Doctor Who in Review: Season Four, Episode #13 – “Journey’s End”
The hit BBC series Doctor Who is now in its fourth season on the Sci-Fi Channel, and since we’re all big fans here at ComicMix, we’ve decided to kick off an episode-by-episode analysis of the reinvigorated science-fiction classic.
Every week, I’ll do my best to go through the most recent episode with a fine-tooth comb (or whatever the “sonic screwdriver” equivalent might be) and call out the highlights, low points, continuity checks and storyline hints I can find to keep in mind for future episodes. I’ll post the review each Monday, so you have ample time to check out the episode once it airs each Friday at 9 PM EST on Sci-Fi Channel before I spoil anything.
Missed a week? Check out the “Doctor Who in Review” archive or check out any of the past editions of this column via the links at the end of this article.
Keep in mind, I’m going to assume readers have already watched the episode when I put fingers to keyboard and come up with the roundup of important plot points. In other words, SPOILER ALERT!
Let’s begin now, shall we?
Season Four, Episode #13: “Journey’s End”
IN BRIEF: Picking up from last week’s episode, The Doctor is in mid-regeneration, Sarah Jane Smith is at the mercy of the Daleks, Torchwood is about to be exterminated and almost all of The Doctor’s other former companions from the last few seasons (the living ones ones, at least) are in the TARDIS, waiting to see what happens next. It’s a long one this week, so here we go…
The Doctor funnels the regenerative energies back into his severed hand, preserving his current appearance, but The Daleks capture the TARDIS (and everyone in it) and bring it to their base of operations, called “[[[The Crucible.]]]” Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler save Sarah Jane Smith (no relation to Mickey) from the Daleks, only to surrender themselves to the Daleks later in order to get closer to The Doctor. The Daleks round everyone up from the TARDIS except for Donna Noble and Davros disposes of the Time Lord’s vehicle. Inside the TARDIS, the regenerative energies stored up in The Doctor’s severed hand create a brand new, half-human Doctor (and share some of the Time Lord genetics with Donna) — who promptly saves the TARDIS and begins working on a plan to save reality from the Daleks.
Meanwhile, after Davros tests his “reality bomb,” Martha Jones pops in to let everyone know she’s not only alive, but also has her finger on the trigger of a bomb that will blow up the Earth if that’s the only option remaining to prevent Davros’ bomb from detonating. Jack Harkness, Mickey, Jackie and Sarah Jane chime in to let everyone know that they just happen to have not only escaped, but also wired another big bomb into the Dalek Crucible, so they’re willing to go out with a bang, too. Davros feigns fright for a moment, only to snap his fingers and have Martha, Jack and the rest of the would-be demolition experts transported to him and immediately detained. He then tells The Doctor that all of this is just another victory, as even though The Doctor eschews the use of weapons, he’s made each of his former companions into a weapon.
Just in the nick of time, the half-human Doctor shows up and… gets himself shot with blue lightning and imprisoned. Donna gets zapped, too — but the jolt awakens her new Time Lord intellect, and she proceeds to flip a few switches, invert a few polarities and render the entirety of the Dalek invasion force completely useless. The planets are sent back to their original locations in time and space, but in order to return Earth to its home, the whole crew has to unite and work together like a good after-school special. Oh, and the half-human Doctor decides to commit genocide and destroy the Dalek species before they leave the Crucible — which was decidedly not like an after-school special. The Real Doctor isn’t pleased about the whole genocide thing, but nevertheless, they take off with the Earth in tow.
Rose Tyler is dropped off in her alternate universe with Jackie and the half-human Doctor, who will love her as only a human can. Mickey and Martha join Jack Harkness and hint at future adventures with Torchwood. Sarah Jane heads off to be with her son, Luke, and it’s a happy ending for everyone… except Donna. Time Lord DNA doesn’t play nice with humans, apparently, and The Doctor is forced to erase all of the memories of her time with The Doctor in order to save her life. The Doctor drops her off with her family, tells them she can never know of her adventures with him, and bids a sad adieu to Donna and her family. He returns to the TARDIS alone.
JUST CALL ME THE POOR MAN’S NOSTRADAMUS: As awesomely Who-savvy ComicMix reader/contributor Vinnie Bartilucci pointed out in the comment section of last week’s review, I should’ve saved my “give them a hand” line another week — as it would have provided at least a few groan-worthy puns this time around. Oh, and along the same lines, it seems like a safe bet from this point forward that, whenever a story involves a series of planets being lined up, someone is punching a hole in reality. Bet on it.
ONE SMALL DETAIL: Okay, so if Davros is destroying all of reality, won’t the Daleks be destroyed along with it? I mean, yeah — it’s definitely evil to destroy all of reality. But if you’re being destroyed in the process, that just seems, well… short-sighted. (Get it? The Daleks only have one eye, so they’re “short-sighted?” … *sigh* I knew I should’ve saved the “give them a hand” line for this week’s review.)
Anyways, while the Supreme Dalek announces that the Daleks will be the only species in existence after the Reality Bomb detonates, I left the episode feeling a bit uncertain as to how the Daleks would avoid being erased from reality themselves. Anyone out there have thoughts on this one?
QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Correct me if I’m wrong, Who scholars (and I know you will), but this is the first time I remember hearing that the TARDIS was originally designed to be piloted by six people — and the first time I’ve seen it piloted as such. I guess this explains why The Doctor’s “piloting” of the vehicle has always seemed a bit frantic, to put it mildly. Despite the cheesiness of the moment, it was nice to see the “crew” of the TARDIS bringing Earth back home.
CONVENIENT FOR CONVENIENT’S SAKE: As a longtime Doctor Who fan, I’ve grown accustomed to the way Time Lords always seem to have (or be able to cobble together) a tool to save them from any predicament. (I mean, that’s what a sonic screwdriver is for, right?) I’ve been more than happy to suspend disbelief on those occasions when twists and turns in Doctor Who mirrored the old 1960s Batman series in the way the hero would find himself in a crazy predicament, only to remember he had the exact tool needed to extricate himself tucked in his shoe. I can deal with that, and have done so throughout the last few seasons of the current series and many, many seasons of the original series. Heck, I’ve not only dealt with it, but I’ve reveled in it.
This time around, though, I felt myself twitching a bit at the combined convenience of the redirected regeneration, Harriet Jones’ companions-only video chat, the half-human Doctor’s “birth,” the fact that everyone and their mother seemed to have a planet-busting bomb in their back pocket, the way Rose Tyler’s relationship with The Doctor was resolved and Donna’s unexpected rescue of life, the universe and everything with a few flips of assorted switches. Sure, many will argue that this is all part of the science-fiction fun of the series, but I definitely felt a bit let-down by this season’s finale — as it seemed to cross the line from the conceivable coincidence I know and love to outright parody. I’ve heard similar complaints from other fans of the series, so what do you think, ComicMix readers?
LINE OF THE WEEK: “Yeah, see ya…” – Donna Noble
Despite my feelings about the “convenience” of so many plot elements in this season’s finale, it was Donna’s curt, brush-off response to the Doctor’s farewell in the last moments of the episode that balanced everything out and made this season’s finale worth every minute up that point. The tragedy in that moment is the sort of thing that’s taken four seasons to cultivate, with every companion who came and went shedding a bit more light on the ways The Doctor changes the lives of everyone around him. All of The Doctor’s interactions with his companions over the past four seasons created the foundation for that moment — and it’s nice to see it pulled off so effectively.
READER REPORT: In his extensive commentary on last week’s review, Vinnie Bartilucci touched on one of my favorite moments of reality imitating art (and missed promotional opportunities) with regard to Doctor Who:
CALL FOR THE DOCTOR, QUICK, QUICK, QUICK – To my disappointment, the phone number displayed on the cellphones in the episode was NOT a functioning number. Though about 2500 people had the same idea, according to the London Daily Mail – that many people tried dialing the number during and after the episode. Quite a marketing opportunity missed, IMHO. Considering how many people went to the Primatech Paper website after a business card featuring the website address and (also working) phone number on Heroes, they could have had a great deal of fun with it.
SEASON FOUR POST-MORTEM: Overall, I enjoyed this season far more than I expected after the departure of one of my favorite companions to date, Martha Jones (as played by Freema Agyeman). Catherine Tate’s character, Donna Noble, proved herself a great companion for The Doctor in that she not only developed as a character herself, but in doing so, also added significant development to the character of The Doctor and the mythos of the entire series to date. Despite my criticisms about the season’s finale, the rest of the season held my interest each and every week and had me champing at the bit to watch episodes before they aired in the U.S. (I’m not sure how I was able to resist, to be honest).
Some of my favorite episodes of the fourth season include “Partners in Crime,” “Midnight” and the two-part “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead” story. “Midnight” was the best of this season’s episodes, in my opinion.
As I mentioned last week, the character I seemed to enjoy the most this season was Donna’s grandfather, Wilfred Mott (expertly played by Bernard Cribbins), but a nod certainly goes out to Fenella Woolgar, who I really enjoyed in her role as Agatha Christie.
As far as plotlines go, I’m not entirely satisfied with the resolution of the “something on your back” storyline, however, and the mysteries of both the Medusa Cascade and The Doctor’s name still leave me wondering if I missed something in the end or if those plot threads remain loose ends. The rest of the season’s plotlines were handled quite well, though, and unlike in seasons past, I didn’t find myself figuring out the secrets of the finale four episodes before it aired.
With this week marking the end of the fourth season, I’d like to invite you, the ComicMix readers, to chime in with your favorite characters, episodes and moments from the season — as well as the worst of all the latter subjects. If the response is sizeable enough, I’ll put together a round-up article collecting the group consensus on the best and worst of Season Four and post it here next week.
Thanks again for reading these reviews each week, and for making them such a popular feature on the site. Your comments have been great all season, and I can’t thank you enough for sharing them.
Thanks to the good people at The Doctor Who Wiki for information related to several of this week’s story notes.
Want to know what you’ve been missing? Check out all of the past “Doctor Who in Review” features via the following links: