Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Could the mere title of this episode alone be any more melodramatic? It's hardly the end of the world... a whole bunch of Cybermen and Daleks get released and are meant to be wreaking havoc but we barely get to see it and the entire focus is on the boo hoo sob story of poor old Rose getting separated from the Tenth Doctor. Of course she doesn't die... RTD could never kill off his own author surrogate in the story. You know who does get killed, though? Anyone who isn't part of RTD's special and slightly weird 'Doctor Who' family, which seems to be made up of the Tylers of All Realities, Mickey and that Welsh dude who we never see again. Yvonne Hartman and Doctor Singh get killed off quick snappy by the Cybermen and the Daleks respectively, however, and the Doctor stands around like a lemon having a chat with the Cyber-leader while they both survey the destruction down below like a couple of old buddies.
That gives me an idea - why not have a Cyberman as a companion?
Anyway, the plot is complete bunk balls-to-the-wall nonsense as we have come to expect from last series' finale, but substantially more overblown and ridiculous. The mere presence of both the Cybermen and the Daleks invests the story with a sense of danger so exaggerated and unstoppable that it has no impact because you know Doctor Number Ten will figure out some five-second means of defeating all of them at once. Rose gets to be very smug towards the Daleks because they want us to cringe so hard we lose the ability to smile or think happy thoughts, and Pete Tyler returns from the Parallel World so that the Doctor can convince him that Jackie and Rose from this world are his family even though he explicitly told Rose that the equivalent situation was untrue in "Rise of the Cybermen".
A lot of time is also spent letting the over-the-top dramatic music drown out the dialogue so that all you see are characters soundlessly screaming at each other because apparently all they care about is manipulating the audience into feeling scared or sad rather than actually expressing anything meaningful. Yes, the relationships between the characters are important, but when they're so exaggerated that the plot and the action of the narrative become merely background dressing for lots of crying and distressed looks it's hard to believe that we're still watching a science fiction programme. The idea of the breach 'reversing' and all the void stuff-polluted objects getting pulled back in makes absolutely no sense and is not explained at all, and the idea that the Cybermen followed the Dalek void ship seems to contradict itself. The Daleks never went to Pete's World - they went from this universe to the void and then back to this universe, so how did the Cybermen manage to use that to travel? And if they were sealed in their factories, how did they infiltrate Parallel Torchwood? There's loads of hand-wavy stuff just to keep the tableaux of tears happening and those brief threads of potential which were raised in "Army of Ghosts" are completely abandoned in a sea of emotional manipulation with zero artistic value or greater meaning.
Let's take a look at the villains. There are the Parallel Earth Cybermen, who suck because a) they're not the awesome Mondasian Cybermen, and b) they're loud-marching drones with no character motivation whatsoever. Then there's the Cult of Skaro, a group of Daleks we've never heard of before who have 'imaginations' (I thought from "School Reunion" that only children were allowed to have imaginations?) and some mysterious object with the incredibly stock title of the 'Genesis Ark'. The Cybermen and the Daleks have a trash-talking competition that makes them look like children having an insult contest in the playground and then we get to see the resolution of who would win in a Cybermen versus Daleks fight, with the answer of course being the Daleks because a) the Daleks are apparently a Time-Lord-level super-race now, b) the Cybermen aren't the awesome Mondasian Cybermen, who are cool, and c) even those Cybermen always operated on a smaller scale and lower technological level than the Daleks, and they are much better than these lame Parallel Universe ones. It's like something from a piece of fan fiction and if RTD had wanted to maintain a shred of integrity in this story he would have used just the Cybermen.
The Daleks burst out of the void sphere shouting 'Exterminate!' but never get around to it and the Cybermen have loads of opportunity to kill/convert Jackie and the Doctor but don't for absolutely no reason apart from a much later throwaway line from the Cyber-leader about the Doctor having knowledge of the Daleks, although they had plenty of opportunity to dispose of them earlier before they were even aware of the Dalek presence. From what I've said before, I think it's because the leader wanted to stand around having a chin-wag with the Doctor. The big battle between the Cybermen and the Daleks is not really shown and all sense of threat is lost - again, hardly Doomsday, unless we're supposed to break down with rapturous dread and existential horror at the thought of the Doctor and Rose having to finally go their separate ways. There's a really over-long bit where Pete and Jackie get together/get back together even though, as I said, the Doctor told us this would be all wrong back in "Rise of the Cybermen" and the whole thing is absolutely smothered with Murray Gold's heartstring-tearing music. This is all just so we're absolutely sure that Earth being absolutely wrecked by the Cybermen and the Daleks is no big deal, especially since a whole load of Daleks have burst out of a Time Lord prison and are flying all over the place shooting women with shopping bags and so on rather than worrying about the Doctor. Seems like a whole lot more than one Dalek survived, huh? Why would the Time Lords even keep Daleks in a prison, anyway? Wouldn't they just kill them? Who knows. Cyberlady Yvonne kills some other Cybermen and her voice sounds different so that the audience knows she's not one of those baddie Cybermen but is a good little Cyberman and she sheds a tear of oil even though that makes no sense whatsoever presumably because RTD thought it would be poignant, or maybe just funny. It's small things like these that reinforce how little editing or serious thought was put into some of these episodes.
Mickey does essentially nothing besides fist-bumping Tennant and calling him 'boss' and we're left with the Rose dilemma. The Doctor invokes his hokey means of defeating the Cybermen and Daleks involving pulling a couple of big levers in the Torchwood building. Yet for some reason Rose's lever starts moving back by itself even though we've never seen it do that before, even though she's being sucked into the void she can get enough traction to push it back up, and then it says that it is now 'locked' for equally no reason just so that we can feel bittersweet about how everything is going to be all right but Rose will be gone. Why was this lock function not in place before? What does it mean? I don't mind the idea that it's a tiny problem that ends up bringing Rose's story to a close but this particular tiny problem is so arbitrary and so totally unprecedented in all the shots we've seen before of the levers over the last two episodes (which apparently don't even need to be physically pulled to be opened) that it comes across as stupid. At least it gets rid of Rose but it's still a nonsensical cop-out. If RTD had wanted to do anything he should have had Rose either properly killed or sucked into the void but instead she is saved by not-really-her-dad Pete so that they can all live out happy families in the other world. Speaking of which, I'm not entirely sure why Jackie had to go over there as well once the Doctor had figured out how to save the day but I think by this point RTD is expecting us to just sit there bawling our eyes out and clutching our Tenth Doctor and Rose novelty dishcloths to our hearts while we wail lamentations for the greatest love story of all time or something. Unfortunately none of this happens because I'm far too cynical to let RTD get away with it and instead of letting Tennant walk away defeated but resigned instead we have a stupid 'goodbye' scene on a beach in the middle of nowhere for no reason so that Rose can tell the Doctor that she loves him. It's tear-jerkery taken to the extreme, with the 'jerkery' part being especially prominent as you get to see these two jerks having an awkward conversation about a romance that I never really believed and was not even consistent in this series after Sarah Jane and Madame de Pompadour, and you're left feeling a bit like it took the Doctor regenerating into a man who was externally younger-looking and more conventionally handsome for Rose to get warm to his form.  I for my part never saw him as reciprocating romance in her terms. He'd certainly come to rely on her, yes - the destruction of the Time Lords made him realise his loneliness and isolation more than ever, and he has clearly been emotionally vulnerable, but he's never going to be able to love a human in human terms any more than he can spend his life with them; he's an alien, and in the end, things are different for him. It's for this reason that my one source of relief is that the Tenth Doctor never utters the deadly 'I love you' back to Rose and I'm glad that in spite of RTD's irritating desire to develop this very out of character romance for the Doctor they made this one concession to his alienness, which redeems it slightly and I think makes my 'emotional trauma' theory better than the simple idea that he was brought back with some wildly different traits to his Classic Series self.
Then Catherine Tate, star of some not very funny character-based sketch comedy turns up and the Tenth Doctor develops his next irritating habit, his predilection for saying "What?" a lot until he starts to sound like he's a confused time-travelling Mod with his suit, Converse shoes and hair rather than an ancient Time Lord scientist.
Overall, series 2 is both absolutely mediocre-to-terrible in terms of plotting and science fiction quality, and incredibly inconsistent in regards to its characterisation. The Tenth Doctor has a few brief moments of quality but generally is far too human, too 'cool' and too manic, and the moments which are meant to be funny or poignant are nauseatingly cringe-worthy. It's overblown, overhyped and overwrought, and the fact that anyone thought this worked as good television, good science fiction or good Doctor Who only goes to show how moronically impatient and braindead the majority of modern culture has become.

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