The Russell T. Davies Era isn’t quite over yet; after this story there are still four specials to go.
But in almost every sense, The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End is its pinnacle.
Here we have a story where pretty much every strand of his writing for the past four years of Doctor Who, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures comes to an end.
For most characters, this is their last hurrah, their final tangible contribution to the show.
Can RTD do his own writing justice here?
Doctor Who – The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End Review: What’s This One About
Along with 26 other planets, Earth has vanished from the universe thanks to Davros and the Daleks.
The only hope for salvation is if the Doctor and his “Secret Army” (i.e. all his mates) can stop them
Meanwhile, poor old Donna has no choice but to leave the TARDIS forever.
Thoughts – Let’s Start With The Bad
To get the negative stuff out of the way first, let’s talk about – yes, you guessed it – Rose.
While there are some parts of her story I enjoyed, like her jealousy of Martha, much of her character and reason for being there was stupid.
Russell T. Davies is usually quite good at character development, and did an accomplished job with the likes of Martha, Donna, Wilf, Sylvia, Mickey and Captain Jack, but he’s dropped the ball with Rose.
So this average girl is now a gun-toting, dimension jumping freedom fighter, all because she’s trying to get back to the same universe as a bloke who has given her no actual sign that he wants to be romantically involved with her?
Over in her universe, they created a “Dimension Cannon” that could measure timelines, all to get her back there. And that’s not even taking into account that once she’s back there, the odds of them meeting again are miniscule.
Would she not be told by her family to give up with her obsession by this point?
It’s just silly, and it’s actually quite annoying.
And to go to the trouble of creating a second, human Doctor to live out her days with seemed far too much.
Oh, and by the way, that second Doctor must be utterly depressed. He’s got the same mind and memories as the real Doctor, and yet is forced to accept saying goodbye to “his” TARDIS, living his life with this super stalker in an alternate dimension and – most of all – being confronted with the reality that he’s only got about 40 years left to live. That’s the human equivalent of being told you’ve got a matter of days or weeks.
You’ll notice, by the way, that the real Doctor didn’t seem all that fussed about leaving her behind, and his reason for dropping them off there – “Sorry mate, you’ve committed genocide” – doesn’t really matter when you consider that there are no Time Lords left to enforce any punishments and the Doctor has already committed genocide before, probably more than once.
But going back to Rose; I know they had to bring her back for this, and I know that RTD made a rod for his own back by writing her out the way he did back in Doomsday, but it’s still ridiculous and still annoying.
Not Enough For Everyone To Do
The other problem I have with The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End is that there’s not quite enough for everyone to do.
So take Jackie for example; she doesn’t contribute to the story one bit, but for a couple of jokes at her expense. Perhaps it would have been better for her to appear in a small cameo at the end when the Doctor delivered Rose back to the alternate universe?
And of the main characters, Martha Jones just ends up in a 2 episode wild-goose chase.
Nothing she does has any bearing on the overall development of the plot, and since her interactions with the rest of the cast are limited, it means she ends up a little bit wasted.
And Now To The Positive Stuff
Those are the only serious issues I have with this story, and beyond that, I think it’s top notch.
To fit so much into 2 episodes – even if a couple of characters are left with nothing much to do – and to make it all work and link is solid writing.
RTD has clearly been thinking about this one long in advance, with plotlines and places – not just from Doctor Who but Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures – all coming together so neatly in the end.
So apart from the Doctor meeting Rose again, we also have the conclusion of the Donna Noble storyline, Dalek Caan, The Hand in the Jar, Sarah Jane’s warpstar, Harriet Jones, the Parallel Universe, The Bees disappearing, The Medusa Cascade and The Shadow Proclamation.
All of that gets put to bed once and for all, and yet it’s done in a way that flows and doesn’t seem like it’s been thrown in for the sake of it.
As much as I love The Five Doctors, it was a bit of a case of “Let’s just have lots of people appear” whereas this actually constructed a solid foundation for why they appear.
Very impressive stuff.
It’s just a pity this couldn’t be the end of the Daleks. They must be running out of lives by now, considering this is the 3rd time since the show came back where they’ve seemingly been destroyed for good.
An addition to this story that I particularly enjoy is Davros.
Now sure, having him lurk in the shadows for almost the entire first episode is a waste, considering everyone will have known it was him when he first spoke, but that’s just a minor niggle.
Apart from Davros looking great, the man in the costume – Julian Bleach – is tremendous. He delivers his lines with such power and gravitas that it blows all the other Davros actors out of the water. And I say that having enjoyed the work of Terry Molloy and Michael Wisher (but not David Gooderson).
The speech that finishes with “The Destruction of Reality Itself” is a masterclass in how to slowly build a monologue from quietly talking to screaming at the top of one’s lungs, without seeming like it’s “acting”.
And what about that little moment written in where he recognises Sarah? That’s one for the long-term fans, and it’s a bloody good one at that.
My only disappointment was that Davros rejected the Doctor’s offer to come with him. Imagine Davros as a companion? That’d be epic.
Inevitably they’ll find a way to bring him back one day, and when they do, I hope that it’s in a story without the Daleks.
The Final Scenes
As good as this story is all the way through, the best bit of the lot – by far – is the last few minutes, after all the Doctor’s friends and stalkers have left the TARDIS and he’s left with Donna.
Throughout Season 4, Catherine Tate has been a companion performing at a standard probably never seen before in Doctor Who. Even though I prefer Ian & Barbara because of the way they were written, they weren’t given the same level of drama to work with as Tate. You’ve only got to compare the way her departure is written to theirs to know that it’s a different style of writing in 2008.
But, yes, Catherine Tate is wonderful as Donna, and her final scenes here, where she realises that she’s taken on board more than the human brain can handle are so sad. You felt for both her character and the Doctor when you realise that she didn’t just have to stop travelling with him, despite it being her intention to doso forever, but it also meant she had to give up being the person she’d become.
Donna has grown as a person since she first met the Doctor; she’s become a better person and she – and her Grandfather – knew it. To give all that up? Well…it’s a lot worse than being separated from a man who you’ve got an obsessive crush on isn’t it.
And then, once she’s had all traces of those memories removed, she’s noticeably back to being a louder and sadly worse human being as a result.
The heartache doesn’t end there though, because The King of Sad Acting himself, Bernard Cribbins, takes on the mantle and brings even more emotion to the table.
His exasperation at his daughter when he insists to her that Donna was better with the Doctor is heartbreaking, as is his scene with him out in the rain.
But that’s nothing compared to what’s to come in his next appearance.
Cribbins though is quietly a contender for the MVP of this story on the whole. Apart from this emotional stuff, he also brings a sense of action – as he takes to the streets with a paintball gun – and humour, when he says he voted for Harriet Jones when he really didn’t.
- You’ll notice in that last scene, that David Tennant can’t help but let his Scottish accent break through. Listen to his delivery of the words “Still, that’s fine”.
- While I enjoyed many of the little things dropped in for the long-term fan to enjoy (Calufrax Minor for example), that line about how the Dalek’s vision is not impaired was too unsubtle for me.
- Another part that was unsubtle, but did work, was the continuation of the “Yes, I know who you are” joke to Harriet Jones.
- How come Rose was able to see a scan of the universe on a TV in a shop?
- It’s Gita off Eastenders!! Yay!! But she’s killed!! Noooo!!!
- In my Planet of the Ood Review, I discussed how there were 5 occasions where Murray Gold got the Incidental Music bang on. His remix of Song of Freedom here is another one of those occasions. It’s a heartwarming tune played at exactly the right point in the episode. Very well done.
- That scene in the TARDIS where they all manage to control it smoothly was a nice piece of writing again by RTD. It actually made sense, and was the perfect way to give the group as a whole a happy and triumphant moment, even if it was – to borrow a phrase – “Punchtheairtastic”
- The one thing I don’t like about that scene is where Aga Freeman blatantly, blatantly, breaks the fourth wall and smiles to the camera.
- Donna’s thing for Captain Jack is quite amusing.
- If you didn’t watch Torchwood or the Sarah Jane Adventures (and I never watched the Sarah Jane Adventures), you’d probably be a bit lost as to who everyone was. They do a decent job of explaining it though. But what’s up with this Mr. Smith computer?
- And why is K9 hidden away when all it takes to bring him back is to say “Out you come, boy”
- It’s lucky that they killed off Burn Gorman in Torchwood before this was made. He’s not got a face fit for family viewing. He’d be scarier than Davros.
- Martha’s Mum wins the award for “Character That The Least Amount of People Wanted To See Back Again”. But would you believe it, she actually manages to smile!
- How come nobody presses Sarah on how she has a child all of a sudden?
- And considering her first meeting with the Daleks was in Death to the Daleks, how come she’s so scared of them? They weren’t exactly fearsome, were they?
- The montage of all the people who have died helping the Doctor is a nice addition to the story, and makes Davros’s point well,
- One aspect of this story that annoys me is that Russell T. Davies made it very difficult for his successor to follow on from him. There have been far, far too many examples of Alien Invasion in contemporary Earth. It just does not wash with me that people will get back to their normal lives when this is the tenth story where aliens have invaded the earth in a public manner in the space of a few years. We’ve had the space ship destroying Big Ben, the Christmas Invasion, Ghosts from another dimension, Cyberman & Daleks invading, the Christmas Star in the Runaway Bride, the hospital disappearing, “First contact” with the Toclafane, a replica of the Titanic nearly crashing into Buckingham Palace, the Adipose, the ATMOS stuff and now the entire planet being transported across the universe. It’s too much; it ruins contemporary Earth in Doctor Who and means there has to be some silly fix brought in to sort it.
- One aspect meanwhile that puzzles me, is how the other parallel universes manage to survive? Surely there are Daleks plotting the Reality Bomb in them too? Were the stars not meant to be out in Rose’s universe? And yet when the Doctor drops her off there, everything seems fine.
- What a cliffhanger this story has. The Doctor regenerating? Superb.
- And what about that Dalek actually managing to shoot the Doctor? He’ll be the envy of his peers.
- Is it not just a little bit convenient that Mickey teleports to the exact location where Sarah is about to be exterminated?
- And you’ll notice that when Mickey says he’s got an opportunity for a new start, he means he’s going to break up Martha’s relationship with her fiance. What a bastard.
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #13
Doctor Who – The Stolen Earth & Journey’s End Review: Final Thoughts
This two part story is a fitting way to polish off the Russell T. Davies era.
Yes, there are a few stories left, but they are just marking time until it’s time for the Doctor to go.
Though it has its faults, this is probably the grandest Doctor Who story made to this point, and it deserves recognition for that.
A top quality effort in spite of the nonsense with Rose.