Okay, first off: The clone was a total fake-out. Zip, zap, zop, there's no denying it. I feel kinda suckered here cause I fell into the "It's got to be something from his past" speculative camp and while I knew there could be other explanations, I didn't really think they'd go that route. Not for a character that ultimately turned out to be a throwaway character (albeit with SPINOFF POTENTIAL!!!1) I mean, the moment Jenny mentioned to Ten that gosh, she'd sure love to go zoomin 'round time and space with him I knew she was a goner. GONNNNNNNNNNER. GONNNNNNNNNNNNER. GONNNNNNNNNNNNER.
Albeit a goner with the aforementioned spinoff potential with all caps, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, exclamation mark, the number one.
But was it a cop-out? For those of us thinking we'd see some backstory or something, kinda, yeah. Then again, let's see how the Doctor's character arc fared after this episode. As in denial as he was over the whole "it really is some kind of offspring sprung full-formed from a thigh-like container!" bit near the beginning, he suffered the pain of watching yet another (some kind of) offspring die. He got emotional (which is always nice to see), he got ANGRY ALMOST SHOOTY, and then he went back to his safety zone. He opened up a bit more to Donna about the Time War. Maybe he realizes that he's not really completely all alone (we lingered on a shot of Hand In Jar near the end to reinforce that, eh?) So we did get some kind of character development, but it really wasn't as strong as it could've been.
But that said...
Why didn't he just go back to the magical Clone-O-Matic 3000, stick his hand in, and powie zowie get himself another kid? And why didn't Martha or Donna do it, either? The army doods did say "Everybody has to stick their hand inside the Gom Jabbar box", didn't they? But no, we don't get Lil' Martha and Lil' Donna runnin around savin' the day, too. Maybe there weren't any companion actor/actress offspring available to cast. Maybe I didn't hear a crucial piece of exposition, but I did hear the soldiers say "their hands are clean!" when encountering the Who Gang for the first time, so it's entirely possible the cloning thing was a one-time only deal per entity.
Ultimately though I think what this episode really screamed out for was a four-part serial treatment. There just wasn't enough time to adequately create and reinforce that bond between Ten and Lil' Ten. They had a lot to do in the time they had -- Donna deciphering timestamps, for instance, very important -- that the crucial stuff we needed to see, Ten and Lil' Ten talking more about running, or sonic screwdrivers, or how awesome it is to have a TARDIS, or anything, just wasn't there.
Oh sure, you can argue that it just brings the pathos to a boil there once Lil' Ten takes a bullet for Daddy, and he realizes OH SNAP he just had another all-too-brief moment with someone as close to a Time Lord as he's gonna get, and it certainly was the briefest of brief moments. Why he was so quick to shrug off the "maybe she'll regenerate" idea is beyond me, although he did say she wasn't an Official Card-Carrying Time Lord or something.
So what did I like? Well, I liked the fact that none of my real fears were realized. Lil' Ten wasn't the product of some Quality Time with the likes of Peri, say (but honestly, could you have blamed him?) She wasn't a evil trick created by an adversary, and she wasn't a hologram, and she wasn't an alternate dimension thingo and she wasn't a hallucination. She was, however, only temporary ("momly memporary") and that's what made the other theories bad ones. They were ephemeral, and would've served to have added nothing solid to the series canon. And really, it would've been nice to have kept Lil' Ten around just to make that bond. Dammit.
Oh, sure, she'll be back soon, what with the whole "I got places to go, people to see, days to save!" bit, but you know something? She's a horrible daughter. Why? She blasts off in her super-cool rocket ship, eager to go save the day, and she doesn't think to CALL DAD AND LET HIM KNOW SHE'S ALL RIGHT.
Kids these days. I tell ya.
What else. Hmm. Donna? Solid. But once again, there's the "WE'RE NOT REALLY A COUPLE OKAY HO HO HO STOP IT" joke that's beginning to grow old. Martha? Underused. All she gets to do is play "Artax and Atreyu" in the quickslime with her new Hath buddy simply to show us that the Hath aren't really bad guys after all, they're just misunderstood. (And wouldn't you be misunderstood, too, if you communicated by blowing bubbles through a gas mask filled with Hi-C Ecto Cooler?) The Hath's sacrifice mirrors Lil' Ten's sacrifice later on, which made for an nice duality, though.
And golly if the two sides didn't make peace really quickly. All it took was one manic stranger who found a sphere full of glowy shit to make 'em go "Oh, ok. Maybe we oughta stop fighting. Let's put down our weapons and sing a rousing chorus of One Tin Soldier. Hey, can you Hath guys bubble in harmony?" The whole "this has only been going on for seven days" thing was an interesting concept, a nice mindbender, but I think seven days was a little too short a time. Surely there must've been somebody who had survived for a full week and didn't get amnesia or anything. I think I would've believed it better if it had been a few months of fighting at the very least. Seven days, that's nothing.
And what of Lil' Ten? I really wanted to totally like her. She was less like Mary Sue and more like Mary Lou Retton there, flippin her way thru the laser beams of doom and bein all perky and stuff! She coulda taken on the bad guys with Dad! Pchew pchew pchew! Lookit me, I'm flyin the TARDIS! Ready? Oh-kay! But after all that, what else was there to her? Not much. Not much else. Once again, we find ourselves a void that could've easily been filled by
Oh, sure, she's perfect to keep around in case someone's missing a plot device later on, but the way this series treats its supporting cast I have this horrible suspicion that the next time we see her, she'll be sucking face with Captain Jack Harkness and it won't be no fic.
L.H. Spatchgrass signing off and heading back to play more Oblivion. I got houses to plunder, dammit.