Monday, January 31, 2011

"The Stolen Earth"

I think you'd have to be pretty unfamiliar with Doctor Who not to have been fairly certain that Davros was going to come back in the finale for Series 4. He was pretty much the only big bad as yet unrecovered with the possible exception of weird obscure ones like Omega or the Black Guardian and I think it would have been rather anticlimactic if they'd done what they did with Series 1 and 2 and had the Sontarans return from the middle of the series to be the villains. But it's more than just the return of Davros and yet another appearance from the now desperately overused Daleks. It's the point at which RTD's sanity cracks even further and he tries to compose the most full-on balls-to-the-wall three-way crossover imaginable with the plots of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures all converging on this one story. Now as objectionable as I find Torchwood and as little as I've seen of SJA I'm not exactly surprised that they brought them in. It would be a little implausible if these three groups all happened to encounter different threats to the Earth at different times and never ran into each other. In fact it's so overblown and ridiculous that I'm surprised they didn't throw the Fifth Doctor in from "Time Crash" just for the hell of it.
Actually that might have been kind of awesome.
Anyway it's incredibly difficult to take any threat to the Earth seriously by this point because we've seen spaceships flying over London in pretty much every series since the show came back and we've had Daleks swarming all over the place in "The Farting of the Ways" and "Doomsday" already, so we know that in the end the Tenth Doctor will come up with some five-second hand-wavey cop-out explanation to save the day and everything else will be fan service set pieces arranged by RTD in the most self-congratulatory fashion imaginable. In fact it's hard not to think of RTD as deeply self-satisfied by this point as he brings back every major companion the Doctor has had in the new series for essentially no reason and comes up with a nonsense technobabble plot to bring them all together.
The Earth's been stolen so the Doctor and Donna head off to the Shadow Proclamation, which according to the Doctor and the nice CGI we get is some kind of intergalactic police force in an awesome space station but in actual fact upon arrival looks like a well-cleaned changing room in an upmarket hotel gym and is apparently populated by about five Judoon and a couple of albinos. The chief albino insists that the Doctor lead the Shadow Proclamation to war, but where's their army? Are the five Judoon meant to take down the Daleks on their own? Apparently there was some cut scene with Adipose and Slitheen and all these rehashed RTD era villains assembling into an army but it was cut for budgetary reasons which is fortunate because it would have been even more self-indulgent than everything else in this story. For this reason I don't understand why they bothered keeping the line about an army in. Besides, what kind of police force would call itself the Shadow Proclamation? It's been seeded since the very first episode of the New Series as a piece of enigmatic purple prose for RTD to chortle over but you'd at least expect it to be something more ethereal and weird. As if a lawkeeping organisation would have such a pompous name.
Meanwhile Harriet Jones who hasn't been seen since "The Christmas Invasion" has developed The Bollocks Network (TM) as part of some elaborate scheme to contact everyone who knows the Doctor. Apparently the system just inexplicably connects to these people without any realistic explanation apart from the fact that it's apparently sentient so we have a big conference call between her, the surviving members of Torchwood, Martha, and the Sarah Jane family made up of Sarah Jane and awkward-because-he-was-grown-by-aliens-in-a-vat-because-it's-an-excuse-for-his-acting teenage son Luke. Harriet Jones chews out the Doctor a bit behind his back which I think is fair enough because he was a bit of a dick to her for no reason and she does the whole thing where she says her name and the person on the other end goes 'Yes I know who you are' which is another piece of appalling self-involved smuggery on the part of RTD. I think it takes the cake when the Daleks say it, which goes even further along the line of making the whole situation seem ridiculous rather than humorous and when former PM Harriet carks it on the wrong end of a Dalek death ray you don't really care. Ianto looks like he's had a few too many cakes because Jack hasn't been telling him he's pretty often enough although they're still trying to do the 'witty eccentric Ianto' thing that spontaneously occurred in Torchwood Series 2, and Gwen as usual is a cypher. Anyway Martha teleports home for essentially no reason because they may as well not have had her in New York in the first place and Rose has a big whinge about how no one's contacting her.
Now by this point the Doctor has discovered a technobabble wave created by the alien bees or something which he rattles off so quickly it's impossible to follow because RTD wants to cover up the fact that it is entirely hand-wavey bollocks and then Harriet Jones uses The Bollocks Network (TM) with Mr Smith the computer and the Torchwood Rift in a case of 'let's make the plot include everyone' so that they can phone-call the Doctor so that he can find them. He realises that the Daleks are hiding everything 'one second out of sync with real time' much like the Sontarans were with the ATMOS back in the first two-parter. What on earth does this mean? Is the same second being played over and over again? Is it a pocket universe? What is it? Hiding something one second in the future makes no sense because as soon as a second passed in the Doctor's present they'd all appear. We're supposed to think it's clever but it makes absolutely no sense and comes across as both pretentious and lazy.
Finally the Doctor arrives and Rose, Captain Jack and Sarah Jane converge on his position, but before he can inevitably run off and make out with Rose he gets brutally shot in one of his hearts by a fearsome Dalek who gets blown up by Jack for his troubles. I must admit I derive a small amount of satisfaction watching the Tenth Doctor get shot by a Dalek but it only contributes to the overall idiocy of this episode because the Doctor starts to regenerate even though we know David Tennant isn't leaving yet.
This one I can say for sure has no message. It's totally devoid of artistic merit. It's a piece of pulp fiction, the televisual equivalent of a motel room paperback, designed to inspire a cheap sense of 'wow factor' into fans with the rehashing of all the companions and the return of Davros and an even cheaper sense of awe with the now incredibly-overused Dalek invasion scenario, scenes of mass panic in the streets and all. RTD claims he wanted to make some kind of payoff for the fans but narratively it's weak and suggests that he's more interested in revelling in his own old ideas than crafting anything particularly meaningful or impressive. In addition, like all these first part's, it's just an extended set-up, and ultimately serves to be nothing more than a massive waste of time playing on hype, shock value and sentimentality, and it only gets worse from here.

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