Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth

Doctor: 'I'm sorry. It's too late. I'm regenerating.'

When I first saw the end of this episode, I was totally blown away. I remember looking at my friend in bewilderment, and wondering what the fuck had just happened. Was the news that Tennant had signed on for five more episodes mere propaganda designed to disguise Russell T. Davies dastardly master plan? Was the Doctor really going to regenerate? And, more importantly: who was he going to regenerate into?

Seeing the Daleks again was less of a surprise, as their presence in a season finale is as predictable as rain on a Bank Holiday or England failing to reach a World Cup final. After the frankly diabolical 'Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks', I was hoping that they'd put the the pesky pepperpots out to pasture for a season or two (try saying that quickly)—but no such luck. And this time they've brought a friend—ex-head of the Kaled Scientific Elite, and former Dalek Emperor, Davros. So, that was surprise number two.

Russell T. Davies has never been one to shy away from piling on the drama to brain bursting proportions, but he excelled himself here. This episode featured just about every member of the Nu-Whoniverse. There was former companions Rose Tyler, Martha Jones and Sarah Jane Smith; Gwen, Ianto and Captain Jack from the Torchwood Institute; Ex-PM Harriet Jones; Martha's mum, Francine; Donna, Wilfred and Silvia; and lastly, the Doctor himself. It must surely be the biggest ensemble to ever assemble in a single episode. Even fan-fiction writers daren't dream this big.

And although that sounds cool—and believe me, some of it totally was—the size of the cast was one of its main weakness. There wasn't enough story to do them all justice. For the long term fan it was a mouthwatering spectacle, but the casual viewer must have been left wondering, 'Who the hell are these people, and what are they supposed to be doing?'

The return of Rose totally worked for me. I promised myself I'd be nonchalant, but when the Doctor caught sight of her and they started running towards each other, I threw my scheduled disinterest out the window and went into full-on lip wobbling mode. Finally, the Doctor and Rose—together again. Then BANG! the Doctor was down, Jack teleported in from nowhere, retaliated with his massive weapon, and suddenly the Doctor was on the cusp of regeneration. Talk about unexpected.

But the rest of the cast—Francine, Gwen, Sarah Jane—well, they just weren't given enough to do. Which was a real waste of talent. If you're going to bring them back, then at least engage them in some meaningful task. That said, I did enjoy Jack and Sarah Jane's reaction to the Daleks. The last time Jack encountered the Daleks he ended up dead (ish), and I particular enjoyed Sarah Jane's reaction to hearing Davros again. Spine tingling stuff indeed.

Harriet Jones I was less impressed with. I mean, good on her for forfeiting her life for the sake of the world, but since when has she been a computer hacker? And the 'we know who you are' joke, although vaguely amusing back in 'Aliens of London', at this point in the game is virtually worn out. Even the Daleks couldn't resist joining in the fun—which was perhaps a joke too far. When the Daleks turn into the comic relief, you know that an episode's fucked. Still, at least now she's gone, the joke dies with her.

And they certainly pulled out all the stops for that cliffhanger. The Doctor, half way through a regeneration, with Sarah Jane, Gwen and Ianto all about to be zapped by irate Daleks. Let's hope next week's pay-off justifies the build up.

Other Thoughts:

—Jack didn't waste much time. He tried to pull Sarah Jane almost immediately.

—The Daleks don't appear to be incapacitated by paint on their eye stalks any more.

—The Daleks are calling the Doctor the 'Dark Lord' these days. Makes a change from 'The Oncoming Storm' and the 'Destroyer of Worlds', I suppose.

—The Time War is time-locked.

—There was a brief cameo by scientist, Richard Dawkins in this episode. Dawkins is married to Lalla Ward, who played Romana II.

—I don't like the Daleks as much when they're flying through that air. Them being able to hover is an ingenious way of solving the stairs issue, but aerodynamically they look awful.

—The bees leaving earth reminded me of the dolphins leaving earth in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

—90 years old is considered a kid's age on Gallifrey.

—Maximum extermination? Isn't regular extermination enough?

Billie says...

Twenty-seven planets. Twenty-seven freaking guest stars! I must admit that putting practically every important character in the Doctor Who universe in one episode had me in a fan-like dither. Outer space Facebook, indeed. Yes, it probably should have gotten down to Rose, Jack, Martha and Sarah Jane a lot sooner. And I just didn't believe at this point that the Doctor would regenerate just when he and Rose had found just each other again.

The magical laptop was a bit lame, but I loved that Harriet Jones redeemed herself and saved the world. "We know who you are." Yes, telling people to stay indoors when the Sun has disappeared is ridiculous, but the Earth disappearing and the twenty-seven planets together were definitely cool. And there's another episode to go. Here's hoping that it's mostly about all of the Doctor's companions together, and not so much about Daleks doing Darth Vader impressions.

Quotes:

Jack: "Ianto, you okay?"
Ianto: "No broken bones. Slight loss of dignity. No change there, then."

Wilfred: "It's gone dark. It's them aliens, I bet my pension. What do you want this time, you green swine?"

Donna: "It's like an outer space Facebook."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

5 comments:

Mark Greig said...

You’ve got to admire Russell T. Davies’ ambition. Not many writers would dare attempt to do a massive, franchise wide crossover like this. Shame that in the end he failed to pull it off. There’s simply too much going on to make it a completely satisfying viewing experience. Still, you can’t knock him for trying.

But as for that cliff-hanger? I could just sense the cop-out coming a mile off.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I do admire that about RTD and the episode made a good effort to try and give everyone active roles but not as good as some.

Rose, Donna and Jack probably fare the best. Maybe it's not a coincidence that they were with the Doctor during the last scenes.

The Daleks here were probably as good as they were in the first series. Liked Davros's return as well.

Although I don't ship Doctor/Rose as much as I use to, I did like their reunion scene.

Ben said...

Ahh. This episode is of course more enjoyable to the Who fan who follows Torchwood and Sarah Jane religiously as well as Doctor Who. It is a pretty immense cross-over and it is a very much a wow spectacle. I loved this episode when I first saw it.
Thing is there is so much going on that alot of the returning charactors do not get enough time to shine. Rose's return is really overshawdowed here, despite being the most important thing and the Torchwood team, Luke, Mr. Smith and even Sarah-Jane feel like they are only there to give the audience hot flushes (they did me I admit).
A fun episode on the whole, if anything just to see all the shows working together. And Julian Bleach as Davros... wow!

Patryk said...

Count me in the camp that watches all three series and was immensly satisfied to have everyone on either on screen or mentioned via comversation even the ones that died. :)

Also a nice cliffhanger but every single cliffhanger in new who history was resolved in the 1st minute of the 2nd episode. So i know it will be a bit of a letdown in the next ep. So prepared for that.

Daleks may have been annoying in season 3 and just a plot device in season 2 but o loved them in season 1 and i feel just the same about them here. Especially the reaction shot were wonderful. To the exterminate mesage and then to Davros' voice.

The only thing that a minus in my book is all the guest start taking Donnas time this season. But after all the foreshadowing i guess she is the answer to all of this not the Doctor. :)

Michael Colvin said...

I think that I was genuinely frustrated that Rose and the Doctor couldn't see each other because of a lack of a web cam. Just didn't work for me. Yes the slow long run was wonderful (although you knew because of the distance that SOMETHING was going to happen) but it seems like the pacing was just off. Although I held my breath as the regeneration was about to happen.

I think that Sarah Jane and Luke truly didn't fit (yet) and they were never fully paid off. But the rest was very fun. Very fun indeed.