Okay. Okay. Susannah’s list of top five reasons David Tennant likely isn’t leaving Doctor Who yet helps, but that’s one heck of a cliffhanger. This, friends and neighbors, is why you shouldn’t read spoilers, because the thrill of the reveal is so very, very delicious. As someone born without the shipping gene, I confess to rolling my eyes and moaning during the 5K of Cross-Universe Reconciliation and wondering why there’s never a Dalek around to shoot someone when you need one. I must further confess that it never crossed my mind it would be the Doctor they would shoot. That heady mixture of shock, delight at being shocked, horror, grief, and curiosity…that’s why you shouldn’t read spoilers.
As is typical of Russell T Davies finale arcs, “The Stolen Earth” is kind of a hot mess if you break its plot down. There are are approximately eight bazillion potential reset buttons built in at this point… and I kind of don’t care. A cliffhanger like that helps, but so does the tingle that comes from bringing together so many characters we love (so many, in fact, that the opening credits whip by near the speed of sound). In lesser hands, the fanfic-y aspects of such a stunt could come across as, well, fanfic, but Davies does a nice job of giving us what we want when, say, Captain Jack and Martha first hear each other’s voices. And these interactions beautifully highlight Who‘s strength in painting in little character details that bring this world to life, as when Sarah Jane grieves for Luke’s lost potential or–heaven help us–when even the Daleks know who Harriet Jones, former prime minister, is. It’s easy to forgive nonsense plotting when we get to laugh and cry in the same breath.
Even if the plotting internal to the episode is sometimes suspect, Davies does an impressive job of pulling in plot points from previous stories that provide a little frission of satisfaction for loyal viewers. It’s lovely to find out where the bees have been going, or that our tally of lost planets has paid off. Perhaps even more impressive, however, are the ties to previous seasons. In addition to the aforementioned Harriet Jones moment, the Doctor’s chirpy “Bye!” to Davros hearkens back to the exact same line reading the Fourth Doctor blared as he leapt away from the villain decades ago (Tennant’s fanboy status really does add layers to the performance). Wilf’s (pretty sharp) attempt to take out a Dalek puts a twist on an old episode in which the Doctor manages to escape by putting a hat over a Dalek eyestalk–apparently Daleks learn from history. Best of all, the episode reclaims the Daleks. After the debacle that was the “Daleks Take Manhattan” two-parter last season, the Daleks seemed something less than threatening. But Sarah Jane’s utter horror at hearing a Dalek battle cry places the classic villains firmly back where they belong: in the realm of the really, really scary.
It’s unfortunate that rejuvenating the Daleks has a dark reflection in the character assassination of one Rose Tyler. We noted last week that there would have to be some pretty good reasons for Rose to be wandering into the story, and the pretty good reasons so far appear to be that she missed the Doctor. We’re assuming that the producers and actors didn’t mean to make it seem as though Rose was willing to pull down the walls of reality because she missed her sorta-boyfriend, but they probably should have made that more explicit on screen, because that’s sure how it’s coming across now. Rose has always been capable of cattiness and jealousy, but the little pity party she throws herself as the companions are called to arms is the very definition of missing the point. By the end of the episode, we have to hope she’s suffering from Bad Regeneration PSTD–you’re the only person in the room who has ever seen this happen before, Rose, so get a grip–but, again, if that was the desired point, it could have been better made on screen. All of which pales, I suppose, in the face of getting the Doctor shot by a Dalek. We’ve been worried that bringing Rose back would ruin “Doomsday,” but it never occurred to us that bringing Rose back might ruin Rose. They’ve got one more episode to rehabilitate her, and if they can manage that feat with Daleks, here’s hoping they can manage it with Rose Tyler. With regeneration issues, Donna becoming something, Sarah Jane, Jack, Martha, Gwen, Ianto, Wilf, Davros, and Daleks, will there even be time?
Oh, who are we kidding–we just want to know what happens to the Doctor.