Saturday, July 05, 2008

Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.13, "Journey's End"

The fourth season of New Who comes to a close with an episode written by departing showrunner Russell T Davies (who's leaving after next year's four specials) and directed by Graeme Harper (who's been working in various roles on Who since 1966). It's big, it's brilliant, and it's a nearly perfect summation of Davies' tenure on the show. Bravo, Mr. Davies! I couldn't have asked for more.

The recent Daily Telegraph article listing the top ten episodes in the show's history needs to be revised to include this one and its predecessor from last week, "The Stolen Earth."

This episode is also sure to upset many fans, but a good writer, and Davies is one, has to stay true to their own vision. Certain elements may not hold up to the scrutiny of cold logic, but Davies is a writer whose strength is often found in stressing emotional payoff over logic, and his stories need to be viewed on that level to be fully appreciated. This story works because of the emotional payoffs.

Future showrunner Steven Moffat may be a better writer in some ways, but I'll miss Davies when he's gone because of stories like this. At his best, Davies transforms Who into an epic story about people, whether Time Lord or human, and their emotional relationships.

Warning: spoilers below, please highlight the white space with your mouse to read them.

A few weeks ago I told someone that the one former companion I'd like to see in the finale was K-9 (since Sarah Jane has access to him), so I had to stifle a scream when he appeared.

The scene of the Doctor and his companions piloting the TARDIS together while pulling the Earth back to its rightful place in the galaxy is one of those rare scenes that takes my breath away and makes me so happy that this show exists. I almost cried. If I had to create a list of the all-time greatest scenes in Who history, this would be one of them.

Although there's a bit of a deus ex machina to the resolution here, it's thankfully not a case of hitting a reset button as in the third season finale.

Lots of goodbyes (it felt kind of like the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King). Sarah Jane is right, the Doctor is never alone because he has a huge family on Earth. It looks like the rumors of Martha and Mickey joining Team Torchwood are true.

With the return of Rose, Davies needed to finally resolve the feelings the Doctor and Rose have for one another, and creating a clone of the Doctor that's physically human is a wonderful way to do that. The clone can verbalize the one thing the Doctor himself couldn't and be with Rose in the parallel universe in a way that the Doctor never could. It resolves the Doctor/Rose storyline in a way that makes Ten/Rose shippers happy but still leaves our Doctor in a condition of angst, which is the only way it could work.

I don't have a problem with the clone Doctor whispering to Rose. I think it would have been too sentimental to hear him say he loves Rose, and it mirrors both the Doctor not being able to say it the first time and River Song whispering his secret name to him a few episodes ago.

Donna. She saved the universe by becoming part Time Lord, but her human mind was simply incapable of containing the consciousness of a Time Lord. To save her, that consciousness and all memories of the Doctor had to be removed. As Dalek Caan prophesied, a companion had to die. By returning to the person she was before meeting the Doctor, the Donna we came to know did indeed die. No victory is without its sacrifices, and this is a painful one to see, even more than if Donna had physically died.

And good on the Doctor for telling Donna's mother off. Wilf is right, Donna was better with the Doctor.

A few more things that I love in the episode: Tosh still helping Team Torchwood even though she's dead, Davros recognizing Sarah Jane as having been on Skaro when the Daleks were first created, crazy Dalek Caan is a traitor who's been manipulating everything to set up the final destruction of the Daleks, a family relationship between Torchwood's Gwen Cooper and "The Unquiet Dead"'s Gwyneth is finally touched upon, it's now canon that a time capsule is intended to have six pilots, and the strong musical score by Murray Gold.

Great acting from David Tennant as the Doctor and his clone, Catherine Tate as Donna, Bernard Cribbins as Wilf, and Julian Bleach as Davros.

Bleach is simply the best portrayer of Davros ever. This is the first time I felt the full intensity of Davros' hatred and insanity.

Thank you, RTD.

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