A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Daughter”

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The Doctor’s spawn reflects his genetic makeup pretty accurately: two hearts, spunky, smiles in the fishy face of danger. Oh, and good-looking—very good-looking. Considering the Doctor’s conspicuous grudge against soldiers in the current season, I was surprised to learn that his own spawn was born to fight. If he could accept a military predisposition in his own kin, when is he going to warm up to Danny? But that’s a complaint for another day.

Let’s go back to season four, when Martha, Donna and the Doctor have been suddenly shipped to the planet Messaline. There, a soldier shoves the Doctor’s arm into a big machine for “processing.” A few scrapes and jolts later, Jenny is born. She enters the world as a full-grown, machine-gun-shooting woman, and immediately leads a scrimmage against the Hath, a species of fish-headed humanoids with home the regular-headed humans have been fighting a generations-long war. The Doctor is initially reluctant to accept Jenny as his offspring—particularly since she’s a designed killer—but over the course of the episode they come to understand each other’s perspectives.

The Doctor has never had a warm-and-fuzzy approach to the concept of family, so it was surprising to learn that he’d been a father before Jenny. I had always assumed he was bored by the idea of family—too much responsibility, too much being-tied-down. But now I wonder if he rejected the concept because it’s too painful to consider. He’s lonely in the TARDIS—but perhaps he has decided that solitude is better than risking a further sense of loss. Of course, he does grieve his lost companions—remember how much he moped over Rose?—but that cannot compare to the loss of a child.

This episode also had one of the most shocking moments I’ve seen so far on Doctor Who: the Doctor holding a gun to the head of General Cobb. Not only was this gesture completely out of character, it also felt distinctly human. Time Lords do not fight with guns—especially not scrappy pistols like the one the Doctor was using. Those are the tools of a more lowly species. After a tense standoff, the Doctor lowers his weapon. “I never would,” he says—but there’s a sense that he could. Even the fact of him holding the gun to a man’s head—threatening him, wielding force over a helpless creature—is an abuse of force beyond what we usually see from the Doctor. That scene felt like a glimpse of how easy it could be for him to snap.

I’m also intrigued by the real-life genetic entanglements here. Actor Georgia Moffett, who played Jenny, is the daughter of Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor. And after shooting this episode, she married David Tennant, with whom she now has two children. So their gene pools have some kind of entanglement, onscreen and off.

Also, a small note on Donna. At the end of the episode, she tells Martha that she plans to travel with the Doctor forever. Somehow, this seemed like an absurd statement. Even if some sort of disaster didn’t get in the way, it’s hard to imagine a regular-human companion having the stamina to kick around with the Doctor for more than a couple of seasons. Donna’s words also felt like a foreshadowing of bad things to come. I know she leaves at the end of this season—but I don’t know what pushes her over the edge. Something tells me it won’t be good.