The funny thing about this story is there’s really no plot whatsoever to speak of; ‘Army of Ghosts’/‘Doomsday’ unfolds more like a loose collection of Big Events than a genuine narrative designed to keep the audience wondering how it’s all going to work out. Big Event One: The Ghosts Are Here! Big Event Two: The Cybermen Are Here! Big Event Three: The Daleks Are Here! Big Event Four: The Cybermen and Daleks Are Gone! and Big Event Five: Buh-bye, Rosie. (More annoyingly, the story is a copout on the labored foreshadowing of Rose’s death, though it’s inconceivable that either fans or the general public would have responded well to that if it had happened.)
I suppose I don’t need to point out that none of these Big Events I mentioned involves Torchwood. It has to be said up front that, taken only as a payoff for ten stories’ worth of arbitrary references (eleven if you count ‘Bad Wolf’), or as a quasi-pilot for a new spinoff, this story fails miserably. Torchwood as an institution barely even registers – it has much less personality than those cheap-looking old UNIT labs. (Its one real character is annoying, and anyway she gets turned into a Cyberman.) I suppose on paper Jack Harkness plus alien doodads plus flirty clerical staff equals somebody’s version of a good idea, but if the new series is anything like what we see here, it’ll be lifeless and empty. It’s also hard to tell from its depiction here why anyone would *want* to create a series around Torchwood, even if it were better realized. The institution, at least under Yvonne Hartman, seems to be a place of the worst kind of scientific irresponsibility, with its smug administrators (I hated Hartman’s clapping) abusing technology they don’t even bother trying to understand, all to recreate the Empire of Victorian Britain (!). Doesn’t sound like a concept that’s going to get the public crowding round their sets in the evenings to me, but then what do I know.
Anyway, rather than dwell in negative speculation about how bad the future is going to be (Doctor Who fans have had enough of that over the years, haven’t we?), let’s concentrate on the present and move on to those Big Events. The ‘ghost’ invasion actually works pretty well, both as an eerie omen of bad things to come and as an amusing take on pop culture fads. The people of Earth unquestioningly accept these spectral visitors and incorporate them into daily life, just as their parallel-world counterparts did with Lumic’s earpods in ‘Rise of the Cybermen,’ and it’s nice to see a consistent satirical thread like this running through the new series. (And, maybe because I’m not British, I actually found the ‘ghost’ versions of the TV shows to be funny rather than annoying.)
After the revelation comes that there are Cybermen hiding behind the shower curtains at Torchwood, of course, there’s little suspense surrounding the mystery of who or what those ghosts really are. Once they’re revealed, we find that the Cybermen haven’t been developed much since we last saw them – I suppose the Doctor’s objection in ‘The Age of Steel’ that Cyber ‘upgrading’ stifles progress also holds true for character growth – but we are (initially) impressed that they have managed to break through the barrier between worlds and come stomp-stomp-stomping into ours. They are still scary, too - the shot of the family cowering from the Cyberman in their living room while their philosophy is reassuringly espoused on TV (“Cybermen will remove fear . . . Cybermen will remove sex and class and color and creed”) is quite unsettling and effective – and of course they’re also kind of funny, getting the better lines in the memorable Cyber/Dalek bitch-off (“DALEKS HAVE NO CONCEPT OF ELEGANCE.” “This is obvious.”). But really, the Cybermen aren’t much more than a red herring in this story, just a piece of bait to set up the surprise when the Daleks arrive, and to make their fellow cyborgs look good after they do.
And it’s true, the Daleks come off better in this story than the Cybermen; in fact, this is probably their strongest realization in the new series so far. They prove to be physically unstoppable – the Cybermen can’t destroy even one, and eventually have to try fleeing back into their old world – but more importantly they show signs of their old personality. They arrogantly refuse the ‘inferior’ Cybermen’s proposed alliance, dismiss the presence of an occupying alien force of five million as 'irrelevant,' and generally trumpet their superiority at every opportunity (“WE WOULD DESTROY THE CYBERMEN WITH ONE DALEK!”). They’re pushy and impatient (“SOCIAL INTERACTION WILL CEASE”), and best of all, there’s no godlike UberDalek directing them this time - the script vaguely identifies these four as ‘the Cult of Skaro,’ but apart from having Teletubby-esque silly names they don’t seem a bit different from the classic Daleks of old. In fact, the presentation of the Daleks here is more reminiscent of the stranded but strong group in ‘Death to the Daleks,’ and the species looks all the better for it. ‘The Genesis Ark’ is an amusing reference to ‘Genesis of the Daleks,’ too, and may even be a punnish nod to the Second History of the Daleks suggested in ‘The Discontinuity Guide’ (although that may simply be wishful fanwanking on my part).
As for the human factor, it’s disappointing that Mickey, whose departure was so surprisingly poignant in ‘The Age of Steel,’ is brought back to do little but crack bad jokes here. (Comparing the Daleks to Stephen Hawking, while in agreeably bad taste, undermines what tension the scene might have had.) It doesn’t help that Noel Clarke often seems to be playing Mickey as *Ricky* this time around either. Jake Simmonds reappears as well, but fares no better; he is simply used as a Sawardian blank who shoots guns because the good Doctor doesn’t.
As for the Rose/Doctor goodbye thread, which should be the real focus here, it doesn’t turn to treacle until the very end, but when it does, it’s embarrassing, and makes us sadly remember the artful ambiguity of ‘The Green Death,’ or even the less ambiguous but more genuinely moving goodbye of ‘The Parting of the Ways.’ It’ll be interesting to see where the series goes next; probably too much has been made of the 21st-century DW as ‘Doctor Who and His Interstellar Girlfriend!,’ but it’s hard to imagine the production team doing the David-and-Maddie thing again with a new companion. (At least, it’s hard to imagine them doing it well.) As for the performances, both principal actors are OK – Billie Piper isn’t given much to do until the blubbery finale, and David Tennant, whose performances improved dramatically in the final few stories of this season, is acceptable, though he does perhaps push too hard on ‘angry’ lines like “You’ve got their *children*, of *course* they’re going to *fight*!!!”
But there is one story element that ‘Army of Ghosts/Doomsday’ does actually handle extremely well. The strange relationship between Jackie and Pete Tyler (or, rather, between *both* Jackie and Pete Tylers) has been slowly developing since we first met Pete in ‘Father’s Day,’ and here it’s almost as if more care has gone into building up the story arc for these characters’ reunion than for the Doctor and Rose’s goodbye; when the lost husband from one world finally embraces his lost wife from another, it’s a powerful moment. It’s odd that, after initial misgivings, I feel I’ll miss Jackie more than Rose – we actually saw a greater range of personality from this not-always-easy-to-like character (shrewishness and good humor, smallmindedness and great imagination, selfishness and trust, vulnerability and courage), often within the confines of a single story, and Camille Coduri has to be commended for bringing such extremes to life believably.
And she’s funny in this story too, particularly in her interactions with the Doctor (“Hoy!”) and as she screeches invective at the terrified Yvonne Hartman, even as the latter is being led to her death.
All in all, it’s not a great Doctor Who story (or even a great *story* at all), but despite its problems it remains watchable. It’s sort of in the vein of ‘Planet of the Spiders’ – overstuffed and perhaps self-consciously ‘historic,’ at times repetitive (Doctor forces Rose to safety against her will) or nonsensical (the revenge of Cyber-Yvonne), but agreeably silly and featuring some good moments. In other words, it’s empty calories, but they’re reasonably tasty ones.
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?
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.
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.
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!
Although not without some problems, I thought this was a great way to end the 2nd "new" series of Doctor Who. As I say this I well realize that compared to the relatively odd and weak preceding stories "Love & Monsters" and "Fear Her" (after the amazing "Impossible Planet" and "The Satan Pit") that almost anything would be an improvement.
I have the suspicion that many reviewers will compare this pair of episodes to the finale of the 1st season. Without thinking too hard I can say that there were less cringeworthy or eye-rolling moments this time around (no corny deus ex machina or, as you say, "snogging"). But beyond that I don't want to compare the stories because, well, I don't see how season finales should be imbued with so much reverence. When in Doctor Who previously have series finales been such a whoop-de-do? I suppose this is simply another artefact of the modern media age where (much like the new 45-minute episode format and faster cutting and CGI) that says you must end the season with guns blazing and a big budget. Each story should simply try to be the best it can be without regard to its episodic sequencing. Otherwise one might expect the characters to "catch on" and the heroes think "hey, this is our 13th adventure since our last almost world-ending catastrophe, we're in for some trouble now! Maybe best to stay in the TARDIS a while!" and the villians think "wait - we are too big a threat for mid season - let's hang on until the finale!" I'm being silly of course, but I don't wish things to feel predictable and obligatory.
I have to say that everyone's performance was top notch in these stories. Only Tennant has one to many cheeky quips that undermine the overall gloom. It might have worked better to have him doubting his ability to "save the day" (always EARTH'S day, hurmph...) and Rose as promised. If the lead character has as much faith in himself to win every time as the audience does (since if he dies the show is over) then it gets to the point that ANY threat, no matter how cosmically tragic, is pointless and routine. This is fantasy, folks - as long as our hero survives he can still lose a battle now and then to humble him as he narrowly escapes with his tail between his legs. Otherwise he might develop a God-complex (amid cheeky remarks) and we think of him likewise.
I also didn't like the gimmick of Rose narrating her own death, which I thought was an impossible thing to do in principle, and so I didn't believe she would die. She is simply "missing" which I guess was her status while travelling with the Doctor. In that sense, I guess Mickey and Jackie are dead too? At least my fear that the producers "wanted it both ways" wherein they kill off a character but can "always bring her back" alla sci-fi and soap operas. RTD had said it was never a possibility that she would die, as if being a heroine and saving the earth twice wasn't enough for a simple shop girl to do and have as a eulogy. Was he afraid of being stuck with a Doctor who could't keep his word? Has he forgotten (and think he is "above") the other companions who have died (Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Adric and Peri...sort of)?
There was quite a lot of emotion on display here. Never before have we seen such an emotional bond between the main characters at the thought of never seeing each other again. Of course, one can think "gee, Mickey came back, didn't he? Why can't Rose?" and "Satan obviously predicted her death wrong" and "why worry - she isn't dying" and "she's got Mickey AND her mom and dad back - so celebrate!" But aside from that I thought these were the most touching moments since "Father's Day" - perhaps just by the performances. I thought Jackie and Pete reuniting was also good, but the melodrama began overstaying its welcome prompting me to think "uh, you are in mortal danger - perhaps this can wait!" Rose's "almost death" scene worked well too, and found myself not bothered by her dad rescuing her at the last moment, despite how improbable the timing and placement and execution of it that was. It would have been satisfying if she died or not. On the whole I like a little heart-wrentching poignancy now and then. But then the "epilogue" seemed a little unnecessary, since really it amounted to the Doctor trying to "say goodbye" like he was finally able to Sarah earlier this season. And for all that effort - burning up a sun! - he couldn't even get out the words "I love you" - which I guess is the tragic poignancy I was looking for...
That leaves you wondering if Rose will "look up" Sarah in her new universe... though if she is there, no doubt she will have never met the Doctor, so scratch that. And I think RTD dropped the ball with the only exciting line in "Fear Her" where the Doctor mentioned his granddaughter Susan, and it never went beyond that. Rose was so jealous of Sarah but got over it because it was platonic, but she never pushed the issue of why the 900-year-old love of her life had been previously "married" and had a grand-kid. So I guess it is back to eating fish-and-chips, working at the shop and and making little Mickeys - no, wait - she will work for Torchwood - ah, but not the one dear Captain Jack will be in the new series...
What else? I thought all the special effects were top-notch, exept for a few "old school wobbling Daleks" when they spoke. The Cybermen-as-ghosts worked well. The Cybermen marching in front of the Taj Mahal and in rural neighborhoods was a little gratuitous (as in: "I'm supposed to say "ooh!") The Cybermen and Daleks had some good - if screen-writery - exchanges. Was odd hearing Daleks brag like that. I didn't mind the head of Torchwood retaining her personality and loyalty (which I read elsewhere as a gripe) since the depth of her loyalty was established as she entered the cyber-abatoir, and it redeemed her. But where has UNIT been during all of this? And what is it with the Time Lords imprisoning millions of Daleks - the Doc thought they were ALL dead - yet having the Genesis thingy pop up and meeting the Daleks thrice in two years, I would expect him to think: "my people MUST have survived, and I WILL find them!" - certainly that day is coming soon.
There was of course the huge selling point of "Daleks meet Cybermen" for the FIRST TIME - which despite it working, does come off as a heavily obvious pitch meeting come-to-life, similar to recent films like "Freddie Vs. Jason" and "Alien vs. Predator" and, I hear in rumors "Superman vs. Batman" - all with people caught in the middle - oy vey! Anyway, had they forgotten the trivia that (a) Dalek and the Cybermen were both in "The Five Doctors" despite not meeting? I just hope that each season doesn't end with another Armageddon-du-jour by adding whatever old nemesis RTD thinks would be "cool" to bring back (Sontarrans, Ice Warriors, Silurians & Sea Devils and THE MASTER) - I shudder to imagine the pretentious mish-mosh of all these cats battling at the end of the 6th or 7th season!
Oh, and how did the Daleks know the Cybermen if they never met - or rather, if the ones they were meeting were just created but in a parallel universe?
Sorry I found so much to criticize. I admit that is easier than praise, especially if I want to avoid describing the entire plot and how wonderful it is. For all its faults it is one of the three best moments of the 2nd season, and five best of the 1st and 2nd.