Shock! Horror!! Russell T Davies has finally used that imagination of his and written a story of some creativity. Not only was it imaginative, it was fun to boot. Sure, it drew on ideas from the series’ recent past as well as reincarnating the terror that is the Macra! It also pilfered ideas from “The Fifth Element”, as I suggested in my preview, but it really felt as though it worked. What it most reminded me of was the much-underrated Sylvester McCoy story “Paradise Towers”. In that 1987 “Doctor Who” tale, one of the central themes is the interaction of different strands of society. The young were colour-coded into red, yellow and blue Kangs whilst the older generation were known as Rezzies. Something nasty lurked in the basement of the tower block in that four-parter, too, just as in “Gridlock”. In this latest episode, the sense of community is brought about by everyone keeping in touch, on the congested motorway (freeway, surely?), through what seems like CB radio. Ardal O’Hanlon’s really warm character Brannigan and his wife Valerie, played by Jennifer Hennessy, seem to be the instigators of this activity and it’s the unifying factor of the story.
I have to question the necessity of bringing back the Macra. To be honest, it was purely superficial, just like the return of the Autons in “Rose” and “Love & Monsters”. RTD claims it’s partly because it’s forty years since the Macra originally appeared on our screens but they haven’t exactly been a thriving part of “Doctor Who” folklore! I mean, I’d like to see the resurrection of the Zarbi or the Mechonoids. Both were much more iconic than the Macra in the Sixties despite the former appearing in one six-part story, “The Web Planet”, and the latter only appearing in a single episode at the end of “The Chase”. The Mechonoids popularity proliferated through appearances in comic strips on the back page of TV21 and in annuals such as “The Dalek World” whilst the Zarbi co-starred with the good Doctor on the cover of one of the Hartnell annuals. I don’t recall any such spin-off regards the Macra! Maybe that’s the reason for their sudden resurgence. They’re the underdog of “Doctor Who” monsters!! I’m sure that notion would appeal to Russell greatly.
The Doctor is not the last of the Time Lords according to the dying Face of Boe. On the “big old Face” revealing his secret, the Doctor seemed a bit slow on the uptake. A bit “thickety, thick, thick”! It didn’t seem to register with the Gallifreyan, or he couldn’t bring himself to believe it possible. Why Boe has to be so enigmatic, when he could simply say there’s another Time lord out there besides yourself, and by the way it’s your arch nemesis, is dubious. He’s only being cagey so as not to reveal this major surprise to those who don’t already know when there ought to be a plot reason for withholding the identity of the second Time Lord. A really nice touch in “Gridlock” was the naming of the older lesbian couple, Alice and May. These are the same Christian names Russell gave two of the three Harkness women in his 1993 children’s serial “Century Falls” and, what’s more, May is played by the same actress, Georgine Anderson, in both productions. It hints subtly at the return of Captain Jack just as the Face of Boe hints at the return of the Master.