Series 4 Endings and Pay-Offs

(Spoilers for The Stolen Earth and Journey's End ahead.)Everything we've been talking about in these annotations pays off in the last two episodes of the series, so before we get to the various series-long themes, let's talk about pay-offs. In many ways, though he would follow these up with a series of holiday specials, Russell T Davies meant this to be his big New Who, farewell to an era, wrap-up extravaganza. And it is. If you went Squeeeeeeeee when all the former companions got their names into the opening credits sequence, I won't hold it against you one bit. This is it: 4 years of Doctor Who, 2 of Torchwood, and Sarah Jane Adventures to boot. The extended gang's (almost) all here, don't mind the fanfare (so Mr. Smith really does that!).

The previous series' finale was, to me, a missed opportunity. Even having gotten over the loss of both the Master and Martha, I still believe making the Utopians the Toclafane was far less interesting than making them resurrected Time Lords the Doctor had to exterminate all over again. This finale too, has a missed opportunity. At the end of The Stolen Earth, as the Doctor runs towards Rose, he is nicked by a Dalek's exterminator beam. They haul him into the TARDIS just in time for his regeneration. Wow, what an ender, and the perfect, tragic, poetic ending to the Doctor-Rose relationship. Face it, the place Rose has taken in the Who mythology prevents her from ever really returning, because she'd immediately hijack the companion relationship and Billie Piper would have to grow old in the role. UNLESS the Doctor is changed into someone who couldn't give a rat's ass about her.
If only! If only RTD and company had really decided to end Tennant's reign there, keeping his departure under wraps! (Some of us remember Catherine Tate interviews where she seemed to spill the beans about Tennant leaving.) If only! Had that happened, the scene wouldn't have been turned into one of the lamest "get-out-of-the-cliffhanger" moments in the show's history. We wouldn't have gotten the convoluted and sentimental Rose-Doctor Blue ending either (more on all that below). And instead of 4 specials for RTD to "say goodbye", they could have structured it as 4 specials for Steven Moffat and a new Doctor to get in the groove. Alas.

Not to say there are no sacrifices here. There are, and incredibly touching ones. Donna has her own section in the categories below, so I won't spend too many words on her here, except to say she quickly became one of the best companions ever and will be sorely missed. The Stolen Earth, for its part, kills off Harriet Jones, Former Prime Minister (I know you know who she is), an incredible gut-wrencher. She's been comedy relief and an antagonist, but here proves herself a hero. Not only doesn't she regret being at odds with the Doctor in The Christmas Invasion, she also gives the Daleks a piece of her mind. You smile at her running gag, and immediately allow your heart to swell up at her brave demise, head held high, upper lip stiff, like all great Brits are supposed to go. Her reaction to a Dalek execution squad is basically "you're in over your tin-plated heads". Lovely.
Things to watch out for (or how everything else pays off)
Donna's Destiny: There's been a lot of talk in this section about whether or not Fate is a force in the Whoniverse, or if something else was manipulating the events that brought Donna and the Doctor together. One idea put forth by these episodes is that it was Dalek Caan, either trying to help Davros destroy reality or trying to destroy the Daleks themselves, depending on which side of his madness he got up that morning. But can we believe anything he says? He's crazy! Caan says it all would have happened anyway, he just helped it along, so it's not really up to him. He's not an "actor" in the story. He doesn't seem to make things happen except through whispering sweet nothings into Davros' ear. The possibility I've been espousing in these annotations is that it's the TARDIS' doing. It too "sees" the timeline and is connected to the TARDIS. For self-preservation, it closes the door on Donna's face, making sure both she and the Doctor's hand are inside when it is dropped into the heart of the Crucible.
Not only does it make sure it survives, it also makes sure it creates extra Time Lords in Doctor Blue and the Doctor Donna so that reality itself can be saved. (And when did the TARDIS start its plan? Did Donna park in the same alley as the TARDIS would, or did the TARDIS land where she was parked?) Speaking of reality, that's the third possibility: That reality itself is protecting itself from Davros' bomb using whatever agents are available (Caan, the TARDIS), and that may indeed the mechanism for Destiny. But let's talk about Donna's specific fate for a minute...
Caan makes a couple prophecies, including "everlasting death for the most faithful companion", but as we know, "death" was something of a red herring. It even sounds like they were going after Rose, rather than Donna. A bit like the false cliffhanger of the Doctor's non-regeneration, RTD doesn't quite play fair with us here, providing an ending that must be interpreted before it can fit the prophecy. Not that I'm complaining about how Donna's journey ends. It is absolutely gut-wrenching. Her experiences with the Doctor wiped from her memory, rebooted to an earlier, flightier state. It's beautifully played, beautifully scored (love the music in the last half of Journey's End) and sadder than a death. Donna comments on being left in bed dressed "like a flipping kid!". She's been returned to her character's infancy and only now do we see her mum protective of her. In a very real way, the Doctor's own life is rebooted just the same in Doctor Blue, who is the Doctor as he was after the Time War. And while we're talking about characters that "become" other characters, Wilf becomes Donna, carrying the torch for her lost memories.
Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey: Donna hears a heartbeat reverberating back through time, which Doctor Blue claims is his, following the path of the metacrisis through the vortex. I understand why he thinks so, but it could just as well be Donna's own, since she too becomes a Time Lord hybrid. In any case, the heartbeat is used to make Donna hesitate at the TARDIS' door, so one of these hybrids helps create itself. The other temporal issue is the Crucible hidden +1 second in the future, which is possible in the Whoniverse, where time can be perceived as space. Let's also mention Caan breaking into the "locked" Time War to save Davros. Is that how a future story could bring back the Time Lords? Anything's now possible (if at a cost).
They call it foreshadowing: As in a number of episodes this series (Pompeii, Planet of the Ood, Turn Left and in a sense, even Library), we have a soothsayer in the mix - Caan. Unreliable though he may be, his prophecies are worth our attention. When he talks about the end of everything, it turns out he means everything Dalek. When he says the Doctor's soul will be revealed, does he actually mean his shame at what his companions have become capable of? (That's Davros' interpretation, but as we've seen, Caan misleads Davros elsewhere.) Or could it be that the Doctor's soul finds its way into Donna, which is one of the last episode's big reveal? Or is it Doctor Blue's admission that he loves Rose? Or more broadly, that his GOOD influence on his companions (see below) is what is revealed? Davros just puts a self-serving spin on things. Caan also calls the Doctor the threefold man, prefiguring the three "Doctors". There are three other soothsayers in this: Sarah's Verron friend who gave her the warp star, the psychic attendant at the Shadow Proclamation who sees Donna's fate, and Rose who's lived to see the stars blink out in the faster-moving parallel world.
There was a teaser ending planned for Journey's End, with Cybermen coming up behind the Doctor in the TARDIS, but I'm glad they cut that piece of foreshadowing. A lonely Doctor milling around the console was a much stronger ending. Such restraint would have done Doomsday similar good.
Military matters: The Doctor has never liked weapons or the military mindset. He's had a chance to show it in this series, especially through his interactions with UNIT and his daughter's people. The irony as presented in Journey's End is that he's in fact prepared his companions for the worst. He's turned them into warriors. Jack falls in with Torchwood ("too many guns"). Rose, Micky and Jackie walk around with giant firearms. Martha stands poised to to self-destruct the Earth. And even Sarah supplies the warp star to blow the Daleks to kingdom come. That's Davros' viewpoint regarding the "Children of Time" anyway. But it's not a complete picture. All of these characters, despite fighting an implacable and irredeemable enemy, give the Daleks an ultimatum. They've learned to give the bad guys one last chance. Jack and Sarah don't blow a hole through the Crucible. Martha doesn't use the Osterhagen Key. And the Doctor ends up trying to save Davros. THAT'S the truth of the Doctor. And why Doctor Blue must be rejected as a product and instrument of war.
And then his Torchwood and UNIT pals give him a salute. He takes them, but does not answer. Note that the Shadow Proclamation also tries to draft him as a general forn their army, something he runs away from.
Are you my mummy?: All series long, we've had images of characters born without procreation. It's a major theme in the finale. On the side of evil, we have Davros' recreation of the Dalek race from his own cells. On the side of good, we have Doctor Blue (so called because of the blue suit, in case you're wondering) grown from the Doctor's hand and wasted regeneration energy, and contact with Donna's physiology.
This "metacrisis", as the bafflegab du jour would have it, creates a Doctor/Human hybrid AND a Donna/Time Lord hybrid, neither of which is a natural being. When the Doctor says "there's never been a Time Lord/Human metacrisis before", does he mean that Time Lord/Time Lord metacrises ARE known to happen? Is this how Time Lords procreate? Shades of looming (for fans of the novel Lungbarrow). The theme resolved, the episode ends with real mothers. Sylvia reforges her bond with her daughter, and Jackie mentions she's had her baby. Slyly, she makes Doctor Blue believe she called it Doctor (calling attention to his own birth), but no, it's Tony, you plum (one of my favorite Jackie moments ever). A deleted scene would have had the Doctor giving his counterpart a piece of TARDIS (looked like a naff piece of coral) to grow his own, another thematically relevant genesis.
Where's my planet?: It's all finally explained. Davros has stolen all thoes planets out of time and space to act as a massive geodesic computer/reality bomb lense/blowey-whimey bafflegab.
Back problems: The psychic attendant at the Shadow Proclamation sees the bug on Donna's back echoing frontwards through time.
The bees' knees: It is finally explained that some bees are aliens who use a kind of galactic frequency to travel to other worlds. The same network was used by Davros to transmat the stolen planets, and the Doctor follows it back to the Medusa Cascade.
Dusty Rose: She's back and now it's her turn to be jealous of Martha! Her own final fate is only sentimental kitsch on paper. In reality, it's rather depressing. The Doctor leaves her with his counterpart, giving her what he normally couldn't - a Doctor that can love her and grow old with her. "Same memories, same everything." Except that's not quite true. He has no TARDIS (not in the final edit) and only one heart, no de facto immortality, etc. Plus, she's tasked with mellowing him out, like she did to the real Doctor. Look at that expression:
She's disappointed and he knows it. Having the Doctor with no travels through time and space is perhaps like not having the Doctor at all. Rose's soul is the one that's revealed.
The reference section: Plenty, bear with me. First of all, I loved seeing Bernard Cribbins vs. the Daleks.
If you don't know, before playing Donna's grandfather, Cribbins was Tom, a companion in a little Peter Cushing movie called Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. Other references to that film (and its cousins in the Hartnell era) include "Daleks are the masters of Earth!", the idea that the Daleks tried to move the Earth before (by turning it into a spaceship), pushing disabled Daleks around like shopping carts, and the German-speaking Daleks (since the Daleks are a Nazi metaphor, especially in the Dalek Invasion of Earth).
It's also Sarah Jane Smith's reunion with Davros since Genesis of the Daleks (Liz Sladen is particularly touching in Tenannt's video diary on this point). Viewers trying to spot Time Lord family members in the series can add Richard Dawkins to Georgia Moffat (5th Doctor's daughter) in The Doctor's Daughter and David Troughton (2nd Doctor's son) in Midnight. He is Lalla (Romana) Ward's husband. Thanks for playing our game. Speaking of family, the Doctor draws a connection between Gwyneth (The Uniquet Dead) and Gwen Cooper (bothe played by Eve Myles). RTD has clarified that there isn't a blood tie, just coincidental traits caused by the time rift, but that's more convoluted than it needs to be. The oft-mentioned Shadow Proclamation (first in Rose) is finally seen, though the budget-blowing scene as imagined would have featured a ton of recurring aliens, including a child Blon Slitheen (Boom Town). Rose cradling the Doctor's dying body in her arms in the shadow of a church may deliberately echo Father's Day. Interestingly, she eventually gains another version of the Doctor, just as she gained another version of her dead father. Not all references are to televised episodes, of course, and the notion of a TARDIS requiring six pilots originated in the New Adventures novel Time's Crucible.
I dare say it actually originates with the design of the console itself. Great moment. The Mr. Copper Foundation that created the Subwave Network gives us a hint of what Mr. Copper's been using his magic credit card for (Voyage of the Damned). Sadly, the Network never connected with Classic Who companions. That would have been squeeriffic! A part-human Doctor will remind some viewers of the TV Movie's controversy, of course, but fans of the female Doctor idea should be interested in the Doctor Donna. That may be all we'll ever get!

And yes, I just put myself in that camp. Bring on the Torchwood Series 3, I'm ready for more Whoniverse!


Jeff R. said...

If they had regenerated here, there would be no need for a year of specials at all, since it was to accomodate Tennant's schedule that we didn't go straight into Series 5.

Question in search of a no-prize (in continuity, in other words, not the obvious ones based on actress availability and the character's non-reference so far in New Who) answer: Why wasn't Tegan on the sub-wave network? (I can't think of any other companions who wound up on modern/postmodern Earth recently enough to make it a question, but if there are some I've missed [Harry Sullivan, I presume, was busy with UNIT business])

Jeff R. said...

...if there were some I've missed, the same question for them, too.

Siskoid said...

I think the in-continuity answer is that Harriet's Subwave tracked the companions he's had since she knows him only.

If it could somehow find others, and let's say the actors are still with us (which isn't case for Ian Marter/Harry), and I don't have to check on the novels to see what's happened to them in near-canon, we might have seen Ian, Jo, the Brigadier, Liz, Ace, Grace and Tegan.

Jeff R. said...

I thought that the sub-wave was based on 'anyone who's travelled with the doctor' (and I thought I remembered some temporal energy-residue-based technobabble concerning this), which is why it reached Rose, who Harriet had no reason to expect to be anywhere around.

Although it only had two-way with the ones she knew about, so the others might have been banging the screen even more frustratedly than Rose, I suppose...

Siskoid said...

It didn't reach Rose, actually. It reached the Nobles' laptop. So it actually reached Donna. Everyone else was at home.

species 125 said...

I've mentioned before how much I love Donna, mainly because she didn't follow the Doctor around like a love sick puppy. She would argue with the Doctor and challenge his authority, and she would come up with novel solutions to problems that even The Doctor struggled with.

Its rumoured that Donna will return in the last of the specials. I hope the writers do her the service of returning her to the brilliant person she became whilst traveling with the Doctor.

Regarding Rose and Doctor Blue, you could say that the Doctor got rid of his clingy ex girlfried by pairing her with an inferior copy!

De said...

species 125 - With Wilfred returning in the remaining specials, it wouldn't surprise me if Donna showed up.

Anonymous said...

Donna Noble was the best companion since Liz Shaw -- maybe even better. I do not say such things lightly.

Couldn't stand the season finale, it read like fanfiction (not just because of the super happy wish fulfillment ending with Rose, but all the clumsy exposition and monologgy characters). I am sorry to see Donna go, but what's this about the Doctor stopping to introduce himself before leaving? I thought it was absolutely fatal to as much as say the word "aliens" to Donna, and yet there was the Doctor pretty much in her face. Buh?

At the risk of sounding fanfictiony myself, I like to imagine that Donna hasn't really rebooted to her starting point. I wouldn't mind if, in a future episode, it is mentioned in passing she's become a crusading politician or some other type of dedicated do-gooder -- her experiences awakened new possibilities in her, even if she doesn't consciously remember them.

The_Myth said...

Great blog!

re: Rose and Doctor Blue...

I tossed a theory out on the 'net when the finale first aired:

Looking at the pic you posted, and the apparent disappointment in Rose's eye, one must wonder how a fury-infused Time Lord in a decaying Human body might feel when she rejects him [or even feels she has, since he might develop an inferiority complex].

I mean, he might go power-mad crazy, desperate for a longer life.

Gee, that sounds familiar...

When did that happen before?


Remember The Valeyard?

Not saying it was planned, but it would be a nice retrofit.

LiamKav said...

Your suggestion of a new regeneration not liking Rose would have been interesting. I'm imagining a Peter 'Brave Heart' Davison to a Colin 'Change, my dear' Baker type shift.

Whatever you want to say about the subsequent run (I think Colin Baker was great, the writing and costuming far less so), that has to be one of the best regenerations they've ever done.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

A shame that the Doctor's contempt for the military is an unabashed and obnoxious retcon. Certainly, he always sneered a bit at the Brigadier, but he didn't seem to consider armed soldiers as pond-scum the way he nonsensically does as the 10th Doctor... and seeing as he was one (self-loathing, perhaps?) it's more than a bit hypocritical. Rejecting the blue doc especially- how many times has the Doctor taken up a gun and killed *onscreen*, not even counting what he did in the Time War? RTD's agenda is unsubtle, but it doesn't jibe with Who history or the character of the Doctor as he was... just the character of the Doctor that, like the 'lonely God' and 'ice and fire' and 'death in his wake', RTD seems to want to convince us has *always* been the case; that his vision of the Doctor has always been true of the Doctor. Only... it hasn't.

Sorry- bit of a soapbox rant there.

A simillarly-obnoxious RTD-era centric attitude shows, as mentioned, in the Subwave Network. A quick explanation (one throwaway line; RTD loves those) could've explained why it was new companions only. The existing explanation seems to float the insulting idea that only new series companions ever traveled with the Doctor; the absence of Ian and Barbara (okay, her absence would be understandable), numerous UNIT folk including Jo, the Brig, and Harry, pretty much everyone SJA mentioned at the end of Death of the Doctor... well, it's been well-discussed here. Just wanted to add that it severely bugged me, too.

Siskoid said...

A lot of that is "what's possible" in the amount of time, money, and accessibility to the common viewer they had. I'm not too sore about the Network.

As for the Doctor's dislike of soldiers, first, we should remember each Doc is his own man. Doc3 was genial with the troops but had little use for officers, but it doesn't have to carry over to any other incarnation. Second, Doc10 is post-War, so his feelings about soldiering are allowed to be different and negative. Third, if he hates Doc-Blue, it's not because he's so dissimilar to himself, but the opposite. It's a mirror in which he sees all his own flaws.


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