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TV Review: Doctor Who: Journey’s End, BBC One, Saturday 5 July, 6.40pm

By johnberesford on July 6th, 2008 11 comments

doctor_who_s04e13.jpgFull 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.

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  • http://gl0rify.com BritSwedeGuy

    After some dodgy RTD episode he really went out with a bang, throwing everything into the mix and leaving us all wanting more – roll on 2010, dammit!

  • Duncan

    Great review – but what makes you think that the population at large will know the day was saved by a temp from Chiswick? With so much happening I may have missed something, but I don’t think they had a reason to know…

  • tvor

    Not so much that Donna will be recognized but that everyone and anyone will be talking about the whole Dalek incident and surely some people she knew would have been killed by them or taken away. This on top of all the other stuff that happened to London while she was with the Doctor. Nobody mention her aborted wedding day?

  • Patsy Thomas

    Absolutely brilliant. What a finale, so glad
    the doctor regenerated into himself, I really did not want to lose David Tennant, who I think is the best doctor ever.

  • Keira

    Is anyone else confused as to why Jack didn’t just ask Rose why she was there or how she was there and just got on with it?

    I mean in the last series he was told by the doctor that she was stuck there yet didn’t bat an eyelid when she turned up…..

    Only thing that kind of bothered me a bit

    And ooooohhhh possible torchwood spoiler but who else is reckoning Mickey and Martha will join the team to replace Tosh and Owen? It makes sense if you think about it and RTD can keep his characters in another series

  • Sai

    Absolutely brilliant! This is by far the most thrilling and energetic Doctor Who episode I can recall. So much going on and so much brilliance.
    A new Doctor that’s part human, DoctorDonna, K-9(!), Sarah Jane, Jack, Rose (huge exclamation mark!), Jackie and Mickey, Dr Smith and Luke, and all the entourage. And a script that’s absolutely, to the letter fantastic.

  • John

    Journey’s end sucked. Apart from the daft dragging the world back where it belonged, to give Rose the clone doctor” Dr Dildo was a slap at Rose. All she got was a play toy that looks like the Doctor she loved. She did not get the rest of the things she liked about the Dr. The traveling in time and space. “Dr. Dildo had the real Dr.’s memories, but not his mind.
    Donna is better off; she has no memory of it.

  • Baz

    I thought it was brilliant – my wife nearly went out and burned the Dr Who mags (a la Spaced) in disgust at Donna’s treatment.

    Why does Rose have to go back to her universe, while Micky gets to potter about back home again? How can the half and half Donna nearly die while the Half and Half Doctor gets to live happily ever after (seemingly turning off his sense of having to save the universe) with Rose? These questions need answering!

  • Natalie B

    I agree Baz. The Mickey return completely contradicts the supposed necessity of Rose and the clone Dr returning to the parallel universe.

    I LOVE Dr Who and find it hard to criticise such a thrill-packed show but I am shocked so many people are not objecting to Rose being ‘given’ the clone!! Are there no romantics out there who find this idea revolting?? Does no-one consider the ‘soul’ in this issue. Sure he has the real Doctors memories but he does not have his SOUL. And we all know (or should do) when you fall in love – you fall in love with the soul/being of a person.

    And only one half of the couple come out happy – the Dopctor isn’t together. If Rose truly loved the Dpctor – she could not be happy with the clone knowing that her real Doctor was alone and miserable!!!

    If I was Rose there is no way that i could convince myself the guy stood before me was the man i loved – because he simply isn’t. It would be rather sick if she carried on with him ‘pretending’ it was the real Doctor. And how should the clone feel about it – he is profiting from her love from someone else.

    No – bad bad bad way to try to resolve the love dispute. Would have been far more noble and in respectful of their ‘love’ if they were to be kept separate.

    What we are offered is a complete sham and i for one shall not celebrate this aspect of Journey’s End.

    And that’s my say on the matter!

  • http://www.faeriesfinest.com Faerie

    The key to the clone thing working was a line that was almost gone too quickly – when the Doctor told Rose that the clone was born out of fire and war (or something like that) and that was how the Doctor himself was when he met Rose. He was telling Rose that she was the reason he was who he was and that she would have the same effect on the clone. I just accepted that in this process Rose would grow to love the clone in the same way she loved the Doctor.

    I thought the resolution with Rose worked – and yes, she would stay in the parallel universe because that was where her family was.

    The ending with Donna was brilliant even if it was heartbreaking.

  • Kirsty

    Hey is there a new doctor coming into it or is there going to be a doctor who film with david tennant?

    Donna was the best!

    How come Martha was kinda upset when she seen that the doctor found rose and yet at the end of Jorneys end she was all hugs and smiles at her?

    and lastly Did anyone else notice when the ex priminister was trying to reach torchwood , Unit the Tardis and Sarah jane smiths house the Signal was the masters Music the sound of the drums…

    Bit strange i think x


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