After what feels like an eternity (though it’s only shy of being a month), I was finally able to step back on board the TARDIS and return to my adventures with the good Doctor . It took me a lot longer to get through Season 4 of Dexter than normal (mainly because I was simultaneously reviewing the first and only season of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip). After the departure of Freema Agyeman and a third season which I would generally call a series high point, Season 4 has big shoes to fill, and I’m more than a little concerned that Catherine Tate will be unable to live up the standards set by Billie Piper and Freema Agyeman. Much like last season, Season 4’s Christmas special (hence the episode 0 marking for those who didn’t see that the last two times at bat) eschewed introducing the Season’s regular companion and instead brought in a one-shot side-kick played by the lovely Kylie Minogue. While I enjoyed the episode (which turned out to be one giant The Poseidon Adventure homage), a lack of any real attachment to the characters on display (except for the Doctor of course) kept me from really identifying with what was an otherwise incredibly tragic episode of the series. It always strikes me just how dark and depressing a program that is considered children’s television in its native Britain can be.

Last season ended with the Doctor in a complete state of shock as the hull of the Titanic (I’m pretty sure you italicize ship’s names) crashed through the TARDIS. After repairing the TARDIS’s walls, the Doctor teleports on board the Titanic only to discover this isn’t the doomed 1912 RMS Titanic but instead a space cruise ship catering to high-end customers wanting tours of back-water planets (in this case Earth in the year 2007. quick aside here. Humanity hasn’t started exploring outer space in the year 2007. So why is almost everyone [except for Ballacavalata] a human? Are they aliens that just look like human beings? It really bothers me). The Doctor arrives just in time for a lavish Christmas party where he bumps into the gorgeous server Astrith (Kylie Minogue) as well introduces himself to a married couple who won their tickets in a lottery. After a quick jaunt down to Earth (where London has been abandoned due to expectations of a new Christmas tragedy), the Doctor returns to the ship just in time for it to be struck by meteors. The Captain intentionally lowered the shields, and now it’s up to the Doctor to lead a ragtag group of survivors through the hull of the ship as they try to escape the wreckage and re-start the engines before the ship can crash into Earth and destroy all of humanity. Along the way though, they  must contend with murderous robots in the form of Angels (I’ve determined the series is set to ruin angels forever) and figure out just who wanted to crash this ship in the first place.

This episode was definitely Doctor Who‘s take on the disaster films of yore, specifically The Poseidon Adventure and Towering Inferno, though of course it pulls all of this off with its own sci-fi twist. The action was as top-notch as the new series has been capable of producing. My only real quibble with the whole episode (besides not being able to really care about any of the characters except for maybe Astrith) was that unlike the best episodes from Season 3 (such as “Blink,” “Family of Blood,” or “Evolution of the Daleks”) I felt like the story was more of an afterthought for a rollicking disaster adventure. The characters that the Doctor was shepherding through this ship seemed incredibly ill-defined and instead appeared to be more of a science fiction update on disaster film character cliches (except for Ballacavalata who was all sorts of red alien/cyborg awesome). I will admit though the tragic fate of Astrith managed to elicit a tear or two by episode’s end, but mostly that arose from the incredibly cruel trick the writer’s pulled at the episode’s end which made you think she may get a reprieve only to kick the audience a little harder. It’s no wonder that the Doctor looked so incredibly depressed and pissed off by the episode’s end.

It’s ironic. The score I’m giving to this particular episode of Doctor Who has entirely different connotations than when I give it to something else. I love Doctor Who, but it’s never going to be a great show (Stephen Moffat episodes excepted). However, it’s an exceedingly fun program, and the series (which I’ve only given a score higher than B+ to once) can only really be judged by how fun and entertaining any given episode is. So, when I give this episode the score of a “B” but I gave the same score to a serious movie like The Fighter, they mean two entirely different things. I thought The Fighter was a good if fundamentally flawed picture that never lived up to its own ambitions. This episode is basically your average episode of Doctor Who, no more and no less. It’s not disappointing but it certainly isn’t the kind of storytelling that I remember when I try and advocate for this series. Here’s to hoping that this season can make the slight improvements it needs to make and we can get a final season for David Tennant that lives up to the legacy he left for the series.

Final Score: B