New Who in Conversation: The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End S04E13/14

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!

stolen_earth_pic6“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End” – Season four, episodes thirteen and fourteen

The Doctor – David Tennant

Donna Noble – Catherine Tate

Rose Tyler – Billie Piper

Freema Agyeman – Martha Jones

John Barrowman – Jack Harkness

Elisabeth Sladen – Sarah Jane Smith

Noel Clarke – Mickey Smith

“The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”

TEHANI:

I LOVED these episodes! ALL THE SPECIAL GUESTS MAKES FOR ALL THE HAPPY! Even more happy on the rewatch now that I’ve actually seen Torchwood and some Sarah Jane Adventures! There are problems which we’ll get to, yes indeedy, but OH, I do love the cramming in of everyone!

TANSY:

On rewatching yet again, I have to say that “The Stolen Earth” taken on its own is one of the best individual Doctor Who episodes of all time. There’s so much about it that is clever and good and epic, the bringing in of all those little plot strands for each character, the effects – it just all looks fantastic.

My three year old sat up straight and declared, “DALEKS CAN FLY?” when she saw this yesterday which frankly should not have been a shock to her, but I do think this is one of the best uses of that visual idea – and the shots of the Dalek saucers attacking the Earth are hardcore. These shots remind me of the gorgeous old Dalek comics that first (along with to a lesser extent the Peter Cushing movies) showed ushow epic the Daleks could actually be with an excessive budget.

I’m so happy Doctor Who gets to show this stuff on screen now.

DAVID:

I’ve criticised RTD (Russell T Davies) a fair bit over the course of this review series, and I think justifiably so. But, credit where credit is due, at the back end of this season he really did do a wonderful job, and especially so with the finale. I really, really enjoyed these episodes, and as a fan, rather than a critic, I can’t remember anything that spoke to my inner fanboy and made him squee any more than this. And made him cry, but we will get to that. Yes, there are some bits that are a bit of a stretch, some very convenient resolutions and solutions, but these episodes are some much FUN that you really don’t care. It just grabs you and carries you along for the ride.

It’s things like this that show you that above all else, RTD is a fan. You may not always agree with the choices he makes, or the directions he goes, but you cannot fault the degree to which he cares about the show. His love for it shines through and, to me, covers a multitude of sins. And, every Doctor Who fan owes him a huge debt of gratitude for the fact we have New Who to watch.

StolenEarthArt2Firstly, how wonderful is it to see the “Children of Time”? It was just incredible having all the modern companions together again, and the best versions of them (with two exceptions which I will get to). Mickey is the grown up version, dare I say the man not the boy, Martha is competent and driven, and I really enjoyed having Jackie back (was she the Earth One version or the alternate world one? I’ve lost track!)! It made me want to go watch Torchwood, the brief glimpse of the characters and their dynamics made me think it would be wonderful, and I will definitely be watching the Sarah Jane Adventures now.

And, how can I forget K9? Good dog!

TANSY:

She is real Jackie but now living with Alter-Pete in Alter-Earth (we should totally call it CyberEarth or maybe PostCyberEarth). I love that all of the characters get their little moments and that includes Jackie – she doesn’t get a lot during the adventure itself but I enjoy how close she and Mickey are now, like real family, and that gorgeous touch right at the end where she tells the Doctor with a straight face that she named her baby after him.

DAVID:

For me, Captain Jack has been a bit all over the place, when they’ve got him right I’ve loved him, but when they didn’t I found him way too over the top. In this, though, he is spot on and I enjoyed every scene he was in. I especially enjoyed his interactions with Mickey – brilliant! I simply loved this Sarah Jane – she isn’t the one who put her life on hold, she is the one who built her own life after the Doctor, and a good one. RTD redeemed himself here, I feel.

stolen_earth_pic12TANSY:
I agree that this is a more believable Sarah Jane – coming after a whole season of her spin off series where they got to properly establish her, that makes sense – though it did bug me that she kept explaining over and over again that Luke was her son, it felt like a clumsy touch that wasn’t necessary.

TEHANI:

I’ve been watching The Sarah Jane Adventures this past couple of weeks though, and she does it a lot there as well. Trying to establish her as a maternal figure, for some reason?

TANSY:

I got that but it felt like she had to re-explain multiple times, rather than get to say anything else which was annoying since time was tight. We SAW Luke more than once, surely that was enough? Though I did like that it was clear she was differently motivated now – as a mother, she was willing to use more potentially violent threats against Davros.

It does feel a little – defensive about whether he is her real son or not? Which I guess is realistic, and some of her fears about that are explored in the series.

Oh how much did I LOVE that Davros remembered Sarah Jane from back in “Genesis of the Daleks”, and her terrified reactions to the Daleks and him? Excellent that she was able to be so visibly scared of them, but was cool and calm under all the other circumstances.

Back to more fun stuff, the meeting scene between most of the companions over Skype was pretty awesome, especially Jack and Sarah’s reactions to each other, and the scene in which Rose hangs out at Wilf and Sylvia’s place, miserable that she can’t join the party.

TEHANI:

Rose is hilarious in that scene! How she gets all sulky and like, “I did that,” and “Who is SHE?”

371448TANSY:

Yeah, after Martha having to be pouty about Rose I got a surprising amount of enjoyment from Rose getting jealous too. Possibly it worked best because Martha is now So Over the Doctor. I love love LOVE that Martha’s reaction to Rose’s return is entirely lacking in jealousy – she’s genuinely delighted for her friend to have her back. It not only reminds us of her lack of jealousy over Donna, but was a nice subtle apology for the mistakes the writers made in Season 3, I think.

DAVID:

While overall I thought Rose and Donna were excellent as well, I did find Donna’s “I’m not special” a bit tiresome after the tenth time, though I get why they stressed it, and Rose was a little bit too doe eyed. But, they were minor blips in some excellent characterisation, and as I said, this was all the companions at their best. Billie Piper does a great job of communicating how Rose feels about the Doctor, and how she struggles with the idea she is not the first companion in his life, nor the last. One can only wonder how she would have reacted to River Song. As for Catherine Tate, she continues to be magnificent, especially towards the end, which I am sure we will discuss!

TANSY:

Yeah it’s sad that Donna still feels that way about herself after we saw her acquit herself so brilliantly in “Turn Left” without the Doctor (which – does she remember or not at this point? They implied the memory was drifting away at the end). She has many great moments in this story, from her scenes with the Shadow Proclamation where she helps put the mystery together, to the quiet contemplative bits. I love the serious stuff with her but also the more arch comic scenes where she meets the Handy Doctor in the TARDIS and they totally try to outdo each other.

DAVID:

Harriet. What a great return for this character. It’s not often that someone proves to know better than the Doctor! I thought that, even though it was the Harriet Jones we’ve loved all along with her ID card and all, she brought a lot of dignity and gravitas to her role as the lynchpin of human resistance, and her sacrifice was one of the best in a long line in Doctor Who. As sad as it was to see her go, it truly was not in vain, and very powerful.

doctor who rose, clone and tenTANSY:
I like that the disturbing storyline about the Doctor bringing Harriet down came full circle, and the way she brings all the companions together and then sacrifices herself is magnificent. And of course, she was right all along. She dies purely so they can bring the Doctor to the Earth to save them – there’s no argument that there should be another way, for the Earth to defend itself without relying on the Doctor to be there.

I think Rose is very much in character and her love for the Doctor has to be as overt as it is here – and it’s likewise in character that the Doctor can’t quite deal with it. That final part where she demands he finish his sentence and he says “Does it need to be said?” That’s the Doctor right there! Squirming out of a commitment.

TEHANI:

What does that show though? That he DID love her (at the time) and moved on? Which, actually, makes sense in terms of how life generally works (and, pretty much, how the Doctor ALWAYS works).

TANSY:

I think he was over her at that point, but also – it does suggest to me he was never entirely capable of following through his genuine adoration of Rose into something that was romantic – or rather, real life romantic instead of ‘running around holding hands’ romantic.

I think he loved her, but his definition of love is sort of grandiose and theoretical. It strains under the pressure of real life, and the actual human expectations of another person who wants a relationship. So the only time he WAS prepared to tell her he loved her (probably) was seconds before he jumped ship to another universe.

Donna with a Time Lord brain is brilliant and wonderful and I hate that she wasn’t allowed to keep it. I hate her ending. It was such a devastating thing to do to a character who had damn well earned her hero stripes. The fact that he wipes her memory as she begs and pleads with him not to is … hard to accept.

JourneysEndTearJerkerTEHANI:

Horrible. Horrible horrible horrible ending and SO unfair. I know others have said they think it made sense in terms of the logic of the episode but I just think it was wrong. Donna didn’t deserve to lose it all, everything she’d seen, everything she’d done – unfair!

DAVID:

This was actually one of the most upsetting things I have seen on Doctor Who, in most television actually. It seemed unnecessarily cruel on behalf of the writer. It’s like they stripped away everything good that had happened to Donna and all the growth and happiness she had found, and reduced her back to a shallow caricature of herself. It was a bit of a slap in the face. Yeah, life doesn’t have happy endings, we get that, but I would struggle to come up with a crueler possible resolution to the story than that if I was trying! There is no reason why she couldn’t have lost her memories and met that guy from the Library – or even been sent to that virtual reality. Or anything rather than what happened.

Have I made it obvious how angry I was with that?

TANSY:

And I do wonder – especially having read A Writer’s Tale and knowing how long it took RTD to figure out all the details of this ending – if that had to be it for Donna. It feels like her storyline gets sacrificed at the end of this story (HER SEASON) so that Rose can have the happy ending. Why couldn’t Donna have been the one to be put in charge of the slightly sociopathic human Doctor? If you weren’t trying to have a romantic resolution, that would actually make more sense.

TEHANI:

Oh, no, I don’t like that interpretation at all! I’m not one of those people who has a problem with the idea of “sexytimes in the TARDIS” but I really don’t want to think Donna’s ending was sacrificed for the sake of ROMANCE!

TANSY:

I don’t know if I believe it, but after those great scenes of Donna as the Doctor it’s just sad to me that she’s not the one that gets the positive ending.

Journeys_End_Doctor_WhoCatherine Tate performs her final scenes brilliantly – and Sylvia and Wilf are wonderful in those too. But it’s horrible, horrible. I think the most uncomfortable aspect about this is that every other companion gets that levelling up arc – sure the Doctor might not approve of the fact that most of his friends have got a bit more violent and ruthless since he saw them last (and BTW it’s quite adorable that Davros finds this hilarious), but we see all the companions as more grown up and independent and highly competent/qualified than when they were last in the TARDIS. They each get to improve on themselves, to grow up a bit in the Doctor’s absence, and to come back with even more to offer him as friends and equals. Even Jackie has her life more together than last time he saw her!

But Donna doesn’t get that. She gets the exact opposite of that. And coming so soon after “Turn Left” in which we were promised that without the Doctor she would turn into a hero anyway, it feels like a betrayal of the character that this time around, that isn’t going to happen.

If they were going to send her back to suburbia I would have much preferred it to be her choice, and to know she was going to do something great with her life – in the way she didn’t quite manage after “Runaway Bride”. And if they hadn’t spent the whole bloody season giving her lines like “I’m going to stay with that man forever” it would have been much easier to give her a great, satisfying ending without lobotomising her.

DAVID:

Yes, while I disagreed with the writing here, the acting – from everyone involved – was absolutely perfect. Wilf was as good as we have come to expect, but Sylvia, in particular, shows us a whole other side and left me with a whole different opinion of this character, especially after her coldness in “Turn Left”.

the_stolen_earth_journeys_end_reunionThe scenes with Davros was another example of the respect shown for Classic Who. The idea that the Daleks would settle for nothing less than exterminating every other form of life, and would not feel safe until they had done so, was completely true to form. The Daleks have *always* been completely paranoid. But, where it really shone was how Davros holds up a distorted mirror to the Doctor, and speaks some very uncomfortable truths, not just about what the Doctor has done in the new series, but what he has done in the past.

The Doctor has turned companions into weapons before, as we saw with Ace in “The Curse of Fenric”. And, he has committed genocide on more than one occasion. As fans, we know that he is the “good guy”, that he is different than Davros, but it quite acceptable for Davros make us ask the question, why is he different?

So, what did everyone think about Dalek Khan? I loved the concept, loved the execution, I thought he was a great addition to the story.

TANSY:
I love several of the choices they made with Khan (Caan?) – particularly the idea of a Dalek prophet who LIES, because that’s a hilarious thing to do with a prophecy story – but also setting up a Dalek to be an actual character in his own right, and a foil to Davros.

DAVID:

Watching the resolution to the story made me think, and wonder just how much New Who got away with because of David Tennant’s charisma. It is a very wibbly-wobbly solution, almost deus ex machina, but I found myself really not caring because it was just so much fun! Tennant has way of just carrying you along that is truly remarkable, and I think only rivalled by Tom Baker.

TANSY:

I think that’s absolutely true. The Tenth Doctor’s general enthusiasm, energy and adorableness does mean that a lot of things – not only plot holes and script faults, but some quite unpleasant character moments – are swept away under the force of yes, his charisma.

It was part of what made the show so very successful and popular during this era – but also I think a little bit of a poisoned chalice. I know many fans of the show who struggled to deal with the post-Tennant era of the show because they missed him and his presence so much – but of course, there are two sides to every coin and I know many others who didn’t get the hang of New Who UNTIL the Eleventh Doctor came along…

I don’t always love the Tenth Doctor but I do rather adore David Tennant, and the emotional layers that have become an essential element of the show.This story not only marks the end of Donna’s run as one of my favourite New Who companions, but also the end (for a year, but it felt like longer) of episodic, serial Doctor Who.

For everyone who is depressed by this episode’s ending, I want to share this with you 

I can now not watch that final scene without seeing that gif in my head. Thank you, internet.

TEHANI:

So we’re sad about Donna, and of course, it’s made worse by the fact that now we move into a very interesting period of the Doctor’s life – a companionless one. Allons-y!

We’ve already reviewed:

“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06

“Father’s Day”, S01E08

“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10

“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13

Season One Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special

“New Earth”, S02E01

“School Reunion”, S02E03

“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06

“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13

Season Two Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special

“Smith and Jones”, S03E01

“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/E03

“Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, S03E08/E09

“Blink”, SO3E10 (with special guest reviewer Joanne Anderton)

Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords” S03E12/13/14

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)

Season Three Report Card – DavidTansyTehani

Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)

“Partners in Crime”, S04E01 (with special guest reviewer Lynne M Thomas)

“The Sontaran Strategem/The Poison Sky”, S04E05/06

“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, S04E09/10

“Turn Left”, S04E12

13 Comments

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13 responses to “New Who in Conversation: The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End S04E13/14

  1. Oh that ending. It makes me so mad. What a horrible, pointless thing to do with a character. “Journey’s End” is pretty much when the RTD era jumped the shark for me.

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