“Gridlock” – Review: Redux

Face of Boe “But know this, Time Lord, you are not alone.”

Gridlock

If the FA Cup Final of 2007 (between Man United and Watford) had gone to extra time or even penalties, then the third episode of Doctor Who, “Gridlock” would be delayed by a week.  What outrage there would have been.  The season was already a week later than planned after being delayed by the England v Israel Euro qualifier… a viewing experience I’d dearly love to forget, anyway.  Thankfully, for all (except the Watford faithful, I guess) the semi-final was a one sided affair and by the time the Reds fourth goal went in, the sound of DVD recorders being set up could be heard throughout the land and we got to enjoy the third part of the loosely defined “Year 5 Billion Trilogy”, which had begun way back in “The End of the World”, continued with “New Earth” and finished here with “Gridlock”. All three of the episodes had been under the penmanship of Russell T Davies.  When Rose and the Doctor had visited before they only gazed upon the city of New New York from across the water in an area suspiciously similar to the Gower peninsula. 

In the opening sequence, we see a scene with a couple in the car on the motorway, although quite why they look so much like the pair in Grant Holt’s American Gothic painting, is beyond me. Regardless, they meet their maker pretty sharpish and this serves to inform the viewer that all is not well on the motorway. After the titles we catch up with the Doctor, possibly unwisely, taking Martha back to one of the old haunts he used to frequent (with his former squeeze, and in to the city itself.  Landing in the rather grimy “under city” it is not long before the duo are approached by drug peddlers and then separated when Martha gets kidnapped and taken to the motorway… not the start the Doc was hoping for and the pain this causes is clear on his face as he futilely calls after the car that has whisked her away.  So, the premise is set up, the Doctor must go to the motorway and rescue Martha.

Things are never that easy and, as the next sequence of events unfold, we discover some of the truths and some of the mysteries of the super highway.  It was at this point that I felt, in both a literal and a story sense, that things were not moving forward very much.  However, it soon picked up.  The Doctor launched himself down from car to car to the bottom of the lane where he looked down to see a very old foe of his waiting below, while Martha and her kidnappers were getting into strife with the very same foe.  I am not old enough to recall the first appearance of the Macra, so their surprising revelation here was no more than a nice nod to the older fans (but a welcome one nonetheless) and they filled the role of dangerous foe very adequately.

Elsewhere in the city above, the Face of Boe and Novice Hame were tracking down the Doctor and when the nun with a gun finally caught up with him, the Doctor himself was taken against his wishes.  The resolution of the storyline was soon to follow as the three of them (Time Lord, Cat Nun and big face in a jar) worked out how to save the motorists and resurrect New New York.  One of the major feats of this series, and good sci-fi in general, is to have so much humanity on display in a situation that, on the surface, is so absurd but, as the motorway’s roof was opened up, and Boe revealed his secret and then died and as Martha and the Doctor sat down for a heart-to-heart, I’m sure that there were tears aplenty from the 8 million viewers.

David Tennant’s performance is moving from strength to strength as some of his more extreme attributes have been toned down and a little more depth has been allowed to flourish.  The look in his eyes as he told Martha about Gallifrey was incredibly moving.  Freema herself continues to impress with a scene stealing capabilty and a subtleness of characterisation that has left me not missing Billie Piper at all.  A little Time Lord mythology and the revelation from the Face of Boe to the Doctor that “You are not alone” all added to the mix in what was a solid episode.  I have the feeling that this is going to be one of those slices of Who that matures with age and repeated viewing

Highlight: The shot of New New York after the cars escaped the motorway. Looked as good as Star Wars’ Corruscant.

Lowlight: One or two of the car interiors were a bit lame

Talking Point: The last of the Time Lords is not alone… what?!

Demon’s Run Rating: 15 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 14th April 2007

Marathon Status: That’s a whole month of reviews, folks!

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