Did we like it?
A strong central plot was diminished by some dismally illogical subplots and it was set within an atmosphere where emotions were bought as freely as ice creams from a van, and just as quickly devoured and forgotten.
What was good about it?
• Although the central premise was hugely contrived and a little suspect, designed to put the Doctor in the position of a father with all the offshoot emotions and responsibilities, it was so well-scripted that it was possible to allay annoyance at the inconsistencies.
• It was made bearable by the evolution of the Doctor’s feelings towards his improvised offspring. He was at first dismissive and scornful of ‘Jenny’, but soon, with a little spiky coaching from Donna, was able to metamorphose that embryonic disdain into a pupae of potential love.
• The exchange was a two-way street made more plausible by Georgia Moffett’s portrayal of Jenny. At first she verbally jousted with him, questioning his pacifism as he calculated tactics to extricate them from their cage. However, as the Doctor’s stance towards her withered, she became far more than the combat clone she was born to be, sometimes skipping ahead of the Doctor and Donna with an enthusiasm of someone 15 years younger.
• And it was this paternal joy that enabled the Doctor to speak more openly of his grief at losing his children. This was no great revelation. Since the revival, the Doctor has fallen in love at least twice, and his granddaughter appeared alongside William Hartnell in 1963. But what was a revelation was the depth that Tennant gave this profession, at times almost nonchalant and stoical, yet dissolving into retrospective mourning mixed in with the euphoria of new fatherhood.
• As with the Sontaron adventure, the Doctor was overburdened with assistants, but this was resolved by Martha’s capture by the Hath, and Donna’s ephemeral demotion to the role of observant mathematician as she deduced the mystery behind the numbers. And it is intriguing to watch the role division between the Doctor and his new companion – while the Doctor is embroiled in the central plot, Donna is ostensibly relegated to the sidings only for her investigations to become crucial to the triumphant resolution.
• As Doctor Who is in the habit of laying clues for the end of series cliff hangers throughout the rest of the series we noticed a peculiarity in The Doctor’s Daughter. It was too much of a coincidence that the soldiers of both the Hath and the humans on Messaline were clones bred solely for war, just like the Sontarons. And as rejuvenated Jenny jetted off across the cosmos, you began to think what if her DNA somehow became the root of all the Sontarons becoming debased and altered over time as the Sontarons (who are capable of crude time travel) refine their cloning system to produce more efficient warriors. That would be a mindblowing twist.
What was bad about it?
• The telegraphed way in which Jenny’s death (however temporary) was plugged into the dialogue when the Doctor spoke excitedly about how he and his new daughter had so much to look forward to. It’s often a device used to invest as much prospective emotion into a character to make their later demise pack all the more of a poignant punch.
• The notion that the war between the human and Hath settlers had only been going on for seven days, but their belligerent culture had been passed down along 20 generations of fatal casualties in that period was innovative but flawed. Assuming they were relatively normal humans, were none of them wounded so that they required at least a week of recuperation?
• Or perhaps medical advances were such that they could be patched up within hours and sent back to fight, but here this wouldn’t explain the high levels of deaths among the troops, who would be able to be brought effectively back to life.
• At times emotions queued up like gluttonous Western businessmen clamouring to get their tickets to fly out of a former colonial state they’ve raped of all its natural resources that has in turn provoked a popular and merciless uprising against the despotic authorities. Most egregiously this was seen when the Hath helping Martha navigate the blasted surface terrain died saving her life. Martha wailed with grief for a while, but had mostly recovered by the time she met up with the Doctor again.
• After Jenny was murdered by General Cobb, there was no need for the pounding melodramatic drums as the Doctor pointed a pistol at his head, as the Timelord said himself, “I never would”, so there was a paucity of tension.