My thoughts on the two-parter from this week and last:
The best novel of the 7th Doctor New Adventures line becomes not only the best story of this season, but in my opinion, perhaps the best episode of the revived ‘Who” to date: A perfect almalgam of old-style story with the new-style romantic-hero Doctor.
Tennant gives a heartbreaking performance as John Smith, especially as the realization that he is a fictional construct is dawning — he sobs and rages against the unfairness of it all. Then giving us flashes of the Doctor’s glib verbosity, constrasting the two characters clearly, and then finally the stone-cold look of an impassive and angry god as he enacts his punishment upon The Family, reminding us that, for all of his wit and heroism, that is simply the mask of a very powerful alien being, not even remotely Human.
Joan’s final refusal to join him as a Companion, pointing out that people died simply because he chose to come there at random — on a whim, to use her words — was a nice indictment of the casual manner with which the Doctor seems to view the “collateral damage” of his adventuring…an echo of Clive’s statement from the 2005 Christopher Eccleston series, that the Doctor “brings chaos in his wake, and his only constant companion is Death.”
But most of all, as I said — this story fuses the very old-style Who elements of spooky-scarecrows and alien body-snatchers attacking the Academy (a variation on the traditional “base under siege” Who plot, mixed with a bit of historical and set in a uniquely British bit of culture), with the more mature emotional realism of the new Who (the Doctor — or rather the part of him that is John Smith — wanting to be ordinary and no longer lonely).
Earlier this season I said that the show felt like it had come into its own….with this story, it has grown up.