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Monday, July 5, 2010

Doctor Who - "Army of Ghosts"

WHOSCALE: 5.5 out of 10

This episode marks the beginning of the season finale, and the first of a two parter. This story has all the markings of a typical episode penned by Russell T Davies - the story is set on present-day Earth, in the heart of London, with Rose's family playing an integral part in the plot development. Additionally, Davies once again toys with the "alien takeover" theme, this time using Earth as a battlefield for the Cybermen and the Daleks.

What subtracted from this episode's Whoscale score so much is the level of modernization that was present. As with all of Davies' stories, the episode had a tendency to be over-dramatic at times, and often strayed from the initial plotline entirely for the sole sake of providing heart-wrenching moments for the fan girls.

No one could not notice Evon's provocative dress, and once again were stuck with the annoyance of Jackie Tyler.

More often than not, Davies' episodes usually falter due to how they were executed, rather than the story lacking solidity. In this case, Davies had a brilliant idea - ghosts start appearing at specific times around the world, briefly after a mysterious sphere appears in the sky, which according to measurements taken by scientists has no mass, electromagnetic field, weight.....in short, it shouldn't exist. I never understood why Davies felt it necessary to set all of his Earth-based episodes in the London or Cardiff. I suppose it was so drama would be heightened enough that little kids of real-world London would be frightened out of their wits. Of course, Moffat seemed to do that more effectively without needing to hit close to home. This story would have worked just as well if the ghost appearances had been limited to a specific rural village, rather than worldwide. I find it difficult to grasp that every nation would have treated the ghosts' appearances as completely benign.

Davies had a knack for writing apocalyptic themes for his finales, usually containing an army of sorts hell bent on the occupation or destruction of Earth. The title of this episode was self-evident, and at the end of the opening title sequence, I knew where this one was headed. An army threatens to take over Earth. No surprise there.

The pre-title sequence oozed drama, and it was beyond obvious that it was written solely for the fan girls, intended to make them all gasp and say, "oh no! Rose can't die!" As usual, we deal with one or two lovey dovey scenes, namely the one with The Doctor and Rose overlooking a canyon, with The Doctor turning to Rose and asking, "How long did you say you were going to stay with me?" Rose replies softly, "Forever." This is so far out of character for the Doctor, compared to his attitude towards Rose earlier in the season, particularly in "School Reunion," where Rose was struck with the reality that she was not the first to travel with the Doctor. In fact, she was "the latest in a long line" of companions, all of which had come and gone.

We then discover that the Cybermen have devised a odd tactic for converting ussuspecting humans at Torchwood by method of workplace flirtation via IMs.

Doctor Who fans have long wondered what a Cybermen VS. Daleks story would be like, and this one could have been great had it focused more on being a "Doctor Who two parter" rather than a "modern day sci-fi romance" two parter.

The blasting orchestrated music was once again prominent in this one, so that didn't help it's score much, either.

The cliffhanger was good - it felt like a Doctor Who cliffhanger.

All in all, I felt like I was watching Doctor Who about 55% of the time. Great story, but too tainted with modernization so that it would appeal to a broader audience to score high on the Whoscale. Davies obviously doesn't believe in finding a niche and sticking with it, because his stories often suffered tremendously from trying to please all audiences. If you're writing for Doctor Who, then aim it at the Doctor Who fanbase. There are enough of us to keep it alive.