by Catriona Mills

Live-Blogging Doctor Who: Journey's End

Posted 28 September 2008 in by Catriona

This live-blogging of the final episode brought to you by the fact that we had to chase two possums out of the kitchen this evening: the second time this week we’ve had to chase native animals out of the house.

I love Brisbane.

(Of course, the last great possum chase was slightly derailed by the fact that the possum was running hysterically in one direction and Nick was running in the opposite direction looking for his camera, while I was stopping the possum from making it into the bedroom, and wondering aloud why Nick needed to take pictures of the incident. But that’s not important right now.)

So this is the final real episode of Doctor Who until 2010: sure, there are the specials next year, but it’s not the same as a full season. We’ll see how it works out.

And he we go: the beginning of the final episode. And we have a brief recap of the events of the last episode, to begin with, including Davros. Davros!

And Gwen and Ianto.

And terrified Sarah Jane. (Nick tells me I gave away a spoiler there, last episode. Sorry about that: it’s hard to type and watch at the same time. I do try to keep things spoiler free, honestly.)

And here’s the episode, with the Doctor regenerating, but forcing that regeneration energy into his severed hand.

NICK: The Doctor Who equivalent of the Hand of God goal.

And here come Mickey and Jackie to save Sarah Jane.

And something mysterious to save Gwen and Ianto.

(I have to say, I wasn’t fooled by the regeneration sequence at the end of the last episode. I knew we’d have heard if Tennant was leaving the episode.)

Damn: Doctor and Rose angst. So over this.

Nick points out that the Doctor has technically used up a regeneration, even if he didn’t actually regenerate.

Now why won’t Captain Jack give Donna a hug?

So Torchwood is locked down: Captain Jack is outside, but Gwen and Ianto can do nothing because of Tosh’s time lock. And the TARDIS has been caught in a temporal loop and transferred to the Crucible, the Dalek control ship.

But Sarah insists on the three of them surrendering, so that they too will be taken to the Crucible, where the Doctor is. (Jackie, of course, is only interested in following Rose.)

Martha won’t explain what the Osterhagen Key is (Hee! Daleks talking in German! Funniest bit of the entire episode) but she’s going to activate it, anyway.

NICK: It’s a wonderful McGuffin.

Rose is explaining that her world is ahead of this one, and that this is how they know that the stars are going out—and that all the dimensional timelines converge on Donna. Donna, naturally, immediately puts herself down again, but we know what Donna’s capable of.

Even the Doctor’s scared, here: as he says, this is a Dalek empire at the height of its power. Not like the last time they fought the Daleks.

But something odd’s happening to Donna: she can hear a heartbeat that no-one else can hear.

Rose and Jack are pretending to be tough about the whole thing—but they’re scared. Jack’s terrified, even though he knows he should be fairly safe. And even Donna, who doesn’t really know what the Daleks are like, is concerned—but she keeps getting side-tracked by that heartbeat. The Doctor thinks she’s scared, but it’s more hypnotic than that.

But now Donna’s scared, because she’s trapped in the TARDIS, and the Daleks intend to destroy what they rightly identify as the Doctor’s greatest weapon. They’ve deposited it into the heart of the Z-neutrino energy that powers the Crucible, which will destroy it.

Now, Russell T. Davies: I warned you I’d stop watching if you destroyed the TARDIS.

The Doctor is, rightly, more concerned about Donna, but the loss of the TARDIS must hurt him, too.

Donna, meanwhile, has touched the Doctor’s hand, from which the heartbeat is emanating. And the glass breaks, and the hand glows, and a new Doctor grows from the severed hand.

A second Doctor. Completely naked, if that’s your cup of tea.

He activates the TARDIS and it dematerialises, but from the original Doctor’s perspective, it looks as though it has been destroyed.

Jack shoots the red Dalek, and is exterminated. This freaks Rose out: the Doctor, obviously, slightly less.

Rose and the Doctor are being taken to Davros; as they leave, Jack—who, remember, cannot die—winks at the Doctor.

Donna is freaked out: “Lop a bit off, grow another one? You’re like worms!” But this Doctor is much more frenetic than the original, and David Tennant does a nice Catherine Tate impression. This one only has one heart, and he owes his existence to Donna: part Time Lord, part human.

And he’s more intuitive than the original Doctor. He knows that Donna lacks self-confidence, that she really does think that she’s worthless. But he knows better. The original Doctor does, too, but he doesn’t see any reason to convince Donna of it; he doesn’t really see her fragility.

He emphasises again that the way in which he and Donna keep meeting each other over and over again is not common, that there must be something more to it than that.

Martha, meanwhile, has reached her destination, and met an old woman who has stayed while the soldiers—boys, all—have fled in terror. The woman has heard of the Osterhagen Key, and she knows what it does. She blends this with memories of a single trip to London, the central thought in all her memories—all spoken in a mixture of untranslated German and English, so we don’t understand all that she is saying—but she can’t bring herself to shoot Martha.

Jack is being incinerated, but he works his way out. What kind of incinerator has a lock on the inside? Still, it’s good for Jack that it does.

Sarah, Mickey, and Jackie are being taken for “testing.”

The Doctor and Rose are being “contained” in Davros’s vault. The Doctor suspects that Davros is no longer in charge of the Daleks—he claims Davros is the Daleks’ “pet.”

Dalek Kaan is ranting, again—Davros is committed to the idea of the prophecies that Kaan is repeating. His trip into the Time War means that he saw “time,” and that is what has driven him mad.

Once again, he emphasises that one of the companions will die, but the Doctor, of course, thinks that Donna is already dead.

Davros repeats the idea of “testing,” but this time he mentions that they are testing a “reality bomb.” Sarah easily runs away from the group, and Mickey follows her. But Jackie has stopped to help a woman who has fallen down, and now the Daleks are looking directly at her. She can’t escape.

The planetary alignment field allows them to power the reality bomb—and z-neutrino energy in a single stream. The Doctors know what this means, but everyone else is in the dark. The test subjects will soon find out, though—but not Jackie, because her teleporter has recharged; she can still escape, and does so.

Everyone else in the firing lines dissolves into their constituent atoms, leaving nothing but dust.

Donna and Rose both ask their respective Doctors what happened, but neither answer: Davros tells Rose that the reality bomb cancels the electronic field that holds the atoms in any object together. With the help of the twenty-seven planets, Davros can send the wave through the entire galaxy and through the interstices between galaxies, destroying all of reality.

(I originally wrote that as “destorying,” which is fair enough, but not quite accurate.)

Detonation is near: the Daleks are retreating.

Captain Jack meet up with Mickey, who’s both pleased to see him and not:

JACK: And that’s beefcake.
MICKEY: And that’s enough hugging.

Sarah Jane, though, has a warp star: an explosion waiting to happen.

And Martha has two other people on line, and that’s enough to activate the Osterhagen Key, but she won’t activate it yet, not until she’s tried one more thing.

And that’s contact the Daleks on behalf of UNIT.

(The clone Doctor, on the other hand, has an idea to lock the reality bomb onto Davros’s DNA, which will cause the plan to backfire.)

Martha explains that the Osterhagen Key—invented by someone called Osterhagen, the Doctor supposes—will detonate nuclear bombs below Earth’s surface, tearing the planet apart.

The Doctor objects, but Martha points out that the Dalek needs these twenty-seven planets, and have no use for twenty-six planets.

Jack also pops up on the monitor, with the warp star. It gives Sarah, too, a chance to confront Davros, whom she originally met back on Skaro as a much younger woman. I’d love the deal with that confrontation in more detail, but I don’t have time.

Because Davros is pointing out that the Doctor has killed many people over the years: his daughter, the stewardess, River, the tree woman from season one, Rattigan, the man from “Tooth and Claw” . . . many, many others whose names I can’t remember, and that’s only the people who’ve died in the past four seasons. Many more died in the Doctor’s name between 1963 and 1989—it might have been nice to see some of them.

Martha and the others are drawn into the Crucible’s vault, with Davros, the original Doctor, and Rose.

DAVROS: Detonate the reality bomb!

And then the evil cackle. For one friend of ours, that was his sole update on every social-networking site around for about three days after this episode aired. “Detonate the reality bomb! AHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

But now the clone Doctor and the TARDIS are here: unfortunately, the clone Doctor is a bit rubbish, and ends up getting shot and locked in a cell. Donna, trying to activate the weapon, is also shot.

But the bomb isn’t detonated? Why not?

Donna!

Donna’s not dead—and, as the Doctor points out, she can’t even change a plug. So what’s happened?

She has control of the Daleks, who are horribly confused by the fact that they can’t exterminate anyone.

The Ood saw this coming: the Doctor-Donna, they mentioned.

(Ha! The spinning Daleks make me giggle every time. And they remind me of the sad, wailing Daleks dying of lack of radiation in the original William Hartnell Dalek story. So sad, that was.)

So it was a two-way meta-biological crisis (or something like that: this is a hard episode to recap), and now Donna is part Time Lord, as the clone Doctor is part human. And Donna knows what needs to be done to send all the planets back home: without those, the reality bomb is no threat.

SARAH: So there’s three of you?
ROSE: Three Doctors?
JACK: Oh, I can’t even tell you what I’m thinking right now.

Jack, we all know what you’re thinking of right now. You’re not exactly an opaque character, in this regard.

Dalek Kaan has been manipulating the time lines: in his trip into the Time Wars, he has seen what the Daleks have done, and he objects. He is working to the end of the Daleks, but he needs the Doctor to do it.

The Doctor won’t.

But the clone Doctor will. He reverses the power feeds, blowing each and every Dalek in the Crucible, in all the ships, into dust.

Oh, and the Doctor is not happy. Because he’s seeing himself re-commit the genocide that we know he committed. And Davros is left alone on his burning battleship: the Doctor wants to save him, but Davros refuses—he forces the Doctor to accept the fact of his genocide. And Dalek Kaan insists that one will still die.

The Doctor calls Torchwood, and he calls Luke and Mr Smith—but wait! What’s this? K9!

K9! Good dog, K9! I’ve been waiting all episode for you!

With the help of Torchwood and Mr Smith (and K9!)—but not Jackie, who’s not allowed to touch anything—the Doctor can fly Earth back home, towing it behind the TARDIS with the help of the rift.

A little silly? Perhaps.

Lovely music, though. And Ianto seems to be enjoying himself. And I like to see Ianto enjoying himself.

Plus, this is a bit of a break from the recapping, because we’re still ten minutes away from the end of the episode, and I’m already thoroughly confused about whether I’ve mentioned all the main points or not.

So Donna finally gets her cuddle from Captain Jack? I don’t know how I feel about the fact that Donna’s not just the only woman, not just the only human, but the only sentient being that Jack’s been reluctant to cuddle.

Back on Earth, Sarah’s off, to see to her teenage son.

Mickey’s off; he doesn’t want to go back to the parallel world.

Jack and Martha are off: Jack’s been deprived of his teleport, but hints at another possible career for Martha, other than UNIT.

Mickey’s not stupid, he says: his Gran’s dead, and he can see which way the wind’s blowing, so he’s off after Jack and Martha.

The Doctor, meanwhile, is back to Bad Wolf Bay: Jackie’s not thrilled about being in Norway, because she’ll have to get Pete to pick her up.

Rose doesn’t want to return to the parallel universe, but the Doctor says she has to, because the clone Doctor needs her. He, she says, is himself when he first met Rose, fresh from committing genocide and scarred by his war experience. The Doctor wants her to heal him, as she originally healed the original Doctor.

Rose is reluctant, but Donna points out the great gift that the Doctor is trying to give her: this Doctor has only one heart, so he will age and die as Rose does. He can spend the rest of his life with her.

Rose is still reluctant, but when the clone Doctor completes the sentence that the original Doctor never managed to finish in “Doomsday,” Rose grabs him and kisses him.

She still runs after the TARDIS when it leaves without her noticing, though.

I feel a little sorry for the clone Doctor—I think things are going to be a little difficult for him at first, with Rose or without her.

Donna, on the other hand, is breaking down. Her brain can’t contain the effects of the human-Time Lord meta-crisis (I must go back and correct this), and the Doctor knows what’s happening.

Donna knows, too, but she doesn’t suspect the consequences.

Until right now. She knows what he’s going to do—she can see it in his face, and he apologises, but she’s crying and she’s begging him not to, and this scene breaks my heart, because he’s going to strip everything away from her, everything that makes her Donna.

He’s going to do what the humans did to the Ood.

Damn, I don’t want to watch this again.

And he does it.

And he takes the unconscious Donna back to her mother and her grandfather, stripped of every memory of the Doctor. And no one can ever mention it to her again, for the rest of her life. She can’t ever know what happened to her.

And Bernard Cribbens is weeping: he knows what this means. He knows that Donna grew and stretched while she was with the Doctor, and now that’s all gone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the cruelest thing that the Doctor has ever done.

And I know Sylvia is trying to be supportive of Donna here—the whole “She’s my daughter” thing—but it breaks my heart to see that braying woman on the phone, not knowing who the Doctor is or what they did, and knowing she’s been dumped back into that suffocating life, with her hen-pecked grandfather who has to escape up the hill to be able to breathe and a mother who’s constantly berating and belittling her.

Oh, Donna.

What Rose goes through—a parallel universe, sure, but with her mother, her formerly dead father, her ex-boyfriend, and a clone of her recent boyfriend—is nothing compared to this wholesale destruction of Donna.

Okay, I can see in his face that the Doctor feels the horror of what he’s done.

Good.

I say again: this is the cruelest thing you’ve ever done, Doctor. Ever.

(For those of you watching these as they air on the ABC, some of us had an enthusiastic conversation about this episode here. It was spoilerific, but no longer.)

Share your thoughts [37]

1

Wendy wrote at Sep 28, 10:47 AM

even though I knew what was going to happen…that was just so sad to watch!

2

Catriona wrote at Sep 28, 10:59 AM

I agree. This is the hardest episode to watch—this is the third time I’ve seen it, and I still found it incredibly difficult to watch those last few minutes.

3

Tim wrote at Sep 28, 11:31 AM

The regeneration cheat is laaaaame, as far as I’m concerned. And the transfer of the Doctor’s conciousness into Donna is ludicrous. And isn’t it handy that the new Doctor can fit his mind just fine into his part-human body, but nothing can be done for Donna except wipe her mind? (And the Doctor is inconsistent even on that — he says he’s wiped her mind, but then says she can’t be told about anything that happened, suggesting he’s only suppressed the memories. Or something.)

The Osterhagen Key sideline is also a bit daft (a handful of nukes aren’t going to destroy a planet), and the scenes with the German woman don’t work well for me. And for both Martha and Jack, a bit less talking and a bit more blowing up might have been in order. Though I like, on reflection, that those bits kind of invert the motif of the villain monologuing too long and thus allowing the hero to foil his plan.

I found the Reality Bomb a bit underwhelming, and not just in terms of the SFX. If it does merely disrupt the electromagnetic force, it’s just a disintegrator writ large; as described, the bomb wouldn’t actually destroy the universe, it would destroy only the matter within it.

The Daleks are beaten a bit too easily at the end. If Davros is their pet, why do they let him have a control station that can apparently blow up their entire empire?

As I’ve said before, the Doctor is a bit hypocritical in accusing his clone of genocide. Just what was he (the original Doctor) going to do? Let the Daleks live?

And I’ll say again that giving Rose her own Doctor is an extra kick in the teeth for those of us who found the ending for Donna heartwrenching.

4

Catriona wrote at Sep 28, 11:54 AM

Tim, where’s the love?

I’ve seen on the Flick Filosopher’s blogs for Doctor Who, she always adds a note that it’s a love-fest only, and negative comments won’t be moderated.

If I tried that, there’d be no comment threads: we’re all too critical (using the term in a strictly neutral sense and including myself in that category).

The gender issue around Donna’s breakdown are being discussed in some detail here. I think Nick’s started an online war over there, actually.

I wasn’t a big fan of the regeneration cheat myself—not because of the regeneration angle, but because I don’t like that kind of fake-out. I’m always a little chary about devices that work on the reader’s emotions rather than on clever narrative development, and fake-outs fit into that category.

(It reminds me a little of the probably apocryphal story about a penny-dreadful writer who left his hero in a dreadful predicament—tied in a room, unable to escape the fate encroaching on him—and then disappeared into the country. The editor had brought in another author, despairing of the original author ever returning, but the new author had no idea where to take the story. Then the original author strolled in, glanced over his original manuscript, and wrote “With one bound, the hero was free.” Fake outs always feel a little like that to me, but these programmes, unlike penny-weekly serials and dreadfuls, are written long in advance, so there’s no excuse for it.)

Nick’s description of the Osterhagen Key as a McGuffin seems bang on the money. It doesn’t even really advance the plot—it advances Davros’s argument about the effect that the Doctor has on his companions, though.

But without it, Martha would never have gone to Germany. And my life would be a little poorer if there had never been Daleks speaking in German.

I don’t have a problem with the reality bomb, though. I don’t think that Davros really intended to destroy the universe: that was partly hyperbole, I suspect. He needs somewhere for his Daleks to live, to meet their destiny as the supreme beings in the galaxy. But he doesn’t want them to have to compete with other lifeforms, so he will destroy all of them and their homeworlds, anything that might allow life to spring up again in some form other than the Daleks.

The point about the accusation of genocide is interesting. We know the Doctor has committed genocide, and I can sincerely believe that he would never bring himself to do it again. We don’t know what he might have done, but that he couldn’t stretch to genocide again makes sense to me—after all, we’ve seen him step back from it before, in “Genesis of the Daleks,” which means his concern with it here is an interesting point of continuity.

But then Rose committed genocide, too—she destroyed all the extant Daleks at the end of season one. Where’s his righteous anger against her?

Maybe Rose and the clone are a good match, after all. But as to that, I agree with you entirely. Kick in the teeth is putting it mildly.

5

Tim wrote at Sep 28, 12:09 PM

For the record, I’ll state that I found the two-parter great fun to watch, despite all my complaints.

I meant to add that, like you, I found the Jack-Donna interaction unnerving, and it ties in with the gender issues you mention.

> But without it, Martha would never have gone to Germany. And my life would be a little poorer if there had never been Daleks speaking in German.

Easily fixed. As the Daleks invade in the previous episode, have a few shots of them descending on other cities, shouting ‘EXTERMINATE’ in German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese etc. For added value, throw in shots from cities on some of the other stolen planets.

> I don’t have a problem with the reality bomb, though. I don’t think that Davros really intended to destroy the universe: that was partly hyperbole, I suspect. He needs somewhere for his Daleks to live, to meet their destiny as the supreme beings in the galaxy. But he doesn’t want them to have to compete with other lifeforms, so he will destroy all of them and their homeworlds, anything that might allow life to spring up again in some form other than the Daleks.

In that regard, the text is consistent — the Supreme Dalek calls the fleet back to the safe zone where they will ride out the cataclysm. (It’s also possible that the stolen planets will also survive.) If the plan works, the Daleks will then emerge, having finally exterminated everyone else. But Davros ought to be scientifically precise.

> But then Rose committed genocide, too—she destroyed all the extant Daleks at the end of season one. Where’s his righteous anger against her?

Indeed.

And both times, the power of Plot has contrived to make sure the Daleks are (almost) wiped out but the Doctor doesn’t have to push the button himself.

6

Nick Caldwell wrote at Sep 28, 12:26 PM

And both times, the power of Plot has contrived to make sure the Daleks are (almost) wiped out but the Doctor doesn’t have to push the button himself.

I don’t want this to sound like special pleading on Davies’ behalf, but a lot of the time it seems to me that he’s pushing up fairly hard against Doctor Who‘s format – he’s perfectly capable of taking storylines to their unpleasant logical conclusions but to do so with Doctor Who would probably make it a show a large part of the British audience could no longer watch. And then you’d have Torchwood :-)

The question becomes why does he risk playing with these ideas if he knows he can’t really do them justice?

7

Catriona wrote at Sep 28, 12:31 PM

Oh, I’m sure you enjoyed them. I did, too. But no text is perfect, no matter how enjoyable it it—except maybe Galaxy Quest. That’s close to perfect.

The more I think about the Jack-Donna interaction, the more unnerving I do find it. Jack is thoroughly without discrimination: why would he seem so unwilling to hug Donna?

I remember someone wondering in this thread on Larvatus Prodeo about why the Doctor didn’t fancy Donna, and whether it had to do with the fact that she’s significantly older than the other companions.

Someone else quite rightly pointed out in that debate that the Doctor didn’t fancy Martha, either—she fancied him, but it wasn’t reciprocated.

But this Jack angle does make me wonder: I liked the complete lack of sexual tension between Donna and the Doctor. I’m rather bored with the companion-deeply-in-love-with-the-Doctor angle (and even more so with the fact that it’s opened the show right up to rabid ‘shippers, the like of which I haven’t seen in years). But are we supposed to see Donna as a woman completely lacking in any kind of sex appeal, at all? (Surely not, if she married that lovely stuttering chappie from the Library.) So why this odd interlude with Jack, which is wildly inconsistent with his character as we know it and doesn’t seem to advance the plot at all?

I hadn’t noticed until this episode that the Doctor manages to keep committing genocide by proxy. But you’re absolutely right: he doesn’t have to, because he has tools to do it for him. Now, to be fair, I suppose he couldn’t have stopped Rose, because she was using the power of the Time Vortex: for her, to think the action was to complete it, and there was no time even for a Time Lord to intercede.

But where’s his anger?

Or perhaps his anger against his clone is a front: I’m thinking again of Steven Moffat’s comment at one of the Comic Cons that you have to admire the way the Doctor rids himself of a slightly clingy ex-girlfriend by fobbing her off on a clone in a parallel universe.

Plus, as Tigtog pointed out over on the original thread about the finale, it was a neat way of getting the Rose ‘shippers to quieten down about bringing Billie Piper back as a full-time companion. That’s something.

I just wish it hadn’t been done at, essentially, Donna’s expense.

8

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 12:42 AM

Something else I forgot. Davros re Rose: “She is mine to do as I please.” Ewww!

9

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 01:03 AM

Frankly, that’s more sexist than Donna’s ending. The same is true of the Doctor, but Davros doesn’t make suggestive comments about him . . .

Or perhaps “heteronormative” would be a better word there than “sexist.”

10

tim wrote at Sep 29, 02:25 AM

I’m fairly sure that Davros’s line is a simple script error. I’m disappointed it crept into the finished product, though.

11

Matthew Smith wrote at Sep 29, 03:25 AM

DETONATE THE REALITY BOMB! AHAHHAHHAHHAHAA

12

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 03:43 AM

Even if they’d corrected the syntax to something like “to do with as I please,” it’s still a potentially suggestive comment. But point taken.

And, Matt, good to see I didn’t need to include your actual name in the original post. I take it that means you enjoyed the episode?

13

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 04:43 AM

Yes, it’s meant to be suggestive but not explicit.

Another thing: We knew Jack was the Man Who Cannot Die; is his uniform also the Uniform That Cannot Die now?

And one more kicker: Donna now can’t even remember the events of her wedding day.

14

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 05:36 AM

I don’t know why it is, but immortal people tend to have immortal clothes. The same thing happened (though I shudder to draw this comparison with Doctor Who) with Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; he got shot to pieces, and then his clothes healed their own bullet wounds. Still, I suppose he may have been wearing those clothes in his portrait . . .

Now, re. the wedding day, I think we brought this up in another thread: maybe the original discussion of the episode? Presumably, Donna went through all the incidents of her relationship with Lance and the disaster of her wedding, but now she has no idea why she’s not married. How on earth are her family and friends going to get around that little problem?

15

Matthew Smith wrote at Sep 29, 06:17 AM

I couldn’t take this episode seriously at all. I guess you can use the “It’s for children” excuse but I really felt it was very poor. Including the poorly thought out implications of the ending(s). Overly sentimental, over-complicated and silly plot, implausible stuff with the Doctor’s regeneration / meta bio crisis, too many characters. I was waiting for them to nuke a fridge.

16

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 06:59 AM

Wow: I thought you’d rather enjoyed it.

I don’t want to seem to pick on what was probably a casual phrase, but I don’t think “it’s for children” is an excuse, per se.

Doctor Who is a children’s show. It’s always been a children’s show, and the new series is a children’s show. The fact that it’s watched, enjoyed, and blogged about by adults doesn’t change that fact.

I didn’t find it overly sentimental, either—I’m not fond of the Rose/Doctor angle any more (never have been, really), so I’m not keen on that, especially the fairy-tale ending (with the provisos noted above, that is). (In fact, there’s a blog post on that subject coming up).

But compared to, say, “Father’s Day” in the first season, I didn’t find this one too sentimental. In fact, the ending was less than sentimental—it was brutal.

But I’d thought on the previous thread we had on this topic that you’d rather enjoyed the episode?

17

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 07:02 AM

Haven’t we seen other instances in which Jack’s clothes are damaged? Though I guess he might not actually have been incinerated, just locked in.

Exactly. And what are her parents going to tell her friends? “Don’t mention the wedding. At all. Ever. Or Donna’s head will explode. No, we can’t really explain why. And remember those Adipose pills? Don’t mention them either. Oh, and that ATMOS thing, when the sky came on fire? Don’t mention that. And…”

Oh, and I got very tired of the saluting very quickly. And the Doctor had apparently got over his feelings against this.

18

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 07:24 AM

I didn’t think he was actually incinerated: just locked in long enough for his clothes to get a little warm. If he’d been incinerated, died, come back to life, and escaped, then I think a little more time would have passed.

The wedding thing is the one that really bothers me. As the Doctor points out, they can mention the other events, as stories in which Donna took no active part. (I object to that, of course, but I can see how that would work, because she’s defaulted to the kind of woman she was in the beginning, who was essentially uninterested in any of this: the “I was in Spain” mentality, as John puts it.) And no one except for Bernard Cribbens actually knows how much of a role the Doctor played in those events, now that Donna’s forgotten it all.

But how on earth are they supposed to get around the wedding incident? The only explanation I can think of is that the Doctor also took every memory she had relating to Lance—or implanted a false memory as to why the wedding never took place. And even the latter wouldn’t work unless, as you say, her family have a quiet word with everyone who was there or to whom she might mention the event.

19

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 07:59 AM

It is possible to enjoy watching an episode while at the same time loathing many of its contrivances (or even just shrugging at them with indifference). I can say the same for my reactions to much of Doctor Who, to be honest, or to fiction in general.

> Doctor Who is a children’s show. It’s always been a children’s show, and the new series is a children’s show. The fact that it’s watched, enjoyed, and blogged about by adults doesn’t change that fact.

Nonetheless it places important qualifications on your assertion. For a start, I’d say that Doctor Who has always been a family show. Secondly, the new Who is obviously aware that it has an adult audience. Thirdly, and I think most importantly, having children as a target audience should never be a justification for poor writing.

20

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 08:51 AM

But it didn’t seem from Matt’s comment that he’d enjoyed any of the episode. Or, more accurately, he didn’t mention anything that he’d enjoyed. We’ve all been critical about each of the episodes on here, even when we’ve enjoyed them. We tend to pick the points that irritated us, perhaps because we enjoy the show so much.

I’m not arguing with that.

But when Matt suggests that he felt they were going to nuke the fridge and doesn’t mention a single bit of the episode that he enjoyed, it surprised me a little, because I thought he had enjoyed it.

As per the children’s television argument, my only point was that I don’t think it’s used as an excuse; I think it’s how they identify.

That is an important distinction, to my mind.

(I’m not going into the distinction between the children’s show and the family show right now.)

Yes, it has an adult audience. Yes, it recognises that adult audience. None of that negates my initial point, which is that it identifies as a show with a large children’s audience. (I believe that Moffat calls it a children’s show, for example.)

I don’t believe that the fact that it’s a children’s show is an excuse for bad writing.

I don’t believe that Davies, who got his start in children’s television, or Steven Moffat, who did likewise, think that it’s an excuse, either.

Does that mean neither is capable of bad writing?

Of course not.

But I don’t think they’d ever use that as an excuse.

21

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 08:54 AM

I wonder what excuse they do use, then.

22

Nick Caldwell wrote at Sep 29, 09:05 AM

Davies is a frustrating writer, to be sure. His season endings are, as a fan critic once commented, ‘complete bobbins’ most of the time: they barely hang together logically, are almost devoid plot, rely heavily on deus ex machina endings and whopping big reset buttons, and have great steaming loads of sentimentality leavened with frequent moments of bleakness (the Doctor regenerating, the Doctor losing Rose, the Doctor losing the only other Time Lord and Martha leaving, the Doctor losing Rose again and mindwiping Donna).

But he can also write exceptionally well-crafted, rigourously logical, and entirely unsentimental gems like “Midnight”.

So I don’t think it’s accidental that the big beat episodes like “Journey’s End” don’t really hang together in the way that we would like — the goal is to deliver a mix of a certain kind of euphoric sensory experience with emotionally devastating character moments.

And he succeeds — as measured by Audience Appreciation Index figures as well as ratings — to an extent that virtually no other modern British television producer can even imagine.

23

Catriona wrote at Sep 29, 09:12 AM

Maybe it’s just the fact that sometimes, try as we might, writers just write badly.

I’m not saying I don’t find Davies frustrating: I do, on occasion.

I’m just saying I don’t think he’s ever been a writer who has dismissed children’s television as not worth the effort.

24

Tim wrote at Sep 29, 11:22 AM

> So I don’t think it’s accidental that the big beat episodes like “Journey’s End” don’t really hang together in the way that we would like — the goal is to deliver a mix of a certain kind of euphoric sensory experience with emotionally devastating character moments.

Of course it’s not accidental. I’m just wondering whether Davies thinks it’s great work, or he thinks it is shoddy but doesn’t really care.

> And he succeeds — as measured by Audience Appreciation Index figures as well as ratings — to an extent that virtually no other modern British television producer can even imagine.

Yes. And Titanic was the highest-grossing film in history.

25

Nick Caldwell wrote at Sep 29, 12:59 PM

“Of course it’s not accidental. I’m just wondering whether Davies thinks it’s great work, or he thinks it is shoddy but doesn’t really care.”

Well, shoddy’s a bit of a loaded term! I’d say it’s a piece of work that does certain things very well and is perhaps less interested in doing things in a way that we’d find valuable.

And Titanic? Well, taken on its merits, Titanic was an entirely ephemeral piece of pop film-making that managed to resonate with the audience of the day extraordinarily well. So there are certainly continuities with the present-day Doctor Who experience. But I don’t think Titanic had the uniformly positive critical reception that Doctor Who has had since its return.

Remember, too, that the Audience Appreciation figures are derived from asking audiences whether they thought the programme was good as well as enjoyable. The +90% positive figures for “Journey’s End” are not uncommon for shows with a strong and dedicated, but tiny, cult audience, but completely unprecedented for something that rates as well as Doctor Who.

26

Matthew Smith wrote at Sep 29, 11:52 PM

Ah sorry, I was away from the browser for a bit. I must have been in a bad mood yesterday. I enjoyed the episode but at the same time, there were lots of things bugging me as I watched it. Now I’m all bitter about how it could have been better had they just paid a bit more attention. It seems to me that Russell was suffering from “Yes you’re a genius” disease as he put this together: i.e. everyone around him thinks he’s such a legend that nobody questions whether any of the ideas are bad or not. Every creative person needs people around them who will tell them when something is a bit daft. Then again, the creative freedom Russell has been given has allowed him to do some interesting things even if they came across as a bit clunky.

What I liked about this episode: I liked how it looked. I liked how it sounded. I liked it that Donna’s mind was erased (even though I was annoyed with the premise of it). I liked it how the Doctor looked in the final scene and David Tennants acting in general. In fact I just like Donna and the Doctor and wished it could have just been them fighting the Daleks and Davros. How about this: in the course of thwarting the Davros, the Daleks hack Donna’s brain and the only way he can save her is to remove the memories going back a certain time. But then at the very end after the Tardis dematerialises, we see Donna do something which reveals that even though she can’t remember anything, she has in fact somehow changed and her life is going to be better,

I liked the sound of the Reality Bomb but I wish it could have done something other than disintegrate the universe. Maybe it could have warped time and space in such a way that the Daleks could be anywhere and everywhere at anytime.

Anyway, I can’t explain why I’m so down on Doctor Who this week. I think I’m grieving.

27

Tim wrote at Sep 30, 12:32 AM

> Well, shoddy’s a bit of a loaded term! I’d say it’s a piece of work that does certain things very well and is perhaps less interested in doing things in a way that we’d find valuable.

Fair point.

> But I don’t think Titanic had the uniformly positive critical reception that Doctor Who has had since its return.

I don’t believe the reception has been uniformly positive.

28

John wrote at Sep 30, 01:13 AM

Once, there was time when TV shows just stopped when they got to the end of the season, or they might have had a two-parter so as to “double” the action.

Then, sometime around the beginning of Buffy perhaps, producers got the idea that the final had to be bigger than huge, in order—presumably—to carry the audience through the off-season, so that they would tune in again in the new year.

Doctor Who has always suffered from this belief: the season one final called for the destruction of the Earth, for crying out loud. And every final has to trump the one before, so I despair at where we might go in the future—what’s bigger than the destruction of the whole multiverse, nay, reality itself?

And of course, the fans and viewers are the ones who demand this: we demand this! And love it. I suspect if the final had been a gem like “Blink” or “Midnight”, we would all have been slightly disappointed.

It’s just that sometimes the disbelief is harder to willingly suspend…

29

Catriona wrote at Sep 30, 03:37 AM

That’s a good point, John—I hadn’t thought about that. I wonder if it’s a model that’s come out of the U. S., or somewhere else, or sprung up spontaneously all over the place?

30

Nick Caldwell wrote at Sep 30, 03:43 AM

OK, substitute “overwhelmingly” for “uniformly” then :-)

It’s quite striking that the main critics of the new Doctor Who have either been fans or people who don’t actually like television!

31

Catriona wrote at Sep 30, 04:21 AM

I don’t know that it’s that striking that the fans are so often critical: fans are like that.

I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a disinterested bystander who pointed out that “Timelash” is an anagram for “lame shit.”

(Sorry, Mam—if you get around to reading the blog!)

But your point is a valid one.

32

Wendy wrote at Oct 5, 07:34 AM

are you going to be liveblogging anything else now on sunday evenings?

33

Catriona wrote at Oct 5, 07:47 AM

Not tonight! I’m still marking.

I think the only option at the moment is Australian Idol, and I’m not sure I could stand to do that. But I have been thinking of going back and live-blogging the first three seasons, incrementally.

It wouldn’t be the same as live-blogging them while they’re airing on the telly, but I do enjoy live-blogging . . .

34

Wendy wrote at Oct 5, 09:13 AM

well it’s great to read too!
there’s not a lot of other good choices out there at the moment maybe?

I’m thinking of starting my own seinfeld project of all series …more like an episode chronicle though than liveblogging

35

Catriona wrote at Oct 5, 09:33 AM

I recommend live-blogging; because you set up the exigencies of the form in advance, reader should be kinder re. any slips in grammar or syntax. Plus, it puts extraordinary stresses on the writing process, which I find refreshing.

It’s a big commitment, though. And it would be a huge commitment to do Seinfeld. How many seasons were there? Seven?

36

Wendy wrote at Oct 5, 09:43 AM

Nine actually i think…it would be pretty long term…although the early seasons are very short – five or six episodes at most in series 1
hmmm…I’ll give some thought to the liveblogging…could be a useful writing exercise as you say

37

Catriona wrote at Oct 5, 09:48 AM

That few episodes? Really? I had no idea! That’s British comedy short! (The problem is watching it on Channel 10, which has no respect for season breaks.)

It’s really tiring and you’ll probably (if my experience is anything to go by) spend the half an hour in a state of panic, thinking you’re missing the important bits. But it’s fun.

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