The Doctor turns into Dobby. This is the thing I can’t get past. He turns into Dobby. Or Gollum. Or possibly Yoda. This is the moment in which the episode goes from being silly yet intriguing to just plain silly.
In fact there’s an awful lot of silly here. The opening bucks expectations of a big red reset button by leaping one year forward and thrusting us into the kind of a post-apocalyptic nightmare world that hitherto has been confined to parallel universes. This, plus casting Martha Jones as the saviour of the world, caused me to seriously question whether the finale might, in fact, be a work of genius. Following it up immediately with a song and dance routine is perhaps a sign that the thin line between genius and madness has been crossed. Turning the Doctor into Dobby is the final straw.
Then there’s all the other things that don’t make sense. The
ToklaphaneToclafane being the Utopian humans, only childlike, insane, and reduced to just their heads is, well, it makes no sense. The Doctor being brought back by a kind of evangelical psychic faith healing, well, it operates entirely on the level of the symbolic and makes not a lick of sense. That Dobby!Doctor is the subject of it doesn’t help, nor does the Doctor doing a silly flying routine. Lastly, Jack being the Face of Boe: well, it makes some sense but not a huge amount. I mean, I know he has a big head but this is ridiculous.
And then of course comes the big red reset button. Thankfully it turns out that the paradox machine isn’t the reset button. It’s the absence of the paradox machine, causing reality to snap back into place. This is not in itself a bad idea, but it still amounts to the same thing, and that’s a big red button with the word “Reset” written above it.
There are however some worthwhile elements. The characterisation of Martha as a kind of John the Baptist to the Doctor’s Christ works well, and the reactions of her family to the overall crisis feel psychologically real. I like the idea of humanity saving itself and the juxtaposition of all that’s bad about humanity in the Toklaphane and all that’s good about it in the remnants of humanity standing tall. Yes, it’s cheesy, but it hits the level it’s aiming for. Maybe I’m just numb but I think John Simm’s performance has also settled down quite a bit this week, and despite remaining over-the-top he’s a little more threatening. His relationship with the Doctor remains well drawn and the most successful aspect of the whole multi-part tale.
The scene in which the Master refuses to regenerate is interesting. I don’t quite buy it since I would have said that he would have opted to survive and turn the tables, but it does give Tennant some nice (if predictable) emotional notes to play. Then the Master gets to be Darth Vader on a funeral pyre, and then he gets to be Ming the Merciless and cackle while the camera focuses on his sinister ring. (No snarking at the back). Is that the hand of his bonkers wife picking up the ring at the end? And if so… huh? But it clearly leaves the door open for the character’s return, and also opens the possibility that this was his secret plan to survive all along, and she’s part of it. As for the wife she’s pretty one dimensional but they do at least allow her to have some vague motivation for being pyschologically wounded.
The epilogue is nice. As called by Coalescent Martha opts to leave, which does feel like the right choice for the character. It remains to be seen whether he’ll also be right about her returning in the Christmas special, or after. I could certainly see them coming back together on more equal terms. And Jack opts to leave, which is just mad unless he’s genuinely pining for a group of sociopathic sex addicts. Maybe he just daren’t leave them alone in case they destroy the planet in a fit of pique.
And finally, we get another bizarre cliffhanger for the Christmas Special, which seems like a decent lead in for…something. Being the Christmas Special that “something” will undoubtedly be a comedy romp with snow. Or at least a large iceberg.
And so another season comes to an end. I feel, overall, that it’s been the most consistent season to date and definitely Tennant’s most consistent performance. It has certainly showcased a great deal of mediocrity and no small amount of silliness, but also three stellar episodes and a generally more ‘Who’-ish feel than the second season. Is that damning with faint praise, or just accepting the show for what it is and mostly enjoying the hell out of it?