It’s still got Russell T. Davies but there’s a director change since last episode. Now it’s Colin Teague, which turns out fine because Teague’s the best director they’ve had all season except maybe Hettie Macdonald. But as far as doing straightforward “Doctor Who” successfully—especially since it’s a modern day episode—Teague excels.
Though not even Teague can handle the rough opening, which has David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and John Barrowman getting out of last episode’s big deal cliffhanger with absolutely no difficulty because sonic screwdriver.
And then we get a really fast information dump catching the viewer up on what the characters are quickly realizing—all season has been just four days in Agyeman’s regular timeline, culminating in an election of a new prime minister (John Simm), who has quite the history and bone to pick with Tennant. More, everything conspiring against Tennant and Agyeman has been for this Simm related plot. It even gives a way to redeem Agyeman’s duplicitous mom, Adjoa Andoh, while again using sister Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a damsel in distress. Only this time she doesn’t get to be second sidekick, she’s just… damsel in distress.
Because there’s a real danger—Simm—who’s got everyone in his reach and has no qualms about getting rid of his enemies. He even gets back up from his wife, Alexandra Moen, who seems reservedly horrified at his behavior. But Simm’s got all the power.
Moen’s good. It’s a weird, quiet part, but she’s good.
And Simm’s great. Especially once his master plan—getting to do a first contact meeting with some aliens, bringing new glory to the United Kingdom—is in full motion. Because there’s something off about those aliens, which are little flying globes—Tennant’s never even heard of them, which is impossible.
Colin Stinton plays the U.S. president, who doesn’t want the British getting all the history glory. Stinton’s not a good stunt cast. It’s a miss.
But everything else is a hit. Until the last act when it seems like a kids’ TV show as Simm rules from on high in his SHIELD helicarrier, which is a particularly silly turn but whatever.
The last act gets silly, but the character drama for Agyeman in particular… it’s good.