“Gridlock” is a bit of an unusual episode. If more you dwell on the logistics of the situation, the less sense they make. Even so, the episode, as a whole, works pretty well. And it introduces some promising hints about the rest of the season.
It was kind of cool to see them going back to New Earth. The place, of course, went downhill considerably as compared to the Doctor’s last visit in “New Earth.” I like the idea of New Earth as a recurring location for the series. Unlike in the show’s original run, we haven’t had much in the way of exploring other worlds; New Earth is about as close as the new series has gotten to visiting alien worlds and I hope we see more of it in the future.
As I mentioned above, the logistics of “Gridlock” are a mess. First, there’s the virus that wiped out almost all life on Earth. Supposedly this virus spread across the entire planet, with a 100% fatality rate (the handful of survivors were never exposed to virus), in a mere seven minutes. Even if you accept the unnaturally high fatality rate, seven minutes isn’t nearly enough time for a virus to spread and kill. A virus capable of doing that would have to have an astronomically high rate of reproduction (say doubling its numbers every few seconds); not to mention you would expect at least a few areas of the planet would be sufficiently isolated that it might take days, or even weeks, for even an airborne virus to reach them.
Then there’s the matter of the traffic jam. As far as everyone stuck in the jam was concerned, destinations could be reached in a matter of years. The traffic system existed prior to the lock down and surely there were some vehicles traversing it at the time; surely they would have noticed all of the exits had been sealed and they were traveling in a circle.
The Macra are something of a puzzle as well. They were apparently attracted to the traffic jam by the build up of fumes (as the Face of Boe could not power the ventilation system). So at some point over the years, these non-sentient alien beings somehow detected the fumes, traveled to New Earth and infiltrated the Motorway. I suppose the Face of Boe could have somehow arranged for them to be inserted, to try and keep people from getting too curious about the true state of the Motorway, but that doesn’t really seem in character.
Also curious is the carpool lane. If Face of Boe introduced the Macra into the system, he could have also set up the carpool lane to keep contact between the Macra and the cars at a minimum. But if the carpool lane existed prior to the Macra’s introduction, and was so much faster than the other lanes, how come nobody knew that the Motorway never actually went anywhere? Surely there would have been hundreds, if not thousands, of cars traveling in the carpool lane, and since the cars can communicate with each other, you think word would get around that there was no way out.
The gridlocked society that developed on the Motorway, logistics aside, was actually pretty neat. Between the daily news updates, the ability to communicate with other people on your ‘friends list’ and cars that can manufacture/recycle all the necessary material needs, everyone seemed to be rather content with the situation. Granted, there was the occasional Macra related fatality, but otherwise it was a surprisingly happy little carbound civilization (it certainly was a much better alternative than living in the under-city).
The Face of Boe’s much hyped revelation (first hinted at all the way back in the second episode of the relaunch) was simultaneously a bit underwhelming and very cool. What is it about the vague statement that the Doctor is “not alone” that kept Boe from telling him sooner? Yes, the suggestion that there’s another Time Lord (or Time Lords) left in the universe is huge, but it’s not like Boe had any really specific intel on that to share with the Doctor.
While the Doctor was quick to dismiss Boe’s statement (for Martha’s benefit anyway), it’s pretty obvious (esp given that the Doctor made a point of telling Martha about his status as the last Time Lord) that it was referring to the Doctor not being the last Time Lord. Whether there is just one additional Time Lord, or a sizable bunch left alive, this almost certainly means the return of the Master in the not too distant future.
Apart from the Daleks, the Master was probably the most iconic villain in the original series, so it’ll be nice to have him back again. The current Who is starting to over use the Daleks so a return of the Master will hopefully lead to the Daleks getting to rest for a little while (as awesome as the Daleks are, if they keep showing up at the current rate, they’ll turn out like the Cybermen in the original series (who, by their last appearance, were being killed off in large numbers by Ace with nothing more than a slingshot and some gold coins)).
Despite many a logistical headache, “Gridlock” was not only an entertaining hour of television, it also set the tone for some neat stuff happening in the future.
Next week, it’s off to 1930s New York with some pig like creatures and the oft used Daleks.
Sir Linksalot: Television News