Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth (1)

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?


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.'

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