Typing Doctor Who: Rose Tyler

Rose Tyler ESFP

(N.B. If you’re confused about the odd MBTI terminology throughout this piece (“Extraverted Sensing”, “Fi”, etc.) this link explains it pretty clearly and succinctly. I’ve tried to make these posts as readable and comprehensible to those uninitiated with MBTI as I possibly can, but some use of theoretical terms and concepts is unavoidable. There’s no need to be intimidated, though, the concepts are actually really easy to understand, and the link above explains it all well.)

The first companion of the revived series of Doctor Who, the most beloved and arguably New Who’s archetypal companion is, to my mind, a classic ESFP. In my post on Clara Oswald (another ESFP), I characterised ESFPs as the adventurous, fun-loving thrill-seekers of the world. ESFPs are ruled by their need for sensory stimulation, which they seek out in the world of experiences, people and things. Unlike introverts and even many extroverted types, ESFPs are typically not drained by constant social interaction and activity—as SPs it’s what they thrive on, and much of an ESFP’s life is an unending search for novelty and stimulation. They’re always doing things, seeing things, experiencing things, having fun. ESFPs are the people who make life fun for everyone else. They also have a deeper, passionate side, and they feel very deeply and have a strong sense of who they are and how things should be. They’re very fluent with people, very warm, and sympathise with others easily.

Rose fits this characterisation quite well, I think. She decided to travel with the Doctor because she felt unsatisfied with her mundane, boring ordinary life and the mundane, boring trappings of that life: her job, her home life, her boyfriend, her future. Against this unsatisfying reality, she found irresistible the idea of leaving it all behind, relinquishing all her responsibilities and attachments, to travel in time and space with the Doctor, a free and unbound spirit. Nor can she keep away from it. Unlike some later companions, the Doctor isn’t her hobby, it’s her life, and a life of travel and adventure is just what every ESFP dreams of. It’s clear that Rose can’t stand the idea of leaving the Tardis behind and going back to her old, mundane life. She was thoroughly depressed when Nine sent her back home in The Parting of the Ways about having to return to her ordinary life of sleep, work and chips; and she couldn’t comprehend how others—Mickey and especially her mother, Jackie—neither wanted to join her in the Tardis nor felt happy for her travelling with the Doctor.

empty child

The above is basically a description of the way Rose’s Extraverted Sensing (Se) manifests, the dominant cognitive function of ESFPs. But more specifically, we see Rose’s Se in the way she likes to immerse herself in the new places she visits. Compare the way she reacted to visiting Satellite Five to the way Adam (probably an IxTP) did: Rose immediately took to interacting with her new, strange surroundings, buying a strange alien drink to share with Adam, while Adam felt overwhelmed by it all and needed to go clear his head and take it all in. See, too, how Rose loves to try on new pretty clothes to fit in with her surroundings: her pretty Victorian dress in The Unquiet Dead, her cute 1950s garb in The Idiot Lantern. She has a great dress sense in general, and, like Clara, her outfits are always distinctive and stylish. Rose also has a keen eye for a pretty face—although she’s theoretically tied down to a relationship with Mickey, she can’t help flirting and showing interest in every pretty boy who crosses her path: Adam, Captain Jack, and even the Doctor himself; and she doesn’t seem to feel very committed to Mickey. That’s a trait I’ve noticed in the ESFPs I’ve known, a manifestation of their dominant Se: they just can’t resist pretty things.

ESFPs also have auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi), which makes them deeply, internally sensitive about things. They have feelings, man. They have clear ideas about what’s good and bad, right and wrong, and a strong sense of who they are, or who they want to be. Rose’s Fi is illustrated perfectly by her famous, character-defining outburst at Jackie and Mickey in The Parting of the Ways when the Doctor sent her back in time to protect her from the Daleks. She was overcome by emotion because one of her strongly-held principles was being violated by her having to sit safely at home while her friends fought for their lives in the far future. You could practically feel the Fi spilling out of her. There are other instances of this in other episodes: the way she sympathised with the Dalek in Dalek in defiance of the Doctor, and the way she stood up for Gwyneth against the Doctor and the Gelth in The Unquiet Dead.

idk

But I also see Rose’s Fi manifested in the way she treats Mickey. For example, in Boom Town, she returns to her own time and sees Mickey again, and expects Mickey to return to her side at her beck and call like a loyal lapdog, and even feels indignity and confusion when Mickey tells her he’s seeing someone else. She’s snarky and mean to Mickey about it before Mickey expresses how Rose made him feel betrayed and belittled, which snaps Rose into realising, finally, how badly she’s treated him and how she’s made him feel. Rose was totally oblivious to the way her lifestyle and her choices make Mickey feel, because she’s led by what feels right for her, not necessarily taking account of the needs and feelings of others. The same goes for the way Rose treats her mother Jackie, who worries deeply about her, although Rose is dismissive of the anxiety her lifestyle causes her mother, and rarely checks back in with Jackie to reassure her that she’s alive and safe.

Rose’s character arc in Series 2 was characterised by the under-the-surface romance between Rose and the Tenth Doctor. Rose grew to become deeply in love with the Doctor, and she came to see her future, the rest of her life, to be spent with the Doctor, as illustrated by the dialogue in the opening to Army of Ghosts (“How long are you going to stay with me?” “Forever.”) What I think is happening in MBTI terms here is that Rose’s auxiliary Introverted Feeling (Fi) and inferior Introverted Intuition (Ni) are working together. Rose has fallen hopelessly, romantically in love with the Doctor, and her Fi has idealised a life and a future with him. Her Fi has created a picture of what she wants her life to look like—a life with the Doctor. Her Ni has gone ahead and told her that the Doctor is her future, but her inferior Ni is weak and unreliable, and it doesn’t raise the warning signs that should tell her that this vision is never going to work out, and that holding to it will end in tears. She becomes upset and angry when the Doctor suggests that she can’t stay with him forever, or that she’s not necessarily special to him, as in School Reunion.

army of ghosts

So that’s Rose. She’s not a character without her flaws and weaknesses, and no personality type is without its flaws and weaknesses, but she’s undoubtedly one of the best ESFP characters in television. Rose sort of set the template for modern Doctor Who companions, and as such the default archetype for a companion is an ESFP—Clara and arguably Donna were also ESFPs, and Bill looks like she’s going to fit into that general mould (although, from what we’ve seen, Bill looks like she might be an ENxP). Nevertheless, I like writing about ESFPs because they’re some of my favourite people. I’ve had the privilege of knowing some fabulous ESFPs in my time, and I think they make for great people, friends and characters.

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.

Thoughts on: Turn Left

The producers probably couldn’t have done anything more recklessly audacious than to follow up the dark, depressing Midnight with the possibly even grimmer Turn Left. This is surely one of the darkest televised stories Doctor Who has ever produced, a bleak “what if?” following the trail of events that would ensue if the Doctor had never met and been saved by Donna Noble at Christmas in 2006. And a world without the Doctor is truly terrifying. So many of the catastrophes the Doctor averted were allowed to occur, as were all the deaths the Doctor would have prevented, and the death toll is enormous. Particularly grievous was the crashing of the Titanic into Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day 2007, making all of south England uninhabitable and turning the country into a giant refugee camp. The social and economic strife that ensues stokes the flames of extremism and ushers in fascist rule over the green and pleasant lands of England, the country that in living memory fought to deliver Europe’s salvation from the Hitlerite scourge. The scene where the Colasanto family are being carted off to a concentration camp was spine-chilling in its bleak, emotive power, surely one of the most confronting things Doctor Who has ever shown. It’s even more depressingly shocking when one realises that this is only one planet that the Doctor’s absence has so profoundly affected; think of the rest of the universe—indeed, if Rose is to be believed, all universes. All this from one fatal, seemingly unremarkable decision by Donna to turn right. It could have been overblown and unconvincing, but it was all so believable, and chillingly so.

This story was also about Donna. We were brought back to Donna, the uncultured, uncouth temp from Chiswick, and followed her transformation as her world was swept from under her feet and her life thrown into turmoil. Her mother descended into depression and defeatism. Her grandfather fell back on his wartime spirit. Donna got angry at the world but summoned up something profound inside her, a will and a strength to keep going and beat away the bad, bleak world around her. This was particularly brought home to me in that intimate little scene in the Nobles’ billet house where Donna was trying to assure her mother, albeit vainly, that she would find a job and get them out of their sad situation. Personal crisis on this scale brought out the extraordinary person in Donna that she truly was, mirroring, in a rather more unhappy way, Donna’s personal development throughout Series 4 into the very thoroughly changed person from who she was in The Runaway Bride, even in Partners in Crime. Ultimately Donna had got to the point where she had resolved herself to sacrificing her own life for all of Creation, to leaving this world to restore the world that had never been but should have been. In doing so she showed herself to be the remarkable, amazing person Rose insisted she was, almost certainly more than Rose thought, even more than the Doctor thought I’d daresay. Catherine Tate’s acting throughout this episode was simply astounding. Tate hasn’t really been given scripts this series that have allowed her to show off her acting talents, but in Turn Left she delivered an emotive, intense, heartwarming and heartbreaking performance.

Rose was a bit… odd… in this episode. Don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic to see Rose again, but she was written very strangely. Rose, of course has developed, too, since we first met her, and doubtless she’s changed even more during her time in her parallel universe, but she was strangely… alien in this episode. She was something of an enigma, flitting in and out of Donna’s life and talking in cryptic riddles like a Christmas ghost. Even when Donna finally agrees to accompany Rose and Rose can speak more openly, she seems distinctly alien, ostensibly enjoying watching Donna traumatised and close to breaking point first over seeing the creature on her back and then over having to accept what she’s expected to do, Rose even deliberately provoking Donna at one point. Rose is unsettlingly callous in the face of Donna’s stress and angst while Donna needs someone to soothe her and give her support. This is very unlike the Rose I know. Maybe I’m missing something, but I was a bit unnerved. If I didn’t know better I’d think Rose didn’t particularly care about Donna, she was just using her to fix the universe and get to the Doctor…

Nevertheless, that cliffhanger was electrifying. This episode in general was outstanding. The only other criticism I’d make would be that it was a bit oddly structured. It didn’t flow as naturally and effectively as it should have, which made following the story just slightly disconcerting. In any case, in general it was an exceptional story.

Rating: 9/10.

Thoughts on: Partners in Crime

The Series 4 opener was a good (re-)introduction for Donna Noble, now to be taken on as the Doctor’s full-time companion, but the episode was not without its faults. The main issue that stuck out like a swollen part of the anatomy was the almost facepalm-inducing story premise. It’s about an alien species growing living fat babies from obese humans. I’m not quite sure what was going through RTD’s mind when he decided this was a cracking idea for a series opener… I really can’t comprehend it. What made it worse was that those walking fat babies were realised in CGI so comically (I mean that in a bad way). It was just silly. More than ever before, this show felt like a children’s show. Series 4 is an exceptional series on the whole, but its opener is probably its weakest point for the inane storyline. Granted, this opener was more about introducing Donna—which it did exceptionally—than the plot, but given the quality of previous companion introduction episodes, Smith and Jones and Rose, I’m not as disposed to overlook the poor story that I might have been.

Onto Donna. I liked the Ten-Donna partnership in The Runaway Bride, so of course it’s excellent to see them together again. Donna was re-introduced really well here. She was shown to be a frustrated woman; all the motivation and the energy to make something of herself that the Doctor had inspired in her the last time they met was seemingly frustrated as she found seeing the world and doing something with her life “easier said than done”. This received beautiful exposition in some touching dialogue between Donna and Wilf under the stars as Donna spoke wistfully of her longing to find the Doctor again. It’s all the more ecstatic when the Doctor and Donna are reunited again, in that genuinely hilarious scene involving the Doctor and Donna playing charades through the windows at Adipose Industries. I think the tone of the Doctor’s accepting Donna as his companion at the end of the story was really optimistic and sweet, and I’m looking forward to seeing their “matey” partnership play out over Series 4. One more thing—I like the way Donna has been toned down from her “shouty fishwife” characterisation in The Runaway Bride and made a gentler person. It’s a sensible character development: Donna seems more jaded and humbled than she was when we saw her last. I think her experiences at Christmas and since have given her a lot to think about, which has ultimately changed her outlook and attitude.

Wilf, by the way, is already shaping up to be an excellent recurring character. Also, that cameo of Rose’s was stupefying, and a just a bit hair-raising. Although of course I know what’s coming, it’s clearly setting up something big for the finale, and did that brilliantly. I only wish I’d been a Doctor Who fan when that was first broadcast, so I could hear the sound of fans’ jaws around the world dropping in dumbfounded unison.

Rating: 6/10.

Thoughts on: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday

I’m finding it hard to organise my thoughts about this story in a way that will lend itself to a coherent review because of how emotionally devastated that ending has left me. But bear with me, I’ll endeavour to put my thoughts into some kind of sensible form.

I’m somewhat unimpressed with the decision to portray yet another large-scale alien invasion of 21st Century Earth, as I mentioned in my last review of Fear Her. “Relevance” is one thing, but this is getting ridiculous. The history of the Earth of the Doctor Who universe would detail a dizzying succession of alien invasions and interventions within the space of a few years in the 21st Century—all thanks to Russell T Davies. At least Davies had the sense to portray the Earth’s authorities as having had the initiative to formulate some sort of defensive measures in Torchwood. That said, I wasn’t necessarily as bothered about this as I otherwise would have been, as the story was so good. The much-awaited revelation of Torchwood, by the way, wasn’t particularly well carried out. Hints and teasers about Torcwhood were being dropped all series, but the eventual revelation was almost understated. I was expecting something bigger and more grand, but it all just seemed like a fairly nondescript operation. I realise Doctor Who doesn’t exactly have the budget to do things on as big a scale as I would like, but surely the producers could see that Torchwood looked like they were conducting their highly-sensitive and dangerous operations out of a converted factory?

Both the apparition of the Cybermen and the Daleks was done well. The former was impressive and imposing, the latter a genuine, dreadful shock. A prospective Dalek vs. Cyberman face-off was one of those long-awaited events, and, although in some respects it was awesome, in others it was a bit of a disappointment. The banter between the Daleks and the Cybermen was genuinely brilliant:

Cyberman: “Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant.”
Dalek: “Daleks have no concept of elegance.”
Cyberman: “This is obvious.”

Cyberleader: “Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.”
Dalek: “This is not war. This is pest control.”
Cyberleader: “We have five million Cybermen. How many are you?”
Dalek: “Four.”
Cyberleader: “You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?”
Dalek: “We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek. You are superior in only one respect.”
Cyberleader: “What is that?”
Dalek: “You are better at dying.”

Classic. I am somewhat disappointed, however, both by how easily the Daleks were able to defeat the Cybermen and by the lack of a large scale battle between the two species. We’re talking about the second most dangerous species in the universe (as Doctor Who has always portrayed), and not only did they not even dent the Daleks, but they were felled effortlessly by the latter. Way to make the Cybermen seem like pushovers… Further, although there was a decent battle scene in the Torchwood tower, I feel like the opportunity to stage a large-scale battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen was squandered, although I’ll concede that budgetary concerns may have had something to do with that. The Daleks were portrayed very well in this story—if only the same commitment had been given to the Cybermen. Why bring them back in such spectacular fashion in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel if they’re going to be demoted to the status of “most feared and dangerous villains in the universe when the Daleks aren’t around (in which case they’ll get walloped)”?

I thought David Tennant’s performance was absolutely magisterial. I can see that he’s truly made the role his own as he’s a much more commanding and magnetic presence than he was in his debut, in The Christmas Invasion. He truly exerts his presence in every moment he has onscreen in this story, from beginning to end. There really isn’t a moment when he isn’t in masterful control of the role, even in the relatively mundane sequences. I thought his confrontation with the Daleks in the Void Ship room was probably his best performance yet. Not overstated, as he’s been earlier in the series, but positively captivating; hair-raising. You really got a sense that this was the Doctor of legend we were seeing, the Doctor who sends the Dalek legions fleeing without firing a shot. This is how to write the Doctor.

“Technology using the one thing a Dalek can’t do. Touch. Sealed inside your casing. Not feeling anything ever, from birth to death, locked inside a cold metal cage. Completely alone. That explains your voice. No wonder you scream.”

Billie Piper was outstanding in her final outing. From that poignant poetic opening to her teary farewell, she delivered a moving and highly admirable performance. Rose herself was fantastic in her last time saving the world. The moment when she confronted the Daleks after they had emerged from the Void Ships to save herself and the others, was brave and amazing. That she had the guts and the initiative to do so showed how far she’s come from the shop girl she was in Rose, how much she’s been changed by her life with the Doctor, how much she’s become like the Doctor.

Then there was that ending, that parting of the ways. Oh, God, that was heartwrenching. I think Doctor Who just came close to emotionally traumatising me. I cannot find words with which to praise the performances of both Piper and Tennant as they were forced apart. Billie Piper, in particular, mustered up a truly agonising portrayal of Rose’s pain of separation that left me close to tears. Surely that must be the saddest, most affecting goodbye in the show’s history? In any case, it was some truly outstanding acting on the part of Billie Piper in her last moments as a Doctor Who companion, and a spectacularly touching farewell for the first, and most fondly remembered, companion of the revived series.

I would have given this a rating of 8, which in my terms means “great but not quite brilliant”, but the respective performances of Tennant and Piper raise it to a 9 in my estimation. They really were the gleaming highlight of this story.

Rating: 9/10.

Thoughts on: Fear Her

Somehow, following Love & Monsters seems to disproportionately improve the quality of this episode. It was a pretty average story, but even an average story is actually kind of refreshing after what came before. For this reason, I think I enjoyed Fear Her more than I otherwise would have — which is not necessarily anomalous as these episodes are supposed to be watched in order, as part of a series. I mean, obviously the producers didn’t intend Love & Monsters to be received negatively, but somehow it kind of worked out: Fear Her, although not a terribly good episode itself, was a welcome reprieve from the rot of Love & Monsters.

When I say the episode was “not terribly good”, I’ll admit that I found it interesting, even fun, but it was hardly the most inspired of concepts or the most ambitious of works. It’s self-admittedly unambitious and self-consciously camp and tongue-in-cheek, so it shouldn’t expect the best of receptions, although, at the same time, that also makes it less offensive—I can hardly fault it for trying and failing when all it was trying to do was entertain. It had its good points; in particular, it was very creepy in parts. There’s an air of mystery and menace hanging over the story for much of its initial stages, when the Doctor and Rose were investigating the disappearances. It was also funny in parts: Kel, with his council-philia, was a much appreciated bit of comic relief, and I actually laughed out loud when he was reproaching Rose for offending his blessed council. I found that I really liked David Tennant’s performance in this episode. Yes, it’s a funny episode for which to praise Tennant’s acting, but I just got the sense, in this episode, that Tennant had properly taken hold of the role of the Doctor and made it decisively his own. He got off to a nervous start in The Christmas Invasion, but I can see here that he’s settled nicely into the role and is at ease with the character.

To say something about what I wasn’t so impressed with, the plot, although played out with all due creep, was a bit rubbish. The “monster”, the alien flower thingy, was rubbish. The idea of stealing people away by drawing them was rubbish. It was all a bit rubbish. This kind of stuff satisfies some people, but I can’t bring myself to take this seriously. It was a poor idea only redeemed by quality production and acting. In regards to the child actor, Abisola Agbaje, I know it’s not good form to be too harsh on child actors, but surely someone better could have been found? The thing about child actors is that if they’re not totally convincing, they positively detract from the story as you’re left unduly distracted by their dodgy acting. This one was particularly distracting. I also thought the resolution was a bit ridiculous. I didn’t even understand it, but I gather it had something to do with the power of love… channelled through the Olympic torch. More feel-good, lovey-dovey stuff that satisfies the nannas and the kiddies, but a total cop-out from my perspective. I also cringed at the Doctor carrying the Olympic flame. Like… seriously? On a more macro level, the repeated alien interventions in London are becoming a bit tiresome and questionable. In the course of two series, London, and 21st Century Earth at large, has been invaded by aliens on a large scale four times. Russell T Davies is playing havoc with continuity here. How many times must London be invaded by aliens before the citizens start to wonder if perhaps there really is something out there after all…?

Rating: 4/10.

Thoughts on: Love & Monsters

In the notes I took for this post as I was watching the episode, I have “starts promisingly”. And it did. My interest was genuinely piqued as I watched a young bloke wander upon the TARDIS, imposing and mysterious, with that eerie music in the background. This episode looked set to play out as something potentially very interesting. The next thing I wrote was “…until the webcam”. Then I remembered how utterly cheesy this episode was. It’s a long masquerade of some of the cheesiest material Doctor Who has ever produced, perhaps surpassed only by Torchwood’s Random Shoes: Elton, Ursula, LINDA, Abzorbaloff, the whole lot. I found Elton to be a really sad guy with a very sad life, and I had zero interest in following his story. I watch Doctor Who for escapism—following Elton’s sad life was an unwelcome jolt back to how dreary reality can be. It was entirely the wrong idea and tone for Doctor Who. Furthermore, Abzorbaloff was probably the most ridiculous, ill-conceived monster in the history of this show. I will admit to almost being interested in the story up until the point where Victor Kennedy turned into Abzorbaloff, but as I watched what looked like a green sumo wrestler bounding after Elton down an East London street, I genuinely wondered whether I wasn’t being trolled. This is a warped parody of Doctor Who—I accept that Doctor Who is an incredibly versatile show, but surely there are limits.

Reluctantly, I’ll admit it wasn’t all bad. The highlight of this episode was undoubtedly Jackie. Jackie was written really endearingly—I would suggest that this is even Jackie’s best script. To a greater extent than before, we got to see how the Doctor has affected Jackie’s life and how Jackie deals with her anxieties about Rose. Her worries have driven her to become somewhat stir-crazy in Rose’s absence, as her attempted fling with Elton showed. This is an entirely understandable reaction to her feelings, and I feel that I cared more about Jackie in this episode than in any previous. Moreover, although I didn’t particularly like any of the members of LINDA, the way the episode showed the members bonding and forming a little community around their devotion to finding the Doctor was a very good and realistic representation of the human urge to community, and the way humans will form bonded communities whenever they come together for a common purpose. Anyone who’s been in social groups such as bands and sports clubs and churches will know the feeling. Finally, I liked the way the Doctor was made a very enigmatic figure, especially in Elton’s flashbacks to seeing the Doctor in his house as a child. The Doctor should be, to some extent, shrouded in mystery and enigma, and I feel some of the magic is lost when the Doctor becomes too familiar a figure, as, I think, he does at certain times during the Tenth Doctor’s run. Here, however, there was no lack of magic at all. Finally “We forget because we must” was an uncharacteristically mature and poignant point in this episode, and a quite beautiful addition to Elton’s story.

The good points of this episode, I’m afraid to say, don’t redeem it enough for me to bring myself to give it more than a rating of 2. It was substantially an awful story, and I would not willingly watch it again unless I was feeling particularly masochistic.

Rating: 2/10.