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Doctor Who: Gridlock

Doctor: "Just what every city needs: cats in charge."

And it's back to New Earth.

There was so much that was illogical about this episode that it doesn't rate as sci-fi at all. But it made for a rather nifty existential metaphor. The motorway as life or even purgatory, Brooklyn as the afterlife, let there be light. Or maybe it was about class struggle, blessed are the meek. Maybe it was Jean-Paul Sartre does Cat People. Who knows.

Anyway. Loved all the individual little cars decorated like tiny apartments, and all the different types of people at the wheel. (Especially the first one, with the couple from American Gothic.) None of the numbers made sense, though. Twenty yards, we're having a good day. Five miles in twelve years. Thirty MPH in the fast lane. And I think after a year or two, I'd probably get out and walk. But what sort of metaphor would that make?

The Doctor finally showed some concern for Martha. She only had to get kidnapped get his attention. He does take his responsibility toward his companions seriously, though, and he's able to face unpleasant facts about himself. I liked that he finally opened up to Martha, told her about himself, and shared something important with her. Although by this point, if I were Martha, I'd be looking around for another time lord to hang out with.

And hey, there's another one out there. The important message the Face of Boe had for the Doctor was, you are not alone. Come on, now. I've seen only bits and pieces of the old Who, but even I know who that has to be.

The end, with the hymn "Abide with Me" and all of the cars flying into the light, actually got to me. The Doctor freed the people of New New York, with the help of Novice Hame and the Face of Boe, who gave his life for the people of the city. The Face of Boe died for their sins. I feel another metaphor coming on.

Bits and pieces:

-- The action took place in the year five million and 53. I always think it's a mistake to go so far into the future because it never looks futuristic enough. Come on. Flying cars are so 22nd century.

-- The previous episode about New Earth was called, well, "New Earth."

-- How did the couple manage to get off the motorway to kidnap Martha? And if everyone was dead, where did the "mood" pushers in the alley come from? Wait a minute. I wasn't going to ask questions about logic. Never mind.

Paul Kelly says...

A never ending traffic jam? I think I was in that once.

A visually stunning episode, with a theme we can all relate to (particularly if you're familiar with the M25). We also saw the welcome return of an old foe: the Macra. We last encountered those guys back in '67 ("The Macra Terror"), when Troughton was king and the kilt was still viewed as acceptable companion apparel. Thankfully CGI has favourably enhanced the Macra. They don't look quite so much like Airfix kits these days. So an impressive, if low key, return for a semi-classic foe.

This episode, I suppose, was all about lies. The lies we tell others, and the lies we tell ourselves. For the past two episodes, the Doctor's been keeping Martha at arms length. His dealings with her have been strictly business -- one thank you trip and it's over (or, as it turns out, two). But tonight, rather than taking Martha home, he opened up to her instead. Yes, his lies were self-serving, but they were necessary to save him from his own dire reality. His whole race is gone! Dead. So why not pretend they're still alive every once in a while? How else are you supposed to get through the day?

And despite the Doctor not really knowing The Face Of Boe, there was an unmistakable kinship between them. Both are the last of their kind. Or are they? I loved the way Martha thought the Face Of Boe was talking about her ("you are not alone"), only to have the Doctor dismiss the notion without as much as a second thought. Wow! That's cold. Oh well... there's no harm in dreaming, Martha.


Doctor: "The sky's a burnt orange. With a citadel enclosed in a mighty glass dome, shining under the twin suns. Beyond that, the mountains go on forever. Slopes of deep red grass, capped with snow."
Martha: "Can we go there?"
Doctor: "Nah! Where's the fun for me?"

Doctor: "Although, technically, it's fifteen New Yorks since the original. So it's New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York."

Martha: "You're taking me to the same planets that you took her?"
Doctor: "What's wrong with that?"
Martha: "Nothing. Just, ever heard the word 'rebound'?"

Doctor: "I love that coat. Janis Joplin gave me that coat."

Bran: "This Martha, she must mean an awful lot to you."
Doctor: "Hardly know her. I was too busy showing off. And I lied to her."

Doctor: "I've invented a sport."

Doctor: "Don't you go dying on me, you big old face."

Face of Boe: "I am the last of my kind. As you are the last of yours, Doctor." Except he's not.
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Being stuck in that kind of traffic jam really does not bear thinking about.

    I found this episode a bit slow moving at first but I like it more with rewatch.

    The Doctor keeps distancing Martha but I understand the witholding as well. The last scene was beautifully poignant.

    It was at this point where I think more than 57 academics punched the air when FOB told the Doctor he wasn't alone.

  2. It's been some time since I've seen this episode, but this is where I and my TV-buddy said to each other: "They are always showing masses of people being stupid on Doctor Who". Whether it's evil earplugs, bad TVs, villainous car computers, or never ending traffic, us upright walking monkeys are always mindlessly following each other's asses. :)

  3. I guess that I just didn't understand the idea of the never ending traffic jam. Why would people leave the under city if they knew it was going to take years and years? That couple's initial logic was well lacking.

    Otherwise, some nice tidbits.

  4. You couldn't get out and walk the smog would kill you

  5. Rewatching this episode in 2020 was interesting - the Doctor wearing a mask (even if it was a bandana), a pandemic, everyone stuck inside and only going out for supplies, even a guy who was completely orange!

    The couple got off the motorway at the layby - there was obviously some sort of undercity infrastructure, but probably not enough to support all of the people living in the cars. The motorway seemed to promise a better life than the undercity had - akin to immigrating to the New World or heading out west in the US.

    I'm more puzzled by the "fast lane" - why was so regulated to get down there? Who was giving permission and came up with the 3 adults rule? Or was it just leftover automation?

  6. The Macra here just felt like they were trying to throw back to classic. They really don't have any good reason to be here, it could have been any generic threat, and it's not like the Macra were a particularly well-known enemy as they only appear in one classic story.

    This one was largely rubbish. It's not as abysmal as Fear Her or Timelash, but it's not much better.


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