Doctor Who Series 4 Finale: Journey's End

Doctor Who Series 4 Finale: Journey's End

Doctor Who Series 4 Finale: Journey's End

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
July 8 2008 8:30 AM

Doctor Who Series 4 Finale: Journey's End

Due to my own superhuman time-traveling ways, I just watched the season 4 finale of Doctor Who, titled "Journey's End:" I have quite a few opinions about it, since I'm a major fanboy.

What follows are my thoughts. Obviously, we're talking MAJOR SPOILERS here. Don't read any more if you want to remain unsullied.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

I'll even give you an extra sentence here to give you a chance to skip to the next blog you read. Go on. Off with you.

OK, have all the others left? Good. Here we go.

I loved the season finale. But I also hated it. And as much as I love what Russell Davies has done as showrunner, I find myself thinking that it's best for the show that he's leaving. Whovians owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for bringing the series back, we really do. Just knowing there's more Doctor Who out there makes me happy. It really does.

But episodes like Voyage of the Damned and the season 3 finale arc make me wonder what the cost is. Like the Doctor himself, I think Davies needs someone to hold him back sometimes. He has a tendency to go over the top in the finales and Christmas specials, and this last one went pretty far above the rim.

Advertisement

Journey's End suffered this same fate. For example, it was chock full to bursting with technobabble. The regeneration? The meta crisis? The DNA Davros Dalek Discombobulator? The Warp Star? The Reality Bomb?

Even though most of the tech proved to be useless or unnecessary -- the Osterhagen key and that Warp Star weren't used, the DNA thingy never got used, and so on. But all that silliness was still there, and we didn't know they'd be useless for quite some time. So they were still distracting and poorly executed.

And look. I still love Sarah Jane; she was my first companion. And Rose, and Martha... and Gwen. Oh my yes, Gwen. But having them, plus Mickey, plus Jackie (and I love her to bits too) and Jack and Ianto and frackin' K-9 fer Pete's sake ... it was too much. Way way too much. And so they all got short shrift, with no one standing out. Rose needed a lot more time on air, but was relegated to being a sort of segue. At least Martha didn't fall into a puddle and start screaming.

In fact, part of the problem was that the characters don't fit together. Torchwood is supposed to be an adult show, and the Sarah Jane Adventures for kids. Trying to combine them is probably a doomed effort, and in fact I don't think it fit. The computer Sarah Jane has -- Mr. Smith -- is just corny, as is her sonic lipstick; these gimmics were designed for kids. It just left the impression that things were added just to add them.

Advertisement

Really, everything seemed jammed together at the last minute. Even the music reflected that; I've become quite a fan of Murray Gold's work, and this whole episode had moments of his lovely themes that somehow suddenly turned left, stitched together with more jarring music with no real segue or flow. It was still fantastic music, probably the best I have ever heard from a TV series, but it didn't have the feel it usually does.

Everything in this episode seemed rushed.

Donna Nobel from Doctor Who

Except for the last few minutes, which were amazing. I hate what happened to Donna -- I mean, as someone engaged in the story I hated what happened to her. But from a story perspective I think it was a very bold move, since this really dropped the mood of the ending. I still wish it had been done a little differently... at the very least the Doctor could have told her family that her potential to be such a brilliant person was still there. The Doctor could have told Sylvia that maybe she could help bring that out of Donna. But that was unsaid. Still and all, what a horrible ending for Donna, and worse, she won't even know how horrible it is. She'll even be happy. Seriously, that's scary. She lost everything, and she'll never know.Let's hope Steven Moffat decides to bring her back in one of the 2009 specials, and let her grow into her fate.

Advertisement

What I loved, loved, loved about this episode was the torturing of the Doctor by Davros. I sometimes think about the Doctor as a tortured man, someone who cannot connect to anything because he is not only separate from everything, he is removed from time itself. What does a human really mean to him? Some mean so much, others so little.

He befriends some, but they always leave, or die. They find lives, something he can never do. And in the end he always moves on, always travels to the next place, the next time. And now, in the new series, his mantle is even heavier; he is the last of the Time Lords, and helped destroy his own race. How lonely can he be?

So Davros needling him about his companions was beautiful, and tied in really well with the very last minute of the show, which was very moving. The Doctor, alone again. As always, even when he has people with him.

I applaud Davies for that last minute, and for lots of other minutes in the last three episodes (and for Midnight, which was brilliantly done, and shows Davies still has a lot of ideas in him for the good Doctor). But I think it won't be too sad to goodbye to the overwrought ending, the screaming supervillain, and the nonsensical plot devices added in to fill time. Moffat's scripts have historically been much leaner, much tighter, and I hope that as show runner he'll make sure things go well. And also I hope he explores more of the Doctor's darkness. It seems to bring out the best of David Tennant, and that's very good indeed.