Traditionally, I've loathed the 'Year Five Billion' episodes of New Who, so I was very surprised to find myself really enjoying tonight's episode. End of the World and especially New Earth were so amazingly bad that I had extremely low expectations for tonight. So it was good to find a very solid story, with almost no cringeworthy moments (almost) and one that had some heart to it as well.
I'm glad the Face of Boe's secret was kept until now, if only because something with such gravitas would've been completely out of place in the cartoon nonsense of New Earth. It did detract somewhat from the impact that everyone in the world who reads DWM or OG knew what the secret was, or had guessed thanks to the "four words" leak, but I imagine it in terms of an 8 year old - someone knows little or nothing of 'fandom' and had completely bought into the idea of the Doctor being Last of the Time Lords, a'la Clark Kent. For them, I would like to think it had a bit more impact.
I'm not used to praising RTD, but I really loved the closing scene, which more than made up for the slight deflation after realising the secret wasn't a secret at all. I loved the Gallifrey talk at the beginning too, but the ending was great.
In terms of the episode itself, rather than bits of it, I still really liked it. I can understand how a lot of people would find it flat and dull and all that, but it reminded me of a few 7th Doctor stories, which made me happy. The tone, especially in the opening scenes, was similar to that of The Happiness Patrol or Paradise Towers; two stories I happen to enjoy. I liked Dougal... sorry, Brannigan, and as much as I understand how one-dimensional the inhabitants of The Motorway were, I was quite fond of them anyway. I like RTD's incidental characters - one of the only good things about End of the World was the lovely little scene with the blue plumber, and I felt we got a lot of that tonightl. Little glimpses into little characters' lives.
If you wanted to pick nits, you could say that the episode was flawed - a lot - and you would probably be right. There were a lot of little things wrong with it. For instance, as much as I enjoyed seeing The Macra back, they didn't really serve much purpose, did they? Or make much sense. In many ways, I would've preferred it if The Doctor had opened that hatch, looked down, and just went "Holy shit... them's some big-ass crabs down there!"
For all the flaws there were in the episode, its energy carried it through and made it a good 45-minute Saturday evening romp. There wasn't anything there that ruined it, or even mildly detracted from your enjoyment. There were no shitty iPod/jukebox jokes, no Britney Spears, no utterly unforgivable plot holes, no attempts at 'zany' comedy, no distractingly bad special effects - none of the things that made the earlier two instalments so bad, but one important things that makes this one so good - The Doctor and Martha's chemistry. They really are great together. She brings out a far less annoying side to Tennant, and so far in Season Three, I've really liked The Doctor, like you're supposed to, and I really like Martha too.
So far, with Smith & Jones and The Shakespeare Code, the standard has been set far higher than the previous two years... I'm starting to get confident that this could be the year Doctor Who properly 'comes back'. That makes me a happy chappy.