This story in a nutshell: ‘My name is Rose Tyler and this is the story of how I died…’ which in plot terms is slight exaggeration but emotionally is bang on the nail. It's quite a tasty appetite whetter all the same...
Gissa Kiss: After her star turn in Love & Monsters I am pleased to see Jackie making such an impact in this story. As soon as the Doctor kidnaps her in the TARDIS comic madness ensues (‘She looked into the heart of the time vortex and aged 57 years’). I could suddenly see a very different, far superior series two with Jackie as the companion – she would brought a bit of life to New Earth, The Idiot’s Lantern and Fear Her! Jackie snogs the Doctor to death when they land on her doorstep much to his consternation. She wouldn't have gotten away with that with Eccleston. Jackie is genuinely worried that her daughter is no longer Rose Tyler any more but that she’s turning into a proto-Doctor and once she dies Rose wont have any reason to come home. It's a lovely scene between mother and daughter and one which all parents must go through when they realise that their children have effectively outgrown them. Every time Jackie cries ‘he kidnapped me!’ I always get An Unearthly Child chill. It shouldn't work with Jackie at the Doctor's side but for some reason it really does, the dialogue is sparky and amusing. Much like it would be when Donna turns up full time. Her fear for her daughter when facing the Daleks is palpable, breaking down when she thinks she might be dead. I found Jackie’s pleading with the Doctor as she is dragged off to be converted one of the most disturbing scenes in the second episode. Jackie has no remorse for Yvonne screaming ‘this is all your fault!’ as she is dragged off to her death. She hasn’t entirely lost her flair for comedy when the shit hits the fan as she runs about the staircases giving extremely unhelpful markers to allow the Doctor to find her. Reuniting Pete and Jackie is a very poignant moment thanks to some careful performances (‘I said there were ghosts but that’s not fair, why him?’). The narrative might stutter for a moment to allow this reunion to take place but it is written with such heart and humour I don't really care. I’m really glad Jackie gets a happy ending in a luxurious lifestyle with the man that she fell in love with, that’s the next best thing if Rose is going sniffle at the conclusion. It might be a bit strange to wind up living with an alternation version of your dead husband but after all she has been through in the past couple of years she deserves a happy ending. Funnily enough Rose gets exactly the same ending in Journey's End, winding up with an alternative version of the man she originally fell in love with.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Daleks have no concept of elegance’ ‘This is obvious.’
‘Cybermen plus Daleks, together we could upgrade the universe.’
‘This is not war. This is pest control.’
‘That explains your voice. No wonder you scream.’
The Good Stuff: Jagged rocks touching the sky, ground cracked by seismic disturbances, rippling waters touched by sunlight, creatures screaming through the air – the opening sequence has an astonishing planetary surface, a five second scene that looks like it has twice the budget of Fear Her in that scene alone. What's all this nonsense from Davies about not being able to do alien planets effectively? Rose’s narration gives her last story and epic quality (even if she does exaggerate her fate a little). The ghosts haunting the Powell Estate are a terrific image, very Doctor Who and screaming with storytelling possibilities. You know that Doctor Who is never going to go for the supernatural angle and so the mystery at the heart of this adventure is what are these humanoid apparitions? It's only worth mentioning in retrospect given that it is used to identify the show of the same name but I really like the bouncy Torchwood style music that plays throughout. This is one of Murray Gold's most bombastic of scores (my heart couldn't keep at the five minute cliffhanger at the end of Army of Ghosts) but when he brings it down to a subtler level it is superb. I love the use of contemporary television programmes exploiting the latest bizarre occurrence that has afflicted the world. Russell T Davies isn’t afraid to have a little fun with the ghostly visitations and the Doctor flicks through channels showing a ghost weather report, an episode of Trisha featuring a woman who has fallen in love with her ghost (I wish that was the most ridiculous thing I've seen on those sort of shows) and of course Eastenders has to get in on the action ('Get outta maaa pub!'). The description of the ghosts pressing themselves into the surface of our world is a potent one. But from where? What an ideas packed episode Army of Ghosts turns out to be with the whole notion of Torchwood finally exposed and proving to be deliriously enjoyable. The organisation has been expanded well beyond this story but it's debut airing is still extremely memorable, an organisation working in the shadows capturing alien technology and stripping it down for the good of the British Empire. The set up in both The Christmas Invasion and Tooth and Claw makes this revelation a long time coming and the little hints throughout the season make this eventual reveal a very rewarding one. Another great idea – a void ship that can exist in the spaces between dimensions. Did Russell T Davies save all his big concepts for the finale? It would seem that the inner seven year old in him has burst through in this story. None of these ideas are particularly realistic but clashing against each other in a furiously paced episode they are all fantastic fun. Yvonne is a charismatic, confident and dangerous villainess (although she would never see it that way), ably played by Tracey Ann-Oberman. What a shame she was killed off in the second episode, I could have seen a future for her in the next two seasons (or someone for Jack to butt heads with other in Torchwood). Having Torchwood Tower turn out to be Canary Wharf is a touch of genius, another landmark that a kid can point to when visiting London and get excited about seeing. Even though it was just an excuse to bring two big enemies face to face Davies makes sure the explanation is as interesting and exciting as possible – the surface of the world is splintering and the ghosts are bleeding through the fault lines and through one of those cracks in the void comes the Dalek prison ship. It might be pure fanwank but it is enough to get any fan-boys heart racing. Mickey turning up is a total surprise and he looks gorgeous. He's found his mojo in that alternative world and exudes confidence now. It is worth mentioning that even thought the Cybermen are effectively painted as second class monsters next to the Daleks, this is the only time they have successfully managed to invade the planet. It might only be for five minutes but I still think they should have points for effort. I can't decide whether planting the Cybermen in all those well known landmarks is incredible or a little bit cheeky. The effects are incredible though. How scary must the scene of the Cybermen smashing into the house have been for young kids? Watching them force their way into peoples homes. If you are young enough that would be quite impressionable. I remember watching the cliffhanger and teetering on the edge of my seat and wondering if Davies would have the nuts to bring together the two most popular monsters in the shows history for the first time. My head was saying that the very idea would be awful but my inner fanboy was screaming 'Go on, I dare you...' I have to admit my heart was racing at the climax because nobody does this kind of climactic build up like Graeme Harper (he manages it again in Utopia, The Stolen Earth and The Waters of Mars). Even the ‘previously on Doctor Who’ recap is gripping this time round. Bringing together the Daleks and the Cybermen was a such an obvious, playground idea and whilst there are the fireworks and exploding craniums and casings that you would imagine would come with such a clash of the Titans, Davies enjoys injecting some hilarious sitcom style bitching into their rivalry too which delighted me. That's what you get when you square off one morally superior race of machine creatures against another. Steven Hawking versus the speaking clock. Davies is still firing off great notions in the second episode; the Genesis Ark might seem like an excuse to introduce an army of Daleks to the pot again (I rather liked the idea of there just being three this time round) but it is also another little piece of the puzzle added to the Time War. A Time Lord prison that is the size of a capsule, that's a gorgeous idea. With each detail added, Davies is building an epic picture of the War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. My favourite effect is probably the simplest in this episode, Rose looking at the Doctor covered in void stuff through the 3D glasses. Suddenly in the last ten minutes you get the same feeling of disquiet that you did in Earthshock when you realised that everything wasn't going to turn out okay this time. The episode takes on a fatalistic tone, all the humour drops away and you suddenly realise that something unforgettable is going to happen. We are entering dangerous territory, which is a great feeling. Rose falling into the vortex with the Doctor screaming hysterically is so well played you might need to get your breath back before continuing. It was a very brave move to split them up so dramatically – if only Davies could have stuck to his guns because this is a far superior closure for Rose than the muck at the end of Journey’s End. The coda showing Rose, Mickey, Jackie and Pete as a family is new territory for Doctor Who and the scene on the beach epitomises Davies approach to the series, mixing science fiction and emotional drama (‘I’m burning up a sun just to say goodbye.’). Whatever you think of his era, the writing and performances here are deeply moving. However I did cheer when Donna turned up unexpectedly to cut through all the mush.
The Bad Stuff: I’m not certain I would have given Freema Agyeman the gig on the strength of her performance in Army of Ghosts. ‘Who you gonna call?’ ‘Ghostbusters!’ ‘I aint afraid of no ghosts!’ – with three lines of dialogue you can see precisely the horrendous smugness that has permeated series two, it’s a scene that makes me recoil from the screen it's so horrid. The ruddy great lever is not very subtle. When Yvonne opens the door and introduces the Doctor to Torchwood the hangar looks surprisingly cramped and low budget (oddly the Sarah Jane Adventures made a far more impressive job of this sort of thing when they visited UNIT’s Black Archive with a fraction of the budget). The Cybermen chose a hugely ineffective hiding place inside the building works of Torchwood Tower. A Cyberman news broadcast looks very funny and that probably wasn’t the idea. The action sequences in Doomsday leave quite a lot to be desired, a surprise considering this was helmed by Graeme Harper. A lot of fuss was made about the battle on the bridge between the UNIT soldiers and the Cybermen but it isn't a patch to the action scenes in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel. It feel less like action and more like a series of consecutively staged effects. The return of Jake and the parallel world feels lost in the plethora of other stuff going on, Doomsday is definitely top-heavy with plot elements and some suffer from limited exposure as a result. I’m not sure if I buy the idea of the Cult of Skaro or why we have never heard of them before. The teeny weeny Daleks floating up to the top of Canary Wharf looks hilarious, it’s a surprisingly unconvincing bit of effects work. The Yvonne Cyberman crying oil and turning on the Cybermen is beyond naff. Are we supposed to believe her will is that strong? Oddly the Mill forgot to add the Cybermen to the effects shots of being sucked back into the void. Where did they all go?
The Shallow Bit: Mickey and Jake look prettier than ever. I really wanted to give Rose a hug at the climax
Result: A chaotic, climactic, conclusive two parter that sees the Doctor and Rose ripped apart in gripping style. Army of Ghosts is the superior episode because Davies walks the fine line between setting up the plot and playing with some fun concepts and humour and it builds to an unforgettably exciting cliffhanger. Doomsday starts out well but keeps piling on so many elements that it loses itself and surprisingly the relentless action was the least effective element of this busy episode. The Daleks/Cybermen tension grows tired quite quickly (after a superb bitch fight) but the episode redeems itself with the operatic emotional drama of the final ten minutes. Suddenly all that hideous smugness drops away and the Doctor and Rose are real people again, trapped in two different universes and trying to say goodbye through tears. It’s sensitively acted by Tennant and Piper and whilst it was easily past time Rose left us it does see her go out with an emotional wallop. There’s so much that is good here that it’s a shame that it doesn’t quite hold together as well as it should but there are still a wealth of great scenes. Davies seems to have saved up all of his 'wouldn't it be great if...' ides for this finale (phantom Cybermen, secret organisations hiding out in famous landmarks, Daleks vs Cybermen, a Time Lord prison) and the resulting madness is intoxicating. Army of Ghosts would score a 9 and Doomsday a 7 so this two parter ranks: 8/10