Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Fifty-six - Dr.Who: Series 4, Episodes 12-18, "The Last Great Battles of The Tenth Doctor..."

...not to mention his companions all make appearances, everyone from Sarah Jane to Martha to Jack to Rose-freaking-Tyler, herself.

The first episode of this long slog to the advent of the Eleventh is entitled Turn Left and features Donna almost exclusively as she gets attacked by some sort of "potentiality consuming" beetle that feeds on the alterations to a timeline that could change a persons life... like say Donna turning left for a job closer to home than the temp gig that introduced her to The Doctor. That one choice leads not only to The Doctor's death (without regeneration) after the Christmas confrontation with the Racnoss and the other major battles on modern Earth. With each Doctor-less dilemma, more and more of Earth's heroes lose their lives to stem the tide of destruction.

This is a fun concept episode to watch, especially since the writers decided to pay particular attention to the causality issues of The Doctor being absent. With no Doctor there would be no Yana regeneration into The Master, which means no Saxon. What I don't get is how Rose manages to avoid the causality shifts and knows why Donna is the focal point.

After Donna pulls it back together and dies for her regular self, she and The Doctor have to confront an ancient enemy that has stolen the entire Earth, along with dozens of other planets from space and time, in order to destroy all of reality that doesn't please them. Any guesses as to who? I mean, it could be any number of enemies, but it's the Daleks. Of course it's the Daleks.

It's a two-parter that drags the conflict out with lots more cameos from companions past. Sarah Jane, Captain Jack, Mickey, Rose, Jackie, and even Harriet Jones (former Prime Minister) defy the Daleks and Davros himself in order to save the Doctor and the world... but that's not all, thanks to an almost death at the end of a Dalek egg-beater, the Doctor regenerates not only his severed hand, but Donna as well, giving her his mind and his doppelganger a human heart... as well as all of his memories and experiences.

It's rather hilarious to see The Doctor Donna fasttalk her way through typical Whovian MacGuffin speak and easily defeat/confound/spin the Daleks. I also rather like the episode because it gives lots of action to all of the various companions that the Tenth has had over the years. Because of it all, I actually found myself enjoying seeing Mickey and Jackie. Maybe it's because they weren't daft idiots the whole time, actually proving useful with their guns and teleporters. Maybe it's because of nostalgia. I don't know. Either way, I was fairly happy with them... all of them. It was just the actual Dalek Doomsday itself that was silly and stupid.

After another tearful sendoff for Rose, et al., The Doctor goes back in time to the mid-18th century where The Cybermen have some grand plan in the works and it's up to The Doctor... both of them... to stop it. At first, it seems like The Doctor has caught up with some future incarnation of himself, but as time goes on, the truth is revealed that it's just a brainscramble that's tricked a local human into thinking he's The Doctor.

It's a cute episode to see a degenerated almost-Doctor trying to fight evil with his "sonic" screwdriver and inflatable TARDIS ballon, but that's all it is, really... cute. For the most part, the villains are boring and pedantic as we've all seen Cybermen before, this episode only taking a few new slants like the cat/dog Cybers, the female Cyberking, and the giant Cyber robot. It's all so much sound a noise. Spectacle to cater to the fans with no real substance.

The Waters of Mars, however, this is prime soft-scifi material worthy of The Outer Limits. The Doctor travels to mid-twenty-first century Mars where he encounters the first human colonists on the day of their deaths. It seems the commander of the mission is fated to trigger a nuclear explosion that wipes them and their base off the face of the Red Planet. The Doctor discovers that its their fate, a fixed moment in time, to die running from a sentient water virus... and has the hubris to defy the rules of paradox and help the survivors.

While I may enjoy the cheese and melodrama of other episodes, it's The Waters of Mars that makes the series for me. It shows The Doctor as having as much arrogance as the rest of us humans and, despite the guise of his immortality and alien-ness, The Doctor is a most compelling HUMAN character. It's not necessarily a fun or well-written episode, what with its one-off villain being so bad, conceptually, but the moral questions it begs are tremendous.

Last, but not least, is the two-parter that sends David Tennant off and welcomes Matt Smith as The Eleventh. After falling from grace, The Doctor gets a visit from Ood Sigma and races off to commune with the Ood for a warning about the return of The Master. Events have been set in motion (and retconned on the freaking fly by Timothy Dalton) to bring the Timelords trapped in the Time Lock back. It's all just one loop. The Timelords, The Master, Earth... everything is shoe-horned together in order to present The Tenth with a single choice: murder his race again or doom the entire universe.

Easy choice, that, I think... but it's all so much noise again, cheap melodrama with no actual worth aside from nostalgia. It's nice to see all of the companions for a second time this season as The Tenth has enough time before regenerating to hop in the TARDIS and see them all. I think my favorite was Jack and Alonso at a deep space Mos Eisley.

At the end of the fourth series and the last of David Tennant's run (save for his series 7 cameo with John Hurt), I find myself both content and disgusted. There are far better series out there and Doctor Who can be fun, but it's so very stupid half the time, with all of its handwaving. These are arguments that I should probably save till I'm well and done (hopefully by the end of the year), but I still feel a little bummed even now.

Still, miles to go before I sleep. As Tennant's Doctor would say... Alons-y!

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


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