Doctor Who series 4 episode 5 review: The Poison Sky

Our second take on last weekend's Doctor Who, which saw the Sontaran grabbing their guns and getting down to action...

Will this be the last we see of the Sontarans for a while...?

That was Billie Piper they snuck in again wasn’t it? Screaming for the Doctor on the screen of the Tardis console, and once again putting a layer in place for the big end-of-season reunion?

And that was the Brigadier they teased us with for a moment there, wasn’t it? Even if they then fobbed him off by dropping him in Peru (which is, presumably, where the dart landed on the map adorning the wall of the Doctor Who production office), it was right that talk of UNIT didn’t take place without mention of its most famous employee.

Beyond these two moments, the concluding part of the Sontaran two-parter, The Poison Sky, did still manage to feel like a bit of a missed opportunity. The signs weren’t good when the cliffhanger was resolved by smashing a car window open, thus meaning Bernard Cribbins didn’t choke to death inside. You’d hoped they’d have a better resolution than that, but alas, the puzzle was resolved in the most obvious way possible. It’s simply a pity that all but Donna’s mum appeared to have had their brain cells removed for a couple of minutes.

Elsewhere, the plot continued to muddle. The Atmos SatNav system was busy choking the world – and providing a platform for some far better effects work than they mustered last week – while Martha The Clone was rumbled in double-quick time by the Doctor (the same Doctor who couldn’t work out how to smash glass a few minutes earlier). With the child genius character clearly then there to simply sacrifice himself at the end, it was down to the Sontarans to provide the thrills and spills.

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And to be fair, when The Poison Sky ratcheted up the action, it pulled few punches. Granted, this was gloss over the plot and story problems, but it was good gloss: a fine, old-fashioned shoot-out with futuristic weapons is usually good value, and it didn’t disappoint here. The Sontarans never really managed to feel as menacing as they had done in the past, but give them a few guns, and a few lines about how good war is and stuff, and they seemed content enough.

I thought this was a bit better than last week’s, again with a few little bits and bobs for the classic Who fan (and a neat reference to kids-with-gasmasks from series one of the revived version). Good, too, that the Catherine Tate family backstory has evolved suitably differently from Rose and Martha’s, and again, I’m really warming to her as a companion (apart from when she slips into the occasional, er, ‘Catherine Tate moment’).

In all, though, it still wasn’t a great two-parter. But the real excitement surely came with the preview for next week’s episode. Since the Doctor dropped in a line back in season two (if memory serves) about him once having a kid, this has been a plotline awaiting further exploration. Next week? With the help of Peter Davison’s real-life daughter, that wait is over. Bring it on…

Read Martin Anderson’s take on the episode here