Review: Doctor Who – 2×13 – Doomsday


Cyberman: Dalek?

Dalek: Cyberman?

Cyberman: Did your sensors detect the fluid that I just expelled from my right lateral articulator joint?

Dalek: My probes observed the phenomenon

Cyberman: Are they able to analyse it?

Dalek: They report it is composed of waste oil and grease and certain biochemical solutions

Cyberman: Where is it now?

Dalek: It is sinking into the floor where it is being absorbed by human excretions such as dandruff and hair

Cyberman: That’s your void ship that is. Your mum made that. It’s like the best thing she’s ever done.

Dialogue from Doctor Who episode Doomsday.

So it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. The Daleks and the Cybermen had a great big fight and Rose is stuck in another universe. And it was all just so mediocre.

I wanted to like this. I really really wanted to like this. But I was bored. I may reconsider if I ever get round to watching the episode again. Already, my brain is trying its hardest to filter out the dross and crud surrounding the few good things in the episode.

But nothing can alter the fact that from about 7.20pm on Saturday night I was clock-watching.

7.20: Is that the time? I could have sworn it was 7.30. Christ, there’s another 25 minutes to go.

7.25: Was that only five minutes? Surely not. God, this is dragging.

7.30: Get on with it!

7.35: Still 10 minutes to go.

7.40: Nearly there

7.45: Thank God!

I think the trouble is I had Vicky Pollard in my head. There was hardly a single scene or line of dialogue that didn’t cause Vicky to start going, “Yeah, but no, but yeah, but…”

The Doctor and co are running for their lives from millions of Daleks and Cybermen. So why exactly are they standing around while Jackie and Rose’s dad try to work out why they love each other? The void is an absence of anything, including space and time: so what exactly was the stuff everyone got covered in? How do you fit five million Cybermen through a window in Canary Wharf in just a couple of minutes? How come Torchwood had better universe-jumping gear than the Cybermen? When exactly did they test it? How come a force powerful enough to suck in a Cyberman in India who’s been through the void only once isn’t powerful enough to suck Rose and the Doctor who have both been there and back twice? Why don’t the Cybermen grab on to anything or choose to disappear through all those cracks in the universe once the anomaly is activated? How come the Doctor didn’t just tie himself and Rose to something, rather than holding on for dear life? Why did the Time Lords build a giant Dalek-shaped Pez dispenser? Why does everyone drive to Norway when they could just have hopped into Rose’s dad’s zeppelin? How come Ms Cleavage could survive the cyberisation process with her own mind intact?

And on and on and on and on and on.

I could have forgiven one or even several of these problems. You have to: suspension of disbelief is absolutely vital in sci-fi, particularly in Doctor Who (“So, like, he can travel in time and space in a box that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside? Nah, not convinced.”). You’d be stuck from the outset if you didn’t. I’m sure there were eight year olds who could have coped. Maybe they even loved it. I tried to lower my expectations to those of an eight year old, because that’s who the show is aimed at. But there were just too many problems for my poor brain to cope with. It never had a moment to recover and sink back into the story.

It wasn’t without its moments: don’t get me wrong. The Genesis Ark – I now realise it was Ark as in “Noah’s” rather than in “of the Covenant”, but that’s still very biblical of the Daleks – did surprise and intrigue me, as did all the chatty stuff with the Daleks about the Cult of Skaro or whatever it was.

But there was almost nothing surprising the whole episode. The almost completely blood- and casualty-free cyberinvasion wasn’t exactly exciting. Rose’s Dad popping up to save her at the last moment: seen it done better in X-Men 2. The Dalek v Cybermen smackdown left me cold, since naturally, the Daleks were going to win and neither of them could trash-talk to save their lives. And of course one or more Daleks were going to escape at the last moment, so they can reappear next season.

Bye bye Pipes

Then there was the departure of Rose. I felt a little sad. A little. But you could play the ending of Casablanca and if you’d preceded it with 35 minutes of Bozo and His Amazing Clown Circus or a collection of Polish animation from the mid 80s, you’d end up with a pretty muted reaction, I reckon.

The trouble was, not only was I galactically bored by the time the ‘great separation’ arrived, I’d already seen it four or five times over the last couple of seasons. Rose sobs her eyes out cos the Doctor’s regenerated. Rose heartbroken because the Doctor’s stuck in a scribble. Rose upset because the Doctor’s fallen down a hole. Been there, done that. Didn’t care any more. We’d already seen the Doctor lose someone he loved, as well, in The Girl in the Fireplace and that was a great piece of work in all aspects. This wasn’t.

More to the point, Rose didn’t die, which would have been a good ending, rather than this cop-out that everyone (well Marie) saw coming. “This is how I died” is obviously supposed to be a reference to how she ‘died’ inside because she was separated from the Doctor.

But frankly, this ‘great separation’ was more on a par with a 19-year-old woman finding her much older boyfriend, who she’s never slept with or even so much as properly kissed, has been sent overseas and she can’t afford the plane ticket to go and visit him. Oh no, I’m never going to love like this again. I’m just going to have to stay in this country with my recently resurrected millionaire Dad, my mum, my new brother or sister and my now-beefcake ex-boyfriend. Oh boo hoo.

Pah. Bloody teenagers. ‘Died’? You’ll get over him in a couple of months. Plus he’ll probably be back anyway.

Also, Rose has been irritating me rotten this season. She was great with Eccles-cake. She was the best thing about last season by far. This season, she and the Doctor have been a pretty smug combo and she’s been far less impressive. I’m not exactly upset to see the back of her.

Maybe I’d have been moved a little more, if they’d done an Adric and gone for the silent credits rolling over a shot of Rose staring out to sea or something. Instead, we got Catherine Tate.

I’m annoyed on several counts by this. I was expecting a name or a former companion, not a ‘name’. And crap it, I already knew she was going to be in it – I was hoping for a surprise after all that secrecy. But as a way to kill drama, you’d be hard pressed to find a better method than having Catherine Tate turn up (great though she is in her own show). I think we can be fairly certain that the Christmas special isn’t going to be gravitas-laden now, nor are there any risks of our getting attached to the interim companion.

I might like Doomsday better in a few weeks, or after a re-watch. Right now, I’m just awe-struck that that was the finale. Next season, RTD, let someone else write the final episode.

  • OUCH! Harsh, but I’m expecting to read a lot of similar reviews to yours.

  • I thought I was remarkably restrained. I’ve actually been having trouble finding any negative reviews – they’ve pretty much been of the ‘Rose leaving made me cry’ variety, not that there’s anything wrong with that – but I’m sure they’re out there.

  • As suspected, at least some kids loved it.

  • I’ve sort of come to expect massive plot-holes in RTD scripts –?Ǭ�at least these weren’t as bad as the massive, blatant deus ex machina at the end of ‘Parting of the Ways’ and can be plugged with Nerd Polyfilla.
    For me, it’s worth it for some of the marvellous moments he also comes up with (have to say I loved the Cyberman-Dalek bitch-fest, especially with the bit he nicked from Dad’s Army. That Dalek should have been called Pike.) But I think RTD spreads himself much too thin with DW. He shouldn’t be exec-producing and writing, because the writing suffers. There’s no way that anyone could argue that his scripting on DW is up to the standard of Casanova, say.
    He’s also far too much of the gleeful fanboy, seemingly unable to obey one of the basic rules of writing –?Ǭ�always kill your darlings. If you think it’s absolutely brilliant, it’s almost always self-indulgent bollocks and you should cut it. Maybe everyone’s too intimidated to exercise quality control on his scripts? It’s got to be hard to knock back that massive enthusiasm, especially when it’s (a) coming from someone who’s won BAFTAs, and (b) he’s your boss.

  • Rose leaving made me cry.

  • Don’t forget he’s also simultaneously exec producing and writing for Torchwood. That’s probably spreading yourself a little too thin, I reckon.
    “I’ve sort of come to expect massive plot-holes in RTD scripts — at least these weren’t as bad as the massive, blatant deus ex machina at the end of ‘Parting of the Ways’ and can be plugged with Nerd Polyfilla.”
    Well, you say that, but I think 45 or more minor but noticeable plot holes are harder to cope with than one glaring (or not so glaring) deus ex machina. I can polyfilla, I just can’t polyfilla as fast as he was throwing holes at me on Saturday.

  • “Rose leaving made me cry”
    I know, dear. It’ll be all right though. Here, have a Wagon Wheel.

  • He’s only writing two Torchwood scripts, though, compared to five episodes of this series of DW (and eight of the first series!)
    But who’d have the nerve to tell RTD that he shouldn’t write so much Doctor Who?

  • “But who’d have the nerve to tell RTD that he shouldn’t write so much Doctor Who?”
    Who’d have the nerve? Ian Levine, for Ian Levine believes he is the true guardian of Doctor Who and all that is sacred about it. Do not cross him, for his word is channelled from the very heart of all that is good and beautiful and Holy about Doctor Who.
    Who’s least likely to, because he thinks RTD is the Second Coming? Ian Levine.
    Otherwise, maybe Paul Abbott and Stephen Fry, if they were ever to get round to writing their scripts for the show. And maybe someone high up at the Beeb, if the ratings started to fall.
    “He’s only writing two Torchwood scripts, though, compared to five episodes of this series of DW (and eight of the first series!)”
    So season 1: 8 scripts + 1 exec producer cred
    Season 2: 7 scripts + 2 exec producer creds
    Therefore, in order to maintain the same workload, 1 script must equal 1 exec producer credit. I suspect that’s not the case, so I reckon he’s got to be spreading himself thinner now.

  • “But frankly, this ‘great separation’ was more on a par with a 19-year-old woman finding her much older boyfriend, who she’s never slept with… Oh boo hoo
    I’ve read this in several places and man, I really don’t get it! Surely the relationship between Doctor and companion has always been different, and deeper than this?
    Great post, though Rob. Wrong, but a great read 😉

  • I’ve read this in several places and man, I really don’t get it! Surely the relationship between Doctor and companion has always been different, and deeper than this?
    Always? No. Doctor Who was always very scrupulously trained in the “they’re just good friends” school of ‘companions/assistants’ (note, not girlfriends/boyfriends). For one thing, it would have been dead creepy with William Hartnell and his young granddaughter – but he locks her out the TARDIS so she can go and marry some human in post-apocalyptic Dalek-invaded Earth. No real tears shed there that I could see. Other companions got a similar treatment.
    Pat Troughton wasn’t exactly sobbing his eyes out when Polly and Ben stayed behind. Maybe a little sad to see Jamie and Zoe shunted out of his existence by the Time Lords.
    Pertwee was ‘yeah, whatever’ when Liz Shaw buggered off, although he did have a moist eye when Jo got married.
    Tombo was ever-glib once they’d put on the emergency parachute (until Romana that is. Note to Doctor: stop leaving your companions in parallel universes).
    Davison: They kept slagging him off and dying, so he was never too sad.
    C Baker: Maybe a little sad, when he thought Peri had died, but not utterly cut up about her getting married to Brian Blessed.
    S McCoy: Do you really think he missed Bonnie Langford?
    P McGann: A ‘love ’em and leave ’em’ kind of Doctor, actually. Flirty McFlirtason in fact.
    So basically, in Classic Who, It’s always been a “Sorry to see you go, friend, but I’ll be back on me travels then” kind of thing, with the theme to The Littlest Hobo played over the top.
    21st century Who has been different, but we only have Pipes to go on with that. We’ll see how he feels more generally when New Girl gets shot through the head/sent to frolick on the best farm ever, where there’ll be cows and horses and sheep and lovely wooly little lambs (delete according to your age).

  • Great post, though Rob. Wrong, but a great read
    Forgot to say ta! Thank you very much! You’re most kind.
    I think, however, posterity will find that I was very much right, and every other reviewer on the planet was wrong. You’ll see.

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  • Haha ok, perhaps not *always*. In fact definitely not always. But in Rose’s case it’s true!! She’s helped him through being truly alone yadda yadda Russell T. explanation yadda. Well, I believed it 😉

  • Not heard that before. Could see how it would make sense, although neither Hartnell nor Troughton fell in love with any of their new companions when they were running away from the Time Lords. I’d go for that explanation though.
    On the other hand, most of my criticisms are Rose-targeted, she being the aforementioned 19-year-old with a crush. It may seem like love, young Rose, but if you’re still shagging Mickey on the side, it’s just a crush…

  • I just saw it as a completely different relationship – not even love, probably, just a unique bond, I guess… but then that’d be the same for all companions, wouldn’t it? Oh I don’t know 🙂

  • I think for the most part, the Doctor never even considered what effect he has on his companions. He didn’t understand that travelling with him would be such a life-shattering experience; when they leave him, he shrugs and moves on –?Ǭ�why shouldn’t they do the same? The few times he has been affected by their leaving, he’s been surprised by his own reactions.
    Rose was set up as different because she joined the Doctor when he was severely traumatised, and helped him to get over it. None of the other companions has ever done anything remotely like that. I think she might be one of the very few who was actually invited to join him, rather than stowing away, being kidnapped, or being offered a lift to somewhere and getting sidetracked.

  • Only just read this as missed it and had to download… As usual agree with you completely. I fear this show turning into a lumpen pastiche of itself… RTD is using up all the ideas that should have been used once the show has developed more. The Torchwood and Time War mythologies are bolted on and have no real emotionally resonance – not like Spike’s backstory or Mulder’s sister going missing.
    To have Daleks and cybermen fighting so soon – and to do it shitly – is a shame. And of course that he really has killed to daleks (again) is so ludicrous as to deprive it of any drama.
    Bang right on the smugness and lame ending too.

  • I knew someone else would agree with me! I knew it!

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