The Doctor Who website seems a bit annoyed with the Guinness Book of World Records. In the 2007 edition, Doctor Who gets the award for ‘Longest-running science fiction TV series’ at 709 episodes (although it’s actually 723 now), but for some reason the ‘Longest-running science fiction TV series (consecutive)’ award goes to Stargate SG-1 at 203 episodes, having previously been held by the X-Files with 202. Before the original run ended in 1989, Doctor Who managed 695 episodes… Perhaps a correction is in order?
Three stories from the series were nominated in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) category in a total field of seven, including an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and Jack-Jack Attack the Pixar short that featured on the DVD of The Incredibles. The Doctor Who episodes nominated were the Steven Moffat two-parter The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances, Robert Shearman for Dalek, and Paul Cornell for Father’s Day.
Last year, Galactica won the category, and they were favourite to do it again this year. However, this year they were beaten into fourth place, with the episodes of Doctor Who taking the first, second and third places – Steven Moffat taking the prize, with Robert Shearman in second and Paul Cornell in third. Certainly a great result.
However, things get interesting when you see the voting breakdown, and certainly if I were involved with Galactica I’d feel a bit annoyed. The voting appears to operate on a single transferable vote system, with multiple votes. In the first place vote, Battlestar Galactica got the most votes in each count, right up to the final round where the Doctor Who episode sneaked ahead. The same happened with the second place vote – Battlestar Galactica again got the most votes in every round until the final round where the Doctor Who episode went ahead. In the third place vote, it happened again, with Doctor Who being behind, until in the final count it beat Battlestar Galactica by one vote. After that, Battlestar Galactica won the fourth place vote after just two rounds, getting more than 50% of the vote.
Paul Cornell went along to the ceremony to represent the Doctor Who writers, and his account of collecting the award can be seen on his blog. You can also read his pre-ceremony posting where he is â€œreassuringly certainâ€? that Doctor Who can’t win.
All in all it was a great showing, and an interesting counter-balance to the aborted American Doctor Who, that changed elements of the show on the basis that a purely British Doctor Who wouldn’t go down well in the US.
Doomsday, the final episode of the series of Doctor Who, which was broadcast on the BBC last night was very much an episode of two halves. On the one side you have the big battle of the enemies, with the Daleks and Cybermen doing battle, the Cybermen looking to conquer the Earth, and the Daleks very much focused on their own mission to activate the Genesis Ark. Alongside this we have the much more personal stories of the Doctor and Rose, and also the Tyler family who thanks to a bit of jumping between parallel worlds, are finally brought back together.
As to the discussion as to whether the episode could live up to the hype, I think it did. If you look back to the discussion in the comments following my posting last week, you’ll see that there were a number of theories based around whether the death of Rose would be metaphorical. Russell T did play with the audience somewhat, in the way that as he has done before he tries to get Rose to a place of safety, but she comes back to help, and then she is saved from death just in the nick of time, but in such a way that she can never get back to the Doctor. Interestingly in the Doctor Who Confidential following the episode Russell T confirmed that they never considered actually killing the character. In a comment that certainly reveals some of the ethos behind the current series he stated that he wants the series to be about hope, and that killing a popular companion would not fit with that. However he then went on to describe their difficulty in finding a way to split the Doctor and Rose, as it would have been totally out of character for Rose to leave willingly. Certainly it is at this point that you realise quite how much work has been put in to getting all the Tyler loose ends tied up nicely, even down to the fact that the parallel Jackie Tyler and Mickey are put out of the picture ready to provide a nice happy end to the whole Tyler story-lines. Indeed the moment when Jackie finally meets Pete definitely raised a smile around here.
In terms of the Dalek and Cybermen story-line, this gave us quite a bit of action, with Cybermen taking on human soldiers, and later the Daleks taking on the Cybermen. There were also, as Beth commented, some pretty catty lines from the Daleks at times, probably considered unnecessary by a number in the fan community I would guess. One good thing was that there wasn’t the Dalek/Cyberman team up. The moment when the Cybermen offer an alliance in the trailer actually occurs when the Cybermen realise that they cannot match up to the firepower of four Daleks – indeed the comment is made that they couldn’t survive the firepower of just one – and offer an alliance. The Daleks turn it down point blank, and continue with their mission to activate the Genesis Ark, which turns out to be a Time Lord prison ship holding millions of Daleks. After this, the Daleks and Cybermen are swiftly dealt with thanks to the rift, with the Doctor setting things up so the two armies are sucked out of this dimension. Needless to say, the tradition of leaving things open for a rematch is maintained, with the Black Dalek escaping just in the nick of time.
This then leaves a good chunk of the episode to tie up the Rose story-line. At the height of the battle, Rose has fallen towards the rift that is sucking the Daleks and Cybermen out, but is at the last moment saved by Pete, who appears from the parallel world one last time and takes her back. A split second later the rift is closed and she cannot get back.
After this we find out why Rose is stood on a beach at the opening of the episode – she has heard the Doctor’s voice calling, and this is where he appears to say his good-bye. In typical Doctor fashion it is actually a beach in Norway, rather than the UK, resulting in the Tylers going running across Europe. But the Doctor says that he has enough power to send this last communication, and Rose declares her love for the Doctor, but the transmission ends with the Doctor in mid-sentence of his reply.
Having said that, we immediately are straight in to the set-up for the Christmas episode, with barely a pause for breath, as the Doctor looks up from the console to find a bride (played by Catherine Tate) stood in the console room. Bearing in mind that the TARDIS is millions of miles from Earth at this point, in orbit of a super nova to power the transmission, it will certainly be interesting to find out how she got there – only about 170 days to wait!
So after two episodes which were to a large extent filler, last night we got the first of the two part finale to series 2 of the new Doctor Who. If, like my brother in law youâ€™re reading this having not seen the episode, Iâ€™ll urge you to stop now, as a little further down Iâ€™ll get into a discussion about next weeks episode that gives out the big part of the end of this episode. I have to say that I did spot the clue to what it was last week, but when I watched Army of Ghosts for the first time Iâ€™d actually forgotten, and was definitely an edge of the seat moment when it happened!
You could certainly see where the budget had gone this week. The opening sequence was actually a voice-over from Rose, firstly talking about her boring life before she met the Doctor, then you get a quick flashback to her meeting with the Ninth Doctor, before some new footage of Rose and the Doctor, including a really impressive composite shot looking down on the two of them stood outside the TARDIS on an obviously alien planet, surrounded by mountains, with strange winged creatures flying around. Sadly that was the last we saw of that planet, as we then get a very subdued looking Rose stood on a beach, with the voice over talking about the Army of Ghosts, a war, and this being where she â€˜diedâ€™.
At this point, some may be wondering why Iâ€™ve put died in quote marks, when it has been pretty widely leaked that Rose is to be killed off in the next episode. The reason is that it struck me when watching the episode again, that it trailing it so obviously at the beginning of this episode implies that her death may not be quite as people are expecting. Bear in mind that Billie Piper at one point this year confirmed that she was coming back next year â€“ so maybe her death is actually going to be metaphorical. Perhaps something happens next episode that changes her opinion of the Doctor so much that she is heartbroken, and unable to continue travelling with the Doctor. This then explains the standing on the beach scene, the fact that it is Rose doing the voice over in the past tense, that she is still alive to tell the story, rather than speaking from beyond the grave. Of course that would also have given her the opportunity to have come back for a third season if she had wanted. Anyway, weâ€™ll have to wait and see until next week, as there is nothing this week to indicate one way or the other how her characterâ€™s story will be resolved.
After the credits, weâ€™re a long way from the strange alien planet, as weâ€™re back in contemporary London, with Rose returning home with her dirty washing (obviously no washing machines in the TARDIS) so we get a little bit of domestic stuff to introduce the ghosts of the title.
The ghosts have apparently been appearing, quite harmlessly for a number of weeks, with Jackie believing that hers is the ghost of her dead father. The Doctor flicks through the channels on the TV, determining that it is a global phenomenon. This also gives an opportunity for the Barbara Windsor cameo, as in a nod to the ex-Eastenders actors in the cast for this weeks episode, particularly Tracey-Ann Oberman, who played Chrissy Watts, the Doctor flicks over to an episode of Eastenders with Peggy Mitchell demanding that the ghost of Den Watts, who of course Chrissy killed off in Eastenders, leaves her pub. Certainly for those fans who were having nightmare visions of the Doctor walking into the Queen Vic or something, it was probably at most an annoying interlude, and certainly the Doctor and Jackie exchange afterwards raised a giggle here.
Anyway, the Doctor of course is sceptical, and realises that these are something leaking through from a parallel world, and sets about trapping one of the ghosts to track down the source of the dimensional disturbance. Having located the source, he takes the TARDIS, with Jackie an unwitting passenger, to try and find out what has been going on.
The source is in fact Torchwood, the organisation set up by Queen Victoria back in Tooth and Claw, and one of whose purposes is to protect the British Empire from the Doctor. However, they also have a mystery that they realise that the Doctor is the only person who can help them to solve. This leaves the Doctor in a slightly odd position, in that he is effectively a prisoner, but at the same time being treated well. This gets to the point where he asks at one point â€œAm I a prisoner?â€? â€“ â€œOh yes!â€? comes the matter of fact reply.
The mystery is a large sphere, which although it is visible, can not be detected by any sensors. It is giving off no heat, no radiation, nothing. It seems that it is this that is partially responsible for the Army of Ghosts. The sphere came through a rift, high above London, resulting in Torchwood building a giant tower (Canary Wharf in London) to reach the rift. In the basement is the sphere, with Torchwood scientists trying to find out what it is. However Torchwood have discovered that the rift is also a source of energy, and are experimenting, trying to harness the energy of the rift to generate power for the UK. The Doctor identifies the Sphere as being a void ship, a ship that could travel between universes. However he urges Torchwood to send it back through the rift and not to open it.
It transpires that as a side effect of the Torchwood experiments over the past couple of months, ghosts have started to appear whenever the rift is opened. It quickly becomes clear to the Doctor that the ghosts are not as benign as everybody thinks especially as even when the order is given to stop one of the experiments some of the staff carries on regardless. After this he quickly discovers that it is the parallel universe Cybermen that he first met earlier in the series who are using the rift to invade parallel worlds, and that the millions of ghosts that appear are in fact millions of Cybermen. The Cybermen succeed in completing the transfer, providing an almost instant victory without even a shot being fired.
However, then comes the twist. As the transfer reaches full power, suddenly the inert sphere becomes active, with Rose, a Torchwood scientist, and Mickey â€“ who has followed the Cybermen through the rift â€“ trapped in the same room. The Doctor realises that the Cybermen do not have the technology to create the sphere. This is confirmed by the Cyber-Leader, who says that they do not know the source of the sphere, but have merely followed in its wake. So with Mickey and Rose expecting something Cyberman like to step forth from the sphere, it is a bit of a shock when something else, but just as familiar comes out of the opening sphere â€“ a group of Daleks, including our first sight in the new series of a black Dalek.
Although this probably comes as a surprise to many non-fans, this is the first time in the TV series that the two monsters have appeared together on screen. However from the glimpses of next weeks episode, they certainly arenâ€™t working together. In amongst the shots of Cybermen and Daleks fighting each other, we get tantalising hints as to what is going on. Whilst the Cybermen are intent on world domination, the small group of Daleks are up to something else. In one of the clips we see them moving a large container, which gets referred to as â€˜the Genesis Arkâ€™, possibly an attempt to resurrect the Daleks wiped from the universe at the end of the last series? Of course if the Daleks have survived outside space and time, maybe that gives hope to the Doctor that his people, the Timelords have survived too.
So how was the episode? All in all I thought it was pretty good. Torchwood wasnâ€™t overly impressive, partly because aside from Tracey-Ann Obermans somewhat annoying character, most of the other Torchwood staff were fairly swiftly taken over by the Cybermen, Torchwood mainly being there as a vehicle to bring the Daleks and Cybermen together ready for Doomsday next week. Certainly it does leave quite a lot to be sorted out next week, and with the confirmed departure of one major character, some really big questions over who is going to be left by the end of the series. Indeed the only confirmed person remaining is David Tennant himself!
Incidentally, did anyone else spot the Mac laptop in the episode? For some strange reason the IBM desktops in use, still had prominent IBM logoâ€™s visible, however the Mac laptop had a Torchwood logo slapped over the top of the Apple logo on the lid â€“ very strange.
As with the series of Doctor Who last year, the final two episodes before the finale, have been much more small scale, and in some ways a little different. Last week we had a largely Doctor-less story, Love and Monsters, and this week we got Fear Her, a which is set largely in one single street, and where the threat is largely unseen, being an entity that has taken over a little girl.
As the episode begins, there have been a series of strange disappearances, children just suddenly vanishing into thin air with no explanation. Within the opening few moments, another disappearance occurs, with two boys playing football in a garden, suddenly reduced to one. We then see that another girl across the street has drawn a picture of the boy, and as we watch, the picture starts to move…
Essentially, I found this a fairly entertaining little story, although nothing that overly blew me away. There were some nice touches, for example when the TARDIS originally lands between two shipping containers, the doors open onto one of the containers, resulting in the Doctor having to dematerialise to turn it round. Also for fans, there was a pretty important, almost throw-away line during one exchange, where the Doctor says that he was a father at one time. Whilst some may say that this would be obvious considering that in the earliest episodes he is travelling with his granddaughter, however there have always been discussions in fan circles over the whole relationship in light of what we later discover about the Doctor’s life-span.
I have to say that in some ways, I found the Doctor Who Confidential that followed more entertaining, containing as it did a great demonstration of the old adage to never work with children or animals, with the team attempting to coax a performance out of the cat that appeared in the episode, whilst the cat was much more interested in the new surroundings, rolling on the ground or cleaning itself. Despite the use of fishing wire to guide the cat, and scarers to try and keep the cat on track, in the end they gave up to try again the next day! The episode was also notable in that it featured a lot more early Doctor Who than usual, including an interview with Waris Hussein the director of the very first episode, about the atmosphere he managed to produce. It was also notable in that Russell T Davies talks about some of the moments in the original series that really frightened him.
Both Doctor Who Confidential and Fear Her also hinted at what is to come next week, with now even the Doctor feeling that something major is coming. The trailer for next week also pushes all the right buttons, with a voice over by Rose, who says that this will be the last story she will tell, and the Doctor and Rose getting caught by Torchwood. In terms of the plot of the story we see ghosts appearing in the streets, and quite a few Cybermen too. However we also see someone get shot by what looks to be a Dalek extermination (although we don’t see a Dalek). The implication from a line the Doctor says in the trailer implies that the ghosts are something coming from another dimension, so this could well explain the Cybus corporation Cybermen. It could also explain the hinted at return of Mickey, and also the rumours that the Timelords are going to make an appearance next week – although perhaps finding out that the Doctor didn’t destroy his entire race during the Time War may be more interesting from the point of view of the character than parallel universe Timelords. Anyway, what with all the supposition and rumour flying around over the final two episodes, I’m sure I’m going to get a good deal of surprises before the series ends. Can’t wait!