TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E12: The Stolen Earth

Gosh. I think the phrase “Over the Top” doesn’t even get close…

Plenty of RTD’s big finale ideas have been the chance to do old-school Who ideas with the kind of spectacle the classic show could only dream of. Now, we don’t have to hear about Dalek saucers attacking London and New York- we can actually see it happening – and while part of me wants to lament the loss of that kind of make-believe, building whole worlds with just a line of dialogue… the other part of me has to admit that my inner fanboy spent much of The Stolen Earth in a state of extreme joy. Ridiculous, hopelessly overblown and full of people being tearful, this was RTD at the max, and yet the sheer volume of stuff being thrown at the screen meant that the episode was shamelessly enjoyable fun. Even the regular examples of clunky humour didn’t seem to matter quite so much – some huge CG vistas, big explosions, and for once, it didn’t all grind to a halt so someone could have an emotional heart-to-heart. From the moment the Earth vanished right through to the “Yes, we know they’re not actually going to permanently regenerate the Doctor but how are they going to get out of that?” finale, this was ludicrously enjoyable, although yet again New Who’s habit of regularly wrecking surprises meant that anyone who didn’t know Penelope Wilton was making an appearence was fully informed by the whacking great credit that appeared (the guest cast list being a first for Who, along with the hilariously overcrowded title sequence). Indeed, the Harriet Jones sequence was one of the episode’s less succesful moments – rather odd in tone, and almost suggesting that at any moment, Harriet’s evil alien puppeteer was going to be revealled – while it’s arguable that while the build-up is great, the sheer unstoppable pace does rather well at disguising many of RTD’s usual flaws, the emotional focus is all over the place (a side-effect of having so many characters around), the Davros make-up is good but not great and still doesn’t equal the original 1975 version, the idea of including the vanishing bees simply feels wrong (It’s alright, kids- the environment isn’t to blame, they’re simply vanishing off to another planet!), and dear god, will they ever stop with the self-referential smug cameos in episode 12s?. However, even with all these caveats, there’s the fact that the Dalek Invasion of Earth got referenced, the sequence with the Earth being hi-jacked, the re-appearence of Davros, Dalek Caan’s completely nutty semi-poetic prophecies… a bagload of OTT highlights in an episode packed to the brim.

And yet…

There’s that cliffhanger. And the knowledge that it could all very easily go wrong. After all, with the pace and general tone cranked so high, where the hell has the show got to go next week, other than into realms of Total Bollocks Overload? And did I really hear something called the “Mr Copper Foundation” being referenced? It’s one of the most solidly entertaining RTD episodes ever, and certainly the best of the ‘Blockbusters’ – only I can’t help feeling that this is all the lead up to one of the RTD’s big ideas, the kind that have ended in the past with the TinkerbellJesusDoctor, and Rose being transformed into a walking Deus Ex Machina. The Stolen Earth may have been close to the show’s best, but it could very easily go pear-shaped, and while the show can still make me smile, it’s also capable of galactic levels of annoyance. Which way will the dice fall? Only time will tell…

2 thoughts on “TV EYE: Doctor Who, S4 E12: The Stolen Earth

  1. 2150
    I’m still waiting for Bernard Cribbins to say he’s seen it all before and then have some time-relative psuedo science explanation of why Peter Cushing’s doctor is non-canonical.


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