"Oh you know nothing of any human, and that will be your downfall."
IN THIS ONE... The Daleks steal and invade the Earth, and all the heroes of the past four years team up to fight them.
REVIEW: Yeah, the physics are insane, no way Earth would survive being disconnected from its moon and sun like that (nor would the system be intact when it came back), and RTD sure introduces a lot of MacGuffins to make his story work - the Indigo Project, the Osterhagen Key, the Subwave Network, the Sontaran base code somehow restoring Jack's vortex manipulator, alien bees providing a traceable frequency back to the Medusa Cascade, and he's not done yet - but how exciting is it to have all these characters from all three Whoniverse shows, featured together in the same episode? The opening credits are HUGE and then the recognizable names keep going at the bottom of the screen. It's Davies big blowout farewell to his era (see Versions) and immensely satisfying from a casting perspective. Obviously, it's also got to have Daleks as the big bad, some gorgeous matte shots and effects (a trademark of Series 4) and the return of an old enemy, Davros himself (plus Caan for good measure, playing mad poet/failed Bad Wolf; or do the Daleks use the word "Abomination" lightly?). So many players, it can't help but create some fun and dramatic combinations. Jack gets to flirt with new people, Gwen can think the Doctor's pretty fit, Sarah Jane can freak out at the sound of Davros' voice (she hasn't seen a Dalek in decades, and plays that shock very well).
And of course, there's Rose in there, the great lost companion, all grown-up but she hasn't changed much. Just compare how Donna sees her return as a good thing, while Rose herself gets catty at a computer screen, jealous that Martha took her place. The universe can't have Rose and the Doctor back together (again, see Versions) because she would never ever leave him, which wouldn't make sense for Billie Piper herself. So he HAS to regenerate just when they're about to be reunited. It's got to be TRAGIC. And it is. For those couple minutes. More on that tomorrow. However, THE stand-out tragic sequence, at least for me, is Harriet Jones coming back into the fold and sacrificing her life to get a message out to the Doctor. Her old gag is back (you know the one I mean), and while you're laughing, you're also weeping, because she goes out fighting. It's a great moment, and quite the arc for Penelope Wilton's little character.
There's a lot of cool finale stuff here - and thankfully, they've kept the number of real-world cameos way down this time - from Mr. Smith's fanfare revealed to be diagetic to the Doctor spouting Judoon to our finally seeing the oft-invoked Shadow Proclamation. Wilf attacking a Dalek with a paintball gun. The Daleks repeating they are the masters of Earth like in the old Peter Cushing movie. Their not accepting Sarah Jane's apology. The lack of previews to keep the suspense way up. There's so much stuff here that it easily hides the plot problems, even on repeat viewings.
THEORIES: Earth has moved and the Doctor jumps to the conclusion it might be the Daleks because they once tried to move the planet. That was in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, where they wanted to put a motor in the Earth's core and use it as a spaceship. It seemed ridiculous at the time, but if the Daleks have had, for at least that long, the technology to harness gravitational energies from planetary systems like the one created at the Cascade, it starts to make some sort of sense. The Earth as a spaceship seems impractical, but moving worlds so they can be balanced to give incredible energy outputs could be worth the effort.
VERSIONS: Unorthodox, but let me expound on RTD's missed opportunity here, instead of any real version put to paper or film. Because Davies really missed the boat here. Or because what I'm gonna say goes against normal production constraints, he led us down the wrong path, creating expectations he couldn't and didn't try to meet. Here's what SHOULD have happened as a result of this episode. If Rose and the Doctor can't ever be together, then the most satisfying result of his getting zapped by a Dalek is that he would regenerate into a Doctor uninterested in loving her. THAT is the ultimate irony this couple would face. Imagine if he had. How surprising it would have been that the Doctor Who offices had kept the next Doctor under wraps so brilliantly. How crushingly sad for 'shippers. And it would have prevented a lot of the hogwash that mars Journey's End - one of the biggest cliffhanger cheats ever, Rose's dismally depressing final fate, the bafflegab surrounding Donna's metacrisis. I'm not saying there aren't any perfectly nice Tennant moments over the next year, but the Series 4 final two-parter feels like such a goodbye to an era, it's a shame that era should then continue and do those same beats, those same goodbyes once more. The Year of Specials is when I get a little sick of Doc10, and I think that may be in part because he's LITERALLY outstayed his welcome.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - A lot of great moments and the sheer joy of a big character reunion from across the modern Whoniverse, it's enough to forget the massive plot holes the Daleks drive planets through.