Wednesday, 16 July 2008

How would Journey's End have looked if the tenth doctor had regenerated?

I have continued to think about the last episode of this series of Doctor Who, Journey's End, helped along by the usual dose of podcasts and online reviews. I have to admit that unlike the best episodes of Doctor Who, I mean the really great episodes, it does not bear too much thinking about, and the element that consistently niggles is the extraordinary business with the second doctor, the "Odd Job Junior Doctor" as I called him in my review. It's just such a bizarre idea; why on earth did Russell T. Davies come up with such an extraordinarily weird idea as having a duplicate doctor growing from that hand in a jar? Well, today I caught up with the Tin Dog Podcast, one of my favourites, and its presenter (Michael?) had a theory so good that I think it might be right. Of course I encourage you to go and listen to the podcast, but the gist of it was to imagine that at the beginning of "Journey's End", the tenth doctor had regenerated into the eleventh doctor, and then, later in the episode, that hand generates the tenth doctor clone, as we saw in the episode. We then have a two-doctor episode, tenth and eleventh, with the eleventh the "real" doctor and the tenth doing everything we saw him do, with Donna et al. Now imagine the scene in Bad Wolf Bay at the end. We have the eleventh doctor, a new face, played by who knows? (I like to imagine Richard E. Grant) and he is not quite the real doctor to Rose, not her doctor. And he fudges the crucial moment at which he could say what he had said at the end of series 2. And then the tenth doctor clone, who looks and feels like her doctor, is able to say those crucial three words in her ear, and Rose is happy to go off with him. Just imagine the feel of that -- it would have been perfect: Rose is united with her doctor, while the new doctor, still unfamiliar to us all, goes off in his TARDIS. What a fantastic way of creating a transition between the doctors that would have been! What an end of an era!

Most of the above is from the Tin Dog Podcast, though some is my own riffing on the theme. But I can't help wondering whether Tin Dog is actually onto something here. We know that Russell T. Davies likes those sorts of perfect tie-ups -- we saw it at the end of the second series, with the alternative universe's Pete Tyler joining up with our universe's Jacky. And bear in mind that David Tennant was always rumoured to have been standing down at the end of this series. Catherine Tate leaked this before the series had begun, to the evident annoyance of David Tennant himself, and perhaps that was the original deal. Russell writes the final episode with the regeneration to cap them all, a cliffhanger at the end of the twelfth episode, and a clever means to keep Tennant involved right to the end. I think I could easily have coped with Rose going off with her Tennant doctor at the end of the episode, not quite sure what to make of the new incarnation of the doctor who is now about to begin his new adventures in the four specials.

If this scenario is right, and it has some considerable explanatory power, we will probably never know until Russell writes his memoirs, and even then he might be guarded. Or perhaps one day David Tennant will tell all. Perhaps Tennant could just not resist the temptation to continue doing Doctor Who for a bit longer, to become the definitive doctor, to trump Tom Baker's tenure (three more years will do it). If it is right, I suspect that Russell liked his plot too much, and adapted it so that it would still work with Tennant playing both characters, though I think this may have been a mistake. Perhaps someone should have said, "Come on, Russell, this doesn't quite work" but there was no one to do that. Let's hope Steven Moffat gets a script editor who can say to him, "No, Steven, I don't think so" from time to time.

All the above is probably complete rubbish, but it's great fun to talk rubbish from time to time.

6 comments:

Peter M. Head said...

Speculative tradition-history often is fascinating.

Loren Rosson III said...

Just imagine the feel of that -- it would have been perfect: Rose is united with her doctor, while the new doctor, still unfamiliar to us all, goes off in his TARDIS. What a fantastic way of creating a transition between the doctors that would have been! What an end of an era!

Uh, no, Mark, it would have been just as horrible. Rose getting a pet Doctor is just plain wrong no matter how you get there.

RTD really shouldn't have brought back Rose at all, though she worked fine in Turn Left (and that was because she had no interaction with the Doctor she was "never supposed to see again"). If she could have had an actual role to play in the finale (which she obviously didn't, like the other companions), and if she could have not encountered the Doctor until after his regeneration into the 11th incarnation -- and if the offensive hand-to-clone idea were scrapped altogether -- then bringing her back might have worked. But her swan song in season two was perfect closure and really should have been left at that.

But it's interesting how you're speculating like this, because I've started writing up my own "script" for a season four finale. I'm so disgusted with Stolen Earth/Journey's End that I'm pretending it never happened. (I'll probably never watch it again.) If I like what I come up with, I may blog it: "What should have happened after Turn Left". I notice some OG fans are already penning similar fantasies.

Mark Goodacre said...

But what do you think of Tin Dog's hypothesis, Loren? You've got to admit that it is interesting stuff, even if you feel that that too would not have worked.

I think you are over-reacting a bit to Journey's End. True, it didn't quite live up to the heights reached by The Stolen Earth, or generated before that by Midnight and Turn Left, but it was still a rollicking good story, perfectly structured, and with several great moments. Just think of Wilf. Of Davros. Of Donna's tragic end. Of the German daleks. Of Mickey in the park. Of the doctor in the rain. There were too many sublime moments for one to get to upset about some of the more, shall we say, slightly screwy ideas? Bear in mind that the punters absolutely loved this episode -- best ever chart placing for Who in its 45 year history, and an AI figure of 91. It's difficult to argue with that kind of success. I'd rather have Doctor Who out that making a big splash, talked about by everyone, than a cult for us geeks :)

Loren Rosson III said...

Oh Mark, where to begin? Let me take a deep breath and try...

Bear in mind that the punters absolutely loved this episode -- best ever chart placing for Who in its 45 year history, and an AI figure of 91. It's difficult to argue with that kind of success.

I think it's easy to argue with. On the basis of "AI's", you may as well conclude that Keanu Reeves and Arnold Schwarznegger are good actors, that Dan Brown and Robert James Waller are decent fiction writers, and that MacDonald's and Taco Bell are as good as gourmet cuisine.

Furthermore, I guarantee that a lot of the viewers of Stolen Earth/Journey's End had never seen Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (and would thus be unaware of the atrocious betrayal going on with Rose's character). A lot of viewers were tuning in for the first time, on the strength of publicity for RTD's last finale.

But however we cut it, "AI's" don't mean a lot in my book. As I pointed out earlier on Doug's blog, a touch of critical reasoning ("elitism" pejoratively called) doesn't hurt now and then. Doctor Who is has been popular enough, and we don't need it dumbed down for this kind of mass appeal.

I think you are over-reacting a bit to Journey's End. True, it didn't quite live up to the heights reached by The Stolen Earth, or generated before that by Midnight and Turn Left, but it was still a rollicking good story, perfectly structured, and with several great moments. Just think of Wilf. Of Davros. Of Donna's tragic end. Of the German daleks. Of Mickey in the park. Of the doctor in the rain.

I honestly thought it was a complete non-story. The companions were brought back just so that we could have old faces to look at -- to watch them hug each other and laugh, with nothing significant to do. The German Daleks were amusing (as were Davros' rants), but everything else was so appalling I just couldn't care.

Donna's end was tragic, but the mocking decimation of her character left me, again, not caring. Plus it was copycatting Rose's season two non-death. (It worked for Rose, but with Donna it just felt like RTD was jerking us around.)

There were too many sublime moments for one to get to upset about some of the more, shall we say, slightly screwy ideas?

Slightly?!

To a large extent, our difference of opinion can be attributed to what you admit in your recent post. You're a fan of Josh Whedon, and I think the Russell Davies era of Doctor Who has been a bit too in thrall to Whedon. (The season-four finale bringing out the worst in this regard.) In your review of Journey's End, for instance, you cry for "More Mickey, please!", while people like me have been saying, "No, enough already of Mickey!" (All Mickey did in this finale was appear with Jackie out of nowhere, hug Captain Jack, stand around the TARDIS consul, and then -- dammit -- come back to our world, instead of staying where he belonged in the parallel world, once again undermining the tragic end to Age of Steel and Doomsday.) In the classic days we never pined like mawkish teens for what was being lost (even though we were teens!), and for Hollywood happy-ever-after endings. We were always looking forward to new and fresh ideas without needing to resurrect the past so cheaply. Stories like the Five Doctors were exceptional, and haven't aged well at all. I predict we'll eventualy look back on the current enthusiasm for Stolen Earth/Journey's End with stupendous wonder.

Well, I do go on... :)

Bob in HI said...

Well, first of all, I've been a part-time Whovian since Tom Baker days. But I miss a lot of things, like the business about "the atrocious betrayal going on with Rose's character" just sails right over my head. I liked the reunion of so many of the old companions, but I really thought the regeneration thing was botched, and violated Who Traditions.

I thought they were maybe getting ready to introduce a new FEMALE Dr. Who, but then was disappointed to find that the Elevated Companion chose to return to a pedestrian existance (somewhat like Pangloss deciding to tend his garden rather than go off on another adventure at the end of Candide?)

So I really don't like the whole regeneration meme resulting in the same old Dr. Who. Golly, if you're gonna regenerate, then regenerate. If not, don't call it regeneration!

Anonymous said...

Im glad my thoughts got this level of reaction.

thanks for listening

Tin Dog