We needn't have worried. Although it seems that the bubble will burst on the new Doctor Who universe at some point, it hasn't come yet. Russell T Davis and his team at BBC Wales have pulled yet another very good series out of the bag, providing that compelling and unique formula which appeals to both adults and children, and managing to remain one of the most enjoyable British shows on TV.
David Tennant is clearly familiar with and at ease in his role as everyone's favourite time travelling General Practitioner. The charisma, energy and unbridled enthusiasm he brings to the screen is a joy, and it is very easy to watch and listen to his character, even if the episode itself is somewhat lacking. The BBC will have a very hard time replacing this much-loved actor when the time comes.
Initial concerns over Catherine Tate's suitability as the Doctor's companion are, for the most part, dispelled fairly quickly, although she does go in to 'shouty Donna' mode a little too often. She proves to be a bit of a sensitive soul, with her affection for granddad Bernard Cribbins (reprising his role from Voyage of the Damned) particularly warming, and her stubbornness and predisposition to lock horns with the Doctor on a few occasions prove her to be a suitably different character to both Martha and Rose.
Speaking of Rose, this series sees her much-talked-about return towards the end, if only for a few episodes - mainly for the climactic finale. Other old favourites returning including Martha, Sarah Jane and the Torchwood team (now less two members, if you also follow that excellent series). It's great to see all the related series cross over like this, something I hope the producers do more of in the future.
The episodes are well directed and the special effects are as good as any British TV show has ever been (in fact, often good enough to match some US TV shows). The sets all look authentic and suitably convincing, although some aliens still have a tendency to look a little silly and false - although admittedly no worse than Star Trek has been doing for years now.
Here is an episode-by-episode analysis of the series:
Voyage of the Damned - the Christmas 2007 special. The Doctor literally bumps into the Titanic, a luxury alien space cruise liner come to observe the 'primitive culture' of Earth. Before you can say "mind that iceberg" disaster has struck and the ship is on a collision course with London. With a small team of survivors in tow and a wrecked ship to negotiate, the Doctor must get to the control deck and stop the collision before it is too late, all the while avoiding murderous mechanical angels The Host and trying to find out what went wrong. Notable for a performance from Kylie Minogue as waitress Astrid, this is a classic disaster scenario obviously inspired by '70s movies such as The Poseidon Adventure. A decent adventure which, if anything, feels as though it's over too soon, but it's definitely the best Christmas Special to date. 7/10
Partners in Crime - a fun, fairly harmless Doctor Who episode in which the Doctor meets back up with Donna Noble, who is deliberately looking for trouble in the hope of coming across the enigmatic Timelord again after their encounter in the Christmas 2006 special, The Runaway Bride. Together they investigate the sinister Adipose Industries and its villainous leader, 'nanny' Miss Foster, and the foundation of their somewhat argumentative partnership is set. It's a decent if throwaway introductory episode with obvious references to real-life social issues, lots of running, not much by way of genuine peril and cute, pudgy little alien babies. 5/10
The Fires of Pompeii - this is more like it. The Doctor takes Donna back to Pompeii, mistakenly arriving the day before the infamous eruption of Vesuvius. Once there, they discover a curious sect of seers whose ability has the unusual effect of slowly turning them to stone. Investigating further, he finds an alien race under the city manipulating the people of Pompeii and is forced to make a terrible decision... 6/10
Planet of the Ood - the Doctor takes Donna to the Ood Sphere - the aliens last seen in Series 2's excellent double-bill, The Impossible Planet / Satan's Pit. The Ood are a fairly creepy enemy, but that's not really the idea of this episode; it's one of a couple of instalments this series which examines the awful, depraved things that people do, or indirectly support. There's a little (much needed) character development for Donna, and overall this is a fairly solid episode. 6/10
The Sontaran Stratagem - this double-bill sees the return of the lovely Martha Jones and the less lovely warmongering aliens, the Sontaran. Now working for international anti-alien agency UNIT (like a bigger, military version of Torchwood), Martha calls the Doctor back to Earth to help investigate the suspicious activities of the Rattigan Academy whose technology Atmos exists all over the planet. It's good to see Martha again, who has now got over the Doctor and is getting on with her life (engaged, no less!), and all in all this is a fast-paced, action packed episode which sets up part two with a decent cliff-hanger. 8/10
Poison Sky - this episode sees the Doctor meeting back up with his old enemy and trying to stop them from destroying Earth. Further, he must find out what plans child prodigy Luke Rattigan has and uncover why Martha is acting so strange... It feels a little too predictable in places, but overall is a good conclusion. 7/10
The Doctor's Daughter - an interesting episode which delves a little into the Doctor's past life and family ever so slightly, but also sets up potential storyline[s] for the future. Caught in a fierce conflict between a small group of human clones and a race of aqueous aliens called the Hath, a DNA sample is taken from the Doctor to produce a clone - a soldier - his 'daughter', Jenny. With Martha captured by the Hath and the two forces ready for a final confrontation, the Doctor, Donna and Jenny must hurry to discover the cause of the conflict and stop the massacre. 6/10
The Unicorn and the Wasp - for me, this was the weakest instalment of the series. It could have been a good murder-mystery in the classic Agatha Christie style, but I think it all got a bit silly when we find out that the murderer can turn into a giant wasp. Still, it features a good setting and costumes, and is a bold if disappointing attempt to answer a genuine mystery from the author's life. 4/10
Silence in the Library - this is where the series really started getting good. Called to the mysterious abandoned Library Planet through his Psychic Paper, the Doctor meets scientist River Song, who strangely knows him very well even though they've never met (again, setting up potentially interesting future plotlines). They soon discover the reason everything is abandoned - the Vashta Narada; flesh-eating creatures that travel in the shadows have infected the planet, and the computer is telling him several thousand people were saved from the creatures, yet they are nowhere to be found. What's more, there is a little girl who can see in to the library when she closes her eyes, but is she helping everyone, or hindering them? 9/10
Forest of the Dead - the second part of the above episode. A good conclusion, with a bit more development for Donna, some fascinating interaction between River and the Doctor and some very interesting ideas explored with the little girl and the nature of the Library. Writer Steven Moffat (of Coupling fame) again proves he is one of this series' greatest assets with this superb double-bill. 9/10
Midnight - definitely the highest point of the series for me, almost as good as (the standard-bearer) series 3's Blink; this is a simple but effective look at what people do when contained in unusual and frightening circumstances. While travelling across the uninhabitable planet Midnight on a sightseeing tour the transport breaks down, leaving the Doctor sans Donna stranded with a small group of people. As something approaches the craft one of them is seemingly possessed, and everyone bickers and argues over what to do while unbeknownst to them the entity gains in power... A brilliant episode, cleverly directed and excellently acted, with a chilling performance from Lesley Sharp as the possessed woman. 10/10
Turn Left - an interesting premise and a twist on the time-travelling idea; in this episode Donna visits a mystic lady who offers to read her future, only she traps the unwitting Donna in an alternate timeline where she never met the Doctor, and observes the series' happenings as an outsider. Seeing the return of Rose as a strong, charismatic leader in her own right, this is one of the best episodes and an excellent idea, well explored. 9/10
The Stolen Earth - here it is; the beginning of the epic series finale which is definitely on par with series 2's magnificent climax. Earth itself is pulled across the galaxy for dark purposes unknown, and whoever has done it has ensured the Doctor cannot trace it. So it is left to his friends and allies on Earth - Captain Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha and others - to try to resolve the problem, work out a way to outwit their captors and contact the Doctor. Meanwhile, one of his oldest enemies stirs and the Doctor has to go to the mysterious Shadow Proclamation for help. Lots of returning faces and a pace that barely lets up in this excellent episode. 10/10
Journey's End - the series bows out in spectacular style. Like the first part, the plot races along and barely lets up once - it does all seem a little confusing at times, but you don't really have time to think about all that anyway. With one or two unexpected twists along the way and a very bittersweet ending, this is a superb finale to a yet another very good series overall. 10/10