Saturday, 5 July 2008

Doctor Who, Series 4, Episode 12: The Stolen Earth

"The Stolen Earth" was the best experience I've had while watching Doctor Who. It is not the best episode ever, but it is the most successful in giving the viewer a thrill a minute. It is the kind of episode that could only have been done now, at the end of the fourth series since Doctor Who was revived in 2005. There are tons of references to the programme's recent past, and a smattering of references to its older history too, most obviously in the return of one of the great villains of the past. I was eight when Davros first appeared in Doctor Who, in "Genesis of the Daleks", a story we re-watched this week in order to do a bit of homework ahead of his return in "The Stolen Earth". It stands the test of time remarkably well -- it is still very watchable, and Michael Wisher's Davros is brilliantly menacing. Julian Bleach puts in a fantastic performance as Davros in the new episode, and it is excellent that they kept his look pretty faithful to Davros's look from previous outings, and especially "Genesis of the Daleks".

There was a reward in this episode for those of us who have embraced not only new Who but also the rest of the new Whoniverse, with two series of Torchwood and a series of Sarah Jane Adventures. The fact that Torchwood series 2 went out also in a family-friendly version meant that Torchwood characters like Ianto and Gwen could be introduced here without the kids going, "huh?" And getting Sarah Jane Adventures into the mix too somehow grants that show too that extra bit of legitimacy. I like the fact that Russell T. Davies is proud enough of these new programmes to add them to a Doctor Who episode. There was something quite thrilling about having Gwen and Ianto, Sarah Jane and Luke (but I would have liked to have seen Maria too) in Doctor Who. And how did Russell manage to write a script with so much emotion, and so many characters, and without it feeling convoluted or rushed? It was not a convoluted story; it was easy to follow, and yet it sped along at a frenetic pace. "Oh great, more Wilf, yes! Oh, and Rose! Martha; is she dead? No, she's still alive! And there's Francine! Great! Harriet Jones!" And so on, all the way through.

My favourite review this week was from Behind the Sofa, by Neil:

Talkin' Bout Regeneration

. . . . . How can Russell top this? This isn't his last 'Horray!' by a long chalk - there's still four "specials" before his era truly comes to an end. So what on earth is he going to do for an encore? It's a terrifying prospect. How about the Doctor and Borusa riding in on the back of a Myrka to defeat Morbius, the Master and the Rani as they attempt to destroy ancient Gallifrey with the help of some Quarks? Guest starring Paul McGann and Sylvester McCoy (who has a Metebelis spider on his back) and featuring Simon Cowell as Himself. It's madness! Utter madness!

Good luck to him, I say. The audience is positively lapping it up and a stunning AI score of 91 won't see Russell changing tack as he hits the final stretch. We might as well go with the flow. This series has delivered some wonderful, thought provoking episodes - Midnight, Silence in the Library, The Fires of Pompeii - but we've always known that the finale would be an apocalyptic, loud, proud and utterly mental Russ-fest. Moaning about it now seems a little absurd. We may as well save our outrage for next week's obligatory reset button instead (aka the Haagen-Dazs Key).

Well, even if we get another "reset" or "rewind" in "Journey's End", I think I can cope with it for the joy of "Stolen Earth". I can't wait to find out how that cliffhanger is resolved and frankly, I just know that I can't be disappointed after such a fantastic 45 minutes. Heck, that "TO bam BE bam CONTINUED" was so thrilling that I wanted to watch it again and again. Although I can't wait for the resolution, I want to pause for a moment and enjoy this moment of not knowing, to make a memory here about how well cliffhanger TV works when it works, like it does here, with everyone going into a frenzy of speculation all week about what happens next. And of course that is my favourite clip of the week:

The test of a great episode is whether you want to watch it again, and again. We have already watched "The Stolen Earth" three times and would happily catch it again, except that it is almost time for the finale. Watching this episode was an extended Whogasm! I'd love to have seen those girls' reaction to this episode!

And now, it is media blackout time until we've seen "Journey's End".

Oh, five TARDIS groans, of course. Heck, I'd give it six.


Chris Knight said...

Just finished watching "Journey's End". Russell T. Davies bows out bigtime! I think this episode is going to evoke a lot of controversy (some are already saying that it wasn't all that good) but you know what? I had a blast watching it! It ended as perfect as it could have possibly been. Davros makes one of the best speeches in Doctor Who history (you'll know it, trust me) and there is one scene involving the TARDIS that is *magnificent*. I'll buy the Season 4 soundtrack just for the music from that one scene.

After this episode there is no doubt that Davros is the greatest villain ever. He's like Emperor Palpatine meets Hannibal Lecter!

I think you'll like it :-)

Anonymous said...

Q - who is no longer The Q, but might keep his name as Staff D is a little bit more off a mouthful, got home from military duties to watch the final Dogder ebisode of the series, and was most impressed. Mark, if you have not seen it yet, then avoid spoilers and make sure that you have some room behind the sofa. Davros was excellent, and I agree with Chris Knight about the quality of his his speech. And Catherine Tate is now a serious actress, not just another television comedian.

Anonymous said...

How on earth did the BBC keep THAT a secret?

James F. McGrath said...

Since there is a linkback to my blog below, I should warn Mark and others who may not yet have seen Journey's End that they should probably avoid my blog post until they've seen it. Indeed, you may want to simply avoid the post altogether... :) said...

Hi. Hope you can help, I have 16 questions about this season ender and
hope you can help answer them here:


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