Retread. A pastiche of itself. With painful cultural cliches mixed in. What's more, it's a retread of RTD's own plots, most especially the end of last season. No subtlety. Anywhere. This is what makes me weep more than anything else.
If the intent of the script is to convince me that Donna is important, it is failing to do so. Anyone could have told the Doctor to move just then. Give me instead some action that is uniquely Donna-ish, some act she does because she is who she is. (The choice at the end of "Pompeii", for instance.) I dunno that that act rises to it. I like Donna. I want her to be herself. I do like the Ordinary Person Reduced To Heroism Because No Choice Remains setup, but again! Retread! Pete Tyler!
There is no way Donna would be so stupid about the "labor camps". No. Way. I call that sort of writing nervous underlining: the writer doesn't trust his audience to understand, so he grabs the pencil and draws a few lines under the important words. I don't buy the argument that writing for younger people requires dumbing things down; great YA lit is just plain great lit. Look what Philip Pullman got away with, so magnificently.
Mr Pedia says, as Donna runs to meet her destiny: "This is the very definition of fake tension."
Then everything is undone, just like we knew it would be in the first minutes of the show. Of course the alternative timeline would be unwound. So... was that all a character piece for Donna? I'm dissatisfied. Was it supposed to whet our appetites for Donna's future? Don't really need it, because I already care. (And as you know, Bob, I ship Nine/Rose far more than Ten/Rose, so that teaser doesn't tease me.)
And what's wrong with Billie Piper's mouth? Not only does it look strange, she's lisping. Hubby requires my translation services.
Things I liked: Donna's grandfather, who's a great character. The Queen singalong. The moment when Rose almost did a good Ten imitation. Best thing about the whole episode: "Bad Wolf". And the trailer.
"Midnight" was far better, even though it was a bit pastiche-y itself. The alien went gloriously unexplained (which I loved) and the speech thing was way creepy. The threat was real: the Doctor's mind, with all that it knew, was the quarry. Strip-mine that and you've got something. Shiver!
The best threats are something the viewer believes you might deliver on. This is one reason why season 4 of House was so good-- "you're fired" was real. The character walked.
Pondering a bit further now that it's over, I realize that it lost me in the very first scene, with the faux Chinese market. The shot failed to persuade me, and we paused the video to discuss why it failed. Too pat, too derivative, too much in one shot to be real, too crowded, too Baedeker's guide. Compare with how Firefly achieved the same effects on a budget. So I was perhaps not on the episode's side the whole time.
And in conclusion, I love Donna. More, please.