Doctor Who: Series 4: Journey’s End

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This review comes in two parts, due to length and detail and brilliance.

In-brief: Big. Though something lingers”¦

In-depth:

Let me say this first of all ““ this episode is good.

After four years, this  is where we are now. This is how Russell T. Davies chooses to end his tenure as the producer of Doctor Who. It’s an epic plot, tying together all of the strands from his previous forays into this universe, and indeed those who have come before him. There’s a certain amount of glee here in the concept of the Doctor, and perhaps that is the problem. As much as I wanted to love this episode, I have to say, it simply wasn’t as spectacular as I wanted it to be.

Dive in. After last week’s furious cliff-hanger (forget Sarah Jane’s predicament, we all knew how that was going to turn out and who would do it!), we are back with the Perfect Ten in mid-regeneration. The light blares, the sounds are present and there is one heck of a lot of tension”¦ and suddenly the Doctor bends over and we see the energy pour out of him and into his severed hand in a jar.

The Doctor falls back, the camera pans up”¦ and thank heavens, it’s still Perfect Ten.

It was a brilliant move by Russell. Completely unexpected and out of the blue. Every single piece of footage from previews and trailers, up until that moment, had only come from preceding episodes. There has been nothing of David Tennant seen or leaked to the press in this episode ““ the question every watcher had been asking “Is Tennant about to leave?”

It’s such a relief to still David in this role. For me, it’s simply the fact that Tennant is my Doctor. I’ve seen him grow into this role over the last 3 years. He completely gets who his Doctor is and how he wants to play him. There’s such a love and passion for the job that Tennant gets across that it is just fantastic. I simply didn’t want him to leave and I couldn’t believe he was going to. If this story really was going to be “˜Journey’s End’ there was absolutely no possibility of Perfect Ten not being in it! Aside from that first year, the companions showcased here all knew Perfect Ten. Where would the real emotional pay off be if we had a brand new Doctor in “˜final’ scenes with all of these characters?

And besides, as Ten himself states “Didn’t want to change! Why would I? Look at me!”

With Perfect Ten back in the game, it’s straight into Rose’s arms for that reunion hug we were so cruelly denied last week. They play a brief catch up and Ten explains that he used the regeneration cycle to heal himself and then channelled the excess energy that would have continued the regeneration into a fully compatible biomatrix of his own ““ the hand. I can go with this. It makes sense. Although we’re not told if this means he’s now lost one of his regenerations but I think we can assume not!

This moment we resolved we speed on as the Daleks locate the TARDIS and then physically extract it to the Crucible ““ their moon sized central space station at the very heart of this multi planet construction. Once aboard the TARDIS is shut down and the Doctor is forced to leave it, lest the Daleks come in after him. With Jack and Rose safely by his side he steps out to face them and Donna remains just a step behind”¦ and then she hears her heartbeat again.

She hesitates as she stares back at the TARDIS controls. Ten calls for her”¦ the doors slam closed. Except Donna didn’t do it.

As she screams and slams at the doors, the red Dalek Supreme claims this is not his doing, and the Doctor knows it’s not his. Either way, it doesn’t matter for the TARDIS is a weapon and it will be destroyed. A trapdoor opens and the TARDIS literally falls into the very centre of the Crucible where it shall be destroyed by the raw energy source at its heart.

Given the prophecy that “”¦the most faithful companion will know everlasting death”¦” there’s a fear that it will be Noble Donna herself. Indeed, the TARDIS starts to explode from the inside out. Lights and consoles explode. Fires spontaneously start up. Donna gasps and cries out for breath and as she struggles, that heartbeat again”¦ she’s drawn to the hand in the jar”¦ she reaches out”¦ and it smashes open and the energy envelops her”¦

s4_13_wal_17The rumours on the Internet suddenly fly into my mind; Donna is a Timelord in hiding or Donna is Romania in hiding”¦ would RTD really give us? This thankfully does not happen. There has been such a strong emphasis this series on Donna being normal and that that is what makes her special that this would cheapen her character. Instead, the hand falls from the jar and sparks and releases the energy that forms into another body. Another Perfect Ten! Donna stares in disbelief as the TARDIS still burns around her.

“You’re naked?!”

This was hard for me to go with. The idea of there now being two Doctors in the episode was for me a very goofy concept. Almost like trying too hard. I will give the episode the credit that it does explain this happenstance fairly well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the right direction for the episode to take. Afterall, from this moment on, it was fairly easy to guess how certain character resolutions would come about”¦

Onward! Ten 2.0 takes the imminent destruction of the TARDIS as an opportunity to hide it away from the danger in stealth mode where he promptly dresses in the alternate blue suit that Perfect Ten takes to wearing from time to time. He explains his creation ““ a biomatrix crisis resulting from regeneration energy in a Timelord hand coming in to contact with a human. He’s half human, half Timelord. Well. More than that. Half Donna. Half Timelord. This explains the heartbeat Donna kept hearing ““ it was an echo of his imminent creation being sent back through time due to the unique circumstances. Noble Donna is special. Just by being present at this exact time and place, she is special.

I marvel at Tennant’s ability to play Ten 2.0 as Donna as acted by Catherine Tate. He nails it. And I enjoyed the moment where

Brief aside ““ I prefer the blue.

Perfect Ten meanwhile stares horror-struck at the apparent death of Donna and his TARDIS. As the Supreme Dalek knows that the Doctor is connected to his TARDIS and will therefore know of its death, he mocks his emotions and attachment and asks him to admit to this loss. The Doctor acknowledges. But there is something off about his reaction. I tend to think it’s a sign that Ten knows his TARDIS hasn’t truly died yet.

Rose and Ten are then escorted to the Vault at the heart of the Crucible to act as Davros’ “playthings”. Jack, of course, has got himself exterminated at the hands of the Daleks. As Ten leads Rose away from her friend, he looks back and gets a wink from the Captain on the floor ““ you just can’t keep this immortal dow n.

s4_13_wal_06 Meanwhile, both Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith are on quests of their own.

Ms. Jones takes a moment to bid her mother goodbye before she teleports herself to Germany, and in the somewhat amusing scene that follows, we watch as she observes Daleks moving through a German wood, issuing out instructions in German. Nicely done, Mr Davies. In a few moments Martha has reached a castle where an old German woman stands watch. The two converse in both German and English and eventually Martha heads inside.

She finds a sophisticated control panel and activates a hidden lift shaft when the cock of a gun is suddenly heard behind her. She turns and the old woman is point the weapon at her. The woman heard the soldiers. She knows what the Osterhagen Key is and she does not want Martha to use it.

Tellingly, Martha asks her to pull the trigger. It’s a nice character moment in this episode, screw it, the whole episode is full of nice character moments. But it’s a relief to hear that Martha Jones of old is still somewhere inside this military minded figure. That she desperately doesn’t want to use the Osterhagen Key either. But it’s all about choice.

The old woman cannot, however, pull the trigger and Martha descends in the lift to a small military bunker where she prepares to use the key, but first attempts to contact other Osterhagen stations”¦

Sarah Jane, back in good old England, finds herself reunited with old friend Mickey Smith and new friend Jackie Tyler. Both descend out of the same blue electricity that deposited Rose in our universe in the nick of time to blast the Daleks threatening Ms. Sarah Jane. Awash with relief, Sarah uses their arrival to think quickly, and surrenders herself to other Daleks, encouraging the others to drop their guns and surrender. Wherever the Daleks take them will be one step closer to the Doctor”¦

s4_13_wal_12It is good to see the return of both Jackie and Mickey. Their return was pleasing and there’s a definite feeling of strands being pulled tighter and tighter together. These two companions of a sort were the final pieces of the puzzle. As Dalek Caan might say, the Children of Time are now gathered. They need only be pulled to one place”¦

In the clutches of Davros, both Rose and Perfect Ten still remain. While the two old combatants trade quips for a moment, Ten has neither the time nor patience for it, and given the current running time, neither does the episode! He cuts through Davros’ megalomania and handily points out that Davros is not truly in control here; once again, his creations have usurped power away from him. He is their oddity. Their pet.

There’s a definite sense of cruelty within Ten. He often comes across as a man standing on the brink of doing something horrific. But he always manages to hold back.

Just.

Tired of the banter, Davros orders the testing to commence for his weapon ““ the reality bomb. It is here where their story connects with Sarah Jane, Mickey and Jackie, who have become aboard the Crucible as part of a group of abducted humans. Ordered to stand below a large glowing green cannon, Sarah Jane takes a moment to crack out the sonic device of hers and open a sealed door which she encourages Mickey to follow her through. Unfortunately, Jackie does not have the chance and she remains with the group as a Dalek moves to block the door.

The Dalek Supreme orders the Inter-Planetary Field to be activated and we are quickly treated to a beautiful CGI shot of 27 planets in perfect synchronisation, suddenly emanating some form of white energy fields. The power is looped back into the reality bomb aboard the Crucible, while both Doctors analyse the energies being used with their respective knowledge’s'”¦ Ten implores Davros to stop, and 2.0 mutters to himself and Donna.

Before we are told what it is, the simple fact that Jackie Tyler is in jeopardy has the tension cranked up again. Is Jackie the companion about to die? As we wonder, and I mean truly wonder, because how can Rose ever forgive Ten or indeed herself if her mother dies, Mickey suddenly realises that half an hour has passed. An earlier plot point in the episode indicated that the devices he and Jackie use to transport across universes, as well as space, need a half hour to recharge. That time is now.

Jackie takes a moment to apologise to a human woman standing next to her before she teleports to Mickey. A moment later, the green cannon activates and shines down upon the human party. Within seconds, one by one, they all blur, shimmer, and fade away into dust.

As Davros himself then rants and reveals, his reality bomb is designed to obliterate all matter in the universe, and thanks to the Medusa Cascade’s temporal rift, it can also be transmitted across every universe, every dimension, and every place in time and space. It will touch all of creation and leave only Daleks alive.

Big stakes much aye?

With their master plan now revealed to both Doctors and us, the audience, and of course with the tension nicely ramped up, we now return to Martha Jones. Now with three of the Osterhagen Stations online, Martha can activate the Osterhagen plan. But she knows there is one last thing she has to do, despite UNIT orders to the contrary, because she answers to a higher power, one that goes beyond any human government, any human example”¦

Without saying it, we know that Martha is talking about the Doctor. And despite everything that has happened, she has to give the Daleks one last chance. How brilliant.

How true to Martha’s character.

Once on contact with the Daleks, Davros insists he communicates with her. So does Perfect Ten. Eventually both go on the screen and we learn the true extent of the Osterhagen stations. Beneath the crust of the Earth are buried between 20 to 30 nuclear weapons. Once detonated, they will set off a chain reaction that will destroy the Earth in its entirety.

It’s a suicide plan and one only to be used when the human race faces an opposition for which there is no hope to fight. But it’s more than that, Martha knows that the 27 planets are being used as some sort of giant cosmic machine, without Earth, the Daleks cannot complete their plan.

s4_13_wal_16 And then there is another communication link up. Captain Jack appears on screen, having finally met up with Sarah Jane, Mickey and Jackie (itself a good example of humour used well in Doctor Who as Jack greets Mickey with a “Look it’s Mickey Mouse!” and Mickey greets him with a stony “Ah”¦ Captain Cheesecake!”. I’m telling you, RTD gets the characters.)

Turns out Sarah Jane got given a necklace from a previous unseen adventure. The necklace is in effect an explosion frozen in time; all Jack has to do is crack the casing, and the whole Crucible will go up in flames. And here Davros gloats again. Finally we see the true nature of the Doctor ““ that he turns all of his companions, his friends, his family into weapons. It’s a heartbreaking moment cause we can see what Davros means, and in some ways we can even understand it. Davros is twisting around the beautiful self sacrifice of the Doctor’s extended family and using it to stab deep into the Doctor’s core.

But still Davros doesn’t get it.

Nearly all the plotlines have converged now, we as the audience know one remains aloof, but Davros doesn’t”¦ and the Daleks then activate a mass teleport which quickly beams Jack, Sarah Jane, Mickey, Jackie and even Martha Jones aboard Crucible and straight into the Vault where they are held at Dalek gun point.

Bubbling away in the background is insane Dalek Caan. Nicholas Briggs brings a wonderful singsong quality to the Daleks for this occasion. We have seen Daleks described as insane before, but this Dalek has truly gone off his rocker. He speaks in near rhyme, he sings virtually every line and seems at once completely detached and completely absorbed by the events unfolding before and around him. Not only is he insane by our standards, but he is also insane by Dalek standards. There is a wonderful character being brought to life here simply through voice.

With all the pieces now in his eyesight, Davros orders the activation of the true reality bomb. We’re treated to another gorgeous special effects shot as we swing around the Crucible to observe a port opening up and another green glowing contraption slowly being prepared for launch. But wait! As companions and Ten stand by, unable to intervene, there is a rustling of the wind and the sound of the universe can be heard”¦

To Davros’ disbelief, the TARDIS materialises and Ten 2.0 stares out at him. In a mad run, he speeds towards Davros, weapon in arm, fully intending to use it to reverse the effects of the reality bomb so that in only affects the Daleks in existence, all having been grown from Davros’ own skin cells. But Davros is not unarmed (bad pun, sorry!) and he easily deflects the second Doctor with an energy blast.

And this is when Donna steps in. Beautiful, wonderful, astonishing Noble Donna. Rushing to the rescue, she hefts the weapon to aim at Davros, but does not know how to use it, and before she has a chance, she is blasted by Davros and thrown across the room.

Is Donna, the one who promises to never leave the Doctor, the one to die?

As she crumples to the floor, Davros ensures Ten 2.0 is secured behind a stasis field and once again he begins to gloat. The Supreme Dalek continues his countdown and as our heroes, the Doctor’s secret army, watch, the countdown reaches zero.

And then the machines around them begin to shutdown. In a whirlwind rush that is complimented by strong direction, the camera pans around where we discover Noble Donna alive and on her feet by a Dalek control console, talking away at ninety miles an hour and explaining how she cross wired this device with this energy field to cause that system to shut down.

“But”¦ Donna”¦ you can’t even re-wire a plug!”

In an episode full of revelations and shocking Timelord biology moments, we are given another. During the human/Timelord metabolic crisis, a bit of Ten crossed into Donna as well as Donna crossing into Ten.

Effectively Donna Noble now has the knowledge of the Doctor.

Three people with Doctor-like knowledge.

The threefold man.

Get it?

And from this moment on, the Daleks’ plans go up in flames. Using the Timelord knowledge, but splashing in a bit of human ingenuity in there as well, Donna shuts down the Dalek weapons, and then chooses to keep the Daleks moving but just by keeping them spinning round and round on the spot.

I have to admit that while watching this scene I found it oddly stupid. The greatest threat that the universe has ever known and they are stuck spinning on the spot? It’s this glee that RTD’s takes in being able to write Doctor Who in any direction that he chooses. I mean, after all, if you were a kid, would you not want to see them spinning, unable to control themselves, unable to act as a threat?

s4_13_wal_18As Davros remains transfixed and unable to comprehend what is going on, he implores at Dalek Caan to explain how this does not fit the prophecy. And then Perfect Ten steps in. He thinks Dalek Caan’s been ensuring his own agenda is fulfilled for a while now.

See, while Caan danced in time in his attempt to save his creator, he observed all of time and space and he saw all the Daleks had done and could do. And determined he had to end it all, and the key was Donna Noble. He had to ensure she ended up in the right place at the right time and simply nudged events along.

Hence all the coincidences that Ten noted in the recently shown episode “˜Turn Left.’

I like this twist. It brings a much bigger overarching element to everything that has come before. It’s more effective as well than “˜Bad Wolf’ for example as a sort of “˜orchestraor’ of events.

So”¦ Reality bomb defeated? Check. The three Doctors of a sort using their combined abilities to ensure the planets are returned to their original points in space? Check. The fast interplay and rapid speed dialect and the joy of watching Catherine Tate acting as Donna acting as the Doctor? Check.

Supreme Dalek descending to throw a spanner in the works? Check!

Seemingly unaffected by Donna’s machinations, he aims his death ray and manages to strike the control systems before Jack and Mickey take him down with energy weapons from the TARDIS. Perfect Ten realises that, of course, planet Earth was the only world they hadn’t yet returned home, but he can sort that in the TARDIS so he rushes inside to prepare”¦

And in those few moments, Ten 2.0 makes a choice. Even without the network of planets, the Daleks still have enough numbers and weapons to ensure the end of the galaxy as they know it. He has to stop it and despite Donna’s protests that he should wait for the Doctor”¦ he activates his plan and ensures that every single Dalek dies.

Remember when I mentioned that the Doctor is a man who always seems to stand on the edge? That precipice? This version just crossed it.

As Ten returns and observes the destruction, he despairs. He encourages everyone into the TARDIS, and indeed they all do, and we see the real differences between Doctors here, and we see the real heart and soul of the Doctor, as through the flames, he can see Davros.

“I can still save you!”

But Davros doesn’t move. He merely laughs and proclaims the Doctor as the destroyer of worlds. Having made his choice, Ten returns to the TARDIS and flees the Crucible as it burns from the inside out.

But we are left with one tantalising tease from the insane Caan:

“”¦one will still die”¦”

With the TARDIS console room now full of more people than ever before, Perfect Ten can take full advantage of the fact that that the ship itself is supposed to be flown by six people. Assigning each person to a station, and with the music ramping up the excitement, until of course he gets to Jackie, the music just stops and he says “No, no, no”¦ just no”¦”, and working together, whilst supervised by Perfect Ten, the secret army manages to tow Earth back to its original point in space.

RTD uses the opportunity to remind us how this two parter began by bringing Torchwood back into the game and having the Cardiff rift being the tow cable itself, whilst also giving a nod to Gwen Cooper bearing a striking resemblance to Season 1’s “The Unquiet Dead”’s character of Gwyneth. And then we cut back to Sarah Jane’s super computer Mr. Smith, and son Luke Smith, who orders the computer to tie the rift into the TARDIS, which he can do so once he is given the TARDIS’ basecode which handily comes from the one and only K9.

Phew!

With every single character or companion now in play that fits this era and the last 4 years of Doctor Who, Earth is returned to it’s proper place in space. Cue much rejoicing on Earth through the use of a BBC news report, and a smaller view thanks to the celebrations of Donna’s mother and granddad!

That’s it. That’s the main thrust of the episode all done and dusted.  I’ve mainly recapped and offered opinions and thoughts throughout.

I’m leaving it here tonight. I’m going to let that settle in. Obviously I’ve left out the real end of the show. Saying goodbye to these characters. But I’m saving that for a separate piece that will soon follow.

I want to clearly state that I honestly think this series of nuWho has been its best yet. The stories have been tight and focused for the most part. The relationship between companion and Doctor has never been more truly felt and realised as each episode progresses and builds upon it, and the themes have never been stronger.

This episode, in part, encapsulates on that. I think it suffers from Russell T. Davies putting everything in there and it’s all fighting for my attention… but then he’s writing his personal Doctor Who universe here. It’s his baby right now, so why the heck shouldn’t he?

I don’t believe in everything Russell has done with this relaunched series. But I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he nails character every single time. Everyone is clearly defined.

From the bad guys right through. Every character has a purpose and a place and gets them all.

Special mentions go to Catherine Tate and Bernard Cribbins. Their pairing as family was just a joy on screen. And it didn’t matter what line Cribbins was given, he turned it into pure gold. He nearly stole the whole show for me. Forget any special effects, forget any astounding plots twists or cliffhangers; it all comes down to emotions. And my Gods that man tugged at my heartstrings. Him and Catherine both.

As an ending to Russell T. Davies tenure as Series Producer, it truly marks the end of his era. Do I think it’s an appropriate end?

Yes.

Do I think he could have done more with it? Absolutely. There was more potential here, a chance for darker twists to be made. But then that’s not the Doctor Who that RTD wants to tell. Honestly, maybe he understands the show better than me! Perhaps my idea of Doctor Who is far darker than what is necessary”¦

Opinions are subjective, of course.

All I know is, I didn’t feel the same rush I got from last week’s episode. I was definitely entertained and the episode served as a fair conclusion to last weeks opening part. I was definitely sat on the edge of my seat at points. But something just remained aloof”¦

I’m going to say last weeks episode is deserving of a full five out of five score as opposed to the original four and a half.

With that in mind, I’m giving this one four Doctor’s and companions gathered around the TARDIS console out of five.

Russell T. Davies has left the show in a good position for it to go out on for these four upcoming specials next year. Each one can remain unattached for the most part and not having to worry about bringing in overarching elements. They can be standalone stories offering good adventurous fun!

Tonight’s story?

It was good.

It was fun.

My emotions have been thrown all over the place.

What more can you ask of a Saturday evening in watching the television?

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