Friday, August 01, 2008

Season's End, "Journey's End"

OK, here's your discussion post for the Doctor Who season finale, airing tonight in the United States. I guess I probably don't need the usual warning about not posting spoilers for later episodes. (Though in the event that you happen to have them for next year's episodes, please keep 'em to yourself!)

17 comments:

  1. I usually wait to hear what other people have to say first, and then respond myself, but since last week I kept saying things like, "Well, I'll have to talk about that next week," I figured I'd at least post the short version of my own reaction, which I can certainly expand on if anybody cares.

    Basically, I thought the cliffhanger resolution was seriously lame all the way around, so I started off annoyed with this episode from the outset. But as it went on, I started to relax and enjoy it as the crazy, fun, entertaining mess it was shaping up to be, despite the fact that it had plot holes big enough to tow a planet through and that not even I, with all my vast Who-watching experience, could quite follow what was going on.

    And then the ending came along and royally pissed me off. Basically, I thought it was a terrible resolution to the character arcs of both Donna and Rose, one that was wrong on so many levels I have trouble articulating them all. I've been something of a defender of Davies' at times, and I very much appreciate a lot of what he's done, but this episode, frankly, was enough to finally make me glad he was leaving.

    Your mileage may, of course, vary. This appears to be one of those episodes that some people love and others hate with a universe-destroying passion.

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  2. I'm not getting that at all, but then I'm betting I've read fewer reactions to the episode than you. I was distinctly disappointed by the whole thing, but didn't really hate it in the slightest. (Then again, I frankly loved the third season finale, floating-Peter-Pan Doctor and all, so take that for what you will.)

    I did think the cliffhanger was annoying, in large part because I knew Davies would not have the courage to actually follow through. I didn't want to see Tennant go. )I was unsure about him during a lot of the second series, but I've since grown extremely fond of him as the Doctor.) But I thought it would have been considerably more interesting for him to actually regenerate and then work around that somehow.

    As to what he does with Rose and Donna... I hated what he did to Donna, but only because it was like ripping my heart out. If I was unsold on Tennant in his early going, I was really unsold on Catherine Tate, but by the end of the season I thought she was really terrific. ("Left Turn" is maybe her finest work on the show.) It's a terrible thing to happen to Donna -- all that character growth just wiped away -- but I don't think it's terrible because it's ineffective or a bad resolution. I think it's terrible just because I feel so damn bad for her.

    I'm less keen on the resolution with Rose, going off with the fully human version of the Doctor. It some ways, it seemed like Davies' wanting to have his cake and throw it in our faces too.

    I'm pretty sure I've been much more a defender of Davies than you. I think he's turned in some terrific stand-alone episodes, enabled other authors to turn in some great work too, and been a key force in actually getting the show on the air. He has some serious weaknesses as a writer -- mostly that his weaknesses tend to repeat themselves -- and this episode was chock-full of them. It's an unsatisfying mess...but there are also some pockets of great fun and brilliance in it. It's a distinctly Davies episode, for better and worse.

    I think it's probably more worse than better in this case, but I did not hate it.

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  3. It's probably a bit silly to expect a really satisfying cliffhanger resolution on Doctor Who, as it's not like the show has ever had a strong tradition of them. But this one was lamer than most, a fact that really wasn't helped by the sheer "OMG, WTF?!" factor of the cliffhanger itself, as it was sort of impossible not to get hyped up by that even if you knew deep down it was probably going to get cheated away. But I think what bugs me most about it is that it messed a bit with the show's continuity and mythology, as far as regeneration goes... And while I'm cool with that if it's actually going to add something to the show or even just to deliver some really good drama, I'm far, far less happy with using it as a lame plot device, and was even less happy when I realized that the whole purpose of said lame plot device was to give Davies his (IMO rather icky) romantic wish-fulfillment ending for the Doctor and Rose.

    As for Donna, you know, I love a good tragedy, and I would have been sad but not unsatisfied with what happened to her if I truly felt that it worked on a dramatic/character/thematic level. But I don't get them sense from it at all. It didn't feel like a well-rendered tragedy, it just felt pointlessly cruel, as well as essentially undoing an entire season's worth of some of the best character development the show has ever had. It's additionally undermined by the fact that, based on established continuity, the unhappy result should not have been inevitable. (Among other things, uh, didn't we pretty thoroughly establish last season that the Doctor has a gadget whose specific function is to remove the Time Lordy bits from someone and leave them fully human?)

    And I've been describing the whole thing with Rose as being very much a case of Davies wanting to have his cake and eat it too, but I think I like your version better. :)

    You probably have been defending Davies more than I have, although it's funny... Among other groups of folks -- you know, the ones burning effigies of him on their front lawns -- I really have often come across as something of an apologist for him more often than not. Just goes to show how very mixed my feelings are towards the guy that I complain about him when people support him and defend him when people vilify him. :)

    I really do think, sadly, that in this case his weaknesses very much outshine his strengths. Possibly because, IMHO, at least, it's the really important bits of the story that he handles badly, and the messily entertaining wackiness that he's good at just isn't strong enough to offset it. And, no, it really doesn't help that he repeats his weaknesses over and over, either, because things that I was OK with the first time begin to wear on me by the third time.

    That being said, there were aspects of this episode that I liked a lot. Unfortunately, the ending left me with a sour taste in my mouth, which does tend to cast a bit of a pall over the whole thing.

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  4. I, too liked the show and somewhat disappointed. I liked Donna better than Rose and Martha. Do you think she may turn up in the future? Erasing her mind WAS cruel.

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  5. I thought Martha was kind of awesome, but Donna took awesome to a whole new level. She really did deserve better than that, IMO.

    I don't think it would be at all out of the question to bring her back at some point. The memory erasure was a contrived technobabble necessity, so all it would take is a bit of contrived technobabble to find a way to reverse it.

    And then she could slap him. Hard. :)

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  6. What was really frustrating was that "Turn Left" was a better episode that I had thought Davies was capable of writing. But, perhaps inevitably, it was downhill from there. The penultimate episode was not bad, but the last one - though it had a few good things - was a bit of a mess. And I have to agree about the way that Donna was treated.

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  7. Yeah. As I've recently said elsewhere (sort of) Davies is pretty good at coming up with exciting ideas, but he really has difficulties with the follow-through.

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  8. Okay, I'll start off with something positive. I really liked that the Doctor told off Donna's mother and said she should treat her daughter better. (Finally, he gets a point against the mothers!)

    The whole deal with the hand and the human/Time Lord hybridization seemed contrived (but now we know why his hand was more evident inside the TARDIS this season than in others). It might have worked if it was the basis of a one-shot episode, where it was the only plot and where it would have had enough screen time for full and proper development. In this episode, it confuses our current understanding of Time Lord biology and, IMO, qualifies as one of the "this isn't really canonical" arguments, even if it is from the TV series, not a book. Even the anchovies and walnuts (from "The Unicorn and the Wasp"), as silly as they were, are easier to accept as a regeneration-deterring technique.

    Davies is at his best when he focuses on one thing and at his worst when he's juggling all sorts of ideas that he absolutely has to squeeze in to the last episode. (I don't hate this episode, but it was severely disappointing.)

    Donna could have been saved. If Rose can be fixed after looking into the heart of the TARDIS, then Donna having the Doctor's knowledge sounds like something easily rectified. (I did like Donna saying all these intricate things that didn't make sense, and I loved that she was talking the way he does, too.)

    It would have been interesting to see Donna react to a new Doctor.

    Rose and A Doctor (note the indefinite article) spending the rest of their lives together was a total ickfest, right down to him whispering, "I love you," in her ear. (Yeah, I know we couldn't hear it, but you could tell from the movement of his jaw that's what he said.)

    Davros had a good point that so many people die on behalf of the Doctor. I'd like to see that idea developed and reveal some more of the Doctor's thoughts. (It's a pity Donna's not going to be around, because she was really good at picking apart how he thinks.)

    Martha was awesome in a kick-ass sort of way. Donna was awesome in a not-letting -you-get-away-with-sh*t way.

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  9. I really liked that the Doctor told off Donna's mother and said she should treat her daughter better.

    Agreed, although I would have rather he'd told her that under better circumstances. I'm not super optimistic about her changing her behavior, either.

    Totally agree with you on the hybrid/clone/hand thing. Well, I feel pretty much bound to accept it as canon, but that doesn't mean I have to dwell on it.

    Davies is at his best when he focuses on one thing and at his worst when he's juggling all sorts of ideas that he absolutely has to squeeze in to the last episode.

    Also agreed, but I think what is really frustrating is the way that, when he's in the middle of said juggling, it can be very entertaining to watch and really builds your hopes up... and then he completely fails to properly catch everything he's juggling, and it all ends up in an untidy heap on the floor.

    (I did like Donna saying all these intricate things that didn't make sense, and I loved that she was talking the way he does, too.)

    Catherine Tate's performace is perfect, and she's really quite delightful in the way she handles all that Doctor-ish dialog. I could almost forgive the stupid set-up because it provided us with the chance to see that, if it hadn't ended so badly.

    Rose and A Doctor (note the indefinite article) spending the rest of their lives together was a total ickfest,

    I am so glad I'm not the only one here who thinks that. :)

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  10. Two more thoughts about leaving Donna in the dust.

    1) After River Song (snicker) and others looked at Donna with a mixture of sadness and pity after she asked or commented on her future with the Doctor, viewers would tend to think that her departure from the Doctor would have been more... lethal, rather than being jilted for Rose.

    2) If the Doctor is going to wipe out all of her memories of him, including that moment when she was the most important woman in the universe, the least he could do is leave her with the memory of the TARDIS bouncing along the motorway after her.

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  11. 1) A lot of viewers certainly did interpret that stuff as foreshadowing her death. Personally, I think that what we ended up getting was even more upsetting and less satisfying than killing her off would probably have been.

    2) The reasoning seems to be that if she remembered him at all, it would trigger all the rest of her memories and her brain would explode. Of course, if that's the case, why the heck did he apparently think it was fine for him to be hanging around in her house?

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  12. http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/
    books/08/06/scifi.hamlet.ap/index.
    html

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  13. Yes, I saw that article! Made me really wish that I were able to go and see the play.

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  14. Interesting costuming for this version. The skullcap hides his hair.

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  15. Probably he saves the hair to use as his secret weapon when he has to act really crazy. :)

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  16. If you'd like to read a review, you can fund one here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/08/06/bthamlet106.xml

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  17. Hey, thanks! That was an interesting review, and not one I'd seen before.

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