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Doctor Who season 4 ending
Bar Harbor
alexx_kay
Finally got around to catching up on the end of the current season Spoilers ho!

Well that was... kinda lame, on balance.

Pluses: Davros had a good evil laugh, and a maniacal plan that was both in character and truly threatening. The insane, giggling, prophetic dalek Karn was cool. It was fun to see the various sets of supporting characters interacting. Captain Jack's line "I can't tell you what I'm thinking right now." Easily passes the Bechdel Test.

Minuses: Just about everything else... Although I liked Karn and Davros, the run-of-the-mill dalek army is now quite boring. This story had more technobabble than an entire *season* of ST:TNG, leaving a 'plot' that made no sense, and was defined entirely by emotional moments alternating with dei ex machinae.

With a little (ok, a lot of) tweaking, this could have made a good *series* finale, but as a story intended for continuation, it has some serious problems. For one thing, there is no more room to escalate threat. Once you've threatened "all reality in every conceivable universe", there's no way you can up the stakes any higher. Once you've had the biggest threat and the highest guest star density ever, you put yourself in a place where your only trajectory is down.

This story arc brought into the text a large number of long-time weaknesses to the emotional structures of the formula, while failing to shore them up. The Doctor continually reassures insecure companions that they are 'brilliant' and 'special' -- while the structure of the story demands that they are essentially powerless to stop the bad guys without his help. The Doctor continues to act emo and lonely, when, as Sarah Jane point out explicitly, he has a huge support network available to him any time he wants it.

Worst of all, the Doctor's position as moral authority is *hugely* undermined. Davros explicitly points out that, while the Doctor espouses pacifism, countless people have either died or killed on his behalf, including practically all his travelling companions. There are a number of cogent counter-arguments that could be made to such a claim -- but the Doctor makes *none* of them! He hangs his head and looks guilty, leaving the villain the last word!

Then, of course, the Doctor once again commits genocide. Oops, it isn't *technically* the Doctor, it's his pseudo-twin. A twin who must be 'punished' for performing such an act by perpetual exile -- to a rather posh alternate earth, where he can consummate a romantic relationship with an ex-companion. Yyyyeah, that's a clear moral stance. Meanwhile, the current companion gets dropped off the TARDIS with a complete mindwipe. One gets the feeling that she was punished for her temerity in daring to approach the Doctor's level of competence. (Whether this is a decision of the Doctor's or the scriptwriter's is unclear, but also, I think, unimportant.)

(Some might try to mitigate the moral consequences of genociding the daleks with the obvious observation that, due to licensing, they will certainly be back some day. But this merely undermines the story structure in another direction. It's why I can no longer enjoy most comics featuring The Joker, for example.)

These sorts of meta-textual games are extremely dangerous for an ongoing franchise. If you fully embrace them, travel through them, and come out the other side, it can make for a refreshed and invigorating new take, or at least for a satisfying end-point to the story. But to raise the questions and then retreat from them just leaves them present in the viewer's consciousness, corroding their acceptance of the story.

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I had some of the same major misgivings you did. All the handwaving necessary to pull everything together the way Davies wanted it was generating gale force winds. Then again, in this past season, every time Davies wrote the episode, I found problems with the internal consistancy that hurt. He's always been willing to sacrifice to come out with the character story he wants to tell. But that said, this was Davies' last hurrah, and so he wanted to go out with as big a bang as he could manage. I'm actually surprised he _didn't_ regen the doctor. Still, it does seem like they've pushed a big red 'reset button', by going back to the beach, losing Rose again, making the Doctor companionless for the 4th time in 4 years (if you include his initial companionless state when he first meets Rose), and essentially maneuvering for a 'do-over' of the past two years.

I've always enjoyed Moffat's devilish writing (boy does he like to play with the viewer's minds!), so I'm looking forward to him being in charge.

Yeah, I have to admit that, while my standards are rather lower than yours, and I found the episode rather exhilarating on a visceral level, I did find myself going, "What?! What?!" throughout the episode. (And was quite disappointed that the Doctor didn't.) It was sort of emotionally satisfying if I didn't think about it too much, but didn't make an awful lot of sense...

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