THIS EPISODE TAKES
AFTER THE TV EPISODE
"THE STOLEN EARTH",
AND PRIOR TO THE
COMIC STRIP "THE
RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE FOURTH
SERIES' HMV EXCLUSIVE
DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD
2609) RELEASED IN
As Davros and the
Daleks threaten the
the Doctor's CHILDREN
OF TIME join forces.
But the prophecy
declares that one
of them will die...
5TH JULY 2008
(65-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 3 OF 3)
As I write this, it’s being reported that Journey’s End was the most watched prog-
ramme of the week on British television. More viewers than EastEnders. More viewers than Coronation Street. More viewers than the Wimbledon final. More viewers than chuffing Big Brother, even. But even with the highest chart position in Doctor Who’s long history and an audience appreciation figure that is practically off the scale, something about this episode doesn’t sit well with me. It has left me feeling utterly dejected; so much so that I’m writing this on the Wednesday night following transmission rather than first thing on the Sunday morning!
And why? I still haven’t worked that one out. Russell T Davies’ sixty-five minute season finale either has such profound dramatic impact that its ending is literally too painful to bear or, just like last year, the story was so damned big that it was nigh on impossible for even Davies to craft a satisfying conclusion.
“Now then, where were we?” the Doctor
says. At the nub of the most almighty
Doctor Who cliffhanger ever devised,
that’s where. The explosive ending to
last week’s Stolen Earth had even the
most hardened spoiler junkies questioning what they knew. Predictably, a few rumours were
bandied about on t’internet – my favourite was the “Sylvester McCoy is returning!” one (well,
if he is going to show up on Doctor Who Confidential wearing some bizarre corruption of his
original costume…) – but somehow, someway, the production team managed to keep their big secret under wraps.
Sadly though, when you have so much media interest all centred around one cliffhanger, it’s to be expected that its resolution is going to come as something of letdown. The greater the suspense, the greater the hype… the bigger the cop-out. And the “handy spare hand” is the biggest cop-out of them all. But I can forgive that - hell, it’s part of the magic – but a Doctor duplicate is harder to forgive, at least in the long term.
“Instantaneous biological metacrisis. I grew out of you.”
The idea of a multi-Doctor story limited to just one incarnation is hardly something new. The most prominent example that springs to mind is Lloyd Rose’s audio play Caerdroia, which featured three incarnations of Paul McGann’s Doctor. And Caerdroia was fun, just like the others were fun, and just like Journey’s End is fun. David Tennant and Catherine Tate have clearly relished the opportunity to play off each other in a new and hilarious way; the Doctor imitating Donna’s voice was especially amusing – “Part Time-Lord, part Human. Well isn’t that wizard” – although in fairness Tennant had had plenty of practice after voicing Donna in the recent Pest Control audio book.
My beef is with the fact that, come the end of this story, there are still two Doctors. Neither of them perishes (despite a blinding opportunity for the ersatz Doctor to do so, when he comes belting out of the TARDIS in the Dalek Crucible), and there is no re-amalgamation. Instead, we are in essence left with two Doctors out there; same memories, same face, same man. And personally I can’t stand the idea that the Doctor is divisible and/or replicable.
“This is a fully-fledged Dalek Empire at the height of its power; experts at fighting TARDISes.”
grievance, I found the first fifty minutes or so of Journey’s End
to be nothing short of magnificent. Seeing a Dalek Empire at
its zenith is something that we have never even come close to
seeing on screen, but it was well worth waiting forty-five years
for. It may be a cliché to say that you would struggle to find act-
ion as epic as this in the cinema, but it’s true nonetheless - the
visuals of the planetary alignment field and the TARDIS being
drawn into the Dalek Crucible are simply spectacular. Once
again, the Mill has to be applauded.
But, more importantly, Davies’ imagination is more than equal
to the tremendous resources that he has at his disposal. I love
the sequence showing the Daleks occupying Germany, for
instance. Daleks speaking cod German is one of those things
that, now that it’s been done, you can’t believe that no-one had thought of doing it before
because it’s just so… apt. “Extermineren!” Here’s to the death of allegory.
I also enjoyed seeing the Doctor’s recent companions all joining forces to combat the Dalek menace. Fair dues, even at sixty-five minutes Journey’s End is obscenely overcrowded, but who can blame Davies for wanting to bring back all those fantastic characters?
Martha Jones is served well; the idea that she would be prepared to destroy the Earth with the “Osterhagen” device to save the whole of creation is wonderfully played. I particularly like how Davies leaves it unclear as to whether or not Martha would have actually gone through with her “final option” or not. Freema Agyeman is truly at the top of her game here.
Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith is also treated to a strong outing. Sarah has a deadly earnestness about her throughout that works really well and is paid off marvellously in that spellbinding moment when Davros recognises her.
“Impossible. That face. After all these years. Oh this is meant to be!
The circle of time is closing. You were there on Skaro at the beginning of my creation.”
Only Captain Jack and his Torchwood team seem subdued, relatively speaking. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but for some reason Jack doesn’t seem his usual bombastic self here (save for his episode-long spar with the Dalek Supreme, that is) and worse still Gwen and Ianto are for all intents and purposes out of the equation altogether, safe inside their time bubble. All the same, I’m grateful that Davies managed to squeeze in a few lines for them both, including a charming little veiled reference to Eve Myles’ appearance in The Unquiet Dead.
Of all the Doctor’s companions though, Mickey Smith
fares the best. Noel Clarke’s character is at the heart
of the action all the way through but, crucially, he really
makes himself stand out – just look at the way in which
he takes control when everything is kicking off inside the
Crucible. I wanted him to kill Davros so much; can you imagine? After surviving everything
the Thals and then Daleks and then the Time Lords had to throw at him, to be finished off
by ‘Mickey the Idiot’… That would have been sublime.
“You take ordinary people and you fashion them into weapons. I made the Daleks, Doctor. You made this.”
For me though, the heart of this episode is the extraordinary psychological battle between the Doctor and Davros (“The Doctor’s soul will be revealed...”). It’s so skilfully and powerfully written and performed that the whole episode could just have been the Doctor and Davros sat in the dark and I’d probably have been just as entertained. Journey’s End may not be the first time that one of the Doctor’s adversaries has pointed out his inherent flaws to him, but never has it been done as well as it is here.
When I reviewed The Stolen Earth I hastily glossed over Julian Bleach’s performance as Davros because I was still lamenting over Terry Molloy’s being passed over. This week, on the other hand, I really do have to take my hat off to the new feller. Bleach has captured the essence of the character so very well – all that scrupulous genius and all that quiet reason combined with deafening madness and a supreme sense of righteousness. The way he spits out the word “butchered” when he is accusing the Doctor of war crimes encapsulates where Davros is at in Journey’s End flawlessly.
“…every dimension. Every parallel. Every single corner of creation.
This is my ultimate victory, Doctor. The destruction of reality itself!”
What’s more, Bleach’s Davros is more physical than his predecessors. Whilst the Davros of old could shoot lightning bolts from his hand, it was, at the end of the day, a withered hand. Davros’ new prosthesis gives him a whole new range of movement; whereas earlier actors could only use their voices, Bleach can use his arm. He can point. He can rub his forehead. And, thanks to the advances in make-up made since the 1980s, he can even move his face. He can imbue fervent lines like “Never forget Doctor, you did this. I name you, forever, YOU ARE THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS!” with a material sense of menace.
And this time Davros’ plan is so colossal and so ambitious that were he to succeed, it would literally mean the end of everything. Not just the end of our own universe, but the end of every other. Nothing in the whole of creation save for an almighty Dalek Empire and the crippled Kaled scientist that created it. That is bigger than any other baddie-master plan that I can re-call; it even outdoes the Master destroying half the universe in Logopolis. I couldn’t believe it when I read some reviews in the press that criticised this story for trying to be too huge – of all the things that Journey’s End can reasonably be criticised for, I certainly don’t think that scale and ambition are amongst them. On the contrary, they’re its greatest strengths.
And the script’s ambition is paid off outstandingly with the sequence that shows the TARDIS towing the Earth home. The CGI is stunning, and Murray Gold’s uplifting score is exceptional. Better still, seeing the TARDIS being operated correctly for the first time in forty-five years is worth this year’s licence payer’s fee alone. A hexagonal console. Six pilots. Perfect sense.
But with reality saved and Earth home in time for tea, the credits don’t roll. And this is where the episode takes a nosedive for me. Fifteen minutes of farewells felt disproportionate at the end of the mammoth Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies, and so having the same in a sixty-five minute television programme was always going to be… problematic. Remarkably, the vast majority of the goodbyes are dealt with swiftly and sweetly – Sarah Jane doesn’t try to outdo the poignant panache of School Reunion, she just runs off; and as for Jack, Mickey, and Martha… well, let’s just say that it looks like Torchwood has two ready-made replacem-ents for its two recently fallen heroes.
“Something has been drawing us together for such a long time… but heading for what?”
Turning to Donna, I think that her fate works brilliantly in the sense that it is literally too painful for the viewer to bear. After all she’s been through, and after how much she’s changed and grown, to see her reduced to her old pre-Runaway Bride self is utterly, utterly heartbreaking.
“Even the Supreme Dalek would not
dare to contradict the prophecies of
Dalek Caan”, Davros said. I can only
assume that Caan was not including
this episode’s writer in that statement.
Caan was unequivocal in saying that
“…his children of time will gather and
one of them will die”. He didn’t say that “…his children of time will gather one of them will
undergo a biological metacrisis and have to have her memory erased”. Semantics, I know, but the point stands. Had Donna died, then I’d be feeling a lot more buoyant about Journey’s End than I do right now. She deserved a noble end. She deserved better. And maybe that’s the whole point; maybe that’s why it’s the best ending ever written. Maybe that’s why it’s the worst.
“We saved the universe but at a cost. And the cost is him…
That’s me when we first met, but you made me better. And now you can do the same for him”.
My real grouse though has to be concerning Rose’s spick and span ending. I unreservedly hate it. Having her effectively married off to a being that, depending on how you look at it, may or may not be the Doctor is insufferable in so many different ways. It’s far too neat, far too clean, and it leaves one Doctor in the manifold multiverse too many.
It also means that the Doctor can go on with his lonesome life, righting wrongs and fighting monsters, but deep down he will always know that the woman he loves is shacked up with a human incarnation of himself, who can give her all the things that he never could. Whilst there is still most definitely a whiff of tragedy there, wasn’t Bad Wolf Bay the first time around that much more affecting? The Doctor and Rose were torn apart despite being desperate to stay together. But this time around, there is no getting away from the fact that the Doctor walked away from her. No matter how gallant his motives, the Doctor chose to leave Rose behind.
The way that the Doctor vanished in Doomsday before he could say whatever Rose thought that he was going to say to her was too perfect for words; that should have been it. Now we are left with the certain knowledge of what the Doctor could never say and what the Doctor could never be, and whilst many with doubtless rejoice in that fact, I have to say that I much preferred the matter left open to interpretation.
The only positive that I could possibly take from how the foregoing played out is that if, in twenty years time, they want to do a multi-Doctor story without having to come up with an awkward explanation as to why David Tennant looks older then hey presto: it’s the human Doctor, back from a parallel universe!
“I’ll watch out for you sir. Every night when it gets dark and the stars come out.
I’ll look up, on her behalf, I’ll look up at the sky and think of you.”
Thankfully the last few rueful moments of the season are saved by Bernard Cribbins’ and David Tennant’s delightful performances. I think I’m going to miss old Wilfred Mott as much as I will Donna.
On a final note, I can’t express how glad I am that David Tennant will be staying on for at least another episode or five. He is such a phenomenal talent. That dour look on his face
as he paces around the TARDIS console, teasing us with the prospect of a cliffhanger that would never come, sums up the closing moments of Journey’s End so completely. And by the time the final credits had rolled, my bitter expression was much the same.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2008
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This story re-introduces the character of Dalek creator Davros, who is portrayed here as he was seen in the television series in the 1970s and early 1980s. Davros’ last televised appearance in Remembrance of the Daleks suggested that there was little left of him beside a head by that point; however, this is plainly not the case, and so we must assume that there was a torso lurking somewhere beneath that Imperial Dalek casing!
Furthermore, Davros was apparently disintegrated at the end of John Peel’s novel War of the Daleks, though the author did build a ready-made retcon into his narrative in the form of the Spider Dalek loyal to Davros that attended the execution. We must assume that this Spider Dalek somehow reversed the process in time for Davros to lead the Daleks into battle in the Last Great Time War...
When is now? These events take place between The Sontaran Stratagem two-parter (late April 2009) and Planet of the Dead (Easter 2010). This accords with dialogue in The Waters of Mars, which is set in 2059
and refers to the Dalek invasion of Earth happening fifty years prior. However, someone in The Waters of Mars’ design team clearly didn’t get the memo, as Adelaide Brooke’s obituary refers to “the Dalek invasion
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