First broadcast 14/4/2007 starring David Tennant
Given that the writer of this episode, Russell T Davies, is so anti-religion and all the horror that organised religion can bring with it, it’s curious that faith and belief are such strong elements of his time in Doctor Who. And no more so prevalent than in this gem from David Tennant’s second series which also saw the religion of the show itself celebrated with the return of The Macra!
Gridlock, for me, features three beautiful, moving and hugely defining moments. Almost at the halfway point we have the haunting rendition of The Old Rugged Cross, so exquisitely played as the drivers stop for one moment to contemplate their situation, expressing their faith. It’s a real gear change from all the bouncy action and worth noting is The Doctor’s reaction; the only person not to sing along.
Then we have the rather shocking reveal of the senate and the after-effects of the mood “bliss”. What it says about the future is deeply unsettling on one hand but then, on the other, they had sense to cordon themselves off and protect the undercity. And also, on the other hand, we have the comment on the human race and their reliance on cars and their need to travel in such small numbers (with some cars only featuring one occupant) – a trait which massively annoys me in “modern times”.
Uh oh, hold on – I’ve got three hands!
Anyway, Murray Gold does such a gorgeous and sublime job in that particular moment; utterly illuminating. He matches it with more terrific work as we meet the Face of Boe and then say goodbye to the huge head. And then in the final of the three scenes I’d like to mention – when The Doctor reveals all about the Time Lords and Gallifrey. It’s such a beautiful and heartbreaking admission from him as he opens up, finally, to Martha about his past and the Time War.
There’s also a delightfully rompular nature of the story (which carries on in tone from the fabulous previous episodes Smith & Jones and The Shakespeare Code) and the intriguing and eccentric characters which break up the intensity of the message and the earnestness of faith.
Gridlock has so much going on and it’s easy to pick up on the more stylistic nature of the story – the CG visuals, the traffic jam, the Catnuns and the return of the Face Of Boe. But beyond the superficial, this rich Russell T Davies story reveals itself for those looking for heart and meaning. This is a story with a huge morality with an intriguing and enriching look into The Doctor’s personality – quite unlike any Doctor Who story I know.