8 questions for Doctor Who Series 9

What watching Doctor Who feels like at the moment.

What’s Missy’s “clever idea”?

The sewers were revolting. The Daleks were going berserk. The Dalek city was crashing down upon itself. Amidst all that, the last we saw of Missy, she was being ganged up on by a bunch of tough-looking Daleks. Scared? Not Missy. The Time Lady broke into a cheeky, knowing smile and declared, “You know what? I’ve just had a very clever idea.” Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Missy and her diabolical schemes this series. Is she about to team up with the Daleks? A Missy-Dalek alliance might seem a bit repetitive after her collusion with the Cybermen in Series 8, but surely something momentous is going to come of this? Perhaps the Doctor will regret making his childhood friend jealous before the close of the series.

What did the regeneration energy do to the Daleks?

Speaking of the Daleks, what actually happened to them when the Doctor channelled his regeneration energy into them? The Supreme Dalek exulted, “We are renewed. We are more powerful.” Is this just like pumping the Daleks with steroids, or did the regeneration energy fundamentally change them in some way? Doubtless we’ll find out in good time, given whatever Missy’s “clever idea” turns out to be.

Was Davros being sincere?

We know Davros’s bromance with the Doctor was all a ruse to trick the latter into yielding up some regeneration juice, but was anything about Davros’s emotional catharsis sincere? I’d really like to think so. It would be extremely difficult, surely, for a creature of Davros’s age and decrepitude to produce fake tears at will, without really feeling it. I think, at least, that Davros’s teary elation over the news of Gallifrey’s salvation was genuine. That, at least, fits with his character. Davros may have a twisted and horrible morality, but he still has a morality, one dominated by fanatical nationalist and xenophobic principles. After all, as he admitted, it was what drove him to create the Daleks, which he still seems to see as his own people, his own Kaled brothers and sisters. I’m sure, in the warped nationalist worldview that guides him, Davros was genuinely happy that the Doctor had got his people and his home back.

Does the Master have a daughter?

maisie“It’s pretty, though, isn’t it? Got it in the olden days on Gallifrey. The Doctor gave it to me when my daughter—”

If you were watching The Witch’s Familiar with one eye on Twitter, you would have missed this mini-bombshell. It’s a very Moffat thing to do, dropping a fairly large new tidbit of mythology casually into dialogue like this. We know the Doctor has had children and grandchildren, including his genetic transfer-created “daughter”, Jenny, but this is the first time we’ve heard about the Master having had children. Will we get to meet her? Maybe—and this is a pretty wild and recklessly optimistic conjecture—maybe that’s who Maisie Williams’ character is?

How did Missy escape Gallifrey?

Seriously, are we ever going to learn how the Master can be in the universe now when (s)he was supposed to be trapped in Gallifrey’s pocket universe? I thought we might’ve learned how she did it in the series opener, but it wasn’t to be, it seems. Has Missy already told the Doctor offscreen?

Is the sonic screwdriver gone for good?

Capaldi rocks those sunglasses like a boss, but I don’t think I’m all that enamoured with them as a replacement for the reliable old sonic. The sonic screwdriver is a familiar staple of the show, and black sunglasses are just a bit too cool for the Doctor (unless he’s wearing them ironically). That said, I doubt the sonic is gone forever. I have a feeling this is about giving Capaldi a new sonic screwdriver, which I’m sure we’ll see him with by the end of the year. His old one, the one he gave to little Davros, was a leftover from the Matt Smith years, after all, and I’m sure Capaldi doesn’t want to feel like he’s acting under the shadow of his predecessor.

What is the Doctor’s confession?

One of the most intriguing things to come out of the Series 9 opener was that the Doctor apparently had some dark secret, which he’d committed to a confession dial, a Time Lord will, possibly relating to the reason he left Gallifrey in the first place. That this question, of what drove the Doctor to flee Gallifrey and continue running for the rest of his life, is going to be a theme or arc of this series really excites me. I can’t help myself, I’m a mythology buff, especially when it concerns the Doctor himself. I’ve come up with speculative headcanon about this mysterious subject, but I’ll be glad to learn the real answer.

The only clue the episode gave was that the Doctor’s secret may or may not involve a legendary “hybrid” creature of some kind, which the Doctor had some part in creating. Davros mentioned it, assuming the Doctor was referring to a Time Lord-Dalek hybrid created with the Doctor’s regeneration energy, but that theory seems pretty bust. The reason we can’t dismiss what Davros said, though, is because Missy also mentioned it. Whether the hybrid thing really is the Doctor’s confession remains to be seen. The only idea I have is that it sounds a little like a fan theory that’s been circulating for some time that posits that the Meta-Crisis Doctor we saw created in Journey’s End, half Time Lord and half human, became the Valeyard, the “evil” incarnation of the Doctor who persecuted the Sixth Doctor in The Trial of a Time Lord, driven mad after tragedy prematurely destroys the perfect life with Rose in the parallel universe that the Meta-Doctor was supposed to have.

It’s a pretty big stretch, but the only reason I mention it is that David Tennant was spotted visiting the Doctor Who studios in Cardiff during filming. I don’t think that’s it, though. It would be cool if it turned out to be what the Doctor’s “hybrid” was, but I don’t think Steven Moffat would want to “ruin” Rose’s happy ending like that. (On the other hand, he’s Moffat…) And fan theories have a habit of being laughably wide of the mark.

What’s with the episode titles?

The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar have surely got to be vying for the episode titles most seemingly unrelated to their actual episodes. No one can agree whom the titular “apprentice” and “familiar” is/are supposed to be. Okay, the “witch’s familiar” is not too ambiguous—Clara played the role of familiar, or companion, in the entertaining Missy-Clara double-act, following Missy around and doing what she said. Clara seemed especially like a witch’s animal companion (“familiar”) when she hopped into that Dalek shell.

Who the “magician’s apprentice” is supposed to be is less obvious. I have a feeling little Davros is supposed to be the apprentice, and the Doctor the magician, especially given that final scene of The Witch’s Familiar, where the Doctor takes little Davros in hand and imparts to him the importance of mercy, hoping to influence Davros and, indirectly, the creation of the Daleks, for the better.

I also have a feeling (or maybe a vain hope) that there’s more to “the witch’s familiar” than first appears. If Clara is the familiar, and Missy the witch, I’m hoping more details of the “woman in the shop” mystery will be revealed before Clara departs. It would be very like Moffat to drop a big hint like that that no one figures out until it all becomes clear later on. That’s assuming that the “explanation” offered in Death in Heaven, which I found wholly unsatisfying and infuriating, isn’t the whole picture. I mean, there has to be more to Missy’s bringing the Doctor and Clara together than “I thought you two might hit it off”. Please let there be more.

Thoughts on: The Magician’s Apprentice / The Witch’s Familiar

Warning: spoilers ahead.

Oh, Moffat. Miffie. Stevie-babes. Why do we let you out? You’ve just gone and created the ultimate fan-pleasing story. Did you hear that strange high-pitched wailing noise as you were watching this? That was the sound of fans everywhere squeeing for dear life in perfect unison. We knew this would happen one day. Ever since we saw William Hartnell’s mug five times over the course of Series 5. Steven Moffat is an über-fan, and this is a script only an über-fan could have written. And it’s magnificent. As a series opener, it’s perfection; exactly the way to start a new, hotly-anticipated series of Doctor Who (and a late one, no less) — not with a pathetic whimper, as we were too often offered in Russell T Davies’ era (*cough* New Earth *cough* Partners in Crime *cough*), but with a resounding, earth-shaking roar, the roar of an electric guitar being rocked by—who else?—the Doctor.

We’re hit with a pretty huge bombshell within minutes of the episode’s opening as the Doctor discovers a little boy trapped on a battlefield amidst a field of hand mines, who, we learn shortly, is a young Davros. The Doctor helpfully conveys how thunderstruck we feel in his own stunned expression. It’s a staggering way to begin this opening two-parter; the breath has been wrenched from our lungs before the thing has even got started. It couldn’t portend more effectively that this series opener is going to be big. And this is really well conveyed by the following sequences. A shadowy, hissing figure who refers to himself in the plural searches the universe for the Doctor. Missy, who makes an absolutely brilliant entrance, freezes the skies of Earth just to get Clara’s attention because she can’t find the Doctor either. “Where is the Doctor?” the episode asks. What could possibly make the Doctor hide himself away like this? And why has the Doctor made a Time Lord will and testament?

It all very effectively conveys the impression of there being a greater narrative at work here, lending the episode a sense of scale and moment that makes it feel more like an epic series finale than an opener. The impression is, if anything, reinforced by the, frankly awesome, scenes of the Doctor throwing himself an outrageous party in medieval England. The Doctor’s entrance was jaw-droppingly amazing (the message: “Doctor Who is BACK, baby!”), but the sight of the Doctor acting so preposterously out-of-character makes acute the feeling that something is very wrong. Indeed, the whole thing feels very different from what we’re used to in Doctor Who, even for a two-parter. The weight of a large-scale narrative lends, at least to the first part, a flow and form that almost makes it feel like long-form serialised drama, like Game of Thrones. The very heavy invocation of the show’s continuity and history, the sense of strong connection to past events, and progression of an ongoing story, only reinforces that impression. Those who’ve commented that this story, The Magician’s Apprentice in particular, doesn’t feel like a Doctor Who story are right — it’s composed very differently from what we’re used to. Some don’t like that, but I really do. I think it’s at least good that the show is experimenting and trying to break out of the standard, tried-and-tested formulas it’s employed since 2005, and doing something different.

As an indication of the sweeping scale of this story, it churns through so many compelling and brilliant ideas, one after another, many of which could easily be the seeds of potentially fantastic stories of their own. The disappearance of the Doctor, for example. The story had great fun while it was playing with that particularly gripping idea. The hand mines — a wonderfully scary, well-conceived new monster. The relationship between the Doctor and the Master, “A friendship older than your civilisation, and infinitely more complex.” The question the Doctor posed to himself, “Who made Davros?” The apparent extermination of Clara and Missy at the mid-point cliffhanger, and the terrifying lengths to which the Doctor would go, either to bring them back, or to exact revenge. I could go on. This all sounds very messy, but the writing is tight. The script indulges itself momentarily in the various ideas it brims with, but doesn’t get sidetracked. It all forms a very coherent and engaging whole, as a story, apparently, about the Doctor and Davros’s final meeting.

Davros has called the Doctor to his side on the eve of his death, for reasons that don’t become clear until the second episode. Steven Moffat has said that part of the inspiration for this story was his desire to write a prolonged “face-off” between the Doctor and Davros, lamenting that all the scenes between the two over the show’s history have been electric, but that all were far too brief and cursory. Accordingly, the Doctor and Davros duly receive a proper chance to talk, for once, and Davros is served better than he’s ever been. It’s not just that the character is profoundly chilling and macabre, even at the point of death (my highest praise to Julian Bleach), the character of Davros is taken to entirely new territory. It’s captivating watching Davros weeping over the news of the salvation of Gallifrey, doubting his own life and morality, coming very close, like a dying penitent to a priest, to asking the Doctor for absolution, even sharing a joke with the Doctor. In short, Davros totally convinced as an ancient creature near death. Sensitive, emotionally intelligent and bewitching, as it was, it was some of the best writing Steven Moffat has ever produced for the show. And both Julian Bleach and Peter Capaldi gave utterly magisterial, mesmerising performances.

And then it was revealed to be all a trick. All a ruse, exploiting the Doctor’s compassion to deceive him into employing his regeneration energy into reviving Davros and “renewing” the Daleks on Skaro (whatever that entails). I hate to say it, but I was a bit annoyed when this happened. I so, so wanted Davros’s apparent catharsis to be genuine, even if Davros ultimately lived. It would have made us see the character in a radically different light, a creature we once thought to be irredeemably evil, perhaps at least capable of redemption after all. And maybe it was time that something radically different was done with the character of Davros? If Davros were ultimately to repent for his own creations, it would open up exciting narrative possibilities for the future. That was ultimately what I was hoping for when I saw the “next-time” trailer in which the footage of Davros apparently offering the Doctor the opportunity to commit genocide against the Daleks was deceptively shown. I thought The Witch’s Familiar would involve Davros finally seeing the Daleks for the evil creations they are, and allying with the Doctor to destroy them. That would have been so much more bold and exciting than what we got, i.e. just Davros, the psychopathic evil scientist, up to his old tricks again. Nothing new to see here.

But I have to be fair. What we did get was still superb and amazing. Maybe I’m disappointed that the story squandered an exciting opportunity to do something truly audacious and interesting. Maybe I regret, in the spirit of the Tenth Doctor, that this story could have been so much more. But, considering the story on its own merits, for what it was rather than for what it could have been, it’s still the best thing Steven Moffat has written since the Series 5 finale in 2010. It’s still, to my mind, an instant classic, and one of the best Dalek stories ever; certainly the best Davros story ever. And considering the story in context, as a series opener, raises it even higher. It’s just the perfect story to usher in a new series of Doctor Who: grand, bold, extravagant, visually stunning, with an irresistibly seductive swagger. It makes you excited about Doctor Who again, and excited to see what the rest of the new series brings. Like The Eleventh Hour, this story is ideal for what it’s trying to do. The Eleventh Hour involved a fairly insubstantial plot, but, for an episode introducing a whole new era of Doctor Who, it was perfection. Likewise, this episode is just the perfect way to kick off a new year of Doctor Who, and I can forgive it its shortcomings to that end.

Some final thoughts. As good as this story was as a whole, I think my favourite thing about it was Missy (and Clara). I have to admit that I was somewhat ambivalent towards Missy in Series 8, but, after watching this story, I think I’m in love (figuratively speaking). Missy absolutely steals the show; it’s obvious Michelle Gomez is having delightful fun playing the bonkers, unhinged, comical she-Master, and it genuinely shows. There are so many brilliant scenes. Missy’s entrance alone was a total hoot, and the budding (and more than a little abusive) relationship between Missy and Clara was just a joy to watch. Gomez completely nails every line, from “No, I’ve not turned good!” to “Get in” (which was just pure comic genius). At the same time, Missy retains all the unsettling psychopathy and unpredictability of the character, as when she vaporises two soldiers in the plaza in response to a casual remark from Clara about her turning “good”, and when she attempts to trick the Doctor into killing Clara. She’s great fun, Missy, but she’s definitely not to be trusted. In any case, she’s firmly established herself as my favourite Master, surpassing John Simm by bounds. She can’t return soon enough.

Finally, I love this story as a Dalek story, as much as a Davros story. There were chilling sequences that made the Daleks a genuinely scary villain again. The cliffhanger scene, where the Daleks’ primal urge to kill was, if possible, palpably visible, was as suspenseful and frightening as anything in a Dalek story. Portraying the Daleks as predators, driven by an overpowering animalistic urge to hunt and kill, really injected, I think, the fear factor back into the Daleks. As well as this, the portrayal of the Daleks as channelling emotion through their guns was a fascinating, and chilling, insight into the way the Daleks work. It’s fascinating, albeit horrifying, to realise that emotion, any emotion, even love, is ammunition for the Daleks’ gun, is converted into lethal energy harnessed to kill. It’s a gruesome, horrific thought that, as much as it repulses me, actually also makes me feel for the Daleks as well.

Overall, an exceptional start to Series 9, and an undoubted classic to boot.

Rating: 9/10.

First thoughts: The Magician’s Apprentice [SPOILERS]

As per my blog policy of reviewing two-part stories together, I’ll wait until The Witch’s Familiar airs next week before doing a full-length review of the whole story. This is just going to be a quick round-up of my initial thoughts after watching the first episode.

Warning: spoilers ahead.

  • I’ll just say that I thought it was absolutely fantastic. If the second half holds up, this will easily be, by a good length, the best series opener so far. More than that, it’ll easily propel itself into the company of the show’s all-time classics if the second half is as good as the first. I think my mouth was stuck in a comical ‘o’ shape for the whole duration of the episode; I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. I’m going to be reeling for a fair while after this (and so you should be, too).
  • Something I really appreciated was that this was a very different kind of storytelling to what Doctor Who has traditionally done. Trust someone who’s gone through and reviewed every episode — this one is going to be somewhat more difficult to analyse and review because it’s so different to what I’m used to. This episode presents Doctor Who more as a serialised drama, with its strong continuity connections and its setting up of arc and narrative threads. It’s not Doctor Who’s traditional “monster of the week” format. There was a sense of scale and overarching magnitude that no Who episode has carried since The Day of the Doctor. The events of this story are definitely not going to be forgotten about any time soon.
  • And so the rumours about the Doctor meeting Davros as a child and being faced with the choice of whether to kill him or not were true. I thought that was an inspired story idea at the time, but seeing it onscreen is exhilarating. I love it when the show presents the Doctor with torturous moral dilemmas. In his decisions we learn something about the Doctor’s character, which can be every bit as exciting as new, scary monsters and alien planets. Here we learn that the Doctor would leave a small child to die in the hope of averting the creation of the Daleks (or, alternatively, since it isn’t explained, as punishment for what Davros would do in the future). “Davros made the Daleks, but who made Davros?” Really meaty, riveting stuff, this.
  • By the way, can I just indulge myself for a moment: OMFG DAVROS IS BACK!!!!!!@@@@ And back in jaw-dropping fashion. Davros’s return was not wasted by any means.
  • Dat cliffhanger tho. That was torturous. That was cruel. The last time we saw a lead character (let alone two) die onscreen was when the Doctor died in the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, before he came back 5 minutes later. I think these were legitimate deaths, though. Not like Missy’s “death” at the end of Death in Heaven. It’s obvious how the story is going to go about reviving Clara and Missy (i.e. that final scene where the Doctor points a Dalek weapon at little Davros and declares he’s going to kill him to save his friend(s)). Or, at least, that’s how the episode wants us to think it’s going to happen. I sense Moffat deception afoot.
  • Skaro!!! It’s lovely to see the place again, and it looks amazing. It’s nice to see Doctor Who sojourning to legit alien planets again, after a very earth-bound Series 8.
  • I’m really intrigued by the Doctor’s “confession”. This seems like it’s going to be separate from the plot of this story, like it’s going to form part of an overarching narrative of Series 9. Those who’ve read enough spoilers would have a good idea that it has something to do with why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place. Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, HUGE.
  • The Doctor rocking out with his guitar and his Ray-Bans and his (fish-)tank in medieval England was possibly the coolest thing ever. I didn’t think old Twelvie had it in him. Although I’m not sure I like the Doctor’s new look — too scruffy. The Doctor has the biggest wardrobe in the universe, surely he could find something with fewer holes in it?
  • Missy’s entrance was probably just as awesome as the Doctor’s. Oh, Missy, you so fine.
  • In a very continuity-dependent episode, I loved all the little touches from the past inserted. Daleks of all shapes and sizes from 1963 to 2015 (thankfully the Tellytubby Daleks weren’t invited). And the playing out of that critical scene from Genesis of the Daleks where the Fourth Doctor agonises over whether to snuff out the Daleks at birth? Pure fanservice.
  • One of the few things that annoyed me was how easily the Tardis was shown to be destroyed. This is supposed to be the most indestructible ship in the universe, and it was disintegrated by a stray Dalek laser. How, exactly, did it survive the Time War?
  • From the “next time” trailer: did…did Davros just offer the Doctor the chance to kill all the Daleks? With his help? How can I be expected to wait a whole week for this? Oh, gosh, how I’ve missed two-parters.

Okay, so I ended up writing a lot more than I anticipated (approximately the length of one of my proper reviews, actually), but meh. There was a lot to talk about.

Thoughts on: The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

What a show. I’d forgotten how incredible the Series 4 finale was, and I’m happy to admit I was thoroughly blown away upon this rewatch. Russell T Davies upped the ante to full blast and delivered the most magnitudinous story yet, the stakes higher than they’ve ever been before or possibly since, and a great, walloping belter of a script to go with it. It was simply epic. This was RTD’s magnum opus, even, I daresay, outshining the magnificent Series 1 finale, or at the very least matching it. It simply had everything: Daleks, Davros, the end of the universe, every possible character from the preceding four years you could ever have wanted brought back, Rose, and two (three?) Doctors. Admittedly, there was a great deal of nonsense in there—something on this scale is bound to have a bit of nonsense—but somehow even the nonsense came together with everything to produce one of RTD’s most memorable stories of all.

The Earth has moved. That was the ingenious and jaw-dropping plot point established at the outset of The Stolen Earth. It wasn’t only the characters who were left in awe as the sky congested with heavenly bodies. It soon becomes clear, of course, that this was the Daleks’ doing. A chill ran down my spine when I heard that Dalek battle cry: “Exterminate!”. The dread and tears in the eyes of Martha, Jack and Sarah-Jane as the Dalek mantra played out over the recording expressed more than words could. We, the viewers, having seen the Doctor defeat the Daleks so many times now have become desensitised to the threat of the Daleks, but the terror the Daleks truly are capable of inducing was so powerfully conveyed in this scene that the threat became real. Say what you want about the Daleks’ being reused too much, but scenes like this show that the producers know how to keep them scary. This was particularly brought home to me when we were shown scenes of the Daleks destroying the city and murdering civilians—perhaps for the first time in the revival we were shown the true, terrible destructive power of the Daleks. And then Davros showed up, as creepy and gruesome as ever, and that’s when it became obvious that sh*t was getting real.

There was a very bleak, gloomy little sequence where it looked like all had been lost, that everyone had given up without a fight. Sarah-Jane, and Captain Jack and Torchwood were all resigned to the end. “I’m sorry. We’re dead,” said Jack, utterly broken. Sarah-Jane was hugging and weeping for her boy. The United Nations had surrendered Earth to the Daleks. The Doctor stood in grim silence as Donna begged him vainly to do something. It was intense, somber viewing. But then the familiar, irritating voice of Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister (okay, okay, you know…), cut in and an optimistic ray of hope glinted through the black clouds. She began mobilising the Doctor’s old allies and friends, and I felt more affection for her then than ever before. As the Doctor’s allies began moving to get in contact with him, it was obvious what a profound influence the Doctor has had on each of these people. I was somewhat reminded of Dumbledore’s Army from Harry Potter, those loyal to the Doctor holding out and mobilising a resistance in his name, following his example… Needless to say, Harriet Jones went out with nobility when she sacrificed herself to ensure the Subwave signal reached the Doctor. The Doctor would have been proud.

It was painful watching Rose’s frustration that she was unable to speak to the Doctor when the Doctor finally made contact with his Army. Nevertheless, that made their eventual reunion in person all the more moving. Rose and the Doctor’s reunion was truly stirring. I came as close as I ever have to tearing up watching Doctor Who. This being Who, though, there had to be a catch, and that cockblocking Dalek set up one killer of a cliffhanger. A triple-pronger, involving Sarah-Jane and Donna’s parents separately about to be exterminated by Daleks, and the Doctor regenerating, surely that was the best cliffhanger this show has ever done? I remember being in agony after watching that when this episode was first broadcast. I’m sure everyone was. The siphoning of the Doctor’s regeneration energy into his spare hand, his “bio-matching receptacle” was clever, but it was a bit of a waste of a regeneration on the part of RTD, all for a good cliffhanger. But, God, it was a good cliffhanger.

We meet the Daleks and the TARDIS and Donna are deposited into the molten core of the Crucible. Enter the Meta-Crisis Doctor, growing out of the Doctor’s glowing, regeneration energy-saturated hand. I think we were all as shocked as Donna was. Many disparage the Meta-Crisis Doctor as an absurd product of creative excess on RTD’s part, a character dreamed up just to give Rose a happy ending (implicitly spoiling her “perfect” ending in the Series 2 finale), and I can see where such criticisms are coming from, but… yeah, I don’t know how to justify my liking of the creation of the Meta-Doctor and my overlooking all the continuity issues it created other than to say that I just found the Meta-Doctor an awesome plot device in this story. I was grinning from ear to ear when the Meta-Doctor appeared, starkers, and slightly raving, and saved Donna and the TARDIS at the last second. I also thought it was awesome when all seemed lost, the Reality Bomb about to be detonated, and the TARDIS, radiating with celestial light, appeared in the Daleks’ midst. “Brilliant”, as Jack said, about sums it up. RTD, in typical fashion, though, gave us hope and then cruelly snatched it away. Usually this would be the point where the day is saved, but this is RTD we’re talking about, who revels in the cruelly unexpected. This is the man who, in Voyage of the Damned, made the Doctor promise to all the characters that he would save them, and then proceeded to kill off all of them except the most disagreeable one. It was never going to be that predictable.

I want to take a moment to talk about the way this story commented upon the Doctor’s character. Davros observed piercingly that, though the Doctor renounces violence and refuses to carry a weapon, the way he fights is perhaps even more sinister: he conscripts his companions and fashions them into weapons to do the bloody business he won’t do. He keeps his hands clean while his companions, his foot-soldiers, bloody theirs in his name and on his behalf. He changes his companions, makes them into murderers. This is a constant trope running through Doctor Who; it’s one of the integral functions of the companion: the Doctor can’t be seen to be engaging in violence, so the companion carries out what violence needs to be committed. Only now has this pattern ever actually been commented on onscreen and shown to be a reflection of the Doctor’s character, of the sinister effect of the Doctor’s influence and of the genuinely disturbing manipulativeness of the Doctor. That the Doctor manipulates and influences his companions into potentially committing genocide (and actually committing genocide—remember Rose as the Bad Wolf?) perhaps makes him even more sinister than if he were to do it himself. Davros about summed it up: “The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame. This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you yourself.” The Doctor’s soul was laid bare, and I, at least, found it captivating and compelling viewing—disturbing, yes, but still captivating.

I loved the Doctor-Donna resolution. I found it really exhilarating and just awesome. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t grin broadly the first time they watched Donna wiggling those controls and prattling off incomprehensible techno-babble to stop the detonation and make sock-puppets of the Daleks. Some hate it. I adore it. I know it’s ridiculous nonsense and a total deus ex machina cop-out if there ever was one—the idea that Donna’s humanity made her even more brilliant than the Doctor when she absorbed the Doctor’s mind was particularly ridiculous—but I just found it a wonderfully ecstatic resolution. I’m more than willing to overlook the admittedly absurd “walking plot resolution created purely by chance” that was Doctor-Donna, as one reviewer described it, because of how much I enjoyed watching that. I found it satisfying and fulfilling, and that scene, more than any other, made me love Donna. Meta-Doctor’s annihilation of the Daleks was also a very confronting moment, and Davros’s hysterical denunciation of the Doctor as “Destroyer of Worlds” was chillingly powerful, an uncharacteristically dark note amidst the jubilant resolution.

The sight of the Doctor(s) and all his companions and friends bringing the Earth back home was ecstatic and heartwarming, a tribute not only to all the characters and actors who contributed to the RTD era, but an exultant tribute to companionship and working together. It was a lovely, beautiful scene, the Doctor surrounded by all the people whose lives he’s touched and who love him. What a striking contrast it was only a short time later, after the Doctor had seen all his companions off, and he stood in the TARDIS, alone again. Saying farewell to Donna must have been particularly agonising for him. It was agonising enough to watch. It was heartbreaking watching Donna plead with the Doctor not to send her back, not to turn her back into how she was. She knew, more than anyone, that she was better for having been with the Doctor, which made it all the more tragic that she had to lose it all, everything she’d been and done, and go back to how she was. Oh, Donna, you didn’t deserve this. RTD really knows how to tug the heartstrings.

To summarise my disjointed review, I thought this finale was spectacular. Absolutely spectacular. I only write this much for a review when I think the story truly merits it—the last time I wrote this much was for Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, which was also an amazing finale. It ended on a poignant note, setting up the “farewell tour” that would be the specials year, culminating in the Tenth Doctor’s magnificent swan song, The End of Time. For now, though, I thought RTD ended his last series as Doctor Who’s showrunner on a lustrous high, this finale the gleaming culmination of a fantastic series in general. Bravo.

Rating: 10/10.