Saturday, July 05, 2008

I need a TARDIS to take me to Christmas

Spoilers pretty much immediately for the "Doctor Who" season finale. You've been duly warned.
The song ends.Russel T. Davies needed an editor, that's for sure. This has got to have been the weakest finale story of the last four seasons, which is doubly sad since this may have been the best season yet.

Which isn't to say that the story was as terrible as some of the message boards would suggest, but there's an awful lot of chaff left on the wheat of the story. Things would have moved much more smoothly if we'd cut the Shadow Proclamation, Project Indigo, and Jackie Tyler. There could have been a little less cross-pollination, too; I like "Sarah Jane Adventures" and "Torchwood" as much as the next chap, but I imagine the guest appearances were probably lost on some viewers. And you know, if we're going to have a crossover, couldn't we do it right and have Maria there as well? After all, she is the POV character for SJA.

If they'd dumped a bit of the baggage, the story would have proceeded a lot more smoothly. We wouldn't have wasted the Shadow Proclamation on a throwaway scene that did very little to move the plot forward and served to suggest that this big name of the past four years was a toothless bureaucracy. We wouldn't have wasted so much time on character moments that did nothing for the plot--specifically, those involving Rose and Martha's respective mums. Martha particularly has gotten such short shrift in her guest appearances that she really deserved more time to shine. Her part in "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End" was better than anything they'd given her since "Last of the Time Lords," but it would have been nice for her to have a bit more screen time.

Oh, and Harriet Jones? Yeah, all that set-up for a twist didn't really lead anywhere (yet). More unnecessary bits tacked onto the story to justify an over-bloated cast list.

And for an episode so keen on guest appearances and continuity, I could have done with a bit more of the latter, to be honest. The Doctor has a flashback sequence to everyone who's died in his name (and some who haven't), but his memory only extends as far as the last four seasons. Sure, a montage of every heroic sacrifice in Doctor Who's last forty-five years would have taken half an hour on its own, but surely there are some folks from the past who are more significant than the nameless flight attendant from "Midnight."

Then again, I hesitate to think what the reviews and comments would be like if they'd shown a clip of Adric in the middle of this.

And then there's the end, with Donna. You know, I really liked Donna. I still like Donna. I like Donna an awful lot. I can't wait to buy a Donna figure (whenever they put one out in something other than a parka). I would be quite happy with Donna sticking around for another year or two or three. To be honest, it'd be nice to go a little longer without someone doing the shocked TARDIS walkaround. I can't tell you how much I wanted her to crack open that big honkin' ring and suddenly remember that she was Romana. Instead, she got the tragic mindwipe, a fate worse than death to everyone but poor, oblivious Donna Noble.

I've been very negative so far, and I shouldn't be. Being the worst of four season finales may be praising with faint damnation, since the last three finales have been so darn great. This story falls around the same quality as the Sontaran two-parter from earlier this season, certainly better than "The Idiot's Lantern" or "Daleks in Manhattan." Davros is spot-on brilliant, and the Daleks get to be menacing again right up until Donna scrambles them somehow (still, defeat-by-technobabble is better than defeat-by-rug or defeat-by-stairs). I've watched Davros's last two appearances over the last couple of days, and he's much better in this one than in either of those (especially "Revelation of the Daleks," wherein nothing made much sense).

And the acting was generally pretty darn good. There were lots of character bits that caught me off-guard--Rose being unaware of what she'd done to Captain Jack, Davros's history with Sarah Jane, and so forth. The dynamic between Rose and Martha was great in both episodes, even though they only really came into contact once. And the Doctor, as always, got to make his great stern face while making all the tough decisions. I'm so very, very glad that we have another year or two of David Tennant, and I really wish I could make a trip over the pond to see him and Patrick Stewart in Hamlet. Any chance that show will go on tour to Chicago?

I'll admit, I'm a bit let-down by this finale, and a lot of that disappointment could have been cleared up by clearing away some of the unnecessary bits of story. For a season that has wowed me no less than ten previous times (with the one exception being "Midnight," an episode that was great by any standard, but left me a little flat for no apparent reason), I can't fault the finale too bad for falling short of the mark. It would have had to top "Forest of the Dead," after all.

This does leave me chomping at the bit for the Christmas special though, since I'm sure it'll be better than the finale here. Smaller cast, likely a one-off companion, and no doubt less pressure to end on a major high note. Oh well, I've got stuff to tide me over for the next five months. There are dozens of serials that I haven't seen, there are some Big Finish dramas that look interesting, and I've been meaning to watch "Scream of the Shalka" for months. I'm sure the time will go by quickly enough.

So, what's the over/under on when Donna makes another guest appearance? I give it until the end of Moffat's second season.

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