Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Doctor Who - Series Four (2005 Revival)

It has been far too long since my last review of Doctor Who. Long story short I never, never, never seem to have time to sit down and re-watch the show. I tend to get to watch an episode here and there except that “here and there” seem to be months apart! Since the last review a lot of changes have occurred in the franchise including a new companion and the first appearance of the Twelfth Doctor. However we’re still here in the fourth series talking about the Tenth Doctor. I will attempt to do this more frequently but as you should know by now I don’t like making promises about future content.

Anywho the fourth series of the revived Doctor Who is notable for several reasons but mainly that it was Russell T Davies’ final full season as show runner and that it would be the last season until 2010, a nearly two year hiatus (in lieu of a season 2009 had several Doctor Who specials). Change was fast approaching the show, bigger than the new series had experienced thus far.

Full review after the jump.


Pictured: Pretty much the best thing ever
The Doctor (David Tennant) finds himself alone once again following the defeat of The Master. After being a passenger in alien recreation of the Titanic that threatened to fall on London the Doctor is reunited with Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), the bride who he had met a few years back, while  both were of them were investigating Adipose Industries. It turns out that Donna had regretted turning down the Doctor’s invitation to join him in the TARDIS and has been searching for him ever since. With the offer still open they soon head off together, neither realizing the temporal, and potentially omnicidal, significance of their repeated meetings.

A new series begins with a new companion so let’s talk a bit about Donna before we get too far into this review. So I LOVE Donna Noble despite what a surprising number of Doctor Who fans seem to think about her. In my opinion Donna represents everything that a Doctor’s companion should be: she was brave, she was smart (despite appearances she was very clever), and most importantly she would call the Doctor out on his bullshit when needed. She was flawed; she was loud, argumentative, and too quick to react to things. However having flaws in your fictional characters is a good thing. The thing I like the most about Miss Noble is the sheer amount of character development she goes through from her first appearance in “The Runaway Bride” all the way through the series four finale “Journey’s End”. No one, with maybe the exception of Ricky Mickey Smith, goes through as much of a change as Donna in the Doctor Who revival. She starts off being a loud, obnoxious, husband hunting shrew who just wanted to get married but by the time she finishes her run she’d become a kind hearted and confident woman who finally was able to live for herself and have happiness in that (still loud though). Hell, even her grandfather, who adored her, admitted she was a better person since traveling with the Doctor. Also she was hilarious, something most companions are not (credit likely to Catherine Tate who was already famous in Britain for being a comedian).

It's in your best interest to avoid pissing her off, mate
Surprisingly Donna was not originally meant to be the Doctor’s new companion. She was the third choice following the dude from “Love & Monsters” (my most hated DW episode but man that would have been an interesting dynamic to see the Doctor with a male primary companion) and a new character that would have been a new love interest (holy shit, I’m glad they dropped that idea). Luckily they decided to bring back Donna and the rest is history.

Anyway let’s take a look at series proper. Like with the previous season there’s no terrible or even really “bad” episode to be found. The difference is that the overall quality seems to be high. At this point we’re several years into the revival and if there’s a time where Davies has pretty much mastered his craft it’s in series four. In addition to having no true weak spots the series has several particularly strong episodes, probably the best the entire show had to offer at this point outside of “Blink” (which I maintain is the best episode of the entire revival). There’s “Midnight” which is written by Davies which is a thousand times better than everything he wrote prior to it. Also the two parter “Silence in the Library” and “The Forest of Death”, which introduced the character River Song whom I don’t think we ever see again after this episode whatsoever, were equal parts terrifying and heartbreaking. The two part finale, while bumpy, was a great way to cap off an era of Doctor Who as all of the main companions, Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness, Rose (boooo), and Mickey along with Sarah Jane Smith, returned in a big reunion. It was a great moment for any fan of this show. In fact in a lot of ways this felt like it could have been the end of the Tenth Doctor’s tenure and it would have been pretty satisfying. It was a good finale except for about the last ten minutes or so which I will get into shortly.

Ah, the days when River Song didn't split the fandom down the middle
A simpler time, a better time
Honestly speaking there is some strong evidence of this being the best season of Doctor Who yet. What sort makes this feat impossible is the return of the vile creature known as Rose Tyler. I’ve mentioned before why I dislike Rose in my reviews of series one and series two; she’s a dumb, asshole of a person who is pretty much only defined by her feelings for the Doctor, who seems to be under the impression that the world revolves around her…because it f**king does! This is the season I realized that this show, while Davies was the showrunner, was essentially about Rose rather than about The Doctor or at the very least she’s obviously the most important character. Season one was clearly about Rose, an average girl coping with going through time and space with a mysterious alien. Season two was all about the Doctor and Rose falling in love and their eventual separation. Season three was mostly about The Doctor suffering the loss of Rose and whether or not he was using Martha as a replacement. And now in season four things all seem to be leading to a Rose return and by the end it is totally all about the reunion of the two. I am just so sick of Rose being the center of the universe. She’s a pretty terrible character and there’s nothing here to make her seem like she’s gotten better. Hell, she even plays the “clingy, jealous girl” card despite it being YEARS since she originally met the Doctor! Four season and the most character development Rose Tyler receives is that now she carries a big gun? That's...but...huh?!

My major issue with rose as a character comes near the end so I suppose this is a good time to talk about the last bit of the season finale. I 100% believe that if it weren’t for this part of the episode I would have given the season a perfect score. This is spoiler territory so you might want to skip this part of the review if you haven’t watched this far into Doctor Who.

So first of all it needs to be mentioned that as part of the story (a convoluted part of the story) a part human clone of The Doctor, henceforth known as the Meta-Crisis Doctor, was created and in the same event Donna gained the vast knowledge and intellect of the Doctor. When the crisis was over the Doctor and Donna dropped Rose back on the parallel world she was originally stranded on while also exiling the Murder Doctor the Meta-Crisis Doctor there as well as he had committed genocide, a crime that most incarnations of the Doctor would never commit. Rose, still in love with the Doctor, doesn’t want to stay there but is told that she should be with Kill ‘Em All McGee the Meta-Crisis Doctor as he’ll grow old and never regenerate. Of course she rejects this as she knows that this clone, while possessing the Doctor’s memories, is not the same man she fell in love with and forces the issue to stay with-JUST KIDDING, SHE TOTALLY MAKES OUT WITH THE CLONE WITHIN SECONDS OF THE SUGGESTION BECAUSE SHE’S A F**KING BITCH, HUMPTY DUMPTY DOO!!!

It's almost sweet until you realize that ain't the Doctor she's kissing
After all that bullshit about having the Doctor in a romance with his companion, literally four years dedicated to this plot, it ends with Rose sticking her tongue down a guys’ throat, one that despite the claim is NOT the same Doctor as the one she traveled with and supposed loved (note the part where he COMMITTED GENOCIDE and now thanks to Day of the Doctor I’m very confident in saying that this is an extremely un-Doctor thing to do) and did it RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE REAL ONE. Such bad writing, such a terrible character, such a disappointing ending to a completely annoying storyline. But because the writers hate their audience this wasn’t even the low point of the episode as just minutes later the Doctor informs Donna that the knowledge she absorbed will kill her unless he blocks out the memories she acquired as his companion. The f**k?! So basically the season ends with Donna, who as I mentioned had a tremendous amount of character development over her time on the show, having all of the growth she experienced erased and reverted to the loud obnoxious self-centered jerk we met in “The Runaway Bride”. Killing her would have been nicer but this is the most heartbreaking thing they could have done. It seems almost pointlessly cruel honestly, as if I was being trolled.

So between the final fates of Rose and Donna I lefty this season feeling pretty disgruntled. Despite a very well-paced, well written season with almost no real low points I was left with a real sour taste in my mouth. But, the ending aside, it’s hard not to consider this an incredibly well done season and head and shoulders above the early attempts. If this was Davies’ final full series he did a nearly perfect job with it. He just spectacularly fumbled when he reached the goal line and that’s really disappointing. Also Rose sucks. 

That time Mr. Potato Head's people invaded Earth

I give Doctor Who Series Four 4 Adorable Pandas out of 5

  
Pros 

-Overall great season with few low points 

-Anther great performance from David Tenant 

-Donna Noble is an awesome companion 

-A mostly great finale 

Con 

-Too much Rose Tyler crap and an overall ridiculous ending to her relationship with the Doctor 

-The exit of Donna felt needlessly cruel

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