Sunday, 6 July 2008

Doctor Who Series 4 FINALE

Russell T Davies caps off his time as a series runner of Dr Who (he still has two specials this year and four in 2009 to go before he departs proper) with an episode that is altogether too poorly explained to be truly considered as one of the great episodes of modern time. “Journey’s End” had a lot of great moments in it, but overall the feeling was that the threat was too poorly thought out; the characters too poorly used, and the concepts too forced for it to work as a whole.

Not that Davies didn’t throw in some intriguing twists. Whilst the idea of the cloned Doctor was completely rubbish and didn’t really need to happen for the plot (aside from Rose’s farewell; more on that later), the Doctor/Donna combination was altogether more interesting, and I genuinely started wishing that perhaps we could finally get a female Doctor sometime soon. All the mumbo-jumbo the Doc usually spouts was perfectly captured by Tate, who made for a delightful semi-Timelord. Like I said though, having the Doctor clone came completely out of left-field and didn’t really work at any point, although the realisation that he was speaking like Donna came out slowly and was a brilliant point. Him killing off all the Daleks was thrown in as an afterthought, and when we sent him off with Rose at the end I couldn’t help but think that when the Doc was trying to convince her that it’d be the same as having the real him, it was Davies trying to persuade the audience as much as it was anything else.

This was the trouble with the second episode. The first brought together almost everyone who has been important in this new run of the programme, and although it took a fair old age for anything to happen in that ep; at least things were happening. Torchwood did stuff; Sarah-Jane did stuff, Rose got to hold her camera up as if she were praying in what was my least favourite shot of the series… Martha almost had a dramatic moment (although really it belonged to Jack Harkness – “Martha is down” had a sort of dramatic countdown effect going on that I really liked), and the Doctor and Donna tried to find the Earth. Everyone was heading somewhere, and the major failing of this episode was that now they were all together, there was nothing left. Davros and the Daleks got together to destroy reality because… well actually, why would they want to do that? Nonsensical evil? I’m sure you’ll tell me if you know. The threat was gone though, as soon as everyone got onto the ship. Aside from one moment which I’ll go into in a short while, there was nothing for any of them to do, really. I would’ve preferred it if they’d stayed on Earth and at least had some kind of battle or something.

Martha’s plot was by far the weakest. I don’t like repeating myself unless I’m being positive, but Freema Agyeman’s acting was pretty rough. She has the subplot that eventually got abandoned where she has a key that will blow up the Earth, and lordy. First we get the mad old German woman who annoyed me, and then she delivers a reasonably effective speech to Davros which ends with her hearing Rose’s voice. This scene, where she smiles about Rose returning, was just awful. Some horrific acting. After that Martha had a completely minimal role, with nothing left to do at all. Wasn’t just her, though; Jack was killed – and as we all know he comes back to life whenever he dies, we could fairly expect something cool to happen. Instead he got sidetracked by the ‘secret warriors’ (that term comes from an event in comicdom called ‘Secret Invasion’ which the first episode reminded me of) which were Mickey and Rose’s mum. I called it, ladies and gentlemen! I called it. Along with a few other things, I knew that Mickey would return – what I didn’t predict was just what he’d do after saving Sarah-Jane. Nothing at all. There was another sub-plot here that was useless. Why did Rose’s mum even have to turn up? It was nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake.

And yes, we had yet another finale (that makes three, I believe, out of four) where the Doctor sits around and does nothing at all while events conclude around him. I want to see him DO something! It did mean we could have the best scene of the episode however, where he watches on as all his companions try to come up with violent ways to end the conflict and Davros mocks him for it. That scene finally took him down a peg and gave Tennant something to do other than be concerned about others. The Doctor is a great character who is always concerned with other people more than himself – giving him a crisis of faith is absolutely the way you have to go with him. I said this during my lottery (which was mostly right, I THANK YOU! I have to admit I thought Peter Davidson and Sylvester McCoy were going to be ‘the other doctors’ I mentioned, however, and there wasn’t really a reset button, but still) but Davies has too much love for his characters. He doesn’t want to have to hurt them, but you have to when you write for TV. The Doctor has to be in pain, and he has to be narcissistic. His whole ‘violence = no’ approach is narcissistic and impractical, but he goes for it because he’s stubborn. Make the Doctor flawed! He’s not a God!

Rose is the other character who never really suffers with Davies. Was there ever any doubt that she’d be safe? I don’t understand the reason for why they all had to go back to their alternative dimension that they hate, but I’m happy we’re rid of her. We were meant to have goodwill towards her character because she was on before, but we had better characters since her and she’s been overshadowed and outacted by Catherine Tate since the very beginning – and the voice? No reason given for it, so it must be some kind of dental work that Piper’s had done rather than a plot device. Weird! Tate, yes, was the best thing in the episode. She had the calm quality that even Tennant lacks nowadays and it was genuinely nerve-eroding to watch her, because she was obviously the companion who was going to die. We got another cop-out here, which I didn’t like much (I think she’d be better off dead, personally), but the fact that I cared about her character shows a lot about the way she’s developed on the show. And then it all got wiped away….

I’m not happy that this write-up seems to have turned into a slanging session, so I’ll stop for a second. I think Torchwood’s characters were brilliant here. Gwen and Ianto are clever, quirky creations who work better on this show than on their own, and I loved every second they were in – especially the way Ianto called the Doctor ‘Sir’. Similarly, the use of Mr Smith and the Sarah-Jane cast tied into the story and was useful, and I think as a tie-in the finale was very successful. I’d like to see more of both casts. And there were some good twists – the Tardis being dumped into the energy core, for example. It was unpredictable, and that made for good TV. Captain Jack was funny, as ever, although he’s still not a functioning character in any way, and Tennant really sold the darkness in the Doctor. I think that although the Dalek plot was complete hokum, davies gave us a fascinating look at their psyche. There was Davros, Dalek Caan (I thought it was Khan, like Genghis… turns out it is Caan, like James) and the Red Dalek all on different areas of the same side, and I really liked their interactions. Davros came back neutered though, but I assume we’ll see more of him at some point in the future, what with that ambiguous explosion and all.

It wasn’t a bad episode, but I’m getting to be very analytical now of everything that happens, and I think that’s because I’m starting to really get into the show. It’s not brilliant (it IS British TV, after all) but it has brilliant moments. These two episodes set us up fantastically – something Davies can do supremely well – but then let us down a bit on the landing. However, we did get something I’ve wanted for a long time: after Bernard Cribbins gave us a heartbreaking speech once Donna lost her memories and the Doctor walked off, Tennant went into his Tardis alone and just sat there. No trail for Christmas. He just sat there, and the weight of everything was on his shoulders. For that moment of reflection alone, this episode won me over.

Rating: B.

Stray Points:

  • My dad pointed this out to me. On the Tardis door is says “push”, when it’s a pull door. Is that why nobody can ever get into it?
  • I still hate Mickey, even after all this time off our screens. I still hate him. I won’t be watching Torchwood now that he and Martha are joining (well I will, but I won’t enjoy it).
  • Dalek Caan’s voice is HILARIOUS!
  • Six people operating the Tardis, as should be. Nice moment.
  • K-9! Come here, boy! Good boy! I love K-9. His appearance bumped this episode up a grade, for me.
  • Line of the week: “Binary…binary…binary…binary”. That really scared me, honestly. The biggest scare of the series came from the way Tate sold that scene. It was gripping.

Well then - that’s the end… for a few weeks! I’ll be back during the Proms, and then at Christmas, so don’t worry about getting withdrawals anytime soon. There’ll also be a few more Doc-related posts over coming Sundays.

So... I hope you’ve enjoyed these recaps. They’ve been a bitch to write sometimes, but I’ve always enjoyed reading your responses, and we’ll be back before you know it! How fantastic.

2 comments:

  1. This is the second third act letdown Davies has executed, but this one wasn't as harsh as The Last of the Time Lords. It was a serviceable episode, but it did feel like it was filled with air instead of substance.

    That having been said, the Donna ending was bittersweet and quite saddening. Here we are, actually caring about Donna and enjoying her character growth, and BOOM, bye bye Donna. I mean, couldn't they have let her roam about as a human/timelord? (If you can "destroy reality", you can allow a "human/timelord metacrisis" to exist.) It was a decent enough ending, but still doesn't top Doomsday.

    Bring on the Ghosts in the Machines.

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  2. I felt the finale was too Pirates 3. Too much plot, too many characters and not enough gritty storyline. It was decent but I can't wait for Moffat's takeover.

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