Friday, March 13, 2015

Fanfic For Whovians: Why “Doomsday” Is So Good!

The Good: Good plot development, Cool effects, Wonderful dialogue, Great acting!
The Bad: Unfortunately light on character
The Basics: The Cybermen and Daleks square off, endangering two universes and threatening to wrench Rose Tyler from The Doctor once and for all!

Virtually every fandom in existence has a base that tries to create its own stories set in the universe the fans love. In the case of Doctor Who, there are fifty years of canon and fanfic for those who love the many iterations of the show to go through. As someone who is still pretty new to Doctor Who and its fandom, I can only imagine how many stories there are from fans about encounters between the Daleks and Cybermen. I can only imagine how many people creamed themselves when the fantasy of the Daleks and Cybermen interacting became canon in “Doomsday.”

“Doomsday” is the direct sequel to “Army Of Ghosts” (reviewed here!) and those who do not watch that episode are likely to be lost on much of the most significant aspects of “Doomsday.” “Doomsday” is the story of how Rose Tyler “dies” in our universe and given that she narrates from the episode’s beginning and we see her alive, there is no real surprise in the fact that she is not actually killed in the episode. “Doomsday” makes the intriguing implicit argument that the best fanfic concepts can be executed by those who write the show. Doctor Who’s headwriter at the time of “Doomsday” was Russell T. Davies and it is clear from some of the delightful interplay between the Daleks and Cybermen that he had a great time writing the episode. The Daleks and Cybermen are snarky to one another and that is incredibly fun to watch!

With the Void Ship opened and the Daleks exposed in Torchwood, Rose, Jackie, Mickey, and The Doctor are all in critical jeopardy. The Daleks and Cybermen square off against one another, snarking the entire time. What looks like potential salvation for humanity – the Daleks and Cybermen being preoccupied with destroying one another – quickly turns disastrous as the Cybermen begin harvesting humans to join their ranks. While Jackie manages to avoid being converted to a Cyberman, Yvonne Hartman is not so lucky and the head of Torchwood falls. While Jackie runs for her life, the Doctor is abducted by the alternate universe’s Pete Tyler and Torchwood. Pete Tyler is obsessed with protecting his universe by having The Doctor seal the rift between universes with the Cybermen on the other side. Armed with his cunning, a pair of 3-D glasses, and Torchwood’s advanced weaponry and personnel, The Doctor returns to our universe where he learns that the four Daleks that came out of the Void Ship are the Cult Of Skarro.

The Cult Of Skarro needs the Doctor to open the Genesis Ark, which was in the Void Ship with them. When Rose and the Doctor are rescued, Mickey falls into the Genesis Ark, activating it. As the Cybermen converge upon Torchwood tower, the Daleks open the Ark, which The Doctor realizes was a Time Lord prison ship for millions of Daleks. The Doctor hatches an audacious plan; open the void and all creatures from alternate realities will be sucked into the void. Rose is condemned to the alternate universe in order to save her life. With Torchwood on the verge of falling, the Doctor works to save everyone he can, including Rose.

“Doomsday” is an undeniably cool episode, though the end of Rose Tyler’s main narrative is somewhat less satisfying than it ought to be. For an episode that is supposed to be Rose Tyler’s climactic tale, Jackie Tyler and Pete Tyler actually have scenes of more character significance than Rose does. When Pete and Jackie meet, they have an exchange that allows them to choose one another and to reflect upon their lives. Rose Tyler is not given that chance. Instead, a plot contrivance separates her from The Doctor and there is something strangely unimaginative about how neither The Doctor nor Rose Tyler think to postulate about the existence of an alternate universe version of The Doctor.

Rose basically chooses to stay by the side of The Doctor, but she is robbed of her choice when the force of the Void menaces her. On the plus side, it leads to one of the show’s most explicit expressions of emotion between The Doctor and Rose.

“Doomsday” offers the first glimmer of weakness for the Cybermen when Hartman’s cyberconverted form resists their programming enough to fight the Cybermen. That conceit informs all subsequent showrunners and starts the diminishing of the Cybermen. Given how monolithically powerful the Cybermen and their programming were in the alternate universe, their sudden weakness comes without any real explanation.

Despite the somewhat unsatisfying mechanism for getting rid of Rose Tyler, “Doomsday” is characterized by amazing performances. David Tennant plays The Doctor as sad and intense, goofy and in charge. Billie Piper does not come across as whiny or annoying when she loses everything and Rose breaks down. Instead, she plays the part of the reasonably and appropriately lost and hurt traveler. Piper manages to make Rose’s crying scenes heartfelt and emotional, as opposed to seeming like a spoiled blonde with first world problems.

David Tennant is given a somewhat harder task late in the episode; he must perform his most powerful scene opposite no one. Tennant looks suitably tortured and he makes The Doctor appear lost and hurt.

“Doomsday” has a strong ending to a season that had turned stagnant. Despite the quality of the episodes that preceded the two part finale, the second season goes out on a high note with “Doomsday” and leaves a new issue for The Doctor that is enough to make one want to come back to the Doctor’s journey!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Tenth Doctor here!

For other big season finales, please check out my reviews of:
“Death In Heaven” - Doctor Who
“Redemption” - Star Trek: The Next Generation
“Episode 7” - Twin Peaks


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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