TARDIS File 04-12: The Stolen Earth

TARDIS File 04-12: The Stolen Earth

The Big Idea: Earth has gone missing from its point in space and the Doctor doesn’t know where. It’s up to his friends and former companions to find him—because the Daleks have invaded

Cast of Characters: We wouldn’t normally do this but because there’s so many important characters in this story, we thought the casual CBC viewer might like a scorecard:

  • Captain Jack Harkness, Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones of Torchwood: Captain Jack is a sometime companion to the Doctor. He is the leader of Torchwood, an organization that deals with alien threats formed from the remains of the Torchwood Institute. Gwen and Ianto work for him there. Torchwood is based in Cardiff, Wales in an secret underground base known as the Hub built over the same space time rift in Cardiff seen in the Doctor Who stories The Unquiet Dead, Boom Town and Utopia. Jack, Gwen and Ianto (together with their now-deceased colleagues Owen and Toshiko) have been in the Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood—seen in Canada on Space—for two seasons
  • Sarah Jane Smith, Luke Smith and Mr. Smith: Sarah Jane is an intrepid reporter and companion to the third and fourth Doctors. After meeting the Doctor and Rose in the second season story School Reunion, she adopted a son Luke, a clone from an alien experiment. Sarah Jane does her part in defending the earth from alien threats alongside Luke and his school friends Maria and Clyde, aided by Mr. Smith, a computer containing an alien intelligence. They appear in the Doctor Who spinoff, The Sarah Jane Adventures seen in Canada on BBC Kids
  • Martha Jones and Francine Jones: Former companion to the Doctor during series three, now working for the Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), last seen earlier this season. Her mum, Francine, was seen throughout series three
  • Rose Tyler: Former companion to the Doctor during series one and two, trapped in a parallel world after the events of the story Doomsday. She has been seen throughout the season trying to contact the Doctor having seen disaster in the form of coming darkness
  • Wilfred Mott and Sylvia Noble: Donna Noble’s grandfather and mother respectively
  • Harriet Jones, Former Prime Minister: She met the ninth Doctor and Rose in the two part story Aliens of London / World War Three in series one where she was merely Harriet Jones, M.P. for Flydale North. By the time of The Christmas Invasion she was Harriet Jones, Prime Minister. Her reckless (though justified) destruction of the retreating Sycorax angered the Doctor, causing him to depose her with just six words.
  • Dalek Caan: The last of the Cult of Skaro, a group of Daleks that attempted to think outside the box in the war against the Daleks by naming themselves. Last seen in Daleks In Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks escaping from the Doctor using an emergency temporal shift. It has become mad in its attempt to rescue…
  • Davros: Creator of the Daleks way back in the 1975 story Genesis of the Daleks. A Kaled from the planet Skaro who badly scarred and crippled himself in an accident and then decided to create Daleks as the ultimate evolutionary advancement of his race. He puts the mad in mad scientist.
  • The Shadow Proclamation: Never actually explained until this story, but the Doctor has invoked it to enable him to speak with other alien races many times through the course of the new series
  • The Judoon: An alien race of rent-a-cops hired to ensure justice. They look like rhinos. Last seen in the series three story Smith and Jones.
  • The Daleks: Tentacled creatures of hate who live inside robotic shells. The ultimate force of evil in the universe
  • The Doctor and Donna Noble: Time Lord from the lost planet of Gallifrey and temp from Chiswick, London

What’s So Great…

  • All these characters! All together! For the very first time! Doctor Who, Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, UNIT, Martha, Rose and Harriet Jones, Former Prime Minister (“We know who you are”). And it surprisingly doesn’t seem crowded because they’re all gathered in a single task to convey to the viewer what’s happened to the earth and then help the Doctor find earth—the sort of task that would take the Doctor five minutes, a paper clip and some string requires the combined efforts of eight people, several supercomputers and a rift in time and space
  • Julian Bleach as Davros is spine-tinglingly good. He evokes the performance of Michael Wisher’s Davros from 1975 and takes it up to the next level making him deeply creepy and mad at the same time
  • Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister is back! All of us here at the TARDIS files are big fans of Penelope Wilton and it was wonderful to see her return, unrepentant for her actions with the Sycorax, and given a heroic end. And we cheered when we saw her hold up her identity card and loved it that even the Daleks gave the traditional response. (Dave Owen said it best in Doctor Who Magazine when he suggested Harriet’s tombstone should read “WE KNEW WHO SHE WAS”)
  • Murray Gold’s music was superb, particularly the “calling the Doctor” sequence
  • We admit it, a tear came to our eyes as the familiar theme for the Doctor and Rose came up and the Doctor and Rose ran toward each other. Putting the Dalek in to exterminate the Doctor was both cruel and brilliant at the same time
  • Oh, before we forget: BEST. CLIFFHANGER. EVER.

Quick Bits of Trivia: It’s hard to believe given how many characters there are already present in this story, but Russell T Davies wanted even more in there. When the series was being sketched out, he suggested that Elton Pope (from Love & Monsters) could be there. The Shadow Proclamation was envisioned as an even bigger version of the Manchester Suite sequence from The End of the World with just about every alien race in the series encountered. Even at script stage, the regrown Margaret Slitheen (AKA Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day Slitheen) from series one was supposed to appear and they even had actress Annette Badland record her lines before the role was cut.

The idea of Wilfred paintballing the Dalek was Bernard Cribbins’, who previously faced the pepperpots in the 1966 film Daleks: Invasion Earth _ 2150 AD as a companion to Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who. As ever with the penultimate episode of the season, there’s celebrity cameos a-plenty in the form of scientist Richard Dawkins (husband of former Doctor Who companion Lalla Ward) and comedian Paul O_Grady.

Things to Geek Out About…

  • This season ties up a lot of threads that have been going throughout series four:
    • The Medusa Cascade has been referenced several times as far back as last season, when the Master told the Doctor “You sealed the rift in the Medusa Cascade”
    • The Doctor and Donna have encountered several races which have had lost or stolen planets including Adipose III (Partners In Crime), Pyrovilia (The Fires of Pompeii) and the lost moon of Poosh (Midnight)
    • The bees disappearing in the present day has been mentioned in several stories starting with Partners In Crime
    • And, of course, Rose Tyler has been waiting for the Doctor…
  • Other missing planets have names familiar to fans of Doctor Who: Calufrax Minor (a reference to the planet Calufrax in 1978’s The Pirate Planet), Klom (the home of the Abzorbaloff and the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius),
  • CBC viewers will not recognize it, but the “Mr. Copper Foundation” that created the subwave network is a reference to a character in the 2007 Christmas special Voyage of the Damned
  • Davros’ right hand is robotic—a nice touch on the part of the production team in remembering that it was blown off in the 1985 story Revelation of the Daleks
  • If you’re a fan of The Sarah Jane Adventures then you enjoyed the joke in the first sequence when Sarah Jane summons Mr. Smith and comments that bombastic fanfare when it comes out of the wall that we presumed was incidental music was, in fact, his start-up noise!
  • Pretty much the whole episode…

Not to Complain But… If Rose is just transporting herself from the parallel universe where she lives technologically (like they were able to before the walls between universes were sealed in Doomsday) it makes her appearances in other stories this season problematic to say the least. Appearing on the TARDIS viewscreen is one thing, but on a screen in a bus in the far future in Midnight seems improbable. Worse, the whole ending of Turn Left becomes nonsense: how would she know that suddenly “Bad Wolf” would appear to the Doctor to replace any printed text on the planet Shan Shen including the TARDIS? (We’re going out on a limb here and suggesting that a) Rose did this back when she was a near-goddess and could see the whole of time and space in the finale to series one, b) the scene was impressionistic and merely suggests it’s as though the Doctor now sees “Bad Wolf” everywhere because he knew it meant the end of the universe or c) it was still a really cool ending so shut up.)

All Things Considered… It should be a grand mess and yet it it’s big and grand and epic. Even if you don’t know who everyone is or all the details, writer Russell T Davies makes the story work at the most basic level: the earth is gone, the Doctor and Donna go looking, people on the earth try to escape from the Daleks and find the Doctor, while the Daleks have enlisted their creator to nefarious ends. If you do know all the details it’s even better. But you don’t have to know.

It’s hard to judge this episode in isolation because it feels like a prelude to grand second act—something that establishes all the disparate characters and gives everything an epic scope. But there’s lots of great moments all the same: Gwen and Ianto pretending to the departing Jack that everything is alright when they know (and Jack doesn’t) that the Daleks are headed for the Hub; the Doctor’s freak-out when he sees Davros; Donna asserting herself with the Shadow Architect; Jack’s anguished cry, “Martha’s down”. Everyone calling the Doctor_

Graeme Harper’s direction sells the story, giving it the right look and feel of chaos and darkness. The scenes where Davros emerges are particularly stunning. And again, we can’t praise Julian Bleach’s portrayal of Davros enough.

And it ends on the most stunning cliffhanger ever. The real question is can we wait seven days to find out what happens next?

Line of the Week: “Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister.” “YES. WE. KNOW!”

Index of TARDIS Files


TARDIS File prepared by Graeme Burk

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