This is going to be a really hard episode to talk about, because it covers the complexities and concepts of capital punishment, then pairs this with a farting alien riding an intergalactic surfboard.
So, let’s get this started. The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack land in Cardiff near a rift in time to allow the Tardis to refuel (I never knew it had to do this before, perhaps there have been changes now the Time Lords are gone).
Micky has been invited along via a text from Rose, so the scene is set for a nice day out and much drunken frivolities. Even Micky is happy and he usually has a face like a slapped arse. In fact everything was going perfectly until the Doctor spots a face on the front page of a newspaper. It’s the sole survivor of the Slitheen family after the Doctor’s last visit to Earth, Margaret Blaine.
She’s set herself up as Mayor of Cardiff and has been steadily murdering her way through anyone who may oppose her plans, namely to build a very unstable nuclear power plant near the rift, which will destroy the earth but let her get off the planet. Via cosmic surfboard or something. It doesn’t matter because its stupid.
So shes up to the same evil schemes as always, yet it’s clear that she’s a slightly changed and forlorn being, having spared the life of a reporter when she mentions that she’s pregnant.
Regardless, the Doctor and friends are on the hunt for her and before you know it they have presented phones and are on the case, in what is both an enjoyable and rather funny chase scene. Still, Micky comes out the worse of it, limping around with a bucket stuck to his foot like the fool he is.
Once captured, the Doctor confiscates the surfboard of the gods and reveals his plans. He’s going to take Margaret back to her homeworld, there to await trial for her and her family’s crimes. Even though The Doctor knows he’s taking Margaret to her death. But that’s for tomorrow. The Tardis still needs to recharge, so for tonight everyone heads off to do their own thing. Micky and Rose go for a stroll, Jack to see if he can talk to a man about his own spinoff show and the Doctor to allow Margaret to have her ‘last meal’, as she so chillingly puts it.
Rose and Micky have a heart to heart and he admits he’s trying to move on by seeing another person, but he just can’t as he’s hopelessly in love with Rose. This intercuts with scenes of the Doctor dining with Margaret, as they discuss the morality of corporal punishment. This is a brilliant scene, just slightly brought down by the broad comedy stuffed into it, as Margaret’s attempts to escape are thwarted one by one. As she pleads for her life and explains how she has changed, the Doctor makes a point
“You’ve been in that skin suit too long. You’ve forgotten. There used to be a real Margaret Blaine. You killed her and stripped her and used the skin. You’re pleading for mercy out of a dead woman’s lips”
Turns out that was just a distraction anyway, as Margaret’s technogizmo starts doing things to the Tardis. Drama happens and Rose is soon in the claws of a Slitheen, but one quick look into the heart of the Tardis and she’s now an egg.
Problems resolved the Doctor and co leave to drop Margret the egg off where she can have a new start and, perhaps, turn out differently. Little do they know what’s in store for them next week.
The theme of this episode is perfectly encapsulated in something Margaret says “From what I’ve seen, your happy-go-lucky little life leaves devastation in its wake,” The show wishes to discuss what effects the Doctors travels have on those he leaves behind and those he chooses to take with him and makes the point that, for all the good he does, his travels also leave devastation on the global and personal scale.
The side plot with Micky and Rose compliments this, with Micky trying to articulate the way that Rose being torn from his life has left him a damaged person, unable to move on due to her periodic revisits and rather worried at the cavalier attitude Rose has taken on since she met the Doctor. In fact, if it weren’t for his selfish outburst once the action starts, he would be the highlight of the episode, with Noel Clark acting his socks off.
As it is, that honour goes to Annette Badland who plays Margret, who manages to make a 3 dimensional character of what was just an excuse for a set of fart jokes earlier in the season. Its fair to say her portrayal saved the Slitheen from being one of those Doctor Who villians everyone would rather forget.
Its clear RTD was laying the groundwork for later seasons episodes like School Reunion. The scene in the Tardis where she asks them to look into her eyes before they take her to her death is particularly powerful. It’s just a shame that to keep the kids involved there were a lot of gags, that didn’t really feel suited to this particular episode and so dragged it down.
The episode also comes at a weird place in the series, so it feels like filler before the series finale. Nevertheless, despite the rather throwaway nature of it, this episode is recommended, as it discusses very complex themes in a mature way thats rare for most shows. The episode gets upgraded to a must see if you are following the Bad Wolf arc of the show, as its one of the few times the words are openly acknowledged as being a part of the series arc.
See you next week, where the Doctor encounters the most horrifying of foes…Reality TV!