The Daleks are ready to set their most ambitious plan ever in motion, and with their forces divided, it seems as if even the Doctor and all his allies may not be enough to avert the course of disaster. Will it be Rose’s dimension jumping, Captain Jack’s immortality, Martha’s mysterious Osterhagen Key or Sarah Jane’s tenacity that turns the tide, or will it all fall on the shoulders of the newest companion- Donna Noble, the temp from Chiswick?
Alien, Planet and Tech Guide
- Reality Bomb: using twenty-seven captured planets, the rift at the heart of the Medusa Cascade and a central area known as ‘The Crucible’, the reality bomb erases the electrostatic forces between atoms, disintegrating matter. If amplified enough, it can destroy everything in the universe.
- Biological meta-crisis: a situation where excess regeneration energy causes the DNA of different life forms to merge. In this case, it creates a part human duplicate of the Doctor using Donna Noble’s DNA, whilst also infusing Donna with Time Lord DNA and knowledge.
- Dimension jumper: The same dimension jumping equipment used at the end of season two- takes thirty minutes between charges.
- Osterhagen project: a drastic last ditch solution in which three separate online stations can access a series of nuclear warheads planted under the Earth’s crust. If detonated, the warheads will rip the planet apart as an alternative to having humanity continue to exist in suffering.
Episode Thoughts, Notes and Nitpicks: Extended Edition
Dear readers, if you’ve stuck with my Doctor Who posts for this long, then I hope you won’t mind me indulging myself in this section- because there’s ranting to be done, and I intend to do it. First off, let me say that I didn’t much like this episode, but whilst the majority of it was either poor or unintentionally amusing, it was what happened to Donna at the end that really angered me- so much so that until I ate dinner and calmed down a little, I never wanted to watch Doctor Who again. Now, bear with me as I go into more detail.
At the beginning of the episode, our heroes are in trouble. Jack, Rose and Donna can only watch in horror as the Doctor begins to regenerate, Sarah Jane is on the verge of being exterminated and our Torchwood heroes may not be able to hold out much longer against a sustained Dalek assault. It’s the kind of cliff-hanger that ensures viewers will tune in next week, but unfortunately, it’s also the type that gets resolved rather disappointingly within about two seconds.
First-off, the Doctor redirects the regeneration energy into his spare hand (the significance of which was first indicated last episode by a lingering shot of it), enabling David Tennant to remain The Doctor for the time being and setting up a plot point for later on. Meanwhile, deus ex machina reigns supreme as Mickey and Jackie show up to blow the heads off the Daleks menacing Sarah Jane, whilst a convenient time lock device invented by Tosh freezes the Dalek and saves Gwen and Ianto- albeit leaving them trapped in Torchwood with little other role than ‘gratuitous cameo’.
In this sort of adventure, the darkest hour always comes before the dawn, and so it is that the TARDIS is taken to Davros, where its shields are neutralised, forcing our heroes to emerge and give themselves up- well, all except Donna, who ends up locked inside as the Daleks send it off to be burned inside the fires of the Crucible. It is here that the ridiculousness goes to new heights, for as a desperate Donna reaches out to the Doctor’s spare hand, it causes a ‘biological metacrisis’ in which the regeneration energy from earlier causes a second Doctor to grow, albeit a human one with only one heart. Fortunately, however, it seems that a second heart isn’t required for TARDIS operation, with Doctor II transporting it away at the last minute.
In the meantime, however, everyone else is going into supporting character overload- Jack defies the Daleks, gets exterminated and put in the incinerator, only to revive due to his invincibility. Fortunately, he happens to meet up with Mickey, Jackie and Sarah Jane, who surrendered themselves to the Daleks in order to get closer to the Doctor, but were able to escape custody on the Dalek ship through a mixture of luck and Dalek incompetence (really, how did these tin pepper pots pose any sort of threat to the Time Lords?). And of course, Sarah Jane just happens to be carrying a Warp Star- a massive nuclear explosion encased in a pendant. They don’t sell those on the Jewellery Channel, that’s for sure.
Not that Sarah Jane is the only one with a powerful weapon to bring to bear, for thanks to her mind-reading teleport, Martha is able to go to Nuremburg, where one of the “Osterhagen stations” is located. With just three of these stations online, the users can activate a series of nuclear weapons designed to rip the Earth apart- foiling the Daleks’ plans at the cost of the planet and everyone living on it.
But what is the Daleks’ plan, I hear you say? Well, listen carefully, for I shall say this only as many times as it takes to communicate the ridiculousness of it. You see, Davros has come up with what he likes to call a ‘reality bomb’, a device powered by the 27 stolen planets that has the power to disintegrate the electrostatic bonds linking atoms (I must wonder if it works on the strong force that binds nuclei together, but that’s a discussion for another day), which, with the appropriate amplification, will disassociate all the matter in the universe, leaving only nothingness. This is Davros’ so-called supreme victory, but I can’t help feeling he should have planned it a bit better- who exactly is going to be around to see it? Even if the Daleks somehow protect themselves by being at the point of origin, where will there be to go once the universe is in ruins? Why don’t villains think this through before they start trying to destroy the entire universe?
Anyway, surely the Daleks will have to step down now that Martha and Sarah Jane have brought their threats to bear? Perhaps not, because instead they use their trans-mat technology to teleport all the offending ‘Children of Time’ to Davros, where they can be confined along with the Doctor- could all hope be lost? Is all the Doctor has left the knowledge that those who travel with him are turned into warriors?
Of course not, for don’t forget that help is still at hand in the form of Donna and the newly-formed Doctor II, who arrive in the TARDIS just in time to save the day- or so one might hope. Unfortunately, for all his intellect, being human seems to have dulled the Doctor II in some way, resulting in a pointlessly slow run at Davros that inevitably ends in failure. And even Donna manages to get hit by Davros’ beam when she makes her own charge- they really should have thought out some sort of plan before starting the whole endeavour.
Still, this is the same Russell T Davies who had Bad Wolf Rose destroy an entire Dalek fleet, so don’t worry, because a ridiculous conclusion is around the corner. You see, the electric shock delivered by Davros is enough to reveal that the ‘biological meta-crisis’ affected Donna as well, somehow imbuing her with the Doctor’s knowledge, knowledge that was dormant until the moment the plot demanded it. With a combination of Time Lord knowledge and human intuition, all it takes is a few button presses to disable the Daleks, deactivate their weapons and have them all spinning around- right before destroying their fleet and returning 26 of the 27 planets. Not bad for two minutes’ work, eh?
Note, however, that I said 26 planets, for in typical fashion, Earth gets left behind, which isn’t really good news for the citizens of this strangely significant little planet. Fortunately, the ridiculousness has yet to end, for with the help of Torchwood and Mr Smith, the TARDIS is somehow able to create what is essentially a tow rope to pull the Earth back into place. Ah, how the physicist inside me wept tears as this happened- for how could the Earth be pulled through space at a speed high enough to get it back to the Solar system without experiencing gravitational effects and atmospheric damage? In fact, at those kinds of unachievable speeds, collision with a single hydrogen atom would be pretty damaging- that’s why the Starship Enterprise had deflectors, after all. And more perplexingly still, the Doctor needs six people to operate the TARDIS at this point, claiming that that was how it was designed- but surely a TARDIS is something a Time Lord creates to go off in his own in?
Anyway, the upshot of all this stupidity is that everything is more or less back to normal- now the time has come to wrap up all the loose ends with regards to the characters. Sarah Jane will be going back to Luke and the Sarah Jane Adventures, whilst Jack must return to Torchwood- with both Mickey and Martha accompanying him as possible new characters for the third season. Meanwhile, despite having finally got back to the Doctor, Rose must be sent back to the parallel universe with her very own copy of the Time Lord- Doctor II. His unusual genesis makes him angry and dangerous in just the same way that the Doctor was before Rose ‘saved’ him, and so of course it’s fine to inflict him on a parallel universe to keep the primary one safe. What’s more, not only is he a human who will age and die together with Rose, but he isn’t afraid to admit he loves her, so even though it’s only an inferior copy of the original, Rose will finally have a pretty good simulacrum of her dream man. Although, to be honest I have a hard time believing someone as brilliant and alien as the Doctor could have harboured romantic feelings towards Rose Tyler.
With all the others thus sent home, the Doctor and Donna are able to resume their adventures once again, or so I would have liked to see. For having come to like Catherine Tate in the role as I never imagined I would, another bombshell is about to be dropped when it is revealed that the Time Lord knowledge in Donna’s mind is now overloading her brain. And even though Doctor II can seemingly withstand this influx of knowledge, for Donna it is to spell the end of not only her journey with the Doctor, but also the loss of all her memories. Now she must go home to Chiswick and never remember the time she travelled with the Doctor, with the script glossing over problems like explaining where she was these last few months, why she split up with her fiancé way back in the Christmas episode and how she will somehow get through by disbelieving everything that has happened to the people of Earth of late. And, as if to add insult to injury, the Doctor makes a special effort to say goodbye right after stressing how important it was that she not be reminded of the tiniest bit of her time with him. Couldn’t he have just made that knowledge dormant once more instead of cutting short Donna’s dream? The companion is, after all, the personification of all the people who want to accompany the Doctor on his magical adventures, and to say that you might walk away without even the memory of the dream is too cruel to bear.
And so we come to end of the fourth season of the relaunched Doctor Who, with two years to wait until the next proper series and general speculation as to whether Tennant will be returning to helm the TARDIS once more. In the meantime, however, I cannot help but feel disappointed with the bulk of this season and its finale, and it remains to be seen whether I’ve ‘outgrown’ the series or whether the mystical allure of who and what the Doctor can and should be will continue to draw me in.