Spoiler Warning – though the episode aired in 2008, so you’ve really got no excuse.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again; “The Doctor’s Daughter” really is my favourite episode of Doctor Who. And yet the thing is, to some extent, this surprises even me.
There are plenty of other episodes I like with better villains, better plots, better mysteries, and perhaps even better contributions to the mythology – yet “TDD” is the episode I keep going back to, to watch over and over again.
I won’t recap the story – instead I’ll assume that if you’ve read this far, you’ve seen the episode yourself – but I will say that it’s got everything I look for in an episode.
- A returning former companion
- An alien race
- A real threat (that’s prepared to kill) for the Doctor to stop
- A morality tale
- A clever reveal
- A new Time Lord, a death, a rebirth, and a new beginning
- An internal struggle for the Doctor
- The potential for the future
Again, many of you may argue that various other episodes include most of these things, yet TDD is even more impressive, as all of this happens in more or less real time. The action never stops from the TARDIS’s arrival to Jenny’s apparent death. I’ll whizz through the first few points, as it’s really Jenny and her potential that I want to talk about.
Martha’s back! Yeah, sure, it’s because the TARDIS essentially kidnaps her at the end of the previous episode. Yeah, sure, she spends most of the episode parted from the Doctor. However, she plays a vital role by showing us the Hath in a positive light, to the extent that you feel moved when the one she befriends sacrifices itself to save her.
The Hath are a somewhat unusual race within the Whoniverse, as they are silent to the audience, yet Martha seems to be able to understand them. Still they’re interesting enough. They’re fish-heads on human bodies, which seemingly breathe through a liquid-filled mask, allowing them to walk on land. Also unusually, they’re relatively docile (when one considers they’re fighting a war), and are also shown to be capable of making the choice not to kill – you rarely see a Dalek prepared to do that.
The presence of an alien race might lead you to assume that they’d be the antagonists, and yet it’s the human General Cobb who is really the driving force behind the violence. He pursues the Doctor, Donna, and Jenny throughout the episode, determined to gain access to what he believes is a weapon that will exterminate his enemy (sound familiar?). Even when his army has laid down their weapons, Cobb still can’t let his war go un-won – attempting to shoot the Doctor, he inadvertently kills Jenny instead.
Usually, if one is looking to write a morality tale, it either dominates the story or ends up being ignored by it in favour of action. Yet in this episode, the balance is struck so beautifully that the morality tale actually drives the action. Are you limited to the beliefs you’re ingrained with? If all you know is the fight, can you live without the war? Cobb and Jenny represent either side of that coin. She can change (with the Doctor’s guidance), but he can’t. However, there’s a third strand to this thread. The Doctor himself is questioned by Jenny on his military ethics. After all, he’s been to war; he’s fought; he’s killed – what makes him any different from her?
“I’m trying to stop the fighting,” the Doctor says.
“Isn’t every soldier?” Jenny replies.
Every soldier but Cobb, it would seem. Cobb needs the fight; it’s how he defines himself, and his world. When it’s over, he seeks to lash out at the man who’s taken it from him, yet it’s his lost disciple – Jenny – who pays the price.
The return of Martha, and the arrival of The Doctor’s daughter, could’ve so easily left Donna feeling like excess baggage. However, she instead provides two pivotal roles within the story – a sympathetic ear to the Doctor (more on that shortly), and the ever observant temp that’s “good with numbers”, who notices the strange digits stamped across all the walls. The revelation that the war has been raging for only a week, despite tearing through generation after generation of soldiers is a great, sci-fi twist, and all deduced single-handedly by Donna. Best temp in Chiswick.
So, to Jenny. Since Doctor Who returned in 2005, the Doctor has repeatedly stated that he’s alone in the Universe. The Time War has resulted in the death of his entire race, leaving him alone to travel the stars – the last Time Lord. Then the Master came along – revealed to be the only other Time Lord in existence – and for one shining moment, the Doctor was not alone. The Master’s “death” however returned the Doctor to his isolation as quickly as he’d left it. So, it is surprising that the Doctor comes face to face with a brand new Time Lord just six episodes later, and one that he’s both Father and Mother to no less.
Stephen Greenhorn’s dialogue between The Doctor and Jenny depicts a relationship that is different from any other The Doctor has shared with a companion, in a brilliant but subtle way. He talks to her like a father would to his daughter. When she puts herself in danger, he gets angry. When she does something extraordinary (somersaulting through laser-beams), he’s proud. When she sees the value in not fighting and letting others live, he rewards her “good behaviour” with the promise of new worlds (it may as well be Disneyland). When she continues to question him, and he struggles to answer, it’s with all the frustration of a father being repeatedly asked “Why?” by his toddler. It’s a side to the Doctor we’ve never seen before; his paternal instinct.
However, Jenny’s creation does bring about a similar emotional reaction from the Doctor as the Master’s reappearance did; he’s delighted that another Time Lord exists, but does it really have to be this one? At first we are led to believe that the Doctor’s objection to Jenny is purely because she is a soldier; ready – keen even – to fight in a war of which he disapproves. But he’s embraced soldiers before (UNIT and Captain Jack for instance), so why should this bother him? It’s not until Donna raises the issue of “Dad-Shock”, that we really come to see the problem. The Doctor fears that he’s no longer equipped to be a father, believing he’d left that part of himself behind following the destruction of Gallifrey. In truth, the Doctor would be thrilled to meet a new Time Lord, were it not for the fact that this one is related to him. Jenny reminds him of the family he’s already lost, and he fears he’ll only ever be able to see that pain in her.
Yet the change in her, begins a change in him – as Jenny accepts his guidance, deciding not to kill Cobb when she has the chance, the Doctor starts to warm to the idea of them travelling together, only to have her, like the Master, snatched away by an unexpected bullet.
So believing his new found daughter dead, The Doctor takes off, leaving a new world at peace, built on the premise that killing is not the answer. Yet only after he departs, does Jenny’s Time Lord biology kick in, reviving her (curiously without a change of appearance). Following in her father’s footsteps, she then steals a spaceship, and sets off on her own adventure.
Hardcore Whovians will know that in the original script, Jenny actually remained dead at the end, but at Steven Moffat’s suggestion (“the audience will expect her to die”), the ending was changed. This caused speculation that the then Showrunner-in-Waiting was planning to cast Georgia Moffett as the Doctor’s companion when he took over. Yet as I write this (May 2013), there has never been any subsequent reappearance of Jenny, nor a hint that her return is imminent, and I say, for shame!
The potential character development for both the Doctor and for Jenny by having them travel together is beyond vast. It would’ve been especially great had it been Matt Smith’s Doctor. Imagine, if you will, that they’d bumped into each other again, perhaps due to one of the TARDIS’s unexpected detours. Mimicking what she knows of her father, Jenny has gained a travelling companion, and is in the middle of investigating a case of her own. She initially doesn’t recognise her father (he has a new face after all), but when she does, she’s embarrassed that he now appears to be the same age as her (“Honestly Dad, you look old enough to be my husband!” – A particularly ironic statement of course, as Georgia Moffett is now married to David Tennant). We then have the chance to see a parent/teenager relationship between Jenny and the Doctor, as she doesn’t want him to show her up in front of her friends, while he worries that she’ll get herself into trouble and insists on helping. Tragically, as the investigation reaches its climax, Jenny is unable to prevent the death of her companion, leaving her distraught, sobbing into the Doctor’s shoulder. He invites her to “come home” to the TARDIS, and their adventures together, finally, begin.
From there, the possibilities are endless. To name but a few:
- River Song could travel with them for a few episodes, forming a family unit of Father, Step-Mother, and Daughter
- Jenny could meet a new boy that she wants to bring along on their adventures, essentially bringing home her first boyfriend, perhaps to her father’s disapproval
- After two series or so of travelling with her father, Jenny could meet Captain Jack, and decide to leave the nest, and join Torchwood – essentially having grown up, and gone to University (plus, this would add The Doctor’s Daughter to the next series of Torchwood, which would be cool)
- Eventually, The Doctor decides that Jenny is ready for her own adventures. He takes her to plant a piece of TARDIS coral, and then they travel years into the future to find a brand new, fully grown TARDIS, which he gives her as a gift. In human terms, The Doctor gives Jenny her first car.
So that’s why I’m waiting for Jenny’s return. Because she would bring a new dynamic to the TARDIS, and to the Doctor, and provide a new, on-going relationship that the show could dip in and out of for evermore (assuming Jenny can regenerate fully). The Doctor would no longer be alone; he’d have family again - someone to care for, and someone who could care for him. Rather than being defined by his recurring enemies, he could be defined by his recurring family.
After all, there’s plenty of room in that TARDIS...