They did a CGI werewolf episode, so why not a CGI vampire episode—except the vampires are aliens who can’t really turn into humans except Anthony Head (get it, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” non-vampire, playing a vampire, get it—also, he plays the headmaster of a school; headmaster; get it). They kind of look like the flying Gremlin from The New Batch but darker and without as much personality.
Because budget. They do pretty well with all the CGI, going for an exaggerated realism, which serves them well at the budget. Especially with David Tennant mugging opposite the CGI.
Despite Head being a stunt guest cast—and not a bad one at all; he doesn’t manage to mug or chew the same way Tennant can with the material, but he’s fine. If I cared about a “Buffy” stunt cast, I’d be happy.
A meteor lands and then strange things start happening at an elementary school where Head’s… headmaster. Tennant and Billie Piper investigate at Noel Clarke’s request, leading to a fun intro to Tennant as a teacher and Piper as a lunch lady.
There’s a lot of Clarke in the episode. Tennant does temper him; writer Toby Whithouse does an amazing job with everything except Clarke. And not even because it’s Clarke. Whithouse just gives him strange characterizations. I suppose it’s been however long since we’ve seen him but still.
Turns out Head’s just a MacGuffin, albeit a dangerous one, and the main plot of the episode is about bringing Elisabeth Sladen back to the franchise after thirty some years.
She happens to be investigating the same mystery and meets up with Tennant and crew. It’s a great combination of humor and character drama, with Sladen and Piper doing really well together as they bicker. Tennant’s outstanding with Sladen.
Seems weird the Doctor never talks about the companions and there are some new questions about his relationship with Piper. Also… don’t go down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what’s up with Tennant and Sladen’s break-up thirty years before. They change it up. Just watch the episode. It’s stunning how effective Sladen’s story plays out given I’ve never seen the original series with her on it.
I hope Whithouse writes some more episodes.