FIRES OF POMPEII
5/5 and a great big WOW! Holy cow! I don't know why this episode doesn't rate higher in the polls or in fans' graces ---frankly I think it's marvelous and fantastic. Where to start? Donna. First and foremost and most noble. Here, Donna finally totally proves she is a GREAT companion and just from this possibly the BEST companion ever. Yeah, really. As she tells the Doctor, "I don't know what kind of kids you've been traveling around the universe with..." she has strength, compassion, and gumption and she appreciates the Doctor and also proves he needs someone with him...her! Their relationship reminds me of the old series' relationships but with that extra something added...a closer bond and a deeper bond as we and they seem to know more about them from just a handful of episodes compared to knowing almost nothing about most of the other companions from two dozen or more eps. I mean what did we really know about Sarah Jane from her entire time in the old series and she was the longest running? Or Jamie for that matter. We know more about Donna from her short time in the series than about either of them. Here, she shows that she is thankful for the Doctor, spirited in life and for life, caring for people and her talk with Evengelina is very nice with a good rapport. And despite what others have written, she does not revert to the loud, brash, dumb Donna or RUNAWAY BRIDE (and I'd say she was'nt that bad even there but...that's just me).
The sets. Magnificent. Yes, a lot was made of them and they are great but honestly I'm not sure they had to travel to Italy to use the sets of ROME. I think they might have been able to use some stuff in England and with CGI to get the same effect. Either way, it's moot because it looks great and once more as in PARTNERS IN CRIME, the show looks like as close to a big budget film as it possibly can. The images are memorable.
When they first showed the excellent previews of this I thought the Sisterhood were going to be the Sisterhood of Karn and I thought the scarred female yelling was going to turn out to be either the Rani (yeah, sadly I did) or maybe even a villianous somehow returned Romana (even sadder that I thought this). I also thought Lucius looking in, saying, "Show yourself" was the Master! No matter, this story didn't need any of them. To be honest, I was dreading the aliens in Pompeii bit as FIRES OF VULCAN, a 7th Doctor Big Finish did Pompeii well enough without any aliens other than the Doctor. There are some similarities here as Mel tries to cheer the Doctor up as he seems determined to give up since the TARDIS was found in dried lava in the future/present day. And I'm not sure but I think Mel also might have tried to save some people from the volcano. One of Mel's best stories. As this is one of Donna's best stories. Either way there's not much else the same.
This is also one of David's best stories. He acts like THE Doctor. Well, most like the Fourth Doctor and maybe a bit of Three thrown in. And Five when he tells the family not to tell anyone he was there (FRONTIOS). He's fast paced, caring, knowledgable but quick to love it when he doesn't know something, and serious and introspective. If you look he's got all the Doctors in there somewhere in this story but mostly Tom Baker ("Oh come on, Quentus, dignity in death and all that!" could easily be Pertwee or Patrick or any of the others. Quentus: my God, another great looking guy.
In any event, the music is spot on and epic. In many ways, THE ROMANS spotlights this and this is so much better in so many ways. Not that I hate THE ROMANS. My reviewing of it again shows its merits, or at least I hope it does. Perhaps once I'm done with the Tennant era I'll go back to the first three Doctors but anyway, there the Doc was responsbile for the fire that burned Rome in an almost comedic way he burns it down or something or shows Nero the idea by mistake on how to burn Rome. Here, the Doc references that story almost foreshadowing the idea that he will be responsbile for Pompeii blowing up and killing some 20,000 people. Great scenes and great acting from both Tennant and Tate, a terrfic team here. ANd the idea is milked for all its worth including Donna crying and demanding that the Doctor take the Tardis back to save someone. Tate proves her acting skills here in the second half and all her scenes show the merit of Tate and Donna. I was sold on Donna by this episode and the next just cements her as a much more old fashioned companion with that much more new stuff added to her rather than a love sick young girl like Rose or Martha.
Of course there had to be monsters and aliens and people turning to stone too and a nod, a brief one, to JURASSIC PARK. These are not handled badly and all the actors and CGI do their stuff so it's really quite a surprise when it all works rather well and is heads above almost everything done last year. This is really the first truly great DW since BLINK.
Love the Doctor using the water gun although I know some reviews balk at the Doc using a gun but not at the fact that he plans to blow up the aliens in the first place...quite like him in the past anyway. How often did the 4th Doctor blow up the enemy? A great story and I can't really say enough good things about how entertaining it was. It made me believe the show could be truly great again after the fiasco of the John Simm two parter...