Okay, obligatory Rose squealing out of the way ... two mentions!!! (Reference, and by name!!), and a shot of her on the little screen too -- of course when the Doctor wasn't looking. Of course!!! And the preview!!!! Yes, I'm shipper-girl enough that my favorite part was her running towards the dead (!!) Doctor on a gurney. And, oi, I'm going to be wrecked by what's going to happen to Donna. I don't know the spoilers, but all signs are not pointing to something good. I swear at the end of the day, Donna better be alright. I'm already bracing myself for inevitable, soul-crushing, gut-wrenching heartbreak on the Doctor/Rose front; I don't need to weep copious tears over Donna too. So, Rose, you better be wrong.
Now, onto the episode itself. WOW! That was an incredibly tense, freaky, awesomely done episode. I expected to miss Donna knowing it was Donna-lite, but I didn't even realize she wasn't in the episode all that much until the end because I was so riveted by what was on-screen. Russell T Davies is sure going out in a bang. The acting was excellent all-around, but David Tennant outdid himself. He was absolutely amazing; just amazing. I was tearing up when it was so clear that his voice was being stolen by the thing, and then how he played the final scene with Donna; man, it broke my heart. The writing was funny, light-hearted and then building to this awesome tension that was just so well-executed.
We've seen so many episodes about the Doctor extolling the virtues of humanity. Then every once in a while, we see the darker side play out and this one just kicked to the gut when one of those virtues the Doctor so loves (the desperate need for survival) came rising to the fore in a horrible way. Ah, and then redemption was found when the first voice that spoke up for survival by killing Sky, gave her own voice to ensure the survival of everyone else (ironically, by killing Sky -- who, in all honestly, was probably already dead). Amazing. So beautifully done.
In a way, RTD managed to capture the scary tenseness that I thought we'd get from the previous Moffat two-parter, but which petered away before the first episode even ended. This one kept it going all the way through. Just fabulous. And me thinking I'd love such a Donna-lite episode shocks me, but damn, did I love this one.
A few specific things I want to mention that I especially liked:
- The Doctor subtly making all of the "entertainment" disappear. Hee. (Also, there was a small part of me that wanted to see the music be some footage of Billie Piper in her pop-star days. That would have been hysterical, but yeah too noticeable for the Doctor to ignore, but still, would have been HI-larious!)
- The Doctor's: "Roast beef. Bananas. The Medusa Cascade. BANG! RoseTylerMarthaJonesDonnaNobleTardis. Shamble-bobble-dibble-dooble. Oh, Doctor, you're so handsome. Why, yes I am. Thank you." LOVED IT! I rewound that part about ten times. It was awesome.
- The fact that the Doctor asked what the stewardess' name was. Nice callback to "The Poison Sky" when the Doctor was so adamant about naming the soldier (Ross) who died.
- Finally, the ending bit was so wonderfully, wonderfully done. When Donna repeated the Doctor's Italian phrase and said "don't do that," I immediately thought of how the Doctor had used that exact phrase on Rose, Martha and Donna at one time or another when they attempted an accent and I laughed; and then his haunted eyes hit me anew as he repeated "don't do that," and I realized: Oh. Ohhhhh. The repeating. Maybe we were supposed to get the repeating fact of it right away, but how I came to it in a secondary way made it hit harder I think.
Overall, excellent, excellent episode ... so good, it almost makes up for the lackluster two-parter preceding it and the so-so "Doctor's Daughter" before that.