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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Robin Calvert

RTD's single biggest contribution to DR. WHO has been velocity of dramatic impact & pace of storytelling. And in ARMY OF GHOSTS/DOOMSDAY he penned a true epic. Daleks & Cybermen for the first time. The prison ship, the last remaining part of Gallifrey, housing millions of elevating Daleks above central London. In fact, there's a catalogue of iconic moments in every episode, all of which have been comparable to a film. Surely any potential film series shouldn't compete with new stories, but launch a long-running franchise to remake the classic old (eg: INVASION).

The cameos worked because of the ghost context and the fact they weren't dwelt on. But it was quite brave to include Barbara Windsor's Peggy Mitchell making references to Dirty Den, given the wife who turned him into a ghost was present in the shape of the attractive Tracy Ann Oberman. Now if DR. WHO ever becomes a woman, which seems increasingly likely, I hope Tracy Ann is it. Yvonne Hartman's journey concluded when duty led her to open the floodgates to a Cybermen invasion which threatened her very dominance at Torchwood. But even then her strength of character was enough to subvert the Cyber-programming and turn it around. In fact, she was never more human than once turned into a Cyberman (and never more like a Cyberman than when recognisably human). A triumph for the human spirit. The tear from the Cyber-head tear-hole was a lovely touch.

The Cyber-army stomping through suburbia was quintessential DR. WHO wonderfully brought to life by the 21st Century team. Door off hinges from low angle. Cyberman comes marching in. Family cower in terror on the stairs. Young boy runs upstairs for refuge. Too late. The Cyberman wants him too! Pure behind the sofa stuff. Has no one noticed that the 2006 Cybermen sound like the alien ambassadors in THE AMBASSADORS OF DEATH? Pleasingly, I might add.

DOOMSDAY was likely the best episode of Series 2. Certainly the most powerful.

The punchy repartee challenged the presumption that Daleks & Cybermen should remain characterless. Dalek to Cyberman: "You're better at dying". True. Daleks can get out of control a bit too much. Their combined firepower was explosive, but I was surprised the battle was so one-sided, given the Cybermen are the 2nd most awesome aliens of classic WHO and were the main threat of the 2006 series (four episodes). However, given the Nation estate's robust stance, they probably insisted no one Dalek could be exterminated by a Cyberman! It might have been better had Daleks & Cybermen not fought each other, but concentrated their fire-power on the Army (the UN seem to have done UNIT in) and the humans. Even so, I'd hope for an "upgrade" and a rematch.

The look on The Doctor's face as Rose is sucked back into the parallel world. We didn't think Rose & Jackie would be joining Mickey, let alone that Jackie would get back what she'd been missing all these years - Pete. Their "reunion" across universes was moving stuff and Camille Coudouri's put-downs of The Doctor ("I think he makes half of this up", "shut up", etc) were funny and natural. Jackie was the Voice of the Unconvinced Mum of a Fan from the days when women apparently didn't really watch it. Her daughter was instrumental in getting them tuned in. Rose's attempts to stop her normal-universe Pete from being killed in FATHER'S DAY can now be seen to anticipate how it's ended for the Tyler clan. It was also poetic that, in the end, Pete rescued Rose from death and returned the compliment. So, the Ood were wrong about her dying in battle. Their telepathy couldn't read that she went into a parallel universe, it just stopped at ours - that she was on a list of the dead.

The scene with The Doctor & Rose either side of the dividing wall, guitar/vocal mood music playing = heart-wrenching. The unusual framing of Rose's journey for the encounter on the beach, which completely revealed the Bad Wolf subplot. The Doctor warning Rose that their final goodbye might risk two universes colliding, her "so" and his smiling tacit understanding of that mood proves he has got two beating hearts and bagfuls of emotions. He knows what it's like. And of course the final tragedy: that he never did get to say "I love you" and Rose's weeping torment. The single biggest emotional departure for any companion ever. It had more clout than the end of last season and that's saying something - although we knew from the offset Eccleston was leaving and we've only just found out about Billie moving on.

Two traumatic companion goodbyes in one season - and that's before getting to the departure of Jackie, Mickey & Pete. The ending of DOOMSDAY reflected SCHOOL REUNION in that you don't expect The Doctor to meet up with Rose or Sarah again. It makes SCHOOL REUNION all the more poignant, having Sarah and Rose together, signposting Rose's future without him. It had been building up to Rose's departure for awhile with little hints and a good idea to raise expectations with her warning prologue. It's also instructive for new viewers who knew next to nothing about the programme before March 2005. Then again, everyone else came back from the parallel world and Daleks & Cybermen will return because "that's what they do". And when Billie said "for the moment at least", maybe she'll guest in TORCHWOOD. She's working for the parallel organisation after all and I would have thought the Time Rift in Cardiff offered potential...

Now The Doctor's lost his new family, he's back at square 1 again. I reckon we'll be seeing a more sombre Doctor in 2007. I think the characterisation will change to reflect circumstances, as it should.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Rob Littlewood

A War. The Cybermen. The Daleks. An epic season finale. The end of Rose Tyler.

How could these episodes fail?

‘Army of Ghosts’ sets the scene and builds the tension and drama; we’re promised so much by the episode end and left with a cliff hanger to end all cliff hangers, a Dalek and Cybermen war.

‘Doomsday’ has a lot to deliver but besides a really cool sequence on a bridge where a group of humans make a stand against a squadron of Cybermen, most of the action takes place off screen or in the skies above London, where some shaky CGed Daleks take out the earthbound Cybermen.

Like ‘The Parting of the Ways’ last year, the episodes are resolved with a sprinkling of fairy dust…the Doctor flicks a few switches, reverses the polarity of the neutron flow (or whatever) and sends the massive armies of the Daleks and Cybermen to hell. It’s all too easy…it’s lazy…and it’s poor writing. Before the fighting gets going proper and we get to see who really holds the cup for Masters of the Universe, the whole lot are sucked into the void. What a let down.

These new Daleks are once again left over from the Time War, but this time around they hilariously throw a few bitchy taunts at the Cybermen. In a war of words, the Daleks win, hands down.

There’s a nice little scene where Jackie meets Pete but this only really serves to halt the action once more and in all honesty, we’ve only really tuned in to watch the Daleks and the Cybermen kick arse. Jake appears once again from ‘The Age of Steel’ and confirms he certainly wasn’t hired for his acting ability (hey, Russell) and those celebrating cameo’s from ‘Army of Ghosts’, although not as grating as the ones from ‘Badwolf’ are once again intrusive, embarrassing and inappropriate and to top it all Catherine Tate appears in the final seconds as the Runaway Bride. Why Russell, why? Have you forgotten Hale and Pace or Ken Dodd? It takes all the credibility from your show and makes it silly and camp.

After initially loathing David Tennant’s portrayal of the Doctor, I’ve grown to love it and would go as far as to consider him amongst the best actors ever to have gone by the name of Who.

Billie Piper however, was just about to pass her sell-by-date, so maybe it’s just as well she’s left when she has. It’s a fitting end to a great character as Rose has seemed a little awkward and occasionally stilted this season, still; she goes out with style and ultimately saves the day. The final sequence on the beach in Wales (sorry, Norway) is both touching and moving, and here is where Russell is in his element.

The design is what, like last season, let’s the programme down.

‘Welcome to Torchwood…’ cries Yvonne Hartman and flings her arms out to reveal a very drab warehouse in Cardiff with CGed saucer stuck on the ceiling, later the control room/lever room looks more like the interior of my local Halifax Building Society. The whole thing looks and feels mundane and dreary with the only real attention and thought having been lavished on the interior of the Dalek Spaceship last season.

For a Sci-Fi series, cutting edge design this ain’t.

Alien worlds we were promised this season and we got New Earth, a grassy knoll with Playstation flying cars, a barren rock orbiting a black hole and a few seconds of a totally CGed world with flying dinosaurs (quite liked this one), but please can we have somewhere other than London, Cardiff, Cardiff pretending to be London or Cardiff pretending to be somewhere else.

So, season two has come to its conclusion. Rose has departed. Catherine Tate has, hopefully temporarily, joined the Doctor in the Tardis. Am I bothered though…well, yes actually I am.

I fell in love with Doctor Who many years ago, when I was 4. Maybe the show isn’t aimed at me or my generation anymore, maybe I should switch off and enjoy Battlestar Galactica but quite frankly I want to see good, home-grown British Sci-Fi and more importantly the latest adventures of my favourite Time Lord. And they could be so, so much better than this.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Patrick Leach

For as long as I can remember being a Doctor Who fan I loved the monsters that were widely considered to be the two most popular of the series - the Daleks and the Cybermen. They were both such iconic monsters and I could never decide which race was my personal favourite. They both featured in so many stories throughout the original series’ run, and so one thing always struck me as a little odd. Bearing in mind both species were considered to be probably the deadliest of the Doctor’s foes in the universe how come we never saw them in a story together? You’d think they’d have bumped into one another at some point in time and space, and yet the Daleks never once met or even mentioned the Cybermen in any of their episodes or vice versa. I know “The Ultimate Adventure” stage play in 1989 had them both in it together, but you can’t really count that. Neither can you really count stories like “The War Games” or “The Five Doctors” where the Daleks and Cybermen only appeared as flashback sequences and as enemies in different parts of the Death Zone - but were never actually together or in the same scenes. So as a fan the ultimate Doctor Who story for me was to see the Daleks and the Cybermen face each other, and at long last RTD has provided that story for us!

It all begins very well in voice-over scenes where Rose talks about the story of how she “died”. A great pre-title sequence and a wonderful “hook” to make sure you stay tuned to see how her story pans out.

“Army of Ghosts” mainly serves as a build-up to the episode’s cliff-hanger, but nevertheless it is a very engaging episode. The appearances of the ghosts are well handled and intriguing, and the scene where the ghost of Jackie’s dad appears is wonderful, even if we do know that it can’t really be him.

Murray Gold’s music is particularly good here. I even liked his strange “poppy” soundtrack that accompanied the scenes with David Tennant whilst he’s doing his “Ghostbusters” act! The scenes where we first see the sphere too are wonderful and I think Murray Gold’s score here is one of his best.

Torchwood was very intriguing, but I’m a bit baffled as to why the Doctor has not come across them before. And where was UNIT?

Graeme Harper still proves to us that he can direct some classic stuff! His low-angle shot of the Cyberman breaking through the front door of a suburban house made it seem so menacing, and to top that when the child runs up the stairs another Cyberman appears! Now that scared ME so lord know how the kids will feel about that!! I also loved the scenes where the Cybermen cut their way through the plastic sheeting - definitely a nod to “Tomb of the Cybermen” there!! The ghosts appearing and then revealing themselves as Cybermen was certainly a thrill and I was thinking to myself here “how on earth is the Doctor going to defeat them this time?!” Then of course we had the thrill of the sphere opening to reveal the Daleks! How cool was that?!

And so on to the confrontation between the Cybermen and Daleks….. brilliant! It was such a great scene where they meet each other for the first time! The Daleks exterminated the Cybermen pretty easily and I have to admit that I really wanted to see a Cyberman grab at least one Dalek by its plunger and crush the damned thing!! Oh well it was still good to see them in battle together.

The acting was very good all round in this story too. Tracy Oberman was very scene stealing as the head of Torchwood, and it was a pity that she was dispatched so early on in the second part. Seeing her reappear as a Cyberman was interesting, but bearing in mind she destroyed a few other Cybermen in this scene are we to assume that her “upgrading” wasn’t a success? This wasn't too clear to me as to what happened.

It was good to see Mickey back too. His character has come such a long way since his first appearance, and I always felt sorry for him. I really wanted to slap the Doctor and Rose because I thought they treated him like he was just a big joke, and so it was great to see him here in all his heroic glory so that he could stick two fingers up to them!!

Of course as soon as Pete Tyler turned up it became pretty obvious to me how the story was going to end…….. and I was right!! Rose, Jackie, Pete and Mickey all live happily ever after in the parallel world. I was sorry to see Rose go, but I think they’ve done enough with her character now in the series. Two seasons seems pretty good for Billie Piper and I think she’s been a great companion, even though she did start to irritate me at times during this last season.

I’m in two minds about the ending. I liked it to a certain degree, but for me it was a little too over dramatic and far too long. I could never take to the “soapy” elements of this new Doctor Who as the classic series concentrated more on the story itself and the menace they were facing, and not dwelling on the soap elements. Rose turning to the Doctor and saying “I love you” was just bloody awful. The Doctor has always bonded well with his companions, but I could never get to grips with Rose and the Doctor being “in love”. I just hope that when the series returns for its third year they don’t dwell on soap too much.

I wasn’t overly keen on the way Catherine Tate suddenly turned up like that in the Tardis either!!

Anyway these are minor criticisms as I thoroughly enjoyed the “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” as a whole, and alongside “Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel” this is my favourite story this season.





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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!