Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 7/21/08

This week’s DOCTOR WHO was the true “Doctor Lite” episode — star David Tennant barely appeared (and filmed all his scenes in one day) — as fans got to see Donna live another alternate-reality version of her life. (The last one was just a few weeks ago in the episode “Forest of the Dead.”) But the big news was the full return of Rose.Billie Piper is back, and oh, how I’ve missed her. (It’s not dissing Freema Agyeman‘s Martha or Catherine Tate‘s Donna to love Rose…)

This week, Donna visited a fortune teller played by Chipo Chung (who you may remember as Chanthro, the beetle woman who assisted Prof. Yana in last season’s “Utopia”). While Donna was distracted by the woman’s entreaties to “change the world” by wishing she had made a different choice at a key juncture of her life, a strange, beetle-type creature attached itself to her back and enabled Donna to actually change her personal history. Remember waaaay back in the episode “The Fires of Pompeii,” when Lucius the soothsayer told Donna “There’s something on your back”? This is what he was talking about.

Because Donna never took her temp job at H.C. Clements, she never met Lance and got tangled up with the Empress of the Racnoss and never became the titular “Runaway Bride.” In this timeline, Donna watched the Racnoss webstar from a distance instead of meeting the Doctor; she wasn’t there to snap him out of his rage when he drained the Thames — so the Doctor died. In another change, Rose appeared — but too late to save the Doctor. So fans got to see other London events unfold from the perspective of the common person, as when Royal Hope Hospital was transported to the moon (in “Smith and Jones”). Without the Doctor, his former companion Sarah Jane Smith saved the day, but at the cost of her own life, as well as those of Luke, Maria and Clyde. (Thus, no SARAH JANE ADVENTURES in this reality.) The Adipose took over America because the Doctor and Donna never became “Partners in Crime.” And the Sontarans’ Atmos stratagem was foiled by “a little band of fighters” — presumably Capt. Jack and TORCHWOOD. Through it all, Rose kept appearing, because without the Doctor, a great force of “Darkness” was gathering and threatening all realities. After the space Titanic crashed into Buckingham Palace and destroyed London in a nuclear holocaust — because the Doctor wasn’t there to avert the “Voyage of the Damned” — Rose revealed, “I’ve been pulled across from a different universe” — only hinting at the enormity of the threat that was actually extinguishing stars! Rose never told Donna her name, even when she was trying to convince mouthy Ms. Noble, “You’re the most important woman in the whole of creation.” Still, one can hardly blame her — Rose also had to break the news that while only Donna could save the multiverse, it would cost her her life. (“Sorry. I’m so sorry,” Rose said, adopting the Doctor’s catchphrase.)

When Donna finally agreed to help, Rose took her to UNIT headquarters, where the TARDIS was cannibalized to create a crude time machine. (Since Rose worked with Torchwood on her version of Earth, I would have expected her to seek out her parallel institute in this world — Torchwood Cardiff or the branch up in Glasgow.) Rose showed Donna the previously invisible beetle, which reminded me ot the giant spider from Metebellis 3 that Sarah Jane had on her back in the Third Doctor story, “Planet of the Spiders.” Tate, who is known mostly as a comedienne in Great Britain, got to really showcase her dramatic acting skills as Donna chose to sacrifice herself to save the multiverse. Rose sent Donna back in time to undo her change and carry a message to the Doctor: “Bad Wolf.”

With the universe back on the right track, the Doctor mused that the Time Beetle was part of “the Trickster’s brigade” — another reference to THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES. (The Doctor noted that ordinarily Time adapts to the changes wrought by the beetle — presumably the Reapers from “Father’s Day” appear and repair Time — but why were there no Reapers this time?) When Donna relayed the “Bad Wolf” message, the Doctor realized she had been in contact with Rose, and the Bad Wolf was code for the end of the universe. If the Doctor is scared, then you know the situation is dire, but the gloom was reinforced by the tolling of the TARDIS Cloister Bell — last heard last season in “The Sound of Drums,” when evil Time Lord the Master took over the world, and “Time Crash,” when the 10th and Fifth Doctors crossed time streams. It means disaster is coming.

And it would surely be a disaster for you to miss the next installment of Night Shift.

Originally posted on Soap Opera Weekly.com

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