This is the one we were all upset about, “we” being those of us who had been keeping up with the show as it was airing in Britain, a couple weeks ahead of the U.S. What an extraordinary moment, in the recent and short history of “everything on TV being totally not secret thanks to the Internet and celebrity ‘journalism.’” Something really really big came as a total surprise, not having been spoiled for us in advance by, you know, the entire world and our own geeky thirst for as much advance information as we can get our hands on.
The Doctor is regenerating? But how could this be? We’ve heard nothing about David Tennant leaving the show — he wouldn’t do that to us, would he? We’ve heard nothing about a new Doctor coming aboard, and wouldn’t there have been all sorts of news about who that actor was and what kind of Doctor he’d be and what his costume would be like and all that stuff, just like there was when Tennant’s taking over the part was announced? And even if that ending — the Doctor regenerating! — is all a trick, a red herring, something to keep us in suspense till next week… how was that kept secret in an era in which no plot development, certainly not on a show as avidly followed and discussed and rehashed online as this one, isn’t known in advance? Hell, we all knew Davros (one of the major baddies from the old show) was coming back in this episode, even though that was supposedly a huge secret… though it occurs to me just now, as I write this, that perhaps that was a bit of a distraction, or misdirection, to make us think we were on top of what was gonna happen.
However Russell Davies and the whole team managed it, I applaud them. It’s so rare these days to be genuinely surprised like this, and it was so much fun. Gut-wrenching, to be sure, but fun.
(Of course, Sci Fi, in its horrendous previews and coming attractions, ruined, in advance, both the surprise ending of this episode and that it gets resolved relatively innocuously in the next episode. Bastards.)
That ending almost overshadows everything that comes before it, though it’s easier for me to relax and take a good look at it all, now that I know that we’re not losing David Tennant. *whew* And the gist of this one is: Harriet Jones was right (and was there any doubt that she would be?) There came a day when planet Earth was in grave danger, and the Doctor wasn’t around to stop it. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, too busy peeing his pants over the reappearance of the Daleks and Davros to such a degree that Donna has to remind him that he’s okay, he’s safe in the TARDIS:
Which may or may not be a step up from his earlier complete flake-out/freeze-up over being unable to solve the conundrum he’d found himself in (where’s Earth? holy shit, I don’t know…):
The Doctor’s on the edge of going bye-bye, but fortunately there’s UNIT and Martha, and Sarah Jane and Mr. Smith, and Torchwood to step up to the plate. And Rose, of course. (Presumably some of the Doctor’s other former companions currently on Earth have some idea how to fight Daleks, too — Tegan would surely be putting up her own resistence, wouldn’t she?) I must say that the Shadow Proclamation is a bit of a letdown — perhaps it’s one of those things we should never have seen — but who needs them? Humanity can take care of itself. That’s not a bad message to hear.
But whether Earth really needs the Doctor or not, we love him. When Sarah Jane runs out and leave poor Luke all on his own, she says, “I love you, remember that,” but what goes unspoken — but is oh-so obvious — is what she could have said next, which is, “But I love the Doctor more.” You know she was thinking it…
Random thoughts on “The Stolen Earth”:
• The insane Dalek is one of the creepiest things the show has ever come up with. The giggling is maybe worse than the prognostication, although hearing the Doctor called “the Dark Lord” is pretty disturbing, as is the prediction of the death of a loyal companion.
• Now this is a fer-real proper flying saucer:
• Richard Dawkins!
• UNIT in New York is mine! Mine! Especially if they’re gonna totally futz it up like this:
I mean, my god, if they’re going to get all the details completely wrong, then how can we trust them on anything else? I’m never watching Doctor Who again! (Notice: The preceding was a sendup of overly critical fandom.)
• Hey, if it was 8am in London (as Sarah Jane says it was) when the Earth got itself stole, then it was 3am in New York. UNIT was pretty busy for the middle of the night, weren’t they?
• Why aren’t the Judoon translated by the TARDIS? It made sense that they weren’t in the previous Judoon story, since the TARDIS was far away on Earth while the Doctor was on the Moon. But why here?
• The bees! They’re like the dolphins: as soon as the going gets tough and the end is nigh, it’s, So long and thanks for all the flowers.
• Ah, the subwave network was created by the Mr. Copper Foundation. So he put that credit card loaded with all those millions to good use, it seems…
• “Oo, he’s a bit nice,” Gwen says when she sees the Doctor over the subwave network. “I thought he’d be older.” And then, what does Ianto say after that? I can’t make it out, but I bet it’s funny. (And Donna thinks Jack is just delicious. And, honestly, though, who doesn’t?)
• Clever Wilf, with his idea to blind the Daleks with the paintgun. Too bad the Daleks anticipated such a move on an enemy’s part.
• The Doctor’s phone number (actually Martha’s old number, since it’s her phone he’s got on the TARDIS) is 07700 900461…
…and apparently the BBC wasted a huge opportunity for promotion. It’s not a working number, which is just plain silly. You can’t post a phone number that clearly on a show like this and not expect people to call it. So you use a number you have access to and you throw up a message (“Thank you for calling the Gallifreyan Embassy on Earth. For travel visa information, press 1…”) or at least an ad (“Drink more Ovaltine!”).
• On the other hand, the whole world calling the Doctor at the same time, is that a bit too much like everyone thinking “Doctor” at the end of “Last of the Time Lords”?
• More tidbits from the Time War: “But you were destroyed, in the very first year of the Time War, at the Gates of Elysium,” the Doctor says to Davros. “I saw your command ship fly into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. I tried to save you.”
(next: Episode 13: “Journey’s End”)