Wild Blue Yonder

Posted in Episode by - December 02, 2023
Wild Blue Yonder

Aired 02 December 2023


Following the explosive tragedy of spilled coffee aboard the TARDIS and a brief flirtation with history, the Doctor and Donna emerge on a deserted ship at the very edge of the universe in ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ by Russell T Davies, finding themselves face to face with the most uniquely dangerous and personal threat they have ever encountered. While most episodes and stories that classify themselves as specials tend to go big in terms of character and plot, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ flips the script and tells a surprisingly intimate tale while nonetheless spectacularly showcasing its budget, special effects, and ambition; with the vast emptiness of nothing outside, the mystery of why an airlock last opened and closed three years ago becomes deadly when a strange sound outside the ship suggests that the Doctor and Donna just may not be alone.

Given the incredible chemistry that David Tennant and Catherine Tate have together, Davies makes the brilliant decision to have this story be a two-hander that delves into the psyches of these two dynamic leads and just what they truly mean to each other. However, unbeknownst to the Doctor and Donna at first, two figures from beyond have furtively infiltrated this ship, figures that can assume the physical forms and memories of those around them and who are looking to wage war against the beings within the universe proper that they have watched for so long. Struggling at least initially to maintain physical form and not quite understanding the limitations of space, time, and physics within this universe, these creatures’ purposeful but dogged pursuit of the only two living beings here leads to some genuinely unnerving but nonetheless emotionally enthralling sequences quite unlike anything Doctor Who has attempted before. The story itself is something of a variation on ‘Midnight’ in which an unknowable alien threat from an unexplored locale mimics and eventually assumes control of the Doctor, but the continuing process of these creatures converging to truly become the Doctor and Donna provides an intensely striking series of visuals and a palpable sense of danger as it becomes increasingly difficult to discern which version is genuine.

Yet as seemingly innocuous details prove integral to the missing captain’s long-standing and slowly-realized scheme and as a literal race against the clock ensues to try to eradicate this threat forever, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ succeeds most through its exploration of the Doctor and Donna. This is by no means a celebratory or nostalgic special, but Tennant’s ability to convey just how much the Doctor has been through and how much guilt he carries with him after the devastation wrought by the Flux and the mysteries surrounding his origins and its resulting importance to the Time Lords’ very foundations is truly astounding. He has thus far portrayed his Fourteenth Doctor as much more solemn and weighed down by emotions even as moments of pure glee and excitement filter through, and those emotions come perilously close to breaking through with Donna as their target when the TARDIS dematerializes without them due to the hazards aboard this ship that the TARDIS’s strange blaring of the titular song portends. Still, it becomes all too clear just how much these two characters mean to each other and just how much the Doctor has missed Donna as a friend, in particular, and while he is still reticent to open up to Donna about his recent experiences when she asks him, the aliens’ own knowledge and ability to talk so openly with the Doctor while under the guise of Donna reveals multitudes about this incarnation and the Doctor in general who so desperately wants and needs company and someone with whom to converse. For her part, Donna is driven by her need to return to her family, and Tate continues to impress as she brings forth this element of her beloved character while still effortlessly combining comedy and intensely emotional drama to ensure this version of Donna is very much a continuation of the one who blossomed and grew so much during her initial travels aboard the TARDIS. If there was ever any doubt why these two actors were brought back for this series of specials, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ should be a firm reminder while serving as a brilliant coda to their original run together even if it feels more like a continuation of that fourth series rather than a sixtieth anniversary special.

There are profound science fiction elements at the heart of ‘Wild Blue Yonder,’ and while the story told may not be typical for an episode labelled as a special and with only three episodes slated to feature this incarnation of the Doctor, its ability to lean in to the weird while brilliantly showcasing the fantastic chemistry of and delving into the inner workings of its lead characters make this a truly excellent episode sure to leave an impact even before the momentous return of Bernard Cribbins as Wilf at episode’s end declaring that the world as they know it is ending.

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