Rot & Brilliance

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Series 2.  The Great Disappointment.  Mostly Timelash II material... but some new stuff, especially on 'Girl in the Fireplace' and the Cybermen 2-parter.



The Christmas Invasion

Easily the best Christmas special.  Fun without being stupid.  Epic without being maniacally over-the-top.

I've never been sure about the putative Belgrano parallel, though its undoubtedly in there. Harriet's actions seem far more rooted in the whole cultural atmosphere of the "war on terror", with the ongoing public debate amongst liberals and lefties about ruthless pragmatism to protect "our civillisation" vs. principled non-aggression and/or anti-imperialism, etc...

It's interesting to compare Harriet's liberal ruthlessness with the Doctor's much-vaunted "no second chances" thing. The Doctor, for all his hard-faced and unforgiving dispatching of the Sycorax leader, only kills when he has to - his foe has been warned, is breaking a promise, is directly attacking him, etc. Moreover, his act is man to man. Harriet's actions are an act of state terrorism against a retreating enemy, done in the name of showing strength against possible future attacks.


New Earth

Apart from ‘The Empty Child’ (which is a whole can of worms by itself), this is the nearest the new series has come to doing a story about the body.

It has mutants, medicines, cat people and a grotesquely fat man who is turning to stone... the physical concerns continue into the main subplot, which is a ‘body-swap’ comedy of the type that Hollywood produced by the hundredweight in the late 80s (all of them, as far as I can recall, starring either Tom Hanks or people who built their entire careers on looking and sounding vaguely like Tom Hanks). It's quite funny, but it goes on too long and gets tiresome.

Mind you, it should be noted just how much 'New Earth' owes to 'Revelation of the Daleks'. In the secret, gothic depths below a swanky professional institution seemingly devoted to healing, ghastly experiments are afoot which treat humans as raw material, etc.

Sadly, little attention has been paid to making the plot make much sense on any level. The Face of Boe has something to tell the Doctor... and suddenly decides not to because he's suddenly not dying anymore. The richest man on the planet is waiting in an open ward of a charity hospital. The more interesting visual and thematic ideas are neglected in favour of shambling zombies (who are, like, a metaphor about vivisection... or something) who get cured by a mixture of colours that can cure all known disease. One wonders why the cat nuns bother to do all those experiments, since they're already in possession of a panacea based on colourful liquids.

The wet, Moffatesque, everybody lives, aren't-humans-wonderful ending is pretty sickening, to be honest. RTD's original idea was much better.

And how can we possibly be expected to sympathise with Cassandra? She's a mass-murdering psychopath whose subdued final attitude stems entirely from self pity.

Loads of potentially great ideas, put in a blender and thrown against a wall. This is barely bearable precisely because its so nearly good. Roll on 'Gridlock'.


Tooth and Claw

Oh dear. Already the giddy, brash, uneven, irritating, exciting, crazed, resolutely non-culty brilliance of 2005 seems a long, long, long way away.

It begins looking more or less exactly like one of the contemporaneous glossy BBC1 station ident things. It rarely shows much inclination to be much more than this but on a longer, flashier scale. Certainly, plot is very low down its list of concerns. As with the station idents, one watches it feeling that somebody is addressing you in a baby voice going "oooh, look at all the pretty colours and shapes!"

If RTD's stories in Season 1 were sometimes irritating for their sometimes desperate determination to suck up to the Meedja and da Kidz, they were also admirable for their flat refusal to play to the longings of what we might call the "cult audience", who would've wanted it to be all Dark and Serious and Gritty and all those other things that certain types of "cult TV" people pretend to like. (Fair disclosure: I was one of them back in 2005.)

What we see here is the beginning of the slide. Here, RTD chooses to emulate the approach taken by Gatiss in 'The Unquiet Dead'. Of all things. The Doctor and Charles Dickens vs the Ghosts was a great success (even on the message boards) and so we get The Doctor and Queen Victoria vs. The Werewolf.

RTD's effort at breezy, shadowy, gothicky Victoriana is miles better than Gatiss's effort, but it's still the wrong approach for him and the show as a whole. And, it hardly needs to be said, it's considerably less impressive than any of the old show's forays into the same territory. 'Ghost Light' has more big, witty ideas and clever language in any randomly chosen five minute sequence than 'Tooth and Claw' manages in its whole 45 minutes... and while 'Tooth and Claw' looks slick and expensive, it has none of 'Ghost Light's poetic visual imagination. It is much more consciously an attempt to 'do a Hinchcliffe'... yet it looks visually and conceptually glib compared to such masterworks of semiotic smash 'n' grab as 'Talons'.

Of course, John Q. Non-Fan doesn't care about that... but even he probably realised he wasn't watching something as excitingly skewiff and resolutely non-culty as, say, 'The End of the World'.

The big problem here is that 'Tooth and Claw' is deeply conservative. I don't mean politically (though its depiction of the pampered, miserable, self-pitying, autocratic, uninteresting, privileged ratbag Victoria as steely and tragic is tiresome, conventional and thoroughly bourgeois). I mean aesthetically. First time I watched this, I knew there was something about it that was ploddingly familiar... it took me a while to realise what this episode reminded me of so strongly and dispiritingly: a holodeck malfuntion episode of bloody Star Trek: The Sodding Next Bleeding Gener-fucking-ation.

The smug, flippant way the Doctor and Rose snigger at everything to each other only emphasizes the comparison. It's like that beardy bloke smirking to the bloke in the visor when Captain Picard gets exasperated with a hologram of Henry VIII (or something).

On the subject of the bumptiousness of the Doctor and Rose, I understand that the original idea was for Queen Vic to get werewolfised or killed, which would lead to the alt-universe of Cybus et al.  That this doesn't happen means that their smugness goes uncomeuppanced... which is a recurring problem all through Series 2.

The most that happens in this regard is that the Doctor and Rose get a ticking off from the Queen... but that's problemmatic by itself.  Are we to take Victoria's condemnation as a worthy reproach?  If so, are we being asked to respect the superior moral wisdom of a woman who sat at the head of an empire based on conquest and piracy, and at the apex of a national power structure which consigned millions of people to be ruthlessly exploited in factories, abused in workhouses and live lives of grinding poverty in slums... all while she sat around feeling sorry for herself (but in obscene luxury and idleness, natch) about her dead husband? Of course, the hypocrisy doesn't come across because RTD's only interested in portraying her as a tragic, twinkly, clever, steely old battleaxe. No social context, let alone criticism. The essence of the 'celeb historical', all the way back to 'Mark of the Rani'.

RTD will write masterpieces after this... and there are much worse examples of this sort of thing still to come from other writers... but this is still the moment when the show begins to slip downwards into self-congratulatory, crowd-pleasing, quip-laden, cult-lite conventionality. A process that will eventually lead to the sorry pass we're at now.


School Reunion

That poolside scene is another of the 'Here Starts The Rot' moments with which this season is littered. We're all supposed to wet our knickers with fanboy glee because the Doctor talks tough. But he's boasting about being merciless. It isn't impassioned like Nine's speech to Rose at the end of 'Bad Wolf'. Nor is it redolent of trauma and emotional damage like the Doctor's eagerness to blow away the Dalek at the end of 'Dalek'. It's masturbatory, self-adulatory, pseudo-butch posturing. It stinks. And it will start to infect the series as whole, exacerbated by Moffat, until its apotheosis in the "There's one thing you never put in a trap if you want to live" wank of Series 5.

Ditto on Sarah. This story takes a long whizz over 'The Time Warrior' and 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs', in which Sarah is naive, touchy, etc. but also genuinely strong, resourceful, independent, idealistic, angry, brave, etc. 'School Reunion' makes her a wet-eyed, gooey, sentimental ex-squeeze... because emotion (of the kind to do with sad relationships obviously, not political or intellectual emotion) is the prime goal of any 'drama' now. In other words, the writers and actors and composers do everything possible to get you to cry (a sort of lachrymose 'money shot' performed by the audience for the gratification of the producers) short of coming round to your house and brutally murdering your pet hamster.


The Girl in the Fireplace

Speaking of 'Here Starts The Rot' moments...

This is well made and well conceptualised in many respects.  The stuff with clockwork systems kicking in to save a high-tech machine which is trying to patch itself up by harvesting bits of humans... well, it's potentially very interesting.  Technological entropy, plus some dunderheadedly literal-minded machine-logic, results in a historical figure being hunted by steampunk assassins.  On paper, it sounds like Bidmead crossed with Douglas Adams.  Hell yeah!  Tell me more!

Trouble is, there is no more.  Instead we get a breathtakingly glib 'romance' between the Doctor and a woman with whom he has nothing in common.

Sure, the real Madame de Pompadour would've been an interesting person to chat to... but what evidence do we see of her intellect and accomplishments on screen?  Still less do we see of her social and cultural and sexual predicament... besides some obligatory, bog-standard, costume-drama girly gigglyness and a brief appearance by a SAD AND TRAGIC BUT ALSO UNLIKEABLE King.

Moreover, is she really the kind of person the Doctor should be palling up with anyway, still less pulling?

If the Doctor must be shown having romances with sexy female members of the French aristocracy, wouldn't someone like this be more appropriate and interesting?  She'd have been fascinated and enthusiastic about the science of space/time travel, speculating about it from her own profound knowledge of maths, physics and philosophy, etc... thus providing common ground between her and the Doctor that might make a romance between them faintly believable (not that this Doctor behaves much like a scientist).  She even had tricky relationships and died tragically young - conveniently enough for the episode!

Trouble is, by the standards of what we got, Moffat would write the woman I've suggested like a cross between a silly younger sister in a Jane Austen adaptation and a female romatic lead in a Joss Whedon script.


Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

There's some good stuff here and there, but this generally very disappointing, bland, mediocre stuff.  'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' is a rare moment of excellent chilly menace, spiced with some patented Banality of Evil.  The scene where the dying Cyberman remembers that it was once a woman about to be married is genuinely affecting.  Mrs Moore's sudden and arbitrary fate is shocking. 

However, Zeppelins and a black Prime Minister do not an interesting parallel universe make.  Nor do doubles of regular characters with amusingly different personalities.  Not any more.  Not since about the mid-90s... and it was looking pretty thin even then.

My biggest gripe with this - besides it not being 'Spare Parts' - is the plundering of 'Father's Day' for the Pete subplot.  Not only does this set us up for the horrors of the season finale... it also betrays the message of 'Father's Day' in and of itself.  In that story, Pete was a lovable no-hoper who saved the world by an act of selflessness that transcended his world, a world of psuedo-openness glowered over by the shade of Thatcher.  In this story, he's a rich success... so he was just unlucky in our universe, right?  Ack.


The Idiot's Lantern

Now there's an ironic title.  Unintentionally ironic, obviously.

This is arbitrary, routine, patented, chucked-together 'cult' bibble.

Also, the larding on of a hamhanded anti-homophobia message is excrutiating, especially when the boy says that his freedom to be "different" is what his father fought for in the war. Puh-leeeeeeeze.

Funny how Gatiss can manage to be right-on about his own oppressed minority (c.f. 'Unquiet Dead').  Or perhaps I'm just imagining the anti-discrimination message in 'Idiot's Lantern'. Perhaps I'm just reading something into it that isn't there...

...oh, isn't the presence of this subtext controversial? Hmmm, funny that.

The final insult is the scene where the Doctor and Rose encourage Wossname to go and make friends with his just-chucked abusive Dad.  Perhaps someone should consult the wife/mother on this issue?  You know, the person who actually suffered most of his abuse?  No?  Oh well, she's only a woman, I guess.


The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit

There's a term used by script writers (so I'm told). Characters are said to have "demons". Fox Mulder's "demon" was his sister's abduction, etc. This is okay, as long as the "demon" you come up with is powerful and interesting, and drives the character in consistent ways. And as long as you don't rely on it at the expense of any other characterisation. Or suddenly and glibly mention the character's "demon" when it's time for them to look uncomfortable.

'Nuff said?

Boring space people with boring character flaws on a boring space base get threatened (boringly) by a boring Heavy Metal album cover that's supposed to be impressive because it's made of computer numbers (just like every other character in every other advert). The demon in Night of the Demon looked far more impressive, despite being no less obviously fake. Why? Because it looked physical, gnarly, hard, material in nature. Because it had something classical about it. Something of Dore and Bosch. And because it was the payoff in a well-written story about people with opinions and values coming into conflict. Mind you, the drashigs are more impressive than the big, snarly thing in this... and for precisely the same reason.

There's a vague flicker of something interesting in the Ood, slaves with a Lovecraftian look - recalling the great Shoggoths... even if the Ood look more like Cthulu. But do we really want to be recalling a writer as wild, dangerous, hypnotic, indescribable and oneiric as Lovecraft in a story this dull and formulaic? (Before anybody cleverly informs me of it: yes, I know Lovecraft was a horrible man. That's not the point. He was a great writer.)

It is evidently the writer's impression that he is Saying Something about religion, faith, certainty, etc. This only exacerbates matters.

The worst problem is the Doctor's ambivalence. We are meant to see this as expressing his worldview being shaken. Nothing wrong with that. Shake the Doctor's empiricism, make him question his scientific assumptions! Great! That'd be drama, maybe even genuinely thoughtful drama. But what shakes the Doctor here? A few tricks that anybody with sufficiently powerful technology could manage with ease, and a few monumentally stupid remarks about science being a religion? That's isn't an argument. Nor does it meaningfully refer to anything the Doctor has said. Nor does it meaningfully refer to how scientists really think. I've lost count of how many times I've seen or read or heard scientists going into mystical raptures about the unfathomable unknown. They're not dogmatists who flatly refuse to see anything beyond their own bigoted worldview... no more than anybody else anyway... which renders this meaningless as an assessment of scientific closed-mindedness. Really, the Doctor's response to this kind of empiricist-baiting shouldn't be to go all quiet and thoughtful and ambiguous. His response should've been to giggle and say "Well, now I know you're not the devil - he'd have better arguments."

And then we're supposed to see the circle squared by the Doctor's "faith" in Rose... but it isn't faith, it's trust... based on precedent... so, it's actually a rational judgement based on empirical observation, isn't it?

In other words, in a story that ostentatiously sets itself the tasking of commenting on Faith vs. Science... neither is properly represented. I wouldn't like this story any more if I were a Christian. Why not? Because it reduces the Devil to an uninteresting, roaring, thicko beastie... Milton's Satan, for instance, is nowhere to be seen.  He had a personality, a worldview, motivations, intelligent arguments, tragic dimensions, etc. I don't care if the show is "literary" or not... but the show has frequently drawn on sources far better than, say, Event Horizon, to produce genuinely interesting stories. Stories that are fun adventures and quality drama, while also giving you scope to analyse them on a more philosophical and/or literary level if you want to. That's kind of the point of the show, if you ask me.

There are some that praise what they see as ambiguity over whether or not the Beast is the Devil.  But the episode is called 'The Satan Pit'. And there's a beam or something that broadcasts at a frequency of 666 somethings per second. (Subtle, that last one.) Maybe, in spite of all that, the writer isn't trying to imply that it's the real devil. But that isn't the point.

The point is that it claims to be the devil, and there's a tiny bit of evidence that seems to support this... and that's why the Doctor is seen to wobble over what the beast is. To the point where he remains sceptical but sufficiently shaken that, even up to the last scene, he's dodging Rose's questions about what he thinks. The beast makes the Doctor wonder if it might, in fact, be the devil. He at least considers it as a possibility. Just a bit.

Nowt wrong wi' that, in principle. The problem is that the Doctor starts doing this soul searching in reaction to... daft remarks that completely miss the point of the scientific attitude.

Maybe the beast just thinks that way (or talks that way) because its nasty and silly and snidey and wants to needle people? Okay... boring but acceptable. But again, that isn't the point. The "is that your religion?" remark is clearly implied to have scored a touch. It makes the Doctor visibly pause and think. But it simply isn't reasonable to start questioning perfectly rational assumptions (i.e. nothing could exist "before time"... whatever that could possibly mean) on the basis of hackneyed and meaningless assertions from a big bully!

As Jon Blum once pointed out to me, the Doctor even demonstrates this himself by being properly sceptical about the beast when he talks to the others, telling them it's just trying to unnerve them, etc. However, while I acknowledge that this happens, I depart from Blum's evaluation.  It's amazing that people defend the story on the grounds that scenes like this show the Doctor is still sceptical... when that's the very scene that demonstrates how silly it is to have him also wobbling and equivocating!

The impression the story seems to be advocating is that perfectly reasonable baseline assumptions (there's no devil... at least not one that talks nonsense, and looks and behaves like the dullest conceptions of that character) are actually held as articles of faith by people who treat science as a dogma... but seriously reconsidering something because of mere assertions is in some way open minded and sceptical! That such reconsidering is a brave thing to do because it challenges scientific beliefs which are held on faith! That really is the extent of the story's self-trumpeted thoughtfulness.

Okay, if it ended there it would be silly but perhaps bearable. But it goes on to depict "faith" as blindly letting yourself fall into a deep, dark pit (in the hope that you'll be all right) because you don't feel you've anything else to lose.

Er... I'm not religious and that characterisation even worries me.

Then, just to add insult to injury and render the whole thematic flow entirely meaningless, faith gets reduced to any kind of belief in anything at all (which does no favours to either side). 

To add insult to... er, insult... this story also associates its central monster/villain with the Devil... and what does the ultimate and primal source of all evil actually do in the story? What is its crime? It makes some slaves turn upon their masters. I think I must be 'of the Devil's party', like Milton (and there any comparison ends).

Okay, I know the Beast makes the Ood into unwilling slaves, so it isn't really a 'revolution' as such... but, in a way, that just makes it even worse. It means that 'The Satan Pit' (like 'The Web Planet' before it) depicts a revolution as something that happens when the mindless drudges get brainwashed by some malevolent outside force. It's the Blue Peter / Daily Mail version of history.  The contented lower classes as happy to serve until "outside agitators" (anarchists, troublemakers, etc.) come along and stir them up like the suggestible sheep they are.  And unlike 'Robots of Death', there's no example of one of the slaves going their own way and making up their own mind; nor is there even anything conceptually interesting about the slaves or psychologically interesting about the puppetmaster.

The oppressed are literally tools. They are incapable of consciousness of their own. So, by this story's lights, what can the Ood be but slaves? They must've been meant for it. It must be the best they can ever expect. Just what the slaveocracy used to say in Haiti, and everywhere that people are literally turned into commodities.

The Ood are used by one set of masters and then by another master. The master that makes them revolt against their original masters is worse, thus implying that the original masters were okay by comparison. The humans and the Doctor all seem to share this hypocritical and self-righteous assessment of their own behaviour, hence the formal mourning for their disposal playthings at the end. And the story isn't trying to show up the hypocrisy. It is clearly unconscious of it.

A later, far superior story addresses and negates this depiction in fine style. But that story hadn't been made - or even, as far as I know, considered - when this bilge was made and aired. And, in any case, we should confront texts as they stand.

Really, the more I bother to think about this story, the less I like it.  And I hated it to begin with.


Love & Monsters

I know my borderline-obsessional adoration of Shirley Henderson makes me biased, but I'm happy to call this as one of the best episodes of the entire revival and easily the best of Series 2.

Perhaps not quite as dazzlingly original as some might claim (it just looks that way because some of the things here have never been done in Who before, though they are to be found elsewhere), this is still very daring, fresh and new. Not to mention witty, moving and humane. And featuring possibly the most truly disturbing, revolting and terrifying Who monster ever... which is hard for me to say, given how much I despise Peter Kay... but I like to think of his casting as another example of RTD getting idiot guest stars to unwittingly satirise themselves.

I want to briefly hand over to perceptive Gallibase regular - and eternally amiable Timelash II veteran - Mickey the Idiot (don't blame me, that's what he calls himself):

Maybe some sort of commentary should be done explaining on a scene-by-scene basis what's going on, because it seems fairly obvious to me that many fans literally didn't understand the whole business of Elton telling us the story, and most of what we're seeing being filtered through his imagination. The only bits that 'really' happen are the bits Elton does to his camera. Everything else is him remembering. So when people say it's very broad brush and cartoony, and 'Scooby Doo', that's because Elton has a Scooby Doo imagination. The Abzorbaloff looks and acts like that because Elton has painted it like that in his head. It's basically copying the device that's used in the Usual Suspects, except here it's not the surprise twist, but just a narrative style that both tells us a witty story, at the same time tells us all about our own false memories, but chiefly about Elton Pope, the sort of imaginative but very geeky and lonely individual who would, say, post things on a Doctor Who forum. This last thing is really why fans hate this story - it's the rage of Caliban seeing his own reflection in the mirror. But Elton is a hero, just not a very cool one.

What really happened? Did the Abzorbaloff really look like that? Did Jackie really come on to him like that? When the internet went into meltdown, did his computer really explode? We do know that the shop window dummies, the Big Ben crash, the Sycorax ship, and of course the Doctor and Rose exist outside Elton's head, because we saw them in other stories. Also we know Ursula's face got locked into a paving slab (Though we never see Ursula’s slab face on his camcorder, so maybe he’s talking to a bit of pavement). Maybe I haven’t totally got a handle on it all, maybe we’re not supposed to, but in principle we've only got Elton's word that most of the rest of it happened. How do we know he isn't utterly insane, driven mad by what really happened, and has made up this story in order to cope with the trauma?

Seriously, it’s all there on screen, the unreliable narrator story. The clue is all in that pre-titles sequence; there's the opener of Elton walking through the wasteland (so far we're taking everything at face value), he goes into the factory and opens the door, a scary monster stands there, it opens its mouth and says "Raaa...

..aaa!" Cut to Elton in his bedroom imitating the sound of the monster. So basically everything we've just seen is a visualisation of what Elton's been telling us. That's not how it actually happened, it’s how Elton has told us it happened. It's what's in his head. "That not how it started," he says. "I just put that bit there because it's a good beginning". After teasing us with his zoom-lens (or lack of), he then says he's going to tell us the whole story, then we get the title sequence. That to me is clear cut; the whole thing is a subjective version of events, not the actual events themselves. He can't be lying, not entirely, because some of the things he speaks about happened in other stories, and his versions of Rose, the Doctor and Jackie are almost like 'our' versions. But the Abzorbaloff, and LI'n'DA we only know through him. In fact we've only got his word that they existed at all...

Seriously, anyone who thinks Love & Monsters is badly made and scripted just hasn't picked up on how sophisticated it is. I wish they would watch it again and realise that we the viewers never leave that room. Everything we see is either camcorder footage or Elton's muddle-headed memories and imaginings.

I was thinking about the scene where the Doctor confronts the monster, and he says "You're some kind of Abzorbathon... Abzorbatrix... Abzorbaloff." And Victor says emphatically, "yes, I like that." Taken at face value, that line is nuts. How can he not know what he is, what he's called? Until you consider that all of this is out of Elton's head. If the Doctor and Victor are two imperfectly-remembered characters, then they speak Elton's words as he's saying them to us. They are his characters, and he is, on the fly, naming the monster through the Doctor. When Victor says, "I like that", that's Elton speaking, deciding that's what the monster is called. Even the way the Abzorbaloff speaks, with that Bolton accent, is how Elton is 'doing' him to camera. Clearly he thinks all evil aliens talk with a Northern accent! Maybe in his head he's even cast well-known comedian Peter Kay as the creature?

[About LInDA.] I did wonder afterwards whether they were fictionalised versions of people on Elton's psychiatric support group. Whether instead of being this bunch of friends who got together to find the Doctor, they were all patients on the same mental ward as Elton, and he has projected his own Doctor-obsession onto them... Maybe that's a theory too far. 

For myself, I'd like to suggest a supplementary reading of the story to do with class.  Kennedy is the bloated, pinstriped, dandified, repressed posho who oversees the drones in his dull little sweatshop.  Their personal lives are degraded and their imaginations chained to his dictats. In his true form he's a bloated, inhuman thing that consumes people like a vampire. He sucks up people's lives to feed and gorge himself.

I think Marx would've laughed like a drain.


Fear Her

Who does Paperhouse?  Yay!

Oh.


Army of Ghosts / Doomsday


'Army' functions well enough as a mystery/thriller. Jackie is sweet at the start.

Don't know why people have a problem with the Ghostbusters bit. It's just mucking about. Mates do that.

Torchwood isn't quite the archetypal Shadowy Govt Agency That Recovers Alien Technology for Sinister Purposes.  Their offices look and feel like a non-Shadowy Government Agency... or even a private company. It looks more like the offices of a flash consultancy firm than the sinister corridors stalked by the Cigarette Smoking Man. Swanky, designer decor, smart suits, a logo, etc.

The Cyber takeover is quite dramatically done. Tennant is on good form.

It's entirely obvious, right from the start, what's in the big sphere.

It ends on a high. Oooh Daleks and Cybermen... possibly teaming up!

But 'Doomsday' (yet again RTD promises something with his finale title that doesn't even remotely appear) squanders it all. The Daleks and the Cybermen immediately start fighting (dull) and the Daleks trounce the Cybermen without effort (duller). Meanwhile, they trade showoffish insults (dullsville) and the Cybermen suddenly get all catty and bitchy about the Daleks being inelegant (huh?).

The evil jingoistic Torchwood leader gets semi-redeemed (how? why? are we meant to be inspired by how her patriotism conquers all?) and we end up with Daleks flying down from the sky, killing people for no particular reason. This isn't especially interesting here, but at least it isn't the third time we've seen it (oh, Season 4 finale, how I hate thee).

But the worst is the bringing back of the alt-universe people. Mickey is back (oh... er... great) and so is Pete (who's now Mr Ruthless Efficiency... i.e. it's not Pete in any sense that Rose and Jackie knew him, nor is it the same hopeless 'little guy' bimbler Pete that I really liked) but it's okay because these new arrivals can mend all Rose's fractured family problems.  In scenes that actually really include Jackie and alt-Pete running towards each other as though they're on a beach and Tchaikovsky is swelling in the background.

So, all Rose's family problems are fixed...rendering all the growing up and heartache of the previous two seasons... er... pointless and meaningless. Way to go.

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