Thursday, 21 June 2018

Journey’s End written by Russell T Davies and directed by Graeme Harper


What's it about: The literal interpretation of everything but the kitchen sink...

Mockney Dude (times two!): Much like the story itself the treatment of the Doctor here is full of good stuff and bad stuff which leaves me kind of ambivalent. I loved his cheeky little grin when Rose tells him that she came back for him and Davros’ assertion that even when powerless he is best contained. There is a breathtaking moment where Davros reveals he is a Time Lord who has butchered millions and we get to see flashbacks of all those that have died in his name. He keeps running and never looks back for fear of shame. That’s all really good, meaty stuff. And it's about time somebody held him to account for his dangerous lifestyle, because people do seem to get caught up and suffer in his wake. I just never thought it would be the most evil man in the universe to do it, which makes it even more impactful.  But all the stuff surrounding the second Doctor is a bit hit and miss for me. I personally think it is a perfectly workable and fun idea but it's another element in an already busy script and would work much better if played entirely for laughs in a comedy episode (as proven in the delightful moment between the Doctor and Doctor when he first shows up). When it comes to repeating the beach scenes and having to spell out about the war torn ninth Doctor and all the snogging…I thought I had wandered into a really odd soap. I know a lot of people feel that way a lot during the Davies era but I think it is balanced with the science fiction elements alot better elsewhere. In Journey's End it feels like the ending of the plot is throwaway and incomprehensible so the endless love story between the Doctor and Rose can be lavished with time and attention. Good idea, bad execution. It really tips the story into farcical melodrama and that’s a shame because there is a lot of good stuff elsewhere. David Tennant is at the top of his game here, at as point where the audience is completely in love with him but even he is only as good as the material he is given.

Tempestuous Temp: I love Donna with every fibre of my being and then a little bit more! This story demonstrates everything I adore about her character and Catherine Tate’s magnificent portrayal. In my top companion stakes Donna would probably only be beaten by Sarah. That’s how much I like her. The story makes such a big deal about the timelines converging on Donna that I'm glad Davies gave her a suitably unforgettable ending. She keeps stressing that she is a nobody, just a temp from Chiswick and in a quietly powerful moment the duplicate Doctor gets inside her head and reveals that it really isn’t a lie, that it is genuinely how she sees herself. She doesn’t believe she is anything special and she shouts at the universe because nobody is listening. Donna is screamingly funny as well, I love her squeaky voiced ‘You’re naked!’ and the chemistry between her and DonnaDoctor (‘Oi watch it Earth girl!’ ‘Oi!’ ‘OIII!’ ‘Stop it!’) is priceless. A shame that we didn’t get more of that since Tennant and Tate are unstoppable magic at this point. As magnificent as Midnight and Turn Left both were, it's sad that they should have been kept apart for two episodes of their one season run. I screamed at the telly when Donna was zapped by Davros…surely she wouldn’t get such a trivial end? Thank Goodness we didn’t get super clever Donna all the time since her smug technobabble is practically unintelligible. Donna making the Daleks go for a little tea dance is probably the sort of material that everybody feared when Catherine Tate joined the series full time so it's probably a good thing that Davies left this sort of farce for after the audience had completely fallen in love with her and could practically forgive anything. ‘The universe has been waiting for me!’ Donna tossing Sarah Jane away from Jack is laugh out loud funny. The climax kills me everytime, after the extreme melodrama of Rose going off with her boy toy Doctor I never expected such a gut punch straight after. She has a great big universe packed inside her tiny human brain and things suddenly turn dark when she admits ‘there can’t be’ a Time Lord/human metacrisis. It's painful to watch when Donna begs the Doctor not to take away her incredible experiences with him, this is Davies’ writing at its most powerful and cruel. Tate’s casual ‘Yeah, see ya’ is heartbreaking. Wilf swears she was a better person with the Doctor and I have to wonder if the Doctor was a better person because of Donna. Companions haven't had an ending this heartbreaking since Jamie and Zoe. It's during these moments where Journey's End really sings. Series four was a great run, but it was given an extra layer of magic by Donna Noble.

The Others: Well I wasn’t going to have a category for the entire menagerie of companions in this story or you would be reading this review until the cows come home. Everyone gets a nice little moment and this where they will be listed. Jack is exterminated again , which is probably the most hard hitting death of his many deaths because it takes him back to the first. In what other show would you write that kind of nonsense? Gita Kapoor makes her second appearance in Doctor Who (Dimensions in time being the first) and this time it catalogues her death. I wonder where Sanjay was. I really like that Martha has learnt from the Doctor to give the Daleks a choice to surrender before she scuppers their plans. Martha impresses Rose, a small but defining moment between the two characters who have never met before. Although why anybody would want to impress such a self centred mare is beyond me. Mickey is a joke these days, butch muscle and little else. A shame because Noel Clarke has a lot of cheeky personality that could be tapped. Nice ‘good to see you again’ moment between Sarah and Rose. No bitch fight this time. I miss Jack’s cheeky humour; he wants a foursome with the two tenth Doctors and DoctorDonna! Honestly, when did this show get so damn horny? Martha grinning at the audience is a lovely touch and one of my favourite moments of the story. Sarah screams with joy when she sees Luke again. Being a mother really is one of her defining characteristics these days. Who didn’t cry out with joy when K.9 appears? ‘Maybe there’s something else you could be doing?’ Jack says to Martha, which has never been followed up on. Hang on if this Doctor is infected with Noble personality does that mean Rose is kind of snogging Donna? Wilf’s tears are agonising to watch and he tells the Doctor that every night he will look up at the stars on Donna’s behalf and think of the Doctor. Bernard Cribbins breaks my heart a little too often for my liking, he's a dangerous man to be around if you're feeling delicate. The Doctor condemning Sylvia for her treatment of Donna is deliciously tense. I wish there could have been an episode where they could have had their differences out. I think it would have been explosive.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The last child of Gallifrey is powerless…’
‘They are the playthings of Davros now…’
‘I was wrong about your warriors, Doctor. They are pathetic.’
‘Don’t just stand there you skinny boys in suits…get to work!’
‘I was gonna be with you forever…’

The Good Stuff: The German Daleks are very cool. In fact the German sequences in general open out the question as to why we don't get more scenes in subtitles that allow the expression of other languages rather than turning every nation into English speakers. It's a pretty unique story in that respect. I love being able to see a fully-fledged Dalek Empire at its height with the budget to make it look as awesome as you would imagine. It's not the case of cutting to hundreds of Louis Marks models in ice tunnels or shoving cardboard cut outs in the back of scenes. Whilst I admire the attempts of the directors to swell the numbers of the Daleks with the resources they have, Journey's End is pure Hollywood and needed to look expensive in order to pull of its ambition. Donna in the exploding TARDIS is gripping, roundels detonating, fire raging and Ms Noble screaming in desperation. It's rare that the TARDIS is treated as a place of danger like this, its usually our sanctuary. Should Davros have been characterised as a pathetic little man, living in the basement as the Daleks' pet? It's interesting how powerful he seems despite that. If you're looking for innovation, Dalek Caan is your man. With his excitable, icky tentacles raging and his childish, angry temperament, we've never seen a Dalek quite like this before. When you think of the scale and immensity of the Reality Bomb it makes the mind boggle…27 planets in alignment creating z neutrino energy and compressing reality into nothing. As Davros’ parting gift to the universe it is pretty much perfect. Destroying everything that isn't something he created is pretty much everything he stands for. When Davros recognises Sarah I get a chill of nostalgia that almost makes all this madness worthwhile. One of my favourite scenes in NuWho is Julian Bleach's 'Detonate the Reality Bomb!' sequence. It's a beautifully paced sequence where Davies dialogue (always a strength) absolutely sparkles. How Bleach grabs his head as though Davros is experiencing too much pleasure at the thought of wiping every living creature that he is in pain is ultimate indication of madness. There's something rather satisfying about the Daleks being destroyed by one of their own kind with a conscience. Who would have thought it possible? I love the ‘guess which planet is left’ gag…would it ever have been anything other than Earth? It's nice that I can still be surprised by things I thought I knew everything about such as the six operators in the TARDIS.

The Bad Stuff: This was the most anticipated Doctor Who episode ever with the highest ever placing in the charts and it begins with the most crushingly disappointing cliffhanger resolution in the history of the show. It becomes a bit of a joke when Mickey and Jackie show up as gun toting gangsters. Whereas The Stolen Earth got the balance just about perfect, it feels at this point that there are too many extraneous characters at the party with nothing to do. Jackie has absolutely no characterisation beyond ‘Where’s Rose?’ That's a huge oversight because she was one of the defining characters in the series return to the screen in 2005. The Doctor pauses to tell all his companions that they were brilliant before stepping out to face the Daleks…oh fuck off and get out there! Its  Davies slapping all of his characters on the back for being amazing before things get nasty. I find it very odd that there should be a final devastation option where the entire Earth can be blown up if it looks like the planet will fall completely into alien hands. Why didn't they use it during the Dalek Invasion of Earth? Well, both of them. It suggests the death of hope, which goes against everything Doctor Who stands for. How could I go without mentioning the astonishing twee and scientifically ludicrous idea of the the TARDIS towing the Earth back to it's correct orbit. There's a reason this wasn't done during the Trial of a Time Lord season where the planet befell a similar fate of being dragged away and renamed...because it's a bit shit. Davies is generally at his worst when he is drowning in celebratory syrup like this and this kind of hero worship (the music swells to ridiculous 'we're all wonderful characters doing an amazing thing for the people of the Earth' proportions) just makes me want to vomit. Just have the characters behave honourably and do good things. Stop giving them such a spectacular round of applause. It's telling us that they are wonderful rather than showing us. There are more goodbyes in this episode than there was in The Return of the King. Davies cannot bear for his treasured companions to have an unhappy ending so the death that was promised isn't really delivered. Doomsday had an unforgettably dramatic ending and yet Rose’s end here is sickly and indigestible. Both were soapy but it's clear to see when you compare the two how far Doctor Who can push that. Doomsday went for pure character drama and it worked a treat, Journey's End throws in weird science fiction doppelgangers and it's all a bit tasteless and unbelievable.

The Shallow Bit: Jack looks as hot as ever and I have bad thoughts when he hugs Mickey. Is it my imagination or is Catherine Tate the best looking female companion in this story? Maybe she's just naturally radiant.

Result: I watched this episode with a non-fan and at the end she turned to me and asked, ‘What was that all about?’ Journey’s End finishes off (in my eyes) the most successful year of NuWho in chaotic style; it’s a noisy, busy, jumbled mess with the occasional brutally thoughtful moment thrown in. It looks fantastic throughout and Graeme Harper’s direction is as strong as usual but he is fighting a losing battle with a script that is overloaded with elements screaming for more attention and a number stomach turning moments of melodrama. Davros doesn’t get nearly enough screen time considering he is the most interesting thing here and that is a crying shame given how much effort everybody has put into making him as ghoulish as possible. The duplicate Doctor thread doesn’t work for me and Rose’s fate is like swallowing a bitter pill. Rose is a bit of an anchor in the series at this point that the show needs to move on from, especially when the elements that have been introduced since her first departure have been so successful. The final 15 minutes sum up this story well; some cringeworthy moments (towing the Earth back into it's correct position) and some treasurable moments (Sarah Jane's goodbye, Wilf's tears). Once all the noise and bluster is over we are handed one of the most achingly poignant companion departures ever, a scene that left me screaming at the screen at the injustice of it all. It's a brutal end to a gorgeous companion which almost makes up for a lot of the nonsense that came before: 6/10


2 comments:

dark said...

Really liked your thoughts on this one.
I severely disliked journey's end when first brodcast, particularly because of the the drama of doomsday, though I've come to recognize the good stuff since.

I'm currently watching through all the rtd episodes with Mrs. Dark, along with the odd bf offering, as a way of introducing her to the series, and she absolutely loved the end of doomsday and was quite tearful, methiks she won't feel the same about this one when we get there.

Really though, for Rtd to have the guts to actually kill a companion, or at least kill everything a companion is and let it stand says something, especially since with Moffat retconning anything bad that ever happens became the norm.

Yes, the cheese factor with this one gets a little high even for a die hard Who fan like me, and I really! wish they'd got poor old Terry molloy back in to play Davros, ---- he even offered and the bbc refused him, but in general this is one I've actually found I've softened to over time, though whether that is just as contrast to the utter moffat born shit storm that was soon to come afterwards I don't know.

Anonymous said...

A true low point of the modern show, but as subsequent episodes in series 4 "Specials" were to show, not quite its nadir. Poor Bernard Cribbins never got the chance Julian Bleach did to appear in something well written and exquisitely acted after this cheestastic mess. I would have adored seeing Wilfred with 11 or 12, but alas.... At least we finally got an excellent Davros appearance during Peter Capaldi's run.

Never a fan of shouty Donna and Tennant and Tate often brought out the worst excesses of overacting and face pulling in each other, at maximum volume too, but I can accept that the mindwipe scene is affecting, even to those who disliked the character. There is much writing about 10's arrogance and bullying in taking away Donna's memory without her consent. Steven Moffat himself directly commented on it in Hell Bent and it remains an incredibly problematic scene. Good acting by Tate though. Tennant was insufferable throughout unfortunately and never found the consistent rhythm and balance in series 4 which he managed in series 3.

Not *quite* as excruciatingly bad as End of Time in terms of modern Who finales but as with all of the RTD Tennant enders, just dreadfully sloppy, self indulgent and misconceived.