Ah, “Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday”. As far as television seasons go, Series 2 of Doctor Who has been quite a mixed bag, with good episodes, bad episodes, average episodes and a few great episodes; along with new monsters, old monsters, rubbish monsters, and a few surprise returns. After all the peaks and valleys we’ve had so far, the big question is: can the series finale, “Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday”, send the season out on a high note? For most part, it does.
“Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday” is remembered for three things, the first of which is the grand unveiling of the Torchwood Institute, after Russell T. Davies had been teasing Queen Victoria’s secret society all season. The Torchwood arc in Series 2 wound up serving as a backdoor pilot for Doctor Who’s first spin-off show, “Torchwood”, centered around Captain Jack and his comrades investigating alien activity in Cardiff, and I have to say, I always felt lukewarm about that show. Partly because I never grew too attached to the ensemble cast outside of Captain Jack, and partly because the premise felt like a less impressive hybrid of “Angel”, “CSI” and “The X-Files”.
The second thing “Doomsday” is notable for is pitting the Daleks and the Cybermen against each other for the first time with a pretty impressive villain smackdown. In fact, something I appreciate about this finale is that despite there being multiple antagonists in it, there’s never a grand reveal about all the villains being in league with each other like there is in several other stories. The Daleks came through the void, the Cybermen followed the Daleks, Torchwood took an interest in both of them, Pete’s team followed the Cybermen, and the Doctor and Rose just showed up because the TARDIS brought them there. There are a number of different factions with different goals and agendas in this two-parter, and they all collide in the same place to create a perfect storm of total chaos.
The last thing “Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday” is remembered for, by casual viewers and hardcore fans, is the show finally splitting up the Tenth Doctor and Rose. “School Reunion” made it apparent that Billie Piper wouldn’t be part of the show forever, and the Beast implied something nasty was coming for Rose in her future. This whole season has been foreshadowing the fact that Ten and Rose are ultimately not built to last in the long run, and “Doomsday” takes things to their logical, painful conclusion.
Things start off normally enough for the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant). He and Rose are positively baffled when they discover that humanity has been making contact with thousands of gray ‘ghosts’ on Earth for the last couple of months, that are supposedly the ghosts of their loved ones coming back to visit them – but the Doctor does not buy into the idea. As we previously established in “The Satan Pit“, the Doctor has seen a lot of weird and insidious things, he has a naturally skeptical personality, and he’s not the superstitious type. He knows that whatever is going on here it can’t be good, so he starts looking into it and it leads him right to Torchwood. Since Ten doesn’t know what he’s getting into, he decides to play it cool for a change. He plays his cards close to his chest and lets Yvonne think she’s in charge for a while, while he and Rose gather info, and once he finally knows what Torchwood is doing, he reasserts his authority on alien affairs.
The Doctor quite rightly scolds Torchwood for stupidly putting their universe in danger for resources, and there’s a great manipulative scene where Ten accepts that Yvonne is way too stubborn to be talked out of the next ghost shift with simple logic and reason, so he decides to use reverse psychology and scare her out of it instead: letting her go through with her plan with full knowledge of what will happen until she backs out at the last second. David Tennant is given the chance to lend the role of the Doctor some gravitas and pathos again, since the return of the parallel world concept from “Rise Of The Cybermen” makes the Doctor feel nostalgic for how the time lords used to manage travel between alternate universes, and he’s more than a bit unnerved by how the Void, the space between the worlds, contains nothing inside it: no light, no time, no life – just pure hell. And that’s before the Daleks show up.
“Doomsday” is the first of several times the Tenth Doctor confronts the Daleks, and it’s interesting to note how differently he handles them compared to his predecessor, and what that implies about the Doctor’s character growth. The Ninth Doctor’s interactions with the Daleks were always spiteful and vitriolic, with loads of unrestrained resentment. Ten is very clearly worried about what the Daleks will do and he still hates them, but he’s also a lot more composed and self-assured whenever he faces them, partly because he’s got his friends backing him up now. His new family for the last two seasons helps to give him confidence, which makes it all the more tragic that the Doctor loses that support system by the end of this two-parter.
One of the main themes of Series 2 is the dangers of unchecked hubris: Torchwood’s arrogance and overconfidence caused the whole conflict of this finale to happen, but there’s also Ten and Rose’s hubris. Over the last season, they’ve grown way too cavalier and complacent when it comes to saving the world. Rose in particular seems to expect them to be able to pull off their usual M.O. of being backed into a corner, thinking of something incredibly clever to escape unscathed at the last second, and trading sassy quips all the while. It’s why they enjoyed the werewolf romp in “Tooth and Claw” way more than they should have. But not this time. This time there’s a price to be paid for saving the world: namely that Rose gets trapped in an alternate universe forever, separated from the Doctor. In one swell swoop, the Doctor loses all the friends he’s made over the last two seasons, and he has to continue on alone and start all over again someplace else. As “School Reunion” and “The Girl In The Fireplace” implied, it’s a tragic cycle for the Doctor that never truly ends in this franchise.
After being a major part of the revival for two years, “Army Of Ghosts / Doomsday” is Rose’s Tyler’s (Billie Piper) swansong as a regular cast member, so the Series 2 finale serves as one last character showcase for her, showing off every faucet of her personality, the good and the bad. The Doctor and Rose are split up fairly early on in the story and Rose has to hold her own for most of this two-parter, whether it’s trying and failing to go undercover among the Torchwood staff, or coming face-to-face with the Daleks once again and trying to outwit them to buy her and Mickey some time for back-up to arrive. At this point, Rose has known the Doctor for at least two years, and it’s no secret that she’s become more like him over time, or that her inner courage has been shining through more often ever since she started traveling in the TARDIS.
In fact, “Doomsday” contains one of my favorite Rose scenes, that shows how much her character has grown in two seasons. Rose is fully aware that the Daleks are going to kill her and Mickey, so she decides to let them know what happened to the Dalek Emperor and how he died: partly for spite, and partly to knock them down a few pegs and screw with their haughty heads. Back in Series 1, Rose was quite rightly terrified of the Daleks, but now she understands that their god complex is every bit as pathetic as it is deadly. “Doomsday” also dives into the negative effect that traveling in the TARDIS has had on her over time, which the show has only hinted at before. When we first met Rose, she was almost depressed about the state of her life. She had no prospects, no future, no drive. Running off in the TARDIS changed all that: it showed her amazing things, it gave her a new leash on life, and it made her a happier woman. The thing is though, Rose has built all of her newfound happiness around the Doctor specifically.
The prologue for “Army Of Ghosts” reveals that Rose honestly, truly hates everything about what her life used to be. She would never want to go back to it, and she can’t fathom her life without the Doctor in it anymore – it would have no meaning. Rose honestly believes that she’s nothing special without the Doctor and his support. It’s why she completely shut down when she thought she lost him in “The Christmas Invasion“. Rose has become overly reliant on the Doctor to give her life meaning, resulting in their relationship becoming unhealthily codependent. Jackie voices her concerns at one point that if Rose keeps throwing herself into the Doctor’s lifestyle wholeheartedly – never having any other ambitions of her own, or any friends, or any kind of life outside of him – she’ll lose herself entirely eventually and maybe waste away her life, which Rose uncomfortably tries to ignore.
Ever since “School Reunion”, this entire season has been warning Rose that her relationship with the Doctor ultimately can’t last, and it will have an expiration date eventually, and Rose has ignored every sign to cling onto a fantasy that they will be together forever. A pivotal turning point is during the climax, when she has to choose between staying in Pete’s world and never seeing the Doctor again, or staying with the Doctor and never seeing any of her friends and family again for the rest of her life, and she chooses him in an instant. This has been foreshadowed for a while now: episodes like “World War Three“, “Boom Town” and “The Parting Of The Ways” have steadily shown the Doctor becoming the greatest priority in Rose’s life, for better or for worse. Even Ten seems rather disturbed by how quickly and easily Rose will cut everyone else out of her life for good for him, but her mind is made up and it’s too late to turn back now.
The climax winds up demonstrating how Rose can be both selfish and incredibly selfless in equal measure, since she risks her life to ensure that the plan to get rid of all the Daleks and Cybermen and save humanity works without a hitch. For her troubles, she gets trapped in Pete’s world anyway, and she would have straight-up died in the breach if Pete hadn’t doubled back for her. The Doctor and Rose are heartbroken by this outcome, but Rose in particular is absolutely shattered. The Bad Wolf Bay scene that follows in the coda often finds itself a spot on people’s top ten lists of heartbreaking moments in Doctor Who, and for good reason. The Doctor and Rose’s final farewell, bringing two years’ worth of adventures to an abrupt end, contains some of the best acting we’ve seen so far from David Tennant and Billie Piper (especially since Billie breaks out her patented, visceral ugly crying that we last saw in “Father’s Day“), and the Doctor’s declaration of love to Rose being cut off right before he can finish is basically Russell T. Davies driving a knife into Rose’s gut one last time for extra measure.
The ultimate outcome of Series 2 for Rose serves as a cautionary tale about why you shouldn’t make one person the center of your world (even someone as extraordinary as the Doctor), because it will only ever lead to heartbreak one way or another, and the conclusion was handled pretty well. My only complaint is that if Russell T. Davies was trying to send some kind of message about why codependent relationships are bad for you with Ten and Rose in Series 2, that message really gets muddled down the line when Rose gets everything she ever wanted and more with a clone of Ten anyway at the end of Series 4, and unlike the Doctor, there’s never any indication that Rose even tried to let go of the Doctor and move on with her life between “Doomsday” and “Turn Left“. But that bit of weirdness rests at Series 4’s feet.
Since “Doomsday” is the last time we’ll be seeing the Tyler family until Series 4, Jackie Tyler (Camille Camdouri) is given her biggest supporting role so far in one of the Doctor and Rose’s adventures, topping the one she had in “Aliens Of London”, when the Doctor inadvertently drags her along to the Torchwood Institute. Jackie once again serves as the quirky comic relief mother for most of this story, squabbling away with the Doctor as they’re forced to spend time together, but she’s also given some meaty character development regarding her relationship with the Doctor and Rose. For the last season, Jackie has been backing off and giving Rose the space and freedom she needs as a young adult, trusting her and the Doctor’s judgment; and as we’ve established in “Love And Monsters“, she’s grown so accustomed to the Doctor being part of their lives over the last two years that she’s started to consider him part of the family. However, lately Jackie’s concerned mother instincts have been flaring up again that Rose might be getting too overzealous about her relationship, to the point where she’s neglecting everything else in her life (worries that are ultimately proven to be correct), and her primary concern in this two-parter, above all else, is keeping Rose safe.
“Doomsday” also features the surprising return of Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) to bookend this season, and I have to say I’ve really missed Mickey and his history with Rose. Since we last saw him in “The Age Of Steel”, Mickey’s confidence has only grown even further with his new calling of fighting aliens and Cybermen. He’s become a scruffier and edgier soldier dragging around a comically oversized gun (who’s starting to resemble his alternate universe self, Rickey), but his primary character trait is still his fierce loyalty to his friends and now that he’s completely his character arc of becoming his own man, Mickey and his squadron prove to be helpful allies in this finale.
With the Daleks and the Cybermen jumping around between dimensions, “Doomsday” becomes a perfect opportunity to finally receive some closure with Pete Tyler, Rose’s father from an alternate universe. From Pete’s perspective, it’s been a few years since he last saw the Doctor in “The Age Of Steel”, and he’s grown to be wiser and more well-informed, working with Torchwood in his world. He’s still reluctant to accept Rose as his daughter, since she’s a total stranger – the child of a man who had the same face as him but wasn’t him, and that weirds him out – and he has similarly mixed feelings about Jackie. Pete’s primary concern is protecting the dimensional borders and keeping his world safe from the Cybermen above all else. In fact, protecting one’s own is a major recurring theme in this two-parter: the Daleks are only concerned about the Dalek race, the Cybermen want to create new Cybermen, Torchwood (for better or for worse) was only thinking about Britain’s potential future, Jackie wants to keep her family safe at all costs, and Pete wants to protect his world, so he teams up with the Doctor to do so.
After the show had been teasing it for two seasons, a Tyler family reunion finally happens in “Doomsday”, and I have some mild niggles about it. Seeing her parents get back together has been Rose’s dream for years, and it’s a sci-fi miracle, but in two universes we’ve seen Jackie and Pete have a dysfunctional, unhappy, failing marriage because of their respective flaws, and they only really got nostalgic for each other when one of them died. I’m not sure if going on the rebound with doppelgangers of their dead spouses is such a good idea in the long run, but it’s the route the show goes down (and Russell resolves the Ten / Rose dilemma with a similar trick two seasons later). In any case, Pete finally accepts Rose as flesh and blood kin to him, when he doubles back to save her life during the climax, and after years of separation and tragedy, the Tyler family finally becomes whole again as Rose’s tenure during the show comes to a close.
One of the biggest recurring themes in Series 2 has been the dangers of unchecked hubris, and the Torchwood Institute proves to be the physical embodiment of that. Torchwood is ran by Yvonne Hartman: a civil, outgoing, orderly, and rather condescending woman, who tries her best to be an approachable boss and foster a good workplace environment so Torchwood can run swiftly and efficiently. Since Torchwood was founded by Queen Victoria and has existed for centuries, the men and women who work at the institute have all heard of the Doctor’s legend and have some mixed feelings about him, since they respect him but have vastly different methods of defending the Earth than him. They’re very arrogant, ruthless and unscrupulous. They kill any and all alien visitors on Britain’s soil, hostile or benevolent, without discrimination to put on a good show of force. Then they harvest resources from alien technology to strengthen the nation’s security (they even try to nab the Doctor’s TARDIS), and they do all this in a way that’s so detached and clinical that it’s actually rather disturbing.
Yvonne takes pride in her country, she hopes to one day restore the British empire with Torchwood’s breakthroughs, and while she’s not an unreasonable woman, her nationalism has gradually morphed into your classic British imperialism. Everything the Doctor disapproves of, everything he didn’t want for the UK when he disposed Harriet Jones, Torchwood is. However, the institute bites off a lot more than they can chew when they start meddling with the void between worlds: the series of events that follows gets them all slaughtered by cyborgs and nearly brings about the end of the world. In a rather karmic outcome, the Cybermen show them no mercy and use them all for resources, converting them all into Cybermen soldiers (Yvonne, however, manages to rebel and sabotage them from within, since her patriotism gives her one last scrap of humanity to hang onto).
Classic Who ran for over twenty-five years, and the Daleks and the Cybermen were the breakout monsters of the franchise, so it’s hard to believe the two races never actually clashed until “Doomsday”, the “Freddy vs Jason” of Doctor Who episodes. The Daleks in “Doomsday” are the Cult of Skaro, a secret sect of Daleks far more intelligent than the average drones who were put in charge of advancing the Dalek race, and the four of them will become arc villains for the rest of the Tennant era. When the Daleks aren’t being murderously evil, they are magnificently bitchy villains, and I love that about them. The Daleks and Cybermen trade as many petty barbs and salty insults as possible when they interrogate each other, trying to assert their superiority with an alien cock fight.
As I noted in “The Age Of Steel”, the Daleks and the Cybermen make for interesting ideological foils to each other. Both races are incredibly rigid, arrogant and unwavering in their belief of their own perfection, while having vastly different methods of achieving their goals: the Cybermen want to make everyone else like them, assimilating people to make their numbers swell, while the Daleks simply want to kill everyone who isn’t them, so the universe will belong solely to the Daleks. “Doomsday” makes it clear that one of the biggest differences between them is that the Cybermen are more adaptable than the Daleks, if only by necessity. The Cybermen are willing to entertain the idea of an alliance, and they do wind up teaming up with the humans against a common threat later in the finale. Meanwhile, the Daleks would never sully their purity in such a way, and they do not appreciate other, lesser villains moving in on their territory. The Daleks may be a group of pompous authoritarians, but they have the might to back up their bluster and they outclass the Cybermen by a mile: which they prove as they thoroughly kick the Cybermen asses’ in this two-parter.
“Doomsday” is directed by Grahame Harper, a man who’s very talented in his line of work. He already brought the Cybermen’s origin story from script to screen in “Rise Of The Cybermen”, and now he gets to spearhead the sequel to that story as well with the Series 2 finale. Once the action starts to pick up, Grahame shows off his directing chops numerous times with carefully chosen, uncomfortable close-ups of the Daleks, the Cybermen and sometimes even the Doctor advancing on people; chaotic shots of the Daleks and the Cybermen invading London, raining death on people from above; and the signature scene after the climax, where Rose completely breaks down while the Doctor silently retreats into himself, and the two of them lean against the same wall, trying to find each other across dimensions.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Davies and his team saved up a lot of this season’s budget for the two-part stories, so they could successfully deliver on their spectacle (which sometimes came at the expense of ordinary episodes like “School Reunion” and “The Idiot’s Lantern“), because the two-parters in Series 2 have all had much higher production values than the regular episodes. The Series 2 finale sports a lot of really good CGI, from the multiplying Daleks to the planet Ten and Rose visit in the prologue, with the worst effects probably being the Cybermen ghosts before they unmask themselves. As one from expect from a season finale’s score, Murray Gold revisits a lot of the themes and motifs he’s written for the last two years, including the signature monstrous theme for the Daleks and the Cybermen. The most notable melody is “Doomsday“, a bittersweet lament that originally appeared in the series premiere, when Rose first laid eyes on the TARDIS. Murray brought the melody back for her swansong, to bring Rose’s journey full circle. I’m especially fond of the harsh bass guitar and cello duet during the bridge, where you can actually feel Rose’s frustration build to unbearable levels.
When “Doomsday” first aired in 2006, it was quite a game-changer. Whether you loved Rose or hated her, Billie Piper had been a huge part of the revival from the start, and a lot of people had to be wondering what the show would be like without Rose in it. I can safely say that it just gets even better from here, since Series 3 with Martha Jones and the Master is easily my favorite season from the RTD era, and the season that cements how great David Tennant is as the Tenth Doctor.
* “Then came the army of ghosts. Then came Torchwood and the war. And that’s when it all ended. This is the story of how I died” It really isn’t.
* Ever since “The Satan Pit”, the show has been teasing the idea of Rose dying, and Russell milks that possibility for all it’s worth in the finale, to ensure people tune in each week just to see if Rose bites it. We later discover Rose’s opening narration is just her being overdramatic and she’s talking about how people back home declared her dead, making this some blatant false advertising.
* Freema Agyeman makes a surprise early appearance in this episode, playing a redshirt Torchwood worker who becomes a Cyberman agent, before she gets cast as Martha Jones, one of the Doctor’s companions, two episodes later.
* “According to the paper, they’ve elected a ghost as MP for Leeds. Now don’t tell me you’re going to sit back and do nothing” “Who you gonna call?!” “GHOSTBUSTERS!” “I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”
* “Push that one?” “Close” “That one?” “Eh, now you’ve just killed us”.
* “I’ll just keep on travelling” “And you’ll keep on changing. And in forty years time, fifty, there’ll be this woman, this strange woman, walking through the marketplace on some planet a billion miles from Earth. But she’s not Rose Tyler. Not anymore. She’s not even human”.
* “I like that: Allonsy! I should say allonsy more often. Allonsy! Watch out, Rose Tyler, allonsy! And then, it would be really brilliant if I met someone called Alonso, because then I could say, allonsy, Alonso! Every time!”
* “Here she is, Rose Tyler. She’s not the best I’ve ever had: bit too blonde, not too steady on her pins, a lot of that. And just last week, she stared into the heart of the Time Vortex and aged fifty seven years. But she’ll do” “What?! I’m forty!” “Deluded. Bless. I’ll have to trade her in”
* “Anyway, lead on. Allonsy. But not too fast, her ankle’s going” “I’ll show you where my ankle’s going!“
* “What’s the Void?” “The space between dimensions. There’s all sorts of realities around us, different dimensions, billions of parallel universes all stacked up against each other. The Void is the space in between, containing absolutely nothing. Imagine that. Nothing. No light, no dark, no up, no down, no life, no time. Without end. My people called it the Void. The Eternals call it the Howling. But some people call it Hell”.
* “Please, when Torchwood comes to write my complete history, don’t tell people I traveled through time and space with her mother”.
* “My name is Rose Tyler, and this is the story of Torchwood: the last story I’ll ever tell. This is the story of how I died” Rose, stop lying.
* I love that scene where a Dalek strolls up and demands that Rose, Mickey and a worker tell him which of them is least important, so he’ll know which of them to kill off first. Those few lines of dialogue nicely sum up just how fucked-up the Daleks are, and how much they don’t get human nature. No one would ever be stupid enough to answer a question like that, and if they did, you would get a lot of conflicting answers about who should get offed first.
* “She answered. She’s alive. Why haven’t they killed her?” “Well, don’t complain!”
* “Our species are similar, though your design is inelegant” “Daleks have no concept of elegance” “This is obvious”
* “Daleks, be warned. You have declared war on the Cybermen!” “This is not war, this is pest control!”
* “You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?” “We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek. You are superior in only one aspect: you are better at dying!” Hot damn.
* “The female’s heartbeat has increased!” “Yeah, tell me about it”.
* “This is your fault. You and your Torchwood. You’ve killed us all!” “I did my duty for Queen and Country! I did my duty. I did my duty. Oh, God. I did my duty!“
* “You are proof” “Of what?” “That emotions destroy you” “Yeah, I am. Mind you, I quite like hope. Hope’s a good emotion. And here it comes!”
* “The Emperor survived?!” “Until he met me. Because if these are gonna be my last words, then you’re going to listen. I met the Emperor, and I took the Time Vortex and I poured it into his head and turned him into dust. Do you get that? The God of all Daleks, and I destroyed him. Ha!”
* “I’ve never seen it before” “But it’s time lord” “Both sides had secrets” Not all time lords know each other, Rose.
* “Pete?” “Hello, Jacks” “I said there were ghosts, but that’s not fair! Why him?!”
* “They made me rich” “I don’t care about that… How rich?” “Very” “I don’t care about that… how very?”
* “Come on! All of you. Top floor!” “That’s forty-five floors up! Believe me, I’ve done them all!”
* “Here I am at last. This is the story of how I died” Rose, oh my God, stop with the clickbait dialogue.
* “I love you!” “Quite right, too. And I suppose, if it’s my last chance to say it. Rose Tyler, I-“