Doctor Who - Doomsday
For the first 21 years of my life nothing happened, nothing at all, not ever. And then I met a man called The Doctor. A man who could pull huge TV ratings out of his arse. And he took me away from home in his magical machine. He showed me the whole of time and space on primetime BBC One.
I was a little disappointed with series 2. Disappointed with sub standard stories, dodgy acting and poor scripting. I thought the disappointment would never end. That's what I thought. But then came the Army of Ghosts. Then came Torchwood and the war. Then came a fuck load of Cybermen and Daleks and a pant wetting cliffhanger.
And that's when the disappointment ended.
This is the story of how I cried.
Ahem, anyway, sub-standard â€œjokesâ€ aside, let's address the real issue here. For me, this series has not been as good as the first. Tennant has failed to convince as fully as Eccleston did, Piper descended from a vibrant Time Travelling explorer to a gurning twat and the return of the Cybermen in episodes five and six was disappointing to say the very least. Even Mark Gatiss disappointed to some extent, delivering an episode that could never live up to his Dickensien masterpiece of 2005. That's not to say that series 2 hasn't had its high points, though (Girl in the Fireplace, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit, for example).
But, you know, it all comes out in the wash. In this case, it was wash of tears. Just a few, but tears none the less. I cried at the end of this episode (poorly hidden from my fellow Whovians Seb and Ian via the subtle adoption of the Frank Butcher 'eye clasp') for two very good reasons, both of which will become abundantly clear by the end of this review.
So, it's the final episode of series 2. Not only that, but it has the mother of all cliffhangers weighing on its shoulders. A cliffhanger that promises so much and a cliffhanger that was going to be incredibly hard to live up to. For 7 days, fan boys and girls alike have been speculating, pondering and masturbating; each coming up with their own perfect finale in their head. This episode, to put it mildly, had quite a job to do.
And that's before you consider the other thing. By the end of this episode, an episode featuring the Daleks and Cybermen coming toe to pepperpot for the first time ever, Russell T Davies had to write out one of Who's most loved companions to date. The story of Rose Tyler's death was going to have to jostle for position with the Cybermen and the Daleks and, somehow, both these story threads were going to have to co-exist together without one suffocating under the weight of the other.
So, was this pulled off? Did RTD actually manage to write the two biggest story threads of new Who's life and execute them nicely within his 45 minute time-frame? Oh God, yes. Yes, he bloody well did indeed.
Something that was obvious from last year's finale is that RT Davies can write Dalek dialogue like no other man. â€œWHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS NEGATIVE?â€, â€œDO NOT BLASHPHEMEâ€, â€œHAIL THE DOCTOR, THE GREAT EXTERMINATORâ€ are three that leap instantly to mind. However, the rantings of several hundred thousand Daleks and their fruit loop Emperor pale in comparison to the sublime Dalek/Cyberman pissing contest witnessed in Doomsday. Chuckle away to yourself as The Daleks and Cybermen both insist on the other introducing themselves first, howl with delight as The Cybermen counter that Dalek statement â€œWE HAVE NO CONCEPT OF ELEGANCEâ€ with the pearler â€œThis Is Obviousâ€ and shriek with glee as The Daleks confidentially predict the demise of the Cybermen as being no more than â€œPEST CONTROLâ€. I did all that, and more, and for the simple reason that Russell TD judged the tone of the dialogue perfectly. It was funny, it was spine tingling, it was dramatic and, above all, it felt so realistic and right.
In a wholly surprising move, he got the mix of humour absolutely spot on with not a single clunky word making an awful noise and ruining the beauty of these exchanges. R Terrance (I expect) D has gained a not very desirable reputation among some fans (myself included) of being a tad misguided at times, with pop culture references and bad jokes often getting in the way of a nice moment. However, every last line uttered by our lovable Metal Bastards was an undiluted joy to hear.
So, anyway, that cliffhanger. We knew the Daleks would have to be foiled pretty quickly, in order to stop Rose, Mickey and Dr. Whatsit getting deaded, and I loved the way it was resolved. The Dalek's only real weakness (mentally, at least) seems to be their infinite curiosity and desire to gain an advantage from other people or races. When Rose revealed herself to be more than some normal piece of disruptor fodder, they couldn't help but let her stick around, in order for them to find out how this cocky cockney knows them and maybe speed along the opening of the Genesis Ark. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the cliffhanger for being simple yet consistent with the Daleks' known traits. Make yourself useful and they're bound to spare you. For a while, at least.
Now, the Genesis Ark. In hindsight it seems obvious that Davies, Russell T had whacked a huge great bluff on us when we first encountered this device in last week's preview. Any self respecting Who fan will instantly jump to the conclusion (initially, at least) that everyone's favourite be-chaired maniac will be housed inside. In fact, I held that suspicion right up until the last minute, with the confident prediction that the end of the episode would reveal Davros, in order to set up a Mexican Stand-off between him and The Doctor for the Christmas Special. But, you know, I was wrong. And I'm glad I was wrong. The slow reveal of the true nature of the device (and the mystery was kept *just* long enough to have you panting with anticipation when it finally opened) was perfectly judged â€“ especially the moment when we learn of its Time Lordy origins.
With all this going on it could be very easy to forget about the man himself: The Doctor. In a way it was disappointing that his first encounter with The Daleks was through a laptop and a mobile phone, and it would have been great to have him in the thick of it right from the start. However, the image of The Doctor quietly shitting himself when the Cybermen proposed the alliance with the Daleks was most rewarding.
Still, the inevitable soon happens and The Doctor finally gets his chance to flap about in front of his old foes, generally causing them annoyance. This, again, was a brilliant scene with The Doctor being both hilarious and serious in equal measure. All too often this series we've seen him being far too hyperactive, so it was a nice chance to see him laying off the E numbers a little for this scene. Once again, we're reminded of the Time Lords and the Time War, confirming somewhat that this could be quite a long running arc with, hopefully, one spectacular pay-off soon. The Time Lords *have* to come back and this little reminder of their extinction must serve some sort of purpose in the short term... Speaking of mythology, too, I find it interesting that Skaro (the Dalek homeworld) has finally been mentioned by name (unlike Gallifrey) - along with The Cult of Skaro, the little secret society from which our Dalek chums come from. I'd like to think this is some groundwork laying for a future encounter with the Cult, or maybe an adventure on Skaro itself. We know one thing for sure, though, and that is we will see the black Dalek again, once we find out where he temporal shifted his ass to.
Anyway, after a gorgeous ruckus between the Daleks and the Cybs in Torchwood tower, the Ark is opened up and all hell breaks loose in the form of millions of previously imprisoned Daleks. Not only that, but the Cybs are on their own manoeuvres, too. Oh buggering shit. This does bring me on to one slight mis-giving about the episode, though, as I don't think nearly enough time was given to the invasion, to allow it to hit home properly. In The Parting of the Ways, the invasion was suggested and left mainly to our imaginations and the briefness of the coverage suited that perfectly. However, when you've got countless Cybermen battling countless Daleks, both of whom want the human race for something completely different, I feel it could have had more justice done to it if it was longer. Maybe even the main focus for the second of a three part story... At least we wouldn't have had to endure Fear Her.
But, as problems go, it's a pretty minor one and it certainly doesn't detract from the style the invasion was carried out with. Consisting of long shots in the main, the CGI stays effective and believable throughout, with the sheer scale of the thing realised beautifully. Never will I forget the image of several million Daleks soaring over London in square, Roman like regiments â€“ ready to bulldozer the whole place. Brilliant.
So, how about that pesky human story that needs to be squeezed in there, then? Well, there's certainly plenty to get in, seeming as we have to cover the exit of Rose and the rest of her 'gang'.
We have Jackie coming dangerously close to being cyberised (again) before meeting with the alternate Pete (in, what has to be a said, is a lovely scene) and we've got the Canny Geordie Fella and his gang of crazees jumping across voids like there's no tomorrow â€“ all of which is nicely doing the groundwork for the big exit.
And, blimey, what a great exit it was. Unsurprisingly, The Doctor is faced with one helluva decision to make on the fly (as should always be the way). He has one way to eject the Daleks and Cybs out of his world, but the only way he can do that is to risk sacrificing his life and banish Rose to the alternate universe forever, in order to save hers. In true Doctor style this quite Earth shattering fact is seemingly brushed aside with zero emotion. Until, that is, the reality hits him. Rose returns, defiant as ever, and helps the Doctor to suck the invaders out through the 'door' and into the hellish void (which, by the way, was a lovely sequence showing once again that CG can be done in such a convincing way, even on Who's TV budget) â€“ but she is only narrowly saved from the gaping hole by hero of the hour Pete Tyler, who zooms back just in time to carry her to the safety of Alternate Earth. And then she's gone. And the Doctor is alone again.
Cry No. 1: The Lengthy Goodbye
Rose Tyler is gone. Jackie Tyler is gone. Mickey Smith is gone. The three most enduring characters of the new series have gone. Just like that. When Christopher Eccleston hung up his battered leather jacket, the show, by and large, didn't change too much. The Doctor is still the Doctor and we had a fine actor to take his place and keep the momentum going. However. For 27 episodes we've been told the story of Rose Tyler and her family. It has essentially been the very bread and butter of the whole show. And now they've all gone, and the show will have to carry on with them. It's going to have to change.
I could never have expected being so moved by the departure of these characters (non of whom I was particularly convinced with a lot of the time), but when I realised how much they've been integral to the show and how different it's going to be from now on, I couldn't help but be affected.
Neither, it seems, could The Doctor. Davies, Russell T (RTD for short) was not afraid to make the aftermath of Rose's disappearance last as long as possible, letting each note of Murray Gold's perfect score ingrain itself in to your battered soul as you soak up the ramifications of what you've just seen. Yet, there's more to come, as The Doctor finds a yet unsealed crack and allows himself a final goodbye at the expense of a sun. A beautiful and quiet scene on a beach in Norway is the setting for the final goodbye, and with a one-sided â€œI love youâ€ she's gone. And so concluded the perfect exit for the Tylers and Mickey. Perfect. Bye Rose, we'll miss your oddly beautiful face.
Cry No. 2: Was That Fucking Catherine Tate?
Hmmmm. After what could well be 44.5 minutes of pure, perfect television, to be greeted with this 'cliffhanger' was a certainly an interesting experience. Consider this reviewer most certainly bovvered with this piece of stunt casting. But, that's all I'll say on the matter, as I'm sure there'll be plenty to say come Christmas time.
As you may have guessed, this is a 5 Star episode without any shadow of a doubt. It's the closest Who has come to perfection since the start of the new series, and I'm delighted we've ended on such a positive note.
See you all for Torchwood in the autumn.