"The coffin was the trap. The coffin was the solution. That's so neat, I could write a thesis."
IN THIS ONE... The Shansheeth try to create a TARDIS key, but Jo and Sarah's memories overload their machine. Featuring the 11th Doctor!
REVIEW: So yeah, the plot is rubbish, as per Russell T Davies' weakness, with the Doctor somehow knowing things despite being absent when they were explained, and an intense clip show acting as deus ex machina in the last act. While those are par for the course, it's the villains motivations that most rankle. The Shangsheeth, tired of all the crying and weeping they are subjected to in their self-appointed role as the universe's undertakers (uhm, why not just quit?) want access to a TARDIS so they can stop death from happening. How exactly? Who knows? It's a harebrained scheme. As for traitorous UNIT colonel Tia Karim, she's helping them because there's nothing left for her on Earth. Well, why not? Looking wistful as you say it doesn't explain it. And while I don't mind a little ambiguity, her actions are just too extreme to be left without explanation. And because she dies (could have done without the roast chicken joke too, by the way), we'll just never know what that was all about.
That said, the guest-stars from the world of Doctor Who are pretty great. Matt Smith gives his usual performance (and that's a very good thing), and can make himself look like a young Pertwee for Jo; I can sort of see it. RTD has some fun with the audience, having the Doctor say he can regenerate 507 times (5+0+7 is 12?), and have skin color other than white (canon!). He also says Ten's companion tour wasn't limited to the new series', which is sweet even if it compounds The End of Time's excesses. Jo Grant is also well used, even if it's something of a reprise of School Reunion. Jo too wonders why the Doctor never came back for her, and wonders if she could have brought her husband into the TARDIS life like Amy has with Rory. Katy Manning is very affecting. She gives Jo a sense of humor that allows her to know she's a little dumb and clumsy and make fun of herself. She breaks my heart by thinking the Doctor left her for being somehow defective, but she's too upbeat to let herself get too down about it.
Overall, despite the rubbish aliens and absurd plot, the episode has a good sense of fun and celebrates the companions that have boarded the TARDIS before. We even hear about Tegan, Ben & Polly, Harry, Ian & Barbara, and either Dodo or Ace ("Dorothy") and what they've been up to since they left the Doctor, over-achievers all. And of course, there's the new generation, Sarah Jane's kids and Jo's grandson Santiago. They are a continuation whether we stick to their stories or not. The show's regulars save the world after school, and their access to normalcy is what Santiago is envious of. As ever, RTD teaches us that every day life can be just as exciting and important as the lives led by fantastical heroes, and Clyde and Rani are good poster children for the idea.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - The eleventh Doctor and Jo Grant make it all worthwhile, but the plot is admittedly poor.