After last week's frankly embarrassing episode of Doctor Who, it was up to James Moran, who wrote the 'Sleeper' episode of Torchwood, to deliver something a little better. So, off to Pompeii, the ancient Roman empire and the rumbling volcano overlooking the city is about to go kaboom. Which leaves the Doctor and Donna at loggerheads - the Doctor arguing that he can't interfere, Donna wanting to warn everyone to evacuate. That made for an interesting subplot as Catherine Tate actually got an opportunity to flex her acting muscles.
The episode was filmed on the Italian set of the HBO/BBC production Rome which meant it looked deliciously lavish. There was a real feeling of everyone pulling out all the stops for this episode - the CGI was incredible, special effects and costumes rich and even the camera work seemed to have that little extra polish.
And despite the premise - you knew Pompeii was ultimately doomed whatever happened - there was time for some amusing moments, revolving around the Doctor and Donna's choice of aliases and the question of what happens when you speak Latin when the TARDIS is already translating your speech into Latin anyway and references swiped from Fawlty Towers and Mary Poppins. And central characters Caecilius, Quintus and Metella were names swiped from the Cambridge Latin Course.
A slight sense of cheese in the finale, but overshadowed by the excellent drama, some impressive monsters, some fine supporting performances from Peter Capaldi, Tracey Childs, Phil Davis and a somewhat unexpected Phil Cornwell.
Hell, even a reference to William Hartnell era Doctor Who. Impressive.
Not the best episode of New Who, but it certainly LOOKED the best. And generally a very strong and enjoyable episode.