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Jul 09, 2006

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

‘Season Two will end on a f**king colossal cliff-hanger’

(Russell T Davies, March 2006)

Colostomy-bag cliff-hanger, more like. But more on that later. First there’s an episode to discuss.

Twentieth Century Fox Presents:

Daleks vs. Cybermen

(directed by James ‘Graeme Harper’ Cameron)

Daleks. Cybermen. Dalek and Cybermen. It’s like having your birthday and Christmas Day at the same time. And like too much jelly and ice-cream it leaves you feeling a bit sick. I always pity people who are born on a day that everyone celebrates anyway; as it robs the unique specialness of it all. All that excess, then nothing for twelve months. Gosh it reminds me of the TV Movie, ‘cept longer.

So, Rose is so bold / smug (delete depending on how apologetic you’re feeling for her) that she pulls some Doctor shtick out of the bag and talks down the Daleks like they’re just a bunch of gas-masked children (but without the gas-masks). That feeling of deja-vu ain’t gonna go away easy, as ‘Doomsday’ is something of a Greatest Hits package of this new Doctor Who’s mythology. Death by sucker? Check. The Doctor sending Rose away to save her life? Double check. RTD not having a clue how to resolve a storyline and reaching for the first available Darius X-Factor Machine (or something)? Triple check with a cherry on top. The soundtrack to this episode could have the subtitle ‘Now That’s What I Call Bad Plotting by Russell T Davies 23’, with no doubt music by the likes of Soft Cell, Britney and ELO on it.

'The soundtrack to this episode could have the subtitle ‘Now That’s What I Call Bad Plotting by Russell T Davies 23’'

The Genesis Ark - no, not something that Indiana Jones once spent two cinematic hours looking for, but a piece of Time Lord technology that even the Doctor doesn’t know about. Can’t be opened by Daleks - those pesky suckers suddenly start to look a little impractical, don’t they - and only a time traveller’s DNA can unlock the key. But rather than remember how Dalek suckers can adapt their shape for keypads and the like - Track 6 on the ‘Now…’ compilation, for those keeping up - they’ve got to rely on one of the many TARDIS tenants who happen to be trapped in Torchwood HQ. And the secret within that leaves us tantalisingly on the edge of our seats - could it be the last survivors of the Time Lord race? Or the Face of Boe taking an enigmatic dump? No, it’s the Time Lord equivalent of a Portaloo prison - big enough inside to house ‘millions’ of Daleks, yet permanently engaged just when you have to go. Think of the punchline to the joke ‘What do men have in common with toilets?’ and you’ve got the answer to most of this episode’s numerous plotting problems.

Oh, and pity poor Tracy Ann-Oberman - from pneumatically-chested powerhouse of the Torchwood institute to Cyber-fodder in just forty-five minutes. Though how she somehow manages to a) retain her humanity following Cyber-conversion and b) cry tears through her Cyber-armour is, as they say, anyone’s guess. And if Russell’s acting all Catherine Tate - of which more later - and can’t be ‘bothered’ worrying about plot holes that an entire armada of Dalek and Cybermen fleets could fall through, then why should I, eh?

But for an episode that had ‘ROSE DIES’ plastered all over the tabloids, it’s little surprise to find that neither she nor anyone else actually does. Sure, Russell (tease that he is) gives us plenty of moments when any one of the principal cast look like they’re up for bullet-biting time. But then I remind myself that this isn’t Battlestar Galactica - in oh, so many ways - and everybody lives. And not just this time.

And hasn’t someone been reading up on his TV Comic continuity, what with Dalek names like Zeg and Fluff and Bonk (or whatever they were)? It’s just a shame that the Cybermen were never afforded a similar level of depth, as all they get to do is march around like one of those annoying stomp musical troupes and make plans to upgrade the human race so that all concepts such as sex, class, colour and creed are deemed superfluous (presumably Martin Luther King was a Cyber-controller during their 60s invasion).

Oh, and RTD’s on his issues bandwagon again - this week it’s the effects of global warming as a result of too much parallel-universe hopping. Obviously. Which makes about as much sense as being able to drive all the way to Norway in a jeep.

But turn your brain off and there’s still plenty to enjoy in this apocalyptic forty-five minutes. Besides the fan-wank fantasy of seeing Daleks and Cybermen going all smack-down - though I could have done without all that playground banter as they each refuse to name themselves to the other first - there’s some of the Mill’s most striking effects all season: hordes of Daleks swarming like bees through London’s skyline; the breach sucking both Daleks and Cybermen to a void-inal doom (Nick Briggs sounds like he’s been gargling with razor blades by this point) and, of course, the whole reason that we’ve tuned in other than to see the show’s two biggest monsters mano-a-mano.

The Doctor and Rose have to say their long goodbye.

And it’s moving. Really moving. In fact it’s one of the first shiver-down-the-spine moments I’ve experienced for about three episodes. And Tennant and Piper play it superbly. It also works better that Rose doesn’t die, because her fate is so tantalisingly unrequited that killing her off would almost be a mercy instead. That beach scene actually reminded me why I love this show so much, because it’s well-written, beautifully acted and absolutely choc-full of heart. When Rose finally tells the Doctor that she loves him it’s arguably the moment that makes some of the drivel we’ve witnessed this year finally worth it. And is as heartbreaking a moment as we’ve seen in this show. Ever.

And then…well, what can you say. Just when you think that the episode’s going to bow out on a melancholic note, up pops RTD’s ‘colossal’ cliff-hanger: the Doctor turns to see a vision in white standing in the console room. Is it Romana? The Nemesis Statue? Paul McGann in a dress?

No - it’s Catherine Tate. Yes, that Catherine Tate. And the whole mood of solemnity is shattered as RTD plays his trump card. Talk about going from touching finale to shit sandwich in a nanosecond.

Perhaps if I canvass the BBC they’ll shave off the last thirty seconds just for me?

6/10

(it was seven, but lost a point for you-know-what) - I feel bovvered.

(‘The Bumper Book of Made-Up Doctor Who Facts’ has this to say about ‘The Runaway Bride’: the Christmas Special will feature a record amount of BAFTA award winners, with cameos from Jonathan Ross, Matt Lucas & David Walliams and the entire Channel Four newsteam in addition to the potty-mouthed comedienne (sic.))

Comments

It's almost getting to the stage with "Battlestar Galactica" mentions on this blog now where if I ever do see it I'm tempted to just convince myself it's as shit as it always was anyway, just to be different. :-)

And why exactly would you want to do that - except, of course, to be 'different'?

It's not really fair to compare the two shows. That would be like comparing The Bill with 24. Or Two Pints and A Packet of Crisps with Seinfeld. Same genres - different class.

Has Neil just said Doctor Who is like Two Pints? C'mon it was only Catherine Tate ...

I wasn't being entirely serious Sean. If I ever see the show I'll give it a fair chance.

That's good of you, Paul :-)

You know, with all the recent additions to this blog stating repeatedly "why are you watching this show if you're just going to trash it" I'm tempted to start firing off "If you love BSG so much, why don't you just go MARRY IT!!" Yes, we get that Who =/= BSG. Some of us just have different opinions on which one is > or <.

I'm tempted to paraphrase the disclaimer that Radio Times used when deregulation in the TV listings market was first introduced:

'Other television programmes are also available'.

I would point out that just because this is a predominantly 'Doctor Who' weblog doesn't mean that the readers and writers arent't capable of appreciating ALL good television, regardless of whether it has the the words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title.

But then, frankly, I just can't be 'bovvered'.

Actually, if you take the ferry from Britain to France, you can get to Norway with a Jeep. But why doesn't Papa Tyler have a Jet/Zeppelin if he's so rich?

I think the reason they had to drive was because they were "following the voice" and... well... she couldn't hear it if she was in a plane.

I thought it was romantic at firs, that we acually might get to see the Time Lored do it, I mean really, you can't tell me that after all this tie with traveling with a girl companion, he don't seem one bit sexually intrested, exept for that kiss...... any coments,????

Sometimes unrequited love can be the greatest love of all.

I thought the leaving scene was handled beautifully. Rose's plaintive cry of 'I love you...' still haunts me - she's not only saying goodbye to her best friend, but also someone that's become a father figure, inspiration and would-be lover.

People say it's over the top when compared to the more restrained departures of Jo Grant and Sarah, but to be fair there's no comparision. Old Who had very little of the emotional depth that RTD and co. have brought to this new series. Rose's emotional departure was only fitting for a show which has embraced the more touchy-feely aspects of good drama to such success.

Yes, but when Rose said "I love you" it sounded like a schoolgirl's first crush, as though she felt she should be saying it.

It sounded to me like she was a nineteen/twenty year old girl who realised she had two minutes to say goodbye forever to her best friend.

mano-a-mano? I certainly didn't tune in to see all that filth! Whatever would the children of TDW think! I suppose the Pet Shop Cybermen would probably have been up for it, but I very much doubt if the Old Skarovians would have been game!

You're right about the final scene bringing some recently-lost quality (even if only for one scene) and am glad you found some semblance of redemption in it as it was an excellent scene.

As for Catherine Tate, I didn't even know it was her as I didn't either recognise her nor did I read the credits. I actually thought it has the makings of a decent Christmas episode (if handled correctly) possibly along the lines of TGITFPlace! But on second thoughts, the words Christmas and Doctor Who really aren't the best of televisual bedfellows, are they!

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