Doctor Who 4:13 (Spoilers-R-Us)

Journey’s End

Journey’s End indeed, this season finale being RTD’s swan song on the ongoing series, and what a contribution this man has made, even just this week. The amount of media interest and fan speculation has dwarfed even that of series 1. And certain theories from last week were entirely correct, if a little out of sequence. Ten splits the regeneration energy off into the hand, refusing to regenerate himself. Fully reunited with his companions he asks Rose what’s really going on because her world is running ahead of this one – she’s seen the future. She remembers the stars going out, but far more important is she acknowledges that all the timelines converge somehow in Donna, and the surprises continue when the Daleks try to destroy the Tardis – not only does Donna manage to syphon off the regeneration energy, but she causes a second Ten to emerge from the hand. So far so figured out – the Darkness involves the stars going out, but who is Donna really and what’s to become of Ten and his alternate? For that matter why did the Tardis door close itself on Donna when Davros tried to destroy it?

Martha reveals the Osterhagen Key as a doomsday device, and Sarah Jane reveals her own – a warpstar, which can destroy the Crucible world engine. And they need to, because Davros’ Crucible, his world engine, powers a reality bomb, which he plans to use to destroy everything, starting with the stars. It looks like he’ll succeed too, with the companions all transmatted into the Crucible before they can detonate their weapons. And another theme is formally addressed here too, with Davros noting that the Doctor fashions ordinary people into weapons – Rose into Bad Wolf, Jack into an immortal, but Donna into…what? With all the companions and Ten and his alternate trapped and reality’s time running short, she reveals her place in Dalek Caan’s prophecy – part of the threefold man – the Doctor himself. In manipulating the regeneration energy she took on yet another aspect of Ten (his mind) and defeats Davros. Dalek Caan was indeed mad, but his prophecy all along was to destroy the Dalek race once and for all. No more for Steven Moffat to play with there – RTD too is done.

The Crucible is destroyed, the planets are restored, as is the Earth. Sarah Jane leaves back to her own spin-off for good. Jack leaves back for Torchwood, as does Martha, and it appears Mikey too. And this is where the episode falls flat on its face in agony. Rose, Jackie and Ten II go to Rose’s parallel world. And with Ten II physically human, with his human limitations, such as a finite lifespan – he offers everything Rose ever needed from Ten but he could never provide. Rose could use her ‘dimension cannon’ to continue leaping between universes, but Ten explains Ten II needs her to evolve him to the extent that she’s already evolved him – from angry, battle-weary Nine to the rounded character of now. And when Ten II tells her he loves her, she like a sap kisses him, acknowledging that he is in every other respect a precise copy of Ten, and they are left to live out their lives happily in the alternate reality. Rose and her family appear to leave once and for all, not complicating matters for Stephen Moffat either.

And then there’s Donna. The aspect of the Doctor she absorbed is killing her and he has to remove it. But to do that he must expunge her memories of their ever having met. The strange heartbeat we hear had been explained – that was Ten II – he admitted it – but no explanation is offered for how the timelines converged around her. Was it fate? We still don’t even know the true purpose of the attack on her in ‘Turn Left‘. Donna was (remains?) independently powerful since birth, and we are shown key sequences with the ring she’s wearing looming large – most importantly when she absorbs the Doctor’s essence. And was it just me or did it flicker at the very end? It’s an awfully big ring, and a woman lifted an awfully big ring from the Master’s corpse in ‘Last of the Time Lords‘ – a ring which still hasn’t been accounted for.

We know what Donna’s ‘loss’ was destined to be, as well as what she was destined to become, but it was also said outright that she already was ‘something new’. I’m convinced Donna and the Master are still in play, presumably fodder for RTD’s true final word on Who. Irritating as hell, but the endings were clumsy as anything too. Rose settles for a xerox who really isn’t anything like the original, and she still hasn’t got over her feelings? Gah. How convenient, and how demeaning of a character who’s shown so much potential. And yet again Jack’s role is perfunctory. I’m not sure why Barrowman’s still bothering. The edge the character had at the outset made him interesting – whilst he is pretty and engaging, he’s now far from interesting. The theme of time going the way it’s supposed to has run through this series, but it’s far from clear whether it’s complete. Some component subplots seem (as with ‘Bad Wolf’ in series 1) to have been ham fistedly delivered – why Rose didn’t just reveal herself to the Doctor instead of Donna in ‘Partners in Crime‘ remains confused – did she just know (as in ‘Turn Left’) the way things were meant to be? Being in the future in the alternate universe wouldn’t explain that. Or was her last minute insertion into that episode an editorial decision (again as with ‘Bad Wolf’) to catch the die hards off guard, and generate attention for the series? I have to assume the latter, given that there’s no way Rose can reasonably be used again under RTD’s stewardship.

The acting this episode was good where it mattered. Tennant shone as Ten and Ten II (whose ending wasn’t his fault), and Tate excelled as ever, although Freema Agyeman seems to have taken a step backward since series 3. I liked Ten II imprinting himself on Donna – apparently it was scripted that Ten spoke Estuary English instead of Scottish because he imprinted himself on Rose (the first being he encountered post-regeneration), and this is a nice final acknowledgment of that talent. I’m also glad Gallifrey wasn’t one of the stolen planets, and although I’m appalled at the (apparent) final word on Rose, I’m unsurprised that ‘Bad Wolf’ really was just two words, the power of which Rose has established and exploited before. But even there, what was it about Donna’s invoking the words (Rose pointedly not doing so) which caused such a powerful reaction by the Tardis? I wish RTD weren’t channelling Chris Claremont quite so well – sometimes long-term plotlines need to end definitively. Rose’s did, but Donna’s didn’t, nor has the Master’s, nor has this episode’s or even this series’.

7 responses to “Doctor Who 4:13 (Spoilers-R-Us)

  1. Well, even if there are solid endings-this was a really great episode. I loved all the little tie-ins, though to be honest I didn’t remember who most of the people who died for The Doctor were. This was great fun.

  2. I thought the implication and it was pretty much said, that Dalek Caan was manipulating the timelines to converge around Donna since birth.

    The attack on her in Turn Left – either we’re meant to assume that was also Dalek Caan’s orchestration with the intention of bringing everyone into play as he ended up doing (don’t ask me why though, it really doesn’t make sense), or there’s another reason for that, which will become clearer in the future (after all, that attack on her had the intended outcome of undoing Dalek Caan’s plan and ensuring she and the Doctor never met so would not fulfil prophecy).

    Rose’s extra knowledge – well we’re supposed to think she could suddenly dimensional jump again because of the reality bomb because barriers were breaking down in universes where time was running ahead of ours, and hers runs ahead of ours so she also knows enough to manipulate Donna back onto the correct path in Turn Left. Let’s just say some of her knowledge and appearances are convenient. Let’s also say that it’s…surprising…that she didn’t just go into the parallel world in Ep1, lock onto the Tardis thanks to Control (as she did in Ep12), and meet the Doctor and explain it all then. Of course, this would lead to the infamous “short season” syndrome.

    Russell T Davies’s writing and plot construction is often superficially clever, but when you dig a little deeper starts to look a but less clever and rather full of convenient coincidence and unexplained events. It starts to look like some things happen purely in order to hook the viewer and generate the talking points and are hard to explain based purely on the story we’re told, based on the information we have to hand at this point.

    Having said all that, I am capable of watching the show on a superficial level without needing every little detail tied up, and on that basis, I thought it was a very enjoyable episode, a good two-parter, and perhaps his best season-ender of the lot.

    Rose – I actually liked how that was resolved. I thought it was neat (some think too neat). Yes, Ten II is not The Doctor but if she loves The Doctor romantically then he has nothing for her as we saw – he wouldn’t open himself to that with her. Ten II would. He could be what she needed him to be. The Doctor who could love her and who would never leave her because he would grow old with her and share a normal life. Given the plot strands left in play at the end of Season 2, I thought this tied it all up rather well. She’s back in the parallel world, but this time she has him with her always. Rose wins at life.

    Donna’s ending was a tragedy. She loses what she became as a result of being with him. She goes back to being “just a temp”, with no realisation of what more she could have been, what more she once was.

    And yet, I don’t believe we have seen the last of Miss Noble. There’s more going on there I think. The reason she was attacked in Turn Left still isn’t clear (though I acknowledge it may never be clearer). And that ring on her finger. There’s something going on there obviously – why else would they stick it in our faces and make it twinkle. No, no, we leave knowing the tragedy of Miss Donna Noble but with the strong suspicion that more is to come.

    And next time Cybermen. Again. Hopefully better this time.

  3. That is one hell of a good review, particularly the points about Dalek Caan. For me that proves much of your earlier concern that there was too much to tie up effectively. You’re right – Caan’s outright involvement is implicit in manipulating Donna’s entire life. And I do hope that the Master’s involvement with her is yet to come. Word has it that the actual scenes with John Simm have already been shot, but were excised when RTD realised that including him as well would have been too much for an already overloaded episode. We’ll have to see if the rumour of this plotline being bumped into one of 2009’s specials (or even at Christmas) is true.

    And can we sort out David Tennant for series 5 now please? They’re shooting in April, so the new writers will have to know whether they’re writing Ten, Eleven or Ten and Eleven before too long.

  4. I think for me the best scene of the lot was the one in the Crucible where Martha has the Osterhagen Key and Sarah Jane / Jack have the Warp Star and both blackmailing Davros, and Davros turns to the Doctor and makes the point that he turns ordinary people into weapons of mass destruction – yes, with the intention of doing good, but look where his intentions lead his “children of time” – threatening mass murder. Again drawing parallels with Davros and the Daleks – Davros breeds his children to be destroyers, and unwittingly the Doctor does exactly the same thing with his children of time – going right back to the horrifying comparison made back in Season 1 with Eccleston – “you would make a good Dalek”. This time Davros takes the point and SMACKS him between the eyes with it as we see all those who die or kill in his name, for his motives. Absolutely brilliant. And we see the real tragedy of the Doctor – that he does what he does for good, but his hands are drowning in blood.

    Things that still need explaining (and may never be)

    Rose – she didn’t contact the Doctor in Ep1 when she could have – so we assume she knew “how it was meant to be” and that she had to wait, manipulate events to get to where it needed to be in Ep12, and then meet him only then.

    Which doesn’t explain why she tried to contact the Tardis in Sontaran Strategen/Poison Sky, and the Doctor on the viewscreen on planet Midnight. Because if she knew she had to wait, why was she trying to contact him then? And if she didn’t have to wait, why didn’t she lock onto the Tardis in Ep1? Mutually contradictory.

    But of course the further, and perhaps more important question – is – why COULDN’T she get through on those occasions? What – or Who – was blocking her? And does this have any significance or was it just a cool RTD plot point to keep Rose in our minds throughout the long season (I suspect so but hope not)

    Why was Donna attacked in Turn Left? Was this some convoluted part of Caan’s plan or was someone or something working to stop his plan from being fulfilled for their own reasons?

    Who did take the Master’s ring at the end of Season 3? Is it tied in with the ring on Donna’s finger that was very obviously shown to us with a fetching glint at the end of Journey’s End? Or a red herring?

    The Doctor’s Daughter has yet to be picked up again and apparently she’s out there – doing what? Will she be back in some guise?

    Davros – of course he’s not dead – he’s like Freddie Kruger – he never dies. What will he try next as his Dalek empire is – yet again – wiped out?

    Who will be the Doctor’s next companion as we see him stand in the Tardis control room – hours ago brimful of friends – all alone once more?

    Bah. I hate it when the season ends.

  5. We have to suspect that Davros prevented her transmissions. He knew who she was and what she was doing from Caan’s prophecy, and presumably manipulated her timeline too. Except how does that then differentiate her from Donna? Far too many mindgames inserted to mess with die hards and generate buzz, too little consistency – a fun yet always ultimately irritating legacy of the RTD era.

    There was a stage where I felt this was cracking good TV. The pace was insane, the script had been pared down from the waffle of ‘The Stolen Earth’ and even the humour was hitting the mark (‘Watch it, Earth girl’ cracked me up). Maybe from looking at your analysis more of the plot tied up than I’d originally felt, but much of that had to be inferred or was implicit

    At least we now know who Rose’s unnamed new, non-Mikey boyfriend in the parallel world was…;)

  6. I really enjoyed it, though it does bother me how RTD just desperately seems to need a script editor to reign him in on occasion.

    Rose’s ending seemed a little over-trite — it didn’t move me at all, which surprised me. At least it dealth with the issue of there being two of Ten.

    Donna’s ending, however, really was horribly, painfully, upsettingly tragic. Immensely well-written (and generally I don’t rate RTD, Turn Left notwithstanding). The interaction between Davros and Ten (I) before the mass transmatting of companions was just fantastic, as you’ve commented.

    The whole storyline did just feel like Rose was introduced solely for the sake of it, though. The Torchwood team (and Martha’s mam) all seemed a bit pointless, though. Was Jack really only introduced so his machismo could be more threatening than Sarah Jane would’ve been?

    And Mickey and Jackie were very good fun (I never complain at seeing Noel Clarke being butch), but they didn’t really achieve very much.

    Very good fun, but RTD always feels like he’s writing for kids and occasionally remembers we adults watch it too…

    …and I do hope that’s not the end of Donna’s storyline…

  7. Amazing episode, but was I the only disappointed Grandpa Noble didn’t get to go on the TARDIS and see the universe? 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s