This second season of DOCTOR WHO has been a bold, wild ride. It s been exhilarating, exciting, experimental and once or twice a little bit underwhelming. At its best it s been absolutely astonishing with at least three episodes Girl in the Fireplace, The Satan Pit, Love & Monsters taking their place in the pantheon of genuine DOCTOR WHO classics. Here s another to add to that list. Doomsday is absolutely brilliant, a masterpiece virtually from start to finish, a television episode it s hard to believe was created by the feckness, moribund British TV industry. This is DOCTOR WHO firing on all cylinders, Russell T Davies pitching a script so well-centred and epic it leaves the audience sitting there, astonished and staggered, and wondering just where on Earth this timeless series can go next.
Doomsday had one hell of a checklist. Daleks, Cybermen, Torchwood, bye-bye Billie. All on a TV budget. Can t be done. But during forty-six exhausting, emotionally-charged, action-packed minutes, this episode delivered on just about all counts and packed a punch far more powerful than many similarly-themed feature films churned out by the Hollywood machine over the last few years. This one just doesn t stop from the moment the credits fade. The Daleks are back and how. The Cybermen are flooding through a dimensional breach and are effortlessly taking over the world. The Doctor is a prisoner, a powerless observer. Rose is a moment away from extermination as the Daleks crowd around her. What the Hell s going to happen next?
Doomsday is the episode that the previous twenty-six have been leading up to. This is where it all pays off; the Doctor s relationship with feisty Rose, the lives of the once-hapless Mickey, lonely Jackie and even her dead husband Pete. Here too we see the final dreadful repercussions of the Time War which plunged the ninth Doctor into such despair. Here it all comes together, it all makes sense and it all ends in a glorious, tragic triumph. Davies turns in another smart, witty, explosive script which has you laughing one minute and gasping for breath the next. Here even the Daleks have a sense of humour. The Cyberleader boasts of his army of millions swarming across the Earth and demands to know the strength of the Dalek force. Four, retorts the Black Dalek leader before turning the comedy moment into a thrill of terror when he announces that just one Dalek would be enough to wipe out the Cybermen. The two races enjoy a brief bitchy sparring match before the Daleks quickly disabuse their silver rivals – and long-time fans – of any dreams of an alliance between the two and all Hell breaks loose as the two alien forces clash in the bowels of Torchwood Tower. Out on the streets humanity is under attack from the Cybermen and while we don t, for obvious budgetary reasons see a lot of the chaos, we see a couple of well-realised action sequences (director Graeme Harper well up to speed after his largely-unimpressive work earlier this year in the first Cyberman adventure) which serve to convey the scale of the devastation; particularly impressive is the CGI aerial shot of London ablaze.
In the middle of all the madness is the Doctor, still veering manically from excited goofy puppy to raging, impotent hero, struggling to understand the scale of the threat and battling to find an answer. His confrontation with the Daleks is the match for anything his predecessor managed last year and he s just as powerful in his face-offs with the Cyberleader. Tennant is at the top of his game here, full of exuberance and yet deadly serious when he needs to be. The moment when he brandishes his beloved sonic screwdriver and uses it to blow open the chamber doors, allowing alternate-Earth troopers to swarm in and enter into pitched battle with the Daleks, is yet another I just punched the air! moment in an episode already bursting with them.
The events of Doomsday are inextricably linked to those of the earlier Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel two-parter and yet Davies s script isn t lumbered with swathes of dreary exposition for those out of the loop. The parallel world theory is neatly summarised by the Doctor (for Jackie s benefit) in one sentence and the show s new mythology Mickey, Jackie, Pete Tyler, the Time War has been magnificently embraced by the attentive new audience who will no doubt have been grateful to have seen the characters and situations they ve invested their time in pay off so beautifully in this cracking episode.
There s a lot of parallel-world jumping, lots and lots of gunfire and, finally, a third act which is quite literally the stuff of fanboy fantasy. With the Genesis Ark, the device so assiduously protected by the Daleks, revealed to be the last product of Time Lord technology, finally revealed to be a TARDIS-like prison ship holding millions of Daleks, the scene is set for a tour de force of special effects. Daleks swarm out of Torchwood Tower and indulge in a ferocious battle with the Cyberman army on the ground below, with hapless humanity caught in the middle. This is mind-blowing stuff and once again the Mill effects house work wonders as the Dalek force sweeps across the sky, incinerating Cybermen and humans with fierce abandon. Only the Doctor can save the day, using those pesky 3D glasses he s been taking on and off the last few weeks, to reason that the void-stuff aura which fizzes around anything which passes through the gap between dimensions, could just turn out to be the downfall of the Daleks and the Cybermen if he can reverse the dimension-jumping process, causing both races to be sucked back into the void towards oblivion. The Doctor sends Rose off to safety with Mickey, Jackie and alternate-Earth Pete (reunited or should that be united? with our-Earth Jackie in a nicely-placed emotional breathing space earlier in the episode) but Rose makes her way back and together they activate the Torchwood mechanisms which can destroy the Daleks and the Cybermen. But of course this is DOCTOR WHO, it s Billie Piper s last episode; nothing can possibly go right
The last ten minutes of Doomsday are enough to make a grown man cry, dammit. In the space of just over a year Billie Piper has presided over a change in DOCTOR WHO s fortunes which not even the most optimistic of fans (also known as me) could ever have predicted, not even when it was announced that the show was re-entering production. Billie s given the show a face, a profile, a connection to a young audience which might have found science-fiction a bit too geeky. Billie s hip and she s modern, a proper role model in the face of such witless competition as the ghastly Jade Goody and the repulsive Jordan. In many ways she s more responsible for the success of the series than either of her illustrious titular co-stars. Now she s gone. And what a way to go. Torn away from the Doctor in the middle of their battle to banish the Cybermen and the Daleks, Rose looks set to die a hero s death when oh, Russell, you re such a tease! her alternate-Earth Dad Pete explodes through the breach in dimensions and whisks her off to safety in his world. Moments later the breach seals forever and the Doctor and Rose are separated for the last time.
Rose, devastated, tries to adjust to life on a world which isn t quite her own and yet almost is. The Doctor travels on alone but he s able to use some handy residual energy to fashion a brief enough dimensional gap for him to enjoy one last emotional moment with the girl who made him live again. And oh God what a moment On a beach in Norway (ha, I recognise you, Mumbles beach in Swansea!), an image of the Doctor flickers into existence, having called to Rose across Space and Time. Here these star-crossed lovers come on, that s what they were say a final, teary farewell. And it rips your heart right out and stamps on it in the sand. Rose tells the Doctor she loves him. And the Doctor .oh, so close and yet so far
Back in the TARDIS our man is alone again, naturally. There are tears. Then there s a woman. A woman in a wedding dress, standing in front of him. She turns to face him, shocked and amazed, squeaking in amazement. It s Catherine Tate, the popular TV actress/comedienne. Then we re done
Russell T Davies, bigging his season finale up a few months ago, promised a season-ending which would cause grown men to rend their clothing. Consider mine suitably rent, unrepairable. But such is the confounded genius of this man that not only did he not, obviously, kill off his leading lady, he also didn t leave his audience on a desperate downer, missing Billie like crazy and vowing never to watch this damned programme again. In another masterclass on savvy casting, he signs up one of the hottest British TV talents of the last few years, promises an episode all about her for Christmas ( The Runaway Bride ) and guarantees that Tate s 6 million-plus fans will be on board for the festive special, which will itself be broadcast in the wake of her own third comedy series. Here we go again
Doomsday promised so much and delivered far, far more than we ever imagined or deserved. The departure of Billie is undoubtedly a milestone, a turning points for this series and it s been done with a poetic finality which really makes me hope that all those rumours about her returning somewhere along the line in season three are just that rumours, groundless ones at that. To undo this elegiac finale would be to rob it of its beauty and its poignancy and Russell T Davies is far too clever a writer to want to do that. Isn t he?
So that s it, scifinders. DOCTOR WHO Year Two done and dusted. What does the future hold for our favourite time traveller? These first two seasons have been so brash and extraordinary it s hard quite to imagine how BBC Wales can even begin to top them. Whatever lies in store, I m hoping that the series can retain its emotional heart Rose and the Tyler clan will be such a tough act to follow whilst still telling vivacious, audacious, crazy, scary stories which can continue to engage the imaginations of its massive new audience and demographic. Exciting and challenging times for DOCTOR WHO. I suspect Russell T Davies and those towering talents at BBC Wales are more than up to the task and, at the risk of overusing a much-abused tagline, that the trip of a lifetime has only just begun