THIS EPISODE TAKES
BETWEEN THE TV
EPISODES "ARMY OF
GHOSTS" AND "THE
RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE SECOND
SERIES' CYBERMAN HEAD
AMAZON EXCLUSIVE DVD
BOX SET (BBCDVD2122)
RELEASED IN NOVEMBER
AS TWO MIGHTY ARMIES
CLASH, THE DOCTOR
REALISES THAT SAVING
THE EARTH MIGHT MEAN
THE DEATH OF ROSE
8TH JULY 2006
(45-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
Russell T Davies and his team have done it again. Doomsday encapsulates every-
thing that is so spectacular about the revived series. My Dad will doubtless hate the mushy stuff but, even so, with ninety-five per cent of the episode nothing but top-drawer action, this one truly has something for everybody. Quite simply, it’s magnificent. Flawless, even.
So how can you top last year’s climactic masterpiece, The Parting of the Ways? How can you go one better than having two hundred Dalek saucers – nigh on half a million Daleks – invading the Earth of the far future, the departure of a companion, and a regeneration? You do the only thing that you can – you take one of your own childhood fantasies, and you make it happen.
“It’s like Stephen Hawking versus the Speaking Clock!”
Daleks versus Cybermen is exactly the sort of thing that fans have always dreamed about seeing; the sort of apparently obvious thing that casual viewers of the series automatically assume has happened before at some point, but in reality has never, ever occurred. What
is so rewarding though is that it has been pulled off with such style; Davies even teases us with the alarming notion of a Dalek / Cybermen alliance that could “upgrade the universe” before the inevitable antagonism ensues.
Whilst in itself the banter between the two cybernetic races is a joy to listen to, what I found especially interesting is that the narrative revolves around two antipathetic races blasting
the hell out of each other. If you have the Doctor versus the Daleks, or the Doctor versus the Cybermen, then there is no question as to who the viewer roots for; however, when you have (as the unprecedented fourth and fifth Radio Times’ covers of the season proudly proclaim) Daleks versus Cybermen, then it should really be heel versus heel.
“This is not war! This is pest control!”
Yet the Daleks are clearly borne out as the ‘baddest’ baddies here, the sheer depths of their evil overwhelming the Cybermen’s cold logic in every scene that they share. Ultimately the Cybermen are just automatons, doing what they have been programmed to believe is right
(though from their mockery of the Daleks’ “inelegant design”, it’s admittedly a little difficult to believe that there isn’t at least some vestige of human conceit left inside of them). One could of course argue the same about the Daleks, but at the end of the day Daleks can feel, and I think it’s this factor that proves decisive here.
Doomsday’s scenes of devastation are absolutely staggering to behold. When the Daleks open their “Genesis Ark” prison ship, and millions of their number come flooding out of it to spread across the London sky, I think that the Mill manage to top their superlative work on last year’s epic finale. Millions of Daleks flying through space is one thing, but flying through the air above London? Swarming around Canary Wharf like insects? The visuals are simply mind-blowing, and in terms of the storytelling, the stakes have never been higher. This is not some far off invasion in the distant future; this is here and now. This is war on Earth.
“Oh God. I did my duty! Oh God!”
For me though, the real horror of Doomsday lies not with
its visceral scenes of futuristic war-fare but in some of its
more restrained moments. For instance, we experience
the horrors of Cyberconversion first hand through Tracy-
Ann Oberman’s despicable face of Torchwood, Yvonne
Hartman. The character’s fate is perfectly scripted and
portrayed; as she is taken for Cyberconversion, you can
see the mortal dread on her face, and it is made so much
worse due to the fact that she knows exactly what they
are going to do to her. You almost feel sorry for the poor
And in the end, when Yvonne somehow overcomes her
Cyberconditioning and guns down her fellow Cybermen,
allowing our heroes just that little bit of extra time that they
need, you are literally cheering her on as she sheds an oily
tear from her cybernetic eye.
“If these are gonna be my last words then you’re gonna listen.
The God of all Daleks, and I destroyed him!”
Furthermore, it really is a remarkable skill to be able to keep your viewers on tenterhooks throughout an entire episode. With his unremitting script for Doomsday, Davies almost sadistically refuses to let the viewer relax for an instant. From the moment that Rose got in the Black Dalek’s face, I kept thinking “it’s gonna happen now; she’s gonna die”. Indeed,
my fiancée could have been forgiven for thinking that there was something wrong with our sofa – I wasn’t behind it; I was hovering on the edge of it, constantly jumping up and down.
It was like England versus Portugal all over again, save for one decisive factor. Whereas with watching England there is always a little winker like Ronaldo to spoil your day, you can always have complete faith in the Doctor to save the day.
Just as things couldn’t getter any bleaker for
Rose, for Mickey, and indeed for the whole planet, the Doctor waltzes in to chamber, has
a bit of a nonchalant chinwag with his friends
(much to the Daleks’ annoyance) and then goes on to drop a couple of pretty hefty bombshells.
Firstly, what many viewers have long-suspected
is confirmed – the Doctor was actually a soldier in the Time War, out there fighting on the front line. David Tennant’s haunted performance as he recalls horrifying events on Arcadia (Deceit) that we are not privy to, and probably never will be, is absolutely mesmerising.
“I was there at the fall of Arcadia. Some day I might even come to terms with that.”
Secondly, my ears were not deceiving me in the opening minutes of the episode. According to the Doctor, these four Daleks form the Cult of Skaro - Daleks whose mission it is to think like the enemy, so much so that they even have names. Now this small part of the episode – which to be honest, didn’t affect the larger plot at all; these could just as plausibly have been four generic Daleks – opens up so many storytelling possibilities, and will no doubt form the subject matter of many a future story, especially considering Dalek Sec’s (the Black Dalek) sly “emergency temporal shift” before his army is sucked into the Void at the end of the story.
The writer also should be given a great deal of credit for pulling off what is, in essence, a colossal balancing act. Tasked with tearing the Doctor and Rose apart as well as setting
the series’ two most iconic alien menaces at each other’s throats, Doomsday still has the time to resolve Jackie and Pete Tyler’s unique tale, and do so in inspirational fashion.
“How rich? I don’t care about that. How very?”
We all knew that it was coming, but it didn’t make it any less dramatic. The widowed Pete Tyler is back in our universe, face to face with the widowed Jackie Tyler. Had they not ran into each other’s arms for a full-on, cheesy, Hollywood kiss, then the rules of poetics would have needed some serious revision. But in true Doctor Who style, even such a momentous, dramatic scene is undercut with a little bit of wanton levity: “there was never anyone else”, whispers Jackie as the Doctor, Rose and Mickey all bite their lips and try not to laugh.
“What is it with the glasses?”
The story’s climax is agonisingly perfect. The Doctor
rattles off all the necessary exposition about “Void stuff”
in just about twenty economical seconds and with that
the die is cast – everyone is going to “Pete’s World” to
live happily ever after. Mother, father, daughter, her ex... Only daughter isn’t happy about that. Daughter pushes
her reset button and sends herself back to our world.
She is willing to leave behind her mother and father,
who have just been reunited after years apart, to stand
by the Doctor. To stand by the man that she loves.
Billie Piper gives her best performance yet as Rose.
In just forty-five minutes she shows just how far she has
come since we first met her as a bored 2005 teenager,
constantly flouting death and courting danger as she plays her part in saving the world. But with just minutes
to go, I thought that she’d finally come undone. Watching
the Doctor and Rose hang on for dear life as the Void
sucked in Daleks, Cybermen, as well as everything and everyone touched by the “Void stuff”
(including Rose) was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of television watching that I’ve ever had.
“This is the story of how I died.”
To kill Rose would have been bad enough, but to send her to Hell with a million Daleks and Cybermen would have been far too much. But for a minute there, I really thought it was on the cards - Tennant and Piper each deserve a BAFTA on the strength of that one scene alone! Their faces. Their mutual, blood curdling scream as Rose’s fingers slip and she is sucked into… the arms of her Dad. Pete Tyler makes the last minute save and Rose survives, but
as a result of this timely intervention she’s trapped in Pete’s World. The breach is sealed.
That touching, soulful new composition by Murray Gold plays and the Doctor and Rose each find themselves staring at the same plain, white wall; the universe between them reflected in a slight nuance of stage lighting.
Rose is inconsolable, but at least she has her family. She has her Mum and Dad. She even has Mickey and his old Gran. If, at some point before she met the Doctor, some-body had told her that she’d be rich beyond her wildest
dreams, living with her mother and her long-dead father
in a luxurious mansion, she would have thought them mad.
But she would have wanted to believe them. The Doctor may have been viciously ripped away from her, but she has everything else that she could have ever wanted.
And so we come full circle. There is a beautiful symmetry in Rose sitting up in her bed, just as she did in the first scene of Rose over two years ago now. Only this time she has had a dream. She has to follow the voice.
“Here I am at last, and this is the story of how I died.”
Officially dead in our world, Rose begins her new life in another as she stands in Bad Wolf Bay, staring across a beach; staring across a universe at the fading projection of the man she loves, who is “ burning up a sun just to say goodbye”. As always, Davies’ dialogue is lyrically superb. Rose asks the Doctor if he can come through to her world, and he bluntly replies, “two universes would collapse”. Rose just says, “so?” and it just sums it all up; the Doctor and Rose, love in general.
“I love you”, Rose splutters through a veil of tears.
“Quite right too”, quips the Doctor with a cheeky but sorrow-tipped smile on his face,
doing his best Han Solo impression. “And I suppose, if there’s one last chance to say it,
Rose Tyler…” and then he is brutally torn away by the currents of our universe. The Time Lord stands in his TARDIS alone, a single tear running down his cheek. He never told her.
And then suddenly, the Doctor looks up to find a disgruntled woman wearing a wedding dress (Catherine Tate) frowning at him. Once again, humour crops up even at the most ostensibly inopportune moment and rounds off the season in a bizarre, upbeat fashion.
Rose and her family may be gone, but the Doctor will go on, just as he has always done.
The same old life. The lonely God.
Altogether then, Doomsday is the crowning jewel in what has turned out to be a peerless season of television drama, but sadly it’s a crowning jewel that comes at a price: no more Billie, no more Rose.
Life after Billie Piper is almost as daunting a thought as life after Christopher Eccleston, but we have to remember that the magic of Doctor Who is that it will march on irrespective of its cast. For every star that bows out, no matter how bright, there will always be another waiting to take his or her place - just look what a star David Tennant has proven himself to be. And with The Runaway Bride to look forward to at Christmas, and then Freema Agyeman’s new companion Martha Jones to follow next spring, there is certainly plenty of excitement ahead. And, if I remember rightly, the Face of Boe still has a secret to tell…
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? This story takes place between Love & Monsters (2007) and The Runaway Bride (Christmas 2007), around a year ahead of its transmission date.
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