Tuesday, July 07, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x13: "Journey's End"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Graeme Harper

The Doctor (about his soul being revealed): “What does that mean?”
Davros: “We’ll discover that together. Our final journey because the ending approaches.”

So a week is a very long time to wait for an episode of Doctor Who. Okay so it’s the season finale and the anticipation was already there but with the totally evil ending of The Doctor regenerating, it almost felt like an eternity waiting for this episode.

All week long the BBC were keeping schtum about the ending while the press were practically announcing James Nesbitt as the new Doctor. They were fortunately wrong on that score as my hope for the regeneration to be botched ended up being the truthful one after all.

The Doctor looks like he’s about to become a new man and all of a sudden, his hand in the jar soaks up all the regeneration energy. It looks like Donna won’t be seeing a new man but her reaction along with Rose and Captain Jack’s is priceless. Rose is pleased to see that her Doctor hasn’t changed after all.

Of course while a Dalek might not be enough to change The Doctor, the Supreme Dalek decides it’s time to capture the TARDIS and when the vessel itself is powerless against Dalek transportation, things really don’t look that good. The Doctor is quick to point out that the Dalek race is virtually unstoppable so they have to surrender.

The thing about the TARDIS is that it seems to have some very funny ideas of its own. With The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack surrounded by Daleks, Donna’s trapped in the TARDIS and it refuses to let her out. As usual she thinks The Doctor’s trying to protect her but even he’s confused by what’s happening.

The Supreme Dalek on the other hand thinks The Doctor is trying to pull a fast one and decides to have the TARDIS incinerated. This is one of a few scenes where The Doctor is helpless. Despite his several altercations with the Daleks, even he will still try to appeal to them in times of need.

The Supreme Daleks takes great pleasure in seeing The Doctor beg and poor Donna is inside a TARDIS that’s literally burning up. Captain Jack also doesn’t fare well when his attack on the Daleks results in him being shot and nearly incinerated. I know Jack can’t die but that seriously made me gasp. The Doctor and Rose on the other hand are taken prisoner.

Fortunately there is luck on some fronts. For instance a Time Lock saves Gwen and Ianto from being slaughtered by Daleks. On the flipside they can’t leave the hub but at least they’re safe. As for Sarah Jane, rescue comes to her in the form of Mickey and Jackie who are an episode overdue.

There isn’t really time for the three of them to start chatting. Jackie’s main priority seems to be getting Rose back and Sarah Jane is desperate to find The Doctor. Given that Mickey and Jackie’s teleport devices are down, the only thing for them to is to be taken to the Crucible by the Daleks. Given that a few moments some Daleks were gonna wipe out Sarah Jane, they’re certainly taking a big risk.

Martha’s also got some problems of her own. With Francine fearing for her daughter’s safety, Martha realises that she might have to use the Osterhagen Key after all. Harriet was pretty animated about Martha not using it and even a woman in Germany (where Martha land after using Project Indigo) tries to stop her.

That being said it would take more than a gun from a half-hearted woman to stop Martha. We know that whatever it is, it can’t be good because even Martha doesn’t seem to like the idea of using it and it’s also interesting that she’s virtually on her own while everyone seems to have someone.

For instance, instead of burning to a crisp, Donna not only survives but a part of her manages to make another version of The Doctor from his hand. Now one David Tennant is great but two of them is really spoiling us. I’m just really happy to be right about the botched regeneration.

For the last week there has been some fun ideas of Donna being a Time Lord in secret, I even though it myself and thanks to this episode, it’s kind of true. The fusing of her and The Doctor’s hand means that both she and New Doctor are half-Time Lord and half-human. Seeing them copy each other was essential comedy but we have to wait ages before they factor properly into the scheme of things.

As for Davros, it’s been 20 years since him and The Doctor have shared the same scene with each other and their confrontation here is suitably interesting. Threatening to hurt Rose is a good way to get at The Doctor but even our hero doesn’t mind teasing Davros.

For all his huffing and puffing, Davros should be afraid of The Doctor. The man has defeated him at least five times in some way or another but Davros is too busy gloating about his latest act of destruction – the destruction of everything, except obviously himself and his monstrous creations.

We get a little tease of that when the Daleks use the energy in the Crucible to destroy all the human prisoners. Jackie manages to escape around the same time Sarah Jane and Mickey meet up with Captain Jack. It’s nice to have four of earth greatest defenders there.

With Davros in maniacal form, Julian Bleach really soars in his performance. Seeing The Doctor powerless like this is hardly new but even The Doctor seems appalled at the insanity which Davros seems to have soared to. Even The Master’s great scheme with the Toclafane is tame compared to this.

As for reunions, The Doctor and Rose should feel at home. They met in dangerous circumstances, parted as a result of them and now brought back together during them. Apart from the earlier scene in the TARDIS, they’re too busy trying to stay alive and get answers from Davros.

The other thing with Davros also is the fact that he’s a prisoner too. You wouldn’t think with the way he’s able to challenge the Supreme Dalek but it seems that he’s just a means to an end. The Daleks did have a penchant for using Davros so perhaps it’s just desserts that he’s a whipping boy for them again.

Not that Davros would ever label himself as one. He got pretty annoyed when The Doctor figured that one out but he also continued to goad The Doctor. Thanks to Dalek Caan we got some more moments where The Doctor had to squirm as well as that promise that a companion will see everlasting death.

It’s also not really good for The Doctor when Martha and Sarah Jane both attempt to bargain with Davros. It seems the Osterhagen Key can be used to destroy the Earth and to make things worse; Sarah Jane’s Warp Star is also similarly destructive. Davros should be quaking in his chair but the psycho isn’t.

Instead he uses it as a ripe opportunity to demonstrate to The Doctor the destructive side of what his companions can do. Because The Doctor may never use a gun or any weapon of mass destruction, it doesn’t stop every single companion from resorting to brute force for the greater good.

This might be enough to shut The Doctor up but in all fairness, given the chaos that the Daleks and Davros have pulled, it’s not like any of them have a real choice. I know The Doctor is responsible in some ways but in actual fact, it’s Davros who has done this. None of them want to use brute force but neither of them have a choice in the matter.

Davros and Supreme Daleks then have Martha, Captain Jack, Sarah-Jane, Mickey and Jackie transported to the cells with The Doctor and Rose. Of course the best part is that New Doctor and Donna also show up and that’s when things begin to get really interesting.

While New Doctor and Donna are getting electrocuted by Davros, it looks like everything is going to disintegrate into nothing. However because Donna has rightfully dominated this season, it’s only fair that she’s instrumental in taking Davros down and Donna certainly does it brilliantly.

Martha might have emasculated The Master last year but what Donna does with Davros and the Daleks feels even more humiliating for them. Donna basically makes the Daleks unable to kill and Mickey wastes no time in threatening to exterminate Davros. Plus there’s fun to be had with every companion pushing Daleks away.

Better still, Donna uses her Time Lord knowledge and the two Doctors to help stop the chaos that’s been created. Instead of the worlds and universes dissolving into atoms, it’s the Daleks who end up going in pieces. Supreme Dalek arrives too late and only manages to get killed himself.

As for Dalek Caan, it seems going back in time and being driven insane has given him something of a wake up call. Unlike any other Dalek, he’s disgusted with the way his race has advanced and betrays Davros. Then New Doctor does something rather rash that is enough to illicit anger from both The Doctor and Davros.

With the Crucible going up in flames and Davros virtually defeated, is this the last we’ve seen of him? Compared to every other big bad in the previous three seasons he’s had a shorter time of it but I doubt that he’s actually dead. Still I do wonder whether or not he’s vindicated in blaming The Doctor in all of the destruction that is happening.

Getting back to Gwen, Ianto, Luke and Mr Smith, all four of them are useful along with K9 in helping The Doctor, New Doctor, Donna, Rose, Martha, Captain Jack, Sarah-Jane, Mickey and Jackie in bringing the Earth back to its rightful place. Seeing them all together working the TARDIS is just a freaking delight. Now this really does feel like “The Five Doctors”.

However with the world saved it’s time to say goodbye and Christ, there are plenty to get through. The Doctor and Sarah Jane have a nice moment where she tells him he’s not alone. She also tries to explain about Luke but leaves it. Not that it matters as we’ll soon be seeing her again in two months time.

Then there’s Captain Jack, Martha and Mickey. Well Jack gets his transportation privileges taken away from him again by The Doctor but the rumours of him getting new recruits for the vacancies that Owen and Toshiko have left behind come true. Martha’s our doctor and Mickey’s the computer genius. With Martha fed up with UNIT and Mickey having nothing in the parallel universe to keep him there, I can’t wait to see these two in action in Torchwood’s third season.

Then there’s Rose’s departure. Suffice to say bringing her and Jackie back to Bad Wolf Bay isn’t what the girl wants but with New Doctor proving to be a loose cannon, The Doctor and Donna give the human-Time Lord hybrid to Rose as a parting gift. I bet there are a load of fans out there who loathe this, especially when New Doctor and Rose start kissing but I honestly don’t care. It’s a good way to write Rose out and she does get a Doctor to keep as well.

However the best departure of the bunch is Donna’s. With Catherine Tate only being contracted for this season, she pretty much goes out on a high. While Russell T. Davies might have chickened out for the second time in killing a companion for real, having Donna’s memories wiped away, even if it’s to save her is still down right evil. It feels even worse than if Davros had actually succeeded in killing her.

Both Catherine Tate and David Tennant play a blinder in the last few scenes. The Doctor doesn’t want to erase Donna’s memories but literally doesn’t have a choice and just like “Doomsday”, I made with the man tears. Donna’s been so brilliant that I will seriously miss her. I still can’t believe I actually dreaded her retuning when she hasn’t put a foot wrong all season. Also if “Doomsday” was RTD’s version of Buffy’s “Becoming Parts 1 and 2”, is “Journey’s End” his take on “The Gift”?

The Doctor’s final exchanges with her and Sylvia and Wilf are great. Sylvia finally realises that her daughter really is special even after The Doctor reminds her of it. Wilf even pities The Doctor for losing all of his friends yet again. The last scene with him brooding in the TARDIS made for a change from the way the previous finales have all ended.

Also in “Journey’s End”

This episode did what every other finale did and jumped into the opening credits. That I did expect.

Sarah Jane: “Mickey?”
Mickey: “Us Smiths have got to stick together.”

Speaking of Mickey, I was a little surprised that Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri’s names weren’t added into the opening credits. They could’ve slotted them in between Elisabeth Sladen and Billie Piper.

The Doctor: “What do you think?”
Rose: “You’re still you.”
The Doctor: “I’m still me.”
Donna (to Captain Jack): “You can hug me if you want. No, you can hug me.”

Donna: “Oi, I’m not staying behind.”
The Doctor (to Supreme Dalek): “What did you do?”

There’s a funny little moment where the Daleks in Germany actually speak German. At least they’re willing to learn the language of the people they’re going to kill.

Donna: “It’s you.”
New Doctor: “Oh yes.”
Donna: “You’re naked.”
New Doctor: “Oh yes.”

Davros: “Excellent. Even when powerless, a Time Lord is still best contained.”
The Doctor: “You still scared of me?”

Because we’ll never get The Doctor/Captain Jack snog again, I have to admit to being happy to see David Tennant briefly nude. Yay!

Donna: “Oi, watch it Space Man.”
New Doctor: “Oi, watch it Earth Girl.”

German Woman: “You will not go.”
Martha: “I’ve got no choice.”
German Woman: “I know what the key does.”

Freema Agyeman noted that Martha’s plot here was slightly similar to “Last Of The Time Lords”. Martha interacted with The Doctor and the other companions the least so she might have a valid point.

The Doctor: “Leave her alone.”
Davros: “She is mine to do as I please.”
Rose: “Then why am I still alive?”

Davros (to The Doctor/Rose): “Across the entire universe. Never stopping, never faltering, never fading. People, planets and stars will become dust and the dust will become atoms and the atoms will become nothing and the wavelength will continue breaking through the rift at the heart of the Medusa Cascade into every dimension, every parallel, every single corner of creation. This is my ultimate victory, Doctor. The destruction of reality itself.”

This is the first time that Camille Coduri got scenes with John Barrowman, Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman and Elisabeth Sladen.

Captain Jack: “And who do I find, Mickey Mouse?”
Mickey: “You can talk, Captain Cheesecake.”

One of the best things about this serial was Davros remembering his encounter with Sarah Jane in “Genesis Of The Daleks”. There’s no way Russell couldn’t reference it.

Martha (to The Doctor): “Who’s that?”
Rose: “My name is Rose. Rose Tyler.”
Martha: “Oh my God, he’s found you.”

Davros: “I made the Daleks, you made this.”
The Doctor (re his companions): “They’re trying to help.”

In the parallel world, Mickey’s grandmother died and Jackie had a baby boy called Tony. Loved her teasing The Doctor after he wouldn’t let her mess with the TARDIS.

Rose: “Mum, I told you not to.”
Jackie: “I couldn’t leave you.”

The Doctor: “Donna, you can’t even change a plug.”
Donna: “Do you wanna bet, Time Boy?”

This episode clocked in at 65 minutes making it the second longest episode of the new series after “Voyage Of The Damned” of course.

Sarah Jane: “Good to see you again.”
Rose: “You too.”

The Doctor: “Davros come with me now. I promise I can save you.”
Davros: “Never forget Doctor. You did this. I name you forever. You are the destroyer of the worlds.”

We got some flashbacks to some of the deaths that The Doctor couldn’t prevent such as Jabe, Lynda, Sir Robert, Astrid, Jenny and River Song to name a few. Pity we didn’t get The Master as his ‘death’ affected The Doctor deeply.

Sarah Jane (to The Doctor): “You act like such a lonely man but you’ve got the biggest family on Earth.”

Rose: “You’ll grow old at same time as me?”
New Doctor: “Together.”

New Doctor doesn’t seem to wear a tie. In the Doctor Who Confidential, Billie Piper threw some allusions to Beauty And The Beast with this plot.

Rose (to The Doctor/New Doctor): “All right, both of you answer me this. When I last stood on this beach on the worst day of my life, what was the last thing you said to me? Go on, say it!”
The Doctor: “I said Rose Tyler.”
Rose: “Yeah and how was that sentence gonna end?”
The Doctor: “Does it need saying?”
Rose: “New Doctor, what was the end of that sentence?”

Donna: “I want to stay.”
The Doctor: “Look at me. Donna, look at me.”
Donna: “I was gonna be with you forever.”
The Doctor: “I know.”
Donna: “Rest of my life, travelling in the TARDIS. The Doctor-Donna. No. I can’t go back. Don’t make me go back. Doctor, please, please don’t make me go back.”

On the Doctor Who Confidential for this episode, there was high emotions for the departures of Catherine Tate and producer Phil Collinson.

The Doctor: “Oh Donna Noble I’m so sorry but we’ve had the best of times. The best. Goodbye.”
Donna: “No. No, No. Please. Please. No. No. Don’t. No.”

Wilf: “When it gets dark and the stars come out, I’ll look up on her behalf. I’ll look up at the stars and think of you.”
The Doctor: “Thank you.”

Breaking from tradition this year we got a brilliant trailer for the Christmas 2008 episode which is untitled for the time being.

What an absolute legend of an episode! “Journey’s End” had the unenviable task of living up to high expectations of the high standard of the previous two episodes and while there are some people who might loathe the outcomes of Rose and Donna, I thought this was actually the best finale we’ve ever had in all thirty seasons of Doctor Who. Exhilarating, tense, witty, tearful, shocking, poignant, bittersweet and overall excellent, there’s very little to really criticise. It’s also easily the best TV episode of this season and I am seriously looking forward to this year’s Christmas special and the four 2009 specials.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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