Sunday, July 06, 2008

Journey's End and Good Riddance to Russell Davies

Even allowing for different tastes, I'm astounded by Doug Chaplin's reaction to the Doctor Who season finale. The Stolen Earth/Journey's End goes down easily as the worst story of the entire new series. There was nothing good about it; nothing at all. The Dalek Supreme was impotent, and for the first time in any Davros story, I didn't feel like the Daleks' creator was a serious threat. The Daleks were disposed of far too easily and cheaply, with a cloud of last-minute, deus-ex-machina technobabble.

Really, it was one cop-out after another. I knew the regeneration would be bogus (and that it would lamely involve the Doctor's right hand) but it could have been sidestepped with more creativity than that! The Doctor-Donna business DIDN'T. WORK. AT. ALL. Donna as a motormouth Time-Lord was as offensive as the fishwife Donna from The Runaway Bride, and I completely lost the empathy I'd built up for her over the entire season. We didn't even get to see the Daleks exterminate anyone, save the indestructible Captain Jack.

Rose (like all the other returning companions) had virtually nothing to do, and the epilogue at Bad Wolf Bay made a complete mockery of her season-two swan song. As if things couldn't get worse, the Doctor double was the lowest point of all, and the fact that's he's half human was horribly contrived to provide the cheap fairy tale ending at Bad Wolf Bay. Rose gets her Time Lord lover after all. Good night.

Donna's fate was tragic, but I was unable to appreciate it because my emotional investment in the character was completely shattered in this story (so I just didn't care), and also because it was really a cop-out masked as tragedy. We have Dalek Caan repeatedly promising that one of the Doctor's companions would die, but the "death" turns out to be a figurative one (a memory wipe, and loss of her quasi-Time Lord status). This kind of maneuver worked once (for Rose at the end of season two, when she went to the parallel world and people from her world believed her to be dead), but not here. At this point it's become a transparent formula for jerking us around.

Honestly, if Russell Davies is going to trap the Doctor's best companion in a parallel universe and say she'll never see the Doctor again, he should have the balls to follow through with that. If he sets us up with repeated predictions about another companion dying, he should bloody well have the stones to kill someone. Does he think we're all five-year olds who can't handle good storytelling? Classic Who never copped out in so many ways; never pulled punches with body counts; never betrayed the audience so aggressively in every other frame.

The Den of Geek review gets it right with a comparison to the atrocious Superman films:
"If the ending of The Last Of The Time Lords was from Superman (with everything being rewound, and the reset switch being flicked), this was straight out of Superman II, as the Dalek's weapon was inevitably concentrated on themselves. Had Russell T. Davies stayed on for another series, then I'd dig out my copy of Superman III right now and save myself the bother of writing the end of series review in two years’ time. Combined with the bizarre sight of the Tardis pulling, well, an entire planet, it wasn’t anywhere near what last week had been tempting us with. That's being a little kind."
You better believe it. It's impossible to be too harsh with this finale.

My full review of the fourth season will follow later today. It was a good season on whole, but unfortunately a bad finale casts a pall on the whole animal. It's important to go out strong, and Davies was able to do that in seasons one and two. He failed miserably in season three, and even more horribly in this one. As I said before: Godspeed and good riddance, Russell. It's time for new blood.


Blogger starpixie said...

I have to say, the first half of the season finale was great! I was intrigued, and couldn't wait for last night, but I was sadly disappointed. I couldn't believe how far they took things.

I actually disagree with you in that I liked the DoctorDonna. Parts of it were a little cheesy, but Doctor Who has always had a bit of cheese as part of its mainstay. What I couldn't stand was the Rose and her human Doctor. That was just completely ridiculous and made me lose all I'd ever felt for her character. It seemed like a weak copout to the beautiful Season 2 finale. But the kicker, the worst part of the finale, was Donna's memory being erased. Horrible! Donna really is, in my opinion, the best companion yet. The chemistry Catherine Tate and David Tennant have is so much better than these pseudo love relationships the other girls have had. The brother and sister vibe goes so much further because it creates a stronger bond, and a relationship that could've lasted many seasons. Okay. I know they'll probably go back on it all, I'm sure I'll see Donna again, but I can't help but feel totally let down. She's hilarious and a perfect match for this Doctor. Can't believe I have to wait so long to see what happens next!

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Donna really is, in my opinion, the best companion yet. The chemistry Catherine Tate and David Tennant have is so much better than these pseudo love relationships the other girls have had.

I really liked Donna this season. She was nothing at all like the fishwife in Runaway Bride. But once the Doctor-Donna thing kicked in, I lost all feeling for the character. It was way beyond cheesy.

I think the relationship between the Doctor and Rose was handled perfectly in seasons one and two. The ending to Doomsday was so superbly heartbreaking, but Journey's End ruined it with one clawing stroke.

Blogger Doug said...

I'm not sure why you're astounded, since my reaction was more mixed than your readers might imagine from your opening! But judging by the range of reactions this was at the least one of the most divisive episodes of Who in terms of the fanbase.
I simply and completely disagree with you over Donna. I largely agree with you over both Rose and the spare part doctor.
I do think you have some RTD hangups! However, I also wonder, since Mark Goodacre largely seems to agree with me, whether there's a transatlantic cultural factor at work?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blimey - it was a real kitchen sink job, wasn't it. Too many characters with no time for any of them to be significantly developed. Too many crazy plot twists. The half replicated doctor was emotionally unsatisfactory - it's Rose's relationship with her (and our) Doctor that my daughter wanted to see more of - not some stand in simulation. Disappointing.

Now looking forward to the Christmas special. They filmed part of it at Gloucester Cathedral.


PS To change the subject, is it possible to get Dr Who Magazine in the States?

Blogger Mark Goodacre said...

I must admit that I loved it, and after second viewing last night I might even have to up my TARDIS groan rating from a 4 to a 5. The two things that took away from it a bit for me on first viewing were the resolution of the cliffhanger, and the "Odd Job Junior" style second doctor, and the business at the end in Bad Wolf Bay. But on second viewing, the disappointment re the cliffhanger resolution was gone, I was more reconciled to Oddjob junior doctor, and the script was much tighter than I had realized. In the end, it was a larger-than-life absurd comic-book splurge, and lots of fun. Excellent work, Russell! Thank goodness that we have you for a bit longer at least! :) My review to follow in due course on my blog.


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