...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 2736: DOCTOR WHO: The Stolen Earth


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Well, on the one fluffy foot, I was expecting that to be the STOLLEN Earth… where Davros has replaced the Earth with a GIANT EASTER CAKE; on the other fluffy foot, Whoo and Hoo: Mr Professor Richard is soooooo smart, and Sarah Jane’s got a really cool CAR!


Wow. Just Wow. End of Review.

No, not quite the end.

That was completely stunning, a triumphant blending of all of the elements of mythology that has been gently layered up over the last four years. Rose and Sarah and Captain Jack, the Shadow Proclamation and the Judoon, Harriet Jones, the Time War.

There are people saying that they hated it. That it was no more than a string of poorly linked set pieces that gave the Doctor nothing to do and mainly had the supporting cast sitting around and crying. I absolutely do not know what to think. Did the BBC actually make two versions and broadcast them to different households chosen at random?

I was amazed at how well the disparate spin-off elements were balanced, with Harriet’s beautifully effective return – being given a deserved platform to argue her side of “The Christmas Invasion” – synergising them to add their different powers together into one call to the Doctor. And wasn’t that a brilliant Century 21 moment as the signal’s rings emanate from the planet. Never mind Lawrence Miles, this week it will be Gerry Anderson gaping at the audacity of getting ripped off.

This is “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”, with references in the dialogue and the Doctor explicitly referring the Daleks’ ultimate B-movie plot to pilot the Earth around like a giant space blimp. And like that earlier story, this uses the different perspectives of people facing the same invasion all over the country/world to magnify the scope of the conflict, to really sell to us how big this all is.

The four people we see are the four people who really know what a Dalek invasion means. To them it means something that these monsters just can’t be killed off. Sarah was there at their creation; Jack has been killed by them; Martha thought she saw the last of them; and Rose annihilated them. And still they keep coming.

So the scale of it impressed, and the emotion of it impressed. What (by definition) we didn’t expect was to be blown away by the surprise ending.

We knew that Rose was coming back; we knew that all the companions were coming back; we knew that the Daleks were coming back; we knew that Davros was back. And yet, amazingly, we had no idea that it was going to finish with a regeneration.

We can’t, can’t believe that it’s real. He’s going to fall flat on his face and gasp that the regeneration has failed. He’s got to hasn’t he? They can’t possibly do that? Can they?

Of course, a blast from a Dalek gun ought to kill you dead forever, especially after the Time War. They’d make sure of that. But, fortunately for that theory, the Doctor only takes a glancing blow

Fans have put pictures on the internet taken during filming of the 2008 Christmas Special with Tennant still in them… so surely that means it’s all destined for the Big Russell Reset again… unless, what if Tennant’s scenes for Christmas are more of a “Doctor has a conversation with his previous incarnation” or even – with its Victorian and Christmas setting – a ghost of Doctor’s past.

(A theory reinforced – conspiracy fans – by seventh Doctor Sylv appearing in Confidential – in a clip I literally blinked and missed – dressed in a very seventh Doctor costume. Why get him all dressed up in hat and waistcoat and wheel him down to BBC Wales for just one line?)

In which case David Morrissey is the eleventh Doctor. And I for one welcome our new glowery overlord.

Just because a regeneration hasn’t been done in the middle of a story before doesn’t mean that it never should – in fact, it sure makes more sense for the Doctor to “lose a life” in the middle of the battle but struggle up again.

We don’t trust it because Russell has history, he has form. We’re certain that he’ll find a way out of this, just as we’re certain that David Tennant will hold onto this role until it’s pried from his cold dead fingers. But wouldn’t it be brilliant brilliant if it was for real.

The Russell Davies plan for Doctor Who twenty-first century style has clearly revolved around bringing back the great icons of the series. I’ve said it before, but his pattern has been simple to follow: first Doctor – Daleks, first season – Daleks; second Doctor – Cybermen, second season – Cybermen; third Doctor – the Master, third season – the Master. The fourth Doctor is trickier, having such a long run and dominating all-comers, there was almost no one who cold survive a single encounter with Tom: only the Master and the Sontarans manage to come back for a rematch. And of course Davros.

(I note that Russell has wisely chosen to bail before having to decide what the icon of the fifth Doctor’s era would have been. The Black Guardian, perhaps.)

This is, you might say, a “classic” Davros. The chair – glad to see that it was black, after all the trailers cleverly made it look bronze – the leather jacket – with its grisly reveal – and that blind, grinning death’s-head face.

It’s almost tempting to suppose that Dalek Caan’s emergency temporal shift took him back to between “Revelation of the Daleks” and “Remembrance of the Daleks”. You can completely understand why the creative team at BBC Wales wanted a Davros in the classic half man/ half Dalek profile. But the last time that we saw him he’d reduced himself to a head in a big Dalek Emperor shell.

Given that it was “The Stolen Earth” director Graeme Harper who also shot off Davros’ hand in the first place, you could hardly expect Old Blue Eye not to have a cyborg prosthetic on his return. But if Caan rescued him from before “Remembrance…” we would have a deliciously hideous new explanation for his eventual transformation – he’s become a head in a tank by using up the rest of his body making even more Imperial Daleks.

(Additionally, it might give more of an excuse to the Doctor’s planet-frying manipulation of the Hand of Omega if the Time Lords and the Daleks were already at war. Indeed, it would also serve to explain the Seventh Doctor’s rather more… pro-active approach, and the free hand the Time Lords seem to give him only a couple years after putting him on trial for far less egregious meddling in the time line.)

But to most people, Davros is that man in the chair, and wasting time and everybody’s patience by explaining that, no, now he’s a head in a tank was never going to fly. We’ll have to leave it up to the continuity cops to try and sort it out. Maybe he was just wearing the Emperor shell over his old chair.

In some ways the mask is slightly too good, too mobile and realistic (if any cadaverous ghoul can be said to be realistic). Where Michael Wisher’s Davros looked as though his face had been melted by radiation leaving him with grey dead flesh, Julian Bleach looks merely as though he has refused to lie down and accept he’s dead. He looks more like one of the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s all time classic episode “Hush”. It’s probably the grin that does it. Nevertheless, Bleach captures the essential Davros: brilliant, mocking, knowing, conversational and mad as a helium powered giggle farm.

Actually, speaking of mad, we now also have Dalek Caan, getting crazy and getting in on the prophecy act – that’s what you get if you steal Pyrovillia, obviously. Buffy’s mad, bad vampire-girl Drusilla had the sight in exchange for sanity too. Death, “everlasting death” for the “most faithful companion” is such a good way to really ramp up the tension: is it Sarah Jane, who kept the faith for so many years? Rose, who has crossed universes just to be with him? Martha Jones who led the world in prayer to save him? Or Donna?

And what’s he doing calling the Doctor: “Three-fold man”? Eighth Man Bound he was in the New Adventures and BBC Eighth Doctor Adventures. Ten-fold (or maybe eleven-fold) would make sense. But three? Unless it means past, present and future Doctors will be joining forces.

Meanwhile, if he’s not doing Wheadon, he’s doing Rowling, with the “follow the spiders bees” and, for a touch of subversion, the Doctor gets to be the “Dark Lord”. Makes a change from “Oncoming Storm”, I suppose.

Looking one more week into the future… how to save Sarah Jane and Gwen and Ianto? My pitch would be the Dalek Supreme to boom out “All Daleks withdraw! Withdraw! We are under attack!” …as a hundred Sontaran battle-cruisers barrel into the Crucible at the head of the Shadow Proclamation. But that might be a touch beyond the budget.

Oh and that Ostehagen Key is so the “UNIT ultimate secret Dalek blowing up weapon™”. No chance of THAT getting used then. It’ll probably blow up the planet.

One little appeal, though. Don’t kill off the Daleks again.

But really, I don’t want this one to get “reset”. And yet the Big Russell Reset Button looms large: my suspicion is that with the events all set within the rift at the Medusa Cascade, in their own private little enclave of time, that the end will see everything returned, all the planets sent back to their places in space and time the moment after they were taken. There will be a price – and we all fear that it’s the life of a companion, this time – but the Earth will be left blissfully ignorant yet again.

But why should it? Russell is leaving, let him leave with the Earth really knowing what an impact he, er, cough, the Doctor has had. And Steve Moffat can pick up the pieces in 2010.

Cherish these seven days, people, because for now this story can end any way we want.

Next time… This…

“Journey’s End”

Was “Dempsey” in charge of UNIT because the Doctor is always trying to “Makepeace”?


Stuart Douglas said...

Ouch. There really must have been two different version being shown because the one I saw in Edinburgh was truly, earth-shatteringly bad in almost every respect.

All the bits you thought subtle and layered, I thought clumsy and awkward (e.g. Harriet Jones who I thought was ridiculous and not just because she was speaking the most tosh-riddenly cliched dialogue).

Still, only one more Davies script to suffer agonies through, thanks the sweet Lord :-)

Andy said...

> Wow. Just Wow.

> Cherish these seven days, people, because for now this story can end any way we want.

Couldn't agree more with either of these statements. Or with everything in between either.

Every time I hauled my jaw back towards the rest of my face it hit the floor again.

Aidy said...

The iconinc villain for the 5th Doctor is probably the Mara (hinted at with last week's circle of mirrors). Either that or Tegan.

6th would be Sil, with maybe a side-order of the Rani.

It's 7 that I can't think of one for.

It's only really with Ecclescakes that we get a new iconic villain, and the poor bugger is saddled with the Slitheen.

Knife and Spoon said...

So pleased that you liked it. It's worlds away from the subtle intrigues of Moffat, or even Midnight. It's all the bits people think they remember happening in Doctor Who, storylined by the audience of Totally Doctor Who after a really sugary birthday party. But it does it *really* well! I have my own theories for the resolution of that cliffhanger but shall keep them in a sealed envelope in my sock drawer until next Monday morning. I'd love it (I don't know why I would, but I would love it) if it's a proper regeneration, and I think Davies' experiences as a TV viewer mean he's not going to cheat us. On the other hand, I don't think it's going to be an either/or job either.

Davroswise, I had been wondering whether it would be revealed that Davros himself was a soldier of the Time War, sent back in time by the Daleks to *ensure* the Dals met their destiny. Which would be a license for Dalek history to be, erm, a bit scrambled. (I'm watching their first story at the moment, which might explain my bias.) I definitely think it makes sense for Remembrance to be taking place during the War. It certainly gives a satisfying context to the TV Movie. The Doctor's big "no - you died!" moment was either interesting or confusing depending on how you look at things.

Whatever; this week is going to go agonisingly slowly. Especially during episode 6 of The Daleks, tonight.

Aidy said...

It's just been pointed out to me that the Valeyard is probably a better villain than Sil or the Rani to represent 6, and that Fenric does the trick quite nicely for 7.

Now we just need to get that nice Mr. McGann something and we're done.