First Broadcast July 5th, 2008 @ 6.40pm (10.57m viewers)
Following the penultimate episode ‘The Stolen Earth’, ‘Journey’s End’ brought to an end Russell T Davies’ fourth series at the helm of Doctor Who. Such was the spectacularly high bar set by the previous episode that it would be difficult to follow it with an episode of an equivalent standard but unfortunately, the result is, in my humblest of opinions, a poor follow-up.
Firstly, the resolution of the cliffhanger which had kept the audience bemused and debating all week is deeply unsatisfactory, belittling the crucial process which had kept the programme running for all these years. There are certain aspects of Doctor Who that are sacred, such as the TARDIS taking the shape of a Police Box and the design of the Daleks. Regeneration is another but as 2010’s ‘Victory of the Daleks’ proved when you mess with one of these the reaction can be brutal. Whilst it is perfectly feasible to add developments to the process, such as the 12 limit stated in ‘The Deadly Assassin’ or the Watcher in ‘Logopolis’, this occasion left this audience member feeling duped. The cheap resolution prolonging David Tennant’s tenure made one feel conned, expecting to see a momentous changing of the guard but instead leaving the viewer feeling as if they have fallen for a ruse designed to get them watching and boosting audience figures.
Next, if you thought the meaningless cameos had ended in ‘The Stolen Earth’ Mickey and Jackie Tyler show up as gun-toting bad assess, using the dimension jumps which in ‘Doomsday’ had become inactive but now the same technology had conveniently managed to deliver them and of course Rose back into this universe. Rose’s purpose, of course, is to see the Doctor again, such is her prioritising her own selfishness, but as a subplot, the alternate universe has descended into darkness brought about by the actions of the Daleks. She shows no emotion when Donna is thought to have been killed, no doubt relieved to have the new girl out of the way, but yet runs to the aid of Capt. Jack, such are the mind-boggling inconsistencies in her character.
And then we come to the ‘Instantaneous biological meta-crisis’. A Doctor who is part Time Lord, part Human. Not only has the process of regeneration been ridiculed but it also results in a duplicate Doctor, diluting the eponymous Time Lord but staggeringly this half human Doctor is not the only ludicrous and nonsensical piece of plot. By aligning the 27 planets the Daleks have created The Reality Bomb, capable of making the Daleks the only beings in creation. In a search to establish their race’s genetic superiority a weapon which eradicates all other creatures in existence is logical. However by destroying all reality they alone would exist but surrounded by nothing, just the darkness and emptiness, a completely futile plan which, even allowing for the insanity of Davros, is nonsensical. The only decent representation of the Daleks in this episode is when they are speaking German, never before have the creatures been closer to their Nazi-influenced genesis. In contrast, by the at the end of the episode, we get ‘dizzy Daleks’, belittling the modern bronze Daleks in a decision which Terry Nation’s creations have yet to recover from as eight years on an apathy has set in for the Skarosians.
Memorable Moment (Spoiler Warning)
The only highlight is Davros recognising Sarah Jane Smith after all these years. A lovely moment.
An interesting diversion is a revelation that the Doctor, the man who abhors violence turns people into weapons, people who then give their lives in his name. It is quite shocking as Capt. Jack stands prepared to tear the Crucible apart with a Warp Star and worse still Martha Jones is willing to destroy the whole of planet Earth and all its inhabitants with the Osterhagen Key. At this point, it is hard to decipher who are the most bloodthirsty warriors or even which to side to cheer for. There is however little time to dwell on this as we have a return to scientific gobbledygook which brings the Daleks’ threat to a simplistic conclusion.
The fast-talking, scientific sounding nonsense which forms the bulk of the dialogue is designed to provide camouflage for the inadequacies of the script’s plotting. Somewhat appropriately the meta-crisis Doctor fails, using no intelligence and running towards Davros-like a child playing a first person shooter game on a games console. Enter Donna Noble. The concept that a Time Lord, the beings once portrayed as omniscient God-like figures, can actually be improved by the consciousness of a mere Earthling is stretching the bounds of credibility. Even more conveniently the Daleks’ equipment features levers and switches perfect for ‘the best temp in Chiswick’, but why would the Daleks even have built that machinery. There is also one wide shot as Donna deactivates the holding cells where Davros is static, not even flinching; he has obviously been left bewildered. Of course, the Daleks are defeated and, having all returned to the Crucible to protect themselves from the Reality Bomb, once again they are all eradicated, hampering the prospect of any future Dalek stories. This careless writing out of the creatures doesn’t fool viewers because sooner or later it will be revealed that somehow the Daleks have survived to do battle with the Doctor once again.
The scene in which the Doctor and his companions pilot the TARDIS towing Earth back home, accompanied by appropriately self-congratulatory music from Murray Gold, is one of the most irritating. Given the distasteful way in which the Daleks have just been obliterated this feels utterly inappropriate, forgetting how we started this journey, with a Time Lord broken and haunted by his actions in the Time War. But yet this aspect is not ignored at all as the duplicate Doctor is presented to Rose, in need of healing. The creation of the duplicate Meta-Crisis half Human half Time Lord Doctor is ultimately revealed as the shallow desire to conclude the Doctor and Rose’s love story with a happy ending.
Russell T Davies also repeats the same error made during ‘Doomsday’ and proclaimed that someone would die, only for him to fail to deliver, stoking the flames to grip the audience and then pouring cold water on that fire. Dalek Caan milks that “one of them will die” but yet none of them dies. Yes Donna forgets her adventures with the Doctor and that could be interpreted as a fate worse than death but, like with the cliffhanger, viewers are given expectations of a momentous moment, only for those expectations not to be met. Advertising and publicity exist to draw in viewers, the storytelling should be strong enough without needing to resort to such cheap tactics. In fact, this strategy, and the crowd-pleasing tricks of reuniting a vast cast of popular characters and returning villains, merely acts as camouflage to try and stop the viewer analysing or questioning the output on screen. As a result, when ‘Journey’s End’ is placed under a magnifying glass the plot of the episode completely falls apart.
The Doctor – David Tennant
Donna Noble – Catherine Tate
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Martha Jones – Freema Agyeman
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen
Mickey Smith – Noel Clarke
Jackie Tyler – Camille Coduri
Ianto Jones – Gareth David-Lloyd
Gwen Cooper – Eve Myles
Luke Smith – Tommy Knight
Wilfred Mott – Bernard Cribbins
Sylvia Noble – Jacqueline King
Francine Jones – Adjoa Andoh
Davros – Julian Bleach
Producer – Susie Liggat
Director – Graeme Harper
Also First Aired On This Day…
- Doctor Who Confidential : The End of an Era