Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Journey's End"

I believe Shakespeare wrote "Journey's end in lovers' meeting" so you know what to expect from this episode. Wet sentimentality, a totally meaningless and arbitrary unscientific resolution, narrative-killing fan service and self-congratulatory pretension abound in RTD's last hurrah for a full series finale. It's tiresome to see how he has to up the stakes every time. First the future was imperilled by the Dalek Emperor, then it was the present day under attack from both Daleks and Cybermen, then it was the Master actually succeeding and taking over the world, and now it's Davros striving to destroy all of reality with some physics-ignoring device called the 'Reality bomb' which cancels electric fields. We've seen it all before, we know it won't succeed because the stakes are way too high - if the bad guys won in this episode we'd never have Doctor Who again. It cheapens any effect and while it seems impressive at a superficial level it becomes rather insubstantial under examination. What exactly do the Daleks intend to do once they've destroyed everything in existence, anyway? Settle down to a life of peace? This would be a question the Doctor could have asked but he mostly just stands there like a lemon letting Davros pontificate endlessly about this and that in a string of purple phrases about his final victory, which seems to be several different things over the course of the episode, and the greatness of the Daleks, and the weakness of the Doctor and his companions.  Why do they keep playing up the whole thing about the Doctor not using weapons? Clearly Davros hasn't re-watched "The Invasion of Time" or "Attack of the Cybermen" recently because I recall a few stories where the Doctor was more than happy to grab a gun and blow away some bad dudes when the situation demanded it. This is only really exceeded by Dalek Caan's prophetic rantings which have even more RTD pseudopoetical pastiche than usual and are abominable to listen to. I'm not surprised the Supreme Dalek was so dismissive of him.
Anyway, how did we get here? Oh yes, it all begins with a cop-out. The Doctor was regenerating at the end of this episode, but fortunately he has that spare hand of his just sitting around and after he's healed he shoots all the 'regeneration energy' into that. What a cheat! You can tell that this aspect was just done to drum up loads of hype because people would definitely want to see the next episode to find out what the deal was, and this is probably one of the most unsatisfying resolutions imaginable. Regenerations are meant to be a big deal, and they throw an abortive one into this episode for the sake of ratings. It's cheap and meaningless - since when did regeneration heal the current body before transforming? If that happened there'd be no need for the change of appearance. Somehow when First Doctor said "This old body's wearing a bit thin," back in "The Tenth Planet" I don't think the regeneration was somehow curing his 'being-an-old-man-ness' and then transforming him into the Second Doctor. It's the transformation from a damaged body into a new fresh body itself which causes the healing process.
Of course everyone gets captured but Donna's stuck in the TARDIS while the Daleks are trying to destroy it. But she touches this hand which has been hanging around since "The Christmas Invasion", and the hand inexplicably grows into a duplicate Tenth Doctor due to some nonsensical event described as a "meta-crisis" because RTD's written himself into a corner and needs another Doctor to save the day while the Doctor we actually care about is busy. Now I want to point this out at this stage because it will become important later: in the meta-crisis sequence the clone Doctor appears to be a 'Ken Doll', which is to say he has no genitalia. Bit weird. Anyway this is just ridiculousness incarnate. It's made even more absurd by the fact that it turns out Donna's been affected too and a shock from Davros' lightning hand (replacing the one shot off in "Revelation of the Daleks") causes her to manifest as a human-Time Lord with all the knowledge of the Doctor but somehow more resourceful and intelligent due to 'human intuition' or some rubbish like that. She and the clone Doctor hit a bunch of buttons which cause the Daleks to all get taken out for absolutely no reason and returns all the planets, and then they blow all the Daleks up which makes the normal Doctor angry. That's it. That's the plot of "Journey's End", yet somehow RTD manages to drag it out for an hour and ten minutes.
Davros seems to be looking a lot healthier than when he was a head in an augmented Dalek machine back in "Remembrance of the Daleks" and while Julian Bleach does a good job with the character all his cackling and his 'look at what you've done Doctor' stuff seems kind of insignificant compared to how he himself, y'know, created the Daleks, the most horrible beings in the universe and all that. Dalek Caan turns out to be a traitor who was helping the Doctor all along, thus fulfilling the true prophecy that the 'Cult of Skaro' was doomed to make the Daleks seem totally un-Dalek-like and weak. Martha threatens to blow up the Earth to stop the Dalek plan but doesn't because she makes the stupid decision of threatening the Daleks, Rose does nothing, Captain Jack and Sarah Jane make some more vague threats which also only lets them get captured, and Jackie and Mickey turn up for absolutely no reason. It's all completely pointless, and could have been accomplished in one episode with the Doctor and Donna.
Regardless, in spite of the fact that they have built the Death Star the Doctors are able to whack a few buttons which kills all the Daleks and makes everything explode with one of those expanding rings that they have these days during big explosions and using more nonsense the Doctor rustles up even more unnecessary guest cameos in the form of Mr. Smith the computer and K-9 to 'tow' Earth back to the Solar System using the TARDIS. RTD claimed that people who didn't like the ridiculousness of this scene were 'spod boys' who didn't know science as well as a Time Lord. You know what? I think even the Doctor knew how absurd this was because that's why he distracts everyone with the little info bite about TARDISes neededing six pilots because he hopes if they don't notice then it'll work like something from a Douglas Adams novel. Anyway the tectonic-ripping, gravity disrupting, atmosphere disturbing motion of the Earth means a few shaky rooms in Torchwood and the Nobles' house and then we're back. The Moon is even still in place. The Doctor exchanges platitudes with Sarah Jane, Jack, Martha, and Mickey whose resolution is the most satisfying in that he's matured so much, and then it's off to Pete's World for the crying game.
It's notable that Pete didn't actually end up appearing in this one. Well, it's not really notable but I'm surprised they didn't bring him back. I bet RTD wanted to and Shaun Dingwall was just busy. Good for him. Anyway Billie Piper is standing there trying to remember how to speak with a cockney accent and crying through makeup which has been absolutely caked on with a trowel and David Tennant does his concerned look which doesn't seem difficult because in close ups he looks kind of old and tired. I guess the production schedule, along with having to play the Doctor twice in several scenes, has taken its toll. Rose still wants the Doctor, but the Doctor says she'll have to make do with his clone.
This is just weird. For a start, he doesn't give Doctor Clone any choice. He doesn't even ask. I guess if the Doctor is meant to be all in love with Rose and all this crap it's unsurprising that he isn't too worried about staying but it's still incredibly weird that this facsimile is used as the perfect replacement for the Tenth Doctor, one who will age and die. You can tell that the whole meta-crisis thing wasn't actually written to save the day but actually because RTD needed an excuse for Rose to get her man without the show having to become "Doctor Who: The Domestic Years" or something. To avoid crippling the Doctor's character any further they decline to have the Doctor say he loves Rose but Doctor Clone whispers something in her ear and apparently it's all right. He's quite simply not the same guy, but Rose is perfectly prepared to shack up with him because he looks the same and will grow old. It's kind of disgusting, diminishes Rose's romance to a certain extent and makes the Tenth Doctor look rather heartless. Nonetheless as we've already discovered earlier in this episode Doctor Clone has no willy so Rose is going to be disappointed later on but I suppose that's a good thing. I do find it weird though that Rose is prepared to have make-outs and stuff with this Doctor but it never happened with the proper Doctor. What the hell is the nature of this relationship? Is it only romantic when it's convenient or what? You can tell the proper Doctor at least is too alien to acknowledge it but it's too ambiguous, contradictory and inverse to the Doctor's established character to make much sense.
But there's yet more to deal with! Rose is happy, so it's time to end with a death. But heaven forbid RTD ever kill one of his characters, so it turns out that Donna can't actually handle being a human-Time Lord meta-crisis thing and the Doctor wipes her memories. Much like the events of "Doomsday" apparently this constitutes death and is another cheap hype-drumming cop-out. I don't understand what this was meant to achieve. Yes, Donna changed a lot with the Doctor and I suppose it's disappointing that she couldn't go on but that's the nature of things. I simply don't feel sufficiently invested in the character to care.
Anyway, that's it. It's a huge episode, one of the longest of the New Series, and for all intents and purposes nothing happens. There are some Daleks, they're stopped, Rose gets to hook up with a Doctor-substitute and Donna's memory is wiped. Yet it's so overblown, takes itself so seriously, is so self-congratulatory and stands as so important in spite of the insignificance of it all that it's all just a waste of time. Why can't Doctor Who be exciting and meaningful? Why can't the narratives achieve something without hand-waving cop-outs and meaningless technobabble? Why is the character development so inconsistent and the thematic content so secondary and unfulfilled? It's just a piece of hype, pop-culture incarnate, valueless, artistically devoid and totally pointless.

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