There’s a big explosion this week, and a better script to introduce it too.
Primary Cast and Crew
David Tennant as the Doctor
Catherine Tate as Donna Noble
Phil Cornwall as Stallholder
Karen Gillian as Soothsayer
Sasha Behar as Spurrina
Lorraine Burroushgs as Thalina
Peter Capaldi as Caecilius
Tracey Childs as Metella
Francesca Fowler as Evelina
Francois Pandolfo as Quintus
Victoria Wicks as High Prestess
Gerard Bell as Major Domo
Phil Davis as Lucius
Written by James Moran
Produced by Phil Collinson
Directed by Colin Teague
Originally aired on the 12th of April 2008 on BBC One in the United Kingdom.
The Doctor tries to take Donna to ancient Rome, but the TARDIS’ legendary unreliability strikes again and they instead arrive in Pompeii the day before the volcano is due to erupt. Their attempt to leave immediately is thwarted by a street merchant selling the TARDIS as a piece of modern art, and they quickly discover that Pompeii is full of true prophets — but none of them have foreseen the eruption.
Originality: For a first trip by a companion this is fairly straightforward, and time travel stories where the travellers visit a historic event and end up causing it are ten a penny. Two out of six.
Effects: Much better than last week. Creatures made of stone and magma looked obviously fake — how could they not? They were very well done though, and the eruption was rather lavish. A bit too much use of red lighting though, surely when the sky is full of ash it gets dark rather than red. Four out of six.
Story: It’s a good solid story but there’s nothing exceptional about it, and you just know there are some aliens causing everything. Volcanos are after all a fairly obvious power source. Three out of six.
Acting: Much like the effects, the acting was much improved over last week. Catherine Tate does a better job, portraying a Donna with feeling, empathy and an enormous sense of rightness. The guest cast were good, but had clearly been told to portray the family as a modern family rather than portraying ancient Roman manners. Perhaps that was a wise move, as they can at least play those roles with great familiarity. Five out of six.
Emotional response: There are big things going on, but not a great deal of emotional investment. Three out of six.
Production: The streets of Pompeii reminded me very much of The Life of Brian. They’ve used narrow alleys and tight corners to keep the budget down very obviously, but they didn’t stint on dropping lots of fake ash out of the sky at the appropriate moments. Four out of six.
Overall: I thought I’d hate it, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. Four out of six.
The Fires of Pompeii receives a score of twenty-five out of forty-two, a considerable improvement on the first episode of the series. May this trend continue.