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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.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

And so to ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’, the season finale, Rose’s final story, and an epic battle between two of the Doctor’s greatest foes. After the ghastly mess that was ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’, I approached the story with caution, albeit with optimism based on my conviction that Davies’ writing has, for the most part, improved massively during Season Two. Things start well, with an ominous voiceover from Rose as she tells the audience, “Then came the army of ghosts. Then came Torchwood and the war”, an opening full of promise that, happily, is largely fulfilled.

Having secured critical and popular success for the series, ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ sees Russell T. Davies listen to the fan inside him and provides a story that is almost pure fanwank. For the first time in Doctor Who’s history we get a battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen, with references to Skaro, hitherto unmentioned in the new series. As the press noted, casual viewers might think that this sort of thing happened on numerous occasions, whereas in fact in the entire history of the series it has only happened outside of fan-fiction in Terrance Dicks’ Doctor Who stage play ‘The Ultimate Adventure’, and in Dan Abnett’s Doctor Who Magazine short story ‘Heliotrope Bouquet’. The story is also peppered with less obvious nods to the past: the Doctor mentions the Eternals, as well as Arcadia, the setting of Peter Darvill-Evans’ New Adventure ‘Deceit’. The ending, which sees an army of Daleks pulled through a small portal by an irresistible force, feels like homage to the Peter Cushing movie ‘Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD’. We even get a Cyberman overcoming its conditioning and fighting its own kind, something only previously seen in the Doctor Who comic strips featuring Cyberleader Kroton.

Inevitably, the war between the Daleks and the Cybermen is the main draw of ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’, despite the departure of Rose. Some controversy has been generated by the fact that not only are the Cybermen soundly thrashed by the Daleks, but they don’t even manage to scratch a single one of them; personally, I have no issues with this. The Daleks have always been portrayed as more technologically advanced than the Cybermen, which have often been depicted as desperate scavengers on the verge of extinction, and lest we forget these are not the Mondasians of old but a new breed of Cybermen from a contemporary parallel Earth. This has the benefit of allowing Davies to up the stakes mid-way through the story; the appearance of the Cybermen in this story was well-signposted in advance, but their mass invasion of Earth makes for an impressive and awesome threat, as the Doctor grimly notes, “It’s not an invasion, it’s too late for that. It’s a victory.” And yet just as the odds seem overwhelming, Davies increases the sense of menace as the Void Ship opens at the end of ‘Army of Ghosts’ and four Daleks appear from within. I had read enough speculation prior to watching the episode to be expecting this, but it still makes for a fantastic cliffhanger, the tension building rapidly as the Doctor puzzles that the sphere is beyond the Cybermen’s technological abilities and the Cyber Leader informs him, “The sphere is not ours”, prompting the alarmed, “Then what’s inside it?”

With the Daleks unleashed, Davies then gets to showcase the differences between them nicely; on the one hand we have the ruthlessly logical Cybermen, who suggest an alliance with the Daleks, with the cringe-worthy line, “Together we could upgrade the universe!” and who subsequently side briefly with the humans and the Doctor when faced with a more powerful mutual threat once the Daleks refuse. On the other hand we have the arrogant, xenophobic Daleks, responding to the Cyber Leader’s, “You have declared war on the Cybermen” with the brilliantly withering, “This is not war. This is pest control!” The Daleks exude malevolence here in a way that they didn’t in ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’, the Cult of Skaro replacing the boringly mad Emperor in that story and presenting a ruthless and cunning side to them that harkens back to the sixties. The Cult of Skaro itself is an interesting idea, and the revelation of what the Genesis Ark actually is, is a nice twist, as the Doctor realizes with horror that it is a prison ship containing millions of Daleks. Happily, Dalek Khan escapes, more easily leaving the way open for a return than the seemingly final destruction of the Daleks in ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’ did.

‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ also sees the first full appearance of Torchwood after numerous mentions throughout the series, and this too works well, as it turns out that the organization is full of roaring eccentrics, dreaming of empire and clapping when the Doctor comes out of the TARDIS. After the ghastly denouement of the Bad Wolf subplot in Season One, this comes as a considerable relief. The especially eccentric Yvonne Hartman, a genuinely likeable character who is awestruck when she sees the TARDIS and can’t resist showing off when the Doctor arrives, heads Torchwood. She obviously wants to learn from him more than she wants him prisoner, and Singh is equally honored to meet him.

For the most part, ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ thus works extremely well. We get a nice glimpse of an alien planet, and the build-up of tension in ‘Army of Ghosts’ is superb, with the Sphere in particularly proving very ominous. Despite this, there are inevitable flaws, albeit a world away from the plot holes and deus ex machina ending of the previous season finale. The brief examination of how humanity has reacted to the ghosts results in Davies’ trademark cultural references, which are more welcome than the reality television references in ‘Bad Wolf’ only by virtue of being far less intrusive. The specially-filmed Eastenders scene is ghastly, as is the clip of somebody declaring their love for a ghost on Trisha. Disturbingly, this is probably very realistic. Mercifully, this is quickly passed by. The Doctor’s means of disposing of the Daleks and the Cybermen is a bit suspicious too; although it works reasonably well in principle, it takes a suspiciously short amount of time for millions of Daleks and Cybermen to be sucked through a portal the size of a barn door, and as some critics have already pointed out, some of the Cybermen are from this universe. Fortunately, series veteran Graeme Harper does a fine job of directing the episode, the only real let down being the diabolical close-up of the Hartman Cyberman’s eye leaking a tear of hydraulic fluid. Even Murray Gold’s typically pompous and intrusive score is tolerable during moments of drama, although smears his usual aural syrup over everything else, especially the ending.

‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ also seemingly marks the departure with Rose of the series’ regular supporting cast, and they all get a pretty good final outing. Camille Coduri’s largely appalling performance as Jackie has markedly improved during Season Two, and her character gets some great moments here, especially when she plays comic foil to the Doctor. The scene in which he introduces “Rose” to Yvonne and explains, “Just last week she looked into the heart of the TARDIS and aged fifty-seven years” is particularly amusing, largely because of her expression of indignation, and despite my antipathy towards the character, the happy ending for Jackie and Pete is quite touching. Their initial meeting/reunion is great; despite knowing that they are facing parallel versions of their lost partners rather than they real thing, they can’t resist each other. Mickey too gets a final appearance, having become a real hero in the ongoing war against the Cybermen. After everything he’s been through, it’s nice to see signs of genuine friendship and respect between the Doctor and him, and I can’t object in any way to the fact that they all get a happy ending and a new start on the parallel Earth.

As for the Doctor, David Tennant gives his best performance in the role to date, helped considerably by Davies’ scripts. He is immediately concerned about the ghosts, ominously telling Jackie and Rose, “They’re pressing themselves into the surface of the world. But a footprint doesn’t look like a boot”, and proactively tracking their source of the manifestation. His handling of Yvonne is great, as he bluffs her into canceling the next ghost shift by deciding to sit back and “watch the fireworks”, rattling hr enough to decide, “I suppose it makes sense to get as much intelligence as possible”. The Doctor also gets some great, genuinely funny lines, most notably his response to Rose’s, “Doctor, they’ve got guns”, which is the magnificent, “And I haven’t. They can shoot me dead, but the moral high ground is mine”. This year, he saves the day, not Rose, devising a means of getting rid of the Daleks and the Cybermen, saving both Earths and repairing the breach in the universes. His “Who you gonna call?” bit is deeply irritating, but this is a brief aberration here rather than just one of many irritating moments. Notably, Tennant actually gets to act properly here, looking horrified when the Doctor realizes, “This world’s colliding with another. I think I know which one.” When the Doctor first sees the Daleks, he doesn’t comment at all, his expression alone conveying his horror.

And finally there’s Rose. Having been hugely impressed with Billie Piper’s performance in Season One, I’ve become increasingly bored with her character’s lovesick moping in Season Two and frankly am glad to see her depart. Nevertheless, she has generally been great companion material, and she gets plenty to do here, penetrating Torchwood’s security with brief success, and standing up to the Daleks, explaining how she destroyed the Emperor. Her opening monologue informs us, “This is the story of how I died”, building on hints laid down in ‘The Impossible Planet’/‘The Satan Pit’, but I didn’t believe it for one minute, and it does indeed prove to be a con. Nevertheless, having nearly sacrificed herself to exile in the void in order to keep the rift open until all of the Daleks and Cybermen have gone, she’s firmly isolated the Doctor once and for all when he permanently (I hope) seals the breach between the universes. Her final goodbye to the Doctor is cloying, but hardly unexpected; after several episodes of avoiding the subject, she finally blurts out, “I love you”. Mercifully the Doctor disappears before he can reciprocate.

With Rose gone, the Doctor ends the series looking tearful and morose in the console room. Wisely, Davies provides a coda that quickly snaps the Doctor out of his reverie, as he finds a new mystery facing him in the TARDIS. Unwisely, it involves Catherine bloody Tate. Merry Christmas.





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Tuesday, 11 July 2006 - Reviewed by Paul Hayes

In every battle there are casualties. In every war, there are heroes. Heroism means little or nothing, however, unless it is thrown into sharp relief by tragedy and sadness. When the two greatest alien races in the history of Doctor Who come together for the ultimate showdown, it follows that all of these qualities are going to be present for those who are caught in the crossfire – the Doctor, his companion, their friends, family and associates. Planet Earth. The universe.

As Doctor Who fans, we usually tend to judge ‘eras’ of the show more in terms of production personnel, specifically the producers, than the on-screen staff, aside of course from the Doctors. With the climactic Army of Ghosts and Doomsday two-parter, however, we have an epic finale not just to the second series of the new Doctor Who but, despite the Tenth Doctor and the production team all remaining in place, to an era that began back with Rose that wonderful night in March 2005. The ‘Tyler era’, if you will.

Rose is gone, and with her having left it’s hard not to think we have also seen the last of Jackie, Mickey and Pete, for better or for worse. Doctor Who, after a never dull first two years back on air, once again has to reinvent itself, change, adapt and wow us all over again in a whole new world of raised expectations and high definition viewing.

But such things are for the future. What of the present? The most mouth-watering of scenarios, one many fans have dreamed of and speculated about but until now not even the maddest of mad Big Finish writers dared try and put together – Daleks versus Cybermen.

It’s hard not to feel lifted, elated even by that cliffhanger at the end of the first episode. It’s a great moment, even if you knew or had guessed what was inside that Voidship – I mean, it’s the Daleks, for goodness sake! Arriving to kick some Cyber backside! How could that not be exciting? One of those real punch-the-air moments akin to, say, Earthshock episode one. This show can be deep, it can be thought-provoking and it can have moments of calm reflection, but we all know that it’s the moments like these that burn themselves onto children’s brains and the collective popular consciousness, and make our little fanboy chests swell with pride and excitement.

Personally, this excitement was added to by the thought of ‘Hurrah! A proper enemy is arriving!’ Because, as I think I have said before, I deeply dislike the Cybermen. I think they’re frankly a bit rubbish, and they’ve never made an impression on me as any kind of meaningful threat or exciting presence in a storyline – aside possibly from the aforementioned Earthshock – so I was glad to see that the Big Boys had arrived to boot them out of the picture and make bloody war.

Russell T Davies couldn’t resist having the two races throw some insults at each other about who was best. As a serious person trying to write a serious review of the episode I should disapprove strongly of this sort of daft meta business, but given it had me grinning hugely to myself I don’t feel as if I have the right to complain! Seeing the Cybermen hopelessly gunned down by the four Daleks – one Dalek would be enough, don’t forget! – also raised a smile. For those who are fonder of the Cybermen than I it was perhaps disappointing to see them turned into mere cannon-fodder as soon as the Premier League bad guys showed up – even humanity managed to blow one of them to bits, for goodness sake – but with so much to cram into these episodes not every element was ever going to receive the time and space it deserved.

I am, of course, jumping ahead. It wasn’t simply the great meeting of these two Who icons that Russell T Davies had to wrestle with – he had to pick up on and make sense of all the Torchwood references we have been getting all year, and that have driven so many fans half barmy.

Torchwood turns out to be run by Yvonne Hartman, and as my friend Tim pointed out in an e-mail to me immediately after Army of Ghosts was transmitted, it seems the organisation for all its boasts is actually so under-funded it can’t even afford to provide its director with a shirt. What with Yvonne’s jiggling and Rose and Jackie’s efforts in New Earth and Rise of the Cybermen respectively, you do perhaps have to wonder whether the over-arching plot arc or this season has been not in fact the Torchwood Institute but gratuitous cleavage shots.

When not busy thrusting her chest in the direction of anybody who will look, Yvonne is actually quite a good character – not the ice-cold bitch I had been expecting her to be, but actually quite fun and a little scatty, albeit slightly mad and a little obsessive with it. Torchwood itself looks like a cross between the Area 51 set-up from Independence Day and the BBC Television Centre props store circa 1975. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s similar ‘Initiative’ organisation in season four of that programme, you suspect that they simply lacked the money and the scale to be able to make it look as good as it ought to, although the idea of it being hidden in Canary Wharf is quite a clever one.

Less clever, and in fact a rather dubious piece of scripting by Davies, is the idea that this ultra-secret alien-bothering organisation could allow some building works to be going on right in their midst without anybody having the slightest clue that the Cybermen have set up camp down there and are snaffling up Torchwood employees as they head off for their coffee-and-kissing breaks.

Let’s face it, this is an organisation with a security system so slack that not only do they allow any passing cybernetic life form from a parallel universe to sneak in, but they also let Mickey set up shop undercover as a scientist. I was very pleased and not a little surprised by Clarke’s reappearance in Army of Ghosts, incidentally revealed in a nice shot over Doctor Singh’s back by Graeme Harper. Possibly more through luck than judgement – I had even looked at the Radio Times listing before the episode aired and completely missed his name in the credits – I had no idea that Mickey was returning for the grand finale. He lost out somewhat in Doomsday as Pete and Jake also returned to squeeze him out of the plot, and Rose’s departure at the end meant neither he nor Jackie got the farewells to the show they deserved, but proving that he has come a long, long way since the bumbling fool of Rose was perhaps enough.

Even Yvonne got to display a bravery when Doomsday came around – I was actually pretty heartbroken when the poor old Torchwood director was turned into a Cyberman, and it was quite a relief to see that her bloody-minded devotion to Queen and Country had left her with enough marbles rolling around in her head to provide a remarkable convenient blockade to the Cybermen about to ruin the Doctor’s plan. Also rather too convenient was Pete hopping back in the nick-of-time to rescue Rose from being sucked into the void. These niggles leave an uncomfortable sense of corner-cutting that just stops this two-parter from being up there with the very best of Doctor Who, although then again, if you’re going to start pulling adventure fiction apart for nick-of-time rescues then you’re going to bring the whole genre crashing down like a game of ker-plunk.

I wasn’t the only one to be less than thrilled with the rescue, however – poor old Rose herself was also left pretty devastated to be trapped on the wrong side of the void. Rose was always going to get an emotional send-off, and even though the Pete-less Jackie and Jackie-less Pete always seemed likely to end up together from right back in the first Cybermen two-parter of the season, Rose and Mickey ending up trapped in the alternative universe was less expected. In some ways, Rose has ended up with the same life she had before she met the Doctor – a job, Mickey as her boyfriend, her mum…

But she’s gained so much more. Not simply through travelling and experiencing so much of the universe with the Doctor, and learning about how to live a better life from him. Not simply from having a better job because of it all, or finding some sort of inner happiness and peace. But because she has her father back, and the stable nuclear family that you sense she probably always wanted all along. That’s what she was searching for with the Doctor, and why she became so deeply attached to him, and why it was always her personal tragedy that she could never have him. She loved him, but she could never have that fully-rounded life with him.

Nor he her, although it’s doubtful whether he loved her in the same way. He was snatched away – by the fanboy tractor beam, you might speculate! – before he was able to say it. He had to leave her behind for good, in Bad Wolf Bay, over and done with but perhaps finally at some sort of peace.

As with so many endings, however, even when it seems to be so final there is still a glimpse of how life can carry on afterwards, how some future point can pick up the threads. For here, through a coincidence of casting and a young actress seizing her chance to impress the programme’s producers, the future of Doctor Who has been glimpsed like a Watcher preceding a regeneration. Freema Agyeman may have played only a small part in Army of Ghosts, but she has a much bigger role – literally – to perform in the future of the series.

I for one cannot wait to see the future. Especially given the rather fun cliffhanger ending – Catherine Tate? Runaway Bride?

Barmy. But brilliant. As, of course, Doctor Who always is!





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

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.





Army of Ghosts/DoomsdayBookmark and Share

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.