I feel somewhat ambivalent about last night's episode of Doctor Who.
The Pyrovile rock monsters looked like rejects from the Transformers movie (maybe they thought the Tardis was the Allspark cube?) and sounded like a dodgy haemarroid cream. I also felt that Phil Davis - a terrific actor - was rather wasted as Lucius Petrus Dextrus (what, he can carry Chihuahuas in both hands?).
The 'limbs turning to stone' thing was rather ridiculous too. Phil Davis spent much of the episode running around like a vandalized one armed bandit. I was constantly waiting for the Doctor to score three cherries (but alas the Syballine Oracles weren't at all interested in his sonic screwdriver).
And yet the story overall did pack quite a bit of emotional punch. The history of Pompeii is well documented but still manages to move (unless you're as hard hearted as the Pyrovile of course) and the writers capitalized on this resonance by wisely focusing our attention on a select few of the town's inhabitants - making the sense of tragedy personal rather than general. The scene where Donna tries to rescue a small child from the panic before it is snatched away by its mother was superb. Very simple but it hit the target big time and Catherine Tate proved beyond all doubt that she is a superb actress in the harrowing scenes that followed.
I also liked the fact that Donna is acting as a "moral earth" to Tennant's Doctor - grounding him a little in the minutiae of existence rather than merely seeing the universe as a massive binary tapestry of what is and what is not meant to be. Their relationship is set to be far more rewarding for us viewers than the Doctor's previous travels with the lovelorn Martha Jones.
If only Donna could lose some of her Essex girl attitude when under life threatening stress... it is a little off putting to have her shout things like, "'Ere babe, no, leave it aht, wot you fink you're doin'?" etc when the proverbial is about to hit the fan. OK, I'm exaggerating a bit but I was half expecting her to whip out a white hand bag and pointy stilettos from beneath her amply bosomed toga.
The rine in Spine falls menly on the pline, anyone?