Hey, this is kinda clever! A ticking clock problem done in real time roughly the same length as the episode itself!
It had a couple problems.
So, to set up, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to the future, but when he and Martha get out to take a look around, they find themselves on a very industrial-looking spacecraft with all kinds of sirens going off. There’s a crew of about seven people left, the ship is drifting into a star, and the TARDIS is in a room that is now too hot to enter. Basically, the Doctor, Martha, and the crew have 42 minutes before they all go up in ash.
And one woman’s husband is…out of it. He’s a bit sick with something that, when he opens his eyes and looks at someone, leaves behind a shadow on the wall behind where the person was standing and not much else.
So, some positives: David Tennant is always a delight, Martha is instrumental in saving the day in ways only Martha can be (probably), and the countdown works very, very well. There are a few cool twists, most notably the fact that the star is in fact alive and it’s taking over the “infected” and forcing them to kill…including getting the Doctor at one point, forcing him more or less out of the action as he takes all of his willpower to keep from vaporizing the others. Also, Martha gets to reflect a bit on her family and how she might not see them again.
There’s also some developments with Francine apparently doing something for the mysterious Mr. Saxon, the man who told her how dangerous the Doctor was, and there’s something about an election back in the present.
Now the negatives…the seven people on the cargo ship are fairly interchangeable, and the plot reminds me of that two-parter where the devil was in the middle of a planet. But that gave us time to get to know the other characters, and so their deaths hit harder. I didn’t learn any of these characters’ names, and I am more or less fine with that. These characters didn’t seem worth learning a name for. One of the strengths of a good Doctor Who is it takes the time to get to know the characters a bit, even the doomed ones.
Take the previously mentioned devil-in-the-planet story. We got a quick introductions to the members of that station’s crew, but they were given some quirks that made them all the more memorable. Everything in this one is just so darn busy that I couldn’t tell much of anything about any of these folks. Heck, they even looked similar. Of the ones left at the end of the episode, all I knew was one guy had a thing for Martha and that was about it.
Now, as much as it sounds otherwise, I did enjoy this episode. I just found it a bit flawed, and that can be a problem if flaws like this are as noticeable going forward.