"Now then, you lot. Sarah, hold that down. Mickey, you hold that. Because you know why this TARDIS always is always rattling about the place? Rose? That, there. It's designed to have six pilots, and I have to do it single handed. Martha, keep that level. But not any more. Jack, there you go. Steady that. Now we can fly this thing. No, Jackie. No, no. Not you. Don't touch anything. Just stand back. Like it's meant to be flown."
IN THIS ONE... The heroes stop Davros from detonating the Reality Bomb, the Doctor is triplicated, and Donna needs to be lobotomized.
REVIEW: I said my piece yesterday about the lame regeneration fake-out, but it bears repeating that Journey's End opens on one of the WORST cliffhanger cop-outs in Doctor Who history. And that's saying something. If you liked or disliked The Stolen Earth, you'll find even more of the same to like or dislike in this one. More guest stars - Mickey, Jackie and K9 - more MacGuffins - the reality bomb, the warp star (that Verron soothsayer left a trunkful of stuff, didn't he?) - more intense emotional beats, and more crazy plot nonsense! In that sense, it's the most RTD episode we've gotten yet. The story doesn't really make sense, but it looks pretty, and the music blares away, and you're having all of the feels, so who cares, right?
At the heart of the story is the great confrontation between the Doctor and Davros. If there's a reason to love this villain, it's that he's always getting into philosophical debates with the Doctor about notions of good and evil, survival of the fittest, or destruction for its own sake. And that's what happens here as well. He scores a lot of points, even if his comparison between the Daleks and the Doctor's "Children of Time" is unsound. On the surface, he's right, but as RTD often does, he lets us judge for ourselves. Martha didn't have to give the Daleks a chance to back off, she could have just blown the planet. She didn't and invoked the Doctor's name as a reason. Circumstances have forced the companions to fight, but it's HOW they fight that destroys Davros' argument. But he's bonkers anyway, and I do like how his reality bomb is the most extreme version of the virus that was part of his original debate with the Doctor. If that virus would destroy all life, would he use it? The answer is yes, just so he could say he had held all that power.
As for the feels, they're really down to two companions having to say goodbye. The failure here is Rose's departure. Part of the reason is that by Series 4, she's really not wanted or needed. Martha was always in her shadow, but Donna was great, and by the end of the series, Doc10 wasn't even getting all sad when Rose's name was mentioned. So their reunion isn't quite as intense or emotional as it might otherwise have been. Bit of banter, smiles and hugs... He was getting that already. But dropping her back on Pete's World? That's a bit of an insult, though of course, necessary. After all, her family is important to her, and Jackie's got a husband and baby over there. But it's the idea that the Doctor can bring her there against her will AND strap her with a defective version of himself, the living deus ex machina known as Doctor Blue (same memories same everything except, y'know, willing to commit genocide), watch as his double makes his love known and gets a passionate kiss, and then leave, no problem, well... At this point, you're only bringing Rose back for the 'shippers in the audience, and then you're slapping them down and forcing them to accept a lesser match, just as Rose does. I've always thought that Rose was more in love with the TARDIS life than the Doctor himself, or at least, couldn't divorce the two in her mind and heart. It sure looks like I'm right here (and see Versions). I do like the notion broached in yesterday's comments that the Doctor has to leave Rose behind because she's too dangerous as the avatar of the still active Bad Wolf.
Donna's final fate ISN'T a failure, not on an emotional level, but it's where the plot really breaks down. The finale rushes by too fast to really allow for proper explanations of just what is moving Donna's destiny forward. It could be the TARDIS in survival mode, or the Doctor Donna echoing back through time the same way Jenny created herself in The Doctor's Daughter, or even Caan as Bad Wolf. We don't know. Following up on the Doctor's regeneration cheat (though it still counts, as we've seen, and I would agree with that assessment from onscreen evidence), we get this whole "metacrisis" nonsense that births a second, half-human Doctor AND half-Time Lords Donna. I love Donna, and I love Catherine Tate in the role, but the hyper Doctor Donna is quite annoying. She might be even more smug that Series 2 Rose, and everything that comes out of her mouth is apparently clever technobabble. Tons of it. It's awful. Thematically, it's the ultimate temp gig, but really, the only good moment from this mercifully brief portion of her life is as one of three Doctors teaching all the companions to pilot the TARDIS as it was meant to. It's a lovely bit, with possibly my favorite musical cue of the season, as the choir liberally used by the Dalek themes is humanized. It feels like Christmas. But after that, the only solution is to erase Donna's memory and lock away her Time Lord abilities and that's where things get really emotional. I used to start weeping when she was pleading for her life, but this time around, it's the Doctor's speech to her family that got me. It's not the first time a companion's been blanked - just ask Jamie and Zoe - but it's never been this traumatic. This underachiever who really made something of herself, reset as if none of it ever happened. It's a great scene made even greater by Sylvia's flash of anger at the Doctor's parental presumption. And Tate plays her dismissal of the Doctor perfectly too. Oh the feels. The feels.
VERSIONS: The DVD includes three deleted scenes. In the first, Doctor Blue is given a piece of TARDIS (well, a big piece of ginger root, really) so he and Rose can grow their own. The second has amnesiac Donna hear the TARDIS take off and almost remember the sound's meaning. And the third is an alternate ending, mirroring the "WHAT?! WHAT?!" endings of old, with the Cybermen showing up inside the TARDIS.
SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, Series 4 Endings and Pay-Offs, goes into a lot of detail, tracking the various memes of the season to their logical and often illogical conclusions.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - I'm not gonna pretend it all works (anything Doctor Blue is obviously tainted), but the tragic departure of the new series' best companion (as yet unequaled, folks) is only one of several great, great moments.