The Doctor is modifying Martha’s cell phone for “universal roaming” when the TARDIS suddenly picks up a distress signal. The call for help comes from the cargo ship Pentallian, whose engines have just died, sending it on a slow but fatal trajectory straight into the sun. The moment the Doctor and Martha announce their presence, pressure doors seal them off from the TARDIS – and when the Doctor tries to open the door to evacuate everyone with his timeship, he learns that the temperature in that area has risen dramatically. The ship’s auxiliary engines are controlled on the other side of the ship, and a crew member is suffering from an unknown infection. Martha and one of the remaining crew go to try to reach the backup engines, while the Doctor tries to get the main engines restarted, but the ill crew member soon proves to be even more important. Though heavily sedated, he proceeds to get up and utters the phrase “burn with me” over and over just before vaporizing the ship’s doctor. He continues to pick off the crew one by one, leaving them with little chance of escaping their fiery fate – and before long, he’s not the only one saying “burn with me.”
written by Chris Chibnall
directed by Graeme Harper
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Michelle Collins (Kath McDonnell), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), William Ash (Riley Vashtee), Anthony Flanagan (Orin Scannell), Matthew Chambers (Hal Korwin), Gary Powell (Dev Ashton), Vinette Robinson (Abi Lerner), Rebecca Oldfield (Erina Lessak), Elize Du Toit (Sinister Woman)
Notes: The fourth Doctor once mentioned a “Pentallian drive” in the story Revenge Of The Cybermen; it may or may not have been related to the ship of the same name, which was set further in the future than 42.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: A Doctor Who take on the “story told more or less in real time” chestnut, 42 is a bit darker than some of the season’s other fare, coming as it does from the pen of Torchwood story editor Chris Chibnall. Still, it’s a good spooky story, even though the twist in its tail – the “living star” – isn’t anything that couldn’t have happened on, say, Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Production-value-wise, however, 42 is a real rarity for the new series: it’s not just a space-based story, but one that’s done well, with enough greasy grimy spaceship innards to make Ridley Scott envious. Now, to be sure, a lot of it is pure illusion – “sweat” can be sprayed on, and there’s a lot of dry ice blown onto the sets in front of red lights, so it just looks hot. But it does a convincing job of it, and so does the cast. Perhaps betraying Chibnall’s Torchwood sensibilities, there’s a relationship among two of the crew that’s twisted into something terrifying by the end of the story. David Tennant’s “pain” acting may be just a little bit over the top, but it doesn’t last too long.
The subplot tying Martha back to her family on Earth shows that the creative team behind Doctor Who has learned a bit of a lesson: find a really good reason to keep going back to the companion’s home life. In this case, it’s another bread crumb on the trail that leads us to Harold Saxon and the season finale…