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:
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 TL… TL 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.
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.
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.
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?