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Doctor Who 2.12 and 2.13 Army of Ghosts/Doomsday review

The One Where: The Daleks fight the Cybermen! And Billie leaves! Blimey.

AIR-DATE: 01/07/06

Written by:
Russelll T Davies

Director:
Graeme Harper

Starring:
Billie Piper, David Tennant, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke, Shaun Dingwall, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Raji James, Freema Agyeman

Rating: 5/5

Review
Gentle reader; forgive the tardiness of our review. It has taken us fully two weeks to get over the season finale. Two weeks! Our cheeks are still wet with the tracks of our tears!

What an ending that was. We knew that the Cybermen and Daleks were coming back, and that Rose was being written out. But despite your premonitions, this two-parter from the pen of Russell the T is by far the most exciting British TV in yonks. It's a stunning end to the 10th Doctor’s latest outing and a fitting farewell for Piper's character – a companion adopted as their own by a whole new generation of Who viewers. The anguish of separation had been hinted at in previous episodes, and then right from the pre-title sequence Rose’s voice-over sets the scene for a poignant and exciting storyline.

It could have gone horribly wrong. “Army of Ghosts” looked set to deliver the Tenth Doctor at his most irritating - yelping “I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost” early on, followed up later by some “hilarious” pretending-that-Jackie-is-Rose-(my!-hasn’t-she-aged) nonsense. But the energy of the plot burbles over the slapstick, like a frothing stream over some goofy pebbles. Canary Wharf as Torchwood's HQ is a groovy notion, and it’s creepy too, once you realise THERE ARE CYBERMEN IN THE BASEMENT! It all builds to a tense cliffhanger scene where the “ghosts” around planet Earth are revealed to be invading inter-dimensional Cybermen, and there’s a mysterious sphere in the Torchwood lab which is actually a spaceship. The anticipation and excitement is ratcheted up so far that – even despite knowing what’s coming – you can’t help but leap off the sofa shouting, “Yikes! Daleks!” (Or is it just me still using the word “yikes”? No matter.)

So who’s best, Daleks or Cybermen? Actually, neither are as good as the Doctor it turns out, but the second part of the story is pure fanboy-stroking fantasy. The initial exchange between the two legendary baddies is amazing, the perfect balance between menace and humour, resembling a playground face-off. "No, we're better than you!" – "Ha! You so aren't!" Perhaps it's more like an internet flame war, in which the lamer Cybermen are totally pwned by the Dalek (w00t!). Either way, you laugh out loud until you remember that the whole world is in peril.

The ensuing battle is invigorating, although taking place in the whitewashed warehouse that is Torchwood, it doesn't have the gritty darkness of the battle in last year's "Dalek". The Doctor's solution is contrived and couldn't possibly work – what about all the Cybermen constructed on THIS side of the rift, then, eh? – but it does allow for a noble sayonara from Rose. Just when you thought she might die in battle, pop Pete yanks her into the other realm. Separation across time and space is almost more painful than death in battle, and the final scenes require the presence of a hanky, no question.

Hang on though, how come Pete materialises in exactly the right spot? And how come he doesn't get pulled into the rift himself? And how come Tracy-Ann Oberman's cyber-self can remember enough of her duty to rebel in the name of "queen and country"? Madness, I tell you. It would never happen.

Doesn't matter. "Doomsday" was the best episode of the entire season - the kind of episode which reminds you why Doctor Who 2006-style is so delightful. From SF ray-gun battles between iconic enemies, all the way to unspoken love on a windswept beach: it crams a movie-worth of experience into 45 minutes, and does it all while appealing to youngsters and lifelong fans alike. More of the same next year, if you please Mr the T!

Dave Bradley

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