Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bifidus Indigestivum

Ever get that bloated feeling? Activia is just the thing, apparently. Mm, Bifidus Digestivum. A unique culture designed to slide down smoothly and assist with all the indigestible stuff you somehow managed to swallow.

In the past, I’ve compared New Who to a McDonalds Happy Meal. The Stolen Earth was more like a party bucket. Wings, fries, nuggets, relish, the lot, all cooked according to Colonel Rusty’s secret recipe. All right the recipe’s not that much of a secret after three years, but this was a BIG meal. More than you can eat in one sitting and I’m afraid may lead to some of those problems with the digestion we’ve encountered before.

Usually, I’d refrain from commenting too much on the first episode of a two-parter, but given RTD’s track record for reset switches in these BIG Season Finales of his, I figured I’d best say something at this point, in case next week I’m feeling cheated and left with nothing to do but complain.

Whereas, at this stage, although it’s difficult to be impressed with the predictable audacity, I am at least laughing.

Maybe it’s the altitude. The man has so clearly been on a mission to outdo himself each year and now we are so ludicrously OTT, you can’t help but find it funny. Such energetic fanwank, it’s gone way beyond hitting the ceiling. (And can I just say, because he coined the phrase, I'm pretty sure Craig Hinton would have *loved* it.)

Skipping all the little continuity references and minor in-jokes, I could just make a list of the ingredients thus far: Rose, Martha, Martha's mum, UNIT, Sarah Jane Smith, Captain Jack and Torchwood, Donna’s family, Harriet Jones former Prime Minister, Daleks, Davros, Judoon, the Shadow Proclamation…

…and I’m sure I’d still be missing some items.

Inevitably I'm reminded of The Five Doctors and its mission to seek out everyone who'd ever been in Doctor Who and cram them into a TV special, managing to make even the most dimensionally transcendental interiors seem crowded. An exercise that went on to inspire a short story of mine, "Balloon Debate" (Short Trips: Companions). In essence, a 5000 word gag. Of course, some people complained about the ending - and quite possibly rightly, because it transpired that the whole thing to a story tapped out by Sarah Jane Smith, but hey, I was obliged to make sure it fitted snugly with continuity. Because, you know, where fans are concerned, you mess with that at your peril. But anyway, in brief, for the purposes of this discussion, you can look on it as a daft joke with a plethora of guest stars and a cheat ending.

Just wait till next week when we get the by now traditional huge reset switch and doubtless those same fans will find some way to reinterpret the cheat as sheer brilliance. Ha!

Still, that aside, I found myself watching The Stolen Earth in a similar light: as one massively, stupidly daft joke. It probably helped that I was pleasantly light-headed on alcohol, but whatever helps, you know. And to be fair, the thing was peppered with great gags, additionally buoyed up by a cracking pace - um, except when, owing to our cast of thousands, we had to stop for reaction shots from Uncle Tom Cobley and all before the plot could actually progress and let us in on what was happening. Five lots of "Oh no!" type gasps before it went all Independence Day on us, and I'm checking the clock.

There were other weak points that cropped up for me through the mirth.

1) The Shadow Proclamation were a bit of a letdown after the build-up: not only easily hoodwinked, but also appearing rather too reliant on the commandeering of the by-all-rights-according-to-them-should-be- non-existent Doctor's TARDIS to facilitate their intervention in the galactic crisis. Hmm.

2) I know it was done for the joke, but I didn't buy that Sarah Jane would submit to fate quite so readily when she first knows it's the Daleks and turns to her adopted son to sob at the fact that he's so young. Like he's already dead. That's not our plucky journalist at work.

3) What was Rose's problem? (Besides looking stupid with a stupidly big gun.) As the Doctor kick-starts another regeneration (more on which in a jiff) she's all, "No! He can't!". She's seen this before and, as I understand it, the Doctor even came through it better-looking. Is she that shallow that she'll now only settle for the David Tennant Doctor? Or is she just terrified that he'll now regenerate into someone she couldn't possibly fancy?

My wife's theory: a cameo guest appearance from Tom Baker as he is now - pile on that fanwank, why not - which would perhaps explain Rose's dread at the prospect, but for the moment I can't figure how Rose would know the result. Whereas I have a niggling dread of my own that we'll get a temporary Doctor, ready to be undone by whatever reset Rusty has in mind for this year! But don't worry, nobody need take any of these seriously - until they happen, natch - because we don't. Part of the fun was just speculating completely madly afterwards as we headed off to the pub (in our defence we had an engagement - we're not like obsessive drinkers or anything!) To be fair, the regeneration - at this stage anyway - was quite a surprise, but in some ways that only served to cast doubts in my mind. Doubts that they'll actually go through with it permanently, for one. However, that said, if it's the genuine article, then this would have to qualify as the best-kept secret in New Who ever. So, points for that.

Anyway, other niggles (and by 'niggles' I mean the usual crap, groan-inducing bits) would be of an essentially similar level. But there were plus points still for Davros, who looked pretty good - you know, as crippled Kaled scientists go - and the wonderfully demented Dalek Kaaaaaaan.

The only trouble is, at this stage it's just hard to be impressed or anything other than amused, but that's a problem based on past performance - quite simply, because we're too familiar with the pattern. What this 'joke' relies on now is a bloody good punchline. A decent resolution and a finale that actually delivers. Rusty can always inflate the balloon, that's a given. But the last thing I want to see next week is said balloon deflating and spluttering haphazardly all over the place with a loud farty noise.

We know the Earth has to be put back where it came from and that's fair enough, but while the story might get away with a return switch, the last thing we want is a reset switch, Undo, DEM or anything of that ilk. Go out with a bang, by all means, just not by popping the balloon.

Or, say, Donna sticking a handy time-beetle on her back to change the timeline and put it all right at the cost of her own life. (Or some other equally sad, sucky alternative that you're free to dream up yourself.)

Meanwhile, the rest of us can continue our crazy speculations: temporary Doctor; dead Donna; dead Jack (*not*-dead Sarah Jane Smith - that's a must); dead Torchwood (please); Harriet Jones former PM not actually dead, so she could yet end up inside a Dalek casing (she did go and taunt them about not understanding anything about humans); guest appearances from the Sontarans, the Master, Tom Baker, the Doctor's Daughter and Tom Pearse's grey mare for the closing ride into the sunset over Widecombe fair; maybe even something that makes me properly sit up and take it all seriously. Anything could happen, but I am persuaded that anything we could come up with would never outdo Colonel Rusty.

Maybe we'd best just stock up on the Activia, just in case. Mmm, now with Bifidus ActiRegularis. Maybe prune flavour, because whichever way this goes down, we could be looking at a meal that's going to sit with us for a long while...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wrong Turn

Just imagine: there's probably an alternative universe out there in which I *could* be arsed to write a review of last night's Doctor Who episode, Turn Left.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bus Under Siege

Right, now that I've gotten my expected Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale scream out of the way, I am actually killing myself laughing as I write this. Last week, because I inadvertently ruined Stuart's unbridled enjoyment of Silence In The Library/Forest Of The Dead by being all rational and objective, I offered to, I think it was, 'bubble with uncontrollable enthusiasm' about this week's Doctor Who, leaving him to pick holes in it and hopefully balance things out by spoiling the experience for me. At the time I thought it might make for quite a challenge for me and was wondering how thickly I'd have to apply the sarcasm to prevent everyone seeing straight through it. Would have been fun though. As it is, now that I've seen the episode, Midnight, I think I've got the easier job. Which is much funnier.

Never saw that coming. The fact that it was an RTD-penned episode makes it even more priceless.

And so, without further ado, I'd like to state, hand on heart, no sarcasm whatsoever, that was actually pretty darn good.

Simple, yes. But that scores highly in its favour, because a lot of RTD episodes try too desperately hard to cram in as much silliness and guff and BIG ideas that haven't been properly thought through. And this, confined as it was to a high-tech bus, was a refreshing change. It was also amusing to this middle-aged Doctor Who fan that, given the involvement of two Troughtons (David and Alice) there was something of the 'base-under-siege' scenario to it all, such a staple of the second-Doctor era.

It built the tension in a measured, controlled, *believable* way. First the shadow outside, then the knocking and then the child-like but sinister repetition game being played so fiercely and effectively by Lesley Sharp's (possessed) character, Sky Silvestry.

And yes, there was a shortage of explanations: the creature's gone, back to the bejewelled wilderness, leaving us none the wiser really to its true nature. But that *works*. Much better that than strain to shoehorn in some wildly imaginative but basically dumb explanation. Here, Rusty resists his usual excesses and the beneficial effects are immediately evident.

Can it be coincidence that this was such a Donna-light episode? But no, there I'm just sticking the tongue in the old cheek, because I think this episode would have worked fine with her on board the bus. Except for the necessary cut in screen-time for all the other characters, so it remains a sensible decision. (But I can safely say it wasn't Catherine Tate's absence that made the story work for me.) And they were a fair bunch of characters, again thankfully lacking those customary excesses we've come to expect. Somehow, they feel well-judged to fit with the tone of the piece and although early on I was wondering why there were no aliens on board, as events unfolded I could understand the reasoning. It would have been so difficult to carry such intense scenes with anything other than human faces and the Doctor being the only (other) alien aboard was key.

So, bravo to the cast. And bravo to David Tennant and Lesley Sharp, especially, for making what could have been such silly scenes into such captivating, compelling exchanges. I'm sure there was more than one outbreak of the giggles during shooting, but it was all straight faces watching it here. Bravo to the director. And, honestly, credit where it's due: bravo to Sir Rusty, OBE. (Do we have to call him Sir now, I'm not sure?) Time enough in weeks to come for big world-threatening Dalek-and-god-knows-what-else climactic face-offs. On this occasion, Keep It Simple paid off. Thank you for helping me keep a promise to a mate and making it so easy! Ha!

A nice, tense scenario, well-handled and well-played. And surely too simple an idea for anyone to pick very many holes in. We'll see. Over to you, Stuart. :)


Battlestar Galactica mid-season finale: Awesome. Lengthy wait until we get to see the rest of it: subject header says it all.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not With A Bang

In all probability, not many people will remember Not With A Bang, a post-apocalyptic sitcom, circa 1990. Truth to tell, I only have vague recollections of it being quite funny and that the plague that wipes out most of the human race is triggered by a butter-fingered Judith Hann on the set of Tomorrow's World. Luckily, the plague instantly reduces everyone to piles of dust, which is a whole lot more comical than the rotting corpses left by the killer disease released by that equally clumsy Japanese germ-warfare scientist in Survivors, of which we've just finished watching series one.

But 'not with a bang' is also, coincidentally, how Survivors manages to impress.

The genuinely terrifying title sequence (which I've mentioned before) is, arguably, the only 'gimmick' used and since that neatly hands you the entire background in one effective capsule, to be taken with each episode, it's no gimmick at all, just a very clever device. The rest is just the bare necessities: a bunch of actors (mostly decent - but boy, good child actors were hard to come by back then), good scripts (with only one - Revenge - that didn't quite work for me), appropriately rural locations (they mention how dire conditions are in the cities and thankfully don't venture there!). (Plus a few props and animals.) And it's entirely fitting that a post-apocalyptic drama should get by on the basics. But Survivors does very much more than 'get by'.

In fact, I have to use phrases like 'the bare necessities' just to evoke catchy little Disney numbers and jolly things up a bit. To be fair, when I saw Dawn Of The Dead (2004), I found the social decay far scarier than the zombies, so maybe I'm just a wuss in the face of such widespread civil disintegration. But in my defence, I have good reason: I'm a writer - a sensitive, artistic type - and in any Survivors scenario, I'd be completely useless. They might keep me around for procreation, I guess, but beyond that I'd really have to brush up on my cooking. And even then, I'd insist there was no skinning of bunnies involved.

So, yes, it frightens me. But there's something to be said for any series that can take your fears and turn them into compelling viewing. Of course, more than just tap into that nerve of mine, it had to sustain my interest over thirteen episodes, and there it does a brilliant job of tracing the lives of its principal characters (some more eponymous than others), exploring so many of the implications and ramifications of the collapse, lending us insights along the way into how others are responding, steadily drawing them together into a community and testing its ability to sink or swim. On occasions, some of our 'heroes' seem too naive, idealistic, and that's fair enough, except they persist in their tendency to be too trusting in the face of all the more hostile folk who come their way, but that's what sets them apart as 'heroes' in inverted commas. Some of their decisions are questionable and heavily reliant on the much-diminished general populace being a good deal more civilised than I'd imagine. (Although maybe that's because they're British: an American Survivors would, I'm sure involve many more guns and a lot more paranoia.) That's the show's core optimism at work: that we might be able to hold onto some of our more precious values - compassion, trust, charity - in the face of such a meltdown. It's why we're following these people's stories, as opposed to any others, even though - or maybe because - there's a sense that maybe this lot aren't going to make it if they don't toughen up a bit.

But, naturally enough in any drama, it's when they're confronted with the real bastard choices, obliged to make the harshest decisions, that you really get to know these characters - and your blood runs all kinds of hot and cold. Contrast early on when Ann abandons Vic for dead in a quarry and you're condemning her as a heartless, spoilt bitch (not that you'd be altogether wrong) with (much later on) Greg and Abby - whom we've grown to know and respect - conspiring to keep silent about their mistake, like any good corrupt leadership, over their first botched attempt to mete out justice in the gut-wrenchingly good episode, Law And Order. It's when it's at its bleakest that the series is at its best.

It's similar, to my mind, to the way Battlestar Galactica constantly challenges us to rethink our perspective on the characters we like or respect or admire or connect to because of their behaviour under extreme circumstances. And, as much as any of us might be tempted to judge from the comfort of our sofas or armchairs, surely it's really about asking ourselves: seriously, really, what the f*** would I do? And, of course, coming up blank, because how could we possibly know? But the fact that we're prompted to ask, that's the barb on the hook.

Of course, Battlestar does also rely on CNN-inspired space battles and that's just the nature of its very different end-of-humanity scenario. But watching Survivors pretty much in parallel with BSG's 4th season has made for such a fascinating contrast, with the senior citizen standing up well next to the, er, flashier youngster. There is an odd bit where one character, Vic, gives himself a miraculous face-lift with a shotgun, but presumably there's some good behind the scenes story for the cast-change and again, it's not like the series had a gimmick like regeneration to fall back on. So it has to do things the hard, basic way.

Series one ends on an optimistic note, with that rare thing in season finales: the sense of a rounded, satisfying conclusion instead of a massive cliffhanger to get you salivating for the next season. Again, no gimmicks, nothing flashy. Only some subtle feeds into what might be a second series, the suggestion of hope and possibilities. Which is, as I say, just typical of the way Survivors impresses. Not with a bang: quietly awesome.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Library's Labours Lost

When I first saw The Sixth Sense, I knew M Night Shyamalan was a storyteller worth watching out for. Even if I had trouble pronouncing his name. That and his subsequent movies all demonstrated a similar flair for taking some simple supernatural or fantastical hook - ghost story (The Sixth Sense), superheroes (Unbreakable), alien invasion (Signs), fairy tale (The Village) and, er, obscure mythology (Lady In The Water ) - and grounding it effortlessly in the real world and weaving a tale in an artful and strangely compelling way. Haven't seen The Happening, but you can rest assured I will be giving it a look. Despite a significant degree of disappointment in Lady In The Water, which may have had a lot to do with the odd choice of hook, but whatever the specific reasons for that movie failing to measure up on the Shyamalan scale, he remains, for me, very much a storyteller worth watching.

So when I say I think Steven Moffat is the M Night Shyamalan of the Doctor Who world, maybe folks will understand.

He's demonstrated a gift for hooking us in with cleverly constructed stories and fiendish ploys - little boy in a gas mask (The Empty Child), clockwork androids and a time-and-space-spanning love story (The Girl In The Fireplace), statues (Blink) and now shadows (Silence In The Library). And when it comes to things to creep us out, there's little better than shadows, so I know for a fact they weren't the reason why, overall, I found this two-parter to be the weakest weapon in the Grand Moff's Doctor Who arsenal to date.

Aside from a few problems cited at the time - like a cliffhanger as ham-fisted as any space pig - I was generally enthusiastic about part one. I just didn't feel that part two delivered on its promise.

Certainly it didn't help that I'd figured out much of what was going on while still in the midst of episode one so when it comes to the Doctor hitting on the huge revelation that the 4022 people saved were actually *saved* to the *hard drive*, I'm already a week and a bit ahead of him. And, as mentioned before, too much of the whole affair seemed hampered by this slowness on the part of the characters. Yes, by all means have the Doctor in denial about the whole she's-my-wife-but-I've-not-met-her-yet 'conundrum', but when they're still labouring the point in episode two, just in case there are a few who haven't got it yet, well, I'm sensing padding. Not as blatant, say, as the over-egged cliffhanger, but unfortunate because there is potential for so much more to be done in those wasted minutes.

As a for instance, I'd have preferred less Matrix and more Pitch Black. Because as much as it over-laboured certain aspects ("Donna Noble has been saved", "Who turned out the lights?" "Dum, dum, dum, dum, dum") , I couldn't help feeling it undersold one of its key potential strengths: the shadows themselves. Greater use of setting and, well, the darkness. But as it is, I'm not sure the story served its own Vashda Narada (sp?) very well. Piranhas of the air is all very poetic, but it's one thing to fashion 'monsters' out of shadows - and it's pretty easy I guess to digitally paint them onto a scene - but to make it a living, convincing creature, you have to give a fair amount of thought to their motivation and, to put it simply, 'how they work'.

The rules here are murky and not in a 'well they're meant to be an intriguing mystery' way but more in a 'someone didn't really think it through' way. For one thing, after the Doctor telling everyone to stay out of the shadows, they latch onto victims standing in the light. For another, these piranhas of the air haven't had so much as a wren's drumstick to feed on between the 4022 people being saved and the Doctor et al showing up, so what have they been living on? Worse, though, is the fact that this monstrous elemental force that the Doctor is at that point powerless to stop decides to cave on the strength of him telling them who they're up against. Worse still is the fact that they *don't* then use that as a trick to have the Doctor re-stock the library-cum-larder with 4022 walking takeaways.

A shame. And an especial shame because really there was much to admire here. Plenty of astounding, amazing pure-Who moments of the calibre we've come to expect from Mr Moffat: the whispered name, the clicking of the fingers to open the TARDIS doors, the stuttering husband not quite managing to call out for Donna and of course the beautifully heart-wrenching final moments from River Song. Well, her final moments before her final scene, you know.

And I'm not objecting to her 'resurrection'. In and of itself it was fitting and a nice little twist, only rendered somewhat routine by the fact we've seen that sort of thing a bit too often before (Kylie in Voyage Of The Damned and Rose's emotionally charged final parting which turns out not to be quite so final after all). Given the choice, I'd save Alex Kingston over Kylie or Billie Piper any day.

But when it comes down to it, I could sit here and list all the great points to admire - and there were many - but in the end the overall impression I'm left with is that it could have been better. Perhaps this is Steven Moffat's The Village rather than his Lady In The Water, but if this comes over as an unduly negative review it's only because the man is clearly brilliant. Average Steven Moffat is still, for my money, head and shoulders above the rest and any disappointment is inevitably measured against his previous efforts rather than against the surrounding stories in the season.

So let me conclude by stating categorically that I liked it and it stands as the highlight of the season so far. It's still clever and it's still artful and still reason enough to be excited that this is the man who's next in line to be running the show. And while others who don't care for his work might take 'Steven Moffat is the M Night Shyamalan of Doctor Who' for some kind of insult, I know it means that he remains a storyteller very much worth watching out for.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gods R Us

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is in many ways a refreshing indicator of the extent to which fantasy has been embraced by the mainstream. Far more so than science fiction, of course, because if you set out to depict spaceships in space, aliens in an alien landscape/society, or attempt include any kind of science or substantive, complex plot, you are moving towards 'cult', 'niche' and other more marginal frontiers where fewer members of the general public are inclined to boldly go. I'm not sure what it says about us that, as atheism achieves new heights of popularity, courtesy of the likes of Richard Dawkins, we're more widely accepting of gods and magic in our books and movies - especially in a comfortably contemporary setting - than we are of science in our fiction.
Turns out, I'm guilty of this myself, having emerged from Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull with the feeling that extraterrestrials were somehow less credible than the good old angels of death spilling forth from the Ark of the Covenant in the original. Which is just plain weird.
It's probably why Doctor Who, for all that it trots out aliens by the gross, so scrupulously avoids anything too much like intelligent science fiction.
However, I'm not one of these grouches who considers anything populist to be automatically bad and for all its lightness, there is plenty of wit and intelligence on display in Gods Behaving Badly. It's a funny, breezy read and - apart from the fact that I had the idea first, of course ;) - highly original. And it sells us on the fantasy in no time at all, slotting the Greek gods very easily into contemporary roles. In truth, in reviewing Marie Phillips' book, I have to take special care to remain objective, because almost as much as with Doctor Who, I find myself plagued with the "I would have done it this way" virus. But the fact is, central conceit and setting aside, Marie has crafted something quite different to the titularly identical version I might have written. Whereas - if my sample scenes for the competition were anything to go by - I might have gone with the more outrageous Young Ones style humour, what you get here is more rom-com than sit-com, with a touch of the Four Weddings And A Funeral about it, although she sensibly trims it down to one of each (kind of). Although it lacks the emotional weight of that film - which, for me, always lay in John Hannah's eulogy for Simon Callow and Kristin Scott Thomas' unrequited (if inexplicable) love for Hugh Grant. To be fair, the passages concerning hero Neil's devastation at the loss of the girl he loves, are well-written and genuinely moving, but they are somewhat undermined by the fantasy element, in that we know he's going to venture down to the underworld and get her back, and it leaves little lasting impression by the end of the book.
It's the mortals though - Neil and Alice, hero and heroine - who are the best-drawn characters in the novel. Most of the gods themselves come across as little more than sketches, drawn from their ancient mythology templates. And it's a shame that Athena is sidelined as a not all that comical laughing stock in order to make the plot work. Because the gods' circumstances rely rather too heavily on them not twigging to something that should have been staring them in the face for a few thousand years, and when one of them is the goddess of wisdom (amongst other things) she's altogether too likely to have it figured out. The answer supplied by the book is to make Athena a poor communicator, but I fear it might have been a more successful ploy if her dialogue had been styled after that of Babylon 5's Ambassador Kosh - rendering her an impenetrable mystic, instead of some sort of idiot savant.
There are other areas which might have benefited from a science fiction background, at least a portrayal of a sunless Earth more informed by a reading of Larry Niven's excellent Inconstant Moon. And there's what seems to be a hiccup in the internal logic, where hero Neil is still able to see heroine Alice after his return from the spirit world, when she remains invisible to everyone else among the living. Might have been a nice extra touch to have her vanish from Neil's sight for a while, as he is returned to his body.
But these are minor gripes, doubtless born of my sci-fi bias, that really take nothing away from a read that, despite an unusual special significance for yours truly, was good, unabashed fun, plucked from the mainstream shelves of WH Smith where I'm less apt to browse than, say, the science fiction/fantasy shelves just around the corner. (Although, as I say, maybe the fantasy books should be slowly creeping around into mainstream, they're still for the time being kind enough to keep the science fiction company.) And I might even be tempted to pick up the sequel when it appears, which it surely will.
Meanwhile, I'm going to add Marie's blog to my list of links here, because it turns out she's also 'one of us'. Besides being an author - and author's blogs are inherently interesting, no? ;) - she blogs her views on the latest Doctor Who episodes, Eurovision and the like. And she acknowledges the disappointment that was The Doctor's Daughter. Clearly, someone worth trading views with.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Grand Moff Steven

See, now this is why we're all chuffed that Steven Moffat is set to take the helm of Doctor Who (can I get a premature yay!). Well, last night's episode is one reason, along with all the others he's written. As it was only the first of a two-parter, overall impressions of the story will have to wait until next week but right from the get-go, Silence In The Library was just more immediately interesting.
Of course it gets marks for Steven Moffat's trademark blend of wit, creepiness and intriguing premise - and for featuring Alex Kingston in such an engaging role. So clearly, I'm biased. So, just for the sake of balance, until the final results are in, here are what I felt were the principal negatives:
Another over-egged cliffhanger. Used to be a time when just the sight of a companion's face stuck on a sculpted android would have made for an effective cliffhanger in and of itself. Combine that with a stomping skeleton in a spacesuit and you should be onto a winner. Spin it out for lord knows how many minutes and your suspense souffle sadly collapses.
Could have used an earlier death, I think. For quite some time, we - and the archaeological expedition - were just faced with the Doctor telling us all how dangerous it was, when an early kill would have done the trick much more effectively. That's what expedition members are for in Doctor Who.
The Doctor and Donna being utterly dense. The Doctor especially. He's time-travelled for, ooh, a few years now, I'd think he'd be quicker on the uptake with the idea of running into someone from his future. After all, not to blow my own trumpet or anything, but in Emotional Chemistry, he actually prefers to consider that possibility rather than confront the idea that he might have met all these people from his past but not remember them. Fair enough, we might put the Doctor's 'slowness' here down to denial, but like the cliffhanger, it's spun out a little too much for credibility.
However, there were numerous pluses to weigh against all that, not least of which was the look Alex Kingston (sigh) gave Donna, which - perhaps optimistically - I took as a good sign that Donna snuffs it. Of course, I also have this insane theory that the Doctor 'dies', but now that's been modified to the Doctor appears to die, gets buried, to be later unearthed by a certain archaeologist, and so begins a blossoming relationship in which, if we can't have Sally Sparrow as a companion when Moffat takes charge, we can at least have River Song.
But now I'm just having fun. I blame Steven Moffat for that.
Meanwhile, take a look at a short story I wrote envisaging what Doctor Who might be like if re-imagined for our screens (shortly before it was re-imagined for our screens). (My website's due for a major overhaul, but the story should still be there for a little while yet.) It features a Doctor and TARDIS unearthed in an archaeological dig, so you can see why I wouldn't be against the idea :)