The Season 2 Doctor Who finale is an emotional rollercoaster, with heartbreak at every turn that doesn’t get easier on re-watch. Our first time watcher Pete reels from shock and veteran Andy shows off her scars.
Army of Ghosts and Doomsday
Pete: I was not even remotely prepared for that ending. At the very beginning of the episode, Rose told us that she would die, and yet what transpired was so much worse. I had imagined some heroic death, like when she absorbed the Time Vortex only better and worse than last time, but no they killed her soul. Holy shit Russel T Davies, calm down man. I knew he would rip out my heart but I didn’t think he would show it to me afterward, like that freaky dude from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That is really what it felt like: oh hey you thought you were prepared? It is way worse than that, and and we’re going to insist on showing you in excruciating detail how uncomfortable and sad this is.
Andy: There really are no words for how emotional the end of this two-parter is. Every single bit of it is crafted for maximum emotional buildup and WRECKAGE. First the Cybermen invade by creepily posing as dead loved ones, then we learn it’s all the fault of Torchwood which is apparently reckless and possibly evil, we reunite with our lost comrades from the alternate universe, witness a seamless reunion of Rose’s parents after an episode of building up Jackie’s role in Rose’s life, and just when it seems everything is lost, THE DALEKS SHOW UP.
How the fuck did this happen?
Pete: It all kind of seems to be Torchwood’s fault, for doing the “ghost energy” thing. They shouldn’t have been messing with random alien technology that they didn’t understand. Get your learn on, by all means, but don’t turn it on until you know what it does. Especially when it turns out to be a ghost on/off switch. MAYBE THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A RED FLAG, GUYS.
Also, I thought Torchwood was supposed to be good? Didn’t Captain Jack go off to star on that show? I assumed that meant he was a member. (I don’t know how that works. Do they get decoder rings maybe?) So I figured that meant they weren’t horrible, but considering what kinds of evil shenanigans they were up to (destroying the Sycorax, this bullshit) I was super wrong about that.
But somehow, nobody objected though and instead of advancing the human race they invited an invasion force of cybermen to the party.
Andy: There is really no excusing what Torchwood did in this episode. It’s never really made clear what they are hoping to get out of the experiment, either. Yvonne makes one reference to it being an “energy source” but so far they don’t seem to be using it for anything, they are just seeing how high they can make the numbers go.
One of the things that constantly bothers me in Science Fiction is the frequently classified nature of the extraterrestrial programs. I believe it is morally wrong for a single nation to take it upon themselves to represent all of humanity. When it comes to planetary representation, the people of earth are owed a stake in the process through their own leadership. Not to mention, I don’t believe that any critical mass of people would be able to keep that kind of secret for long. (Which I find to be comforting.) And yet in science fiction almost uniformly features a secretive operation sanctioned by a single government. I get it: it’s simpler story telling. It would be hard to do justice to a story about humanity’s reaction to dealing with real aliens. But let’s just agree it’s morally indefensible.
In some ways, that’s why the Torchwood of Pete’s universe actually makes more sense. They seem to have gone rogue in order defend humanity. They have learned their lesson about the threat of the cybermen. (Although where did those dimension cannons come from? Are they also fooling around with alien tech?)
Pete: When the Cybermen showed up, I didn’t know whether the Cybermen from “our” universe had somehow survived and hid away like the Daleks from previous episodes, or if it meant they somehow had re-opened up the hole in universes created during their last encounter. Seems like it’s easier to jump dimensions then the Doctor let on. He sure says “this is impossible” when confronted with said impossibility a lot.
Andy: I think this is a general theme of the show. Remember just a few episodes ago, in ‘Love and Monsters,’ when Elton mused that life was so much stranger than we can imagine? The Doctor is constantly being surprised by the universe. I think he enjoys it, for both the challenge and the wonder. Think of his glee at the alliteration of “via the void!” and his desire to meet someone named Alonso so he can say “Allons y, Alonso!” He gets off on his own cleverness.
Pete: I loved that Mickey swooped in to save the day in Doctor-esque fashion (again!), and this time around he seems much more comfortable in his own skin. Not to mention he’s teamed up with Rose’s “not dad” (who will now be known as Other Pete) and found his place in the world. He seems to have come to grips with the fact that even though they aren’t from his dimension, these people are his family and he loves them. Watching Other Pete and Our Jackie run down that hallway and hug and cry made my heart melt.
Andy: The show really sold those scenes, which makes me wish they would do more episodes of a serialized nature. Don’t get me wrong, I adore that the main focus of the show is the development of the Doctor and Rose, but the writing is thematically stronger when it makes more connections. That is hard to do when most episodes are one off characters or situations.
Pete: And there is also the second item the Doctor comes face to face with something that is “impossible” only this time it’s a Void ship. It’s not stated but I would infer that this is the type of ship that made it easy for the Timelords of old to so easily travel between different universes. Who else could have that kind of technology I wonder…?
I don’t know why I have such an affinity for Daleks. Maybe it’s because I adopted one once, but either way, I was rooting for them. I was imagining the Doctor and the elite squad of Daleks (who have names!) teaming up and taking down the Cybermen together. It didn’t happen but we did get a brilliant exchange of shit talking between our robot contenders. “You are better at dying” might be the best school yard level insult to be uttered by a mechanically altered voice…ever. The whole experience was glorious. Right up until the moment they unleashed an army of Dalek PoWs, then my face looked like this:
One of these days I’ll accept that the daleks usually makes things worse..
Andy: I find your affection for the Daleks baffling. Do you not understand they want to exterminate all life that is not Dalek? They are inherently incapable of compromising on that. They will never live and let live.
Yes, the show has shown us at least one sympathetic Dalek. It is hard to be alone. And Rose caused it to experience a change of heart. But that Dalek was the exception. It was not representative of redemption of the Dalek species as a whole. The Daleks don’t want to be redeemed.
Pete: I was also disturbed by the Doctor sending Rose to the alternate dimension without her consent. Three times now the Doctor has taken away Rose’s choice and tried to send her away. And this time wasn’t any more okay than the first. We definitely need to add this trope to the list of tropes that should go die in a fire. We need to replace it with a better trope. A trope where both parties understand that one cannot live without the other. Some “you go, we go” Kurt Russel type shit where whatever happens, happens to them both.
Andy: Agreed. It was not okay for the Doctor to send Rose away, although at least he stopped fighting when she came back and told him her decision. And it turned out his solution needed both of them: how would the Doctor have pulled both levers without Rose? He needed her there, and he owed it to her to let her help. I think he even recognized that before…she fell.
(I don’t want to dwell on this but: how on earth did Pete know to catch her?)
The scene afterwards, where each of them, alone, leans against the wall, grieving for each other…it never gets any easier to watch. It’s so awful, and so random, and so unfair. The finality of their separation is heartbreaking.
Pete: And then
THE DOCTOR BURNS UP A SUN TO SAY GOODBYE!
But: how hard is to say you love somebody? Ok I’ll admit, it can be ridiculously difficult sometimes, but surely not if it’s the last time you’ll EVER see the person. The Doctor literally had nothing left to lose but he still couldn’t do it. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how he could do that to Rose. She knew he loved her but she never got to hear him say it.
Andy: He was going to do it. He should have said it sooner, should have said it every day, but he was finally ready to say it. The look on his face when the transmission cut out, depriving him of the opportunity, is going to haunt him for the rest of his long, long life.
And as for Rose: you predicted this Pete. Go back to Episode 1. What is life going to be like for Rose now after traveling with the Doctor?
Pete: I imagine Rose laying awake every night replaying their last moment with one another in her head over and over again. She hears herself say it to him, and then instead of hearing it back he just vanishes before her eyes. Every night for the rest of her life. I wonder if she would’ve have been better off getting sucked into the void. It would have hurt less. Spoiler alert: this episode fucked me up a little bit.
Andy: There’s one last thing I want to say on this topic: shipping aside, the separation of the Doctor and Rose is just as heartbreaking if you interpret it as completely platonic. These two friends have been through a number of formative experiences together, including saving the world, and each other. You can have a close relationship with someone without that relationship turning romantic, and the lack of romance does not mean it is any less important.
I’ll close with a quote about friendship from Diane Duane’s Wizards at War:
“For so high and honorable estate, “just” seems a poor modifier to choose.”