Home Forums Episodes The Tenth Doctor Gridlock

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    Craig @craig

    The Doctor takes Martha to New New York, in the far future, only to discover that the inhabitants live in perpetual gridlock within the Motorway, an underground highway system. Notable for the return of the Macra, and it’s the final part of a loose trilogy with ‘The End of the World’ and ‘New Earth’.

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    Out of all the monsters from the classic series you could have brought back, they chose the Maccra.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I wrote a blog to accompany this, which discusses the comic 2000AD and some of the callouts made in Gridlock to it. It may sound weird, and you may have little interest in comics in general, but 2000AD has been a huge influence on sci-fi storytelling over the years, influencing Russell & Andrew Cartmel amongst others. It’s here.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    I think Gridlock is my favourite RTD episode so far in the retrospective. Rewatching it isn’t a chore, it’s a joy.

    Smith and Jones was a good intro for Martha, and following it up with The Shakespeare Code and this made for a good strong start for the character.

    The script bubbles along, and there isn’t really a still point, or anything superfluous in it. The guest cast is great – Lenora Critchlow (beating fellow Being Human costar Russell Tovey to appear in Who), Ardal O’Hanlon, but above all Anna Hope returning as Novice Hame, obviously having a whale of a time as the gun totting feline nun (a phrase you can’t really type enough times).

    I said in the rewatch of New Earth that the prosthetics and makeup on the cats was wonderful, and I’ll repeat it here.

    Ardal is fun as Brannigan, but he just has such a distinctive voice. When he gives the obligatory “oh Doctor, aren’t you great line”:

    Valerie: He’s completely insane.
    Brannigan: That. And a bit magnificent.

    My mind can’t help remixing the audio so I get:

    Valerie: He’s completely insane.
    Father Dougal: Yes Ted, just look at that great fecking idjit!

    The Macra was a bizarre little “thing to be avoided” to include, but it still gave me a bit of a fanboy thrill. The Doctors race to the bottom leaping from car to car is a great swaggering sequence.

    It’s funny, I was listening to one of those Splendid Chaps podcasts on Religion in Doctor Who, and this episode was cited as a good strong positive portrayal of faith in the show. It’s curious that I’ve heard this a few times, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Yes, the inhabitants of the Motorway take comfort and community in their faith, but it leaves them going round and round in circles on the Motorway. Unengaged and relatively unquestioning. It requires an outsider to intervene and lead them into the light, so that the meek can inherit the New New Earth. We’re back to the Doctor as God again aren’t we? Still – great choice of hymns in Abide with Me and The Old Rugged Cross.

    It’s still massive fun, and the You Are Not Alone sequence was very tantalising. The end point, with the Doctor telling Martha the truth about Gallifrey is really well played as well.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    The Macra, for those who are wondering, were celebrating their 40th Anniversary. They appeared from 11th March to 1st April 1967, and Gridlock was first broadcast on 14th April 2007.

    I agree wholeheartedly with @phaseshift – Gridlock is a joy, a very sharp and funny episode with some excellent prosthetics and cracking performances from the guest cast. I thoroughly enjoyed rewatching it.

    Yeah, the religion thing is interesting. I always do feel that RTD gets his religion wrong – he wants to discuss it, but it’s like he doesn’t understand it at a very fundamental level. Unlike Moffat (and, indeed, Terry Pratchett) I always feel that his critiques are based on his own idea of what religion is, rather than what religion actually is.

    David Tennant certainly felt that the portrayal of the car drivers was that they were wrong; too passive, too much waiting for someone to come save them. RTD says his intention when he wrote that script was to show religion in a good light – community builder, hope builder. But he failed; his real opinion bled through.

    The hymns were good though, with some moving performances by the actors. 😉 And the end point is, indeed, beautifully played.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    The moment that Martha is kidnapped is very well executed.

    The forget patch reminds me of the ‘Aeon Flux’ episode ‘Chronophasia’ which has ‘bliss pellets’ that make people forget everything… Watch it here :
    The mood patches were actually inspired by the number coded mood controllers in the Ninth Doctor novel ‘Only Human’ by Gareth Roberts.

    All these vehicles are the same which is slightly odd. Makes me think of Germany when everyone drove VW Beetles.

    Right now I’m having kittens about how this couple have had kittens (not really – it’s just fun surrealism).

    ‘What if there’s no one out there?’

    The Doctor is obviously used to drinking recycled pee-pee.

    The Macra claws bashing the car window reminds me of the 456 from ‘Torchwood COE’.

    That Face of Boe geezer is an obvious pinch of/homage to the 3rd Stage Guild Navigator from the film ‘Dune’.

    ‘You are not alone.’, has a different slant now, post ‘Day of the Doctor’.

    It’s a very unusual tale and one of RTD’s best.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    I’d forgotten just how good this story is, even though it’s one of my favourites. Thanks to everyone for picking out the various refs. @wolfweed – if the vehicles weren’t all the same the Doctor would have had a much harder job in breaking in and out of them all (wonderful use of a sonic screwdriver to circumvent the need for an extra 3 episodes!).

    I thought the Macra were a good choice, especially as they are creatures of pollution. (Maybe more for the concept than the actual execution)

    And kittens… what would happen when they grew up…? And how….? Ah, maybe best not to overthink some things 😉

    I liked the portrayal of the car drivers as passive – as a metaphor for just grinding on cos there’s nothing else to do, with the bleakness of MegaCity1 at its dreariest (see @phaseshift‘s excellent blog for more detail). Although that would seem to confirm @bluesqueakpip‘s comment about RTD “getting religion wrong” if they were meant to be pilgrims.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    I meant to comment on this one last week, and never got around to it. Everyone has pretty much covered my views, so I will just agree that Martha shows very well in this, and I enjoyed the whole scenario and the supporting characters. There are a few nicely brief opportunities for soul-searching on the Doctor’s part, and I think the final confrontation with Martha is beautiful. It is interesting that he chose initially to lie to Martha about Gallifrey, to pretend for awhile that he was the escaped renegade of old, rather than the damaged orphan. And in the moment that he finally admits the truth, and begins to share his memories of Gallifrey, there is a sense that he is moving on to a new stage of his grieving process. Nicely done.


    Anonymous @

    I’m curious. Has anyone listened to ‘The Macra Terror’ on audio or perhaps read the target novelisation of it? If so, is it good? Patrick Troughton is one of the best Doctors in my opinion and I love the target novelisations.

    Tindalos2013 @tindalos2013

    I thought at the last part as the chorus begins singing and Martha marvels as the Doctor describes his memories of his home was good scripting. And the kittens were a nice touch as well.

    gamergirlavatar @gamergirlavatar

    I think that “Gridlock” is a underestimated episode. This episode was, as the tenth Doctor would say, brilliant. This episode showed The Doctor and Martha on their own to expand on Marthas character and to expand on The Doctors feelings about a new friend after Rose left. Martha proved herself to be very intelligent and quick on her feet, even without The Doctor. The Doctor found himself taking Martha where he took Rose soon after he got his new face. The setting shows that The Doctor misses Rose and it will be along time before he got over her. After Martha was taken, he started fearing for her. He said it was his fault that she was taken and that he should have never brought her to New Earth. He did what he could to save her, but she didn’t need to much help. After he finds out that she was safe and saw how she could stand her own ground, he thought that she could be the one to be safe, making her a great friend after losing Rose. This might have been what made Martha more independent to. She was smart and quick on her feet before but she had The Doctor with him. Giving her a early episode where she was alone thought her that she had to take care of herself and gave her the introduction as a independent character early on. The only down fall to this episode was one of it’s greatest qualities, the setting. The Doctor bringing Martha to New Earth, where he took Rose, pushed Martha into a darker corner of Roses shadow making her seem unimportant causing her to be underrated.

    Pharell, Man! @pharellman

    Very weird episode… Well, yeah, towns like this must die someday, but not that was weird… The Story Outline… I just don’t feel magic of this episode, like almost all episodes I reminded last time, which were written by RTD… Man, pepole saying, that Moffat is bad writer, but RTD era hasn’t got that DW real climate…

    Anonymous @


    I actually really liked Gridlock thinking it was both poignant (Tennant’s speech to Martha), adventurous (jumping from car to car) and frightening (we meet The Face of Boe).

    I stay away from divisive arguments (well, OK, I try to) about RTD and The Moff.

    Both are excellent writers for Who and made a major success of it. Also, I haven’t come across people who dislike Moffat. I omit youtube ‘voices’ who are so unbearably stupid, bitter and inarticulate that I’d imagine they’re not Moff’s target audience?

    Certainly, we’ve had a few members who have articulately explained why they prefer Russell and that type of debate is welcome. Interestingly, those who “hate” Moffat tend to overlook his work in S5 and earlier seasons where Blink, The Forest of the Dead and Silence in the Library ultimately had high viewership and are still considered some of the best Who ever -including the most recent duo of Hell Bent and Heaven Sent.

    Even the titles of the latter are interesting when you consider the last act of each episode.

    But yeah, I believe Gridlock wasn’t viewed with much encouragement -at the time and later.

    But I still love it.

    <call me odd>

    🙂   PuroSolo


    TheDentistOfDavros @thedentistofdavros

    @pharellman @puroandson

    I started watching Doctor Who at the start of series 3 (I had seen the series 2 finale though) and I actually can’t remember what I thought of this episode at the time. I remember the dalek episodes because Daleks were the coolest things on the planet and I remember being very scared of both The Lazarus Experiment and Blink (of course, I still am a bit!) anyway when I finally rewatched this story, a couple of years ago now, I really enjoyed it! It’s probably one of the best episodes of series 3 and it has the surprise return of the Macra! The speech by Tennant that @puroandson mentioned is very good and the death of the face of boe is actually quite touching but the rest of the episode is fun as well!

    About this RTD vs Moff thing I don’t really have a side, though I think Moffat probably writes the better standalone episodes such as listen, blink and his many others. They were both good at running the show and did make a big success of it! I don’t really like RTD’s romantic storylines about the doctor and rose but that’s just personal taste. I hope that chibnall can follow up the high standard that the last two series have set!

    winston @winston

    @thedentistofdavros  @puroandson  @pharellman

    I thought this episode was pretty good and I really liked all of the different kinds of people who lived their lives on the motorway in their  space vans.  What more can I say?  Oh yes! Cat people and little baby, cat, human hybrids and  cookies made from waste, yummy.




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