Carmen:No, but you be careful. Because your song is ending, sir.
The Doctor: What do you mean?
Carmen: It is returning. It is returning through the dark. And then, Doctor? Oh, but then... He will knock four times.A light-hearted Breather Episode with very little drama, written as a contrast to "Midnight". 200th serial of the series. Written by Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts and based very loosely on Roberts's Doctor Who New Adventures novel The Highest Science; really they just took the striking image of a Tube train crashing on an alien planet and made it a bus instead.
— Carmen, giving the Doctor a prophecy so chilling you can feel the Cerebus Syndrome hit from a mile away.
It's Easter. The Doctor has parked the TARDIS in the Buckingham Palace gardens ("she doesn't mind") and takes a bus trip around London. He tries to make small talk with Classy Cat-Burglar Lady Christina, who's escaping from a heist and who's convinced that the Doctor's just a rambling hobo. However, their conversation is short-lived as the bus takes an impromptu ride through a wormhole, taking the Doctor, Christina and the rest of the passengers with it.It turns out that the group have landed on San Helios, a desert-like planet with next to no life (except for some equally stranded Insectoid Aliens). The group have no way of leaving the wormhole — as the bus driver unfortunately proves — and there is a Horde of Alien Locusts on the horizon. Also, the passengers are getting suspicious of the Doctor, and he realises he's in danger of reliving some painful memories.However, it's the Doctor's lucky day: everyone, including the local merchant aliens, ends up trusting him. And instead of trying to save the day all by himself, he just quickly gets UNIT on the phone to deal with things back on Earth. Captain Erisa Magambo is honoured to talk to the Doctor. She hands the phone to Adorkable UNIT scientist Dr. Malcolm Taylor (played by Lee Evans), who squees and squees when he finally gets to talk to his hero.The Doctor and Christina are forced to work together with the passengers to fight the hungry alien swarm that destroyed San Helios. The creatures are making a beeline for the wormhole that they created. Using Christina's Classy Cat-Burglar skills and Malcolm's brilliance, the bus is turned into a flying bus, and the Doctor saves the day. Captain Magambo thanks the Doctor, Malcolm glomps him and tells him "I LOVE YOU" about a dozen times over, and the TARDIS is neatly delivered by UNIT. Christina even manages to snog the Doctor, although he refuses to take her with him as his next companion, no matter how much she begs. He's lost too many friends recently. He does, however, sneakily unlock her handcuffs when she's arrested about five seconds later, and she climbs into the bus and flies off.Unfortunately, this story just won't allow the Tenth Doctor to catch a well-deserved break. After being fairly ebullient, it moves back into the realm of dramatic tension and seriousness for one moment. And in that brief pause, it serves up one hell of a Wham Line, delivered by resident psychic Carmen . . . the Tenth Doctor is going to die . . . very soon . . .
- Action Prologue: Christina's heist.
- Admiring the Abomination: Earns a What the Hell, Hero? from Christina, although she immediately admits that she's impressed too.
- Adorkable: Malcolm.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: Subverted. Lady Christina is a thief, but she doesn't really fall in the "evil" category.
- Awesome, but Impractical: The laser system guarding the Cup of Athelstan, given that it doesn't stop Christina from stealing it. If only the lasers had gone over the top as well . . .
- Bavarian Fire Drill: Lady Christina immediately takes charge of the situation after the bus ends up on San Helios, and starts issuing orders to everyone during the initial confusion. Such tactics are Emergency Response 101 in Real Life. She immediately puts the Doctor in control once everyone has calmed down.
- Big Damn Kiss: The Doctor and Christina, after Christina said she was lying when she said she hated him.
- Big "NO!": The Doctor when he sees Christina jump down the Tritovore ship's crystal shaft, despite being attached to a winch.
- Big Red Button: Turns off the security grid on the Tritovore ship's crystal shaft.
- Big "YES!":
- The Doctor when he realises how the wormhole was created.
- Malcolm when he manages to close the wormhole. He does another one moments later when he comes out of the trailer and sees UNIT firing against the three stingrays that did make it through.
- Bilingual Bonus: Christina's response to the Doctor's catchprase.The Doctor: Allons-y! (Let's go!)
Christina: Oui, mais pas si nous allons vers un cauchemar! (Yes, but not if we go towards a nightmare!)
- Bilingual Dialogue: The Doctor speaks insect click language with the Tritovores. Once the Tritovores employ their one-way telepathic translators, the Doctor uses English and they continue in their language.
- Binary Suns: Trinary suns, actually. San Helios orbits a triple star.
- Breather Episode: Openly marketed as a last bit of fun for the Tenth Doctor.
- Buffy Speak:Christina: How does a crystal drive a bus?
The Doctor: In a . . . super clever . . . outer-spacey way, just — trust me.
- Bus Full of Innocents: And one not-so-innocent master-thief.
- Call Back:
- Captain Erisa Magambo was last seen in the alternate universe of "Turn Left".
- The Doctor refers to Donna when Christina calls him "Spaceman".The Doctor: I had this friend, once. She called me "Spaceman".
- The prophecy in this special saying that the Doctor's song will be ending soon echoes the Ood's words from the end of "Planet of the Ood".
- Caper Rationalization: Subverted. Christina claims that her father lost the family fortune when Iceland's banks crashed. The Doctor isn't fooled, pointing out that if she were short of cash, she'd be robbing banks - stealing from museums is "a lifestyle."
- Car Fu: With a flying bus.
- Chekhov's Gun: The Chalice of King Athelstan.
- Chekhov's Skill: Christina's rope-descending thing.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Christina. Complete with being actual nobility.
- Continuity Nod:
- Barclay compares San Helios' three suns to the planets in the sky.Nathan: But it was the Earth that moved back then, wasn't it?
- The Doctor makes a reference to "Midnight":The Doctor: Humans on buses, always blaming me.
- Referencing this exchange between Malcolm and the Doctor.Malcolm: The Doctor! Cor blimey. I can't believe I'm actually speaking to you. I mean, I've read all the files.
The Doctor: Really? What was your favourite, the giant robot?
- The Doctor knows UNIT so well that he can tell when they salute him. Over the phone.
- Barclay compares San Helios' three suns to the planets in the sky.
- Dark is Not Evil: Christina may be a thief with black hair and dresses all in black, but is on the Doctor's side and is a fairly useful companion to him.
- Death by Materialism: The only human character to die is the bus driver, who, at the beginning of the episode, accepted a bribe to help a criminal escape a police cordon. (He accepted her diamond earrings in lieu of a valid ticket.) The criminal herself, whose motivation is explicitly stated to be non-materialistic love of adventure, survives.
- Extreme Omnivore: The Swarm.
- Fake-Out Opening: The prologue looks like some exciting heist story and not at all like a Doctor Who episode. You could believe you got the wrong series until the Doctor boards the bus.
- Fanboy: Malcolm practically creams himself when the call from the Doctor comes. The Doctor is . . . put off, but not too much.
- Fingerless Gloves: Malcolm.
- Flying Car: Flying bus.
- When attempting to phone UNIT, the Doctor accidentally dials Pizza Geronimo instead.
- This is the first time in the revival that the Doctor admits he stole the TARDIS. After years of the Doctor acting nostalgic about Gallifrey due to being the Last of His Kind, RTD needed to re-establish that he didn't always agree with the other Time Lords. It's about to become very important . . .
- Virtually everything Carmen says.
- Christina says to the Doctor while going through the tunnel that a way out would come in handy, and wonders sarcastically if he can detect one for her. She gets two: the wormhole, which the bus goes through seconds later, and the bus itself, as she uses it to escape at the end.
- The Doctor remarks early on that the sand contains traces of something else when he examines it. It turns out to contain the remnants of the population, wildlife, mountains and everything that was on San Helios that got eaten by the stingrays.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": The UNIT helpline.Phone: This is the Unified* Intelligence Taskforce. Please select one of the following four options. If you want to report a UFO sighting, press one...
The Doctor: Aw, I hate these things!
Angela: No, if you keep your finger pressed on 0, you get through to a real person. Saw that on Watchdog.
- Genre Blind: Lady Christina does not include nigh-invisible forcefields as something she should watch out for when boldly dropping down a deep shaft to retrieve a MacGuffin. Fortunately, the Doctor stops her just short of a messy death.
- Ghost Planet: San Helios. Carmen can hear the voices of its dead residents.
- Godly Sidestep: The Doctor knows the true story of Easter. Right after he says "What really happened was—", he gets cut off and forgets what he was talking about.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!:
- Averted twice, with the phrase, "What the hell was that?", spoken first by McMillan, then by Christina.
- Also played straight, with the phrase "What the blazes was that?", said by Christina during an Oh, Crap! moment, after hearing a stingray screech.
- Go Through Me: Malcolm figures out how to close the wormhole, and plans to do so as soon as the Doctor (pursued by a Horde of Alien Locusts) makes it through. Captain Magambo orders him to close it immediately in order to prevent any of the voracious aliens from getting to Earth. Despite being held at gunpoint, Malcolm refuses to budge.
- The Guards Must Be Crazy: The security at the museum includes armed guards (when even the police don't carry firearms in the UK) and a fancy laser grid from which they all face away. It has less functionality than a glass case -- the latter has a top for one thing.
- "Hell, Yes!" Moment: Malcolm has one, accompanied by a Big "YES!", when he manages to close the wormhole.
- Hero Antagonist: McMillan. He may be after Christina and is a bit of an Inspector Javert, but he's also a police officer and Christina is guilty of theft.
- High Voltage Death: Averted. Christina would have been electrocuted had she hit the security grid of the Tritovore ship's crystal shaft on her way down it, but the Doctor stopped her in time with his sonic screwdriver.
- The security grid later appears to kill the stingray following Christina back up the shaft.
- Hollywood Nerd: Malcolm is a Type 1.
- The Homeward Journey: Almost everyone on the bus was on their way home when it drove through the wormhole. Nathan was going home to watch TV as he had lost his job, Lou and Carmen were going home to have dinner, and Angela was on her way home to spend time with her husband, Mike, and her daughter, Suzanne. And of course, the Doctor promises them all he will get them home, which he does.
- Horde of Alien Locusts: The stingrays are non-sentient, and travel from world to world through their wormholes, eating everything, and moving on.
- Human Aliens: Lampshaded:Christina: You look human.
The Doctor: You look Time Lord.
- I Lied: Christina, right before kissing the Doctor.Christina: Remember when I said I hated you? I was lying.
- Immune to Bullets: Averted and Lampshaded. More Dakka returns as UNIT's SOP.Magambo: I don't believe it, guns that work!
- Insectoid Aliens: The Tritovores.
- Inspector Javert: DI McMillan definitely comes across as obsessed with arresting Christina.
- Ironic Echo: The Doctor and Malcolm Taylor each say "He hung up on me." and "Not now, I'm busy!" at different points.
- Is This Thing Still On?: When Captain Magambo and Malcolm gush over the fact they're actually speaking to the Doctor on the phone.Magambo: We all want to meet him one day, but we all know what that day will bring.
The Doctor: I can hear everything you're saying!
- Karma Houdini: Double-subverted with Christina. She escapes police custody when the bus goes through the wormhole, and is arrested upon her return. The Doctor frees her with his sonic screwdriver and she flies off in the bus.
- Lady of Adventure: Lady Christina de Souza.
- The Lancer: Dennison is this to McMillan, and Christina becomes one to the Doctor in this episode only.
- Lampshade Hanging: The Doctor points out how uncommon it is for him to arrive on Earth during Easter time, which lampshades that there are no Easter specials compared to the annual Christmas specials.
- Language of Truth: The Tritovores use telepathic translators, which can apparently discern truth from lies.
- Meaningful Name:
- The bus is the number 200, due to it being the 200th serial.
- San Helios ("Saint of the Sun") could be considered one, having a double meaning due to the planet having three suns and (having had) an abundance of Temples.
- "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Christina steals the chalice in the prologue. And then she uses the same skill to retrieve the antigravity clamps in the Tritovore ship.
- Mood Whiplash: Everyone's gotten back to Earth, everyone's happy, Christina's avoiding jail, and then the Doctor is told his song is ending. The jubilant music stops dead, replaced with something much more ominous.
- Mundane Utility:
- Carmen uses her psychic gift of precognition to play the Lottery and win £10 twice a week, every week.
- The Doctor uses his psychic paper to get on the bus in lieu of an Oyster Card.
- Mythology Gag: The flying red double-decker bus is meant to resemble Iris Wildthyme's TARDIS.
- Nerves of Steel: Malcolm adamantly refuses to close the wormhole and abandon the Doctor, even when Captain Magambo holds him at gunpoint.
- Not So Different: The Doctor admits as such when he realises Christina is a thief.Christina: I take it you disapprove?
The Doctor: Absolutely! (pauses) Except . . . that little blue box . . . I stole it. From my own people.
Christina: Good boy! You were right, we're quite a team.
- Nightmare Fetishist: The Doctor can't stop himself from admiring the swarm's "perfect design", even though they've already wiped out at least one planet and are threatening to do the same to Earth. "Worse it gets, the more I love it."
- Oh, Crap!:
- Everyone on the bus except the Doctor and Christina when Carmen tells them "death is coming".
- The Doctor when he realises Christina intends to go down the crystal shaft herself, accompanied by a Say My Name.
- Christina while descending the crystal shaft after hearing a screech from one of the stingrays. Then again when she reaches the bottom and sees one.
- Only One Name: Everyone on the bus except Angela, who reveals her surname is Whittaker, and Christina, who reveals her full name to the Doctor later.
- Percussive Maintenance: The Doctor uses a good kick to part of the Tritovore spaceship console in order to get it to work so he can send out a probe.
- Psychic Powers: Carmen has low-level psychic abilities. According to Lou, whenever they play the lottery (twice a week), they win £10 due to said abilities.
- Put on a Bus: A literal example! At the end of the episode, Lady Christina escapes from the police by flying off in the bus, and the character has not been seen since.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The bus that was being shipped from Cardiff to Dubai was being unloaded at Dubai when someone dropped a cargo container on it. The damage was incorporated into the plot.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: McMillan is the red to Dennison's blue.
- Redshirt: The bus driver. The Doctor just saying they couldn't go back through the wormhole unprotected wouldn't have the same impact.
- Refused by the Call: After they return through the wormhole, Christina wants to join the Doctor for more adventures. He flatly refuses, and won't even give her a peek inside the TARDIS, because he doesn't want to lose another companion.
- Rule of Cool: Necessary for a Breather Episode. Flying alien stingrays! In a desert! A bus flying through London!
- Running Gag: The Doctor still doesn't like it when UNIT salutes him.
- Riches to Rags: Christina tries to justify stealing the Cup of Athelstan by telling the Doctor that her father invested his fortune in the Icelandic banks and lost everything. The Doctor doesn't buy it.
- Rule of Three:
- Only three stingrays make it through the wormhole before Malcolm manages to close it.
- There are three main locations in the episode: the tunnel where the wormhole is, the part of San Helios where the bus landed, and the Tritovore spaceship.
- Say My Name: The Doctor yells "CHRISTINA!" when he realises she intends to go down the Tritovore's crystal shaft to get the crystal, accompanied by an Oh, Crap!.
- Sequel Hook: "It is returning, returning through the dark. Oh, and Doctor . . . he will knock four times."
- The number of the bus, 200, reflects the fact that this is the 200th Doctor Who story, counting "The Trial of a Time Lord" as one story and the last three episodes of Season 29 as one as well.
- Malcolm's unit of measurement for four-dimensional phenomena is named in honour of Bernard Quatermass — David Tennant starred in the 2005 remake of The Quatermass Experiment.
- The world on which the bus lands is San Helios, which orbits three suns, similar to the Elite homeworld of Sanghelios, which also orbits three suns. And both stories begin when a human vehicle crash-lands on a strange world.
- Skewed Priorities: When Christina finds out that the sand is caused by the dead population and wildlife on San Helios, she is freaked out and disgusted because she has sand in her hair.Christina: But I've got sand in my hair. That's dead people? Oh, that's disgusting! Ohh!
- The Smart Guy:
- Malcolm. Captain Magambo calls him a genius before he even starts speaking to the Doctor, and he definitely is, because even the Doctor is impressed by his intelligence.
- Downplayed with Christina. On the one hand, she breaks into the International Gallery and is able to steal the Cup of Athelstan without so much as making a sound, is able to speak French, and has some flashes of insight that help the others out. On the other hand, she is seemingly unaware of the name of the card you pay for buses with (she thinks it's called a Lobster Card) and doesn't seem to remember what month it is, until the bus driver tells her. Could be justified because she was panicking because of the police and probably wasn't thinking straight.
- And, of course, the Doctor. Christina even calls him a brainbox.
- Spy Catsuit: A pretty realistic example, because Lady Christina's outfit is not a catsuit, in fact, but black leggings, a black shirt and boots.
- Stripped to the Bone: The bus driver, on trying to cross back through the wormhole.
- Tempting Fate: Double-subverted. Both McMillan and Dennison at the start of the episode. Dennison sets up the roadblock at the north end of the tunnel and tells McMillan the bus has no way out. McMillan responds with "We've got her". Then the bus goes through the wormhole. They still caught and arrested her when the bus returned, but the Doctor caused her to escape.
- This Is Gonna Suck: Christina in the International Gallery when the alarm goes off.
- Those Two Guys: Nathan and Barclay, who the Doctor suggests to Captain Magambo at the end might do well at UNIT. She tells him she'll see what she can do.
- Too Dumb to Live: The bus driver, in an unfortunate side-effect of the Real Life Writes the Plot incident. Since the bus originally wasn't supposed to be damaged by its trip through the wormhole, it makes sense that the driver would think he could walk back through it himself. Instead, we have him happily walking into an anomaly which has just ripped most of the top deck away from his bus, and being surprised when the flesh is seared from his bones.
- Trapped in Another World: The bus and its passengers on San Helios when the bus drives through the wormhole, until the Doctor enables its return.
- Vagueness Is Coming: Carmen's warning, but it's still enough to terrify the Doctor.
- Wham Line: "It is returning, returning through the dark."
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Tritovores, poor things. Although it crosses with Too Dumb to Live and Honour Before Reason.
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: The Doctor has Christina retrieve a large yellow gem being held by some mundane looking clamps. Once she has it, he removes the gem and tosses it. He needs the clamps because they can generate an anti-gravity field to make the bus fly.
- The X of Y: "Planet of the Dead".
- Your Days Are Numbered: "Your song is ending, sir."