After watching last night's Doctor Who episode, I wished for the first time ever that Russell T. Davies would stay on to produce a fifth season of the BBC's time-traveling adventure show. Not because I think a fifth RTD season would be good, but because I'm dying to see how he could come up with a zanier and more wanktastic final two-parter. Since each finale has to top the last, I'm guessing next year would involve a magic virus that turns everyone in the universe into a Sontaran, including Rose, and then the Cybermen from 29 different universes fight with the Gelth, with exploding ribbons! Spoilers for what actually did happen ahead.
Actually the thing that was new about last night's "The Stolen Earth" was the feeling of being a cross-over between three different shows in the Whoniverse. It really was like reading an issue of a comic book like Final Crisis or something. Like, meanwhile at Titans HQ, the Teen Titans react to the crisis, while at the JLA Watchtower, they're fighting Gorilla Grodd. Etc. etc. And hey, it was nice to see Luke, Gwen and Ianto finally in the Who universe proper, and vaguely interacting with the Doctor. (And maybe Gwen will get exterminated next week? We can only hope.)
Apart from that, it felt like the same deal as the previous big finales, only bigger. Crazy shit happens, and you just have to go with it and switch off your brain a little bit. So basically the Daleks stole the Earth because it's a component in the Crucible, their mega-weapon thingy, and they've hidden it in a fold of space-time. And the Daleks are swooping down and harvesting the human race. And Laurie Anderson and her army of rhinos are pissed.
I loved all the silly plot devices and loopy plot twists. Code Red! ULTIMATE Code Red! MEGA ULTIMATE Code Red! Maximum Extermination! Don't activate Project Indigo! Oh, okay, fine, you can activate Project Indigo after all. But really, don't use the Häagen-Dazs Device! Just don't! But meanwhile, we can make our telephone signal go really really far by making every telephone in England dial the Doctor's number at once. (Wha? Huh?) As long as you don't stop to worry about the fact that Cardiff's space/time rift was in a physical location that Cardiff no longer occupies, you'll just run with it. (Oh and by the way, the Doctor's phone number is out of service. Bah. If this was an American show, that number would have led to a viral-marketing rabbit hole, with three websites. And a cake, with a time machine inside. I'm just saying.)
Oh, and I loved the fact that Dalek creator Davros, one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived, was unable to figure out how to cultivate genetic material from himself without slicing his own torso up a whole bunch of times. Rock on, Davros, you crazy science guy. Rock on. Actually, even though Julian Bleach starred in the worst Torchwood episode ever, he was pretty great as Davros. He captured the character's mixture of curiosity, manipulativeness and mania better than anyone since original actor Michael Wisher. (Although I still think Davros should have stayed dead. And why does he have such a lame homepage?)
So here are some stock questions that it's handy to ask after watching part one of the giant whipped-cream-factory explosion that is a Doctor Who finale:
Is there a reset button in sight? Yes. Actually, there are at least two reset buttons — Dalek Caan traveled back into the Time War to rescue Davros. And the Time War was supposed to be "time-locked" (huh?). So maybe everything Davros has done since than can be undone using a double reverse time lock. Also, Earth is in a fold of time, away from the rest of the universe, so maybe time can be unfolded or something. But I honestly think Harriet Jones has to stay dead, because we need closure on her character or something.
Does the Doctor get fucked up? Yep. He "regenerates" at the end of the episode — similar to the way last year's finale had a cliffhanger of the Doctor being super-aged. I'm assuming there will be something similar this year, with the Doctor being messed up for part of next week's finale (in a botched regeneration?) and then restored somehow. Or maybe those old rumors about a regeneration which produces a second David Tennant (thanks to his severed hand) are true.
Is there (finger snap) drama? Yeah. There was the huge sniffly, forehead-kissy moment when the Daleks first start chanting over everybody's speakers. And there was the hilarious sequence where Rose gets all pissy because she doesn't get to have her own square on the companion-scope. All because Wilf wasn't allowed to have a webcam! So Rose is reduced to sitting there and mumbling (still sounding weird btw) about how she was there first! And who are all these other riff raff ruining her big comeback! Poor Rose.
Is there super-heroics? Yeah, lots and lots of it. Rose with a giant gun! The UNIT soldiers going down fighting! Good old Wilf (this season's most valuable player) taking on a Dalek with his paintgun! Gwen and Ianto needlessly sacrificing their lives so Jack can go off and have fun! But most of all, there was the glowing nobility of Harriet "one joke" Jones, giving her life so
Dumbledore the Doctor's army could assemble. I totally would have voted for her. (And even though I was glad we'll never hear anyone say "I know who you are" to her again, I was glad she was able to turn her usual schtick into a moving speech of defiance. (It sorta reminded me of the Controller in "Day Of The Daleks": "Who knows? I may have helped to exterminate you.")
Do all those little easter eggs add up to anything? Well, sort of. Yeah, we see the Medusa Cascade, and there's an explanation for the bees disappearing, and we meet the Shadow Proclamation, etc. etc. And the missing planets from previous episodes randomly — in the whole huge universe — turn out to be among the 27 stolen planets here. It's not as if you could have guessed anything about this episode's plot by paying extra-close attention to the earlier stories, though. And I still have no clue why everything went "BAD WOLF" at the end of the previous episode, except that Russell T. thought it would be cool. And we still have no clue what's going on with Donna — except did she have two heartbeats in that scene where we hear her heartbeat and zoom in on her face? (Right before she says the thing about extra missing planets.)
Are we excited for next week? Yeah, I think so. I mean, come on. It's Russell T. Davies, who's sort of the gay Michael Bay*, going further than he's ever gone before. Who wouldn't want to see that? It won't make any sense at all, but it'll be underpants-hat crazy. And we've already had the obligatory "everybody saying the Doctor's name" moment (via telephone!) so that probably won't turn up next week. And the final cliffhanger did leave me with that awesome WTF?! feeling, like I have no clue how it could be resolved, even using crazy RTD logic.
* - Yes, I know Michael Bay is a director and RTD is a writer. But RTD is in an industry where writers have actual power, unlike Hollywood movies. And RTD really does seem to channel Michael Bay a little bit in his Who season finales.