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Doctor Who: Writemare in Silver – Doomsday Review

Doctor Who: Series 2, Episode 13

Written By: Russell T Davies
Directed By: Graeme Harper
Produced By: Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson & Julie Gardner

Broadcast Date: 8 July 2006


Reviewed by Louis Rabinowitz for The Gallifrey Times
To celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary and the upcoming broadcast of Neil Gaiman’s Nightmare in Silver, I’ll be reviewing all of the post-2005 episodes featuring the Cybermen, staring with Rise of the Cybermen and ending with Closing Time – and along the way, finding out which episode’s the best of the bunch.

We left off with Rose and Mickey trapped in a room in Torchwood with four angry Daleks, and the world under the control of five million Cybermen. Part four of Writemare in Silver, it’s Doomsday!Army of Ghosts spent most of its run-time building up the Cybermen/Dalek war of Doomsday, so it’s good to see that Doomsday makes the most out of its 45 minute run-time. It’s a far cry from The Big Bang or The Wedding of River Song‘s head-scratching series climaxes in terms of complexity, but Doomsday still packs a lot into its relatively brief run-time.

The Cybermen/Dalek war is front and centre this episode – and what a war it is. From the first encounter in the corridors of Torchwood to the all-out war on the streets of London, the war fans had been dreaming of for years is realised perfectly – even if the Cybermen come off looking considerably weaker than they did before the episode began. Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel saw the Cybermen in power, so it’s a little disappointing to see the metal monsters made to look like ants in comparison to the Daleks.

The Daleks come off far better this episode – while not a single Cybermen actually does anything of any use in the war, the Daleks are presented as the nigh-on invincible tanks that they are. The reveal of the Genesis Ark is also superbly handled – the sight of Daleks racing out of the ark across the London skyline is one of the episode’s most memorable moments.

Doomsday is traditionally remembered as a fairly dark, emotional episode – but it’s surprising to see just how fun the episode is to watch. From the memorable ‘you are better at dying’ scene to the battle in the centre of Torchwood Tower, it’s an episode that never fails to entertain. And it’s not just the Cybermen and Daleks – we also see a return for Jake and Pete Tyler, who both appeared in Rise and Age. Pete comes off far better – the subplot involving the reunion of Jackie and Pete is a fairly inconsequential one, but it’s a nice little arc that serves as a fine send-off for Jackie.

However, Jake, a character who occupied a fairly major role in his previous two episodes, could just as well have been taken out of the episode and replaced with a new character. Aside from one moment, the inclusion of the character just feels token, and hardly necessary. It’s a small nitpick, but it’s sad to see a good character go to waste. Still, the brief trip to the parallel world early on is a great moment, and serves to create jeopardy for not only ‘our’ world, but the parallel universe. While the stakes have continually been raised in Doctor Who, it genuinely feels like there’s a lot at stake in Doomsday.

But like Army of Ghosts, no matter how good the first half hour is, it’s overshadowed by the final fifteen minutes – the send-off to Rose Tyler. It’s a clever bit of writing from Russell T Davies to kill two birds with one stone and tie in the resolution of the Dalek/Cybermen plot (which reminded me an awful lot of the end of Flesh and Stone, but that’s what you get when you re-watch episodes seven years after its broadcast). The scene where Rose is sucked into the void is an incredibly tense – from the perspective of someone watching the episode on broadcast – and unpredictable scene. It’s debatable as to why Pete didn’t get sucked into the Void as he rescued Rose, but again, that’s a minor nitpick.

The penultimate scene of Doomsday, the goodbye to Rose on Bad Wolf Bay, is widely recognised as one of, if not the best ‘tear-jerker’ moment in Doctor Who‘s history – and while I personally believe that there have been better companion send-offs (but that’s more based on the fact that I never quite ‘got’ Rose), it’s an extremely effective moment – if a little on the cheesy side. Rose’s goodbye is devalued now by her return in Series 4 (and the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special – but presumably, it’ll be a Series 2 era Rose appearing), but watched on its own it’s a great, emotional goodbye to a well-loved companion.

However, in this author/android correspondent’s opinion, it’s the final scene of Doomsday that proves to be the highlight of the episode. It’s the first of the famous ‘What? What? What?’ cliffhangers, and it’s arguably the best – Catherine Tate in a wedding dress is probably the least likely thing you’d expect to see after the emotional goodbye, but the scene is all the better for it.

Overall, Doomsday is an immensely satisfying finale that gives us the war fans had been dreaming off and an emotional goodbye to Rose, all wrapped up in a dense 45-minute package – and if the Cybermen had been utilised a little better, it could have been perfect.

Louis’ Rating: 9/10
Next Time: We jump forward two and a half years to the 2008 Christmas Special, The Next Doctor. Christmas Cybermen ahoy!