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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by James Tricker

RTD goes from the ridiculous (Love and Monsters) to the sublime as only he can in this wonderfully emotional and dramatic season finale which successfully executed the task of writing out the Tyler family, thus bringing to a close both their and Mickey’s involvement with the show, doing justice to the massive contribution Billie Piper has made to new Who and well and truly wiping the slate clean for the show’s future. That RTD had planned a happy ending for the Tylers and had decided not to kill off Rose wasn’t in doubt for me save of course that aside from Rose’s presumed death in the present she feels, due to the intensity of her love for the timelord who took her away from her shop and humdrum life and showed her so much, that she has indeed “died” due to her permanent separation from him, and if as we now know Sarah’s life was ripped apart how much more Rose’s ; nevertheless, she has changed, she has the capacity to move on and not to be the kind of sorrowful figure feared by Jackie in that illuminating exchange with her daughter in the Tardis during the first instalment.

If we saw a slightly more restrained and seasoned Graeme Harper in the Cyberman two parter, flashes of the old magic resurfaced in Army of Ghosts and positively burst through in Doomsday ; I didn’t think it possible to top the wonderful climax to the first instalment culminating in the re-appearance of the Daleks, yet the sequence in Doomsday when the Doctor and Rose open the void and Rose has to use her bodyweight to get the lever back online did just that…it was simply jaw-dropping, one of the most exciting, dramatic, yet gut-wrenchingly moving scenes ever as both she and the Doctor scream as she is about to be sucked into the void, only to be saved at the very last moment by Pete. The expressions on Tennant and Piper’s faces, that glance by Rose as she realises what’s about to happen- astonishing. Indeed was it just me or were there parallels with Androzani here as Pete seems to re-appear at the same critical moment as Davison re-appeared to save Peri and watching this whole climatic mayhem unfold I got that same sense of sheer amazement at the intensity of the drama that I did with that superb story from 1984.Also amazing were the scenes of the immediate aftermath as Rose’s realisation that there is no way back causes her to crumble completely, and the expression on Tennant’s face as he confronts his loneliness is every bit as effective as Pertwee’s reaction to losing Jo at the end of the Green Death. Top marks for the acting here.

But if we may return to Army of Ghosts, as this is a combined review! Firstly may I say how disappointed I am by the lack of adequate laundry facilities aboard the Tardis and, come to think of it, in the Universe at large that force a young girl who’s travelled further than we can only imagine to bring her dirty washing back for Mum to do. What a flaming cheek as they used to say. It was a nice idea that the human race is being softened up into thinking that the ghosts of loved ones are returning little realising that a vast invasion force is poised to strike. I thought Derek’s cameo could have been, well, not quite as much of a cameo as it was but never mind. What we did see more of was Torchwood and again I do like the idea that behind the modern facade embodied in Yvonne “I’m a people person” Hartman lurks a very unmodern imperialist outfit with dreams of restoring the British Empire to its former glories. Quite bold stuff that in this politically correct age and equally well thought out is the ultimate vision of globalisation offered by the Cybermen who will remove sex, class, creed, colour and the like to create complete and lasting uniformity but at the price of being upgraded. Army of Ghosts didn’t disappoint and we were treated to some sparkling exchanges between the Doctor and Jackie who assumes, and very well I thought, the role of companion whilst Rose remains in the Tardis. When the Doctor explains that Jackie’s ankle’s going and she replies “I’ll tell you where my ankle’s going!” this is just one of several genuinely funny exchanges between the pair…funny without grating. As for the appearance of Torchwood itself, I was perhaps expecting a little more as what we assume to be one of the main areas of the building resembles an overblown warehouse with conveniently placed objects of antiquity and so on.

I have already touched on the superb climatic revelation of the Daleks coming as it did hot on the heels of the apparently “game set and match to us” takeover by the Cybermen as the true identity of the ghost army is revealed. That leads us into Doomsday, but, boys and girls, if you want to do the Cybermen and Dalek together thing again, think hard. Because the Daleks come across as so superior in all respects- intellect, firepower, the lot- that the Cybermen are made out, unintentionally I assume, to be rather a laughing stock at times, which isn’t particularly fair given that the gas chamber parallels to parts of the Cyberman two parter were genuinely chilling. The offer of an alliance is swiftly rejected and the only thing the Cybermen can offer is an insult about lack of elegance. When the Dalek says “this isn’t war, it’s pest control” and that the only thing the Cybermen are better at is dying I’m afraid that is spot on but that’s not the fault of this story, this is as many will know a long running problem with the Cybermen and here they are, quite frankly, irrelevant to the Daleks. Of far more interest is the exchanges between Rose and the Daleks wherein Rose displays a level of sinister maturity that must have unnerved even them. Full marks to RTD for again portraying the Daleks correctly as ruthless, powerful killers even if sadly this has the side effect of downgrading the Cyberman menace. Even the latter’s upgrade programme goes wrong as a cybernised Yvonne Hartman (hitherto played well by Tracey-Ann Oberman, bar her melodramatic “ I did my duty” nonsense) destroys those Cybermen who are trying to leg it back into the parallel world. I’ll give RTD the benefit of the doubt on that (just) as those at Torchwood are supposed to be of greater intellect than us mere mortals so clearly the upgrade didn’t work as well on her.

It isn’t just for the Doctor/ Rose scene at the levers to which I’ve already referred that make Doomsday such compelling viewing. There will be those gnashing their teeth and cursing RTD for spending too little time exploring the intriguing allusion to the Knights Templar story with a secret order of Daleks, the guardians of the Genesis Arc, made with Timelord technology, in favour of tying up loose ends but boy how one of those loose ends was wonderfully tied up with the Pete and Jackie reunion in the smoke-filled corridor. Wonderful dialogue and acting there. And the beach scene at the end was a completely justifiable acknowledgement of the impact Billie Piper has made on the show. She deserved a fitting finale and she got it. This was a tear-jerker that surpassed the latter part of the Parting of the Ways by some way. The trouble is with these sorts of RTD stories that if you stop and think long enough they have a tendency to unravel, but if you let yourself be carried away by the emotional rollercoaster of it all they’ll leave their mark for sure. Which this one certainly did.

And so to the season overall. As with the previous one, we have had some ups and downs with the general standard maintained as high. I think Billie Piper’s decision to quit was absolutely right- and she needed to go so that the show could move on- but she stayed long enough to leave her mark as one of the most successful companions in the show’s history. She established a great rapport with Doctors 9 and 10 and whilst the intensity of her feelings for the Doctor and the whole Tyler baggage that came with her has been too much for some it has, like it or not, been a factor in the successful restoration of the show’s current popularity. To my mind we have had six stand-out episodes ( Tooth and Claw, Girl In the Fireplace, Impossible Planet two parter and Army of Ghosts two parter), some solidly enjoyable episodes ( School Reunion, Cyberman two parter, Fear Her) some average fayre (New Earth, Idiot’s Lantern) and one experimental story which didn’t work for me (whose title I shall not name). But now, as I say, the slate is wiped clean; it’s stating the obvious I know but season three carries a great weight of responsibility on its shoulders if the show is to have a long-term future, but we have a solid base in the shape of David Tennant who has established himself well in the role even though I still think he is at his best when restrained and inquisitive rather than, erm, overly manic.

Very briefly. I like Catherine Tate a lot but was I alone in feeling a little uneasy over that Christmas story preview? We shall see of course. Oh, and a plea for next season aside from the obvious one of getting out and about a bit to alien worlds. No more “sorry, I’m so sorry” utterances from the Tenth Doctor please. If he says that again, I shall have to instruct a Dalek to remove those words from his vocabulary bank.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Steve Manfred

We knew going in that this was Billie Piper's last story as Rose, and as the story and recent events kept hinting, that she could very well die. I found myself in the position thinking that she should die. It's not that I've come to hate Rose or anything, it's just that that felt like the only "honest" thing the storytelling could do, given the lifestyle that she leads with the Doctor and the law of averages. You can't keep cheating death like this forever. In the end, our Mr. Davies found a way to have his cake and eat it too, where Rose can go on living but in such a way that she and the Doctor are forever separated, and so as far as their relationship goes, it has the same effect that death would have done. And so it was a bittersweet ending for the Doctor and Rose, wonderfully written, structured, and certainly well-played by both Billie Piper and David Tennant. Billie went back to those pained places she showed us last season in "Father's Day" and "The Parting of the Ways," while meanwhile David Tennant got to a similar place for the first time. Actually, it's not "meanwhile"... his best moment was before the final farewell, during that ten seconds where we thought briefly that Rose could get sucked into a hell dimension... the scream and the look on his face of utter pain and panic is a new classic moment in the whole of "Doctor Who," and though I know he's good, I didn't know he had that look in him. The way he has the Doctor basically shut down emotionally again after Rose is gone was also well-judged... as though the Doctor may be heading back into the shell he was in before he met Rose, but I suspect he won't have long to stay there given that last-second bridal arrival in the TARDIS at the end.

We also in this story say goodbye to the rest of the Tyler clan, plus Mickey, and they all come out better than they ever were before. On the one hand, I questioned that big scene where alt-Pete and Jackie meet up coming as it did while the world was ending outside, and they stop to have this big emotional moment. On the other, it was very important to them and to us that this moment happen, and I'm glad that it did happen. Didn't everyone (with a heart) smile when they finally embraced? We just needed some line or some excuse for them to have this moment that was better than everyone simply stopping their run. Some obstacle or other that needed time to clear, and we didn't get one. I enjoyed seeing Mickey return too, stronger than ever.

On the other hand, I wasn't overjoyed with the concept of the return of the alternate universe and the alternate Cybermen, since I didn't care for either when we saw them the first time. Fortunately for us, the worst elements of "Rise of the Cybemen/The Age of Steel" were left behind in their world, and the way these Cybermen acted wasn't really much different than the way the "real" Cybermen would act. I do like to think, however, that the "real" Cybermen from the classic series would've fared at least a little better vs. the Daleks than this bunch did, since they at least have got spaceships and heavier weaponry than those little red wrist lasers. The sight of Cybermen everywhere in the world at once - even in your house- having snuck in as "ghosts," was quite the good the image, I'll grant you. I just wish the budget would've stretched to seeing a better fight than the one we got. Surely the Cybermen shouldn't be so stupid that they'd keep firing uselessly at the Daleks as they do and would turn to using their other strengths, such as their strength, to physically attack the Daleks or hurl large objects at them or something. I don't really disagree with the answer to "who would win in a fight" that we're given here... it should be the Daleks, but the Cybermen shouldn't be falling over this easily. It brings back too many bad memories of Ace/slingshot and the Raston Warrior Robot massacres of the 80s.

I was happy to have the Daleks back though, and I was very happy with their developments... the "cult of Skaro" where all four have names... the void ship they used to escape the Time War... and the stolen Time Lord prison ship they call the Genesis Ark with millions of Daleks inside. These were all perfectly in keeping with what we saw of the Daleks last season and with their general rehabilitation of character that's gone on ever since Big Finish started doing audios with them. (I just with the Cybermen could also be so lucky.) And though I'm disappointed with the combat between the two, I'm fine with the general idea of them meeting up and fighting, and especially with the way they talked to each other when they first met. Lots of people cite the "pest control" line as a favorite, and that is good, but mine is how the Dalek and the two Cybermen that meet up in the corridor keep demanding that the other identify themselves in a conversation that has a chance to go on forever. In fact, I would love to hear an audio or read a short story or something where you've got a Dalek and a Cyberman imprisoned in a cell together or something just to listen in on how they'd argue with each other.

The remaining main element to this story is the finally-revealed Torchwood Institute. I wasn't exactly looking forward to this what with all the heavy-handed product placement advertising there's been for this in the season leading up to this...in fact I'm surprised the Cybemen didn't have "Watch Torchwood the Series this fall on BBC1" emblazoned on their chests, but the actual place itself wasn't that bad. I was sort of expecting your typical "X Files"-ish shadowy conspiracy place, but in fact it looks like a perfectly charming and reasonable corporate headquarters, which makes it a different sort of creepy. Yvonne Hartley's charming banter with the "enemy" Doctor really adds to that, and was well-played by Tracy-Ann Oberman. I do have to question how she manages to break her programming and fend off that party of Cybermen that was about to ruin everything at the end, when no one else we've seen converted by these alt-Cybermen has been able to do so up until now. (though Big Finish fans might find a clue in her first name... think of the similarly-named character in "Spare Parts") I also question why Torchwood controls the rift with those two giant levers... it's this year's stupid "Galaxy Quest"-like set piece like the spinning fan blades on Platform One last season.

The plot manages to hang together if you don't squint too hard. If you do squint, you start to wonder if the Cybermen who were converted here on our Earth are still around since they presumably wouldn't have the void stuff on them, and why Daleks being drawn to the breach are doing so all through that one window in the tower, or why the Daleks chose this moment to emerge from their Void ship and why indeed they came to 21st century Earth in the first place, or why we only see Daleks flying into the breach but not Cybermen, and there's a few others. I can think of explanations for all of these questions, and indeed a couple of them are in fact answered by Russell if you listen to his podcast commentary on the official website. He and Julie Gardner also make it clear in that that they deliberately excluded most of these explanations for fear of bogging down the story with all this exposition. I saw the second half of this story for the first time with a crowd full of old-time "Who" and general genre fans, and they all really hate that these sorts of things don't get explained not just in this but in lots of the other stories, and they consider it to be bad writing, and as some of them are regularly published self-supporting authors, I have to think they know what they're talking about. On the other hand, skipping over these fine details like this and avoiding technobabble seems to have made the series more accessible to the general public and the non-genre industry, going by the viewing figures and all the awards the show has won, so perhaps Russell and Julie are on to a new, more successful way of handling these things we like to call plot holes. I'm not sure which side I'm on really... I think I'm probably in the middle. I'd like to see the writers and script editors find ways to explain these things but in a manner elegant enough not to put off casual viewers. Something more like one really brilliant element of the plot, which was the 3D glasses that the Doctor kept putting on to look at things, which at first seem like just another weird thing that the Doctor does, but which turn out in the end to actually have a useful practical purpose in showing the "void stuff" that's left on people and things that made the dimensional jump. I had no clue that was coming, and it was a great touch.

One last topic I feel I should cover is the incidental music score by Murray Gold, which is another return to the excellent form that certain episodes this season have shown he's capable of. He can veer wildly from awful to brilliant, in my opinion, but in this story he was brilliant, particarly with his use of rhythm to underscore the "ghost" scenes in the first episode and the scene of the Doctor and Rose on opposite sides of the dimensional breach at the end. This score and the one for "Tooth and Claw" have been my favorites of his by far, and I hope they encourage him to do more like this.

Overall... the story delivered on its main objective of the writing out of Rose and the Tyler clan and was another shining moment for the Doctor and the Daleks. The Cybermen continued to suffer from the problems their earlier story left them saddled with, and I would've liked more to have been made of their combat with the Daleks. Strong, but not perfect... I'll say 8 out of 10.





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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!





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Adam Kintopf

The funny thing about this story is there’s really no plot whatsoever to speak of; ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ unfolds more like a loose collection of Big Events than a genuine narrative designed to keep the audience wondering how it’s all going to work out. Big Event One: The Ghosts Are Here! Big Event Two: The Cybermen Are Here! Big Event Three: The Daleks Are Here! Big Event Four: The Cybermen and Daleks Are Gone! and Big Event Five: Buh-bye, Rosie. (More annoyingly, the story is a copout on the labored foreshadowing of Rose’s death, though it’s inconceivable that either fans or the general public would have responded well to that if it had happened.)

I suppose I don’t need to point out that none of these Big Events I mentioned involves Torchwood. It has to be said up front that, taken only as a payoff for ten stories’ worth of arbitrary references (eleven if you count ‘Bad Wolf’), or as a quasi-pilot for a new spinoff, this story fails miserably. Torchwood as an institution barely even registers – it has much less personality than those cheap-looking old UNIT labs. (Its one real character is annoying, and anyway she gets turned into a Cyberman.) I suppose on paper Jack Harkness plus alien doodads plus flirty clerical staff equals somebody’s version of a good idea, but if the new series is anything like what we see here, it’ll be lifeless and empty. It’s also hard to tell from its depiction here why anyone would *want* to create a series around Torchwood, even if it were better realized. The institution, at least under Yvonne Hartman, seems to be a place of the worst kind of scientific irresponsibility, with its smug administrators (I hated Hartman’s clapping) abusing technology they don’t even bother trying to understand, all to recreate the Empire of Victorian Britain (!). Doesn’t sound like a concept that’s going to get the public crowding round their sets in the evenings to me, but then what do I know.

Anyway, rather than dwell in negative speculation about how bad the future is going to be (Doctor Who fans have had enough of that over the years, haven’t we?), let’s concentrate on the present and move on to those Big Events. The ‘ghost’ invasion actually works pretty well, both as an eerie omen of bad things to come and as an amusing take on pop culture fads. The people of Earth unquestioningly accept these spectral visitors and incorporate them into daily life, just as their parallel-world counterparts did with Lumic’s earpods in ‘Rise of the Cybermen,’ and it’s nice to see a consistent satirical thread like this running through the new series. (And, maybe because I’m not British, I actually found the ‘ghost’ versions of the TV shows to be funny rather than annoying.)

After the revelation comes that there are Cybermen hiding behind the shower curtains at Torchwood, of course, there’s little suspense surrounding the mystery of who or what those ghosts really are. Once they’re revealed, we find that the Cybermen haven’t been developed much since we last saw them – I suppose the Doctor’s objection in ‘The Age of Steel’ that Cyber ‘upgrading’ stifles progress also holds true for character growth – but we are (initially) impressed that they have managed to break through the barrier between worlds and come stomp-stomp-stomping into ours. They are still scary, too - the shot of the family cowering from the Cyberman in their living room while their philosophy is reassuringly espoused on TV (“Cybermen will remove fear . . . Cybermen will remove sex and class and color and creed”) is quite unsettling and effective – and of course they’re also kind of funny, getting the better lines in the memorable Cyber/Dalek bitch-off (“DALEKS HAVE NO CONCEPT OF ELEGANCE.” “This is obvious.”). But really, the Cybermen aren’t much more than a red herring in this story, just a piece of bait to set up the surprise when the Daleks arrive, and to make their fellow cyborgs look good after they do.

And it’s true, the Daleks come off better in this story than the Cybermen; in fact, this is probably their strongest realization in the new series so far. They prove to be physically unstoppable – the Cybermen can’t destroy even one, and eventually have to try fleeing back into their old world – but more importantly they show signs of their old personality. They arrogantly refuse the ‘inferior’ Cybermen’s proposed alliance, dismiss the presence of an occupying alien force of five million as 'irrelevant,' and generally trumpet their superiority at every opportunity (“WE WOULD DESTROY THE CYBERMEN WITH ONE DALEK!”). They’re pushy and impatient (“SOCIAL INTERACTION WILL CEASE”), and best of all, there’s no godlike UberDalek directing them this time - the script vaguely identifies these four as ‘the Cult of Skaro,’ but apart from having Teletubby-esque silly names they don’t seem a bit different from the classic Daleks of old. In fact, the presentation of the Daleks here is more reminiscent of the stranded but strong group in ‘Death to the Daleks,’ and the species looks all the better for it. ‘The Genesis Ark’ is an amusing reference to ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ too, and may even be a punnish nod to the Second History of the Daleks suggested in ‘The Discontinuity Guide’ (although that may simply be wishful fanwanking on my part).

As for the human factor, it’s disappointing that Mickey, whose departure was so surprisingly poignant in ‘The Age of Steel,’ is brought back to do little but crack bad jokes here. (Comparing the Daleks to Stephen Hawking, while in agreeably bad taste, undermines what tension the scene might have had.) It doesn’t help that Noel Clarke often seems to be playing Mickey as *Ricky* this time around either. Jake Simmonds reappears as well, but fares no better; he is simply used as a Sawardian blank who shoots guns because the good Doctor doesn’t.

As for the Rose/Doctor goodbye thread, which should be the real focus here, it doesn’t turn to treacle until the very end, but when it does, it’s embarrassing, and makes us sadly remember the artful ambiguity of ‘The Green Death,’ or even the less ambiguous but more genuinely moving goodbye of ‘The Parting of the Ways.’ It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes next; probably too much has been made of the 21st-century DW as ‘Doctor Who and His Interstellar Girlfriend!,’ but it’s hard to imagine the production team doing the David-and-Maddie thing again with a new companion. (At least, it’s hard to imagine them doing it well.) As for the performances, both principal actors are OK – Billie Piper isn’t given much to do until the blubbery finale, and David Tennant, whose performances improved dramatically in the final few stories of this season, is acceptable, though he does perhaps push too hard on ‘angry’ lines like “You’ve got their *children*, of *course* they’re going to *fight*!!!”

But there is one story element that ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ does actually handle extremely well. The strange relationship between Jackie and Pete Tyler (or, rather, between *both* Jackie and Pete Tylers) has been slowly developing since we first met Pete in ‘Father’s Day,’ and here it’s almost as if more care has gone into building up the story arc for these characters’ reunion than for the Doctor and Rose’s goodbye; when the lost husband from one world finally embraces his lost wife from another, it’s a powerful moment. It’s odd that, after initial misgivings, I feel I’ll miss Jackie more than Rose – we actually saw a greater range of personality from this not-always-easy-to-like character (shrewishness and good humor, smallmindedness and great imagination, selfishness and trust, vulnerability and courage), often within the confines of a single story, and Camille Coduri has to be commended for bringing such extremes to life believably.

And she’s funny in this story too, particularly in her interactions with the Doctor (“Hoy!”) and as she screeches invective at the terrified Yvonne Hartman, even as the latter is being led to her death.

All in all, it’s not a great Doctor Who story (or even a great *story* at all), but despite its problems it remains watchable. It’s sort of in the vein of ‘Planet of the Spiders’ – overstuffed and perhaps self-consciously ‘historic,’ at times repetitive (Doctor forces Rose to safety against her will) or nonsensical (the revenge of Cyber-Yvonne), but agreeably silly and featuring some good moments. In other words, it’s empty calories, but they’re reasonably tasty ones.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Oliver Bond

Well, this have been brewing for awhile, and i've watched the episodes several times, so i stick by my review. so here goes...

The domestic side of the new series was fine for the first few episodes, but this far in, it really pisses me off, but this one wasn't as bad, its short and sweet, and gives me some hope that RTD actually reads these things, and has altered his writing accordingly. Lets hope.

The Ghost opening was pretty good, and helped to set the scene nicely, and i quite liked the idea that this had been going on for while before the story starts, and the images of the kids playing with the ghosts in the background was good, but it does make you wonder why they were playing with ghosts. The ultimate crap goalie perhaps?

The inclusion of Torchwood just annoyed me. Why is the new series so obsessed with it? There's already a spin off of it, isn't that enough screen time? If this continues, the show will end up with: 'DOCTOR WHO, SPIN OFF FROM TORCHWOOD', pasted all over the screen, with a dancing captain jack in the corner. The one redeeming part of Torchwood was the almost super Nazi feel to the organization, mixed in with a dull office atmosphere, which was worrying.

Cybermen behind walls of plastic, what can i say, that was one of my favorite parts, a nice bit of homage, but not to obvious, and interwoven into the story quite well. The return of the ear pods was quite cool to, but why nobody notices when someone has got two blue tooth attachments on completely baffles me.

Earlier i said that the domestic stuff was really getting on my pecks, but i must admit that seeing jackie tyler fill the companions role a bit was a joy to behold, especially when the Doctor blatantly slagged her off like that. Fun fun fun!

Which leads me to the more interesting companion bit; the sneaking around part, where we can all shout things at the screen like: 'don't go in there!'. But i did sadly notice another plot wrinkle, which is why is the security computer fooled by psychic paper? I mean how many computers have proper, easily confused gooey brains in them? apart from the Cybermen, but thats different.

And right when Rose is caught, who is sadly there to rescue her? Bloody Micky Bloody Smith! I lost about 20 quid to a mate when i bet he would get killed in Age of Steel, ala Adric, and when we left him in the with Byker Grove guy, i sighed with relief, and then the useless git returns like the ghost of beans on bath-night.

I'm generally painted a bad picture of this, which is a shame really, as there is a lot of good stuff, flying around, but too many plot wrinkles and irritating scenes and characters keep popping up, ruining my enjoyment, but all that was dispelled in viewing, with the presence of the sphere, the impossible void ship thought to be a theory by the Doctor (despite the TARDIS can do it in the Mind Robber), opens up a spews forth the Daleks. Well that was great on viewing, and with the Cybermen taking over the world outside, well that got me on the edge of my seat that did.

In the week gap though, i thought to myself: 'i hope the Daleks aren't going to steal the show from the Cybermen.' Well sadly they did, and in my opinion, thats down to writing, the insistence that CGI can make anything great, and the new Cybermen.

Now, i love the Cybermen, and if they ever invade this world, i'll let them in and give them leave to marry my sister any-day, but these ones, well.

1) the head's too small, and doesn't have any moving bits like the classic Cybermen. Even if it is a letter box, its still quite disturbing to see the words come out with nothing moving. Now they just have a light in the same shade of blue which seems to be the show's favorite type of light, and reminds me too much of the Daleks, leading to...

2) Delete! Delete! Extermin- err Delete! the Cybermen were cool in their own right, it isn't necessary for them to copy the Daleks Russell!

3) Stomping. This can actually work if used well (Rise in the Cybermen), but its over used. If one Cyberman needs to pull a lever, why doesn't it just walk over and pull it, as opposed to: STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP pull the lever STOMP STOMP. Its just a bit too much half the time

4) the wrist guns. True, the Cybermen needed a ranged weapon, but a stick crudely attached with probably Cybus elastic bands, which fire something strait out of Flash Gordon? That part of the head linking the handles is just begging to slide down to reveal a gun nozzle, and let off a burst of proper energy beams, crackling with electricity instead of some noise from a Pac Man arcade. At least it isn't Doctor Who Blue i suppose.

Rant over. For the moment.

The opening to Doomsday is cool, i must say, making the point to the audience that the world was screwed big time, and that was only the start of it in Torchwood tower. the Genesis ark was satisfactorily mysterious (i thought i might of been Davros, or the Master, now that would've of been good), and the Dalek saying 'which of you is least important was inspired. What wasn't though was the Dalek smack talk. Wa? Now true the Daleks are right arrogant buggers, but they don't need to say stuff like that. I did half expect one to say: 'so is your mother' and Chris Rock or Mr T to leap out of one, to the gasps of all.

This was a subtle ploy to put the public on the side of the Daleks, allowing the Cybermen to sound like a wimpy kid at school, a generally the new kid to evil world domination, genocide etc.

Then, a bright light of hope for Cyber fans everywhere.

The bridge bit was cool, and damn well, shot (apart from the wrist guns), and the Cyberleaders speech about removing fear, color, nationality etc was a joy to behold, putting the whole idea of the Cybermen into a neatly packaged nutshell.

Oh and then they got absolutely slaughtered by the Daleks and Byker Grove kid, leading to yet another 'Pete Tyler turns up' part. Now Shaun Dingwall is a great actor, and plays the part well, and the part itself isn't that bad, just a bit overused, and once he turned up, well him and Jackie was obviously going to happen wasn't it.

Micky again cocks everything up by touching the ark, and then it turns out to be a bit like a TARDIS. Good idea. which spews forth thousands of CGI Daleks, lifted strait from A Parting of Ways. Bad idea.

Dalek showed us that the metal meanies work great with only one of them. having four (the cult of Skaro, that was a cool idea) would of upped the stakes enough, and leaves at least one to be dramatically destroyed. Now I'm not sure, but to my knowledge, none are destroyed until the climax, even when the humans and Cybermen team up (pure bollocks in my opinion).

The Cybermen get absolutely minced, so it should of been fair to have at least one Dalek get killed. Just imagine in the hanger fight, if a Cyberman had just punched a hole through a Dalek, which promptly blows up, engulfing them both in flames. If the Cybermen have super human strength, why don't they use the stuff, instead of stick gun?

Then comes the end, with the sadly simple: 'hey lets open the gateway and sweep them into the void?' A great explanation for the 3D glasses, bringing the Doctor's eccentric's to the fore, but just too simple, At least in A Parting of Ways, there's a build up to the simple idea. The stakes are way too high to be resolved with a clever idea, so why aren't the stakes lowered, ever so slightly, to get a satisfactory ending? 'Cos then we wouldn't be able to use CGI!'

Torchwood boss's conversion and revolt, was surprising, and damn good in my opinion, although it does suggest the Cybermen rushed their conversion a bit, but still, a nice play on the tear motif.

And then Rose dies. But not really. I suppose you can't kill her off, but what a cheat! 'This is the story of how i died.' Bah.

Now, i have now made myself seem the bitterest man in history, and i know there are some great bits in these two stories, but they've already been reviewed to death, so here i've covered the bad bits that haven't, that dark things spawned in the corners of the universe, if you will.

A final passing shot, it is now my firm belief that if you asked an eight year old which their 2 favorite Doctor Who monsters are, they will promptly say the Daleks and the Slitheen. Thank you RTD, if your goal was to make Kit Pedler spin in his grave, victory is yours. I know that the Daleks are top dog, and Cybermen are traditionally 2nd best, but give them a proper chance a least, instead of chucking the silver giants into a jewelry auction for 3p. A story for series 3 i think, when both monsters are both proven to be kick ass in their own right, and able to handle a story on their own.

I wonder what the Ice Warriors will chant?





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by James McLean

The combined storylines Army of Ghosts and Doomsday brings Doctor Who’s second series to an epical and climatic close. A hard act to follow; the show’s first season was an explosive finale in itself, with an army of zealous Daleks and the death of the ninth Doctor punctuating its run with end with a time shattering conclusion.

So how could Series Two top such a perfect finale? Well, contrary to laws of nature, Doctor Who’s second season manages to finish on an even more catastrophic note. Indeed, with another batch of abrasive Daleks, a non-too-merry band of Cybermen and the swansong of the new series’ first companion, Rose Tyler, series two has decided that in no uncertain terms, it’s going to go out with an even bigger bang.

The first episode, Army of Ghosts - and like Bad Wolf the previous year - isn’t particularly action orientated. Russell T Davies wrote both series finales and he appears to have adopted a similar writing pattern on both penultimate episodes. Both Bad Wolf and Army of Ghosts are deceptive; they wittingly hide the plot’s true intentions until the climax of the episode. In Bad Wolf, the plot focuses on the games played on Satellite 5 rather than intentions of the masters behind them. In Army of Ghosts, we have phantom appearances at the whim of a secret organization, which again masks the true danger to the characters that lurks - once again - behind the scenes.

Likewise, both series’ finale episodes – Parting of the Ways and Doomsday – are very similar; both are epical battles beyond anything seen before and both play a vital role in tying up the obligatory series arc.

The structural similarities of series two’s finales to series one is not detrimental. The actual plots are set in two very different scenarios. So any format comparisons between the two does not in anyway weaken the strength of either story. In fact, the formula works very well with the shows format which is probably why Davies has used it for the second time.

The series two finale helps tie up two season arcs. There is Torchwood, a mysterious organization that - like Bad Wolf in series one - has had veiled references to its existence throughout the season. There is also a strong character arc throughout the season between the Doctor and Rose; an ongoing question as to whether their relationship can last the duress of time travel much longer.

While Torchwood has not always been a major factor of each story in series two, it has always been present throughout the season in some form. Both Army of Ghosts and Doomsday work as a resolution to the identity of Torchwood as well as a springboard for the new Torchwood series starting autumn 2006. While some fans have complained the series has been used as an advertising promotion for Torchwood, the name and organization has had an underlying relevance throughout the series. It’s not merely a name that has been subliminally slipped into each episode to crassly promote the new upcoming show, it has far more series necessity - as the finale reveals. In fact, the character arc between the Doctor and Rose dovetails with the Torchwood arc nicely. In Tooth and Claw, Queen Victoria questions the pair’s lifestyle and it is their involvement - and to some extent - it is their frivolous dynamic that encourages Victoria to set up Torchwood, an organization whose work spells the end of the Doctor and Rose’s relationship in the finale.

The surprise return of the Daleks is a masterful idea. By implanting the return of a major villain early in the story – in this case The Cybermen – the story tricks the audience into their own self deception. After all, Doctor Who always has one villain of the week, as with most shows. Despite this misdirection, the clues remain present throughout. The void sphere that contains the surprise Daleks remains Dalekesque; it’s gold and - obviously – spherical, two trademarks of the new Dalek design. Certainly one can’t accuse the production from making their comeback too obscure; the clues are there. Therefore, when the Daleks do appear, the debut is made even more pleasurable knowing you’ve not been unfairly hoodwinked, simply misdirected.

Bringing the Cybermen and Daleks together in a fight – the central theme of Doomsday – is an audacious move. With less than an hour to tell the story and bring these forces together – and within the budgetary constraints - is a monumental production feat. And these monsters feel appropriately balanced in regards to their might. The Daleks are more powerful than the Cybermen. The show makes no attempt to hide that and it has always been an accepted measurement throughout the classic series. One of the elements that make this encounter so special is the dialogue and interaction between the two foes. The dialogue between the Daleks and Cybermen verges on schoolyard taunting yet as humorous as it is, it still manages to capture their personalities and different ideologies. I was originally a little concerned that a battle between two hybrid beasts with related antagonistic goals may simply underscore the similarities between the two villains. In fact, their confrontation manages to emphasize the different characteristics between Cybermen and Dalek, thanks in particular to this clever and quite whimsical bit of verbal sparring.

Where the story works very well is in its resolution of the Tyler family. When alternative Pete Tyler walked away from Rose in “Age of Steel” I feared that any possible return later on in the series might weaken that excellent resolution. His abrasive departure from the episode was very refreshing. However, the return of Mickey and Pete from the alternate dimension brings a totally different and satisfying solution to the dysfunctional family with all members – including Rose – being left in an alternate dimension to start anew as a full unit.

The prologue to this story implies quite strongly that Rose dies, and morbid little viewer than I am, I was quite looking forward to this potentially emotional and final end to the character. This is not the case. Davies has justified this with a fair comment that Doctor Who isn’t really meant to be that dark and such a death maybe out of sync with the show. Certainly the death of a companion helps creates an extra tension to Doctor Who – as I think Adric’s swansong proved. After all, we know the Doctor won’t die, but if the companion is vulnerable, we have more tension. The more tension, the longevity of the show increases before it ultimately becomes formulaic. That said, in regards to Rose, not dying does have a certain story logic. The Jackie and the Doctor’s story arc has always been about Rose’s safety with the Time Lord and a resolution in which he succeeds in keeping her safe does seem more befitting the show. While in some ways the Doctor is tragic, and is always in the midst of disaster, his presence should be positive. Leaving a broken family without its daughter is too bleak. Companions should have the risk of mortality, but with Rose Tyler the repercussions of her death would make the Doctor's travels questionable: Would he really be a force for good, or simply a harbinger of doom? Since the Doctor is a source of good for young and old, Rose’s death would have been far more destructive that it initially appears.

Yes, I admit it. I wanted Rose to die, but logically, Davies’ decision to strand Rose in another dimension with her family gives the story a bittersweet ending that doesn’t betray the series roots, but doesn’t seem vacuous either.

Personally, I found the Doctor and Rose’s chummy companionship through the season a little irritating – one of my few criticisms of this year’s episodes. They have spent the series treating time travel as a sort of non-stop roller coaster with an ambience of giggles and invulnerability. All of which fits within the story arc, but not as enjoyable to experience as the audience. The end of Doomsday kicks Rose’s jolly jape attitude squarely in the face. Rose now has a new exciting life, but she’s lost the life and the person that was so precious to her - the life she intended to life until she died. It’s a masterful ending, as no matter how one feels about the Rose character, you should enjoy this resolution. If you loved Rose, you will have found her departure respectful and emotive. If you hated Rose, you’ll find the resolution a suitable end to her season character arc and quite probably, deliciously satisfying (she isn’t too happy with her circumstance, that’s for sure).

Downsides to the story? The pacing of Doomsday is a little haphazard. The confrontation between alternate Pete and Jackie is way too long and in the middle of such an epical battle feels somewhat out of place. Stuck right in the middle of the episode’s crescendo, the meeting delivers frustration rather than drama and ultimately, I think the audience loses some empathy for the scene. The epilogue is somewhat a little too contrasting as well. Certainly, this can be justified change of tone for the kids; it extinguishes some of the sadness for the younger audiences who miss Rose. However I think many of the adults will find Catherine Tate’s brief debut a little out of kilter with the episode.

Overall this is quality entertainment. It has great acting from all, a solid story and wonderful dialogue. Tennant and Piper glow with energy and neither the return of the Cyberman or Daleks feels stale. The visual effects remain solid as ever and Gold’s musical score captures each scene appropriately

Favorite scene? Definitely Torchwood executive Yvonne Hartman gut wrenching realization that she was to be upgraded by the Cybermen. To have full awareness about what is about to happen to you, knowing you are about to have your brain ripped out and your humanity stolen makes for horrifying situation. That scene was possibly the most chilling of the series.

Doomsday is a fantastic epical finale that actually tops the last series' fantastic epical finale. Quite how Series 3 fantastic epical finale will continue this upward trend in the fantastic epical finale category is very much beyond me - but I look forward to see them trying.