Doctor Who Re-Watch: Army of Ghosts
Well, what can I say? As an angst riddled teen I loved this finale. Then I re-watched in my uni years and found the whole thing irritating melodrama. Then, um, Ben and I re-watched and well, I kind of like, enjoyed this first part of the finale. Read on to find out why …
So what went down? Rose and The Doctor greet Jackie in her modern day London estate home, only to find out ghosts have been returning … only the footprints aren’t a boot and bam it’s another threat altogether. Plus bonus aggressive Torchwood (which feels oddly prescient on the topic of make Britain great again given Brexit) and non-Martha Freema Agyeman guest appearance episode.
The Pre-title Sequence
Ben: “Planet Earth – this is where I was born, and this is where I died.” What a dramatic way to open the first episode of this two-part finale! Although the number of humans who have died off earth you could probably count on one hand so like, Rose you’re not that special. Still, this recap was nice, and really adds to the inevitability of the tragedy about to unfold.
Maureen: Yep, I too was all, hello angstalicious Rose. But also, I love Billie. What an actress! So all is forgiven. But also, the below quote is stupid:
Rose: For the first nineteen years of my life, nothing happened at all. Nothing.
Enough with telling the viewer companions are nothing without The Doctor, RTD!
Ben: Jackie was excellent in this season. I love how she’s developed as a character. She’s gone from flirting with The Doctor to stealing a kiss or two off him! And she’s pulling off double denim like the fashion icon she is. Apart from the few moments of ‘oh god she thinks her dead father is back from the dead is she going senile?’ Rose comments, Jackie is incredibly sharp this episode, calling out both The Doctor and Rose on their shenanigans. Rose gets the biggest smackdown, when Jackie says once she’s dead Rose will have nothing to return to earth for. The whole speech she gives describing this future version of Rose losing her humanity was pretty grim. But I get the feeling Rose would be fine with that outcome as long as she had The Doctor. And! Jackie gets to be the companion for a bit!
Ten: When Torchwood comes to write up my history, don’t mention I travelled with her mother.
Maureen: I love the transformation of Jackie Tyler. She started out as such an annoying whore style stereotype. I feel like the second half of this series has upped the characterisation stakes and made the core gang of The Doctor, Rose and Jackie all a lot more understandable in terms of motivation. I also liked the opening with Jackie where we see Rose wearing a back pack like she’s been travelling to another country rather than through space. Rose gifts Jackie a souvenir that tells the weather and Jackie doesn’t care because she’s too busy loving Rose so hard because she’s been worried. This felt like such a realistic little scene to me.
Ben: As to Rose, the Rose we get this episode is Rose at the peak of her companionship with the Doctor. Having not seen any of her run I imagine this is where Sarah Jane Smith was at when she was abandoned by The Doctor. Rose has learnt how to use the TARDIS’s equipment, investigate on her own, and thinks it’ll last forever. To be honest, in this first episode Jackie contributes more than Rose, but this is still an important part of her journey.
Maureen: I was struck by the great chemistry between Rose and The Doctor again. It’s not a ship that always works, but when it does, damn it’s a lot of fun. Billie and David have a lot of chemistry when the script doesn’t weigh them down with stupid jealousy sub-plots! I loved the Ghostbusters moment especially! I also enjoyed Rose having fun with psychic paper and having the whole thing backfire because Torchwood has training y’all. Also, lol at Rose thinking the ghosts could be Gelth related, The Doctor’s look and Rose’s subdued, cheeky smile as she says no.
Ben: Then this episode also introduces Yvonne of the fabulous hair – the leader of Torchwood and a woman who I imagine got on very well with Harriet Jones. Although her talk of British Empires and imperial tonnes was a bit concerning. Still, it’s nice to see a charismatic woman in power. Plus, it does take some nerve to call The Doctor out when he’s in his element, even if it is to tell him he’s gone left when he should have gone right. The Doctor does make some very valid points that you don’t need to poke every anomaly you find with a stick to see what happens, but this does come off as a bit sanctimonious and hypocritical when that’s exactly what The Doctor does on a regular basis.
Maureen: I loved the Torchwood stuff. Great call back to Queen Vic and of course she would have left instructions about The Doctor that were less than flattering! The scene were Yvonne and Torchwood lackeys cheer on The Doctor were so disconcerting and Ten was off-kilter completely. Yvonne was such a powerhouse CEO type, who genuinely believed she was doing the right thing for her country. I hated her morals, but she remained oddly likeable throughout the episode.
Ben: Finally, Mickey returns! I don’t know how he got through to this reality/got through early enough to get a position at Torchwood and work his way up the ranks to be working at what I would guess is one of their higher-level projects. He also felt more like Ricky than Mickey, and of course in his first sentence to Rose he calls her babe. Eww. Also, he barely even looks at Rose! War against the cybermen has changed him, and not necessarily for the better. He’s become like Rachel from Animorphs (which is a bit of an obscure reference these days, I know), a soldier who loves war. Also, how the hell did Mickey hide such a huge gun in what is supposedly such a secure building?
Maureen: I thought the point of Mickey replacing Rickey in the parallel universe was to give him a chance to become that stronger, more confident version of himself. ‘My name is Mickey. Mickey Smith. Defending the earth.’ I didn’t begrudge him his moment of limelight or think too hard about hows and wherefore’s, though I agree the babe was a bit much.
Ben: Another episode where The Doctor’s nowhere to be seen when something starts to go awry on Earth! Maybe Harriet Jones was onto something …
Maureen: Yes, this is why I really dug the Series Three finale back in the day. The Doctor was given some big consequences for his Harriet Jones holier-than-thou-even-tho-I’m-clearly-wrong actions.
Ben: Still, his “a footprint doesn’t look like a boot’ response to Jackie saying the ghosts look human was memorable.
Maureen: I thought it was rather poignant when Jackie describes the smell of her Dad and The Doctor and Rose reveal they can’t smell a thing. She’s wished her father onto the image of the ghost, which is deeply sad to me.
Ben: Anywho, we get some general Doctoring as Ten investigates the ghosts, paired with the usual technobabble. And then we get the debut of both allons-y and the usage of 3D glasses as he discovers the source of the ghosts! Now for a Bad Wolf reference and we’ll have bingo.
Maureen: I very much enjoyed Ten with his allons-y and 3d glasses and huge ass technology to trap ghosts with this episode. Holy shit, he be growing on me!
Ben: The Doctor’s demonstration at Torchwood Tower of what happened to the fabric of reality when the Void Ship came through was impressive, because even though I knew the glass was going to shatter I was still holding on to every word he said. Ten really does have a commanding charisma.
Maureen: I don’t always agree, but this second half of the series, Tennant has been superb. I thought he was pitch perfect in the scene you describe.
Ben: To nobody’s surprise it all goes to hell and there’s nothing The Doctor can do about it because this is part one of a finale. And we end the episode with The Doctor surrounded by cybermen! Not the best position to turn things around from!
The Alien of the Week
Ben: Ghosts! RTD really got the foreshadowing right this week, with the man on the television talking about the ‘military parade’ of ghosts at Westminster. I did love the little scene of Team TARDIS changing through the tv channels with ghost mania taking hold of the planet. I’m not sure how this psychic link is pulling the ghosts through, if they have that link then why the particle accelerators in Torchwood Tower?
Maureen: Damn it, Ben! I didn’t even think that plot hole through to know it was one. Why must you always pick up on these things?
Ben: Speaking of Torchwood Tower, the IM flirting between Not-Martha and Gareth was pretty cringeworthy. It definitely brought back memories of talking to people on MSN Messenger.
Maureen: It was very Renee Zellweger/Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones Diary!
Ben: But the payoff was worth it as we got the reveal of the real alien of the week – the cybermen are back!
Maureen: How cool was the Freema scream as she faced off a cyberman. That must have been so fun to act, and just so iconic too.
Ben: How no one noticed Not-Martha and Gareth were looking like total douchebags with ear pieces in both ears is beyond me. The dramatic music that played every time they did something cybermen related was a bit heavy handed – I kept having to turn my headphones down whenever it played.
Maureen: Ah yes, the beginning of Murry Gold being played up to eleven every time something dramatic is happening because we idiotic audience members won’t know it’s dramatic UNLESS THE MUSIC IS VERY LOUD DUM DUM DUM.
Ben: It’s a bit of a nit-picky point, but I also found the dramatic scene with the levers rather annoying – the idea of having physical levers to activate something is so that if something goes wrong software wise you still have a way of shutting things off. There shouldn’t be a way for the levers to be moving by themselves! But maybe there’s cybermen shenanigans involved in that somehow. Also, Torchwood doesn’t have any armed guards in this room, the room containing their most important project? Or any meaningful fail safes?
Maureen: I didn’t think about this at the time, but maybe it’s a sign of the Torchwood hubris at play. Yvonne and Co. are so cocksure of themselves and their ability to fend off invasions and things going wrong, they figure they don’t need extra security and fail safes because no one could ever get that far.
Ben: Hmm, another thing I don’t understand is the random cut to the tv channels discussing the increase in ghost activity after the cybermen activate the ghost shift. There was a police chief there! Those kind of press conferences don’t just happen instantaneously. And the time it took for the ghosts to appear/manifest as cybermen wasn’t that long a time.
Maureen: Eh, I’m not sure I follow you here. I thought the reason for the news stations and the chief of police was because there was an unusual increase in ghost activity. The police commissioner was on air to reassure the public everything was fine, but then the cybermen attack and it’s obvious things aren’t fine. I kind of enjoyed these scenes and the scenes of cybermen mayhem. If I’d been a little kid, this would have been hide behind my sofa scary!
Ben: And then we have the mysterious sphere in the basement of Torchwood Tower, that gets in your head and doesn’t seem to exist. Of course, The Doctor knows what it is instantly – it’s a Void Ship. A ship that exists outside of time and space. So, kinda like a TARDIS but not. And surprise, surprise, it’s packed full of Daleks! It doesn’t do much this episode but loom threateningly over everyone, but it was a great B-plot.
Maureen: And now Rose, Mickey and random Torchwood lackey are trapped in a sealed room with hundreds of Daleks! How will they escape??? What an old school, classic cliff hanger. Love it.
Ten: It’s not an invasion. It’s too late for that. It’s a victory.
Ben: I absolutely loved this episode. I don’t know what else to say beyond what I’ve already written. I’m giving this episode a 9/10.
Maureen: Aside from Mickey’s ‘babe’ moment and The Doctor sniping at Jackie in a rather ageist way, I enjoyed this immensely. Enough that I didn’t notice half of the plot holes Ben has pointed out in this review! I’m giving this 9 outta 10 inky stars too and am mad keen for next week.