Sunday, July 06, 2008

Doctor Who: Journey's End

I've literally just finished watching it as I was at the Boosh Festival (on which more later, of course) so I haven't read any reviews whatsoever, and I kinda like that.

Davros, Daleks, whatever. That storyline wasn't important to me - we've had the near-end of the Earth and universe so many times before that I'm not suddenly going to be shocked by the prospect of destruction of Reality Itself - not least because that's never going to happen. We knew how *that* storyline was going to end all along - the Earth would be saved, and on a macrocosmic level everything would go back to how it should be. But the personal, character level, that's where we had no idea what was going to happen - look at all the theories, we *really* didn't know what was going to happen. But the DoctorDonna - how could we forget? It was there all along. Thank the Ood.

So there's the three-fold Doctor: one full Doctor with all his complexities, one brilliant human time-lord that just cannot be, and one merciless time-lord/human, who did what was needed, and what the full Doctor would never be able to do - he couldn't bring himself to halt their creation, and neither could he be their destroyer. He's "the man who never would", remember? But a Doctor with a bit of that very human, Harriet Jones-esque ruthlessness? He would.

I can imagine that this episode will provoke an ambivalent response, but I think that's because it was an episode that has ambivalence - absolutely intended by RTD - at its very core. Reality might be saved, but this was far from all wrapped up. Take Rose. She has a Doctor. A Doctor who can say the thing that a full time lord just can't, who has that humanness in him that means he can respond to her in the way that she has so longed. A Doctor with added human, what could be more perfect, right? Right? Of course not. He's not her Doctor. And no matter how much she teaches him, he never will be.

So there's ambivalent ending number one.

Then there's Donna, or DoctorDonna, who was so charismatic, so brilliant, and such a proper Doctor! She was the most important woman in all creation! Not that it does her much good now. Everything she's learnt, everything she has gained, gone. The Doctor might have saved her, but in another sense he has condemned her to the life she was so ready to leave behind. As Gramps said, she *was* better with him.

So there's ambivalent ending number two.

And the Doctor is on his own, again, forced to consider all the people who have fallen in his name, forced to recognise that it was a being that came from him who destroyed the entire Dalek race (until the next time they pop up, of course). His look at the end said it all - this wasn't a happy ending.

Which is why, of course, it is an episode that - literally ten minutes after watching - is not easy to love. It was clever and subtle and contradictory and ambivalent enough to mean that this blog has been a breeze to write, but you don't exactly come out of it buzzing. And the strange thing is, everything points to that being RTD's precise intention. If we were meant to think that Rose can be happy with her Doctor then why did she run after the Tardis as it left? If we're meant to be pleased that Donna is alive, then why is Gramps - who has always been right in all things - so upset?

This is how it's meant to feel. And that's just... an odd place to be.


Dean said...

I watched it back to back with last weeks and really enjoyed it, but I'm reluctant to think about it too much because it seems to unravel pretty quickly. I'm reluctant to blog about it for the same reason although I probably will.

But given the legion of Tennant fans reading your blog I just wanted to point out here is that with the hybrid Doctor he appears to have guaranteed himself a way to make future guest-appearances in the show for the rest of his natural life no matter how much he ages!

Persephone said...

I'm not a fan of this episode for a whole bunch of reasons with which I will not burden you, but I must confess, I'm rather taken by your lyrical and philosopical take on this story. Well done!

Dean, I was thinking the same thing: Tennant can now age with impunity in a way Colin Baker never could!

Hydraga said...

Hi, I just finished watching the last four episodes all in a row. I live in the states and since the last 4 episodes have not even been shown here I just had to do some searching on the internet to find someone to talk to about them.

I have to say, I found your blog posting 'absolutely brilliant' (as The Doctor would say). Thanks for that excellent cast picture, it is not my new desktop. I look forward to reading more of your postings.

Jane Henry said...

Anna what a wonderful review. I hated Rose's end. Couldn't stand it, but I agree the way she ran after the Tardis suggests that she ain't going to be happy with Mark2.And why should she be? He isn't her Doctor. Best bit for me was that speech Davros did about the Doctor turning people into weapons, and the look on his face at the end. Gut wrenching. Makes you wonder why he carries on really doesn't it? Don't you think if you were him, you might be tempted NOT to regenerate? Especially as he now knows he's got River Song to love and lose...
I'm REALLY surprised they've not played Who Wants To Live Forever? It should be his theme tune...

AnnaWaits said...

Very good point Dean!!

Thanks so much for the nice comments, Persephone, hydraga and Jane :) Yeah, the Davros speech was great - in fact a superlative performance all round from him.

I just read my post back and it's such an English student's response! I basically read the script like a text. Probably not the best way to react to a totally different medium but it's the way I know best!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I love your response: LOVE it! Gah, to have half your articulacy. You're right about the ambivelance. Totally, utterly.

I bow to your writing skills!

AnnaWaits said...

Aww thanks Lisa :)

Paul 'Fuzz' Lowman said...

Thought it was tip-top. Unremittingly dark. Basic theme was that being Doctor Who is just really, really crap. People die for you, you're lonely, you constantly have to hurt people you love, you can never go home, nobody really knows all the great stuff you do so what does it really matter...I mean,, all his wacky, zany's just a sort of...madness, isn't it? He's a loon. I really thought the last 5 minutes of this episode were just awesome, real last episode of Quantum Leap stuff, just brutally, brutally sad for all concerned...if Donna doesn't remember, then what does the last series even matter? It's all just...futile. Meaningless. Really thought this episode said something profound about the Doctor, and didn't sugar coat it at all. This episode said explicitly that being the Doctor sucks. He sees some nice planets now and again and he meets some interesting aliens. But basically, it's a horrible existance, characterised by sadness and pain. When Gramps said he'd think about him every night and he replied with a quiet 'thanks'...well, that just killed me. All in all, adult, powerful stuff.

MediumRob said...

[this is good]

AnnaWaits said...

Ha, thanks!

And Paul, I agree that RTD totally achieved what he wanted, it's just that what he wanted was really surprising - especially for him! Which I guess is a good thing. I know a lot of people don't like RTD pushing the idea that being a Time Lord sucks, but neither you or he were saying that - he was saying that being the Doctor, specifically, can suck. He's got to do the work of the entire Time Lord race on his own nowadays. Bummer.

Jane Henry said...

I agree Anna. Rose more or less said the same thing at the end of Doomsday - he saves us all and no one knows, and he's on his own. The look on his face when he said goodbye to Wilf said pretty much that being the last Time Lord was a pretty bum deal. What I don't understand though, is if he can't be with Rose because of the aging thing, how is he going to cope with River Song when he meets her, knowing what she's going to do for him?

torchwolf said...

It sounds like you felt exactly the same way about Rose's and Donna's fates as I did. But I wouldn't call my feelings "ambivalent".

Donna's fate was pure deep loss, acknowledged as such by everyone - the Doctor, grandpa, even the precog woman from the Shadow Proclamation. Clearly what we felt was intended by RTD.

Not at all convinced the same was the case with Rose's fate. Doctor Donna talked cheerfully about it as if it were a wonderful turn of events. Billie Piper in the Confidential seemed to say it was supposed to be a happy resolution, but she found it strange to play.

I think RTD intended us to feel that while there was sadness in Rose's losing Proper Doctor, and even more so in his losing her again, she would find happiness with Other Doctor, and they'd grow old together.

But we (certainly not me anyway) didn't feel that at all. What I felt was that for someone in Rose's shoes, Other Doctor would never be "the one", and try to make it work as they might, the magic would be gone.

So again not ambivalent, but uncomfortable and sad. But for my money not intended as such by RTD.

chatterbox said...

I think Rose's situation was meant to be ambivalent, and it worked very well. The whole thing was very dark and moving, but so well done it was quite exhilarating too. Donna's end really was like a death though - I'm going to miss her.

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