Soap Opera Weekly: Night Shift 8/4/08

“It’s been good, though, hasn’t it? All of us, all of it; everything we did?”
—The Doctor 

The season finale of DOCTOR WHO contained the biggest deus ex machina — wait…make that deus ex TARDIS in the series’ entire 30-year history. A second Doctor? I have to … er, hand it to executive producer Russell T Davies for having the cajones to pull something like that out of his bag of tricks — even if said bag was carefully packed over the past three seasons (from the Doctor losing his hand in “The Christmas Invasion” to a machine growing a new person from the Doctor’s cells in “The Doctor’s Daughter”). 

By turns nostalgic, sentimental, scary, thrilling, silly, witty and fun, “Journey’s End” was a rather brilliant cap to a consistently entertaining season. It did its level best to pay off in almost every way possible. One of the best moments came when Rose finally got her reunion with the Doctor. Their hug seemed so heartfelt — the way she clung to him with equal parts love, relief and fear. 

Davros proved himself a worthy adversary for the Doctor and his collected companions (dubbed “the Children of Time”) with his breathtaking plan to unravel all of existence with a “Reality Bomb.” The 27 planets he plucked out of time and space were used to power his mad scheme. And I thought Davros was insane before. You really cannot get any more ambitious than destroying everything. I adored Julian Bleach‘s portrayal, which was absolutely operatic and seemed like a logical progression for a character who has been losing his marbles for centuries. When it comes to loony villains, Batman’s Joker is a piker compared to this guy. I was downright touched when he recognized Sarah Jane as having been there on Skaro at the beginning of it all. 

Just as Sarah Jane defied Davros by telling him she had learned to fight under the Doctor’s tutelage, all the other companions proved their mettle by coming up with competing measures to blow up Davros’ plan. But it was then that Davros became most devilish, tormenting his eternal enemy by twisting the achievements of the Doctor’s friends. “This is my final victory, Doctor,” he rasped. “I have shown you yourself. You take ordinary people and fashion them into weapons.” The Doctor seemed genuinely confused and saddened — but was rescued by the appearance of…himself! 

Well, sort of. When last we left the Doctor, he had begun the regeneration process; at the beginning of this episode he healed himself, then directed the rest of the regenerative energies into his dismembered hand. As the TARDIS was about to “perish” at the core of the Dalek Crucible, thanks to Davros, of course, the energy in the hand was unleashed and connected with Donna, imbuing her with a portion of the Doctor’s intellect even as the hand grew into a entirely new, complete body. The Doctor-Copy was just as brilliant as the real Doctor, and rushed to help battle the Daleks. But it was Donna, now possessing a bit of Time Lord intellect, who saved the day. This Doctor-Donna had just the right balance of Time Lord and human factor to conceive of ways to defeat Davros. “The universe’s been waiting for me!” she chortled. In effect, there were three Doctors! (The perfect opportunity for an off-color comment from the sexually omnivorous Capt. Jack Harkness.) 

The appearance of Mickey (Noel Clarke) and Jackie (Camille Coduri) completed the complement of modern human companions, but it was the timely arrival of ever-loyal robotic dog K9 that sent this fanboy into classic-series nirvana. “Good dog, K9!” 

I was also touched by the sad farewells to Rose and Donna. The Doctor had to return Rose to her parallel Earth, but he sent his copy with her. He told her that Doctor was “tainted” with a human factor: Not only does he have just one heart, he will age and not regenerate. And he needed Rose’s influence — specifically, her compassion — to calm his volatile personality, just as she had ameliorated his Ninth persona. It was a bit too neat and tidy for my tastes, but I fully agree that Rose deserved some sort of “happily ever after,” and giving her her own version of the Doctor was about as close as they could come. (Raise your hand if you agree that the Doctor-Copy told Rose the missing part of the Doctor’s declaration from “The Parting of the Ways” was, “I love you.” It had to be!) Tying off the dangling Rose thread allows “our” Doctor to finally move on. 

Sadly, moving on in this case meant he had to bid farewell to Donna Noble. In only a handful of stories Donna proved herself a vibrant and capable companion, vaulting her into the upper echelon in the Pantheon of Very Best Companions, right up there with Rose, Sarah Jane, Ace, Romana, Jamie and Ian & Barbara. (Don’t worry, fans, with some time and perspective I’m sure Martha and Jack will creep up that list.) Mind-wiping Donna was sad but necessary, and better than killing her off. I’m glad the melancholy Doctor stuck around to bid oblivious Donna farewell. 

Those final sad moments, with the Doctor standing in the rain, crystallized the Doctor’s personality and the price he pays for being Time’s Champion. Only he can walk his path. As the rain drenched him, I was reminded of the Seventh Doctor’s farewell to Mel at the end “Dragonfire”: “Think about me when you’re living your life, one day after another, all in a neat pattern,” he said. “Think about the homeless traveler and his old police box; his days like crazy paving.” 

Some other thoughts…
•The Osterhagen Key turned out to be the trigger for Earth’s self-destruct system, but I was a little let down by the reveal that it consisted merely of nuclear bombs — surely Torchwood and UNIT could have come up with something more interesting.
•The Doctor built a gadget! Too bad he didn’t get to use it, but I love the Doctor’s gadgets the way the Time Lord loves “a little shop.”
•I was horrified on the Doctor’s behalf when his clone triggered the mass destruction of the Daleks — replicating his own genocide during the Time War. The sickened look on the Doctor’s face was painful.
•The Daleks used their proper terminology, like “rells” instead of seconds, “transmat” instead of teleporter. (And were they really shouting “Exterminate!” in German?) 

Still, the episode was not perfect. The weak/bad points included:
•Yet another season ends with yet another Dalek army invading Earth and then being destroyed en masse.
•Yet another companion absorbs yet another amazing energy to morph into yet another ultimately powerful being.
•Yet another transmogrified companion is too powerful to remain in existence, forcing the Doctor to “drain” her.

But enough nitpicking. The story was rollicking fun and the perfect swan song for Davies’ tenure at the helm of the regular series. There will be four more specials (including this December’s annual Christmas show), and then Davies surrenders the executive producer mantle to the eminently capable Steven Moffat, writer of such classic episodes as “Blink,” and the the Hugo-winning “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances.” 

This episode marked the first onscreen confirmation of the long-held fan belief that TARDISes were designed to be operated by six pilots — that’s why the Doctor runs around the central console like a lunatic when he’s trying to fly the thing himself. (A society as advanced as the Time Lords would never purposely design a vessel with controls that needed to be whacked with a hammer!) As the companions joined together to fly the beloved old TARDIS, their smiling faces, and …well,companionship belied Davros’ assertion that the Doctor turns his friends into weapons. The Doctor helps ordinary people reach their ultimate potential. 

Oh, one last thing: I personally do not believe Davros is dead. Think about it, and maybe you will come up with the same theory for how he could have survived. Take your time… 

As for that impending Christmas special: Cybermen in Victorian England at Yuletide?Allons-y

“Donna Noble, we had the best of times. The best.”
— The Doctor 

Night Shift will be taking a brief hiatus while the writer undertakes his own journey through time and space…

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