Had this blog existed back when Lost was still on the air, there is complete metaphysical certitude that I would not have been able to sum up my thoughts into enough coherence for at least a week to even come close to rationally analyzing the final two hours of a program that had been the defining television event of the last five years of my life (I only started watching Season 1 the summer before Season 2 aired). The sheer beauty and emotional catharsis that finale provided are still almost beyond words. It was a perfect end to one of the greatest programs not just in the history of network TV (for which it is surely the greatest serial drama of all time in that regard) but in all of television history. The fourth season finale of Doctor Who which wraps up the stories of the various companions the Doctor has traveled with these last four years (Rose, Martha, Captain Jack, Donna, Sarah Jane Smith, etc) but not the tale of the Tenth Doctor may not reach the artistic heights of finales such as Lost, M*A*S*H, or Six Feet Under, it still had me sobbing uncontrollably by its end with its immensely satisfying ends to so many different stories I had been following for so long now yet still managing to include the tragic hallmarks that make Doctor Who a cut above your average sci-fi program. To paraphrase a certain time lord, molto benne.
The final disc of David Tennant’s last season as the Doctor (though he still has four made for TV movies left to go after this) begins with the Doctor and Donna on some Chinese-inspired planet. Donna visits a soothsayer who tricks Donna into destroying her entire past with the Doctor by creating a parallel universe where the Doctor and Donna never met. To say that this is disastrous would be an understatement. Rather than escaping the tunnel with Donna where the spider creature was nested back in Season 3’s Christmas Special, the Doctor dies in the explosion instead because Donna wasn’t there to coax him out. Things only get worse when the Doctor isn’t there to stop the Judoon from killing everyone in the hospital from Martha’s episode (which results in Martha’s death as well as Sarah Jane Smith). Humanity’s troubles still aren’t done. The Doctor isn’t alive to stop the Titanic spaceship from crashing into London which it does now and destroys the entire town. Donna was away on holiday with her family when it happened (thanks to the interventions of Rose Tyler who keeps appearing and talking to Donna in this alternate universe). Then, the Doctor, Donna, and Martha don’t stop the Sontarem from poisoning the Earth, and Torchwood (which means Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper, and Ianto) sacrifice their lives to save the Earth. Just as a totalitarian government has taken over England, Rose enlists Donna in a last ditch plan to go into the past to make sure Donna really does meet the Doctor even though it means everyone in this alternate universe will blink out of existence. Donna succeeds and gives the Doctor the warning “Bad Wolf” which sets up the events of the two-part finale.
Without wanting to start going on a rambling technobabble rant like the Doctor himself, Rose’s presence in Donna’s alternate universe means the walls between the dimensions are breaking down which spells disaster for the universe itself. All of the missing planets we’ve heard about this season finally come back into play. While the Doctor and Donna are in the TARDIS on Earth, Earth suddenly disappears without a trace right around them while the TARDIS stays locked in space-time. A fairly complicated (the many details of which I’m going to avoid delving into) plot involving the destruction of the universe itself unfolds as the Daleks return as part of a vengeance mission by their creator, Davros, who the Doctor thought had died in the Time War. The combined forces of virtually every living companion/friend this incarnation of the Doctor has had (including Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister[WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE!]) returns as humanity makes its last stand against the Daleks while they wait for the Doctor to arrive. Along the way, the Doctors severed hand which we’ve seen the last two seasons (back from his very first episode) comes into play as it causes a mortal half-human Doctor to be born and simultaneously makes Donna half Time Lord. They manage to stop the Daleks thanks to Donna’s increased intelligence as a half Time Lord. However, Rose must return to her parallel universe but she’s left with the mortal Doctor who tells her he loves her and they kiss. Donna is essentially mind-wiped by the Doctor because her human mind can’t handle being half Time Lord for a long time and it would kill her to have the knowledge she has. Thus, the season ends with humanity (and the universe saved) but the Doctor is back to being alone.
Those plots were much more complicated and I really left out a ton of details but let’s just say that every character got their moment in the sun and they were all brilliant. By the time “Journey’s End” came to a close, I was just a tear-stained mess. I had to actually pause the episode at one point to clean my glasses because I could no longer see through the streaks of tears that were covering the lenses. This began near the end of “Stolen Earth”, and just continued for almost every second of “Journey’s End”. When the mortal Doctor and Rose kissed on Bad Wolf Bay, I simply lost all control of my tear ducts, and it was like Niagara Falls in my bedroom. It is truly miraculous there weren’t any people around to see that. To quote Cheese Wagstaff, “That shit was unseemly.” I’ve never been Donna’s biggest fan, but her fate was so sad that even she had me in tears by episode’s end. Yeah, the episode might have relied on some ridiculous plot devices and more technobabble than even this series is known for (which is to say a ton), but it was all so satisfying that not at one point did I even begin to care. My only complaint is that I almost wish Tennant had regenerated this episode because seeing him for four more episodes without this group of people almost seems like a cruelty to a character so defined by the people he traveled with.
I want to go on about how brilliant “Turn Left” was and how (with the exception of the confusing time travel at the heart of the episode [a stable time loop like “Blink” it was not]) I actually think it was arguably a better written episode than the finales. “Turn Left” was easily the darkest and most depressing thing I’ve ever seen this series do and I loved every second of it. However, I’m tired, and I want to bring my time with the Doctor to a close for now. Doctor Who has become such a personal experience at this point that my ability to rationally analyze it is almost non-existant. I know it’s not a great show (though the last two discs certainly were), but like the Joss Whedon hey-days of old, its science fiction that can tell both serious and rewarding stories while still being able to poke fun at the genre it’s representing. There will never be another program quite like Doctor Who, if for no reason other than its longevity, and David Tennant made his name as one of the greatest Doctors of them all. I salute you Russell T. Davies for bringing such a wonderful creation back to life.
Final Score: A