We go from a story featuring The Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack and loads of Daleks to… a story featuring The Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack and loads of Daleks! Yes, it’s another two-part series finale Dalek-fest, this time with Davros! … and a 100 other characters, because why not? (I can tell you why not, if you like…) Plus: the regeneration where the Doctor actually doesn’t change, which is… retroactively handy for making the Eleventh Doctor’s final story great, but was annoying at the time. Let’s take a look!
When Earth and twenty-six other planets are stolen and taken to the Medusa Cascade and the Doctor is nowhere in sight, it’s up to the combined forces of UNIT, Torchwood, Sarah and Rose to fight off the thieves, who only have one thing to say to the resistance: “EX-TER-MIN-ATE!”
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
That’s a lot of protagonists! (Not even counting the two 10th Doctors!)
The Doctor (David Tennant) – The Doctor has just found out that Rose is back, and that’s a good thing… well, except it signalling the potential end of the universe, but you know… Rose!
Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) – Donna is happy for the Doctor, who has just seen his lost love, well… apart from the prophesying the end of all things…
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – Originally trapped in an alternate timeline, Rose is breaking into this reality due to the collapsing of the multiverse… so, a bit good, a bit bad…
Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) – Captain Jack is the current head of Torchwood, in Wales. Funnily enough, the Earth being moved to a different point in the universe isn’t the most worrying thing he sees today…
Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) – Sarah Jane Smith, her son Luke and their super-computer are all equally confused at the site of the new planets in the sky, but only Sarah truly knows the terror that awaits them when a certain transmission is heard…
Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) – Since leaving The Doctor Martha has joined UNIT, which is a lot like travelling with the Doctor, but your travel limited to present day Earth… otherwise, you’re constantly in the front line if an alien invasion happens to occur, so… Hooray?
Davros (Julian Bleach) – The creator of the Daleks, Davros has been nearly killed more times than most people have stubbed their toe. He now wishes to wipe out all life apart from Daleks, which… will be good… for a few minutes. Then leave him with bugger all else to do…
The Daleks (Nicholas Briggs) – The Daleks wish to be the supreme rulers of the universe, showing that all non-Dalek life is inferior… or wipe every other species out entirely, one of the two. At least in the latter they can… brag to themselves? Hooray?
Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) – Mickey Smith travelled with Rose and her mum to an alternate timeline, but now all timelines are threatened he returns to lend a hand…
Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) – Jackie Tyler is happy with her new life in the alternate timeline, but not as much as she loves her daughter Rose. That means a quick hop to another timeline to give a hand!
Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) – Wilfred is the granddad of Donna, and is happy she’s begun travelling among the stars… though when the evil of the stars arrives on Earth, he’s beginning to wonder who is in more danger…
Some designs just don’t need updating, and Davros is one of them!
Davros is well served in this, his big return story. He’s still all over-the-top evil, the Daleks still don’t trust him, and he looks great. It’s great that the “Reality Bomb” he develops to literally wipe out every non-Dalek thing ever is reminiscent of the iconic dialogue exchange between the Fourth Doctor and Davros in “Genesis of the Daleks”, where the latter claims he would break a vial that would unleash a killer plague on the universe, just because of having that much power and feeling it would give him. Speaking of Genesis, I love that Sarah Jane Smith ended up meeting Davros again, that moment when the Dalek’s creator realises who it is and claims it’s perfect as “she was there in the beginning” still sends a little shiver down my spine.
The Daleks in general are given big credit in the opening episode, with both Sarah and Jack acting like it’s all over when they realise who is about to invade the Earth, not to mention that a Dalek actually kills The Doctor! At last! Credit to nameless Dalek (well, they’re all nameless, pretty much, but you know what I mean!) and his reaction to shoot instead of capture, like most of his brethren do when they see an incarnation of their greatest foe. Oh and I love Dalek Caan, who went crazy saving Davros by going back into the Time War. Nick Briggs does a great job of making him sound insane.
In fact the whole scene with The Doctor’s “Soul being laid bare” is a bit bollocks. He takes people and turns them into weapons that he otherwise claims he’d never hold? My arse. Maybe the 10th Doctor, seemingly, but in general they tend to return to normal lives afterwards. It seems like a reflection of Russell T. Davies’ era, rather than a big truth that The Doctor has etched into his soul. That being said, the part about “How many have died in your name” is right on point, The Doctor does often find himself “unable” to do acts of violence to save others, leading to other nearby people to die doing it instead. The wave of destruction The Doctor leaves behind and his refusal to look back and see it is one of the more interesting character flaws he has.
The concept is a weird one, but I do like the idea of stolen planets and the imagery of all the different planets in the sky above Earth. The ending, with Donna having to have her memories of The Doctor removed is quite sad, though it’s no Series 2 ending. Wilfred steals the scenes, as he does in the next story of this marathon too!
I think I had the same look on my face as Rose during a lot of this story…
Just The Doctor, Donna, maybe Rose against Davros and The Daleks would be fine… why Russell T. Davies felt to bring back Martha, Mickey and Jackie (plus the brief character of Harriet Jones), and crossover with both Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures all at the same time I’ll never know. It leaves the first half a muddled mess, with two sets of casts that a lot of fans at the time wouldn’t really know, and looking at it now imagine if you’re watching the older episodes after having become a fan in the 11th or 12th Doctor eras, you’d have no idea who a good bunch of these characters and settings are.
Then we get to the regeneration, where the Doctor “pours his extra regeneration energy” into his old severed hand that he’d been keeping around after taking enough to heal. What a load of bollocks. The hand then creates a half-human copy of the 10th Doctor, and we realise that it was all a long winding road to give Rose a version of her Doctor to take home with her and live happily ever after. It’s just lucky this use of a regeneration became retroactively helpful to tell a good story, because otherwise I’d still be mad at it.
Speaking of Rose, yikes. T. Davies tried really hard to make her into a “badass”, complete with large gun, shots of her walking towards the camera with explosions in the background, and occasionally making action hero quips at people. It… just makes me cringe. Speaking of cringey dialogue, Russell T. needed to cut back on Donna claiming to be “just a temp”. We get it, from humble beginnings and all that, but you don’t have to have her say it every five minutes.
Martha threatens to destroy the Earth to save the multi-verse, Sarah and Jack threaten to blow the Dalek crucible to save the multi-verse, and The Doctor is pissed. Okay, maybe the Martha thing is a bit strong, but … you know, if there was no other option, surely blowing up the Dalek HQ to save EVERYTHING EVER wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Also, he is super pissed at his half-human doppelganger wiping out the Daleks, who again, just tried to destroy EVERYTHING EVER. Was The Doctor just going to let them leave?
I didn’t really like the whole Doctor-Donna mind merge that lead to Donna saving the day by pressing some switches on a console. Even worse is when it leads to everyone (which is a lot of people!) gathering around the TARDIS console and dragging Earth through space with its apparent full power. Sadly it’s now retroactively at odds with River Song being able to safely and smoothly steer the console if, as this episode states, that the console needs six people to properly control it, and The Doctor otherwise has to do it by himself. (that inconsistency isn’t this episode’s fault, by the way, and didn’t impact the score, but I thought I’d mention it).
The 11th body, but the 10th to call himself The Doctor, uses his 11th regeneration to become his 12th self, but keep his old body, and therefore is still the 10th incarnation to call himself The Doctor, even though now he’s only got one more regeneration left of his 12. Got it?
Okay, well, ignoring all the returning characters and the episodes / shows they originate from (because that would take ages):
Davros is seen to fire lightning, which is something kept from the Sixth Doctor story “Revelation of the Daleks”. Obviously previously mentioned Sarah Jane meeting the Daleks’ creator in “Genesis”. How Davros went from a head in a Dalek Emperor vessel to his still-mostly organic form is shown (via audio) in the Eighth Doctor two-parter “Palindrome” and the later story “Restoration of the Daleks“.
I mentioned the TARDIS moving Earth around, but Time Lords did actually move the Earth in the Sixth Doctor “Trial of the Time Lord” epic, though I will continue to assume it took more than one TARDIS with six pilots (though apparently not!) The Doctor mentions “someone” trying to move the Earth before in what was probably an intentional foreshadowing, as The Daleks had tried to move the Earth in “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, featuring the First Doctor.
A bunch of Russell T. Davies era side-characters appear on screen with Davros asks The Doctor how many have died in his name. Donna talking about bees disappearing and several planets vanishing have all been mentioned in other Series 4 stories. The Doctor and Donna visit the Shadow Proclamation early in the story, which had been mentioned several times in the show’s recent past, including the original return story “Rose”. At the Shadow Proclamation are Judoon, who first appeared in the previous series story “Smith and Jones”.
There are some things to like in this story, but there is an awful lot to dislike. It feels like Russell T. Davies deciding to throw his Davros story idea out the window and just try and bring back as many past characters as possible so he can have a “last hurrah” for his era, even though there were several specials still to go. So much of the story is spent switching back between characters and locations that it just feels… muddled. Still, it has some good Davros moments and some fun scenes, I can’t completely crap on it, but it’s not great… So, somewhere in the middle?