In-brief: I’m about to explode.
This is it.
This is what Russell T. Davies has been building up to for the last four years of nuWho.
This is Doctor Who firing on all cylinders. Full out rush from start to finish and my Gods, it is brilliant.
There’s no way I can review this episode without spoilers, so let that be known that they are going to abound.
Following on from last weeks dramatic crescendo, Perfect Ten and Noble Donna crash back to Earth and the present day where they find”¦ absolutely nothing wrong at all. The milkman is going about his regular day to day activity.
It’s just a regular plain old Saturday.
“I love Saturdays”¦” ““ Perfect Ten
So the Doctor and companion jump back in the TARDIS and attempt to answer that pivotal question; if it’s the end of the universe, how come nothings happening?
As dramatic license would have it, once the dynamic duo are back inside their safe haven, the Earth begins to shake. The TARDIS rocks and rolls. In a rush, the Doctor runs to look outside”¦ and sees only space.
He checks his readouts. They are still in the exact same spatial time and place ““ where has the Earth gone?
A rather subdued start, but let me reassure you that from here on in the episode has sucked you right in and it does not let you go. Quickly, RTD sets the scene by reutilising the old typeface on screen to tell us where we are, in a much more useful way than in the other weeks “˜Midnight’, as we are taken firstly “˜Far across the universe”¦’ followed by literally flashing around the globe where we see how each of the major companions for this story have been affected by the earth moving events; Martha Jones at UNIT in New York, Captain Jack, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones at Torchwood in Cardiff, Sarah Jane Smith and young Luke Smith at 13 Bannerman Road in London, and Wilfred Mott and Sylvia Noble, Donna’s House, London. And of course, Rose Tyler makes her return.
RTD doesn’t miss a trick here. We’ve only been shown bits and pieces before on how the whole world on mass is affected by alien events, but the opportunity here was just too much to pass up on. Russell is attempting to tie up all the major events and characters and storylines that he has shepherded into existence in the last four years in a concise, and adventurous way. This adventure is global. He’s going to milk it for everything it’s worth.
From the return of news reporters featured throughout the series to provide a sense of continuity, to constant references to past events such as Captain Jack acknowledging Sarah Janes’ work against the Slitheen, everything is fitting together.
As the world, and the essential heroes, adjust to their sudden change of situation and the world on mass comes to realise they have shifted position in the universe and new celestial bodies have appeared in their sky, they are quickly thrown another problem. We as the audience of course, already know who the nemesis is ““ it’s the Daleks. But there is still something powerfully realised in the reactions of our companions when they hear that chilling message being transmitted to the human race”¦ “Exterminate.” Each companion knows what this means but it is perhaps Sarah Jane and Captain Jack’s most human reactions, as they cling to the people they love, that bring the threat so much closer to home.
Martha is the companion who knows that this is simply too big for them to deal with so she cracks out that mobile phone of hers and make the important transdimensional phone call to the one man she knows can help ““ Perfect Ten. But the call can’t get through. They are on their own”¦
Perfect Ten and Noble Donna are left stuck with no idea what has happened. As the Doctor marvels at the invention that moved a whole planet and left absolutely no trace”¦ “That is fierce technology”¦” it is Donna who reminds us what set this all in motion. Rose Tyler is back from another universe. Watch as the Doctor takes a moment to break away from the universe wide chaos that could be about to unfold and simply enjoys the moment.
Back to business as usual, and the Doctor decides what has to be done; he’s going to get help. He’s going to the Shadow Proclamation. That’s another internal continuity point up on the board, Russell!
The Shadow Proclamation is a much vaunted and subject of debate in fandom. In times to strife in nuWho, the Doctor has often resorted to invoking their name as a warning to the alien invaders. He sums them up to Donna as “˜police’ and when the TARDIS materialises on their spinning asteroid base in space, words don’t do the visual justice, this thought is further compounded by a return appearance from the intergalactic mercenaries for hire, the Judoon. Seems they run security around here”¦
On and on the stories plunges, deftly moving from one story to another as the companions on the stolen Earth attempt to form somekind of plan, and the Doctor and Donna attempt to track down the missing world. As it transpires, Earth isn’t the only planet that has gone missing. The spokeswoman for the Shadow Proclamation, who denounces Timelords as the stuff of myth as another internal continuity point, handily informs us that 24 planets have in fact gone missing across the universe ““ all at the same time.
It’s Noble Donna that adds in the last piece of the puzzle by pointing out it’s not the first time in their travels that they have heard of planets going “˜missing’. Pyrovillia and the Adiposian breeding planet disappeared long ago too”¦ and suddenly Perfect Ten has it. Planets are being stolen through time as well as space. With nothing but his hands, there is not one single use of the sonic screwdriver in this episode, he manipulates the Shadow Proclamations technology to add in two extra planets to the mix and then he comes up with a third ““ the Lost Moon of Poosh.
Internal continuity point 3!
The planets jump around and then the Doctor sees that the technology has compensated accordingly and put all the planets and celestial bodies in the most logical order. I’m assuming this is to take advantage of the massive gravitational potential energy the planets could create with their bisecting fields”¦ but that is neither here nor there. We are being told, and shown, that someone with something more than a little bit of creative flare has created an incredible feat of engineering uses planets.
And that is a terrifying thought, further compounded by how the Doctor can remember someone long ago who tried to move the planet Earth”¦
Back on Earth, our heroes are still waging their separate battles. As the Daleks descend upon Earth, they literally descend. Remember the scenes from “˜Doomsday’ in Series 2 as the Daleks and Cybermen commenced their war on Earth? RTD expounds on this idea by showing the Daleks in small situations as they herd humans and blow up the houses they hide in with no mercy if they do not comply, and as their giant spaceships storm cities and blast buildings.
Each scene has a purpose. Every line spoken has a point. In a manner of speaking, this episode is an example of a much-feared talking episode, where characters do nothing but stand around and talk. The trick then, is to make the dialogue as involved and gripping as you possibly can, and with the events unfolding as they do, Russell nails this.
Take Martha’s journey here for example. She is quickly marched further into the UNIT base by her commanding officer and told to activate Project Indigo and use it to escape and take a chip of somekind regarded as the Degaris Key. Admittedly I’ve probably misspelled or misheard that name. Either way, we know it is a very important plot point as it could save the human race”¦ Martha takes a leap of faith, the technology could very well fail and kill her, and despite Jack’s protestations from Cardiff, she uses it”¦ and disappears.
Her commanding officer and accompanying soldier are killed shortly after by the invading Daleks.
You can’t help but be captivated by each Dalek atrocity in this episode. Somehow it just seems fresh.
Just as all hopes seems lost on Earth, the companions who are still alive suddenly find themselves being contacted by a mysterious person. But it’s someone we all know, no matter how hard she tries to introduce herself.
“I’m Harriet Jones. Former Prime Minister.”
There were some rather horrifying rumours going around that the red Dalek Supreme seen in this episode would turn out to be a half human/half Dalek hybrid of Harriet Jones. All I can is thank Gods this turned out to be false at this present moment in time. I can understand all of the reasons why Harriet Jones would have been furious at Perfect Ten for ruining her career, but this is absolutely no motivation for her to destroy the human race by entering into somekind of alliance with the Daleks!
Instead what we discover here is that Harriet Jones has secretly created, using the Mr Copper Foundation (continuity point from “˜Voyage of the Damned’ I believe!), a subspace wave network that is undetectable by the Daleks. In her words, she still believes that what she did was right. There would come a day when aliens would come to Earth, and the Doctor would not be there to save them. They would have to stand on their own and this is how they can do it, by communicating with each other.
Harriet Jones’ character is true to her core.
It’s also just a nice, simple visual to have Harriet Jones, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane and Martha Jones, yes, that’s Martha Jones who survived the teleport by returning to her mothers’ house, all appear on computer screens talking to each other. It’s mildly heart wrenching as well watching poor Rose Tyler on the outside of this quartet, able to watch their communications but unable to interact with them, as they plan. It’s also nice to see Doctor Who, in the middle of all this serious drama, still has time for the good humour.
Rose may know about Donna for example, But she’s never heard of Martha Jones. And watching Captain Jack hit on Sarah Jane who seems genuinely flattered by the attention is nothing short of gleeful.
The companions make a plan. They need the Doctor. They have a way to contact him through Martha’s phone. They just can’t get through the jamming signal. Unless they tie everything together ““ Torchwood’s power and connection to the Rift, Sarah Jane’s super computer Mr Smith using the entire networking power of the United Kingdom and Harriet Jones’ subspace wave.
There will be a cost. Harriet Jones’ location will be uncovered. But she doesn’t care. With reassuring strength, the former Prime Minister will do whatever it takes. They must all”¦
Perfect Ten and Noble Donna are making some progress of their own however. Whilst Doctor and Shadow Proclamation cross ideas, Donna has a moment to listen to the beat of her own heart when she is interrupted by a women who, amongst other things, apologises to her for the loss that is yet to come. Another dire prophecy in an episode that has several”¦ the Doctor asks Donna if there was any clue as to what was happening to Earth.
Donna mentions only that the bees started disappearing. And that’s all Ten needs. See, not all bees come from planet Earth, and the ones that would have left may have left a trail to their planet that had been abducted, or so that is my understanding, as they migrated back towards it through pure homing instinct.
They can follow that trail. Cue triumphant run back into the TARDIS, followed by an interesting showdown.
The Doctor versus the Shadow Proclamation. Now they have a way to track the missing planets, they intend to impound the Doctor and his TARDIS, and use it as the head of a war fleet. It’s a nice moment to have Perfect Ten not even consider this as an option. He’s seen too much warfare. He’s not letting them get involved.
They follow the trail all the way to”¦ the Medusa Cascade. Another rift in time and space. Another internal, often mentioned continuity point, first lauded by the Master in Series 3. It’s where the Doctor went as a young man of 90, where he sealed the Rift.
That was a long time ago. And there’s nothing here. The trail goes dead. The Doctor shuts down and there is a look of nothing in his eyes. He has no more ideas. All Donna can do is stand there and implore him to have an idea. But he has none.
Fortunately the companions aren’t! In a nicely played sequence, all the companions work together to get a signal through to the Doctor. Harriet Jones gives her life as the Daleks come aknocking and the last we see of her is on the split screen of Jack’s laptop as her camera cuts out as the Daleks exterminate her.
It’s a quick moment. But the loss is felt.
But it’s enough time of the Doctor to receive the call and track the signal. The entire Medusa Cascade has been put one second out of time with the rest of the universe. By following the signal, the Doctor brings the TARDIS into temporal alignment. It’s a wonderful moment as the Doctor sees all his old friends on his own workstations in his home. His secret army as Harriet Jones called it.
It’s at this moment the true mastermind behind all these events rears his head.
Davros. Creator of the Daleks.
A genius scientist from the original series, but driven insane by his lust for power. Watch Sarah Jane’s reaction as she hears his voice for the first time in years but she cannot help but shiver in fear. That will bring it home for the young kids.
Cleverly, the director and RTD don’t leave Davros’ big reveal until this moment. Indeed, numerous times throughout the episode we hear his voice directing events and see his body in actuality. There is no serious attempt to hide his identity from old viewers. We gradually see more and more of him as the episode progresses of course, and his name is not revealed until the Doctor appears on the scene, but nevertheless, his return is well done.
Also well done is the return of Dalek Caan, not seen since his “Emergency temporal shift!” at the end of “˜Evolution of the Daleks’ in Season 3. Turns out this Dalek used that opportunity to go back in time, somehow crack his way into the Time War, which the Doctor states is impossible due to its time locked nature, and save Davros from his believed death.
A feat even the Doctor couldn’t accomplish. And something that Davros takes a great amount of pride in informing him. What’s also important to note though is that this Dalek, in his efforts to save his creator, has completely lost his mind. Caan sits in the lair of Davros, his casing open, his mutated form exposed to the air, and he just sits there, babbling on about how the “”¦Dark Lord is coming”¦” and that “”¦ the most faithful companion of all will die”¦” Foreboding words, and Davros accepts them but is completely oblivious to the sacrifice his creation has made.
This is another villain who acts as a mirror against the Doctor; we think of the Doctor as legendary, as brilliant, but he is highly moral led and principled. Strip away all of that”¦ and you can potentially get Davros”¦ Julian Bleach deserves high praise for bringing such underlying tension to a character that physically moves very little. You just can’t help but feel that this is a being that could snap, who could turn on you at any given moment”¦
As the episode speeds to its conclusions, we are left with quite frankly the mother of all cliffhangers.
As Perfect Ten and Noble Donna finally arrive on Earth, he implores Donna to tell him anything Rose might have said that could tell him why Davros has stolen the Earth. Donna’s answer”¦
“Why don’t you just ask her?”
The look on her face is just wonderful. Catherine Tate has transformed Donna into a character of so much love and humanity.
Perfect Ten turns, and the look he gives is heart breaking. There in the distance is the once lost Rose.
The pair run to each other, and we know, we all know what’s going to happen. It has to happen. We’re in the last 5 minutes”¦
The Doctor is shot by a Dalek. The quick laser shot we are shown indicates only half his body got hit, but it is enough to take him down before Jack can arrive on the scene and blow the Dalek in half.
As Rose finally reaches her Doctor and holds him in his arms, torn apart by the fact she’s finally got back to him, but now he’s about to leave her again, it’s up to Jack to take control. Quickly he orders them all back inside the TARDIS”¦
Inside, the Doctor lies on the floor, painfully gasping for breath. Donna is crying out what they are supposed to do, how can they help him. But Jack and Rose already know there is nothing they can do”¦ only the Doctor can help himself now.
Precariously he pulls himself to his feet, and suddenly he bursts into energy”¦ Regeneration?!?
This is where the episode finishes. I hope, I so hope that this isn’t a real regeneration. To have Perfect Ten chopped off so quickly must surely be a red herring. But there’s no trailer, no teaser of any kind to even at what’s to come next week. The episode ends right here, with the addition a moment previously of Sarah Jane in peril as she drives her car to catch up with the Doctor and finds two Daleks about to blast her.
This was one heck of a ride. The direction was tight, confident and excellently done. The special effects were simply some of the best we’ve seen from this show. The acting was nothing short of out of this world as each actor lucky enough to be in these episodes clearly loves being in these episodes and perhaps having one last shot at playing characters we have seen and grown to care about.
Perhaps the only thing this episode did not do was not focus too heavily on the Perfect Ten and Noble Donna friendship. But frankly, it doesn’t need to. And with so much going on, how could it find the time? The first 11 episodes did that for us!
This episode grabbed us by the hands, and spun us right round and yet all the time we knew exactly where we were. We’re being given everything the last 4 years have built up to.
This is where we are going.
This is where Russell T. Davies’ journey with this series, for the most part, will end.
He’s going out with a bang. And we’ve not even seen Mickey and Jackie yet!
Four and a half Medusa Cascades with 27 planets ripped from their home systems out of five. And I’m only saying that because I want to leave room for next weeks to be five out of five. If it isn’t, please consider this a full five out of five”¦