Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x12: "The Stolen Earth"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper

The Doctor: “But that’s impossible. The entire Time War is time locked itself.”
Davros: “And yet he succeeded. Oh it cost him his mind but imagine a single, simple Dalek succeeded where emperors and Time Lords have failed. A testament don’t you think to my remarkable creations?”

After the trailers we’ve seen all week, we pretty much had a good idea as to who exactly was returning in this finale. The Doctor and Donna made the discovery of the universe being in grave danger and both of them head back to Earth.

The very interesting thing is that is that when they arrive, everything seems pretty normal. The milkman’s doing his rounds and The Doctor realises that the blonde woman Donna interacted with in a parallel world was Rose. I think the words ‘bad wolf’ more or less gave that away.

The best part however sees danger coming at an alarming speed. In New York, a recently promoted Martha and UNIT are being warned about the sky while in Cardiff, Jack, Gwen and Ianto are also busy. We also get to see Sarah Jane and Luke and that no longer corrupt Mr Smith so as reunions go, this is pretty ace.

Russell T. Davies made a promise in DWM that these appearances are more than mere cameos and to give him credit, he’s actually telling the truth. Heck, Martha’s treatment in her first two scenes is better than any of her appearances this season. Also joining the party is Rose who also returned to the present time.

With an episode called “The Stolen Earth”, it’s pretty obvious that somewhere along the lines we have to see the Earth actually being stolen and it’s done in such an audacious way. One minute The Doctor and Donna are talking in the TARDIS and the next they realise an entire planet’s been stolen.

If all this can happen in five minutes or less, then you have to imagine what else can possibly go wrong. The Earth being stolen is one thing, but it’s also in a long line of planets being taken as the episode establishes. Donna’s first reaction is to fear for the safety of Wilf and Sylvia. The Doctor’s is to go and get some answers.

With the Shadow Proclamation being so frequently mentioned this season, it was one of many pay offs this episode foists on us. Speaking on their behalf is a white woman in black clothing and acting as their foot soldiers are the Judoon.

At this rate this episode is ranking up more guest appearances in a Doctor Who story than “The Five Doctors” (ironic as I watched that last night). I like the Judoon so seeing them again is a pleasant surprise. The Doctor also doesn’t have to make too great an effort in getting them not to attack either him or Donna.

As for the Shadow Proclamation, she knows that there’s an all out war brewing. Thanks to Donna for being attentive, it’s confirmed that 27 planets have been stolen and that the thing in the centre of all these planets is a space station but while it’s obvious who is responsible for this, we’re not told straight away.

The Doctor has never been one to take orders so for the Shadow Proclamation to assume that he would comply with their demands was naivety on their part. Instead The Doctor and Donna take a look at the Medusa Cascade, that little rift in time and space and believe me, it’s a gorgeous sight to behold.

As for those responsible, are we supposed to be surprised in seeing the Daleks terrorising humanity once again? Russell clearly loves using these villains more than he should but unlike their disappointing last outing in “Daleks In Manhattan” and “Evolution Of The Daleks”, at least there’s a better plan for them.

The last time we caught a glimpse, Dalek Caan was the only surviving Dalek in existence. It’s then amazing to see them en masse without Caan to assist them but I’ll get back to that later. As for the Daleks, their instinct has always been to kill and without The Doctor, the smart thing would be to dispatch of any potential threats.

They arrive in New York and waste no time in wiping up most of UNIT. Martha gets into an argument with both Jack and General Sanchez as to whether or not she should go ahead and use Project Indigo. Jack is pretty much against it and because Sanchez comes across as a bit of a dick you end up siding with Jack.

Martha however uses it anyway. It turns out to be a teleportation device from Sontaran technology and while Jack fears she could be goner, I don’t. Okay so anyone could and will probably die in this finale but surely they wouldn’t do this early into things? Besides hasn’t Martha suffered enough this season?

Rose meanwhile is scouring the streets and pretty much doing her best Sarah Connor impression, you know if the latter wore bright clothes in battle. With Daleks blowing things up left, right and centre, Rose does everyone a favour and stops one of them from killing Sylvia and Wilf. I’ve come to love Wilf and Sylvia isn’t annoying here. Plus Rose looked pretty cool when she was doing it.

However one thing that really struck me was the realisation of the Daleks. As pointed out in Doctor Who Confidential, every companion has a personal history with them but while Rose looked glum and Martha was in disbelief, it’s both Jack and Sarah’s reactions that really hit home.

Given that being killed by the Daleks helped fuel Rose into making him immortal, Jack’s fear at hearing the word ‘exterminate’ is harrowing. Gwen and Ianto are both confused so there’s a genuine feeling of doom when Jack actually embraces the two of them. The same can also be said about Sarah Jane who breaks down and cries while holding onto Luke.

In terms of danger though, the Daleks spend most of their time rounding people up on the street and killing those who stand up to them. The companions on the other hand get their closest chance to actually interact with other thanks to another person who is trying to do the right thing.

With so many appearances confirmed, it’s still amazing how happy I was to see the return of Harriet Jones. Sure we know she was coming back and apparently it was supposed to be an agent of the Daleks but the Harriet we see here is every bit the same woman we fell in love with back in Season One.

One of the things I love is how Harriet wants to do right thing, make amends with The Doctor but still feels that she wasn’t wrong in blowing the Sycorax ship. Personally I felt The Doctor overreacted with that little incident but if Harriet needed redeeming then consider this episode her redemption ten fold.

With a little bit of computer technology Harriet hooks up Martha and Francine with Jack, Gwen and Ianto and Sarah Jane and Luke as they all try to send a signal to communicate with The Doctor and Donna. Surely this has to be fan fiction and not an actual televised scene right?

As scenes go, it’s also wonderfully delicious. You’ve got Rose feeling excluded because she’s the only one The Doctor/Donna can’t see but there’s delight in seeing Gwen and Ianto cruising The Doctor, Donna noting the hotness of Jack and even Sarah Jane is flirted with by Jack. Well Jack made my day by doing that. Plus Luke’s presence raised questions from both The Doctor and Jack.

However with all this stuff going on, isn’t it about time we talked bad guys. On one hand there are two sets of Daleks – the ones we’re used to seeing and others with two guns instead of one. There’s also a Red Dalek who is the Supreme Dalek and arrogant as hell but even they aren’t as important as two other bad guys.

The reason why we’ve got so many Daleks is due to Dalek Caan going back in time during the Time War and saving Davros from being killed. It might have been a good gesture on his part but Caan pays the price by being totally off his rocker, ripped open and chained up by the very maniac he’s saved.

After The Master last year, Davros had to come back. It was the only plausible way we could get so many Daleks and spending the last two weeks watching every story Davros has been in since 1975, I have to say his appearance in this episode is brilliant. Yes we could’ve done with some more scenes but what we got was good.

Julian Bleach is a well deserved successor to the role of Davros and plays the Dalek creator with pure menace. Not once does Davros come across as a ranting bore but more the unbridled, megalomaniac that he is. It might be 20 years since 1988’s “Remembrance Of The Daleks” but there’s no mistaking that Davros is back.

The Doctor’s struck by his return. Like The Master, Davros was supposed to be a casualty but messing with time has meant he’s back. He doesn’t really explain why he’s stolen 27 planets but he does go on about the Daleks being the supreme beings to prove that he hasn’t changed.

There’s a lot of good dialogue between The Doctor and Davros in their little scene but it’s unsurprising that The Doctor decides to head back to Earth. Davros is well aware of that and decides to send a few Daleks to welcome him home. Anyone would’ve seen that coming of course.

Once they are on Earth there are lots to be done with. Both Jack and Sarah Jane leave Gwen, Ianto and Luke to their own devices to find The Doctor and Rose gets some confidence boosting from Wilf and Sylvia. Harriet meanwhile has a deadly encounter with the Daleks and Martha basically stays put.

Once again, the very scene people might have clamoured for is The Doctor and Rose to meet again. He’s an anxious boy to see her and it’s only a twisted move that when he does reunite with Rose, a Dalek also has to appear from nowhere to shoot him. It’s a good job that Donna and Jack are also there to help.

With Gwen, Ianto and Sarah Jane all surrounded by Daleks and Davros out of sight, the last scene is the strangest one yet. Is The Doctor going to regenerate, leaving David Tennant to actually exit the series or is there any truth in the rumour mill of us getting a botched regeneration and be left with two versions of The Doctor? It would be kind of evil if David Tennant didn’t see the last episode out.

Also in “The Stolen Earth”

In the opening credits for this episode we had David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Elisabeth Sladen and Billie Piper.

Donna: “Thing is Doctor, no matter what’s happening and I’m sure it’s bad. I get that but Rose is coming back. Isn’t that good?”
The Doctor: “Yeah.”

Also credited before producer/director credits were Penelope Wilton, Adjoa Andoh, Eve Myles, Gareth David Lloyd and Thomas Knight. At least two more people will factor next week.

Suzanne: “Just look at the sky.”
Martha: “Why? What is it?”
Suzanne: “Just look at the sky.”

Rose (to herself): “Right. Now we’re in trouble. It’s only just the beginning.”

Rose actually got a little jealous when she saw Martha on the screen. It’s a little ironic given that Martha was jealous of her during Season Three.

Captain Jack: “Ianto, there’s a time and a place.”
Ianto (re Paul O’Grady): “He is funny though.”

Supreme Dalek: “We have waited long enough for this destiny. The Daleks are the masters of Earth.”

The celebrity cameos this season were Richard Dawkins (Lalla Ward’s hubby) and Paul O’Grady. Jack is a little jealous of the latter.

Shadow Proclamation (to The Doctor): “We are declaring war Doctor, right across the universe and you will lead us into battle.”

Dalek: “You will come with me.”
Wilf: “Will I heck.”
Dalek: “My vision is not impaired.”
Sylvia: “I warned you Dad.”
Dalek: “Hostility will not be tolerated. Exterminate. Exterminate.”

It’s neat trick that for once when someone attacked the eye stalk, the Dalek was immune. Good job that Rose came though.

Rose (to Wilf/Sylvia): “You’re my last hope. If I can’t find Donna, I can’t find The Doctor. Where is he?”

Captain Jack: “I’ve been following your work. Nice job with the Slitheen.”
Sarah Jane: “Yeah, well I’ve been staying away from you lot. Too many guns.”
Captain Jack: “All the same. Might I say, looking good Ma’am.”
Sarah Jane: “Really? Ooh.”
Harriet: “Not now, Captain. And Martha Jones former companion to The Doctor.”
Rose: “Oi! So was I.”

With the TARDIS getting red last week, was it that much of a shock that it went in flames this week? This poor thing is getting exhausted.

Davros: “I warned you, Supreme one. Just as Dalek Caan foretold. The children of time are moving against us but everything is falling into place.”

Harriet (to everyone): “Tell The Doctor from me, he chose his companions well.”

I just realised that we had four Joneses in this episode with Martha, Francine, Ianto and Harriet and the latter wasn’t related to any of them. Plus Francine hardly had any dialogue either and what’s up with the Osterhagen key?

Gwen (re The Doctor): “Ooh he’s a bit nice. Thought he might have been older.”
Ianto: “He’s not that young.”

Donna (re all the companions): “It’s like an outer space Facebook.”
The Doctor: “Everyone except Rose.”

I’m surprised The Doctor didn’t make a comment about Gwen looking like Gwyneth. Also Rhys, Owen and Toshiko were mentioned while Maria/Alan was in Cornwall and Clyde was with his mother.

Davros: “Welcome to my new empire, Doctor. It is only fitting that you should bear witness to the resurrection and the triumph of Davros, Lord and Creator of the Dalek race.”

Captain Jack: “I gotta go. I got to find The Doctor. I’ll come back. I’m coming back.”
Gwen: “Don’t worry about us. Just go.”
Ianto: “We’ll be fine.”

Davros managed to make a new Dalek by using his own DNA. He’s also got a robotic hand which looks brilliant by the way.

Rose (re The Doctor): “Right, I’m gonna find him. Wish me luck.”
Sylvia: “Good luck.”
Wilf: “Good luck, sweetheart.”

The Doctor: “Anything else?”
Donna (re Rose): “Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

Rose’s theme essentially played during the scenes between her and The Doctor. There was also some new music. Surely Murray Gold has devised a theme for Davros?

The Doctor: “Long time, no see.”
Rose: “Yeah. Been busy you know. Don’t die. Oh my God, don’t die. Oh my God, don’t die.”

The Doctor (to Donna/Rose/Captain Jack): “It’s too late. I’m regenerating.”

Interestingly enough we got denied a trailer for “Journey’s End”. Maybe we’re not losing David Tennant after all. At least not in 2008 anyway, I hope.

Okay so “The Stolen Earth” reeks of fan-fiction but like “The Five Doctors”, it’s such an unbridled joy to see so many characters we’ve known and loved for the past few years, that you just don’t want to criticise. It’s very easy not to as every character appearance (okay maybe not Francine’s but I did like seeing her) actually added to something. Every companion got a moment to shine, Davros got the return he deserved, some many references to past events came to fruition and that ending will literally have me counting down the hours for next Saturday. To be frank, how could you not enjoy this episode?

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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