TV REVIEW Doctor Who 4.13 "Journeys End"

UPDATEDOriginal UK airdate: 5/7/08

Written by: Russell T Davies

Directed by: Graeme Harper


Three Doctors save the universe

For a litmus test for how much you're going to love "Journey's End" look no further than a scientifically rubbish scene of the TARDIS towing the Earth back home. If, while your brain is telling you, "This is crap!" your heart is still doing backflips then it's your kind of episode. "Journey's End" is almost a two fingers up at technobabble; there's certainly tons of it in the episode, but it's largely irrelevant. If you even tried to follow the pseudo-science you were onto a loser. Plotholing is pointless, because anything that isn't explained presumably could have been explained away with even more "fuzzy magic". But as with many of RTD's Who scripts, this was an episode where emotion was everything, and if you didn't love the sheer rush of all our heroes saving the world in the most ludicrous manner... your loss.

The plot does hang together, but only just, with blu-tack coincidences and sticky-back explanations straining to contain everything. There are certainly too many plot strands and a couple of unnecessary guest characters, meaning that some areas of the script are left underdeveloped. But Russell knows that you can't just have crash, bang, wallop action throughout, and once again, the best scenes are the poignant ones, where characterisation comes to the fore: Donna's heartrending fate; Davros gloating over the Doctor's despair; the bittersweet irony of Rose getting her man, while the Doctor doesn't dare stick with his woman.

And there are plenty of adrenaline-rush sequences (German Daleks flying through dark forests), fan-pleasing continuity references (Sarah and Davros) uplifting moments (K9) and humour (Tennant's and Tate's impressions of each other) to balance the sadness. Oh, and a naked Doctor, for those who like that kind of thing.

It's slightly disappointing that the regeneration was only into a second Tennant. It would have been great to have a "red herring" Doctor - a known actor coming in for one episode to play an alternate tenth Doctor. Imagine the Tennant Doctor telling Rose she has to go back to her alternate world with a Warren Clarke-shaped Doctor to look after: "What - it wasn't my intelligence you were attracted to?"

Also disappointing that there was no cliffhanger into the Christmas special - but maybe that's because they've become a bit of a cliche. Or maybe there needs to be a lapse in time before the next Christmas special for plot reasons. Or maybe it's because it needed to be reinforced that the Doctor's on his own now, in which case a more definitive final shot would have been appreciated; the episode really does feel like it fizzles out with even the music seeming to cut off half-way through a theme.

The Daleks weren't at their best, either. Cannon fodder mostly, though Davros was once again excellent. But wouldn't it have good if the Doctor asked, "So, when you've destroyed the whole of reality - what next?" Won't they get a little bored? As schemes go, it's a bit over-the-top. Surely enslaving the universe is more the Daleks' style?

But all these niggles are just that - niggles. They will be insurmountably irritating to people who like their SF more watertight and that's fair enough. Russell's version of Doctor Who by its very nature will not appeal to everyone. But if you can rediscover that childlike sense of wonder and suspend your sense of logic in a relaxing bubble bath of disbelief, "Journey's End" is big, brash, cheeky, heartfelt, witty, fun and touching slice of scientific fancy. It's not perfect, but an SFX five-star review has never meant perfect. It just means exceptional. And in so many ways that count, that's what "Journey's End" is.

Amazingly, this is the sixth straight classic episode in a row. Has Doctor Who ever had such a great run? And can it ever be as good again? Mr Moffat has a tough act to follow. Then again, he was a major factor in that six-episode run.

Davros pointing out the way the Doctor uses his companions. You've got to admit, he has a point. Also the way "predictable" plot elements (the Oster-whatsit Key) turned out not to be quite so predictable as we thought (but you could argue this was a just a repeat of the Time Lord-killing gun from last year if you're a real cynic).

Not enough Jacqui. Or, to be less specific: some characters were only back for the sake of being back and didn't really have much to add to the mix. What's the point of throwing Jacqui a few token lines, when more time could be spent developing other elements?

Loved the reference to Gwen being a descendent of Gwyneth from "The Unquiet Dead".

In the original script, Russell had written that DoctorDonna uses a standard keyboard when she takes control of the Daleks (hence the gag about her typing speed). Production Designer Edward Thomas pointed out that Daleks have suckers and wouldn't be able to use a QWERTY keyboard and designed something far more interesting instead.

The German castle is, in fact, Castell Coch , which is only a couple of minutes drive away from the Doctor Who studios in Upper Boat. It was a location waiting to be used.

The Daleks saying "Exterminate!" in German; Tennant doing Donna impressions.

The Doctor: "What?! Who invented that? Well, someone called Osterhagen, I suppose?"

Davros: "This is my final victory, Doctor. I have shown you yourself."

Donna: "Well, don't just stand there, you skinny boys in suits. Get to work."

Dave Golder

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