Category Archives: Mickey

The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End

Journey’s End is everything that is wrong with modern Doctor Who all rolled into one. I was torn over whether this is worse than Voyage of the Damned, but I think it has to pip it. It… is… terrible! It’s a melting pot of ideas thrown together and stirred until it’s nothing but fanboy pulp; it’s Russell T Davies writing from the point of view of a ten-year-old playing with his Doctor Who action figures and going “and then Jack turns up and then the Daleks fight them and then Torchwood and Sarah Jane help them and then Mickey comes back and then Martha and she teleports and then they explode and then there’s two Doctors and then-…”. There is no restraint shown, it’s just trash. It’s hard to believe this is the same writer coming from Turn Left and Midnight.

It's telling that Davies wanted the Shadow Proclamation scene to be much bigger and include hordes of aliens from the past four years but they ran out of money so it had to be some Judoon and a woman with red contact lenses instead.

It’s telling that Davies wanted the Shadow Proclamation scene to be much bigger and include hordes of aliens from the past four years but they ran out of money so it had to be some Judoon and a woman with red contact lenses instead.

It’s simultaneously overblown and boring. It’s full of rambling exposition and ridiculous technobabble. It even makes fun of its own technobabble, but continues to use it to solve the plot anyway; meanwhile, interesting setups (like the Osterhagen key) go literally nowhere. A bluff amongst other bluffs with no consequence. Devices work and break and work again, people teleport in and out. Despite the two parts and extended length, the cast of characters is still too huge to get enough screen time. Even previously satisfying conclusions, such as Rose’s farewell in season 2, are undone, like prodding at a corpse to make it twitch. Rose now comes back then returns to the parallel world for really poor reasons, with a half-human double of the Doctor to spend her life with, just to thoroughly undermine one of the few good things about Doomsday.

She's back, and she's got a great big gun.

She’s back, and she’s got a great big gun.

As for the Daleks, I think they’ve given up any pretence that they’re an endangered species now. Time War? Void ships? Pah! Despite Rose eliminating “all Daleks” from existence with her godly powers, there’s somehow another army of them, grown from the cells of Davros himself, with enough power to move entire planets and destroy the Universe. No, not just the Universe, that’s not big enough anymore. We have to go bigger. All Universes! All parallel worlds, alternative timelines, past, present and future. All of reality and unreality and everything in between. The Daleks will destroy all of it. Don’t worry, though, the duplicate Doctor presses some buttons and all the Daleks are destroyed.

The 27 missing planets, pulled out of time and space, are used as a power source for the Daleks' Reality Bomb, within the Medusa Cascade. Also something about bees.

The 27 missing planets, pulled out of time and space, are used as a power source for the Daleks’ Reality Bomb, within the Medusa Cascade. Also something about bees.

I hated pretty much everything about this. Every little cliché that all the “big event” episodes have. All those TV news reports from around the world, celebrity cameos, disastrous events having no apparent consequences on everyday life, big fleets of CGI things swarming over the Earth while overbearingly bombastic music plays, the Doctor running about shouting plot things at people, and so on. There’s even a ratings-grabbing tease of a cliffhanger as it seems like the Doctor is going to regenerate (ooh, they kept that a secret!) but actually he comes back as David Tennant again because… yeah. The planet Earth being carried through space by the Tardis is the giant cherry on top of a very cheesy cake, and not in a good way.

The Doctor, the other Doctor, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Rose's mum, take the controls of the Tardis.

The Doctor, the other Doctor, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane Smith, Martha, Rose and Rose’s mum, take the controls of the Tardis.

It’s not all bad, but it almost is. Admittedly, amongst all the running around, there’s some nice moments between the reunited characters. Wilf is good, as he always is. Doing a crossover with The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood is an interesting idea, and I’ve been keeping up with both shows in parallel, so the events line up properly, but I can’t imagine the average viewer doing the same, given the target demographic for them. The return of Davros is a big moment and he is as bonkers as ever and looks disgusting, as he should. Oh, and German Daleks. It’s almost worth it for German Daleks. “Exterminieren!” Aaaaand… that’s it. That’s basically the extent of anything good in this finale.

Davros' new hand is shocking! Sorry.

Davros’ new hand is shocking! Sorry.

Even Donna has to leave, and to make sure she can never come back, there has to be some memory-enabled killswitch in her head, because in modern Doctor Who, you can’t just part ways like ordinary people. Donna has, frankly, been fantastic, and she deserves a better end than this. She has been the moral compass for the Doctor on more than one occasion, and the best decision they made was in removing any possibility of romance right from the start so that she could have balanced motives and behave in a more human fashion. She will be missed.

Unable to retain the Time Lord knowledge, Donna's memory is wiped. Because the Doctor can do that, apparently.

Unable to retain the Time Lord knowledge, Donna’s memory is wiped. Because the Doctor can do that, apparently.

Season 4 has been really good, so it’s a shame that it had to end on such a duff note. This is the ultimate lesson in why “less is more”.

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Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

For much of the first episode, the Cybermen are obscured by lights or focus pulls, as if to mystify the viewer as to what they are. Given the episode is called “Rise of the Cybermen”, this seems rather redundant, much like it was for the Dalek episode in the previous season. Still, unlike the Daleks, the return of the Cybermen can only be an improvement over the generic foil-suited evil villains they became towards the end.

The Cybermen approach.

The Cybermen approach.

Effectively, this is a Cybermen “reboot”, with none of the continuity baggage attached. The Tardis finds itself in a parallel dimension, something that is now supposed to be “impossible” since the Time Lords all died, although to my recollection, it only happened once before, in Inferno. Regardless, it’s a Big Deal and it means the Cybermen story can start with a fresh new twist. We never saw the Mondas Cybermen actually change. The angle here is that the metal bodies are the ultimate upgrade, in a society obsessed with upgrading and having the latest gadgets (“earpods” is about as blunt a satire as you can get, but the point is made).

We know it's a parallel dimension because it has zeppelins. Seriously, is that a "thing"? Fringe did it too.

We know it’s a parallel dimension because it has zeppelins. Seriously, is that a “thing”? Fringe did it too.

The creator of the Cybermen, at least in this universe, is John Lumic, played by the late Roger Lloyd Pack. The character is very similar to Davros, tragic, disabled, trying to fix his broken body with technology in a world that isn’t ready for his genius. The story is, of course, overblown and ridiculous, with thousands of people killed or turned into machines around the country due to almost total coverage of Cybus Industries’ mind-controlling earpods (that passed safety inspections to get onto the market… how, exactly?). As it’s all happening in parallel Earth, I can sort of forgive it. At least it has no lasting repercussions for our Earth (… or does it?).

John Lumic, head of Cybus Industries, and creator of the Cybermen.

John Lumic, head of Cybus Industries, and creator of the Cybermen.

It’s clear that this is a Russell T. Davies era Cybermen story because it focuses so much more on the personal dramas of Rose and Mickey. This is not the 1980s anymore. This was a clever way to bring Rose’s dad back into the series, although the coincidences surrounding his involvement are a little contrived, but compared to the general contrivance of the Doctor always landing somewhere just as something bad is happening, it’s no big deal.

The gang plans its attack on the cyber base at Battersea power station.

The gang plans its attack on the cyber base at Battersea power station.

Mickey’s character is also put to good use for a change, by commenting on how little they need him. He’s treated very poorly throughout this series – the Doctor is far too focused on Rose. Mickey finds his true calling (and his gran) and stays behind with the scooby gang resistance group – well, the last surviving member, anyway – in lieu of his doppelganger copping it in part 2. The goodbyes are genuine and sweet, before the tone changes to a weirdly jovial one as they ride off to Paris in a van.

"Control, Alt, Delete!!" The Cybermen kill the president of alt-Britain for resisting.

“Control, Alt, Delete!!” The Cybermen kill the president of alt-Britain for resisting.

The cliffhanger ending is classic Doctor Who stuff. Sensibly, there is no “next week” preview to ruin the tension, but unfortunately the resolution is pure magic macguffin territory and deeply unsatisfying for it. Still, for the most part, the Cybermen are threatening villains, evoking Nazi-esque conformity or extermination of those unworthy. These aren’t the tottering silver simpletons of the previous eras; they’re battle-ready armoured death machines, clanking with every synchronised march of their feet. It isn’t superior firepower that beats them, but allowing them to experience the emotional trauma of what they’ve become. Basically, the power of love wins. How very modern.

The cyber transformations evoke the horror of mutilation without actually showing it. It's surprisingly effective.

The cyber transformations evoke the horror of mutilation without actually showing it. It’s surprisingly effective.

There was a kind of tragedy to the original Cybermen, that they’d willingly turned themselves into this, whittling away their emotions in pursuit of perfection. These versions don’t have that – they are tricked, controlled, forced to act against their human wishes, guided by a leader rather than a unified ideology. It doesn’t quite work so well, and gives them a weakness that the originals never had. Still, it’s strange to think how similar the two parallel Cyber-races are, given they popped into existence by totally different means and at different times with different technology, to the extent that the Doctor specifically “knows” them as Cybermen, rather than “generic robotic people”. Maybe that’s just how fate works or something.

The Girl in the Fireplace

It’s the 51st century and, for some reason, a seemingly abandoned spaceship is drilling holes through the fabric of time and its robotic occupants are observing the life of Madame de Pompadour in 18th century France. Also Mickey has come with them finally. Yay, Mickey!

The ship design may have been based on one of those annoying football clackers.

The ship design may have been based on one of those annoying football clackers.

Steven Moffat’s second Doctor Who story has a lot in common with his first. Certain themes and ideas are carried over, like the AI / robots that serve a purpose without fully understanding it (just like the nanogenes), spooky ‘creatures’ that are masked by something earthly but uncommon (clown masks / gas masks), and another instance of the Doctor ominously pointing out a noise that you didn’t realise you were hearing (the ticking clock, like the typewriter). It also has an intriguing mystery that unravels over the course of the story, some very clever writing, and a touching conclusion.

Visited by the Doctor as a girl, awaiting his return as an adult, Reinette is a prototype Amy Pond.

Visited by the Doctor as a girl, awaiting his return as an adult, Reinette is a prototype Amy Pond.

Looking ahead, some of Moffat’s other themes begin here. He has a tendency to write female characters as “special things” first, personalities second – magic artefacts dressed as humans, if you like. Whether that be the “impossible girl”, the “girl who waited” or, here, the girl on the other side of the fireplace (who can read minds). Reinette is the mystery, the Doctor’s “project”, the thing he must protect until it can be solved, and this makes the love story angle a little difficult to swallow. This is a very unconventional love story anyway, but there isn’t enough time to earn those emotions. It may be thirty years of Reinette’s life, but she meets the Doctor only a handful of times for barely a few minutes. I guess that’s why the mind-reading thing was written in, as a way to enforce that connection between them as quickly as possible, something that Doctor hasn’t shown to be able to do before.

The Doctor does a Vulcan mind-meld... no, hang on, wrong show.

The Doctor does a Vulcan mind-meld… no, hang on, wrong show.

There’s also the first reference to the Doctor’s name being some terrible secret that no-one must know, which crops up again and again towards the end of the most recent series, and has yet to resolve itself. I could do without all of this “the Doctor is an angel / nightmare” stuff – it gets ridiculously overdone – but it’s a suitable theme for this particular story. You wouldn’t want every Doctor Who episode to be like this, but that’s what makes it special.

Eerie clockwork clowns proving, yet again, that faceless enemies are the best enemies. "Tick-tock" is the new "mummy". I could have done without them speaking at all, but exposition demanded it this time.

Eerie clockwork clowns proving, yet again, that faceless enemies are the best enemies. “Tick-tock” is the new “mummy”. I could have done without them speaking at all, but exposition demanded it this time.

The script is filled with brilliant comic moments just as much as it is with heartstring-tugging emotion, and more quotes than I can even recall now. “I didn’t want to call it a Magic Door”, a couple involving Mickey and the horse, which were pretty funny, “always take a banana to a party”, and the Doctor pretending to be drunk, which turned out to be a ruse. This humour and maverick bravado are contrasted against a story with dark and disturbing concepts – the spaceship that has been repaired with human body parts (ick!), the clockwork robots hiding under the little girl’s bed. Some of it doesn’t make much sense if you analyse it too closely (how would a heart function in machinery? Why are robots from the 51st century made with clockwork?), but it’s a story that wins you over with love and ingenuity, and it reminds me how good Doctor Who can be when it’s trying really hard.

School Reunion

There’s a reason I’ve been taking note of the arrival and departure conditions of every companion over the course of my marathon. Ever since I first saw School Reunion in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by the history of the Doctor and all of his travelling companions. I had wondered, did he just leave them behind? Did any of them actually die? Did they leave by choice? Were they happy? The return of Sarah Jane Smith, although I was unfamiliar with the character at the time, raised all of these questions. So, before we get into the details of this particular episode, I’m going to remind myself of the situation in which she left.

A proper goodbye this time.

A proper goodbye this time.

Sarah Jane Smith stowed aboard the Third Doctor’s Tardis in The Time Warrior, went on many adventures with him, through a new regeneration into the Fourth Doctor, and finally left at the end of The Hand of Fear. She had to leave because the Doctor needed to return to Gallifrey alone. Since both the Doctor and Sarah were so stubborn, they never really said goodbye in a sincere way. Sarah left in a bit of a huff, pretending she didn’t care one way or the other. It’s only really in the un-picked-up pilot spin-off episode of ‘K-9 and Company’ that her feelings about being left behind are explored, and where K-9 Mk.III is entrusted to her care.

Scrappy-Doo saves the Scooby Gang with his Convenient Laser™.

Scrappy-Doo saves the Scooby Gang with his Convenient Laser™.

So they meet again thirty years later, which is apparently unusual, and we learn a little bit about how the Doctor feels about his mortal human companions. There’s a lovely (although slightly sickly) line where he says that Rose can be with him for the rest of her life, but he can never be with her for the rest of his. He must wander alone, latching on to each new person for just a short time only. Of course, the real reason is that actors come and go and new characters have to replace them, but this attempts to put a reason onto it in those cases where the companion doesn’t leave entirely by choice. It’s worth noting, however, that during the course of the Doctor’s travels, plenty of the companions have left by choice, perfectly willingly and without regret.

A secret stash of Krillitane oil is being put into the food.

A secret stash of Krillitane oil is being put into the food.

Rose, of course, sees her “future” in Sarah Jane, and wonders if she too is just the latest in a line of disposable assistants who will be discarded for a younger model. She and Sarah also argue about who has been on the best adventures before laughing and joking about the Doctor’s habits. It’s a nice moment in an episode filled with nostalgia.

Mickey doesn’t want to be the new Tin Dog.

Mickey doesn’t want to be the new Tin Dog.

And K-9 is back! Slightly rusty and malfunctioning, but it’s the same old K-9 (with the same old voice!) as before, and it’s great fun to see him back again, making obvious comments, firing his little laser and spinning around to save the day. But, why did Sarah have him in the back of her car? She didn’t know she’d run into the Doctor and she says K-9 doesn’t work anymore, so why keep him there as opposed to somewhere more secure? I suppose you could assume she’s living out of her car now, but that’s a bit sad.

Replacement physics teacher Mr. Smith suspects something strange is happening.

Replacement physics teacher Mr. Smith suspects something strange is happening.

The old crew team up to investigate strange happenings at the local school. Tony Head is fantastic, as he always is, but is underused. He just needed some more delicious dialogue to chew on. The Krillitanes are generic-looking CGI bats, and some of the effects are unfortunately a bit ropey. Perhaps this was an intentional throwback to the iffy effects of the 1970s, but I doubt it. The plot with the school kids cracking codes is a perfectly serviceable little mystery, and the Doctor and Rose are immediately settled into their undercover operation without having to waste time on a build-up.

Less screeching and more menace would have been nice.

Less screeching and more menace would have been nice.

The Doctor repeats his “you only get one warning” from The Christmas Invasion to Mr Finch. That’s sort of his “thing” now; friendly and jokey on the surface but he will put a stop to you if you cross the line (ooh, scary!). But really, the school mystery and the aliens are underplayed in favour of exploring the drama of the reunion, which is absolutely the right choice. The scenes with the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Rose are really touching and explore the Doctor’s character in a way that only a long-running programme like this can do, and the Doctor and Sarah finally get the proper goodbye that they should have had thirty years earlier.