“JOURNEY’S END” (DOCTOR WHO, SERIES 4, EPISODE 13)
Reviewed: July 14th, 2008
Director: Graeme Harper
Writer: Russell T Davies
Starring: David Tennant, Catherine Tate, Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Elizabeth Sladen, Billie Piper, Julian Bleach, and Nicholas Briggs
My Rating: 4 out of 10
“Journey’s End” is more of what we got with “The Stolen Earth”, no more and no less. The problem is that “The Stolen Earth” was more than a little bit rubbish, and the stench doesn’t get better with time. Russell T Davis doesn’t fix the problems that cropped up in the previous episode and because of this – and in spite of every other aspect of the episode being top-notch – the writing turns what should’ve been a great series finale into a steaming pile of dung.
This episode picks up right where the previous one left off: the Doctor is in the middle of regenerating, and both Sarah Jane and the Torchwood team are at the mercy of the Daleks. These cliffhangers showcase the problems with the episode in a nutshell: Russell T Davis doesn’t seem to know how to solve the problems he creates for his heroes. His ideas for resolving huge problems are to have something miraculous happen in the first two minutes of the episode. And I do mean miraculous. Only one of the resolutions actually leads into a future plot point, and they all come from nowhere and only serve to cheapen the episode.
Time after time, throughout the episode, Davis falls back on his dues ex machinas to solve problems, having solutions appear from out of nowhere, and ultimately leaving me with the feeling that the heroes (or the villains) haven’t earned their victories. And each dues ex machina feels more insanely easy than the next, until the Doctor’s inevitable victory over the forces of evil comes so simply that I have to wonder why someone didn’t just do it in the first five minutes and save us all the pain of having to watch this crapfest.
Okay, that was a bit harsh. There was a fair bit to like within the episode. Everyone puts in a good performance: Tennant is at his manic best, Tate gets to showcase her acting range again as Donna goes through the ringer, and the ex-Companions are fun to watch, especially Barrowman’s ever-entertaining philanderer from the future. Nicholas Briggs gets to show off his range again, breaking out of the monotony of straight Daleks with the crazy Caan and the arrogant Supreme. Julian Bleach as Davros is the standout with my favourite villainous performance of the revived series so far, surpassing John Simm’s Master, the previous titleholder.
The Mill again worked overtime to provide some top-notch special effects. Scenes of Davros’ death ray, the 27 planets, the Dalek fleet, they were all rendered beautifully with pain-staking detail that almost distracted from the shortcomings of the episode. The CGI on Doctor Who is always top of the line and “Journey’s End” is not exception – if anything, they’ve outdone themselves.
But ultimately, these elements are there to serve the script, and that’s where the episode just plain sucks. Russell T Davis’ swansong is like a Milli Vanilli number, all flash and no substance and leaving the audience unfulfilled. The endings (note the plural) were all particularly unfulfilling, from that fanwankery of Rose to the sheer, utter disappointment of Donna. The script is a disservice to the fandom, and by the time the episode was over I was so glad that this would be Davis’ last series as the showrunner. Steven Moffat is a writer who knows how to craft a plot, so hopefully there won’t be such a scornful review coming from my fingers again.
To sum up: “Journey’s End” = major disappointment.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Tags: agyeman, barrowman, billie, bleach, briggs, caan, captain jack, catherine, daleks, david, davies, davros, doctor, donna, elizabeth, freema, graeme, harkness, harper, john, jones, julian, martha, nicholas, noble, piper, rose, russell, sarah jane, sladen, smith, tate, tennant, torchwood, tyler, UNIT, who