Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: 42

By Mark Clapham on 23 May 2007

‘42′ has a simple gimmick, and it’s in the title – the 42 minutes of the episode (barring a short coda set a while later) unfold in real time, like ‘24′ but with less frothing reactionary lunacy. The Doctor and Martha arrive on a spaceship that’s falling into a sun, and having lost the TARDIS they have 42 minutes to help the crew avert disaster.

The real time gimmick, given a shot of nitro by the ever-energetic direction of Graeme Harper, boosts an otherwise fearsomely generic script by ‘Torchwood’ lead writer Chris Chibnall that splices the dingy trappings of last year’s ‘The Impossible Planet’ with a standard cat-and-mouse monster story.

Chibnall’s script is OK, with some nice jokes, an inobtrusive subplot related to the ongoing Mr Saxon story arc, and less fortunately some bafflingly nonsensical bits of pseudoscience that seem jarring even by ‘Who’ standards. The acting is equally mixed, but not disastrously so – the regulars are both very good, as is Anthony Flanagan (‘Shameless’ and last year’s ‘Cracker’ special). Space Captain Michelle Collins, on the other hand, is no better or worse than she was on ‘EastEnders’.

An episode like this stands or falls on how effectively it maintains the momentum required, and thankfully ‘42′ has the right director for the job. Harper keeps the tension high, and that forward drive papers over the odd shaky performance or implausible moment. It’s not big or clever, but on its own terms ‘42′ works.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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