Doctor Who #862: The Empty Planet Part 1

"What if aliens have decided to start the human race again, just beginning with you and me?"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Nov.1 2010.

IN THIS ONE... Everyone on Earth is gone except Clyde, Rani and this kid Gavin.

REVIEW: Another Sarah Jane-lite story, but I tend to like these a great deal. I love to see the kids try to figure things out on their own. And with Luke gone, Clyde and Rani don't have a brain box to help them in the deux ex machina department. The premise is one we've seen before in films - The Quiet Earth is to me the prototypical "empty Earth" film, though there's of course 28 Days Later - but it never ceases to be effective, especially the bit where the "sound of the Earth" just stops. In this case, it's also a metaphor for teenage love on the wing. These two characters have been getting closer, and the audience can infer, from The Mad Woman in the Attic, that they eventually get together. A sci-fi story that makes them the last two people on Earth seems indicated, and could act as a pressure cooker for their growing relationship. In a sense, they're already an old couple. Not for the first time, Rani criticizes Clyde's lack of academic ambition, not, I surmise, because she's a schoolmaster's daughter raised with that culture, but because she wants Clyde to be better, to be worth her attention. She's often short with him, and it feels like displaced tension, one frustration building on another.

It's interesting that without Sarah Jane present, no clear leader emerges. There's a struggle for leadership, one claiming seniority, the other like-mindedness with the usual authority figure, but in the end, they have to talk things out, come to a consensus. They're equals and must learn to share in the decision-making. Writer Gareth Roberts is putting on the road to a healthy relationship! And in a genre where the hero often makes leaps of logic and explains things in brief sound bytes, it's refreshing to see protagonists work things out by talking about, offering, rejecting and/or accepting solutions to the puzzles in front of them.

Plus, really really really cool robots.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - It's a good, eerie set-up, but a great spotlight on the two remaining kids.



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