I didn’t have a great feeling when I saw Paul Cornell with the writing credit but I forced myself to be hopeful. Plus, Charlie Palmer directing, surely it would be all right. What’s the worst Cornell would do, another overly melodramatic time waster… And, yes, he does do another overly melodramatic time waster only this time he does it while taking away the Doctor and replacing him with a human.
Still David Tennant, which you’d think would make it okay, but strangely… David Tennant playing an early twentieth century racist, sexist, elitist, warmongering British school teacher isn’t as amusing as watching Tennant play the Doctor. Especially not when Freema Agyeman, a Black woman living in a more racist, sexist, and elitist time now too, has all her memories and it’s her job to babysit Tennant until they can go back to their day jobs.
The episode opens with an intentionally confusing sequence—which, frankly, was the ice skates on the Bat boots and is when you toss the script—but we gradually find out Tennant is hiding himself as a human, lost in time, trying to avoid these aliens who are after him. Agyeman’s job is to look after him until the short-lived aliens die off.
It’s all very humane.
What no one counted on was Tennant falling in love with school nurse Jessica Hynes.
I’m not sure how it played in 2007, but Tennant going back in time as a White man and falling for a White woman who then proceeds to be overtly racist to Agyeman, leading to Tennant backing up Hynes… I mean, there are optics to it. Especially since Agyeman—who, let’s not forget, started this season as a doctor herself—is reduced to mooning over Tennant to fellow maid Rebekah Staton.
Some trivia—Cornell based the teleplay on his Dr. Who novel of the same title (which started as fan fiction so score Paul Cornell, I guess). Also of note is a new producer, Susie Liggat.
Unfortunately, neither Liggat’s producing or Cornell’s writing are very impressive but… at least there seem to be some obvious reasons it’s not good. In addition to it being a rip of the fireplace episode from last season just double-sized.
And Hynes being a chemistry vacuum.
The worst part is it’s a two-parter because it can’t even just be over.