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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Doctor Who’ blogging: “Army of Ghosts”/“Doomsday”

(intro to my Who blogging, please read before commenting / previous: Episode 11: “Fear Her”)

Russell Davies, you magnificent bastard. I told myself I wasn’t gonna cry. I’ve seen these episodes a bunch of times now, I should be over the crying. But I cry every time. Every damn time I cry.

Maybe it’s only those of us who don’t consider Rose our stand-in who think it’s overly dramatic for her to tell us she “died.” She’s still alive, right? Cut off from the Doctor — forever — but she’s still walking around. But: death? Sure, that’s why I’m always a mess by the time the Doctor burns up a sun to say good-bye to Rose. Partly because, you know, no one’s ever burned up a sun for me. But mostly because it’s easy to imagine how empty life would feel after the Doctor. What could ever possibily measure up to being with him? Wouldn’t you feel like an empty husk walking around on autopilot? I mean, I was depressed after coming back from a trip to Paris, for pete’s sake. Coming down from life with the Doctor’s gotta be worse by, you know, astronomical orders of magnitude.
Except… “How long you gonna stay with me?” the Doctor asked Rose. “Forever,” she replies. Except we know — we know — he would have dumped her eventually like he dumped Sarah Jane. Oh, he would have made some excuse, lied to himself, even, to justify the dumping, to make it into something other than him dumping her (like he did with Sarah Jane). But he would have done it. Because he’s selfish, in some ways. He’ll give his all to save a whole planet, but he’s afraid to deal with one person for too long. He can’t even tell Rose he loves her when it’s the last thing he’ll ever say to her. After all the extremes he goes to in order to say good-bye to her — burning up a sun and all — he can’t say it. Even when he thinks she’s saying she’s pregnant — and it’s clear that she mentions “the baby” the way that she does in order to make him believe that she’s the one who’s pregnant, and she’d only say it that way, and he’d only respond in the way he does, if, you know, they were getting up to things that could result in a baby — and he’s apparently not at all freaked out by the idea… he can’t say it.

He’s kind of a self-centered bastard, is what I’m saying, I guess. Not that I can love him any less for it.

I mean, look: Even Jackie can’t help but fall under his spell. (The Doctor disgustedly wiping Jackie’s kisses away has got to be one of the funniest moments of the show, ever.) She’s terrified of him taking her daughter away forever, pushing her into transforming into something her own mother wouldn’t recognize, but she cannot help but find herself intrigued not only by the big weird sphere but by the Doctor’s inability to stop himself from figuring out just what the hell it is. He’s just impossibly magnetic, and you can’t help but get dragged into whatever mess he’s currently in.

I’d like to think, maybe, that by the end of these two episodes, Jackie has reconsidered what she says to Rose: “In forty years time, fifty, there’ll be this woman, this strange woman walking through the marketplace on some planet a billion miles from Earth, but she’s not Rose Tyler, not anymore. She’s not even human.” And not just because Rose has been “saved” from that terrible fate. Everyone changes. Rose will be a different person in fifty years anyway, even if she never sees the Doctor again, even if she never leaves Earth again. She would have been a different person even if she’d never met the Doctor.

Or maybe Jackie will never understand that. She’s got another bit of dialog in these episodes that is, I think, kind of a dividing line between, in the small scale, people like us who get the Doctor, and in the much larger scale, people who get science fiction. The Doctor’s trying to explain to Jackie that the ghosts aren’t “ghosts,” and she’s upset to hear this. “You’re always doing this, reducing it to science,” she says, exasperated, to him. “Why can’t it be real?” As if explaining something scientifically makes it less “real.”

Maybe that’s why I cry at the end of this story. Because the Doctor — and science fiction on the whole — makes it all more real.

Random thoughts on “Army of Ghosts”/“Doomsday”:

• Hey, it’s the Torchwood theme music! Bloody Torchwood…

• The Doctor singing the Ghostbusters theme? Oh man, he is such a geek.

• Adeola!

• I love the ghostwatch TV show — the TV montage as the Doctor flips around is hilarious. (The Eastenders clip cracks me up every time; I used to be a huge fan of that show.) But that’s exactly what we’d do with something like a (seemingly) benign alien invasion, isn’t it? We’d turn it into pop culture. Maybe that’s why the Doctor is so keen to stay hidden: he’d end up unable to escape doing endless rounds of talk shows and game shows and ceremonial ribbon cuttings and the like. That’s probably what we’d do with an alien today — or, at least, an alien who looked human and was that cute and all: we’d turn him into a celebrity.

• How come the Daleks have USB ports under their eyestalks?

• Oh, the look on the Doctor’s face when Yvonne tells him he’s a prisoner, but that Torchwood will make him comfortable, and he can work for them, right? Daggers…

• I love how the Daleks and the Cybermen snark at each other: “Daleks have no concept of elegance,” says a Dalek. “This is obvious,” replies a Cyberman. And “This is not war, this is pest control,” says a Dalek to a Cyberman. They’re unemotional robots, and they’re hurling insults at each other. Hilarious.

• “Emergency temporal shift”? I want one of those.

• Rose’s address is: Flat 48, Bucknall House, Powell Estate, London, SE15 7GO.

• I bet the Ark of the Covenant in that Torchwood warehouse. And is that Sutekh’s sarcophagus there next to the TARDIS, or some Goa’uld tech? (If I ever get back to my Doctor Who fan fiction, I’ve got some ideas about how the Stargate program fits in with Torchwood and UNIT…)

• The Doctor here says: “I should say allons-y more often… It would be really brilliant if I met someone named Alonzo, cuz then I could say, ‘Allons-y, Alonzo!’ every time.” It’s not too much a spoiler to reveal that in “Voyage of the Damned,” the Titanic episode that aired in England on Christmas Day and debuts here in the U.S. next Friday night, the Doctor gets his wish. (For the totally a-francophilic, allons-y is French for “let’s go.”)

• Rose is bringing her laundry home? There’s no laundry on the TARDIS?

• The void, the space between universes? It’s like Buckaroo Banzai’s eighth dimension, only worse. (Oh, there’s some more fanfic I must write: the Doctor meets Buckaroo Banzai…)

• The Doctor’s psychic paper fools electronics? Are cardkey locks sentient? Don’t you have to be sentient to be able to be influenced by psychic suggestion?

• Yet more fanfic demanding to be written: “I was there at the fall of Arcadia,” the Doctor says. “Someday I might even come to terms with that.” Oh, honey, come here and let me comfort you…

(next: Season 3, Episode 0: “The Runaway Bride”)


MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb
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  • Andrew the Giant

    He’s always credited as Russell T. Davies so why do you always leave out the T? There’s always time for T!

  • Andrew: MaryAnn is an ateaist, ya know. ;-)

    And yeah, I get a little verklempt when I watch that last scene, too.

  • Joanne

    It always makes me cry too. Right from when the rift closes. Having just rented “The Hand of Fear” from the library, it’s interesting to compare Rose’s farewell with Sarah Jane’s. Are the production team these days asking us to invest more in the companions, so making their goodbyes a lot more emotionally-involving? Sarah Jane’s is so low key, after so long in the TARDIS. Yet there’s the same sense of the Doctor wanting to tell her how he feels about her, but being unable to.

  • Sonia

    Doomsday makes me cry every single time. Even though I know its coming and I try to stop myself, I can’t. And I give the credit mostly to the heartbreaking faces Tennant makes. Even Billie with her hysterical crying, but mostly that face he makes which just makes me bawl like a baby.

    And as for saying I love you, damn! So close, almost there and he’s cut off. Yes, eventually he would have left her behind. How I would love to believe he meant it when he said “no, not to you” back in School Reunion. But I will always forgive his selfishness because I can kind of understand him saving his own skin by letting go before he has to watch “her” grow old and die. Sigh.

  • I agree with Sonia; she beat me to it.
    Whenever I explain The Doctor leaving his companions, I always bring up the selfishness of his not having to watch someone he loves grow old and die. I even got teary eyed explaining SJA to my hubby (who unfortunately is not as big a geek as I or our son) and how she pines for him after all these years.
    But here’s a little fanfic to be written, what if The Doctor actually does go to the moment when a companion crosses over, to say goodbye one last time, to get the chance to say, “I DO love you.” Kind of like the episode in Torchwood…

  • MaryAnn

    He’s always credited as Russell T. Davies so why do you always leave out the T? There’s always time for T!

    It’s easier, plus he only added a random middle initial in there so that he wouldn’t have the same name as someone else who worked at the BBC. (Sorry, I can’t find the link to where I read that.) The Beeb has a rule about that. (An actor named David McDonald had to change his name too because of the same rule. Now he’s David Tennant.)

  • MaryAnn

    Are the production team these days asking us to invest more in the companions, so making their goodbyes a lot more emotionally-involving? Sarah Jane’s is so low key, after so long in the TARDIS. Yet there’s the same sense of the Doctor wanting to tell her how he feels about her, but being unable to.

    In the old show, they actively avoided any overt suggestion that the Doctor had any kind of relationship beyond an avuncular one with the companions. They all apparently kind of freaked out when they realized they’d cast a young and virile Peter Davison as the Doctor — that’s when we saw for the first time the sleeping arrangements in the TARDIS, like how Tegan and Nyssa shared a room. (How that would prevent any hanky panky is beyond me. Or why anyone would think that Tom Baker was old and unvirile. Or even Jon Pertwee. I totally think the 3rd Doctor was getting it on with Liz Shaw…)

  • The Beeb has a rule about that. (An actor named David McDonald had to change his name too because of the same rule. Now he’s David Tennant.)

    It’s not just a BBC rule. SAG has a similar rule. That’s why it’s Sarah Michelle Gellar (there having already been an actress named Sarah Gellar) and why some actor named Michael Douglas had to change his name to Michael Keaton so as not to get confused with the other Michael Douglas, for example.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, that’s true. But I don’t know if David Tennant is a member of SAG — and Russell Davies certainly isn’t. The BBC’s rule isn’t just about actors.

  • It’s not actually a BBC rule. Tennant adopted a stage name because of Equity rules. Davies added a T because he didn’t want to be confused with a Russell Davies who presents radio programmes and writes very distinguished books about the arts.

    If such a BBC rule existed, you wouldn’t have two Simon Days working for the corporation. One is the actor who played the blue-skinned steward guy in Doctor Who: The End of the World. The other, who’s not a member of Equity, is a comedian best known for being in The Fast Show. A few years ago I was at a convention where the actor Day was a guest. He said he sometimes received letters from the taxman intended for the comedian, who earned considerably more than him.

  • Susan

    LOL – stop teasing us!!! *stamps foot in frustration* Please, PLEASE write some of that fanfic – and let us know where you post it!

    PS – I am waiting eagerly for the SciFi debut of Donna so you can comment on the new series. I knew Catherine Tate was an accomplished actor, but I am in absolute awe of her performance on DW … this season is turning out to be just BRILLIANT, as someone we both adore would shout :-)

  • MaryAnn

    Please, PLEASE write some of that fanfic – and let us know where you post it!

    I will. I’m working on the new fanfic, and I’m working on setting up a portfolio site to feature the existing fanfic, which I started writing when I was a teenager but isn’t, honestly, all that bad.

  • I also think the Doctor’s reaction to Jackie kissing him is one of the most hilarious moments on DW. The look on his face while he’s wiping his mouth cracks me up every time. David is so great with his facial expressions!

    In Doomsday, I have to have the box of kleenex ready for the end. When I see the Doctor crying in the TARDIS, I become a real blubbering idiot…..even though I had already been crying before that. It’s David’s expression that really gets to me.

    What a fantastic actor!

  • Danielle

    I didn’t get the whole OMG-they-totally-did-it! vibe from Rose’s comment about “the baby”. I thought she was trying to see if the Doctor’s reaction would hint at something, like how desperately he loved her or missed her, or jealousy, since the Doctor would assume Rose’s baby was Mickey’s.

    But on the other hand, yeah, they could have totally been doing it.

  • Jesicaaa

    Tbh the doctors like any other man he’s here for the fun but when you bring up the words “the baby” hes like no btch bye

  • stef0608

    “He’s a self centered bastard, not that I can love him any less for it” lmao xd I agree, the man is indeed magnetic.

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