Aired 10 May 2008
After a very strong start to the fourth series, ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ ultimately proves to be a weaker episode, one filled with some clever ideas that are haphazardly thrown together and ultimately fail to reach their full potential. With the addition of the Martha subplot that sees her off on her own with an ill-defined alien Hath for the majority of the story, relegating Martha to stereotypical companion role with little development, nothing ever seems to completely gel coherently and the result is very much a story in pieces.
Still, having Martha wander around a desolate landscape only to happen onto the climax and having a genuinely clever plot twist that wasn’t built up enough beforehand aren’t the downfall of this episode. Rather, the premise of the episode ends up feeling like a cheat. The brazen title brings with it a heap of expectations even knowing that Gallifrey and the Time Lords are destroyed, bringing with it images of grandly expanding the Doctor’s personal family line to show the generation between he and Susan. Instead, the titular daughter Jenny is created from a DNA extraction and cloning machine. Either way, Jenny is built up to be a life-changing character for the Doctor, but her death that he witnesses at the end of the episode essentially nullifies the character work done to that point. Even the fact that she is eventually revived means little at this point because the Doctor does not know that she survives, making the progression of him not accepting her as his daughter to suddenly caring so much about someone who has only been around for a few hours difficult to invest in fully. Even the reasoning for the TARDIS suddenly taking the trio to that planet feels a bit rushed, it being attracted to Jenny but landing too early and therefore leading to her creation in the first place.
‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ is very much a traditional Doctor Who story in the truest sense, brimming with ambition and featuring some clever moral and science fiction elements alongside a lot of running through corridors. In fact, this story continues the trend of offering slightly lighter- though no less intriguing- fare than previous series, highlighted so far by the Adipose and the more comical Sontarans. Unfortunately, the forty-five minute format of the episode is a detriment since the overall situation and characters do not get time for thorough exploration, most notably Jenny herself whose dialogue simply comes off as a bit stilted and rushed. Revelations and plot points just come off as a little too easy and convenient since so much has to be fit into a short time. The creation of an entire mythology in such a short period of time fueling the human and Hath war is a truly fascinating concept, though, and the interplay between The Source’s religion and science at the heart of the mythology is certainly one worthy of more discussion.
It’s a nice thematic image to have the Jenny be the ultimate soldier, a direct contradiction to everything the Doctor claims to stand for in his fights against injustices. This is not the first time that his contradictory nature has been called into question either, Jenny bluntly stating here that he can draw up military strategies like the best generals out there. Jenny asking the Doctor how he is different from every other soldier when he says that he is simply trying to stop the fighting is shockingly straight to the point. Still, it’s another theme that is sadly rushed in ‘The Doctor’s Daughter’ due to time and ambition to always cover more topics. It’s hard to say that it could have realistically been drawn out to a full two-parter, but some extra scenes could have certainly helped to create something altogether more fluid and satisfying while rounding out members of both warring species.