Exterminieren! Exterminieren!

With so much in it, The Stolen Earth had the potential to be unfocussed and messy, but it was taught, witty and exciting. Journey’s End, though, seemed to have been written by a different writer, perhaps a Mr Hyde to TSE’s Jekyll, rampaging through the script without regard for structure, suspense or sense. Ideas are thrown out all over the place with no direction, confusing the narrative and the pushing the pivotal final scenes into a rushed conclusion even with the extra 20 minutes run time.

There were a couple of things I liked, including Sarah-Jane’s exchange with Davros, and particularly Daleks speaking German.

There were also a couple of things I thought really cheapened previous developments, especially the cut-out-and-keep souvenir Doctor that Rose gets to keep. The healing without regeneration will reduce the impact when the Doctor does have to change (why wouldn’t he just keep a few toenail clippings about him so he could do this whenever he needs to?)

But mostly, the episode was just a series of wasted opportunities:

Regeneration

A great cliffhanger needs a great resolution. Here was an opportunity to prolong the tension, to make the episode really dangerous by having the Doctor midway through the regeneration and unable to complete into a new body, and to be at Davros’ mercy. I hated what RTD did with the Lazarus screwdriver thing in The Sound of Drums but I understand why he did it. If he’d put the Doctor out of action he’d have raised the stakes, and given the plethora of companions something to do while the Doctor faced off with Davros. Instead he effectively halved the peril by doubling the number of Doctors, losing focus and confusing the action in the process.

There’s something on Donna’s back

Lots of loose ends were tied up in the two-parter as predicted (Shadow Proclamation, Medusa Cascade, Bees, Planets, self sacrifice, etc. etc.) But Turn Left which initially seemed to be a setup for this story was left hanging. Why did the fortune teller try to change Donna and the Doctor’s history? I had expected the resolution to be connected to this, and believed there still to be something on her back. What was it that Lucius saw in The Fires of Pompeii? It can’t have been a reference to TLTL was a satisfying episode, but in part this was because it seemed to foreshadow what was coming. I’d imagined that perhaps the timeline that saw the rise of Davros and the Daleks and also Donna’s adventures with the Doctor might have to be sacrificed with much the same effect for Donna that we saw at the end of JE.

Donna

She deserved a better final story after her limited but excellent run. I expected her to die, and at one point I fancifully suspected that she would end up with the Master’s ring to become possessed by him, Tremas-like, with the audience as bereft as Nyssa, though that might have been too dark (though I would have enjoyed Catherine Tate in the role!) I didn’t dislike her send off (and the scenes with Wilf and Sylvia were a highlight) but it felt rushed, and the same thing was done better in The Girl Who Never Was.

Rose

The Earth Defender’s return has been built up so series that she needed a big comeback – and putting her ‘in charge’ in TL was superb. But after saving Wilf in TSE (for which we’re all grateful – perhaps that was her destiny) she seems to have been relegated to standing around and pouting away when the Doctor appeared to be leaving her behind. Faced with topping the climactic parting in Doomsday RTD’s just given us an insipid imitation instead.

Davros:

Sequels to Genesis of the Daleks have failed to match Davros’ debut. This wasn’t even as good as Revelation of the Daleks (also directed by Graeme Harper). Having been carefully held back in the shadows during TSE, this should have been Davros’ big showdown with the doctor, but he was very underused. (I also have to admit that I think missing the opportunity to reuse Terry Malloy who played the part three times before would have been a thrill for those who remember those performances, which were generally better than the scripts!)

The Dalek’s Prisoner:

Davros is said to be in the Dalek’s dungeon, but nothing is made of it. It’s true, the friction between Davros and his creations has been used as his undoing before (several times) but it is a satisfying irony. Anyway, why mention this and not use it?

About Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more…

8 thoughts on “Exterminieren! Exterminieren!

  1. I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head here, but, after a gathering we had to watch the final episode and a group discussion thereafter, there’s lots to be said about this story.

    Without a point-by-point, the one thing that stands out to me is that, once again, one of the major flaws (some people would say strengths) of the new series is exemplified in this episode.

    Companion loss.

    RTD has stated that he doesn’t believe in killing off companions. Fine. The problem is that the new series has redefined the Doctor/Companion relationship. If not downright psuedo-romantic, it is at least a partnership rather than the original mentor/ward arrangement.

    With the more parental role of the original series, there is the inevitable moment when the child flies the nest. This is a universal human experience that even the children watching the program can understand.

    The new series’ companions fill a different niche – the niche of two people coming together and spending their lives together, in whatever capacity that is, love, friendship, mutual need, etc.

    But we also know how that works out – you either live together for the rest of your lives or you break up, often acrimoniously, and if not, through mutual indifference.

    Let’s face it, who among us, given the opportunity to travel in the TARDIS, would ever leave voluntarily? They’d have to pry my bloody fingers off the time rotor to get me to leave – even if it was the 7th Doctor.

    This has set RTD up with a real poser when it comes time for an actor portraying a companion to quit. The old quick, “I’ve grown up and fallen in love with a minor character in the last episode and have decided to leave” ploy doesn’t fly.

    We know Rose would never leave, nor would Donna. Martha’s is the only one that rings true and then only because she’d spent a year of her life away from the Doctor. She was trying to save him and the world longer than she’d actually travelled with him. By his own admission, RTD won’t kill them off, so what can he do?

    He dumps Rose in another universe forever. That ending was too sad so he had to bring her back just to give her the “cut-out-and-keep Doctor” (as you so admirably put it.) What’s to do with Donna? What could possibly induce her to go back and be a temp in Chiswick? Guess we have to wipe her mind.

    I think RTD is leaving just because he realizes he’s painted himself into a corner and can’t possibly get rid of another companion.

  2. I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head here, but, after a gathering we had to watch the final episode and a group discussion thereafter, there’s lots to be said about this story.

    Without a point-by-point, the one thing that stands out to me is that, once again, one of the major flaws (some people would say strengths) of the new series is exemplified in this episode.

    Companion loss.

    RTD has stated that he doesn’t believe in killing off companions. Fine. The problem is that the new series has redefined the Doctor/Companion relationship. If not downright psuedo-romantic, it is at least a partnership rather than the original mentor/ward arrangement.

    With the more parental role of the original series, there is the inevitable moment when the child flies the nest. This is a universal human experience that even the children watching the program can understand.

    The new series’ companions fill a different niche – the niche of two people coming together and spending their lives together, in whatever capacity that is, love, friendship, mutual need, etc.

    But we also know how that works out – you either live together for the rest of your lives or you break up, often acrimoniously, and if not, through mutual indifference.

    Let’s face it, who among us, given the opportunity to travel in the TARDIS, would ever leave voluntarily? They’d have to pry my bloody fingers off the time rotor to get me to leave – even if it was the 7th Doctor.

    This has set RTD up with a real poser when it comes time for an actor portraying a companion to quit. The old quick, “I’ve grown up and fallen in love with a minor character in the last episode and have decided to leave” ploy doesn’t fly.

    We know Rose would never leave, nor would Donna. Martha’s is the only one that rings true and then only because she’d spent a year of her life away from the Doctor. She was trying to save him and the world longer than she’d actually travelled with him. By his own admission, RTD won’t kill them off, so what can he do?

    He dumps Rose in another universe forever. That ending was too sad so he had to bring her back just to give her the “cut-out-and-keep Doctor” (as you so admirably put it.) What’s to do with Donna? What could possibly induce her to go back and be a temp in Chiswick? Guess we have to wipe her mind.

    I think RTD is leaving just because he realizes he’s painted himself into a corner and can’t possibly get rid of another companion.

  3. I just recently watched Leela’s departure, and the old quick, “I’ve grown up and fallen in love with a minor character in the last episode and have decided to leave” ploy didn’t really fly there, either. I think Louise Jameson wanted to be killed off and that’s understandable.

    But I think you’re right, and although RTD I’m sure has other reasons for leaving, he has probably dried up on this. For me, Martha’s leaving was surprising (and disappointing!) but believable. I loved the way Rose originally left (I recall RTD saying that people hate the episode where their favorite character dies, and he didn’t want people to hat that episode). Now he’s borrowing from Charley’s departure (perhaps the one companion that foreshadows the new companion relationship) and I don’t mind that except he didn’t do it as well. But I do think Donna or Rose needed to die, otherwise what was that “most faithful companion will die” bit about?

    The problem is, Caan’s prophesy undermined the suspense in that it meant we knew the other companions were “safe”. The only good reason for this is to build up to the death, and inevitably anything else is an anti-climax. Therefore, ultimately, it feels as though they might have improved the story a little by just cutting those lines (and the Ood’s ‘your song will end soon’ too) even without changing anything else. I will certainly watch the Donna stories again, but knowing what happens to her could have given the stories an extra dimension, if it had been done right.

  4. I just recently watched Leela’s departure, and the old quick, €œI€™ve grown up and fallen in love with a minor character in the last episode and have decided to leave€ ploy didn’t really fly there, either. I think Louise Jameson wanted to be killed off and that’s understandable.

    But I think you’re right, and although RTD I’m sure has other reasons for leaving, he has probably dried up on this. For me, Martha’s leaving was surprising (and disappointing!) but believable. I loved the way Rose originally left (I recall RTD saying that people hate the episode where their favorite character dies, and he didn’t want people to hat that episode). Now he’s borrowing from Charley’s departure (perhaps the one companion that foreshadows the new companion relationship) and I don’t mind that except he didn’t do it as well. But I do think Donna or Rose needed to die, otherwise what was that “most faithful companion will die” bit about?

    The problem is, Caan’s prophesy undermined the suspense in that it meant we knew the other companions were “safe”. The only good reason for this is to build up to the death, and inevitably anything else is an anti-climax. Therefore, ultimately, it feels as though they might have improved the story a little by just cutting those lines (and the Ood’s ‘your song will end soon’ too) even without changing anything else. I will certainly watch the Donna stories again, but knowing what happens to her could have given the stories an extra dimension, if it had been done right.

  5. I forgot Invasion of Time had just been released in the UK. If I’d remembered that, I would have tried a different argument. 🙂

    The execution of the departure of Leela set the companion departure bar so low it would be impossible to trip over.

    That was completely botched. Leela was the companion that really didn’t fit the pattern of the other companions from the very start. She needed something different.

    With some of the other “I’ve fallen in love and am leaving” episodes (Susan, Jo) there was a little bit of the plot during the story that built up that possibility. With Leela and Andred, there was nothing. In fact, I rather thought she disliked him.

    Having her die to save Gallifrey would have been the best option. Unhappy for the kids, no doubt, but fitting of her warrior ethic.

    The Chinese have a saying, “the best stories have sad endings.” While not always true, there is something to it.

    Here’s a scenario for the New Series I would have bought… let’s say that, instead of a regeneration at the end of New Series 1, they’d had Rose’s departure. They’d picked up Jack a few episodes earlier. If, over the course of those last few episodes, they’d played out a budding romance, I could possibly see Rose leaving.

    Same with her and Mickey in New Series 2. If Micky had stayed in the TARDIS and continued to grow, maybe, just maybe, I could have seen Rose realize the futility of her love with the Doctor and see Mickey anew.

    It’s only when the characters have to face their choices that we could see a potential motivator for them to leave.

    Would Donna have left if she’d seen the guy from her Library fantasy world? I don’t know… maybe.

  6. I forgot Invasion of Time had just been released in the UK. If I’d remembered that, I would have tried a different argument. 🙂

    The execution of the departure of Leela set the companion departure bar so low it would be impossible to trip over.

    That was completely botched. Leela was the companion that really didn’t fit the pattern of the other companions from the very start. She needed something different.

    With some of the other “I’ve fallen in love and am leaving” episodes (Susan, Jo) there was a little bit of the plot during the story that built up that possibility. With Leela and Andred, there was nothing. In fact, I rather thought she disliked him.

    Having her die to save Gallifrey would have been the best option. Unhappy for the kids, no doubt, but fitting of her warrior ethic.

    The Chinese have a saying, “the best stories have sad endings.” While not always true, there is something to it.

    Here’s a scenario for the New Series I would have bought… let’s say that, instead of a regeneration at the end of New Series 1, they’d had Rose’s departure. They’d picked up Jack a few episodes earlier. If, over the course of those last few episodes, they’d played out a budding romance, I could possibly see Rose leaving.

    Same with her and Mickey in New Series 2. If Micky had stayed in the TARDIS and continued to grow, maybe, just maybe, I could have seen Rose realize the futility of her love with the Doctor and see Mickey anew.

    It’s only when the characters have to face their choices that we could see a potential motivator for them to leave.

    Would Donna have left if she’d seen the guy from her Library fantasy world? I don’t know… maybe.

  7. I suppose then that there are two sorts of departures, those who leave by their own choice and those who leave for other reasons (death, having your memory wiped by the Time Lords, or being trapped in a parallel universe). I tend to find the latter quite convincing: hence I’m okay with Rose’s leaving.

    Leela was an interesting companion (apart from the obvious reasons) because whilst the Doctor obviously abhorred violence he sometimes seemed to recognise the need for it and turned a blind eye to Leela’s savagery. In some way they seemed to complement each other, so she didn’t (at least for some writers) just become the savage pupil/slave. For me, the culmination of this would have been Leela engaged in an act of violence to save the Doctor’s home world where he could not. Instead the Doctor’s actions seem quite out of character and Leela’s departure is a terrible let-down.

    Anyway, I agree about some of the others: Susan’s departure fitted with her relationship with the Doctor which, while technically more parental (or at least grandparental) never felt like a permanent arrangement. Jo’s, as you say, was built up through the serial. Plus she always was a bit of an airhead and probably didn’t appreciate having the entire Universe to explore… Then there’s Teagan’s departure, which I found convincing (and irritating, like everything else she did). Otherwise, choosing to depart is always a difficult one (eg. Sarah Jane in both The Hand of Fear and School Reunion), and either RTD has to make it work or find a non-death way of removing the choice… I don’t have a problem with that if he can make it work, it just seems prophesising a single companion death when there wasn’t seemed ill advised.

    And I’d forgotten about the guy from the library. That’s another loose end I was sure at the time would be followed up, and another missed opportunity…

  8. I suppose then that there are two sorts of departures, those who leave by their own choice and those who leave for other reasons (death, having your memory wiped by the Time Lords, or being trapped in a parallel universe). I tend to find the latter quite convincing: hence I’m okay with Rose’s leaving.

    Leela was an interesting companion (apart from the obvious reasons) because whilst the Doctor obviously abhorred violence he sometimes seemed to recognise the need for it and turned a blind eye to Leela’s savagery. In some way they seemed to complement each other, so she didn’t (at least for some writers) just become the savage pupil/slave. For me, the culmination of this would have been Leela engaged in an act of violence to save the Doctor’s home world where he could not. Instead the Doctor’s actions seem quite out of character and Leela’s departure is a terrible let-down.

    Anyway, I agree about some of the others: Susan’s departure fitted with her relationship with the Doctor which, while technically more parental (or at least grandparental) never felt like a permanent arrangement. Jo’s, as you say, was built up through the serial. Plus she always was a bit of an airhead and probably didn’t appreciate having the entire Universe to explore… Then there’s Teagan’s departure, which I found convincing (and irritating, like everything else she did). Otherwise, choosing to depart is always a difficult one (eg. Sarah Jane in both The Hand of Fear and School Reunion), and either RTD has to make it work or find a non-death way of removing the choice… I don’t have a problem with that if he can make it work, it just seems prophesising a single companion death when there wasn’t seemed ill advised.

    And I’d forgotten about the guy from the library. That’s another loose end I was sure at the time would be followed up, and another missed opportunity…

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