“This is the story of how I died”, lies Rose, in a narration that immediately demands attention. This is the season finale, the last regular appearance of Billie Piper as Rose Tyler and, as expected, a typically overblown finale that throws in everything but the kitchen sink.
I guess the problem is that none of it is really surprising. Torchwood is supposed to be a revelation, but even at the time this episode was first aired, it wasn’t. It had been namedropped and teased throughout the entire season (without subtlety, this is no “Bad Wolf”) and we’d already seen what they were capable of in the Christmas episode. So when we finally meet the Torchwood bunch, the only new thing we learn is that they’re all complete morons with more money than sense, commanded by the deplorable Yvonne, and operating some of the worst security systems imaginable (staff have training against psychic paper but electronic locks don’t? What?). The Cybermen reveal could have been amazing, but it’s spoiled by showing them earlier on (not to mention in last week’s preview). It’s only really the Daleks turning up that has an impact, but that’s mitigated by a sense of “oh bloody hell, not these again”. Thankfully, these are a rogue sect with a somewhat interesting story behind them, and their skirmishes with the Cybermen are exactly as magnificent as you would hope.
Being a Russell T. Davies script, naturally the entire world is in peril without carefully considering the repercussions of the situation. We’re instead treated to the cliché of news reports around the world showing famous landmarks, pop culture references (lolz, ghosts on Eastenders), Rose’s mum tagging along, the Doctor being his usual ‘wacky’ self, and the necessity of a big magic reset button that sucks all the bad guys away from every single country in the world within a matter of seconds. What about the ones indoors? Still, it’s probably best to just enjoy the spectacle while it lasts and not think too much about it.
As ever, Davies does his best work when dealing with human drama, and it doesn’t get much more dramatic than Rose being forced to leave the Doctor. Now, I could whine about overly dramatic big goodbyes with tears and sad music, unlike in the old days where companions would just leave when they felt like it, but the fact of the matter is that Rose’s relationship with the Doctor is different from all of them. Such is her love for him that she would give up ever seeing her own mother again, and it seems clear to me (and to a legion of fangirls, if Google images is any indication) that the Doctor feels the same way in return. This necessitates the creation of the ‘void’ and a sealed off universe for Rose to live with her reunited family, a final goodbye for the Doctor and Rose with no hope of them ever seeing each other again. If you need closure, that’s the way to do it. I mean, it’s not like they’d ever bring her back in some awfully contrived situation, is it? Erm.
So, mixed feelings about this finale. On the one hand, at least it actually feels like a finale that has been earned, laying the groundwork throughout the second season (Torchwood, Cybermen, Pete Tyler, parallel universes), with a good cliffhanger, some good action and a sweet final farewell. On the other hand, it just feels too big for its boots at times – contrived, overblown, pushing the peril to ridiculous levels, always trying to top the previous effort. We’re not at the point where the Doctor tows the entire planet through space or where all of the known universe is going to explode, but it’s set a damaging precedent already.
Oh look, Catherine Tate is in the Tardis in a wedding dress…