The Stolen Earth


It’s Doctor Who season finale time again. In the old days, this was often the point where they had a massively ambitious script, but had run out of money to actually film it with. These days they’re curious beasts. Davies has now overseen four of them, and every time, he aims for an epic story with masses of emotion and action. To an extent, he always gets there; and yet, every time we get here, it’s fallen short of what came before. It’s like Davies has run out of whichever secret sauce was joining his nutty finale-thoughts when he made ‘The Parting of the Ways’. Or, every time, he tries to increase his ‘epic’ quotient, and the heart of the story struggles to pull it all together.

‘The Stolen Earth’ is particularly upsetting, as it’s clearly meant to be epic, and in many ways, it is — and yet unlike ‘Bad Wolf’, or ‘The Sound of Drums’, it doesn’t really tell many interesting stories in its own right. In fact, it feels uncomfortably like an episode full of exposition. The scale of everything is huge, but nothing’s happening. Let us take for example Rose Tyler. As I’ve mentioned, she was suitably awesome in her return last episode, all mysterious and commanding. This week, she watches TV and whinges that she doesn’t have a webcam, before trying to call her ex. Thrilling stuff.1 Perhaps she’ll get to do more next week?2

Ah well, she must be sidelined because everyone else is doing stuff. Sarah Jane? Hm. Listening to the radio and going for a drive doesn’t really count. Captain Jack? Lounging around the Torchwood Hub. Martha? Well, she travels from New York to Germany, so she’s no slouch I guess. Excitingly, we’re told that she’s dead by Jack for absolutely no reason, after which her condition is upgraded to “alive”.

Ah ha. It must be the Doctor and Donna who are doing everything. It’s so obvious. Having carelessly lost the Earth, they then visit the Shadow Proclamation, who in a peculiar twist, turn out to be not very shadowy at all. In fact, they look disturbingly like the sort of futuristic, brightly coloured, elite humanoid society that Classic Who used to trot out all the time, most often in the form of Gallifrey. Let us judge not by appearances though — for between them, the Doctor, Donna and Mrs Shadow work out that planets are being stolen! And where are they being taken? Follow the bees, says the Doctor, in a rather disappointing and bizarre resolution to the whole bee mystery thing. They do, and the Doctor finds himself at the Medusa Cascade, which is closed, so he gives up.

It feels wrong even writing that, frankly. Yes, our Doctor, the one we had all that faith in last year and turned into Jesus, gives up because he comes up against a locked door too big for the Sonic Screwdriver. Oddly, it’s played like it’s a dramatic moment, even though presumably no one in the audience has any idea why this particular cosmic door is providing more of a challenge than all of the other ones the Doctor gets through all the time. Luckily, all his friends call him on his mobile and suddenly he can get in. It feels wrong writing that, too.

There’s two moments in ‘The Stolen Earth’ which are genuinely awesome and involving, and feel like they could have been part of a much better episode. One is the Dalek fleet’s cries coming through the radio and scaring the bejeezus out of all and sundry. The other is the Doctor and Rose running towards each other, finally and beautifully reunited, but not quite. But even after both these awesome moments, nothing much happens. In a nutshell; the Doctor normally lands on the planet in question at the start of the story. In ‘The Stolen Earth’, he doesn’t get there until the end — but he’s missed no action whatsoever, because all anyone was doing in the meantime was trying to work out where the heck he was. When I look at it like that, it all seems very odd. I’m bemused even now.

What’s that? I forgot Harriet Jones? I’d feel bad if she hadn’t been a completely pointless addition to the episode.3

  1. There is of course almost nothing made of whether she had a plan, and how much she knew about “the darkness”, or indeed the whole ‘Bad Wolf’ thing. Disappointing for someone desperate to see Rose kicking arse after her general mopiness in ‘Doomsday’.
  2. A clue; no.
  3. I mean, why couldn’t Sarah have contacted everyone? Or if you do want the Prime Minister back, why not actually give Penelope Wilton something to do, rather than just playing at forum administrator? Amusing and intriguing theories about how she might have been working for the Daleks were going round the internet afterwards. Like so much speculation on ‘Journey’s End’, things just weren’t quite that interesting.

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