Well, the Darkness are coming. Billie Piper said so.
When word got out that this episode would show what would have happened if the Doctor had died before meeting Donna, there were a number of things that I could see it doing, and I hoped it would do at least some of them. It met and exceeded my hopes.
They say (and the trailer confirms) that the season finale will be stuffed to bursting with familiar faces, in a way that seems to suggest a desperate attempt to outdo all previous finales - as if there were a need for outdoing, and as if the way to go about it were simply to throw more and more "surprise" revenants into the mix. Here at least there's a genuine need, a compelling reason to bring back all manner of characters and monsters, yet for the most part they're restricted to throwaway lines and cut-in effects shots, so the whole business of revisiting the last two years of "present day" stories is nicely underplayed. Bonus points for that whole side of the story, especially for the subdued effect and music when London is atomised.
The one comeback they couldn't underplay was Rose, and... yes, she did have trouble finding that accent again, didn't she? Billie Piper's good here, but she's completely out-acted by Catherine Tate, which is probably just as well considering who's the focus of this episode. But blow me, now we've seen Tate out-act Piper and Agyeman! Will the delightful revelation of Catherine Tate's acting never end?
There's just one problem I can see here, and that's the fortune teller. Who is she, and why is she so particularly keen to lure Donna in and stick a beetle on her back? How does she know about the Doctor? Perhaps she's been put up to it and we'll find out more next week, or perhaps she's just good at spotting juicy meals for the beetle. Then again, perhaps there is no explanation.
But she's such an incidental part of the story that it's easy to let this go. Overall, this episode is stunning. So many well-played moments, such good music, such good acting from all concerned. Such good writing, of course - if we consider these last four episodes of the season as RTD's swansong (and I think we may, with next year's specials being more of a lap of honour), then he's certainly rising to the occasion.
Next week, it's the New Who apocalypse. Death to the spin-offs! (Except, uh, they've all been recommissioned, so presumably none of them are actually in any danger. Or at least, danger that can't be undone with a last minute reset.) But for now, before the inevitable Daleks fly in and the screen is swamped with returning characters, let's give this episode the full 10.