Full marks to all of you who thought the Doctor’s hand would have… err… a hand in the resolution of the Big Regeneration Question. Once his regeneration energies had repaired the damage he suffered by being winged by a Dalek death ray (and leaving aside the, perhaps too picky, question of why regeneration energies would bother with repair of the old body, when they’re about to create a new body), the Doctor apparently decided he didn’t want to be someone else. The hand provided a handy sink for the energies, which he needed to siphon off before they could complete their work. So with that conundrum out of the way, let’s see if we can pick the bones out of the rest of this extended – 65 minute! – series finale, which was just about the most exciting Doctor Who episode I can ever remember.
So much happened in those 65 minutes that this is one episode that will certainly stand watching and rewatching many times over to pull out every nuance of story and pseudo-scientific explanation of what was happening.
We had a temporal prism (or was that prison?) around the TARDIS, a time lock around the Hub looking like something out of The Matrix with all Eve and Ianto’s bullets poised in mid-air, a reality bomb made of z-neutrinos and a dimensional cannon.
Plenty of science then, but also plenty of those brilliant RTD moments, some intentionally funny, some just funny, to lighten the dark mood. Let’s face it, it doesn’t get much darker than Davros planning the end of reality itself (although I didn’t quite understand how there would then be anything left for the Daleks to rule, if he succeeded), but Daleks in Germany shouting “Exterminieren! Exterminieren!” had us all howling with laughter, and Donna’s classic line at the appearance of the second Doctor – regenerated from the energy trapped in his hand – will surely go down in history: “Is that what Time Lords do? Lop a bit off and grow another one? You’re like worms!” Genius.
And come on. Admit it. Who didn’t cheer when K-9 appeared to transmit the TARDIS codes to Mr Smith? The final explanation of Doctor-Donna and the threefold man was another touch of genius in an episode bursting with originality and it was brilliant to see Donna finally realising how good she could be, and babbling scientific explanations for everything as Davros’ plan came apart before his eye.
Everyone will have their favourite bits of this episode, and there was so much to choose from it’s hard to highlight one above any other.
To have the Daleks’ downfall eventually brought about by Dalek Caan himself, because he could rise above the single-minded hatred of the race for all other living things and see the damage the Daleks had done down the centuries, was one of the cleverest twists imaginable.
To find a way for Rose and the Doctor to be together, with him half human so they can grown old together and yet still half Time Lord so their special relationship isn’t spoiled, AND while still leaving our universe with an intact Doctor, was breathtaking in its audacity.
But perhaps the most powerful moments, dramatically, surrounded the foretold death of the most faithful companion. The necessary but ultimately poignant wiping of Doctor-Donna’s Time Lord memories and the returning of her to the simple temp. Although not a death in the physical sense, this was the death of her dreams; the death of someone who had been, for a short time, the most important person in the universe; and the death of the Doctor’s best mate. Returning oblivious to her mundane life, Donna can never be reminded of her role in saving everyone, lest the resurfacing memories burn out her mind.
Once again, you have to allow RTD a little dramatic licence here, and believe without too close an examination that Donna would not ever be recognised in a world where everyone knows they came close to extinction and were saved at the last by a temp from Chiswick. That licence is freely granted though, in the face of a fantastically imaginative, exciting and action-packed finale to the fourth series, which brought Donna’s journey to an end, and which leaves the Doctor once again alone on his travels across time and space.