The Fires of Pompeii had potential to become first purely historical episode in the new series. It would have been fantastic. But sadly, either the new production team has no faith in their abilities to do historical episodes, or they are just not yet ready to make that leap.
With that said I couldn’t say that this story was in any way bad. It was just as good as any other to come before it, but is that good enough?
The Doctor’s new companion seems to be worth a strong match for the Doctor. She’s got the heart that the Doctor needs to reconnect with sometimes, and she seems to be only thinking of others– so far. Who knows what the future will bring for Donna? Maybe we’ll see another Father’s Day soon enough, to show that everyone is a flawed character.
From the first moment that we saw the CGI monster I thought the episode was going to go downhill, but to my surprise it did not. The monster was used sparingly, and it was done pretty well. It looked just like a CGI monster and not something that was in the room with them while filming, but it was OK. It was better then Professor Lazarus so I can live with that.
Pompeii was brilliant though, wasn’t it? Especially when the volcano erupted and the ash and rocks rained down on the city. It felt hot and you felt for the people. More so, you felt for one man specifically. How could the Doctor feel any more guilt in his life? Take a natural disaster, one of the biggest in the history of the world, and make him realize that it was all because of him and one gigantic choice that he and he alone, always has to make.
It must be hard for the writing team to find new ways to tell new audiences and the new companions all the information that they need to know every year, such as the Doctor’s survival status as a Time Lord, the destruction of his home world, the fact that his real name is hidden, and the list goes on. That said, I feel that the writing team got it just right in this episode. It felt as if the information came out naturally and within good context to the story.
Now as I said I feel that Donna will be good for the Doctor, seemingly not a love interest and all, and with her wanting to do the right thing to save people and not her own skin or to serve her own agenda. As far as we know now anyway. But adding to that I am quite happy to see that she is not the same character that we saw in The Runaway Bride. Although I did like her character in that story, she did seem a bit over the top. Not only has she been toned down, but her humor is a nice addition to the story telling. However, I do feel that the running gag of the Doctor and Donna having to explain that they are not married will get old very fast.
I’ve said before that the first episode is usually a bit of a non-event and to wait until episode number two to see the series really kick off. This year was no exception. Although The Fires of Pompeii had a lot of potential to be something else, it certainly showed us that Doctor Who has not lost its footing. It is still very much the show that made me fall in love with it all those years ago.