If you’re like me and I know I am, you might look at the title of this episode, knowing that this is another of the special episodes leading to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration, and you might think this one is a rather gloomy episode foreshadowing the Doctor’s end.
But instead, this was more a lighthearted adventure.
After an opening when a smooth cat bugler swipes an old chalice from a museum, a sequence that would have looked much more appropriate in, I dunno, Adam West’s Batman or maybe a Sherlock that wasn’t trying very hard, we follow the thief until she bribes her way onto a double-decker bus. The Doctor boards afterwards, offering Easter treats to the thief, and then, before the police can get the bus to pull over, the whole thing goes through a wormhole to a desert planet with three suns. It was a late night bus, so there weren’t a lot of people on it. The thief, one Lady Christine de Souza (Michelle Ryan) is pretty cool under pressure. The Doctor, for his part, is without his TARDIS.
Oh, and even though the bus is damaged and stuck in the sand, the wormhole is still open. Walking back through is instant death as the bus driver found out the hard way. But if the bus can go through, the metal chassis should protect everyone. Along for the ride besides the Doctor and the thrillseeker thief who doesn’t even need the money is an older couple, a middle-aged woman trying to get home to her family, and two unemployed young men, one of whom is played by Daniel Kaluuya. Oh, the older woman is a bit psychic and senses death. Her husband confirms her gift, as does the Doctor with a simple finger test.
Now, this sort of thing plays like a good new companion audition. Lady Christina actually works well with the Doctor. She listens and takes his word for it when they find a pair of aliens, human-shaped flies, who are also stuck on the planet. She manages to get a fuel source for the bus since it is out of petrol. And when the real threat of the episode–flying manta rays that eat everything in their path–show up, she keeps her head even as the fly aliens don’t.
Also, UNIT is on the other side trying to keep things closed. The head scientist there is played by familiar face Lee Evans, and he’s a total Doctor fanboy. Since this Doctor can rig mobile phones to call across time and space, he gets to work with those guys too.
The whole thing ends with a lot of nice whimsy. The Doctor rigs the bus to fly, they go through the wormhole just ahead of the manta monsters, and UNIT shuts the gate down, letting only the bus and three rays through, and it turns out the rays are no match for UNIT’s firepower. For once, the Doctor doesn’t complain too much about guns since the rays just go through wormholes from planet-to-planet and eat everything there before moving on to the next one. There really was no way to beat them any other way since they aren’t really all that smart. They just fly and eat. Heck, the Doctor asks the UNIT commander on-scene to hire the two young unemployed guys since they were very helpful on the desert planet.
So, nice story, right? What could make a downer out of that?
Well, Lady Christina asks the Doctor if she can travel with him. He said they made a good team. And normally, the Doctor would say yes, but he notes glumly that everyone who does travel with him comes to a bad end.
Wait, what went wrong for Martha? Or Rose for that matter? In the end, she got a Doctor of her own. You know what? Never mind.
Also, the psychic woman predicted the Doctor’s time is coming to a close.
But we can still have a bit more whimsy. Before he takes off in the TARDIS, the Doctor uses the sonic screwdriver to let Lady Christina out of the police handcuffs she was secured in, allowing her to steal the flying bus and fly away, to the general amusement of everybody, and I do mean everybody, except the cops. So, that was nice.
The next one, one I know by reputation…is not so nice.