The Doctor's Daughter

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
4-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 198, starring David Tennant)
  • written by Stephen Greenhorn
  • directed by Alice Troughton
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: After accidentally transporting Martha Jones with them to the planet Messaline, the TARDIS crew is shocked to discover a new relative to the Doctor who is heavily engaged in the battle for supremacy between Humans and Hath over an intended bicultural colony. What is the mysterious "Source" that the two opponents want to recover? What is the significance of the architectural markings that fascinate Donna? And will the Doctor be able to acknowledge and accept his offspring?

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by actresses Catherine Tate (Donna Noble) and Georgia Moffett (Jenny), and music orchestrator Ben Foster.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: Sins of the Father (12 min.) with Georgia Moffett, David Tennant (The Doctor),
    writer Stephen Greenhorn, director Alice Troughton, executive producer Russell T. Davies, and producer Phil Collinson.
  • Deleted & Extended Scenes (7 min.) - introduced by Davies
  • Trailers & Promos

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

Oh yes! While there is reason to anticipate a cheesy gimmick of a story here, what is actually delivered is of high quality. Most of the best elements that I look forward to in a Doctor Who adventure are featured solidly, along with a new character premise that makes this story truly unique. On a show now in its 30th year, that's no small feat. Hats off to writer Stephen Greenhorn, who has gone from penning last year's worst story to writing this season's best tale so far.

Of course, no matter how good this adventure is, it won't be spared our usual nit-picking, which begins with the way the TARDIS is handled. Director Alice Troughton opts to leave out all exterior materializations and dematerializations of the machine for no apparent good reason, which eats into the story's positive points. Trying to heighten our companions' sense of exploring the unknown in the beginning, were we? Sorry that kind of falls flat, as the Doctor ignores a check of the instruments or the minimum of looking at the scanner screen before bursting out through the doors. We're in too much of a hurry to nurture an atmosphere of exploration today apparently. They'd have been better off to just get the TARDIS landing right, and focus less on the disorganized scrambling occurring in the interior.

The over-zealous soldiers populating our new world are also less than inspiring, making one anticipate a lot of 80's style anti-fighting preachiness. Neither can they manage half-decent visual laser beams or lively sound effects for their weapons. All very sad.

But without wasting much time on any of that, we get a quick demo of a new sci-fi process upon which will be built both a truly decent sci-fi mystery puzzle and the major new character situation. And with shock and awe, we cut to the title sequence. Nice.

It is some time before the setting is actually established. As we suspected and hoped, it is an alien planet, earning the story some more positive points. And it's not an Earth copy either. It's got its own name: Messaline. Well, it looks like it's about to be colonized with Earth culture anyway, unless the Hath get their own culture embedded equally deep. Sadly not enough thought seems to have been given to making the Hath lifestyle noticeably different.

The story splits quite early, with Martha going off on a tangent much her own. The Hath are fairly well designed from a mask & make-up point of view, and make a decent set of aliens. Costumes are a bit drab though. And although Freema Agyeman does fairly well interacting with creatures who can't really talk, the script seems to want to develop relationships between Martha and Hath characters that require more dialogue or more screen time or more something. The commentary reveals that the original script asked for subtitled Hath dialogue.... which still begs the question of how Martha would be able to understand them. The TARDIS translators would have to work overtime to make English come from the Hath's bubble respirators. Personally, I think this story deserves a special edition with new post-production, where they can not only add new laser beams, but more importantly dub on some kind of neatly processed voices for the Hath characters. This story will make much more sense when Martha and the audience can finally hear what the Hath have been saying in the script all this time.

Martha's mostly decent and enjoyable collaboration falls completely apart at the "Black Lagoon" quicksand scene - becoming the least effective moment of Agyeman's Doctor Who acting career. Had Martha stayed in character, she would remain humble and curious enough (as the audience no doubt was) to suspect that her Hath rescuer might have his own survival well at hand. The Hath obviously breathe something different to humans, so that shouldn't be a big issue for her friend. Interestingly, the Hath went under with a mere hiss on the soundtrack during the CBC broadcast, but on the DVD set the sound is more like glass breaking. Did someone on the production attempt a last-minute fix to the idea of him still breathing? I don't buy it; the "quicksand" is too obviously a thin liquid to exert enough pressure that quickly on the Hath's equally liquid breathing fluids. And if he can hang on until the terraforming event at the end of the adventure, the quicksand may well be removed from around him and he'll be free again. I don't think anyone was all that pleased to watch Martha bawl her eyes out instead - it's just too soon for her to give up with so many unknown quantities in play, and companion blubber scenes are always a low quality dynamic. Science fiction thrives on skilled explorer/heroes as main/regular characters, and has little patience with the emotionally-overdosed opposite that Martha demonstrates here.

Sidetracks aside, the main plot strand with the Doctor, Donna, and Jenny rockets quickly through the cliché plot ideas one would expect, while the dialogue stays somewhat more focused on our brilliant new character situation and the building sci-fi mystery of the piece. It's hard to know quite how to take Georgia Moffett's bright and breezy portrayal of Jenny's many non-fighting moments, as active articulate newborns are not something one normally encounters everyday. Brand new territory to explore. Excellent. Jenny seems much more cheery than most of the other soldiers on the planet, but then she has good reason to be different, doesn't she?

Perhaps she is at her best when challenging the Doctor and standing toe-to-toe with him on the philosophical level. Not bad for a combat-ready newborn, I think, and certainly well worth tuning in for.

The gymnastics in the laser-corridor are a bit of a sore point. Exactly how are Jenny's repetitive flips taking her safely through the maze of lasers? A more varied routine, with moments of her actually sizing up the beams in front of her as she progresses, might make it look as though she's actually doing something skilled. The recent "Get Smart" feature film sports a similar idea that was done much better justice. As it stands here in "The Doctor's Daughter", it looks more like a half-baked idea rushed through on a television schedule. Too bad. But nice try.

The sci-fi mystery of the piece comes together nicely near the end, and even though it's Donna who really puts it together, the Doctor has a very good final dynamic solving the conflicts of the story. The script tends towards the preachy side, but David Tennant is expert at nailing just the right tone for the sequence, ensuring that it is full of powerful moments. As with the previous story, gunplay shrivels and is rightly belittled in the wake of Tennant's charisma. Good one.

Cobb is a bit one-dimensional and problematic as a character though. The biggest red flag goes up after we learn that this generations-long conflict has only been going on for seven days.... so how did Cobb get to be so old without remembering the days before the fighting? How does he not know more than he is letting on? I think perhaps this story has too many rich opportunities to be so short, and should it be lengthened by another episode, the first thing to do would be to expand Cobb's character into a more multi-dimensional villain, with reasons behind his secrets, if not more big villains behind him as well. Oh well.

Jenny's existence raises a problem for the ending that you can predict a mile away. A good Doctor must and should take her with him on his travels, and yet one doubts that the production team intended that. Therefore, the only way he would leave her behind would be.... it's too awful to contemplate, yet sadly predictable. And thus it unfolds, and yet again we have a one-off companion proving to be more interesting than either of the regulars the Doctor has brought with him. But as with so much of the rest of this story, after giving us the predictable, Greenhorn goes on to pull another surprise. Right on; keep it coming.

The music for this story is an enjoyable mix of new and old: plenty of older themes, often in new renditions, and some nice brand new pieces concocted specially for this adventure. Everyone seems to have a theme now; it'll take me a while to be able to separate Jenny's from everything else. Conductor/Orchestrator Ben Foster's commentary should help folks figure out which piece is which, though he does mix up "The Doctor Forever" which is heard on the soundtrack with "The Doctor's Theme" which is not featured when he says it is.

Music by Murray Gold
"Corridors and Fire Escapes",
"The Doctor's Daughter", and "The Source"
are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 4" (2008)

More info & buying options

"The Doctor Forever", "Martha Triumphant",
and an alternate version of
"This is Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home"
are available on:
Audio CD - Doctor Who:
Original Music from "Series 3" (2007)

More info & buying options

All in all, this is a very enjoyable adventure, despite its few nagging rough edges. Its success as a solid alien planet sci-fi action mystery, coupled with its superb character twist for the series, will keep it ahead of its competition from the rest of the season for a while, and allow it to remain surprisingly compelling when seen again and again. But even bigger things are yet in store....

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Der Doktorvater"

Magyar: "A Doktor lánya"

Français: "La Fille du Docteur"

Русский: "Дочь Доктора"

Italiano: "La figlia del Dottore"

This story has become available on DVD.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

DVD NTSC Region 1
14-episode boxed set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
14-episode boxed set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
4-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The full season sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The smaller volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

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