Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #5 – The Poison Sky
The hit BBC series Doctor Who is now in its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel, and since we’re all big fans here at ComicMix, we’ve decided to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic.
Every week, we’ll have our best Who-philes go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the "sonic screwdriver" equivalent might be) and call out all of the continuity checks, names dropped and storyline hints we can find to keep in mind for future episodes. We’ll post our analysis each Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode once it airs each Friday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel before reading our review.
Missed a week? Check out our "Doctor Who in Review" archive or check out any of the past editions of this column via the links at the end of this article.
Keep in mind, we’re going to assume readers have already watched the episode when we put fingers to keyboard and come up with our roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #5: "The Poison Sky"
IN BRIEF: When we last saw The Doctor, poisonous gas was filling the skies, Martha Jones had an evil clone and the Sontarans launched their invasion. After Donna Noble takes refuge in the TARDIS, The Doctor attempts to talk the Sontarans into revealing their plans for Earth, only to realize the Sontarans have taken the TARDIS — and Donna — aboard their ship. The Sontarans stop Earth from going nuclear with the help of Martha’s clone and they conquer UNIT’s base, only to lose their foothold when UNIT brings in the big guns… literally. The Doctor manages to burn away the poisonous gas, but bids farewell to his companions before teleporting to the Sontaran ship for what will certainly be a suicide mission. Child prodigy Luke Rattigan, who helped pave the way for the Sontaran invasion, redeems himself at the last moment by taking The Doctor’s place and blowing up the Sontaran fleet. Finally, as The Doctor regroups with his past and present companions, the TARDIS takes off on its own, confusing The Doctor and bringing Martha Jones along for yet another adventure.
AGAIN WITH THE GALACTIC LEGAL-ESE: Much like earlier mentions of The Shadow Proclamation during this season and earlier ones (including "Partners in Crime" and "The Fires of Pompeii"), The Doctor invokes another example of galactic law when he demands the Sontarans speak to him "under jurisdiction two of the intergalactic rules of engagement." With all of these galactic rules and regulations being tossed around, we can’t help but wonder when humans’ ignorance of cosmic politics will put Earth on the wrong side of an interstellar bypass a la Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
YOU WOULDN’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY: When the Sontarans begin their invasion, a number of UNIT troops are slain — including Ross, one of the only UNIT footsoldiers given a name in the story. The Doctor isn’t happy about this, and we see a side of him that doesn’t appear very often, with the Time Lord screaming at Colonel Mace, "Now listen to me: GET THEM OUT OF THERE!"
Throughout the series, The Doctor has occasionally let out a great verbal fury. Adventures such as "Claws of the Axons," "The Pyramids of Mars," "The Pirate Planet," "Destiny of the Daleks," "Trial of a Time Lord," "Battlefield," "Survival," "Bad Wolf," "New Earth" and "Army of Ghosts" all feature prime examples of his fury when pushed past his limits.
Scarier still, however, is when we see the cold, vengeful anger of The Doctor, such as in last season’s episode "The Family of Blood," in which he condemned three enemies to eternal punishments, as well as "Remembrance of the Daleks," in which he blew up the Dalek homeworld Skaro. In the audio play "Terror Firma," he even tells his arch-enemy Davros (creator of the Daleks) in a quiet whisper, "I’m going to kill you."
THE CREATURE REPORT: At one point in the episode, The Doctor mentions the Sontaran’s war with the Rutans. Although we’ve heard about them often since the Sontarans’ first appearance in the original series’ adventure titled "Time Warrior," we’ve only seen them in an adventure with The Fourth Doctor, "The Horror of Fang Rock." Rutans look like big, eerie jellyfish, have shape-shifting abilities and can emit and feed off of electrical energy. Could we be in for a Rutan sighting in the new series?
BLAST FROM THE PAST: During the initial Sontaran attack on UNIT’s base, The Doctor remarks, "It’s times like this I could do with with the Brigadier." For those not up on their Doctor Who history, "The Brigadier" is The Doctor’s nickname for Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, the founder of UNIT and a frequent associate of The Doctor during missions on Earth in the original series. Of course, “The Brigadier” isn’t just a nickname, it was his rank at the time of the Time Lord’s first meeting with him, too. Over the course of the series, The Brigadier helped defeat The Master and Cybermen on many occasions, and has personally faced down and killed demonic entities. Although The Brigadier officially retired in the original series, we saw in the old show and in the audio plays that he would accept new missions from UNIT time and time again when he felt they needed him.
In this episode, when Colonel Mace refers to The Brigadier, he calls him "Sir" Alistair — inferring that the UNIT mainstay was knighted. In the UNIT audio plays, it was said that he was knighted and promoted to General, although his closer associates still called him “Brigadier” or "Brig." Despite their differences, The Doctor and The Brigadier developed a strong friendship, so much so that in the audio play "The Spectre of Lanyon Moore" and in the TV adventure "Battlefield," The Brigadier showed that he was able to recognize The Doctor almost immediately — even after a regeneration. In The Eighth Doctor audio play "Minuet in Hell," The Doctor even referred to Alastair as his best friend.
Unfortunately, Mace also tells The Doctor that The Brigadier is stuck in
CONTINUITY CHECK: When Col. Mace has The Doctor don a gask mask to deal with the poisonous environment outside the UNIT base, The Doctor asks him, "Are you my mummy?" This line is a reference to an episode from the first season of the new series titled "The Empty Child." In the episode, a creepy child wearing a gas mask asks the same question of The Ninth Doctor and many of the other characters in a WWII-era adventure.
A few minutes after The Doctor makes his "mummy" joke, we’re treated to another, far bigger element from an earlier episode: the massive airborne aircraft carrier called the Valiant, last seen in the previous season’s three-part finale, "Last of the Time Lords," and referenced in the last episode.
QUESTIONS UNANSWERED: When The Doctor contacts the Sontarans and the TARDIS tunes in to the broadcast, former companion Rose Tyler can be seen on the video screen a split second before The Doctor beguins his conversation with the Sontarans. We last saw Rose in the first episode of this season, "Partners in Crime," when she appeared in the final moments of the episode only to disappear just as mysteriously moments later. So how is Rose crossing the barrier between dimensions? We have a feeling we’ll find out soon enough…
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEXT EPISODE, "The Doctor’s Daughter": The title says it all, but the episode preview seems to indicate that whoever The Doctor coupled with must have been a pretty good gymnast, because that’s a side of the Time Lord we’ve never seen before!
Thanks to ComicMix contributor Alan Kistler for help with this week’s analysis. Credit also goes out to the good people at The Doctor Who Wiki for information related to several of this week’s story notes.
Want to know what you’ve been missing? Check out all of the past "Doctor Who in Review" features via the following links: