Gridlock (Doctor Who)
|181 – "Gridlock"|
|Doctor Who episode|
Thomas Kincade Brannigan invites the Doctor into his car.
|Writer||Russell T Davies|
|Script editor||Simon Winstone|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Originally broadcast||14 April 2007|
"Gridlock" is the third episode of the third series of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, first broadcast on BBC One on 14 April 2007. It was written by Russell T Davies and directed by Richard Clark.
In the episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (David Tennant) takes his new companion Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) to New New York in the far future, where they discover the remainder of humanity on the planet live in perpetual gridlock within the Motorway, an underground highway system.
The Doctor takes Martha in the TARDIS to the year five billion and fifty three and the city of New New York on the planet New Earth. They end up in an alleyway where street traders are selling mood patches to help people deal with their emotions. While the Doctor talks to a vendor, Martha is kidnapped at gun point by a young couple named Milo and Cheen. Once in their vehicle, they explain that Cheen is pregnant and that they needed three adult passengers with them to use the fast lane. They promise they will drop Martha off when they reach their destination ten miles away, estimated to take six years. Cheen also mentions rumours about something living down in the fast lane, saying that cars that go down there vanish and are never seen again.
The Doctor chases after Martha's kidnappers and arrives at the motorway, a completely enclosed highway filled with thousands of hover vans stuck in gridlock. The fumes in the air begin to affect the Doctor and he seeks refuge in the van of Thomas Kincade Brannigan and his wife Valerie. The Doctor learns that the couple, along with all the other traffic on the road, have only travelled a short distance in several years. Brannigan helps the Doctor to locate the vehicle containing Martha, which is heading towards the fast lane. The Doctor tries to call the police but gets put on hold, and Brannigan refuses to put his family in danger so the Doctor decides to try to reach Martha himself. He begins to jump down from lane to lane, breaking in and out of vans with his sonic screwdriver. Shortly after the Doctor leaves, Novice Hame enters Brannigan's van chasing after him.
Martha, Milo, and Cheen drive into the fast lane and begin to hear strange noises all around. A nearby driver warns them to escape into the slow lanes before being eaten by the creatures that live in the fast lane, but Milo refuses. The Doctor, finding himself in a van just above the fast lane, looks out the bottom and discovers that the floor of the motorway is filled with Macra. The Macra are monstrous crab-like alien beings that were once intelligent but now have devolved into feral beasts who attempt to capture and eat those that fly in the fast lane. The Doctor watches as Milo's van is nearly caught by a Macra claw, but Martha realises that the beings are attracted by the light and motion generated by the van and has Milo cut the power. This saves them from the beasts but leaves them with only a few minutes of breathable air in the van.
Novice Hame finally catches up with the Doctor and teleports him against his will to the senate building where the Face of Boe is waiting. Hame explains that a drug called "Bliss" mutated into a virus that became airborne and wiped out the entire surface population in a matter of minutes. Those in the motorway were spared by being sealed in and keeping the travellers in constant traffic to avoid telling them the real problem. The Face of Boe wired himself to the system to keep the motorway operational. The Doctor determines that whatever danger that Bliss may have caused before has long passed, and works with Hame to try to power up the systems to unseal the motorway. The Face of Boe sacrifices his life energy to the system, allowing the ceiling of the motorway to open. The Doctor broadcasts a call for all drivers to escape through the ceiling and gives Martha directions to come find him.
When Martha arrives, the Doctor and Novice Hame are tending over the Face of Boe. The Face of Boe is close to death and the glass container that encased it is shattered. The Doctor tries to encourage the Face of Boe to live, as they are both the last of their kinds. Knowing that it is dying, the Face of Boe imparts its final message to the Doctor: "You are not alone". The Doctor and Martha leave Hame to mourn and the Doctor tells Martha the message meant nothing. Martha knows the Doctor is lying and forces him to tell her the truth. As the undercity fills with the sound of the entire surviving population of New New York singing a hymn, he explains to Martha that he is indeed the last Time Lord and tells her all about Gallifrey and the Time War.
This episode ends a loose trilogy that began with "The End of the World" and "New Earth". Novice Hame and the green crescent seen on the mood patches previously appeared in "New Earth". The episode marks the second appearance of the large crustacean Macra race, who previously appeared in the Second Doctor serial The Macra Terror (1967). In "Gridlock", they have "devolved" from their previous, more intelligent, state. The Face of Boe calls the Doctor "old friend", a hint at about the character's possible true identity. In Last of the Time Lords, Captain Jack Harkness tells The Doctor and Martha that his nickname as a kid was "The Face of Boe". Alice and May Cassini are the first homosexual married couple featured in Doctor Who.
Russell T Davies stated that he based many aspects of New New York on Megacity One from the anthology comic 2000 AD, including the businessman's appearance on Max Normal from the Judge Dredd comic books. The numbered mood patches parallel the number coded mood controllers in the Ninth Doctor novel Only Human by Gareth Roberts; Davies confirms this was the inspiration in Doctor Who Magazine #382. The character of Sally Calypso was an homage to Halo Jones, which featured a similar character named Swifty Frisko. Also in the online commentary, Davies noted that Brannigan's appearance was based on "Ratz", the CGI disembodied cat's head that was a "virtual presenter" of CBBC's Live & Kicking in the early 1990s.
This episode reveals the "great secret" promised to the Doctor by the Face of Boe in "New Earth" – "You are not alone". Discussing this in Doctor Who Confidential, David Tennant said that Boe is not lying, yet that the Doctor is not wrong about being the last of the Time Lords, either. In the same episode, producer Phil Collinson said that the revelation would be revisited (but not immediately) and the audience would learn more about the Doctor and the Face of Boe in the process. It was not until "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords" that the meaning of the phrase and the significance of the Face of Boe's origins were discussed.
"Gridlock" was in the third filming block for the series, along with The Lazarus Experiment. Filming took place from mid-September to early October 2006. The majority of the episode was filmed in Upper Boat Studios in Trefforest. Most of this material was the interior car scenes. For this, only one car set was used, with it being redecorated for each different car. The Temple of Peace in Cardiff was the location for the Darkened Temple, which also doubled for the TV Studio with news reporter Sally Calypso. The Temple of Peace was previously used as the main hall in "The End of the World", and would later be used for scenes in "The Fires of Pompeii", "Cold Blood", and "Let's Kill Hitler". The only other location for the episode was the Maltings in Cardiff Bay, which was the location for the alley where the TARDIS landed. Will Cohen, The Mill's Visual FX Producer, revealed on the "Doctor Who Watch" page in Radio Times that the films Blade Runner, The Fifth Element and Star Wars, specifically the planet of Coruscant influenced the look of New New York.
According to Davies in Doctor Who Magazine, this episode uses the most CGI so far in all the series. However, as of "The Wedding of River Song" (2011), "The End of the World" still holds the record for most special effects shots. Ma and Pa at the start of the episode are based on the farming couple in the painting American Gothic, both having identical hairstyles, glasses and fashions. Those on the Motorway sing the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross", and the hymn heard at the end of the episode is "Abide with Me".
Broadcast and reception
The episode was aired 40 minutes later than its regular airtime due to the FA Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Watford. Had the match gone into extra time, the episode would have been postponed until the following week since the episode, which would have been broadcast after 8pm in the case of a delay, would have been on air too late for younger viewers. Overnight ratings showed that the episode was watched by 8 million viewers, which increased to 8.41 once time-shifted viewers had been taken into account. This placed it as the second most-watched programme of the week on BBC One, and the seventh overall. "Gridlock" received an Appreciation Index of 85.
IGN's Travis Fickett rated "Gridlock" a 8.4 out of 10, calling it "the first great episode" of the third series. He particularly praised the satire of a traffic jam, Tennant's acting, and the use of Martha as a companion to aid the Doctor's loss. Ian Berriman of SFX gave "Gridlock" four out of five stars. He praised the attention to detail of the props department, the appearance of the Macra, and the concept of the traffic jam, but felt there were many plot holes. He also called Travis Oliver, the actor who played Milo, "wooden". In Who Is the Doctor, an unauthorised guide to the revival of Doctor Who, Graeme Burk interpreted "Gridlock" as an allegory that was not meant to be realistic, and commented that its strength was the "powerful" theme of the motorists being blind to the truth. He stated that the "fun, fast-paced story with lots of comedic set pieces" worked to its advantage, and the appearance of the Macra was a "treat" for long-time fans. Despite the popularity of the later series episodes "Human Nature"/"The Family of Blood" and "Blink", Burk felt that "Gridlock" was the "worthiest candidate for this season's best story". Burk's co-author Robert Smith? also called it "one of the best episodes" of the revived series, particularly praising the acting of Tennant and Agyeman.
- Burk and Smith? p. 139
- ""Last of the Time Lords" Podcast". 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2007-06-30..
- Burk and Smith? p. 140
- "Are We There Yet?". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 3. Episode 3. 14 April 2007. BBC. BBC Three.
- Davies, Russell T. "Gridlock Commentary Podcast". BBC. Retrieved 2 June 2010.
- Doctor Who Magazine (Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Panini Comics) (382). 30 May 2007.
- "Walesarts, Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30.
- "What Goes on Tour...". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 5. Episode 9. 29 May 2010. BBC. BBC Three.
- "River Runs Wild". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 6. Episode 8. 27 August 2011. BBC. BBC Three.
- Burk and Smith? p. 11
- Ware, Peter. "Fact File: Gridlock". BBC. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- Burk and Smith? p. 138
- "Radio Times: Programme Details". 10 April 2007. Retrieved 10 April 2007. "The Doctor takes Martha to New Earth - though if the FA Cup semi-final overruns, she won't get there until next week.".
- "Possible Episode Delay Latest". Outpost Gallifrey. 12 April 2007. Archived from the original on 11 April 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2007.
- "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- Fickett, Travis (31 July 2007). "Doctor Who "Gridlock" Review". IGN. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- Berriman, Ian (14 April 2007). "Doctor Who 3.03: Gridlock". SFX. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
- Burk and Smith? p. 140-141
- Burk and Smith? p. 142
- Burk, Graeme; Smith?, Robert (6 March 2012). Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who-The New Series (1st ed.). ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-984-2.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Tenth Doctor|
- Gridlock on TARDIS Data Core, an external wiki
- "Gridlock" at the BBC Doctor Who homepage
- "Gridlock" at the Doctor Who Reference Guide
- "Gridlock" at Doctor Who: A Brief History Of Time (Travel)
- "He has arrived" — episode trailer
- "Gridlock" at the Internet Movie Database
- Fan reviews