Can I just digress here and say that Big Finish's storefront is just terrible? When I tried to buy Shada from them yesterday half the pages were broken including the search engine. The registration pages don't make any attempt to track what you were trying to order before it asked you to register. And, honestly, the worst of all is that the products are not all available for direct download. Do I want to (eww) wait for the thing I just bought to be delivered through the (ugh) mail? In fact, do I really want more (shudder) physical objects cluttering up my life at all? No, I don't. I want to stick some bits on my iPod and that's the end of it. They're lucky I'm so honest and still bought their product; frankly I'm tempted to download the torrent anyway now that I've paid my money. The only thing really holding me back is that my torrent download speed is usually so lousy.
...which brings me back to the original subject, Doctor Who, since the Season 4 torrent just finished. Wasn't that good, the way I tied things up like that? I thought it was very good. Anyway, I've actually been cheating and downloading the first few eps separately to watch in advance; I've watched through "The Doctor's Daughter." My conclusions:
1. I really like Donna (Catherine Tate) as a companion. Especially after Martha, who just didn't bring much to the enterprise beyond a worshipful attitude, it's nice to have a companion who is unwilling to take the Doctor's crap. (Favorite line: "So you don't bring along humans to show us the marvels of the universe? You bring us along so you'll have somebody to take cheap shots at?") Donna can and does actually shut him down when he's getting too full of himself and that's great.
2. There's a dedication to overall quality in this show which means that even mediocre episodes usually have good performances, funny lines, nice effects, and/or the odd startling idea that make them not a waste of time. (An example of the last one: In "The Doctor's Daughter," Donna works out that the endless multigenerational war on the planet has in fact been going on for one week. The crew of the colony mission had split into factions and used cloning machines to go through twenty generations of soldiers in a day, and the reason the planet was such a wreck wasn't that war had ruined it, it was that they'd just arrived seven days ago and the terraforming wasn't started yet. Now whether this is incredibly clever or incredibly silly I can't quite decide, but an incredibly original take on the old forgotten-colony idea that left me with my mouth hanging open? Oh yes. In fact, now that I think of it, that idea was so cool it pulls the whole episode out of the mediocre stack all by itself.)
3. I loved "The Sontaran Stratagem." A stupidly complicated alien plan! UNIT back on site making a well-intentioned hash of things! Pointless running around! Sontarans, for God's sake! (And they were awesome.) It was such a throwback. Aside from the fancy special effects, this could have been a Pertwee story. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. Now to be clear, there's no pressing need to have more episodes like this -- the new show should continue to be the new show -- but it was a great change of pace.
4. Something I just thought of: As the old series dragged on there were more and more episodes that were all floaty and mystical and faux-profound and ultimately made no damn sense. I'm thinking of, er... well, most of Davison, honestly. (That Mara stuff? "Enlightenment"? Urgh.) So far the new series has generally resisted that. It frequently -- all right, constantly -- lays down situations that are ridiculous, but in their own context things tend to fit together in a logical way... and worst comes to worst, the 45-minute running time means things can't get too far off the rails before it's all over. May we continue along this path.