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.
The one with the fly in Dubai.
A light-hearted Breather Episode with very little drama, written as a contrast to "Midnight". The 200th Doctor Who TV story (the Classic Who serials are typically counted as one story eachnote ), and the very first to be shot in High Definition videonote , it was written by Russell T. Davies and Gareth Roberts and based very loosely on Roberts' 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.
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 takes cues from Mission Impossible with a similarly bombastic soundtrack, only for the intensity of the opening to be compromised when the Doctor pops in to talk to her about Easter treats.
- Actor Allusion:
- Admiring the Abomination: Earns a What the Hell, Hero? from Christina, although she immediately admits that she's impressed too.
- Adorkable: Malcolm is so geekily excited to work with his hero. He also named a unit of measurement after himself.
- 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.
- McMillan goes into one when Cristina flies off in the bus.
- Big Red Button: Turns off the security grid on the Tritovore ship's crystal shaft.
- Big "SHUT UP!": When everyone starts freaking out because they think they're going to die on the bus (thanks to what Carmen said), the Doctor shouts, "Stop it! Everyone, STOP IT!", before calming them down.
- 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're going 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: Ternary suns, actually. San Helios orbits a triple star.
- Blue Blood: Christina is an aristocrat.
- 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: One vehicle of such description is stuck on an alien planet and the Doctor has to save them. Oh, and also one not-so-innocent master-thief.
- 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: When one of the stingrays that got to Earth heads for the flying bus, the Doctor smacks it away with the side of the vehicle.
- Chekhov's Gun: The cup of King Athelstan, which Christina steals at the beginning of the episode, becomes essential to saving the day.
- Chekhov's Skill: Christina's rope-descending skill comes in handy for acquiring something that the Doctor needs.
- Classy Cat-Burglar: Christina is a sophisticated and bilingual thief who meets the Doctor just after a heist. It comes 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.
- The Doctor knows UNIT so well that he can tell when they salute him, even if it's over the phone.
- 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?
- Barclay compares San Helios' three suns to the planets in the sky.
- Crazy-Prepared: Christina has something in her pack for every situation... except bus fare.
- Dark Action Girl: Christina is a bit more morally ambiguous than most companions, while also being more action-oriented due to her skills as a thief. The Doctor doesn't mind too much.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Played with. Christina seems to indicate her father lost the family fortune and she became a thief because of it (though the Doctor doesn't buy it).
- Dark Is Not Evil: Christina may be a thief with black hair and dress all in black, but she is on the Doctor's side and a fairly useful companion to him.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The episode takes place over the course of one night.
- Extreme Omnivore: The Swarm eats everything on the planet and then leaves for another.
- Expy: Christina is one for Lara Croft. A young aristocrat who steals artifacts more for the adventure rather than the money; her outfit wouldn't look out of place for Croft.
- Fake-Out Opening: The prologue looks like some exciting heist story and not at all like a Doctor Who episode. You could believe you'd 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 Taylor is wearing a ratty pair of these.
- Flying Car: Flying bus.
- Flying Seafood Special: The flying stingrays that comprise the Horde of Alien Locusts.
- 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 on San Helios that got eaten by the stingrays.
- 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 reestablish that he didn't always agree with the other Time Lords. It's about to become very important...
- Virtually everything Carmen says, given that she's psychic.
- 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 Blindness: 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 in the UK rarely carry firearms) 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.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: When discussing their shared unwillingness to give personal details, the Doctor claims "We make quite a couple." Christina replies "We don't make any sort of couple, thank you very much." A half-hour later, Big Damn Kiss.
- "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:
- Defied. 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; nasal voice, shy, hugely passionate about his gadgets, and wears glasses.
- 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.
- Which is yet another bit of foreshadowing of what lies in store for the Doctor soon.
- 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 have the heads of flies and, like them, eat waste.
- 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 doesn't go on thieving missions just for the money; it's also about the fun.
- Lampshade Hanging:
- The Doctor points out how uncommon it is for him to arrive on Earth during Easter time, which lampshades the fact that compared to the annual Christmas specials, this is the only Easter special the series has done.
- UNIT has a long history of being the Redshirt Army using ordinary guns against foes that are immune to them. Not in this episode, though:Captain Magambo: I don't believe it! Guns that work!
- Meaningful Name:
- The bus is the number 200, due to it being the 200th serial.
- San Helios ("Saint Sun") could be considered one, having a double meaning due to the planet having three suns and (having had) an abundance of temples.
- Mineral MacGuffin: Hilariously subverted; Ten sends Christina to retrieve a very large crystal from the depths of the crashed Tritovore ship's drive system ... and then throws the crystal away, because what he actually needs is the clamps that held it in place.
- "Mission: Impossible" Cable Drop: Christina steals the chalice in the prologue. 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:
- Nerves of Steel: Malcolm adamantly refuses to close the wormhole and abandon the Doctor, even when Captain Magambo holds him at gunpoint.
- 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."
- Noodle Incident: The Doctor was present at the first Easter and knows what really happened.
- No Sense of Direction: The Doctor claims he can never "find" Easter, a movable feast but yearly seasonal holiday.
- Not So Different: When the Doctor learns what Christina does, he acts disapproving for about ten seconds before admitting he stole the TARDIS from his own people.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.
- 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.
- Omniglot: The Doctor claims to speak every language while chatting with a giant alien fly.
- 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. Well, not in television she did show up in an Eleventh Doctor comic and seemed to recognize the Doctor despite the change of appearance.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sarcastic Devotee: Christina is one to the Doctor. Despite thinking him an idiot, she helps him get everyone back to Earth.
- Say My Name: The Doctor yells "CHRISTINA!" when he realises she intends to go down the Tritovores' crystal shaft to get the crystal, accompanied by an Oh, Crap!
- Seen It All: Compared to most people who team up with the Doctor, Christina reacts surprisingly chill when she's thrust onto an alien world and meets real aliens, whereas some of the Doctor's companions are stuck in perpetual Deer in the Headlights mode, bicker with him every step of the way, are uncooperative because they don't trust him, or are too close-minded to take it all in. For an adventurer like Christina, she's pretty much up for anything, resulting in one of the most competent of the Doctor's associates for a change instead of an oftentimes woefully naive and totally clueless Pinball Protagonist who is basically a child hanging onto the arm of the Doctor, dependent on him for everything (aka a young Susan Foreman type) and to be scolded when they step out of line. You've got someone who is on equal standing with him, even down to being skilled at French.
- Sequel Hook: "It is returning, returning through the dark. Oh, and Doctor ... he will knock four times."
- 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.
- Almost all of the episode is a shout out to The Langoliers by Stephen King. From the vehicle falling through a wormhole into a strange and empty world, to the ominous but vague something lurking on the horizon that turns out to be a horde of creatures that devour everything in their path, to the psychic sensing their approach.
- Skewed Priorities: When Christina finds out that the sand is the remains of the dead population and wildlife of 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 is one of these for UNIT. 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: Played with. Lady Christina's outfit looks like one of these, but is actually a t-shirt, jacket, jeans and boots all in the same shade of black. As a result her outfit is more practical and less conspicuous than an actual catsuit would've been.
- Stripped to the Bone: The bus driver, on trying to cross back through the wormhole.
- Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: DI McMillan is mostly played for laughs, ignored by UNIT and other authorities, and in the end, the Doctor helps Lady Christina escape as he watches in futility.note
- Tempting Fate: Double-subverted with 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 catch and arrest her when the bus returns, but the Doctor helps her 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; "returning through the dark" is indeed vague but it's still enough to terrify the Doctor.
- Wham Line: "It is returning, returning through the dark."
- 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."
- Christina: We could have been so good together!
The Doctor: [grinning] Christina... we were!