the Not-Doctor slightly shorter sleeves to pay off the Doctor’s comment about the creatures having the wrong proportions.
Some viewers online have labeled the Not-Things as a rehash of the Midnight Entity. While there are shared characteristics, the aliens are distinct enough, and their utilization justifies the similarities. Writers are entitled to revisit their own concepts. River Song and Tasha Lem are essentially the same person. Likewise, the Weeping Angels are creatures you should never look away from, just like you should never break eye contact with a Silent. Same thematic gimmick, different narrative casing.
A noteworthy aspect is Russell T Davies’ skill in repeatedly tricking the audience about which Doctor and Donna are in a given scene, adding a layer of suspense. I was confused when the camera panned onto Fourteen still fidgeting with the water controls when he just started talking to Donna. Then I became completely uncertain whether the utterly emotional moment between the Doctor and Donna was in fact just a cruel attempt at psychologically torturing him further. And finally, on the third attempt, I thought I knew which Doctor was the No-Thing, but got it wrong. This clever maneuvering helps maintain the episode’s intrigue.
The concept of a slow countdown is truly brilliant and unconventional. Davies masterfully paces the story, introducing mysteries that linger and allowing the audience to grapple with questions like the slow movement of Jimbo the robot, the reconfiguring rooms, and the mysterious words in the air. The payoff to these questions, expertly and organically revealed as Fourteen and the Not-Doctor work out the answer at the same time, ramps up the tension.
Similar to how “Midnight” exploited the Doctor’s verbal prowess against him, “Wild Blue Yonder” cleverly takes advantage of his curious nature. It strategically acknowledges that the Doctor can’t refrain from thinking when his brain kicks into high gear.
While the final chase introduces some shaky CGI, the twist of the Doctor choosing the wrong Donna subverts expectations. The fact that Not-Donna was also the one I selected at home adds a layer of personal engagement, making it a thrilling experience. The concluding scene, with both Fourteen and Donna holding each other in fear, powerfully underscores the gravity of the peril they narrowly escaped. It’s a grim and haunting visual, superbly portrayed by David and Catherine.
If I had to nitpick this episode, I’d point out that the Isaac Newton scene at the beginning felt incredibly pointless. I take issue with the unnecessary retcon of Fourteen helping Isaac Newton learn about the concept of gravity mavity, and not the Fourth Doctor. It also serves as a massive missed opportunity to not have some stand-in for Tom Baker’s Doctor sitting in that tree trying to drop apples onto the man’s head (as he claimed in The Pirate Planet). Like I said last week, these specials are mainly a celebration of Series 4.
Oh, but we got to see Wilf back, so that’s a plus. We also have our setup for next week’s “The Giggle”, which will sadly mark the end of David Tennant’s second tenure as the Doctor. I really don’t wanna see him go.