Well it’s finally over, and after the build-up and hype surrounding the mega final episode of Doctor Who, did it live up to this expectation?It’s not really an easy answer, and I’d need to put on two hats to fully answer this question. As a ‘ahem’ forty-something sci-fi fan, I’d have to ultimately say that I did really enjoy it, but it has to be classed as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Doctor Who is great Saturday entertainment, which is massively popular, and for science fiction I label this as a ‘good thing’, but is it great sci-fi? I’d have to unfortunately say no.
The build-up and promise at the end of arguably one of the finer episodes from new-Who’s season four, ‘The Stolen Earth’, was excellent. The effects first off were top-notch (for the BBC) and the spectacle of Davros (in new Star Wars Emperor guise), a supreme cloned Dalek war fleet, and the huge cliffhanger of the Doctor’s regeneration left all viewers (enthusiastic and usually cynical) with sweaty palms and a hunger for the conclusion seven days later.
The internet speculation was wild and got more outrageous every day. From initial thoughts that the new Dalek race were genetically altered from the ‘missing bees’ by Davros due the hive mentality of our avian honey makers, through to Donna being the Master (her ring is the Master’s), The Doctor regenerating into Sylvester McCoy/Paul McGann/a woman/River Song and more! In fact, the speculation of the happenings in ‘Journey’s End’ ended up being far more exciting than the actual event!
Settling down to watch on a Saturday evening, the event itself far outweighing any piffiling Wimbledon final, the opening credits rolled and I drank in every moment of the regeneration expecting something amazing. What I didn’t ever imagine was the Doctor just sort of ‘belching’ and shoving the regeneration energy into his manky hand! What a cop-out. First up, why is it that now the Beeb has its hands on CGI does the regeneration process have to become a massive explosion of energy? Regeneration is usually a very quiet affair, and certainly not one of ‘Highlander’ proportions. But this aside, the whole cliffhanger aspect of the regeneration was treated in such an ‘off hand’ (sorry about the pun) manner as to cheat the viewer. But then, part of me likens this to the old Flash Gordon series cliffhangers where actually nothing really ever happens.
As the finale continued, every one of the companions in peril was scooped up into relative safety in the first five minutes, nullifying all build-up of tension from ‘The Stolen Earth’. I found this disappointing, but still hoped for more ‘cleverness’ as the episode unfolded. After all, this was the finale.
I found the banter with Davros fun, and occasionally there was even the philosophical debating Davros of old. Particularly interesting was the message that the Doctor, although he carries no guns, is the forger of human weapons, and the destroyer of worlds. Pretty powerful stuff and insightful for Who. As the episode unfolded, I grimaced at the Doctor/Donna appearance, that ‘chav speak’, the offhand way of destroying the Dalek armada (not to mention the fix for the Chameleon circuit) and I’d pretty much given up on it delivering anything truly ground-breaking, and so waited for the ‘Bad Wolf Bay’ payoff where the Doctor would finally profess his love for Rose. In effect what we got was the shell of the Doctor (notice how little the one heart Doctor actually said), whispering to Rose only what I can assume is ‘I love you’ (something nearly every person on the planet would say to Billie Piper, wouldn’t they?).
This episode left a lot of unanswered questions, but it did leave interesting implications for events to unfold later. For example, River Song recognises the Tenth Doctor from ‘Quiet In The Library’ but her Doctor is older, so one has to assume her relationship is with the ‘one heart Doctor’, as he can age. Yet he has no sonic screwdriver or TARDIS, leaving you to believe that ‘something’ happens in the parallel world to give ‘one heart’ Doctor access to these things. Plus, what happens to Rose and his relationship there, then?
Overall, I did enjoy this episode as a Saturday night, takeaway chomping entertainment romp, but as a slice of great sci-fi it was found lacking. It ‘copped’ out many times, was far too drawn out at the end, and left me on a downer for the end of the season. There was no crescendo, no happy feeling. Nothing.
Then I saw that the Cybermen would be back on Christmas Day and my guiilty pleasure emotion chip clicked in again.
Here we go again.