I thought the fortune teller was familar, but I didn't twig that she was Chantho!
It's A Wonderful Life is one of those perennial plotlines that almost every TV series in history seems obliged to regurgitate at one time or another. This one was a little unusual in that it wasn't sparked off by Donna wishing that things were different or feeling any doubt or regret - au contraire, she was really happy at the start, but was aggressively coerced into choosing a different path. (As a sideline, it strikes me that DW hasn't done a Groundhog Day plot yet...what are the bets for one of the 2009 specials?)
As a subtle spot of Rose-foreshadowing, there's a glimpse of a Hendrick's sign as the tank fires on the Racnoss webship. In this reality, there presumably isn't a Mr Saxon to give the order to fire, because Professor Yana would have remained safely fobwatched at the end of the universe.
It's Private Harris from The Sontaran Stratagem! Although I could almost hear the cry across the nation of "What, no Ross?" Perhaps a Ross presence would have created confusion when combined with the presence of...
...Rose! At last! And there seems to be something odd about her teeth. She didn't always talk through them like that, did she? Was Billie having trouble remembering what her Rose accent should sound like? Or is she forcing herself not to blurt out all her back story in one go? Still, she seems to get more of a handle on it as the episode wears on.
"Rhinos could be aliens." BLESS BERNARD CRIBBINS. Meanwhile, Donna's mother continues to have the knack of sticking the knife in her daughter and twisting it. Perhaps she's meant to have issues of her own, but she comes across as positively poisonous sometimes.
We interrupt this news broadcast to announce that not only has Martha heroically died off-screen, but the entire cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures have been eradicated in a vicious scriptwriting cull. Any Cardiff-based alien-hunters in the audience are warned that they are only one line of dialogue away from potential doom, and that there is nowhere to hide...
A cringemakingly corny comedy sequence from Voyage of the Damned - the near-crash of the Titanic - now becomes a huge scary nuclear apocalypse. Bloody hell.
Haven't I seen that street in "Leeds" before? Wasn't it the street where Martha met the Master last year? And was it also in The Idiot's Lantern? Is there now a Cardiff street shortage to compete with the Cardiff corridor shortage?
It's Luigi from Ashes to Ashes! If only Donna had seen that show, she might suspect that this reality was all a dream...
And as 60 million Americans dissolve into fat, the British decide to get drunk and sing The Wild Rover and Bohemian Rhapsody.
Alas, poor Ianto! And alas poor Gwen, too. And I don't even want to speculate what Captain Jack is doing on a planet full of probic vents, thank you. Of course, the big question is how does Rose know about the Torchwood crew and what they're doing up there? Does she now have goddess-like knowledge of all things in the universe? Or does she just watch BBC Three?
The Darkness is coming! I hope I'm not the only one who had a sudden vision of the universe being destroyed by these guys. (Watch out for a cameo appearance by the Macra!)
Then everything gets terribly grim again. Luigi is sent off to a labour camp, Bernard Cribbins makes me cry, and not even a singalong can bring down the fascist state.
But as the stars are going out, Rose and Donna and the UNIT captain give us a good sense of competent women sorting it all out. Hoorah.
Awww, the poor dying TARDIS is sad. Perhaps it's just her being in the TARDIS again, but it was in this scene that Rose really began to feel like Rose, if you know what I mean.
The thing on Donna's back was a scary idea when you couldn't see it, but when the plastic beetle was actually in shot, it looked pretty rubbish. For goodness sake, you can find more advanced animatronics than that in the Argos catalogue, can't you? Still, I think they might have a future as a trendy new backpack for nine-year-old boys.
Rose watching over the dying Donna in the road was a touching echo of Father's Day.
"You are so strong. What are you? What will you be?" Oooh, more foreshadowing! Perhaps Donna will become the Bad Wolf this time around? It would fit in with the theme of coincidences based around her, which the Doctor helpfully sledgehammers in at the end.
I needed the BBC website to tell me that the Trickster thing was an SJA reference. Still haven't seen SJA, you see. I'm a die-hard Torchwood girl, what can I say.
Wow, what an exciting ending! The slow reveal of Rose's message and the Doctor's growing panic attack reminded me of the end of Utopia. And then Bad Wolves everywhere! The fabric of the universe has turned SCARY. Of course, this may all conclude in a hail of silliness, but I'm going to remain optimistically excited for now.
Wonderful Life-style episodes usually end with a heartwarming message. So what was the moral this time? "Donna Is Great. See, Even Rose Thinks So."? Or given the fascist right-wing alternate universe we glimpsed, was it all a piece of cunningly disguised socialist propaganda? Turn left, geddit?
Overall then: Unusually grim and grown-up, with some excellent acting from Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins (give that man a knighthood!), and plenty of nice little fannish references around the edges to keep my interest perked up. It was neat that the coincidental moment of Donna's wrong turn had led to the Doctor literally not having anyone to stop him, and that everything else was a consequence of that. Rose's role as Donna's guardian (lonely?) angel was intriguing, and I'm as keen as mustard to see how this whole thing pans out...
So until the thrilling continuation of the tale (which I have not seen the trailer for), I am likely to have this song on the brain, due to its apposite lyrics. In the video, I note that the stars are going out because they are being sucked up by a very bad special effect, in the form of a giant space-going vacuum cleaner. I only hope that this is not the plot for the end of the series...