Part 1: Army Of Ghosts
We kick-off with a monologue from Rose about how much her life has changed since leaving Earth 24 episodes ago. Unfortunately, in 24 full-length episodes, only 2 have been away from Earth. A little self-consciously, we’re treated to 3 new shots of her on an alien planet to justify this statement.
So, the Doctor and Rose (cough) ‘return’ to Earth, to find it overrun with zombies.
This time, instead of dead zombies, gasmasked zombies, blood-controlled zombies, ill zombies, young zombies, Cyber-zombies, faceless zombies, or alien zombies, we have ghost zombies.
The ghosts are seriously weird. They look a bit scary, but the scariest thing is the way everyone treats them as normal, as they have been on Earth for a while. Shaun Of The Dead creeps in as a good influence here, with the Doctor flipping through TONS of TV stations, finding everything from a “ghost-report” (like a weather report) to a woman in love with one on Trisha.
The EastEnders clip, whilst laboured (one sentence would have been funnier than four) was entirely justified. It was ridiculously silly, but for an entirely good, logical reason. In fact, that's the moment that has stuck with me since watching the episode - real life dictating fiction. As for how this affects the canonicity of Dimensions In Time, it may be a while before my head is clear enough. ;)
Heading out to investigate, the Doctor gets to be quite Doctorish in this episode. Striding around in his Cid Sleuth coat and 3D glasses, he was once again the eccentric individual who just didn’t care what anyone else thought of him.
And then he finally encounters Torchwood – the top secret organisation whose name has been forcefully shoved into the background of nearly every episode for the past year. Common policemen in the 1950s – they were talking about Torchwood. Thousands of years in the future in the one story set on another planet – those people were talking about Torchwood too. Even a TV game-show host in the year 200,100 AD asked a question about Torchwood. Not very ‘top secret’ by anyone's measure.
After such a long build-up (with more up-front valid references in The Christmas Invasion, Tooth And Claw and Love & Monsters), Torchwood eventually turns out to be merely a group of airheads. No danger there then.
Even their computer system has one colour and apparently runs in DOS. I assume that's for the same reason why they're still using those clumsy massive 5-foot levers. Also, although their job is to stay on top of alien invasions, they’re blissfully unaware that the Diet-Cybermen have a secret hide-out in one of their offices.
(sigh) What a waste of taxpayers' money.
One of this season’s strengths would be the regular and guest-cast playing off each other for laughs, and this episode is no exception.
Doctor: "Her ankles are going."
Jackie: "You'll find out where my ankle's going."
The Doctor fails to convince Torchwood (a genius name by the way) to stop their dangerous “ghost-shifts”, so he gives up with the word “okay” and asks for a cup of tea instead. The unspoken bluff-match that is in fact taking place is brilliant.
Finally the worldwide ghosts blur and turn into more Diet-Cybermen, enabling them to invade pretty well every home in the world simultaneously.
The Doctor gets one of the most chilling lines ever:
"This is beyond an invasion - it's a victory."
And then it’s cheers all round as the Daleks also unexpectedly show up at the end of episode 1.
I could pick apart lots of little things about this episode, (eg. that woman feeling scared of the "building area" solely because that's how the viewer is perceived as feeling) but the bottom line is that I actually really enjoyed it.
Afterwards Flatmate Dave asked me if I felt suitably invaded, and I did, and I still do. It was the most victorious invasion of Earth I've ever seen on the show.
And, like it or not, there’s just no way of ignoring that it was coincidentally directed by Graeme Harper, an old hand from the original series.
Part 2: Doomsday
Another non-specific title that could refer to almost any episode of Doctor Who ever, but really, what else could you call an all-out war between the Daleks and the (Diet) Cybermen all over present-day Earth?
Glossing over minor holes, (like why anyone would name a prison ship “The Genesis Ark”) and an awkwardly misconceived, although funny, romantic scene between Jackie and Pete while thousands of people are dying every second, this episode really delivered too.
It was funny, it was exciting, it was what everyone had told me to expect last season.
And it actually appears to have been proof-read! I was taken completely by surprise when Mickey returned, not because he did, but because afterwards the Doctor didn’t know he was back. Finally the writers realised the big difference between what the viewers know, and what the characters do.
(And then Rose went and remembered the events of The Parting Of The Ways. Oh well…)
Even the Doctor’s final goodbye to Rose at the end, implied that this was the end of a much better-written series than much of it has actually turned out to be.
Note must be made however of this final story’s legion similarities to the end of the last series. Same guest-characters, same swarms of Daleks ravaging the Earth, same Rose getting sent away for safety but getting back anyway, same confrontation between two great powers, and same surprise newcomer appearing in the TARDIS as the final cliffhanger.
Still, a fine conclusion to a season that has definitely been an improvement on the last one. Still a way to go yet mind, but here’s hoping that this closing two-parter signifies a graduation of the writing-quality for next year.
(screencaps from http://doctorwho.time-and-space.co.uk/coppermine/index.php?cat=3)