The Stolen Earth
The Stolen Earth/Journey's End
|Production Code||Series Four Episode Thirteen|
|Dates||July 5 2008|
With David Tennant,
Written by Russell T Davies Directed by Graeme Harper
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner.
|Synopsis: Donna absorbs the Doctor's essence and must save the Earth from Davros.|
A Review by Graham Pilato 29/3/10
Remarkably, the episode this reminds me of the most of recent Doctor Who is the most recent Christmas Episode Spectacular, Voyage of the Damned. Unfortunately, it just won't do for me to say: just reread my review of that one... That wouldn't do at all.
This episode is quite unlike a Christmas episode anyway, for the most part. It's just so un-self-contained, for one. A Christmas episode must be utterly free of the burden of too much series continuity, it must be fresh and important to fans and to newcomers alike to be seen as the sudden return to "that show we all know and haven't seen for months". It must speak iconic lines and give an audience the things the audience thinks it wants, spectacle and familiarity, with a Who-ish dose of the wild imagination inherent to the series. And this episode is both pretty unimaginative and totally overwhelmed with continuity, while also being both very spectacular to look at and pretty familiar. The abundance of fanwank and boatloads of ties made back to previous episodes does not help with the problem of being un-self-contained, but then this is a season finale and not a Christmas episode.
So, why is it so like a Christmas episode?
Because, exactly like Voyage of the Damned, its excesses are pretty damn forgivable. Or so I say. This is the end of the RTD era, or at least the beginning of the end of it. Russell T. Davies will only write individual episodes from here on in, writing and producing the remaining 2009 specials and then that's it. Steven Moffat is looming as the coming new series head and one suspects things will be a bit different. How different? We shall see. But one suspects there will be a few less massive end of season deus ex machinas. Familiar. Very familiar, this mess is. And this time, it's more forgivable than last, mainly because we actually do get some resolution to so many of the ongoing character threads of the series thus far.
Familiar stuff comes back and it's nice to see so many heroes at once, fighting alongside each other. Unfortunately, acting a great deal like a kind of Dalek-hosted reunion special, this finale serves mainly to make all of the heroes look pretty small and useless, competing as they did for their bit of screen time. As per usual, there are more plot holes and cheats here than one can even begin to conceive. It simply must be an RTD season finale. And no one escapes being seen as small and ineffectual and absurd, and driven entirely by technobabbly conveniences and nonsense, with the possible exception of Davros, who simply oozes classic Doctor Who villainy... except of course for the problem of having no connection at all made here for new viewers to who and what he's been for the series in the past. He's given to us as "the creator of the Daleks" and that's that. He's just ugly and evil, without much at all of the complexity of old. Sure, he's their "pet", but then so is the godawful prophet Dalek Caan plot device. A creature that exists entirely to keep the kids guessing. It's not like it wasn't obvious from the beginning that this wasn't simply another retread of a Rose plot with Donna in role, just as was foreshadowed in Turn Left. Echoes of the same good woman who humanizes the damaged hero. So tiresome and tacked on an arc it was that I felt a bit sick by the end.
But it's still so incredibly forgivable. What would be a 3/10 by my disgust and despair from such a mess rises easily to a 5/10 - and possibly a 6/10 in future. We'll see what I do with my rating...
This is a momentous farewell to the revival period of the trashy soap opera, the ridiculous finales, the beautiful, mad episodes of surreal 5 billion years' ahead magical nonrealism. This is RTD's last hurrah as an epic-maker for Doctor Who, offensive and so spectacular as it is. This is where Rose and Mickey switch places in realities, somehow, where every cheat we've seen before from RTD is dwarfed multiple times, from the maximum improbability and cheat of the resolution of the cliffhanger to the many impossible stretches of plot made to give Rose a happily ever after ending. This episode both pays off and further frustrates the ending of Doomsday, picking up where it left off is further losing the great unspoiled Rose character of the first fifteen or so episodes of the series. We might cry if we were feeling a need for catharsis, and boy do some fans these days love to cry at that bloody Rose Theme of Murray Gold's recurring pomp and nonsense.
I forgive almost all of it. Because it's completed. Because it's something whole. Because it satisfies a need for some things to have consequence that we've wondered about for so long. But it's still so incredibly, depressingly cheap and silly. Let's call it yet another season finale 5/10 from RTD and be done with it. It's the best one since the first one. And of course, that's not saying much, as I gave them all 5s except for the first one. And The Parting of the Ways got me down only in so far as it was about silly Daleks, not so terribly impressive ones, good to look at, but not to think about. And that's sort of the standard for Daleks in RTD's Doctor Who, with a bit of an exception for the first time we saw one in Rob Shearman's Dalek: pretty, iconic, and not too much to think about.
This is a very pretty mess, spectacular, spectacular, familiar and cozy, full of Who-ish inspiration and still not very imaginative, coming straight out of things we've seen before, even in recent episodes of this series... except for all the madness about Donna's brain exploding if... um... that's a pretty serious spoiler... I won't go there. It's a lot like Voyage of the Damned, very pretty, very vapid for all it's consistency and intelligent construction gone awry, and full of things happening just to happen for the plot to get there and make people cry. Cheats are par for the RTD course as much as are gorgeous images of planets turned upside down in a Medusa Cascade of purty CGI. Love it or hate it. It's there. It's done. It's loud, it's proud.
Goodbye, Russell. Thanks for bringing back Doctor Who to TV in such style. But it surely will be nice to see you go, I think.
5/10 (Look back if you like, you'll still see that three of my five 10/10 ratings thus far for this series have gone to episodes RTD wrote... his achievements ARE extraordinary, of course.)