Published on July 12th, 2008 | by Christian Cawley
What a difference a week makes.
The not quite regeneration of the Doctor saw the reality-threatening events of The Stolen Earth taken seriously for a few moments before being pushed into the background in what I can only describe as a let-down of career-defining proportions for Russell T Davies.
It appears to have become a scientific fact that Russell cannot resolve any of his setups in a satisfactory manner. Compare Journey’s End to Last of the Time Lords, for instance. Both had superb first parts and an excellent setup to each story in Utopia and Turn Left.
Before I go on, let’s get Donna out of the way. I’m throwing around statements about RTD and tying things up properly, but one thing he did do so superbly was bring us the death of Donna, in a touching and moving manner that once more left the Doctor travelling on his own. The performances in these closing scenes were marvellous, and showed what a great asset to British television Bernard Cribbins is with his effortless characterization.
Also, the return of Davros, although later undermined, was superb and Julian Bleach gave the character and added menace long since lost. Similarly the quiet man of Doctor Who, Nicholas Briggs, gave us another great selection of Dalek voices. Sadly, I can’t help but feel that the deconstruction of the Doctor’s lifestyle by Davros, illustrating the effect that he has on people was set up to be taken – well, nowhere. Surely if you’re going to take this route, the Doctor needs to be made to suffer, and any tension arising from this was quickly lost as Donna flicked some switches and the Daleks fell apart.
So – a formidable classic series foe, a returning mad man. A universe threatening master plan, a hackneyed resolution and the departure of a regular cast member. Assistance from a recurring supporting cast member, and a theme running throughout the whole series.
Guess which series conclusion I’m talking about, if you can?
Is it Series 1, when the Doctor, Rose and Jack uncovered a Dalek plot to destroy the earth and from there move on to the rest of the universe leaving Rose with no choice but to swallow the time vortex and easily remove the Dalek threat with the twofold result that the words “Bad Wolf” were spread throughout time and space and the Doctor was regenerated, giving us two Doctors in the same episode and allowing Christopher Eccleston to move on?
Or is it Series 2, as the Doctor, Rose and Mickey fought the Cybermen AND the Daleks while held captive by Torchwood, resulting in Rose being lost in the same parallel universe that Mickey had earlier been left in to live with her mother Jackie and alt-universe father Pete after a pair of levers easily removed the threat of Cybermen and a thousand Daleks into the void?
It could be Series 3, wherein the Master posed as politician Mr Saxon and gave a few hints to his presence while the Doctor, Martha and Jack visited the end of the universe and found a previous incarnation of the Master believing he was an elderly human scientist, before regenerating, thieving the TARDIS and returning to the 21st century and using the Toclafane to impose his dominion over the Earth, with the resulting defeat (a humans praying through a psychic network to reinvigorate a Gollum-esque Doctor) leading to a year being added to the lives of those that survived, and causing Martha to leave the Doctor?
Or do you think it is the conclusion to Series 4, which saw returning companion Rose locked in a parallel universe, current companion Donna having her mind wiped, Mickey and Martha joining Captain Jack in Torchwood, Sarah Jane saying goodbye and the Daleks dispatched by a cross-genetic meta-crisis that gave us two Doctors in the same episode and a part-Time Lord Donna that easily dispatched the Dalek threat?
I mean I know Doctor Who has been formulaic over the years, and I know that there are only so many stories you can tell – but this is ridiculous.
Effectively, Russell T Davies – in taking responsibility on his shoulders as show runner to top and tail each series with his own stories – has short-changed Doctor Who fans and the viewing public at large by going for glory. The question really, should not be “Why has Russell given us the same story 4 times?” but “Why didn’t Russell let someone else write the series conclusions?”
I was under the impression that he was in charge – therefore he should be working to the greater good of the show, and by rewriting – in a Five Doctors way, no less – the greatest hits of his Doctor Who era into a season closer that really only missed the Master and the Slitheen he has undermined the ground that Doctor Who has made since its return in 2005.
We’ll look back at this era of wonderful special effects, wonderful visuals and lighting, sound effects and direction, on the whole excellent casting and new mythology as one of remarkable contrasts.
Of course if you made it this far you might think that I didn’t enjoy Journey’s End.
Well I did, I loved it. It didn’t have the same shock value as The Stolen Earth, and it made a mockery of the presence of Rose throughout the series (she could really have been Martha, Jo Grant or Adric for all the difference she made to the plot) although did better in giving Jack something to do this time. The appearances by Lis Sladen, Freema Agyeman, Noel Clarke and Camille Coduri gave proceedings a slightly panto feeling, with Jackie Tyler’s presence in particular surely only in order for the audience to laugh at her in the TARDIS.
Ultimately, it was an enjoyable but heavily, heavily flawed end to Russell T Davies’ final Doctor Who series.
The fans deserved better.