Wild Blue Yonder is the second episode of the specials and seizes the perfect opportunity to test the show’s budget and put it to the max; transporting The Doctor and Donna after Donna’s mishap to the edge of the universe, where they’ve never ever been, but The Doctor seems to go where he’s never ever been every single week so this is nothing new for them. Their first encounter seems proof that Russell T. Davies is delighting in taking any opportunity to make exactly the wrong sort of people mad; sending us back in time to meet Isaac Newton where the word “gravity” is changed after the TARDIS crashes into a tree that prompts all of its apples to fall on the floor rather than just one (coupled with the myth about the salt being created by The Doctor, almost certain to be Davies setting down future hints at a greater arc), and Newton learns of his Knighthood years before he gets it. It’s a classic Doctor Who historical figure encounter; and we’re immediately following up with a speedrun of the usual one historical episode and then another far future episode that Davies loved to do during his run: by taking us to a desolate spaceship.
Almost immediately after landing the TARDIS vanishes leaving The Doctor and Donna stranded on board a ship and without their home; they can’t translate the language despite The Doctor speaking several languages: even he relies on the TARDIS sometimes! But he’s able to get it into a binary number form, which gives him the ability to work out that the airlock seal was opened 3 years ago and there are no life forms currently on board the ship. But if there are no life forms: what is stalking The Doctor and Donna? And when they separate from each other – why are they both suddenly in two places at once, talking to each other about their past? We soon learn that they’re not alone: and there are species that mimic their form on board the ship: prompting Tennant and Tate to have the joy of acting as twisted doppelgängers who are on a mission to perfect the clones of The Doctor and Donna, knowing that once they do – the TARDIS will return and they’ll be able to escape to the universe in a bid to wreak havoc on it.
It’s such a character-heavy episode that uses the doppelgangers to call back to Flux and the arc of the 13th Doctor where The Doctor is still grappling with everything that’s happened to him since he met Donna; the 50th, Galifrey, The Master destroying it again, Clara, the Timeless Child, all these things have happened since and Donna is unaware. He’s not going to be okay, but we get a nod about his sexuality when he admits he found Isaac Newton attractive! This show is making all the positive gains in representation on television and who expected anything less from Russell T. Davies. Remember Torchwood anyone? Remember Captain Jack? Doctor Who has always been queer. I loved 14 addressing the robot asking “are you he she or they?” not knowing it was slowly advancing towards the destruct button to destroy the ship; preventing the aliens from ever escaping.
This felt like prime 2008 all over again, a midseason episode that I’m so glad the show opted for as opposed to a multi-cameo fest. Not saying that multi-cameo fests can’t be good stories in their own right, but after the big events of The Power of the Doctor, we instead got The Doctor and Donna running around spaceship corridors in a simple; easy to understand episode that was so much fun. The Satan Pit/The Impossible Astronaut, Midnight, and of course The Almost People are easy comparisons to make here; and The Doctor learning more about Donna in the process and the bait and switch with the fake Donna ending up on the TARDIS for a few seconds was a very, very nice twist that was inevitable, potentially with chilling ramifications – but never failed to leave a mark.
And then – oh, the ending! We’re back on Earth, but a few days later – of course, after they met – in Camden Market, which coincidentally, was where I was only a week ago watching Napoleon and Saltburn. And who else is waiting for them other than the legendary Bernard Cribbins, WILF!! Reuniting with *his* Doctor and his Donna, who remembers everything as he always hoped she would, and all is right in the world. As a last scene with Cribbins before his loss – and what a life lived, too – it couldn’t be more perfect. Except now the human race is at war with itself; and a plane crashes from the skies above them.
TO BE CONTINUED…