“Journey’s End” – Review: Redux

Dalek “Exterminieren! Exterminieren! Halt! Sonst werden wir Sie exterminieren! Sie sind jetzt ein Gefangener der Daleks! Exterminieren! Exterminieren!”

Journey's End

9.4 million people tuned in to the Series Four finale and they were treated to sixty-five minutes of wonderful, sci-fi nonsense.  Beforehand, back in 2008, there was an abundance of newspaper articles across the whole gamut of broadsheets as well as the more typical tabloid fodder, plus guest appearances on TV shows and even features on the Six O’Clock news as a kind of Who-Shot-JR national fervour built up following the “I’m regenerating” cliff-hanger to “The Stolen Earth”.  The secrecy of the plot and the fact that none bar the inner sanctum of BBC Wales knew what was about to happen meant that the hype was going to be almost impossible to live up to.  Alas, that almost proved to be the case. Although this sense was all but lost in the 20/20 hindsight of this knowing look back.

I should caveat any doubts I have with a statement that says… What the heck do I know?! Those 10 million people who watched it and the astonishing AI score of 91 that shows that they pretty much all felt it was wonderful, prove, if nothing else, that from a popularity viewpoint, Doctor Who has never been stronger. My criticisms that follow probably only go to reduce my thoroughly arbitrary “personal AI” score to about 85 but some others, I’ll leave you to seek out their views, choose to feel somewhat more aggrieved about the perceived problems of “Journey’s End”.  I would guess that their AI scores have dropped to single figures if their vitriol is to be believed.  Bizarrely, I heard a news item on Ocean FM a few days after the episode aired describing how websites went into “meltdown” as the fans expressed their dissatisfaction with the conclusion of Series Four. I still can’t get my head around the fact that reactions to our show get reported as genuine “news” in the same briefings as car bombs in Afghanistan.

The first thing to find out was whether the surprise regeneration turned out to be (a) real, or (b) a cop-out with some clever explaination as to why the regeneration doesn’t take its full effect. The naiive young Who-fan in me so wanted the the answer to be (a) because it would have been such a thrill to be so truly shocked by a twist like that in a tea-time telly show, but it was not to be. However, far from being a cop out that many feared, the resolution, which finally made use of the hand-in-a-jar, had massive unforeseen consequences for the TARDIS crew. After shooting his Time Lordy energy off into his spare hand it seemed to be back to business in the fourth series finale.

What followed was spectacle, peril, explosions, exposition and some wonderfully OTT maniacal rants from Davros…. the “destruction of reality itself” was one of the greatest villainous tirades I can remember from the one of the greatest villains there is.  The final capture of all the companions in Davros’ vault as the sheer scale of the reality bomb became clear was fairly inevitable although I was left with the impression that the inclusion of some of the these companions was crowbarred in for its own sake, rather than serving to progress the story.  It was at this point that I started to struggle a little. Plot strands twisted to the brink of credulity to bring The Children of Time together as a powerless force was a little hard to believe.

Once there in the dimly lit vault the companions’ fight seems to disappear into the gloom, and our attention turns to Donna being stuck in the TARDIS with the Hand.  Of all the insane ideas that were being bandied around by the “fans” in advance of the episode, I never saw anyone who thought that the Doc would transfer his regenerative energies into the hand, only for that to be interfered with by Donna who released the energy causing the hand to regenerate into another 10th Doctor who was half-human with bits of Donna and that left Donna, unbeknownst to anyone, as half Time Lord.  As Doctor/Donna and Donna/Doctor arrived to everyone’s surprise avec TARDIS in the vault, one had to suspend one’s disbelief at what had gone before and get taken along for the rest of the ride.  Indeed, it required not so much a suspension of disbelief, rather the taking of said disbelief, tying a noose around its neck and kicking away the chair to leave it hanging there with its legs twitching.

From that point on, the strands of a zillion storylines started to come together and one or two new ones formed. Davros and the Dalek empire were defeated by the “three-fold man” (the unholy trinity of Doctor Ten, the human Doctor and Donna/Doctor) and Caan himself was revealed as a traitor from within the Dalek’s own ranks. Along with the main triumverate, we had Martha, Rose, Jack, Mickey, Jackie and Sarah all escaped on the TARDIS from where they piloted the Earth back to its rightful place (just taking a moment to check on the status of that swinging corpse of disbelief). Sarah said her farewells to the Doctor and ran back off to a new set of Adventures with Luke and the other kids.  Jack recruited Martha for another spell on Torchwood and also found Mickey thrust upon him. (I was quite looking forward to seeing Mickey turn up in Torchwood but it was not to be. Instead, there will be a throwaway scene in “The End of Time, Part 2” that I’ll talk about on Thursday. Finally, as the walls of the universe righted themselves, there was just about time to head back to Bad Wolf Bay to tie up once and for all (yeah, right!) the Rose storyline.  With Rose and the human Doctor staying behind in the parallel world to possibly live happily ever after, in a bittersweet bliss (along with the mother-in-law).

With all the other scooby gang taken care of, it was time for the Doctor to face the inherent problems of Donna’s new found Time-Ladiness. Tragically, the accumulation of Gallifreyan knowledge appears to be a bit too much for a simple human cranium to contain and, in one of the best sequences of this or any other series, the Doctor had to wipe the memories of every encounter that Donna and the Doctor had ever had and he took her unconscious body back to Wilf and Sylvia.  When Donna awoke she was right back to her grating personality that we met at the start of The Runaway Bride, unaware of everything that had happened and destined never to fulfil the potential that she had inside.  Wilf’s final words to the Doctor on the doorstep were magnificently delivered and heart-breaking to all but the most soulless of viewers.

Series Four ended on the most downbeat of notes…. the Doctor alone in the Console Room that had been so full life just hours before. The lonely wanderer.  We didn’t even get a “What? What? WHAT?” moment as a pick me up, although the Cybermen’s Christmas return was confirmed in a post credits teaser.

Highlight: Just the jaw-dropping spectacle of how far our little show has come

Lowlight: Piloting the TARDIS to tow the Earth back home with no more than a very minor earth tremor

Talking Point: What will happen to the half-human Doctor in Pete’s world?

Demon’s Run Rating: Despite everything …18 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 5th July 2008

Marathon Status: 55 down, 47 to go

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