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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Stephen Lang

Well, what about that then?

This series of Doctor Who has been an uneven ride for me, including the excellent ('The Girl in the Fireplace'), the awful ('The Idiot's Lantern', 'Fear Her'), the disappointing ('The Satan Pit'/'The Impossible Planet') and the downright strange ('Love and Monsters'). Best of all for me was the final two-parter 'Army of Ghosts'/'Doomsday', delivering an intelligent and witty script and some fine acting. Most memorably, we also get a stunning series finale, albeit a slight borrowing from the Will/Lyra ending of Pullman's 'His Dark Materials'. Maybe RTD's parting of The Doctor and Rose is not entirely original, but I forgive him for this. Two people separated for an eternity in different dimensions will always bring a tear to my eye.

But first onto the monsters. My earliest memory of the Cybermen was of them walking down the steps of St Paul’s some time in the Patrick Troughton days. I think that RTD missed a grand opportunity when this image wasn't reproduced in the new era of Doctor Who as it would have worked brilliantly in a modern setting, seeing Cybermen or Daleks in London with a recognisable backdrop. Cybermen stomping over the Millennium Bridge may have brought the whole thing crashing down, perhaps, but a Dalek or two gliding over towards the Tate Modern would have done the trick. And, hey, didn't the Daleks once glide over Westminster Bridge? Quite a few golden opportunities were wasted and it's obvious that the BBC were constrained by budget, so all we get is a few Cybermen standing around what looked like the Taj Mahal, a few others milling around a suburban street, while the main action of Daleks vs. Cybermen largely occurs off-screen. What's the best we get? Flying Daleks? Oh come on, that's so last series.

What we do get is some hilarious bickering between the two, with the Daleks claiming that one Dalek could easily defeat five million Cybermen, let alone four. Such splendid self-assured arrogance, but lets not forget that the Daleks are ultimately evil little buggers. The line "which of you is least important?" is chilling in what it suggests, and what it eventually delivers. Another ex-EastEnders actor (literally) bites the dust.

In my opinion the Daleks do easily come out on top as the ultimate alien villain. Although Terry Wogan has made comparisons between the Cybermen's noisy stomping and Wallace and Gromit's ‘The Wrong Trousers’ on his radio show, I thought the marching Cybermen suitably effective when they first returned in 'The Age of Steel'. A recent Doctor Who Confidential saw the troops rehearsing as their marching was precisely choreographed and the attention to detail showed in the resulting onscreen military precision. The trouble was, once they had made their entrance there was nothing much more for the Cybermen to do.

Through their various incarnations I always found the Cybermen most frightening in their slowness and quietness of movement. "Watch out, there's one behind you!" The best moment in 'The Age of Steel' was the rows of inactive Cybermen slowly coming to life as The Doctor made his way down a dark corridor, but other than that I grew quickly bored with them. The problem with this generation of Cybermen was the voices. "You will be deleted" aside, I couldn't make out what they were saying and the Cybervoice sounded too much like Roger Lloyd Pack (Lumic in 'The Age of Steel') to me. The Dalek voice, however, has remained chillingly unchanged for more than forty years, with their design only receiving one or two modifications. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

But now onto the humans. And the Time Lord. Billie Piper was as excellent as ever, as were Shaun Dingwall and Camille Coduri. The first meeting between Pete and Jackie was very well done, but best of all was Pete materialising and saving Rose from being sucked into the void. Thinking back to 'Father's Day', with Rose saving Pete from the hit and run driver, this was a clever echo of those events. Tracy-Ann Oberman was good in her role too, but I hope we don't get such an overtly comic character in charge of Torchwood when it gets its own series.

Regarding Torchwood, we've had as many references to it throughout this series as we did last year with 'Bad Wolf' (and of course 'Bad Wolf' gets a final name check at the end of the 'Doomsday' episode). I think it was The Guardian that described Torchwood as being so sophisticated that they make UNIT look like Dad's Army, but I didn't really get the same impression. If anything, it was the other way round, with Torchwood making rather a big, stupid mess of things. If John Barrowman is going to take the helm of Torchwood as Captain Jack I hope he's not going to play it like Captain Mainwaring. Torchwood has been touted as an adult version of Doctor Who, but I think it will need some rethinking to save it from becoming the junior version.

David Tennant has generally shined for me in the role of The Doctor. Okay, so he can be a bit annoying but name me one Doctor who hasn't got on your nerves just a little bit (and there's a lot to choose from). Yes, he has a tendency to pick up ridiculous glasses and wear them, but at least there was a reason for this in 'Doomsday'. And yes, this Doctor is too much of a know all (things are just too easily sorted out too often as in 'Fear Her' and 'The Idiots Lantern'). Strangely, despite the effective ending of 'Doomsday', I can't recall any other memorable interaction between the Doctor and Rose in this series and her scenes with Christopher Ecclestone remain to me the most effective. What a waste. So new, interesting and most importantly, argumentative, characters are what's needed to make Series Three work. Let's please have some decent scenes between The Doctor and his new assistant, although in the meantime the Catherine Tate character does look promising.

But finally onto the future. 'The Runaway Bride' seems a long way away, but the BBC forgot to include a spoiler for Torchwood following 'Doomsday', perplexingly trailing their new Robin Hood series instead. No, I don't want Robin Hood, and I don't want Dad's Army either. Give me Torchwood!