Doctor Who
Series 2 - Volume 5

Starring: David Tennant
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: PG
Available 25 September 2006

The Doctor and Rose land in London as the 2012 Olympic Games are about to begin. In an ordinary suburban street, something extraordinary has been happening. Children are vanishing into thin air, as an unhappy little girl sits in her bedroom drawing pictures. Are the two somehow eerily connected? The time travellers must uncover the truth in time to save the many people gathering for the Games' opening ceremony...

The beginning of Fear Her, which kicks off the final volume of episodes from Series 2 of the new-style Doctor Who, reminds me somewhat the final story of the old version of the show, Survival. In this, young people from an ordinary suburban street were also vanishing into thin air. Both stories also feature a cat, though in this instance the feline is a victim rather than a cause of the problem. In fact, several episodes this year have borne comparison with Survival. As the Doctor (David Tennant) recalls here, he recently faced intelligent bipedal cats, the Sisters of Plenitude in New Earth, while the musical score to School Reunion included some very Survival-esque electric guitar sounds.

It's ironic that one of the livelier Sylvester McCoy stories should be compared with what is arguably the least eventful instalment of the 2006 series. This is an indication of how fast-paced and visually exciting the show has become. Some things never change, though. Just as in The Claws of Axos and The Curse of Fenric, the inclement weather (despite the fact that it's supposed to be the height of summer, you can see people's breath misting the air) is attributed to alien intervention.

Like the previous year's Boom Town (and several second-to-last episodes of Star Trek), Fear Her is the relative calm before the storm that is the two-part season finale. The Doctor rams home the point at the end of the story when he informs Rose (Billie Piper) that a storm is coming.

This episode, written by Matthew Graham (The Last Train, Spooks, Hustle, Life on Mars) is also notable for the Time Lord's revelation that he "was a father once". This caused a few ripples among fans and casual viewers alike, though it's hardly revelatory when you think about it, because the First Doctor used to travel with his granddaughter. However, if you're one of those fans who believes that Susan wasn't really his granddaughter, then you can assume that he's referring to his adopted daughter Miranda from the novel Father Time.

Though it offers few real surprises, Fear Her is well acted and contains its fair share of moving moments. In fact, it makes better viewing the second time around, when one's enjoyment is no longer tainted by eagerness to get to the next story...

The Doctor and Rose land on Earth to visit Jackie, who is keenly anticipating the arrival of her father - even though he died several years ago. So who is this mysterious ghostly figure, one of many apparently friendly apparitions appearing all over the world? The answer lies at the Torchwood Institute, run by the sinister Yvonne Hartman, who has been monitoring this activity and watching over a mysterious sphere...

OK, I admit it - I was wrong! In my review of New Earth I predicted, incorrectly, that the Face of Boe would reappear (because he says as much to the Doctor) and that the Cybermen would arrive to upgrade the new human population of New Earth. Maybe Boe will come back next year instead.

Instead, writer Russell T Davies pays off on previous episodes' references to Torchwood. Army of Ghosts finally takes us inside the sinister organisation (which is similar to the covert department C19 in the Doctor Who novels Who Killed Kennedy and The Scales of Injustice), in preparation for the new Captain Jack spin-off series. Tracy-Ann Oberman is compelling as the Institute's supremo Yvonne Hartman, though I did find it hard to take my eyes off her attention-grabbing cleavage (which I reckon is augmented by some of Torchwood's captured alien technology). Ironically, a scene from EastEnders watched by the Doctor and Rose features the ghost of Den Watts, a character who was killed by Chrissy Watts, as played by Tracy-Ann Oberman.

Recent instalments had also hinted (or outright declared) that this two-parter would be Rose's final story. Of necessity we must therefore also sadly wave goodbye to the rest of her clan, including, of course, her mum Jackie (Camille Coduri). Davies makes the most of it by writing plenty of brilliant Jackie scenes, including her amusing first trip in the TARDIS, during which the Doctor requires her to pretend to be an older version of Rose: "Here she is: Rose Tyler! She's not the best I've ever had... a bit too blonde. Not too steady with her pins. Just last week she stared into the heart of the Time Vortex - aged 57 years." "I'm 40!" "Deluded, bless! Do you need anyone? She's very good at tea! Well, I say very good, I mean not bad. Well, I say not bad..." Great stuff.

Other recurring motifs of this series include a character, usually the Doctor, at some point saying, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" (listen out for that) and the Time Lord declaring something to be impossible. Further to such declarations in The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, it is intriguing to note that the other names for the Void (the nothingness that exists between parallel universes, through which the sphere has passed) include Hell. Could the Void be the place from where the Beast came? Was he protected from the destruction of a previous universe by some kind of Void Ship? The Doctor does state that the sphere would be capable of surviving such a trip.

Add to that some killer music by Murray Gold and the mother of all cliffhangers, and we have ourselves a winner.

The Doctor, Rose and Jackie have discovered the shocking truth that the ghosts are not as friendly as they initially appeared. Confirming his worst possible fears, the Time Lord comes face to face with his two oldest and deadliest enemies - not only the Cybermen but also the Daleks! As the two terrors battle it out, the human race is caught in the middle. The Doctor can stop them, but he will risk losing Rose forever...

There was me thinking that a meeting between the Daleks and the Cybermen might be the production team's long-term plan for Series 3. But wait, was that an extermination effect I saw in the trailer at the end of Fear Her? Yes, it was! The Daleks are back, and they're taking on the Cybermen, and it's a fanboy's wet dream come true! This is not a spoiler, because the monsters are clearly depicted on the DVD's front cover.

My only real criticism of Doomsday is that it feels a bit too rushed (apparently, the original cut over-ran by more than five minutes) so maybe this story should have been a three-parter. I would certainly have welcomed more and lengthier battle scenes, but I suppose the series' budget still has its limits. (Incidentally, in case you're wondering when this episode's TARDISODE occurs, I believe it fits in at the scene change at time index 28:35.)

What we do get is some excellent verbal sparring between Who's greatest ever monsters. Their childish refusal to be the first party to identify itself to the other is hilarious, while Dalek Sek's boast of "We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek" is reminiscent of the Supreme Dalek's declaration in The Daleks' Master Plan that "One Dalek is capable of exterminating all".

What we also get is, like last year's The Parting of the Ways, another moving story of separation and loss. Anyone who doesn't have a lump in the throat by the end of this episode must be an emotionless cyborg. And anyone who feels that the "death" of Rose is a cop-out should ask themselves how they thought she could possibly have related the events of her own demise otherwise.

I will miss Rose - and Jackie, and Mickey (Noel Clarke) too - but this is undeniably a fantastic send-off.

Richard McGinlay

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