Shiny Shelf

Doctor Who: Army of Ghosts/ Doomsday

By Jon de Burgh Miller on 18 July 2006

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

It was always going to be difficult to live up to The finale of the first season of Russell T Davies’ ‘Doctor Who’. ‘The Parting of the Ways’ saw not only the Doctor rescuing Rose from the clutches of the Daleks, the death and resurrection of Captain Jack and the regeneration of the Doctor, but a new confidence and self-assurance that only really fell into place as the season ended, as the production team finally clicked just how this oh-so-alien ‘how to make science fiction’ thing worked. It was a stunning script, a shockingly well-made piece of TV and a perfect appetite wetter for the hugely successful Christmas special that was to follow.

At the start of the second season, it was clear that the production team had been bouyed by their success. Their confidence had increased, but they weren’t resting on their laurels. The stakes had been upped, and it was time to take some risks. Like any good sequel makers, they knew the audiences expected things to be bigger, better, richer and deeper than before, and they seem to have tried their best to achieve this.

The second series was all about experimentation and seeing how far the limits of the show could be stretched – a real alien planet with the devil himself, tin-can men with silly voices, living drawings, K-9… this was the year they could try to see if these things worked, with the safety net of a guaranteed third season meaning that even if the experiments failed, it was no big deal.

This has however led to a small yet vocal minority of people who think the series has lost something, that it’s not as good as it used to be. Not all experiments can succeed, to be sure, but those unhappy with the failures need to be assured that everything will be OK in the end, that the end of the season will make up for the episodes they didn’t like.

So Army of Ghosts/Doomsday had a lot to live up to. And it did, in spades. The running theme in the series from ‘Parting of the Ways’ onward has been the dead coming back to life, and what a second chance really means. The population of Earth are rejoicing as loved ones are seemingly coming back to life as ghosts, but of course they’re not ghosts, they’re Cybermen, and they’ve accidentally brought the Daleks with them.

What a lot of little thrills these episodes contained: We see Torchwood for the first time, and the weapon used to destroy the Sycorax in ‘The Christmas Invasion’. We get the Doctor doing Ghostbusters jokes. Tracy Ann-Oberman is superb as the villainess of the part, eventually to be redeemed in the end as she becomes an emotional Cyberman. Cool alien technology is hinted at. Mickey returns from the parallel world. Despite seeing one at the BAFTAs, everyone had forgotten that Daleks were going to be in this one, so ‘oh my God!’ there they are, in black too. And all in the first episode.

And what a second episode. Daleks and Cybermen battling it out over the streets of London. The return of Jake and Mickey, proving to be true heroes. Pete Tyler, and his reunion and acceptance of his family from another universe, and finally, just when it can’t get any better, we had the greatest moment of the episode, the emotional goodbye on the beach between the Doctor and Rose. Billie Piper and David Tennant have been a bit on autopilot this year but the final scene shows them really pushing themselves, revealing just how talented they are, and Russell showing exactly why he’s one of the greatest writers in the land.

If season one was the childhood of new Doctor Who, season two was it’s turbulent yet exciting adolescence, which ended with a bitter-sweet goodbye as the series goes off to university for the third season, with a more grown-up companion looming. We’ll all miss Rose Tyler, we’ll miss Jackie and Mickey even moreso, but knowing Russell T Davies’ he’ll have something up his sleeve that will mean this time next year the Tylers will be little more than a memory. Roll on Christmas.

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By Jon de Burgh Miller

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