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Doctor Who: The Stolen Earth (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Stolen Earth originally aired in 2008.

Someone tried to move the Earth once before. Long time ago. Can’t be.

– the Doctor reminds us that just because the Daleks are threatening doesn’t mean they aren’t completely insane

The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End are not, by any stretch of imagination, tightly-constructed episodes. They don’t represent the pinnacle of the Davies era from any technical or production standpoint. The story logic is questionable at best, and Davies’ primary concern seems to be keeping the script moving fast enough that the plot holes and illogical narrative loose ends never overwhelm the production. It is basically the most bombastic and large-scale season finalé of the Davies era. And given that it’s measured against The Parting of the WaysDoomsday and The Last of the Time Lords, that’s really saying something.

And yet, despite that, I have a strange affection for this season finalé. It’s an excuse for Davies to really bask in the success of the revitalised Doctor Who, creating a plot that draws together all manner of disparate elements into one gigantic tribute to the past four years of Doctor Who. It’s hard to hate, on those grounds alone.

An explosive finalé...

An explosive finalé…

It’s telling that the default resolution to any crisis in the two-parter is “… and then ___________ arrived!” Sarah Jane about to get exterminated by Daleks? “And then Mickey and Jackie arrived!” TARDIS having trouble towing the Earth? “And then K-9 arrived!” Dalek just shot the Doctor? “And then Jack arrived!” The Tenth Doctor and Rose held hostage by Davros? “And then the not!Ninth Doctor and Donna arrived!” Sure, there’s usually some nice technobabble thrown in, but Davies’ default mode of problem resolution here is to just have a character magically appear with a ray gun or some pseudo-scientific gibberish.

It’s not a trick that Davies can get away with too often. Indeed, on suspects that part of the problem with The End of Time, Part II is that Davies already had his farewell tour extravaganza and that doing it twice in the space of four broadcast episodes (or specials) seemed a little over-indulgent. Let’s be honest here. Davies has earned this. He resurrected a once-loved franchise that was cancelled in 1989 and which limped on in cult circles, only to turn it into the biggest thing on television.

Here's not-quite-looking at you...

Here’s not-quite-looking at you…

The ratings and Appreciation Index scores for The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End were through the roof, and serve as vindication for Davies’ approach to Doctor Who. The show was no longer just a fringe cult television show – it was very much a central part of the British popular consciousness. That is a phenomenal achievement. For all Davies’ flaws as a writer and showrunner, it’s important never to lose sight of that.

He found a way to resurrect the show and to synchronise its many facets into something resembling a complete whole. Given how distinct and different those facets could be from one another, that’s a massive accomplishment. Davies reinvented a show that is capable of throwing the Philip Hinchcliffe, Graham Williams, David Whitaker, Verity Lambert and Barry Letts eras into a blender and serving up a cocktail that feels like it belongs with what came before.

Sending out a signal...

Sending out a signal…

It’s easy to criticise the plot and of The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End, but it feels like to do so is to miss the point a little. It’s a gigantic wrap party for Davies and Tennant, drawing together the various strands of continuity and character that have been developed over the past couple of years, bringing back all the companions, legitimising the spin-offs and trying to fashion all of that into a vaguely coherent narrative. It’s even held on a Saturday night. “Saturday,” the Doctor muses, after decades of being bounced around the schedule. “Good. Good, I like Saturdays.”

The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End amount to something of a “crisis crossover”, a term borrowed from American comic books and offering various iconic characters a chance to interact in the face of the end of the world – DC and Marvel both codified the practice in the late eighties with Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths. That latter example – where the DC superheroes face down the possible collapse of the multiverse – feels particularly relevant here, given Davros’ plan is to destroy everything ever.

Rose to the occasion...

Rose to the occasion…

Indeed, writers like the wonderful Tim Callahan have noted some similarities between the work of Davies on Doctor Who and the comic books written by Grant Morrison, in particular his own follow-up to Crisis on Infinite Earths, the controversial (and divisive) Final Crisis. However, it has also been argued that these themes and ideas can be traced back to the work of Robert Holmes in the 1970s, evidenced in the back story of Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius and The Talons of Weng-Chiang:

These three stories are the holy trinity of Doctor Who’s so-called ‘Gothic’ era, and they all use the same set up; There’s been an apocalyptic future war off-screen, and an Evil God-King has fallen down to Earth where he’s parasitically restoring himself…

One place where the influence of this ‘trilogy’ can be seen is in the Welsh Doctor Who series, where the destruction of Gallifrey makes every single story a sequel to an off-screen War in Heaven.

Another place would be in 1980’s State of Decay. In fact, the Doctor Who spin-offs written by Lawrence Miles sometimes refer to the backstory of that serial as ‘The First War in Heaven.’

State of Decay tells us about the formative war fought by the Time Lords, the Science Gods who monitored the universe. It was against vampires.

It’s worth noting that Morrison’s Final Crisis is set in the wake of a “war in heaven” and builds to a threat towards reality itself.

Yes, he Caan...

Yes, he Caan…

There are more points of overlap between Final Crisis and The Stolen Earth: the Earth is moved and then moved home by our heroes, the world is conquered by the forces of darkness, a machine crafted from multiple worlds. Even Davies’ and Morrison’s pacing seems similar, as both struggle to contain the story they need to tell in the space afforded. Morrison’s work was criticised as moving too fast, and lacking necessary exposition, while Davies’ Journey’s End ran ridiculously over time. (Tellingly, when DC released a prestige format version of Final Crisis, it featured several pages of new material that eased the flow of the story considerably.)

It’s possible to argue that classic Doctor Who was a major influence on American comics. Grant Morrison was part of the “British invasion” of American comics during the eighties and – along with other British talent like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman – had a massive influence on what American comics could be or would become towards the end of the eighties and into the nineties.

(Eye) stalking its prey...

(Eye) stalking its prey…

Of these creators, it’s worth noting that both Moore and Morrison wrote classic Doctor Who comics during the eighties. Morrison wants to write for the new series. Gaiman went one step further, and has written The Doctor’s Wife and Nightmare in Silver. Only Moore doesn’t seem to have a fondness the series, famously suggesting that he “always felt that the Doctors following the marvelous and sinister William Hartnell dressed and behaved like unusually flamboyant child-molesters.”

Despite Moore’s rather grumpy attitude, it is worth noting the last script editor of the classic series, Andrew Cartmel, treated Moore as a major influence on what he wanted the Sylvester McCoy years to be. He would hand out examples of Moore’s work to incoming writers in order to give them an idea of what he was aiming for. Russell T. Davies has also been clearly influenced by comic books.

You always come home...

You always come home…

This influence is most obvious in his futuristic episodes, with Gridlock set in a world that looks remarkably similar to “Mega City One” from 2000AD. Davies also gave us the flying aircraft carrier Valiant, which reappears briefly here, and is a dead ringer for the hellicarrier from Marvel Comics. In that sense, The Stolen Earth makes sense as that sort of gigantic company-wide crossover, a type of storytelling model that has become increasingly popular among the two major American comic book publishers.

The idea is simple – the story is so large that it draws in all of the iconic and recognisable characters to face some impossible and gigantic threat. So you get characters who normally have their own on-going stories dragged into this larger conflict. That’s particularly obvious here. The cast of Torchwood are still recovering from the devastating losses that they experienced in Exit Wounds. As the Daleks prepare to storm the Torchwood Hub, Ianto mentions Tosh and Owen, and Tosh’s work provides a convenient deus ex machina in Journey’s End. Those names mean nothing to viewers who aren’t watching Torchwood, and Davies never slows down to offer any real context.

Spaced out...

Spaced out…

Of course, incorporating Torchwood and Doctor Who has always been a bit of a problem, for many reasons – and it’s telling that the Sarah Jane Adventures feels much better integrated into this two parter. Torchwood spent much of its first two seasons trying to get the balance right between being a Doctor Who spin-off and being its own thing. This was compounded by various structural issues that existed. The most obvious being that Torchwood is a Doctor Who spin-off that, as Steven Moffat noted, can never feature the Doctor:

“The Doctor could never go to Torchwood,” Moffat told TVLine. “[Torchwood executive] Russell [T Davies] and I both agree on that. Doctor Who has a tremendous relationship with children in Britain. They’d want to watch Torchwood then, and it’s not really a children’s show.”

This caused understandable problems. The central mystery of the first season of Torchwood, Jack’s mysterious immortality, could only ever be resolved with the Doctor, and wound up getting explained away in Utopia. For its first two seasons, Torchwood seemed stuck in a paradoxical position – wanting desperately to be seen as “adult” (sex aliens!) and also needed the association with Doctor Who to vindicate it. Martha Jones was treated as a big-name guest-star, the closest that Torchwood could come to its parent show without generating controversy.

Arrested development...

Arrested development…

Even The Stolen Earth seems to acknowledge the age-related difficulties integrating Torchwood and Doctor Who. In a gigantic web conference that amounts to little more than celebrating four years of Doctor Who and its spin-offs (and there’s nothing wrong with that), Jack is quick to praise Sarah Jane. “I’ve been following your work,” he remarks. “Nice job with the Slitheen.” While he explicitly cites one of her adventures, perhaps to point fans towards the show, Sarah Jane is a bit less enthuised at interacting with Torchwood. She replies, “Yeah, well, I’ve been staying away from you lot. Too many guns.”

It’s no coincidence that the show seemed much stronger when it stepped away from Doctor Who. Children of Earth features only a passing and fleeting reference to the Doctor, one which could probably have been excised with a minimum of disruption. Miracle Day, for all its many faults, at least embraces the idea of a version of Torchwood that exists independent of Doctor Who, because there’s no way that Miracle Day could possibly synch up with the world that gave us Amy and Rory.

Operating as a well-oiled U.N.I.T...

Operating as a well-oiled U.N.I.T…

At the same time, it’s hard to get past the basic contradictions of the show. This version of Torchwood is radically different from the version introduced in Army of Ghosts, even considering the destruction wrought in Doomsday. It almost feels like we’re watching an extended “Doctor-lite” story about how people deal with the problems of Doctor Who (and sex aliens, I guess) in a story where the Doctor doesn’t drop out of the sky to save the day.

While it wouldn’t have the same success, and may never have gotten green-lit by the executives, it feels like Torchwood would almost have been stronger without the link to Doctor Who. The Stolen Earth makes Ianto and Gwen look a bit ridiculous in a world of Daleks and kidnapped planets and Davros. It’s jarring to see these characters – who very recently dealt with a rather profound and grounded personal loss – running around as supporting characters in a bombastic Doctor Who epic.

Everyone's in the picture...

Everyone’s in the picture…

This is something so much larger and so much more ridiculous than anything Torchwood has tried to handle before. (And it’s the absurdity rather than the scale that jars most keenly – Torchwood did world-ending threats, but never with the same sort of wry wit that Doctor Who manages so effortlessly.) Even the characters seem to admit they are out of their wheelhouse. “The whole of the city must’ve felt that,” Gwen remarks. “The whole of South Wales.” Ianto deadpans, “A little bit bigger than South Wales.”

In contrast, the characters from the Sarah Jane Adventures fit a lot better. Due to the fact that it’s very much aimed towards the same family market as Doctor Who, skewing younger rather than older, the Sarah Jane Adventures have always integrated more successfully with the parent show than Torchwood did. For one thing, the Doctor can actually appear in this spin-off, without the BBC worrying about letters from concerned parents. Both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors have shown up, with Davies writing for Matt Smith in The Death of the Doctor.

Worlds apart...

Worlds apart…

For another, the ridiculousness of supporting characters like the Slitheen and K-9 is something that the Sarah Jane Adventures applauds; there’s no hint of embarrassment like there would be if those elements became mainstays of Torchwood. Even elements like Mister Smith’s diegetic fanfare feel perfectly at home in a story where the villain boasts about “the destruction! of reality! itself!” Sarah Jane and Captain Jack both ease rather smoothly back into Doctor Who, but the supporting elements Sarah Jane Adventures sit a bit easier.

There’s a sense with The Stolen Earth that Davies and the production team are trusting the audience to accept Doctor Who as it is, rather than trying too hard to smooth the rough edges or make it a bit more presentable. The first season of the show worked astonishingly hard to turn the Daleks into a credible threat again, rather than simply a much-loved camp curiosity. Dalek even featured a Dalek murdering a man with its plunger, while The Parting of the Ways had them attacking the Earth with enough force to distort the shape of continents.

Too many guns...

Too many guns…

In contrast, The Stolen Earth seems to accept that the Daleks are never really going to be the stuff of nightmares – at least not for any extended period of the show’s history. The Stolen Earth seems to admit this. Whereas the Daleks were responsible for the perversion of human culture in The Long Game and destruction of Earth in The Parting of the Ways, here they are back to their planet-stealing ways from The Dalek Invasion of Earth. The Doctor even references that plot.

Sure, we get “my vision is not impaired”, but there’s also a sense that Davies is relishing the absurdity of the Daleks. For one thing, the show resurrects Davros, which is an effective way of taking the focus off the Daleks as the main villains of the piece – even if Davros is locked in a dungeon, he’s still the main voice and face of the Daleks. For another, we get lines like “Daleks do not accept apologies” and the Daleks even get to play into the old “we know who you are” joke with Harriet Jones.

Pointing fingers...

Pointing fingers…

In short, the Daleks are no longer the ultimate and absolute evil – they aren’t being reinvented as an unstoppable force. Instead, Davies seems to be enjoying writing the Daleks as part of Doctor Who. The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End basks in the camp quality of the Daleks, embracing the fact that there’s always been something just a little bit silly and goofy about these omnicidal pepperpots. It’s no coincidence that The Stolen Earth gives us the first bright red Dalek of the new series, moving away from the rather understated black and gold designs.

(You could argue that this serves as something of a precursor to the technicolour Daleks from Victory of the Daleks, even if it feels quite pointed that the red Dalek is the lowest ranked Dalek in that brigade. Both seem to be shout-outs to the 1960s Doctor Who movies, the first time that the Daleks appeared in colour. While they aren’t regarded as classic, both Davies and Moffat have made a conscious effort to incorporate those movies into the revived series – Davies with Bernard Cribbens and the red Dalek, Moffat with the multicoloured Dalek pantheon.)

Calling home...

Calling home…

After all, The Stolen Earth is about reconciling and resurrecting Doctor Who history – old and new, in continuity and out of continuity. As well as incorporating Bernard Cribbens (“the companion who never was” from the Peter Cushing movies), Davies even finds a way to make The Stolen Earth and Journey’s End tie back into the much-maligned suggestion in the Doctor Who telemovie that the Doctor is “half-human”, offering us a glimpse of “half-human, half-Time Lord.”

The Stolen Earth also incorporates a lot of classic Doctor Who references. The Daleks’ plan involves kidnapping twenty-seven planets, one for each of the seasons of the classic show. The episode introduces new series fans to Davros, the creator of the Daleks. Interestingly, like the Sontarans in The Sontaran Stratagem, Davies doesn’t seem too bothered about reinventing Davros. In The Writer’s Tale, Davies talks about trying to shoehorn in an origin story for the character, but it obviously got cut early in the process.

Hardly a key detail...

Hardly a key detail…

Either way, it’s quite clear that Davros isn’t getting a large-scale reinvention like the Cybermen, the Daleks or the Master. Davies felt the need to explain how the Master came to be so incredibly off-the-wall insane by retroactively adding a tragedy to his personal history, and felt the need to re-work him slightly as a grim mirror of the Pertwee-era Doctor. In contrast, Davros… just sort of is. Those who watch the episode will know that he invented the Daleks, but they don’t know why or how or even about his long relationship with the Doctor. He’s scenery-chewing and maniacal, but it does feel like there was any attempt to flesh him out.

Davros isn’t so much a character here as he is a bit of set decoration. That’s not to insult the wonderful work done by Julian Bleach, who manages “creepy and insane and intense” with considerable skill, but Davros isn’t even the main attraction here. He’s a sideshow, a novelty, something brought back because Davies thought it might be nice to have Davros in the new series toy chest. Moffat then went on to make the only really sane decision possible and quickly forgot about him.

For old times' sake...

For old times’ sake…

(Speaking of great performances, Nicholas Briggs continues amazing work as the insane Dalek Caan. The amount of variety in his Dalek voices is astounding, and Caan’s high-pitched nonsensical vaguely foreshadow-y dialogue is quite unsettling. Davies has fun playing with ambiguity here. “And death is coming,” Caan rambles at one point. “Oh, I can see it. Everlasting death for the most faithful companion.” Is he referring to the death of the Donna who travelled with the Doctor? Or are the Daleks the Doctor’s “most faithful companion”? Not that the BBC would allow them to stay dead for long. Still, it’s fun to think about.)

The main point of bringing Davros back isn’t to give the Doctor somebody to talk to – Davies could have had the Supreme Dalek or another Dalek Emperor fill that plot function. The main point of bringing Davros back is to bring Davros back. There’s a strange moment in Journey’s End where Davros pauses to acknowledge that he and Sarah Jane share a connection – a specific reference to a previous story that seems to exist purely so that Davies can pay homage to the extended legacy of the show. These aren’t the reinvented religious fundamentalist Daleks from The Parting of the Ways. These are the classic camp insane “cruise the planet like a chevvy” Daleks from the classic series.

Burning up...

Burning up…

Of course, Davies doesn’t just limit his references to the classic show.  The Shadow Proclamation finally appear, first mentioned all the way back in Rose. That said, they are somewhat less impressive than Davies had hoped. Davies had hoped to bring back all of the new series aliens for the show for a gigantic Men in Black style sight gag. The result is more modest, even if it provides a nice call-back to the very first episode and an excuse to bring back the Judoon.

Indeed, The Stolen Earth features the return of Harriet Jones, the disgraced former Prime Minister that the Doctor deposed in The Christmas Invasion. Again, Davies underscores the idea that the Doctor is far from a moral ideal – that he’s a bit of an arrogant hypocrite at times. Harriet Jones shows up and uses a network connecting every phone on the planet as part of her master plan – it’s hard not to think of John Simm’s loop-de-loop Harold Saxon. It’s an efficient reminder of the fact that the Doctor saw fit to depose Harriet Jones so that she could be replaced by a genocidal mad man.

A lot to get off his chest...

A lot to get off his chest…

And Davies allows Harriet to die a hero. She doesn’t get redemption – because Davies blatantly asserts that she never needed redemption. Reflecting on the decisions that she made, and the price that she has paid, Davies refuses to cast her as a villain. Instead, she’s a dignified and heroic figure. She doesn’t even begrudge the Doctor her fall in stature – at the end of the world, she’s still perfectly willing to reach out to him, knowing that he is the best chance to save the planet.

Davies makes it impossible to hate Harriet Jones, despite how one might feel about her actions in The Christmas Invasion. When she’s asked whether it’s true that the Doctor masterminded her fall from grace, she replies, “He did. And I’ve wondered about that for a long time, whether I was wrong. But I stand by my actions to this day, because I knew. I knew that one day, the Earth would be in danger, and the Doctor would fail to appear.” Davies allows her to appear righteous without being stubborn, vindicated by history.

Looking out...

Looking out…

She even sacrifices herself with dignity for the greater good, something that the Tenth Doctor refuses to do in Journey’s End and he’s openly reluctant to do in The End of Time, Part II. Davies pulls a rather clever twist here. Throughout the season, we’ve seen that the Doctor can be wrong. Donna calls him out in The Fires of Pompeii. The Doctor admits he was blind to the suffering of the Ood in Planet of the Ood. In Voyage of the Damned, he does a pretty crappy job of saving everybody on the Titanic.

However, in The Stolen Earth, Davies suggests that the Tenth Doctor has always been wrong. He draws attention to the Doctor’s responsibility for the Master, and traces a chain of culpability reaching all the way back to the character’s very first episode. The Doctor’s decision to depose Harriet Jones – the decision he made at the end of his introductory episode – was wrong and ill-judged and arrogant. Again, Davies is building towards The Waters of Mars, the moment when the Doctor’s ego overwhelms his basic decency.

A Prime example of the Doctor's failings...

A Prime example of the Doctor’s failings…

Of course, there are problems with this approach. Most obviously, it’s very hard to tell when Davies is being entirely self-aware about the Tenth Doctor’s flaws. There’s a sense here that he might be retroactively adding nuance to a decision that he originally intended to be morally unobjectionable. Davies is very shrewd when it comes to covering his bases. His critique of the Doctor and Rose in Tooth and Claw, for example, mitigates some of the irritating entitlement that the lead characters seem to feel in the second season.

However, there’s a sense that Davies is trying to have it both ways – that he recognises these flaws in the way that he writes the characters, but he opts to retroactively compensate rather than course-correct. The Tenth Doctor’s biggest sin is pride, but it’s hard to tell when Davies’ affection for the character is ironic and when it isn’t. Was “no second chances” meant to be a bad-ass moment or a warning sign? Was the show’s refusal to define Martha as anything more than “not!Rose” intended to make the Doctor seem as much of a jerk as he occasionally became?

Lighting up the screen...

Lighting up the screen…

The era of the Tenth Doctor is ambiguous – there are points where the character is almost irrepressibly endearing, and there are moments when he’s unquestionably and unambiguously flawed or blinded. It’s very difficult to tell when those flaws seem intentional or when they’re the result of blindness on the part of Davies. After giving Martha such a hard time over merely hanging around with people who carry guns, the Doctor is overjoyed to meet Rose carrying a big honkin’ space gun.

It makes the character seem like a judgemental hypocrite – Rose is so special she gets away with packing that sort of heat, while Martha can’t even keep company with people who are authorised to carry firearms. And yet the script seems incredibly sympathetic to the dynamic between the Doctor and Rose, as if Davies is quite willing to dismiss anything that might keep the pair from a heart-warming reunion. Although he sabotages a nice slow-motion run here, he does eventually give Rose her very own copy of the Doctor. But more on that later.

A new coat of paint...

A new coat of paint…

Rose is very much the pivot point of the episode. Her return is the biggest deal. “The thing is, Doctor, no matter what’s happening, and I’m sure it’s bad, I get that but, Rose is coming back,” Donna explains. “Isn’t that good?” The Doctor replies, “Yeah.” Receiving a call from every major companion over the last few years, the Doctor isn’t impressed that they all got in touch, he laments the one person he perceives to be missing. “It’s like an outer space Facebook!” Donna proclaims. “Everyone except Rose,” the Doctor interjects.

In contrast, it’s hard to imagine the Doctor would be too bothered if Martha didn’t show up. She spends most of Journey’s End isolated from the Doctor in a pointless dead-end plot thread that seems designed specifically to keep her away from the reunion. Maybe it’s yet more acknowledgement – as in The Doctor’s Daughter – that Martha was the companion who spent the least time with the Doctor, but it also feels like the script is having difficulty figuring out how to include her.

Shaking things up...

Shaking things up…

Davies doesn’t help matters by playing up Rose’s sense of selfish entitlement as though it’s natural. “I was here first,” she mutters as Martha tries to phone the Doctor. She gets a slow motion reunion with the Doctor while Donna waits patiently by the TARDIS. There’s no sense in The Stolen Earth or Journey’s End that Rose’s possessive behaviour is intended to be unbecoming. As with Doomsday, Davies’ script contorts to reward Rose with absolutely everything she could ever have possibly wanted while acknowledging the reality that she can’t stay on the show.

The Stolen Earth also contains some nice foreshadowing of what is to come. Discussing how Dalek Caan saved him from the Time War, Davros boasts about the beauty of his work. “Emergency Temporal Shift took him back into the Time War itself,” he proclaims. “But that’s impossible,” the Doctor protests. “The entire war is timelocked.” Davros teases, “And yet he succeeded. Oh, it cost him his mind, but imagine. A single, simple Dalek succeeded where Emperors and Time Lords have failed. A testament, don’t you think, to my remarkable creations?”

We salute you...

We salute you…

Perhaps, or perhaps foreshadowing that the Doctor really wasn’t ever too interested in ever going back there. Despite what he told Rose in The End of the World and Martha in Gridlock and Donna in The Fires of Pompeii, here we get a sense that the Doctor was never really too compelled to reach back into the Last Great Time War to revisit his people or to save some relic of Gallifrey. In fact, he reacted with terror to the discovery of another Time Lord in Utopia, despite all his talk about regret and longing. All of this is building towards Davies’ inevitable revelation in The End of Time that the Doctor doesn’t want Gallifrey to return; that he in fact destroyed it.

His final act of murder was not only to wipe out the Daleks, but to kill the Time Lords as well. For all that the Doctor talks about missing home, for all he laments the loss that he has seen, there’s a suggestion that he wouldn’t go back, even if he could. The Doctor talks about fixed points in history and the fact that Gallifrey is lost but the truth is that he probably could go back if wanted to. If “a simple, single Dalek” could brace the Time War, surely the Doctor could as well? The only possible explanation is that the Doctor simply doesn’t want to.

Talkin' 'bout regeneration...

Talkin’ ’bout regeneration…

The Stolen Earth is a very flawed piece of television, but it’s also a pretty effective celebration of Davies’ Doctor Who. It serves to bring together a lot of the disparate threads and serve as a compelling tribute to what had become – in less than half a decade – a British television institution once again.

You might be interested in our other reviews from David Tennant’s third season of Doctor Who:

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