Christian Cawley returns to the review pages to tell of a Doctor Who series greatly transformed since the events of Partners in Crime…
Doctor Who season 30 has been a strange beast; a weak opening (Partners in Crime), a woefully used returning Sontaran force (The Sontaran Stragem/The Poison Sky) and an odd episode of the Reeves & Mortimer version of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) (The Unicorn and the Wasp) had conspired to derail the series before it got going.
Since Forest of the Dead/Silence in the Library however, the early promise shown in The Fires of Pompeii revealed that Russell T Davies’ final series in charge of Doctor Who was back on track, with Catherine Tate a revelation in the face of much negative expectation.
Which, via the events of Midnight and Turn Left, brings us to The Stolen Earth and the jamboree of returning companions (Jack, Sarah Jane, Martha, an unseen Rose), planets (Klom), parallel universes (bear with me on that one) and of course the Daleks. The real Daleks.
Not the ham fisted tactics of the Cult of Skaro, mincing around New York sewers and having a chat at the water cooler and photocopying their bottoms. No the real Daleks, the ones with insanely ambitious plans of galactic subjugation, conquest and genocide, the Daleks with space ships, armies, planet-moving machinations and TV 21 style vistas.
A Supreme Dalek leading the snatching of Earth, and placing it in carefully aligned position with 26 other planets (I thought they might go for 30 in all to represent series of Doctor Who) around an item known as “The Crucible”.
And behind him; Davros.
The creator of the Daleks, first seen in 1975, his chest cavity visible where he gave birth, cell-by-cell, to the new Dalek army; taunting, triumphant and planning something even greater than the “destruction of reality” that he exclaims in the trailer for Journey’s End.
So with all of this, plus the addition of Donna’s mother and grandfather, the remainder of Torchwood, as well as Mr Smith and Luke, how could the episode hope to rise above the tag of “blatant continuity fest and fanboy love-in” and actually succeed?
I’m still trying to get my head around it. Keeping the Doctor and Donna out of things until late on certainly helped, with a trip to meet some Judoon and a suspicious lady at a place called The Shadow Proclamation – that’s right, a place, not a galactic agreement – as well as using Harriet Jones, ex-Prime Minister, to link the various companions of the Doctor together. Her death appears to have been a marvellous directorial slight-of-hand courtesy of Graeme Harper, but time will tell.
We’re also given references to “Project Indigo” and the Osterhagen Key that Martha is carrying. Plus Dalek Caan babbling drunkenly about death, “threefold-somethings” and other batty nonsense.
Caan has been seriously damaged since we last met him, somehow breaking through the temporal lock on the Time War and rescuing Davros. If you though Davros was a bit batty, Caan is another kettle of fish. Unless he’s faking it in order to return to the Void Sphere…
Which brings us to Rose. The real Rose, with moving mouth, visible teeth and that selfish, chavvy demeanour. Thanks to timey-wimey stuff, the Rose in Turn Left never happens now, and it is my contention that it wasn’t even Rose in the first place, but instead a manifestation of the TARDIS. There may even be something else going on with Donna – perhaps the TARDIS wasn’t helping her through the guise of Rose; perhaps it was another entity, that identified by one of the Shadow Proclamation. A sound of drums? It wasn’t The Dave Clarke Five, put it that way…
Tying everything up for an ultimate cliffhanger, the Doctor’s regeneration, Sarah’s impending death at the hands of two Daleks and Ianto and Gwen up against a Dalek insurgence into Torchwood all feel like the same story, as the various threads come together in a way that Davies hasn’t managed to achieve in the previous three series under his stewardship.
With no “Next Time” trailer, we can’t possibly foresee what will happen next. From what we’ve seen in what is so far the best series finale since Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways (and that will be pushed into second place come Saturday evening), Journey’s End is going to take us to even more uncharted territory, and I can’t see a way in which any possible disappointments might arise.
Anyone who disagrees, come and fight me – but beware, this is a fightin’ hand!