As the human race is caught in a war between the Daleks and the Cybermen, the Doctor faces losing Rose.
As I think I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog, Doomsday is the first full episode of Doctor Who I ever watched. As a result, it’s an episode that it’s quite difficult to be objective about, and it is impacted by the finale of Series 4, which I find does slightly ruin the emotional impact of the concluding scenes.
It’s a strong ending to an uneven series, but there are problems here. One of the main ones is one that resonates through Russell T Davies, Steven Moffat and Chris Chibnall’s times as showrunner: they don’t like closing the door completely on companions. I think that Rose’s departure starts a trend that almost makes death in the revived series feel cheap. Not every companion needs to face consequences for travelling with the Doctor, however, the death of a companion, like Adric in Earthshock, reinforce the idea that travelling with the Doctor and that there can be consequences. Rose’s ‘death’ is a technicality – she is declared dead on her Earth but alive and well on ‘Pete’s World’ – and makes her statement at the top of Army of Ghosts feel self-centred considering that people lost their lives in the Battle of Canary Wharf.
I feel that there are characters who feel rather superfluous to the plot of Doomsday. I’d argue that Mickey doesn’t really need to be here other than to provide some sense of closure to the Rose arc – he is not needed to activate the Genesis Ark as this function is fulfilled by accident and could easily be completed by either the Doctor or Rose and he does very little for the rest of the story. Another character who does very little is Jake, who seems to have the knack of turning up at just the right time, like when he saves the Doctor from the Cyber Controller by jumping between universes at a crucial moment, or appearing at the correct floor and in the right lift at an appropriate time. In fact, the devices used to hop between universes are a classic example of deus ex machina, allowing Pete to be in absolutely the right place to catch Rose as she falls towards her doom in the climatic moments of the story. The way that these devices are established in the narrative means that he must have been standing in the exact right spot in the parallel world to be able to save her. Deus ex machinas are no strangers to Doctor Who, but they feel particularly glaring here.
I feel like that I’ve been quite negative about Doomsday so far, but there is a lot about it that I love. Despite the chaos and destruction of battling humans, Daleks and Cybermen, Davies manages to ground the story in our two leads, the Doctor and Rose, and the emotional stakes for Jackie and Pete. In fact, it is in the fact that he is able to make the audience root for the two older Tylers, along with fantastic performances from both Camille Coduri and Shaun Dingwall, that is one of this episode’s greatest successes. I have written in the past about how well Jackie has been written and performed, and how in the wrong hands she could potentially be irritating rather than charming, and it is well worth reiterating again here. Pete Tyler is a character who has had considerably less screen time than Jackie, meaning that he has had less time to make an impression, and the fact that Dingwall manages to make us root for him too is a credit to his skills as an actor. The scene where he comes face to face with the alternate universe version of himself is possibly one of the finest scenes in the episode, as he comes to terms with his strange new family dynamic.
Daleks be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.
This is not war! This is pest control!Cyberman and Dalek Sec
It was perhaps a debate that raged between fans for years before this episode about who would win in a fight between the Daleks and the Cybermen, but it is perhaps no surprise that the children of Skaro win out here. The Cult of Skaro, engineered to find ways to ensure that the Daleks survive the Time War, are more than a match for the alternate universe’s Cybermen, and with Nick Briggs’ voice work on double duty, he completes scenes of the two foes talking to each other with applomb, with the first scene where they come face to face being a sterling example of this. Of course, for an encounter between two of the Doctor’s greatest foes, the story needs a good director, and in the shape of Graeme Harper, it has one. Harper has directed both Daleks and Cybermen previously (Daleks in Revelation of the Daleks, Cybermen in Age of Steel/Rise of the Cybermen), so he makes sense here and certainly helps to make what could potentially have been a bit of a mess of an episode into something coherent and enjoyable. The Daleks come out as the Doctor’s most fearsome adversary here, but was there ever any doubt?
Billie Piper gives a tour de force performance in her final regular appearance as Rose, even if her characterisation can come across as a bit selfish at times. Her decision to return to the Doctor after being sent across to Pete’s World, leaving her with a man she’s just met is a bit sketchy to say the least. Rose has grown a great deal since stories like The Christmas Invasion, able to hold her own convincingly against the Daleks when compared to the speech she delivers before the Sycorax. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s got more experience, or that she was responsible for the destruction the Dalek fleet when she last encountered them. David Tennant is also in fine form as the Doctor here, and it’s easy to see why he is so many people’s favourite Doctors. Again, I’m not convinced that the script does him any favours, especially when it comes to trying to work out what Time Lord science is crucial to the Genesis Ark. Admittedly, the Time Lords are an advanced scientific race, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Doctor might think it might be bigger on the inside, considering that this is probably his most used piece of Time Lord science.
The elephant in the room is undoubtedly the scene at Bad Wolf Bay, which is definitely an emotional affair. It is beautifully shot, from the Doctor’s blue holographic form appearing to allowing him to appear more substantively later on, and wonderfully written. No matter how many times you see it, I think you might be dead inside if it fails to raise some emotion from it. Regular readers of the blog know that I’m not a fan of the Doctor and Rose love relationship – or any Doctor and companion having a relationship of that kind – but the farewell scene works in this context exceptionally well. The only problem is that it has been undermined by reprising it in the Series 4 finale, but I will address that when I get there in a few years time!
Verdict: Doomsday is an emotional ride of an episode, with an emotionally draining ending. It is not perfect, but it is a decent conslusion to Series 2. 8/10
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Andrew Hayden-Smith (Jake Simmonds), Tracy-Ann Oberman (Yvonne Hartman), Raji James (Dr Rajesh Singh), Paul Kasey (Cyber Leader), Nicholas Briggs (Cybermen/Dalek Voices), Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg, Stuart Crossman, Anthony Spargo, Dan Barratt and David Hankinson (Dalek Operators) and introducing Catherine Tate (The Bride).
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Graeme Harper
Original Broadcast Date: 8 July 2006
Behind the Scenes
- The final episode where the TARDIS console room is dimly lit.
- The only multi-part series finale written by Russell T Davies (in his first iteration as showrunner) that does not feature a regeneration. The Parting of the Ways sees the regeneration of the Ninth Doctor, Utopia sees the regeneration of the Master, The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End sees an almost regeneration for the Tenth Doctor and The End of Time sees his actual regeneration.
- Whilst Russell T Davies told the press that Rose was gone for good, he had already told Billie Piper that she would be returning in Series 4.
- Dalek Jast was originally named Dalek Rabe, which was changed as it sounded too much like Ray. There was some merchandise that went out with the original name.
- The production team were divided on who should rescue Rose; Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner wanted Pete to save her, whilst Phil Collinson and Noel Clarke wanted Mickey to save her. The decision for Pete to save her was supposed to symbolise his acceptance of her as his surrogate daughter.
- Tracy-Ann Oberman has reprised the role of Yvonne Hartman in Big Finish’s Torchwood range, including as an alternate universe version of this character.
It can’t be anything other than that beach scene.
You are proof.
That emotions destroy.
Yeah, I am. Mind you, I quite like hope. Hope’s a good emotion. And here it comes.Cyber Leader and the Tenth Doctor
Previous Tenth Doctor review: Army of Ghosts