DOCTOR WHO “The Stolen Earth”: Wait–WHAT?!?

Er…but…but, if…WHAT?!?

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.

6 thoughts on “DOCTOR WHO “The Stolen Earth”: Wait–WHAT?!?

  1. If this finale is anything Project Runway related, it is, in fact a hot tranny mess. And that is how I will continue to refer to Russell T. Davies.

    Especially now that there are ‘rumours’ out there that he ripped up Torchwood series 3 scripts because he was pissed off that Freema accepted a role on itv’s Law and Order: London and is kicking Martha out of Torchwood. Hot mess!

  2. Definitely a hot mess. And while I thought Rose was pretty kick ass in “Turn Left,” I think that’s where they should have left her.

    But I’ve already seen the finale, so I’ll shut up.

  3. Oh, I hope that’s not true about Freema. Isn’t his good Torchwood buddy Chibnall running the new L&O? Why would any of that upset Davies?

    I think 25% of my wishing Rose hadn’t shown up in “Turn Left” is related to Piper’s problems in finding the character again, which I found really distracting. 25% has to do with it being the entry point to disasters to come, namely the whinefest in “The Stolen Earth” and further disasters that may yet show up. Finally, 50% of it is that she should never have shown up beyond Bad Wolf Bay. “Doomsday” was devastating–even if Davies didn’t screw her up in the final two eps of this season (which he’s so going to do), just having her around doing not much of anything that couldn’t be done by another character cheapens ger absence, which has up until now been so painful.

  4. The Freema bit did come from one of the less reputable newspapers and she did host the Doctor Who Proms yesterday. So, who knows.

    I agree with you a lot about Rose here. They’ve been rerunning series two on a Canadian CBC affiliate and I made a point of watching New Earth and Girl in the Fireplace, it seems to me that her reappearance doesn’t just cheapen the emotional blow that is Doomsday, but the whole of series 2. I can’t help but see her as a whining, bitchy companion. As well, all the Lonely God/Can’t Have the Doctor Without the Monsters/How Long Can You Keep Up This Terrible Life plot points that are trotted out EVERY episode in series 2 are completely crushed by the appalling resolution of series 4, where we every trick is trotted out to little effect. Boo, RTD.

  5. Pingback: For Whom the (Cloister) Bell Tolls, or Why We Hope Steven Moffat’s DOCTOR WHO Is an Island | TV BACON

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