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Army of Ghosts

Series Two, Episode Twelve
Mike Eveleigh

A local shop here in Cardiff had a sign outside for a few weeks advertising 'OOD and DRINK'. Made me smile every time I walked past; imagining a very polite alien serving behind the counter. (They've fixed it now, unfortunately. Just thought I'd share that with anyone who might read this!)

In a very forced attempt to make this vaguely relevant, this season of 'Doctor Who' has made me smile, often. Laugh out loud sometimes.Even cheer occasionally.

Well, 'Army of Ghosts' hasn't bucked that trend.

Roses' opening voiceover was an intriguing 'teaser'...is this a voice from 'beyond the grave'? Is "died" metaphorical rather than literal? My own theory (no doubt wrong, but ya never know; I was right about Bad Wolf) is that traumatic events that occur in 'Doomsday' (I know, the clue's in the title.) result in the Doctor and Rose, ahem, parting ways...but she doesn't die. Someone close to her does, and she just can't go on...I'm glad I don't know.

Speculating further, knock-on effects could include a darkening of the tenth Doctors persona (I really like this Doctor, and we've seen glimpses of darkness, so this could well work in Tennant's favour...assuming he IS staying of course!) and less contemporary Earth stories. (Fair do's, we've had 8 out of 21 stories of this nature so far...hardly overkill.I mean, we had 39 episodes in a row at the start of the 70's with no travels in space *or* time!)

And...the end of the so-called Tyler 'soap'...an extended family of regular characters for the audience to identify with. It has largely worked for me personally, to be honest. A lot more identifiable to me than the 'UNIT' family. (Don't get me wrong; it's not a favourite, but I'm fond of the Pertwee era.) Hmm, maybe I'm still a bit prickly remembering my favourite era being dismissed as 'the Davison soap'...ah well, s'all a matter of opinion.

Back to the point! A brief list of things that made me laugh/smile this week. (stealing some recent reviewers approach!)

a) The Doctor getting yet more 'lip action', but not being very pleased about it.

b) The fun 'TV clips' ; especially Dame Barbara in (ahhhh!) The Queen Vic, yelling "Gerratamypub!!" Brilliant.

c) "Ghostbusters!!!"

d) "If we end up on Mars...I'm gonna kill you."

I know a number of people cannot stand Jackie; personally I've always liked the character, and think she's just getting better!

Of course, things start to get a bit darker. I enjoyed Tracy-Ann Oberman's performance very much. Her character is charming, worryingly patriotic and a bit 'happy clappy new management' -type person...be interested to see how she developes as she ends this episode clearly out of her depth...

And...it's 'Action Mickey'!!! Good to see the lad back, even though, rather annoyingly, I already knew via 'The Observer'...b*gger.

By the way, that 'extermination' shot in the preview for this episode I could've done without.

David Tennant mentioning The Eternals from a favourite Davison story got a cheer.

I'll pontificate more after I've seen how this story pans out. Come on, Saturday.

(Aside: The reviews of 'Love & Monsters' were fascinatingly diverse. Kudos to the review which made a great point about Roses' selfishness re: Jackie and added, with impeccable timing, "strident cow." That made me laugh out loud. And hey, I'm no conservative in any way or form, didn't like the,er, oral allusion cos it was rather cr*p and creepy in the context of the episode, and respect everyone's opinions.....however misguided they are!)

That's a joke, by the way. Hope we all enjoy a memorable concusion....soon see.

A.D. Morrison

A story directed by Graema Harper and written by RTD is going to be a curious thing, rather like teaming up Bob Baker and Dave Martin with Douglas Camfield: a bizarre combination of breathlessly action-packed camera work and a tongue-in-cheek script. That sort of sums up Army of Ghosts, though thankfully this time the script is a little more focused than RTD's previous efforts (though not the standard of his consumate Tooth and Claw) and runs along fairly smoothly and purposefully, though shows the usual signs of overt ambitiousness (packing in Torchwood, 'ghosts', military, Cybermen, Daleks etc.), domestic tedium (a superfluous reunion with Jackie in that bloody flat again; Jackie travelling in the Tardis), and totally inappropriate and jarring contemporaneous terrestrial 'jokes' (the Doctor's completely stupid 'I ain't afraid of no ghost' and his 'Come on my beaut-a-y!'), and, as usual, whimsical snatches of modern day popular culture (the rather silly excerpts from Trisha and EastEnders - thankfully very brief; the absurd ghost weather report and the derivative snatch of the Ghostwatch programme, lifted from the early 90s TV spoof hosted by Michael Parkinson.) Now we know where the Tenth Doctor gets all his peurile references from: watching Jackie's TV all the time! A far cry from the poetry-quoting Fourth and Sixth Doctors. Tennant is certainly the 'TV Doctor' (and sorry for spelling your name wrong in all my reviews by the Mr T, I left out one of the n's). And talking of parallel worlds, isn't it odd that while they show a snippet from EastEnders as the terrestrial programme it is, and should be, in the Who universe (though this has no place in it), the very actress who played the woman who killed Dirty Den - hence his ghost appearing in the Queen Vic - is cast as the episode's main incidental character. Very odd casting given the circumstances. Mind you, arguably nothing has been as controversial still as that scene from Remembrance of the Daleks with the TV announcer - now that was risky.

RTD is gifting the older fans a complete orgy of nostalgia in this penultimate episode: Cybermen and Daleks aside, there are also some subtle touches such as the sarcophagus standing next to the Tardis in the hangar (cue Pyramids of Mars) and the Tardis on a truck (cue Time Monster) (the new series is fairly good at these visual touches actually: in my review of Idiot's Lantern I missed mentioning that the roof aeriels of the houses were all shaped like swaztikas for instance). In all surface ways this is almost the most nostalgia-heavy Doctor Who story ever done (second perhaps to The Five Doctors) - one can only puzzle as to the conspicuous absence of UNIT in the proceedings, but maybe they'll make an appearance next episode.

RTD's 'polemics' are back with the revelation that Torchwood is committed to reviving the British Empire and, tellingly, refuses to use 'the metric system', obviously very territorial and anti-European. This is all actually quite a good touch (as were the lycanthropy insinuations regarding the Royal family in Tooth and Claw) and is perhaps needed in a show which traditionally conveys thinly-veiled political comment on the issues of the day, and with the rising tide of territorialism among many European states (not least the UK), this is, in my opinion, very welcome. It does however sit oddly next to the simultaneous thread of patriotism and Britishness running through most of the new series to date (ubiquitous Union Jacks throughout The Empty Child/Doctor Dances, Christmas Invasion, Idiot's Lantern and Fear Her). But I suppose what RTD presents us with is the difference between outright nationalism and diluted, Brit-pop-ish, Blairite, wet patriotism - Britishness in other words. Mmm. I'm still not a fan. Despite the ongoing liberal polemical touches to new Who, it still lacks the leftist radicalism of the old days (cue Ambassadors of Death, Claws of Axos, The Sea Devils, The Green Death, The Sunmakers, Kinda, Remembrance of the Daleks, Ghost Light and The Curse of Fenric, for example).

Army of Ghosts does have a certain energy, pace and drama about its direction which was also present in Harper's Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel, but this time we don't have a) Roger Lloyd-Pack to muck it up with ham, b) a sharper definition camera as opposed to Rise's blurry soap-opera one and c) none of the parallel Earth-setting nonsense (remember how difficult it was for the Third Doctor to get to the parallel Earth in Inferno? no to mention the Fifth Doctor's hilarious rant about how going to and from E-Space (a parallel universe) isn't like a 'taxi service').

The cliffhanger was obviously pretty climactic, but ranks as probably the most laboured ever in the show's history - and what on Earth are Daleks doing travelling in such a celestial sphere? Isn't RTD over-estimating their technological abilities? Well, let's see if this plot element is fully explained next week.

As for the Doctor's 1980s cereal packet paper 3-D glasses - well - again, hopefully these will be explained too, as the Radio Times hints this week. Otherwise, they look very silly and gimmicky - another idea thrown about by RTD down the pub no doubt.

Seeing the clip from next week, well, while aspects look quite promising, especially the genesis ark (Davros?), I'm sorry to see all those cardboard cut-outs from the parallel Earth are threatening to descend once more. Why? Just leave them be where they were. Having Micky return is one thing - and I admit that was very well directed when the lab assistant turned out to be he, with a wink to Rose - but not the entire cast of McRae's soap - including, inevitably, the parallel father of Rose.

Let's hope Doomsday delivers what is hinted at in Army of Ghosts, overall a reasonably engaging episode and RTD's second best-written one after Tooth and Claw.

6/10

Angus Gulliver

Well, that was one to raise the hairs on the back of the neck! As he did last year, RTD provides a penultimate episode that leaves me thinking “how the hell are they going to get out of that?”. I hope this year the ending is more satisfactory. If it proves to be so, this could be another story to go down in history as a true great – and we’ve already had at least two of those this year.

OK, so I had an inkling that the Daleks were going to make an appearance, and if the Cybermen broke through from their universe then I expected Mickey to follow. But both were handled cleverly. No, I didn’t notice that it was Mickey working in the sphere room until Rose saw him.

As for the mysterious sphere itself, I did realise the colouring in the room was rather like the Daleks from last year, and the sphere could almost be an enlarged ball from a Dalek case. So no mystery there for me, but even so it was quite hair-raising when the three Daleks emerged at the end of the episode.

But I am getting away with myself. Early in the story there was humour, as the “ghosts” appeared and the Doctor went ghostbusting. But it was handled well, even the scene from East Enders and other TV programmes. Perhaps RTD has learned how to package the humorous moments, for example I have no fondness for East Enders but I laughted out loud.

It was almost a Pertwee moment with the Doctor rushing out with his ghost detecting cones, and surmising that they might not be ghosts at all but that people just wanted them to be. With horror it slowly dawned on me that the ghosts might be Cybermen, I think there’s even a hint of cyber voice.

In the Torchwood Tower when the Doctor stops the “ghost shift” by gleefully telling Yvonne to go ahead and pulling up a chair from which to watch, I almost felt the script was very typical of Tom Baker at his best. But David Tennant handles it differently, with a zeal that even Tom didn’t have. That is why Tennant really is the Doctor in a way that Chris Eccleston wasn’t.

Oh the scene with the polythene in the building zone, quite terrifying. Graeme Harper knows how to pull off a frightening scene for sure! As it becomes clear that the Torchwood office employees have been taken over by the Cybermen, who have already broken into our dimension our attention turns to the sphere…and when the Cyberman states it is not theirs, the look on the Doctor’s face is wonderful.

So the sphere opens, and the Daleks are revealed. How will our friends get out of this one? Lets hope this time nobody swallows any magic dust and wishes the baddies away.

9.5/10

James Winstanley

Well .... Season 2 finale!

I promised myself I would not write a review until I had seen both parts at least a couple of times, but having read the reviews so far (and fiddled with a Sky + box) I thought I would throw caution to the wind and add my opinions now.

This series it's obvious that Doctor Who team have experimented in some areas and tried to improve in others, with mixed results as I am sure most people would agree (even if they don't agree which episodes work) for example I sat and watched Love and Monsters and loved every minute of it, however the person watching it with me kept saying "This isn't Doctor Who! Wheres the Doctor?"

So we, like the Doctor and Rose, have been on a bit of a bumpy ride recently and finally ended up back on Earth in the presence of the wonderful Jackie Tyler and slap bang in the middle of another mystery, this time concerning the apparent return of dearly departed loved relatives in ghostly form and the hugely name dropped Torchwood Institute.

Having read most of the spoliers, seen the pics and watched the trailer I sat there knowing what to expect, the Doctor, Rose and Jackie get mixed up with Torchwood, there'll be Cybermen, oh and Mickey and Pete will be back too, Rose is going to die (wonderful pre-lude and opening credits "This is the story of war on Earth .. the last story I will ever tell" - made me shiver) and possibly Captain Jack will be back.

I love Jackie tyler, and it was great to see her finally taking a trip in the Tardis, as well as the dialogue between her and the Doctor when they got to Torchwood. Over recent episodes I have had little good to say about Rose, going from most develped character to most annoying during the first half of the season so it was good to see her taking a more active role, off on her own to explore with the psychic paper.

My only niggle I would point out at this point is that Torchwood did not bowl me over, it looked like a very British version of Area 51 from Independance Day - hovering spaceship included. Yvonne's interaction with the Doctor was interesting but she doesn't quite cut it as a ruthless boss of a secret organisation that annoyed him so much in the Christmas Invasion. All those guards and no one noticed a few Cybermen hiding behind some polythene sheets?? Hmmmm...

If you take last years penultimate episode, I found it rather fustrating that even though I knew it was the Daleks - you didn't get to see them until the last few minutes because of the build up and nod to popular culture by RTD. This time though we get that still (great idea for Eastenders, but their characters always find a way of cheating death anyway!) and you get the Cybermen appearing much sooner to kick start the build up.

It didn't take a leap of imagination to realise the ghosts were Cybermen, I did enjoy watching them appear all over the world though, as well as the re-appearance of the new and improved Mickey, there is something very scary about Cybermen appearing at the front door and the top of the stairs though.

So the episode cliff hanger is set ... millions of Cybermen and only the Doctor can stop them, Rose and Mickey are trapped with a sphere that probably contains the Cyber Controller ... its opening ... hang on wheres the closing music ... what is coming out of it ... THUD! I actually fell off the sofa and screamed when the closing music finally cut in.

Of course it's gushing fan boy .. Cybermen AND Daleks ... some will hate it, but despite spotting a sly extermination in the previous weeks pre-lude I really hadn't expected it to be true (remember all the hype a few months ago when it was leaked - then nothing).

So it's all down to the last 45 mins ... and I expect there will be more sofa gripping moments as well as a few watery eyes by the end of it ...

Ian Larkin

I tried to pretend that it wasn't going to happen. I saw the dalek extermination in the trailer at the end of Fear Her and thought, 'No, they wouldn't'. I'd even half convinced myself that the Torchwood boffins had at some point acquired a dalek gun for themselves. But then, I wondered, why zap a pedestrian with it? Then, a few minutes into Army of Ghosts, I saw that unopenable sphere and thought, 'I bet there's daleks in there.' And, of course, there were.

Two things are wrong here.

Firstly, Doctor Who has become pathetic at keeping secrets. The programme makers' desire for Radio Times covers and tabloid column inches has left them eager to spoil pretty much every surprise in the programme. It's a bit like having a cinema usherette wave you to your seat and say, 'Oh, by the way, Darth Vader is Luke's father' or 'Bruce Willis' character is actually a ghost' or 'Brad Pitt is a figment of Edward Norton's imagination'. Ah, oops, sorry if I've just spoilt anything for anybody there... And the makers of Doctor Who still carry on as if no one knows - keeping the cybermen hidden away in The Age of Steel until near the end, despite that week's Radio Times having several pages devoted to the mechanical monsters. And Army of Ghosts builds up to the 'shock' revelation that those friendly ghosts are actually... cybermen! (Yes, thanks, worked that one out.) And, if that wasn't enough, I mean, oh my God! You are just going to explode at this one, right, but, like, inside that black sphere are, wait for it... daleks! (Um, yes, kind of deduced that one too, thanks. And, thanks to the news and the good old Radio Times, I'm also fully aware that Mickey comes back and that Rose leaves at the end of the story. Oh, and thanks to the last trailer, I know that Rose's Dad and Mickey's mate also come back.) Correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the most enjoyable things about fiction, whether film, book or TV, is the suspense - not knowing what's going to happen next. It creates excitement, involvement, tension. And Doctor Who is severely lacking in all three at the moment.

Secondly, well, daleks and cybermen; cybermen and daleks. It's creative bankruptcy really, isn't it? It's the idea that teenage fanboys come up with. It's Aliens vs Predator, King Kong vs Godzilla, Freddy vs Jason. It's tired, it's predictable, and I can't believe we've got here by the end of only the second season. My brain curdles at the thought of what fanwank Russell T Davies and chums will come up with for season three.

Ah, Russell T Davies - he still needs someone to paper over the holes in his scripts. 'The Ghost Shift'... um, not quite sure I got that one. Another one of those 'if only we could harness it' energy sources, or something. And the cybermen 'ghosts' wander around looking like silhouettes of ordinary people - why's that then? And they convince, via - what was it? ESP or something? - that they're dead relatives come back to life. Um... And don't forget the in-jokes, 'cos Babs Windsor is chucking Dirty Den's 'ghost' out of the Queen Vic, and, like, Tracy-Ann Oberman, who's playing the head of Torchwood, actually killed Den in Eastenders! Tee-hee-hee... That's postmodern irony that is. I think...

And this week's Cringeworthy Tennant Moment (every episode must have one): well, it has to be his 'Who ya gonna call?' Yup, my toes went skyward; I'm guessing yours did too. Second prize has to go to the constant putting on of 3-D specs for no obvious reason. Duh...

There's the odd decent bit. Cybermen threatening a young family in their home is scary because it destroys that familiar safe haven, and a bird's eye view of the silver monsters marching down a city street is visually arresting. Yvonne Hartman makes for an interesting character, nicely inhabiting that murky grey area between friend and foe, and Tracy-Ann Oberman clearly relishes the part. She's soft on her juniors' romance, but steely with the Doctor, with her cheery 'Oh, yes' response to his asking whether he's a prisoner. Could have done without the clapping scene though. Camille Coduri also provides a reassuringly solid performance as Jackie. Even the Doctor gets a moment to shine with his glass-breaking demonstration and subsequent use of that 'couldn't care less' attitude to get Yvonne to halt the Ghost Shift. Shame he'd pulled the same stunt the week before though...

Overall then, Doctor Who seems to think it's one of those big, modern blockbuster movies, like The Mummy or Van Helsing. It's big for big's sake, overblown, everything and the kitchen sink. There are cool special effects, huge armies, worlds at stake. But it's all surface gloss with nothing underneath. It's emotionally uninvolving and I find myself not really caring what happens next. Which is a real shame.

Jack Sprague

I thought it woould be interesting to add a review from a faithful Dr. Who fan who has been paying attention to things happening across the pond. I have always felt that the BBC has had something against Americans. I was extremely disappointed when they cut us off from Dr. 7 episodes for awhile (back in the 80's)and at that time, we had very little option but to wait. Now, we have the glorious internet and thanks to you Brits, we can watch Dr. Who without the year wait.

This episode has to be one of my favorites of the past two seasons, with The Impossible Planet close behind. However, I feel like the Satan Pit didn't live up to the first part and I was rather disappointed. I felt as though they had such a good setup that it could have been knocked out of the park. Sadly, it wasn't. Here, we see another perfect pitch and let's hope that this time that it is a home run and that the second part lives up to the first.

I too have felt that shows have been rushed. In Fear Her, we find the Dr. and Rose noticing a complicated mystery, and figuring it out in record speed and time and it's almost so unrealistic that it's hard to watch. I'm in my thirties now and would like to see things move at a bit slower pace and be a bit more realistic. I would like to see more two and possibly even three part stories. If you have a good story, don't ruin it by condensing it down too much.

This brings me to my last review and thoughts on this episode and the series as a whole. The character of Jackie and the one of Mickey are severely underused and overlooked. I understand the producer wanting to appeal to a younger, more hip crowd and that 20 something Rose was their answer to that end. But again, I like things a bit more mature and I would love to see Jackie go with the Doctor for a season or two. I loved their banter in this episode and would enjoy seeing more of it. Jackie would be a good anchor for the bouyant tenth incarnation of this Time Lord. Plus, she would allow this "aged" Dr. to act a bit more mature at times. I would also like to see Mickey join the Doctor. He could represent the younger crowd and appeal to them. How long has it been since the Doctor has had more than one young female companion at a time on air? Can anyone say Peter Davidson? That's an awful long stretch and I think it's a good time to try the multiple companions again. Any good show has a mix of personalities to play off of and the bubbly Doctor, grounded Jackie, and young, hot headed Mickey would make a splendid combination that these writers could use to make terrific stories.

So, here's to another good Dr. Who episode and hopes for many more. I will keep watching from this side of the pond in hopes for some more good things from the new Dr. Who.