Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday

Army of Ghosts

“They can shoot me down, but the moral high ground is mine.”

It’s a most arresting beginning- “This is where I died”- which immediately grabs you, reminding you of a certain line from The Satan Pit. Throw in a few short “nothing can possibly go wrong” scenes, and we’ve been well and truly told that this is going to be epic.

The Doctor and Rose arrive back in the Powell Estate, and naturally Rose has got loads of washing for Jackie. Apparently the TARDIS has no washing machine, which gives rise to all sorts of questions about how the Doctor used to get his washing done way back when. Perhaps he originally landed in Totters Lane to use the local laundry.

Anyway, there are strange apparitions which everyone on the planet seems to assume are a) ghosts and b) not scary, as would be traditional. And actually, seeing David Tennant wait for a ghost to arrive at the appointed time is quite spookily reminiscent of his recently televised Hamlet.

Elsewhere, the actual plot is happening. We’re finally introduced to Torchwood, and its leader Yvonne Hartman, played quite brilliantly by Tracy-Ann Obermann, who is at the same time quite the imperialist and a devotee of the latest management crap. There’s a mysterious sphere, and some lurking Cybermen. Oh, and there’s a one-off actress called Freema Agyeman but we’ll probably never see her again.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is now sporting 3D glasses and has announced the debut of a new catchphrase, “allons-y”. I never noticed the line “Allons-y, Alonso” before! He and Rose head into the TARDIS and trace the “ghosts” to their source in the Torchwood building, momentarily forgetting that Jackie’s still on board. Oops.

There are a lot of great individual scenes in these couple of episodes, the first of which is the Torchwood heavies applauding the Doctor. In fact, the whole sequence which follows between Yvonne and the Doctor is a delight, especially when she casually tells him he’s a prisoner. She’s a great character.

The Doctor explains that the sphere is for travelling through the void which separates universes from one another, and name-drops the Eternals while he’s doing it. Yay! He then proceeds to play mind games with Yvonne, getting her to suspend the “ghost shift”, in another brilliant scene. Billie Piper also adds greatness to her own strand with her hilariously brilliant lying body language, and… it’s Mickey!

The ghosts are Cybermen! They’ve just conquered the entire planet! And… there are Daleks inside the sphere! Yep, that was all a bit good.


“I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye.”

It’s been a while since we last saw the Daleks so naturally they need to remind us how nasty they are. Killing Rajesh (this week’s red-shirt) with their suckers for no particular reason will do nicely. But Rose is a match for them- as is Mickey, who is suddenly yet naturally a bit of a hero with no idiot tendencies whatsoever. That’s good character development.

The Cybermen / Dalek macho stuff is amusing, especially the Daleks boasting about being able to defeat five million Cybermen with one Dalek, let alone four, but this is as much about the environmental damage caused by the hole between universes as it is about them. They still get to be cool, though: the Daleks reminisce about the old days of Terry Nation Dalek annuals by talking about “Rels” while the Cybermen threaten to cybernise Yvonne (Tracy-Ann Obermann plays the fear quite superbly) and Jackie, who is rather fortunate to escape.

Jake and his commando mates suddenly turn up from the other universe to resolve the immediate crisis, and take the Doctor back to their universe to have a chat with Pete. Apparently Harriet Jones is president!

Meanwhile, the chat between Rose and Mickey is halted by a curt “Social interaction will cease!” from Dalek Thay. Naturally the Doctor chooses this very moment to pop in for a chat. We learn that these Daleks are all from the Cult of Skaro, a kind of Dalek freemasonry, and are sufficiently special to have names: Thay, Sec, Jast and Caan. They have a mysterious bit of Time Lord tech called the Genesis Ark, which Mickey helpfully activates for them.

We get another fantastic scene as Jackie and Pete finally meet. The highlight, of course, is Jackie telling the Doctor to shut up, although this is closely followed by the look between Mickey and the Doctor as Jackie tells Pete that “There was never anyone else.”

Things are still pear-shaped though; the Genesis Ark is bigger on the inside and it contains millions of Daleks. The CGI is slightly dodgy at this point, but that only really highlights how great it has otherwise been.

The Doctor comes up with the solution very quickly; he can force everything that’s been through the void to fall through a hole to be trapped there forever. But that means everyone from Pete’s world, plus Rose, has to go back there to be safe, while the Doctor just holds on tight and hopes for the best. Rose isn’t having this, and makes sure she ends up staying behind. This is feeling very much like Adric’s final moments from Earthshock- we know it’s all going to end in tears. Rose’s fall into the vortex is beautifully realised, and Pete’s sudden reappearance to save her comes out of the blue.

We now get shots of both Rose and the Doctor standing next to walls to emphasise the permanency of their separation. Time passes, and we come to the point from which Rose has been narrating everything all this time. Their final meeting at Bad Wolf Bay is perfect and wonderful, and the Doctor’s final failure to say to Rose that he loves her is an inspired moment. It’s just a shame that Catherine Tate’s sudden appearance has lost rather a lot of its shock value in recent years!

Amazing. 5/5, easily, and at last a story to take the top spot from The Caves of Androzani. The season as a whole, though… after last season’s rather successful scoring this is a bit of a letdown and actually a bit below the average with 3.7/5. When it was good it was very, very good but the clunkers really let it down.

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