Having been in self-imposed exile for over a week, I had missed the reviews of "The Stolen Earth" and all the intervening speculation. Now I'm out of my cage and I'm doing just fine... well, I'm gonna try and do a review that puts my take(s) on these two recent episodes - and most especially the finale "Journey's End" in words.
Warning: neither review will be for the faint-hearted and you may want to read just the one that chimes most with your take on what we got out of this S4 finale. Just saying.
Written with head and history and expectation in mind, this review will comment on what did happen and what could/should have happened.
Wouldn't it just have been the most brilliant bit of stage-managed lies and deceit and switch-er-ooing to have given us an actual regeneration? A new doctor when all the news and interviews and leaked Xmas photos from the last few months had been to confirm continuity for the specials? I hadn't expected the dalek shot at the Doctor at the end of "The Stolen Earth" so although my gut screamed "No!" it would have been just incredible to have pulled such a manoeuvre on the audience. Of course, in this wild and leaky cauldron world of speculation via every medium - there was a reason it was murder on my psyche last week - we probably all knew at heart they (RTD actually) wouldn't do it. For shame. I wasn't ready for a new Doctor, but a new Doctor really would have shaken things up. Did resolving it in less than 10 seconds piss people off? Mightily and verily it was so. Mind, then again how many times did seeming death cliff-hangers get resolved in 10 secs of a new episode in classic days? Pretty much weekly. Everything changes yet nothing changes...
WHAT?! WHAT?! He's angry and post-Time War genocidal but he'll make a good substitute for Rose because although he's pre-Rose angry he's also full of the memories and feelings that the Doctor - the real Doctor? - has/had for her? How does that work out? On which topic...
Going back to the beach
Owh. If dealing with the Daleks with quite some time to go before the end of the episode wasn't pissing off enough geeks, then taking the emotional heartbreak of Bad Wolf Bay and giving Rose HandDoctor has also seemingly managed to piss off a lot of the Rose/Doctor fans. Gotta hand it to RTD: he's an equal opportunities 'piss people off' guy.
Build up a character from at best ambivalent reaction to possibly one of the best companions ever - and certainly brilliant within these 4 series. Then take it all away from her. Worse, deny her a glorious death holding on to all that she had gained and become. Criminal and heart-breaking. This series needs death.
All those characters! Many of them given so little to do! Who's looking after the Tyler baby? Is Pete a househusband? What was Mickey's reasoning again for deciding which world to be in? Was it really worth giving K-9 5 seconds of airtime? What the hell is up with RTD writing Martha? If there are 6 EasterHouse keys and they only needed 3 to make it work, how come no one else was brought in to get it going once Martha was zapped onto the Crucible?
Written from the heart, this review will be full of squee and excitement about what did happen and how much it played with expectations and fears.
I'm shallow. The dalek shot last week was SO unexpected for me, and the subsequent regeneration ending was so traumatic for me (and Em) that although I know and understand that the Doctor regenerates - hell, I've seen several in my time when they were broadcast let alone since on the DVDs -I have to say this. I wasn't ready. I just wasn't yet ready. I thought I would be; that I should be. But in truth I wasn't ready to let go of that pretty face, the expressive eyes, that verve. [As an aside I was just talking to Helen Lisette who confessed that her first thought at the end of last weeks episode was EXACTLY mine. "I thought I would be, that I was ready. And I was shocked with myself at how much I really really wasn't ready to let go."] I would have happily written "The Doctor is dead: Long Live the Doctor" and meant it with all sincerity because that is what Doctor Who is all about - change. But was I ready? Nope. I was the child, I was Em: she wept uncontrollably at the thought of the Doctor changing --- her Doctor --- and inside I was too. For narrative-sake it would have made more sense. Yet, I think I had actually partially convinced myself that despite all evidence to the contrary there really WAS going to be a new Doctor and I had been hoodwinked and had my heart broken. So was I relieved and cheered to see the Doctor regenerate as himself? Yeah. Even though the less than 10 secs it took to resolve that cliffhanger couldn't help but rile me. *sigh* My speculative thoughts were, I think, a better resolution... (1)
Wasn't expecting that!!! Nor the sight of a bare-chested - hell, NAKED - Doctor in the TARDIS! Oh my. And being wizz-banging and angry and making the blue suit understandable (and probably now gone unless the TARDIS wardrobe room has a spare): very entertaining!
Going back to the beach
She got her Doctor - sortof. She got the words, whispered (though I wonder what else he could have said instead?). And she got her kiss. Job done for those who want resolution. Happiness of a sort, and I can understand that compromise from all parties completely.
Build up a character from at best ambivalent reaction to possibly one of the best companions ever - and certainly brilliant within these 4 series. Then take it all away from her. Worse, deny her a glorious death holding on to all that she had gained and become. Criminal and heart-breaking. Would I have been happier with a death? For narrative sake, probably. Was condemning her to not knowing, and her family knowing, much worse? Probably. Yes, almost certainly. That was truly cruel. I am so torn about how to respond to what they did to Donna - the series has always had elements of emotional horror and cruelty and it seems odd to feel that death would have been less cruel. It also seems odd to try and think of death as fairer or better - but I think it may just have been more satisfying, albeit far FAR less cruel.
Crossover gone mad! Mickey and Jackie back! With big guns! Mickey being heroic! Martha being sweet! German daleks! Jack's response to the two doctors and DoctorDonna! Family echoes for Gwen! Sarah Jane facing off Davros (did I not mention how brilliant Davros was?)! Squee with added squee!
Look, I am wise enough to understand that plenty of you hated it. And I get that, I do. But although I can write the 'rational review', at heart I don't believe in it. I feel that responses will probably be thus: amongst standard viewers probably 50:50 satisfied/unsatisfied; amongst fans probably overwhelmingly unhappy; amongst under 12s probably overwhelmingly happy. And last night watching and today talking - at last! - I loved it. I was thrilled and excited and giggling and I just did not care.
So I'm going with the last of these groups. Criticise all you want. I know you will. But my heart is back in its rightful place and I can begin to find stability again.
(1) Last week Cloud said he would regenerate as himself. I speculated that with the 1 second shift within the Medusa Cascade that would be crucial to the Doctor being able to regenerate as himself. It wasn't but I'm convinced that long-term that 1 second shift may prove central to a plot development (and hell we know who that will involve).
I've gotten into some very lengthy speculations and comments in the comments box when I perhaps should have done a separate post or two...!