Doomsday – 8th July
By Russell T. Davies
I guess that we all love a good Dalek story, well you’re reading this review on a web-site dedicated to Daleks so that is a no-brainer. Russell T. Davies obviously loves Daleks as well (unlike previous producers who seem sometimes to have regarded them as an embarrassment) judging by the fact that he has included them in both series finales so far.
This story starts off with a familiar cliffhanger; Daleks are bearing down on Rose, Mickey and the hapless Dr Singh chanting ‘exterminate!’ Rose stops them in their tracks by identifying them as Daleks and by mentioning that she knows about the Time War. Obviously the former shop-girl come space explorer has now picked up enough insight into Dalek psychology to know what will keep you alive in any given situation. Revealing incongruous information to the Daleks will it seems pique their curiosity so much they will forget about exterminating you. The Daleks instead turn their attention to the ‘Genesis Ark’, the strange Dalek-shaped artefact that they have brought with them from the void ship.
Upstairs the Cybermen demand that Yvonne Hartman put them in contact with the Central World Authority; Hartman laughs and tells them do their research-there is no such thing. ‘There is now,’ declares the Cyberleader, who then puts out a message on all frequencies. The people of Earth cower in their homes as the Cyberleader tells them all that there is nothing to fear and that the Cybermen will abolish fear as well as all differences on the basis of sex, race, class and creed. “You will become like us!”
I love this scene, it works so well in getting the point across that the Cybermen are in charge and it conveys their motivation, the way they see themselves equally as well. This is some thing that you don’t always get in Doctor Who whether in the old or the new series, a sense of why the evil genius/ monster/ master race is behaving as it does. That the Cybermen think they are doing us a favour turning us into Cybermen is beautifully put across here; they will save us from pain and establish equality, a communist utopia.
Meanwhile downstairs the fascists, I mean Daleks, have demanded that Rose and the others identify the least important among them, Rose refuses to do so, but the unfortunate Dr Singh steps forward and takes responsibility as a representative of Torchwood. The Black Dalek commands him to kneel, I could feel the hairs going up on the back of my neck at this point, bemused by this Dr Singh protests, but then the Daleks insist. Warily he knells down as the Daleks advance with their sucker sticks pointed at his head.
Remember the skull-crushing sucker in ‘Dalek’? Well here we have the sucker as mind-probe and microwave grill all in one. When the Daleks have finished Dr Singh is a cremated skeleton. There is no complex psychology to be understand with regard to the Daleks’ hatred of other races; when Rose protests that they didn’t have to kill him one of the machine-creatures dryly tells her, ‘neither did we need him alive!”
Meanwhile the Cybermen realise that alien technology is being used in the sphere room, so they dispatch a couple of Cybermen to investigate. The Daleks have also gleaned from Singh’s ransacked skull that an alien race in the guise of ghosts has invaded the planet. The scene is set for one of the most eagerly awaited confrontations in Who history…
Or maybe not; I must admit I hadn’t given the idea of a Dalek/Cybermen showdown much thought, until I saw a fan-film portraying such an happening last year. There the Cybermen, who seemed to be big blokes with colanders on their heads, could punch holes in Daleks and rip the mutants out with their bare hands. Here, the Cybermen who are played by big blokes in custom made outfits and with neat little guns, don’t do half as well. I don’t think a single Dalek gets deleted in the entire episode, not by a Cyberman at least. Indeed the Daleks are so contemptuous of their cyborg rivals that they dismiss out of hand any attempt at an alliance and refer to their war with them as ‘pest control.’
Russell T. Davies customary humour comes into full swing as the Dalek Thay (they have names by the way) comes face to face with the Cybermen in the corridor:
THAY: Identify yourselves!
CYBERMAN: You will identify first!
THAY: State your identity!
CYBERMAN: YOU will identify first!
And so on, Mickey compares them to the speaking clock meeting Stephen Hawking. Meanwhile Thay has let slip that he is a Dalek and the Black Dalek has identified them as the inferior species known as Cybermen. Although Cybermen have all their emotions suppressed it seems that aesthetic tastes slip through the buffers, for the Cybermen note that they and the Daleks are very similar species, although the Daleks lack elegance.
THAY: Daleks have no concept of elegance!
CYBERMAN: This is obvious…
The Cybermen then propose an alliance so that together than can ‘upgrade the universe’, to which the Dalek snarls ‘request denied’. When the Cybermen try and delete him his shield absorbs their blasts and one blast from the Dalek gun is sufficient to kill the Cybermen. The Cyber Leader than addresses the Daleks, warning them that they are now at war with five million Cybermen when there is only four of them. The Black Dalek retorts with the classic Dalek line ‘one Dalek would be enough’, which is straight out of the sixties Dalek lexicon.
The Cybermen react by ordering emergency upgrading of the personnel at Torchwood, both Jackie and Yvonne Hartman are included in this; as Yvonne is marched off to have her brain relocated to a Cyberman suit, she protests that she did her best for queen and country.
Fortunately for the Doctor a third set of protagonists enters the fray at this point; the Preachers led by Jake Simmonds (Andrew Hayden-Smith) appear using parallel Torchwood technology and zap the Cyber Leader with some souped up weaponry. The destruction of the Cyber Leader means that the Cybermen have to stop to download his memories into another individual; in the confusion Jackie is able to escape.
Meanwhile the Doctor has travelled to the parallel Earth with the preachers and met up with Peter Tyler (Shaun Dingwall) and here the action pauses for a while as we get some necessary info-dump out of the way. Three years have passed on the parallel Earth during which time the Cybermen have been defeated and pushed back to their factories; however the humans on the parallel world could not agree on what to do with them, as they were living creatures. Meanwhile the Cybermen had infiltrated parallel Torchwood and used their technology to map onto the Doctor’s Earth. For it seems that five million Cybermen have taken years to cross the breach, whereas a group of one or two people can do it instantly (a heavy document on a dial-up connection I suppose!) However the use of the technology to cross the breach has had a detrimental effect on both universes, the breach is causing massive surges in temperature that threaten to melt the North Pole.
Here we have the first of many plot points stolen directly from Phillip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, in particular ‘The Amber Spyglass’. As in that story we have holes in the universe that pose a threat to all creation, as in that story we have dark matter (here called ‘void stuff’) which is only visible through a special lens (the Doctor’s 3D glasses) and finally we have two lovers separated in different worlds for the sake of everybody in those worlds. But before we get to that, what about those Daleks?
The Genesis Ark turns out to be the key to it all; Rose deduces that it needs the touch of a time-traveller to activate it (see ‘Dalek’ in the last series, apparently the Doctor has told her that during the Time War the Daleks developed a way of powering themselves using energy from the vortex), Mickey wonders why the Daleks would build something they could not use. The answer comes from Dalek Sec, the black Dalek, who tells them both that it is stolen technology. (Which is wonderfully in keeping with the concept of Torchwood, a place that prides itself on putting stolen alien technology to use). The Time Lords invented the Genesis Ark, it is all that remains of their world and it contains the ‘future.’
The Daleks know that the Doctor has survived the Time War; they themselves had survived by hiding in the Void. The Doctor returns to his universe and surrenders to the Cybermen, striking a truce with them so that he can get to the Daleks. Meanwhile Rose has just told the black Dalek that she destroyed the Dalek Emperor by ‘pouring the time vortex into his head’, a thought that is so outrageous that Sec vows to exterminate her on the spot. Right on cue the Doctor makes his entrance, automatically drawing their full attention. David Tennant faces the Daleks for the first time on the small screen (having played Galanar in the Dalek Empire audio series) and makes a great job of parrying them in a typically Doctorish fashion. We have a magnificent Dalek’s eye view of him taunting them about their inability to feel anything and finally we have an explanation of those names. These four Daleks (Dalek Sec, Dalek Jast, Dalek Thay and Dalek Caan) are the legendary Cult of Skaro, a secret order beyond even the Emperor himself, who were charged with thinking like the enemy, developing individual identities in their quest for ever better ways of killing. They now want the Doctor to activate the Genesis Ark; something that he refuses to do, although he admits to Mickey that he has no idea what the thing does. “Time Lord science will restore Dalek supremacy!” snarls Dalek Sec to a puzzled Doctor. It’s plungers at dawn now as the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to summon unlikely bedfellows in the shape of Jake and a troop of Cybermen. Mayhem ensues as the Daleks are temporarily disabled in the fracas; unfortunately Mickey touches the Genesis Ark in all the confusion.
With everybody reunited, including Peter with a parallel version of his dead wife, the scene is set for the Grande Finale; but first the Doctor and co. have to check in on the ongoing battle between Daleks and Cybermen, which spills out into the main hanger in Torchwood’s basement. The Daleks over-ride the roof controls and Dalek Sec takes to the air with the Genesis Ark. Grabbing two huge electromagnets from the battle-zone the Doctor joins Pete and the others as they rush upstairs to see what the Daleks are up to.
They soon find out when the black Dalek commands the Genesis Ark to open; a storm of Daleks emerges: “Time Lord science!” realises the Doctor. “It’s bigger on the inside.” The Genesis Ark is apparently a time lord prison built especially for Daleks. Whilst millions of pepper pots swarm over London the Cybermen converge on Torchwood Tower, as one they target the humming mass of Daleks and let rip, the Black Dalek orders the destruction of all life forms below.
Then we get to the real Philip Pullman bit; Pete Tyler declares that this world is toast and tries to take Jackie with him back to his world. She refuses to do so, unable to just disappear while her world is being torn too pieces. Fortunately the Doctor has come up with the solution, but it involves everyone bar him going back to Pete’s world.
With his 3-D glasses he is able to perceive the ‘void stuff’ that clings to everything and everybody who has been through the breach between worlds. For the Daleks and Cybermen this means they are covered in the stuff, but everyone in the room, save Jackie is awash with void stuff. What the Doctor aims to do is open up the breach in such a way that the Daleks and Cybermen would be sucked into the void. But he would only do this on one side of the breach, which is why Pete, Rose et al would be safer in Pete’s World.
This is the emotional centre around which the denouement pivots; the final and absolute separation of the Doctor and Rose. Although this is yet again another rip-off from Pullman, and believe me the original is far more emotionally involving, nevertheless Davies manages to make it his own in the end.
The Doctor opens up the breach, a recalcitrant Rose having insisted on staying by his side and whilst millions of Daleks swoop past them into the void, the pair cling on for dear life to the two huge electro-magnets. We don’t see any Cybermen flying past, although we see them being plucked from the ground, apparently they explain this away in the commentary by stating that the Cybermen disappear through the smaller fissures. One suspects that for some reason The Mill may have found it impossible to portray such a thing digitally; who knows, it doesn’t really detract from how cataclysmic this scene is. That wily black Dalek Sec does an emergency temporal jump, escaping the final end as all last Daleks do. Then Rose loses her grip and plummets towards the void…
Russell T. Davies has apparently said that it was never his intention to kill off Rose because the whole thrust of his new series is optimism. This seems strange when one thinks about the original series, where a good few companions paid the ultimate price for following the Doctor on his travels. With all the pointers in the teasers talking about Rose Tyler needing to die to save the world he of course puts the audience on edge. Then he reinforces this with pictures of Rose at the start of each episode on a washed out shore-line world, which would seem to suggest she has gone onto some kind of Valhalla for Companions Who Died in Battle.
But it isn’t, it’s a place in Norway called Dårlig Ulv Stranden which sounds like Dalek but apparently means ‘bad wolf bay’; it is here that Rose is led some three months after being snatched by Peter Tyler inches from the Void and transported back to his world. (How Pete manages to materialise in front of the void without being sphagettified is a mystery that I’d like to see the commentary deal with). She comes here to have one final talk with the Doctor who has managed to boost a signal through the final fissure in space by tapping into a supernova. “I’m burning a sun to talk to you,” he tells her. (This is yet again taken directly from Phillip Pullman, whose male lead in ‘The Amber Spy-glass’ is charged with repairing all the rips in space that lead to other worlds). Rose has found work in the alternative world’s version of Torchwood, Jackie is now expecting Pete’s baby and Mickey is still there. So perversely enough it seems the Doctor has thrown together the family that he was responsible for breaking apart in the first place. Only in the process at least three hearts get broken, two for the Doctor and the other for Rose. But for this world at least, Rose Tyler is now officially dead.