Doctor Who series 4 episode 12: The Stolen Earth review

Review Simon Brew 28 Jun 2008 - 20:50
Dalek Caan. The saviour of Davros...

Still shaking from the best ending of a Who episode in ages, Simon considers the sheer amount that's been squeezed into The Stolen Earth...

If the aim of a really well done Doctor Who cliffhanger is to leaving you screaming “noooooooooo” at the screen and frantically checking the calendar for the next episode, then it’s fair to say that Russell T Davies has just managed to tick that box.

With the Doctor shot by a Dalek, left in the midst of a regeneration and no preview for the episode that followed, that’s as close to leaving you on a knife edge that the show has managed since it came back. And for once, none of the spoilers, trailers or news stories ever seemed to see it coming. To pull a shock ending like that in the modern world is an exceptional achievement. Certainly my television is still recovering from being screamed at, while the neighbours have no doubt put the ASBO in the post.

But then The Stolen Earth was some achievement. It was a bombastic, blockbuster episode, which looks to have snared the majority of the programme’s budget this series, and looked all the better for it. Boasting terrific effects, a bucketload of blowing shit up and an energy that you couldn’t resist, it was bursting with a breathless ambition that papered over its occasional cracks. Granted, it had some problems, but this is the stuff we’re really going to be missing this time next year when we don’t have Doctor Who on Saturday nights. Repeats of My Family simply don’t have the same impact.

So let’s take a look at it all. To call the episode jam-packed would be an understatement, and it needed the extra five-minute running time just to get everyone’s names on the title crawl. We’ll come to them in a minute, though.

We learned that the bees had a purpose. We found out that the disappearing planets we’ve been told about throughout the series were relevant (with 27 of them, by the midst of the episode, taken out of time and space and brought together). We found out that the Medusa Cascade had its place too. Heck, it felt like there was barely a clue wasted throughout the series, as everything seemed to have a place. There was mention too of Donna’s back, but given that Catherine Tate barely got a look in this week, that’s pretty much all she got. Expect much more from her next week, though.

Inevitably, the amount that was packed in did come at the cost of sufficient exposition, and much of the plot detail still feels muddled (with what dialogue there was to explain things often drowned out somewhat by the sheer noise of the episode). There’s part two that should explain much of it, but given how much is left to wrap up, I wouldn’t wager too much on it given the threads left to tie up. Next week’s installment is an hour long, though.

It should be noted too that for those who like their Doctor Who stories quiet and sedate, this wasn’t their week to switch on.

Characterwise, the ensemble of assistants – ultimately brought together by the welcome (if temporary, unless there’s another rug to be pulled here) return of Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones (she was Prime Minister, you know, and even the Daleks knew who she was, which was a neat touch) – was good fun. And to be fair, it really separated the great actors from the good. When Elisabeth Sladen and Bernard Cribbins are looking in fright at the Daleks, you buy it, no questions asked. Contrast that with Billie Piper (who seemed to recover the ability to talk properly this week) looking for a webcam, or Martha holding what looks like the vital key for the next episode, and there’s a gap there. Not a problematic one, but noticeable.

That said, it seemed for the purposes of this week that these assistants were all banded together to get across the hopelessness of a situation. And have you ever seen so many Doctor Who characters give up at once? Are we really supposed to believe that Jack, Sarah-Jane, the Doctor and UNIT would throw the towel in? That’s perhaps the bit of the episode this reviewer didn’t buy.

On the other side of the fight, meanwhile, things are really interesting. Firstly, wasn’t it great to see Davros back? Julian Bleach nailed it for us, and the look of the Daleks’ creator was very reverential to the show of old. He didn’t get much screen time, but when he was finally brought out of the shadows, it didn’t take the reactions of the Doctor (who felt strangely helpless again this week, and after Midnight that’s the second time this series) to know that this was a major moment in the revived Doctor Who. Welcome back evil one, you’ve definitely been missed.

What’s even more interesting though is Dalek Caan, who after Evolution Of The Daleks we’d have been happy to never see again. Yet here, he’s adding an interesting dynamic to the Dalek fight: his proclamation of a loyal companion’s death already had me checking the Sky to make sure the next episode is on to tape. Throw in the fact that the Daleks felt more ruthless than we’ve seen them in years, and it’s a collection of foes that genuinely feel like a real and sinister threat. It's all the better for it, too.

And then there was that ending, which was quite, quite brilliant. But what happens now, then? The unsubtle shot of the Doctor’s hand in a jar is an obvious pointer (and did feel like a bit of a flashing beacon of a clue), but does this mean he’ll stop the regeneration somehow? Or will we be getting a new Doctor, or perhaps rewind in some way to John Simm or even Christopher Eccleston? How cool would that be? Not very likely, though.

Also, where does The Shadow Proclamation fit in? And are the Judoon – mercenaries by nature – going to turn out to be more than a welcome cameo? Which assistant is being lined up for the chop? The pointers have been towards Donna all series, but if there’s a rug to be pulled, you can bet that Russell T will be quite happy to yank it. Just leave Bernard Cribbins alone. Here’s another theory, too: could we be in the midst of an alternative timeline, hinted at by the mention of Donna’s back?

Questions, questions then, and throwing up such posers and discussions is just what the first half of a Doctor Who two parter is supposed to do. What's more, to say that The Stolen Earth eclipsed the equivalent episode last year would be no understatement whatsoever, and to also note that it’s generated an enthusiasm and excitement for next week already would be showing yet more restraint. The fear, of course, is the feeling that last year’s finale ultimately cheated, and you hope dearly that lessons will have been learned.

We suspect that’s the case, but either way, off the back of The Stolen Earth, it’ll take a force of nature to keep us away from a TV set next Saturday night.

Because, warts and all, that was one hell of an episode…

Read our review of last week's episode here... 

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An amazing episode, far and away one of the best shows of a formidable series. If I have a criticism its just the sheer number of people in the script (with more to come I think) who needed dialogue. The pace was so fast it was hard to follow who was doing what at times. But real edge of the seat stuff...

Write your comment here...

Class, Pure Class. what a fantastic episode. i think it was only a flesh wound, as the laser bolt carried on after hitting the doctor.

I have a friend who works on Doctor Who, and he's promised something amazingly shocking happens that the BBC have managed to keep a secret from the media, although he won't tell me what. Whether it's a new doctor, I'm not sure.

will the regeneration produce a 'Peter Cushing' look a like to please the Bernard Cribbin's character?????
Will 'Wilf' reveal himself as 'PC Tom?'

All i can say is wow. I am glad I can watch it the same day as the UK folks. I am so glad I am not weeks behind. Wow what an episode.

Without a doubt, an outstanding episode, it was fast paced and louder than any other doctor who episode i've ever seen, getting the nation to collectively shout 'Nooooo' at the same time upon the climax of the episode... I mean that is great work.

Though I don't think I'm quite ready for a new doctor, plus David Tennant is confirmed for the next four specials next year isnt he? As said in this review, it's probably going to turn out to be an alternative timeline, but who knows.

Either way, I'm considering putting my body into Status until next Saturday... I don't know how I'm going to cope with waiting for the next episode :o(

How the hell am I going to last a week waiting for next Saturday? What an amazing episode and cliffhanger. They had better not be really doing a regeneration. The hand will come in handy. They already pulled the surprise regeneration on us with the introduction of Tennant. Can't do that again. As far as Donna goes though the girl back at the Shadow Proclamation did whisper that she would "save her". So perhaps she is not a gonner but something tragic will happen. I think Rose is the faithful companion who will have a proper death.

ASBOs for everybody!!!!


Yep, a nation of 'no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o's in unison. I like that :D and I sure added to the chorus.

ASBOs for everybody!!!!


Yep, a nation of 'no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o's in unison. I like that :D and I sure added to the chorus.

Did anyone notice the "masters" tapping noise when harriet jones hacked in to the subframe network when the cammera was on rose tyler?
And a company named Mr copper foundation was mentioned that made the network.
I thought that was something too.
Feedback?

What with the hand as well, is he about to regenerate into John Simm then? I'm collating together lots of theories for an article going up on the site tomorrow, so please keep them coming...

i thought it could be a clue to a series in the future if the master returns and ...
when they look back to all the clues such as when Harrold Saxon ordered the space ship to get blown up last time.

The hand is the Doctor's one cut off and regrown in The Christmas Invasion - so far it's let the Tardis seek out Jenny before she was created (something about DNA and a paradox), but I bet it'll come into play with regards to keeping Tennant on the show.


Surely Dalek Caan's quote about the "threefold man" is the most important clue...

If 'The Sun' newspaper hadn't printed an article on the day of the show saying that the episode ended with the Doctor being shot by a dalek as he ran to see Rose, I'd have been surprised...

Serves you right for reading The Sun ;)

At the start of the regeneration sequence the camera focused on the doctors hand (the one attached to his body). Earlier we had a shot of the hand in the jar. So clearly that is the direction the story will take. I too noticed the Mr. Cooper foundation statement so that will have play along with the thing that Martha has (whatever it was called). Also, who is Rose talking to when she teleports (control is what I think she said). Perhaps we will see Micky again? And do you think the Shadow Proclamation will join in or better yet, if the Daleks survived the Time War how about some Time Lords too?

Write your comment here...

Norton77 on Jun 29, 2008 said "If 'The Sun' newspaper hadn't printed an article on the day of the show saying that the episode ended with the Doctor being shot by a dalek as he ran to see Rose, I'd have been surprised..."

A newspaper once described as 'soft strong and very absorbent!' But seriously it really can be hard to stay spoiler free these days. And its very annoying to come across something like that.

BTW did anyone laugh out loud at the "Vision *not* impaired!" line from the dalek Wilf shot with the paintball marker...brilliant!

It wouldn't surprise me if Bernard Cribbens turned out to be The Doctor's son

Interesting - I posted a speculation that Bernard Cribbens is The Doctor's son & it mysteriously got taken down. Does anyone at Den of Geek know something mewonders?... hmmm...

Anyways, am I the only person who found Dalek Cahn quite endearing? I especially liked the way he waved his little tenticles

Heh - it's not been taken down, it's just the site is getting a lot of Doctor Who hits right now, so your comment took a few seconds longer than usual to appear.

Wouldn't that be a great twist, though?!

Write your comment here...

An amazing episode, far and away one of the best shows of a formidable series. If I have a criticism its just the sheer number of people in the script (with more to come I think) who needed dialogue. The pace was so fast it was hard to follow who was doing what at times. But real edge of the seat stuff...

Class, Pure Class. what a fantastic episode. i think it was only a flesh wound, as the laser bolt carried on after hitting the doctor.

I have a friend who works on Doctor Who, and he's promised something amazingly shocking happens that the BBC have managed to keep a secret from the media, although he won't tell me what. Whether it's a new doctor, I'm not sure.

will the regeneration produce a 'Peter Cushing' look a like to please the Bernard Cribbin's character?????
Will 'Wilf' reveal himself as 'PC Tom?'

All i can say is wow. I am glad I can watch it the same day as the UK folks. I am so glad I am not weeks behind. Wow what an episode.

Without a doubt, an outstanding episode, it was fast paced and louder than any other doctor who episode i've ever seen, getting the nation to collectively shout 'Nooooo' at the same time upon the climax of the episode... I mean that is great work.

Though I don't think I'm quite ready for a new doctor, plus David Tennant is confirmed for the next four specials next year isnt he? As said in this review, it's probably going to turn out to be an alternative timeline, but who knows.

Either way, I'm considering putting my body into Status until next Saturday... I don't know how I'm going to cope with waiting for the next episode :o(

How the hell am I going to last a week waiting for next Saturday? What an amazing episode and cliffhanger. They had better not be really doing a regeneration. The hand will come in handy. They already pulled the surprise regeneration on us with the introduction of Tennant. Can't do that again. As far as Donna goes though the girl back at the Shadow Proclamation did whisper that she would "save her". So perhaps she is not a gonner but something tragic will happen. I think Rose is the faithful companion who will have a proper death.

ASBOs for everybody!!!!


Yep, a nation of 'no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o's in unison. I like that :D and I sure added to the chorus.

ASBOs for everybody!!!!


Yep, a nation of 'no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o's in unison. I like that :D and I sure added to the chorus.

Did anyone notice the "masters" tapping noise when harriet jones hacked in to the subframe network when the cammera was on rose tyler?
And a company named Mr copper foundation was mentioned that made the network.
I thought that was something too.
Feedback?

What with the hand as well, is he about to regenerate into John Simm then? I'm collating together lots of theories for an article going up on the site tomorrow, so please keep them coming...

i thought it could be a clue to a series in the future if the master returns and ...
when they look back to all the clues such as when Harrold Saxon ordered the space ship to get blown up last time.

The hand is the Doctor's one cut off and regrown in The Christmas Invasion - so far it's let the Tardis seek out Jenny before she was created (something about DNA and a paradox), but I bet it'll come into play with regards to keeping Tennant on the show.


Surely Dalek Caan's quote about the "threefold man" is the most important clue...

If 'The Sun' newspaper hadn't printed an article on the day of the show saying that the episode ended with the Doctor being shot by a dalek as he ran to see Rose, I'd have been surprised...

Serves you right for reading The Sun ;)

At the start of the regeneration sequence the camera focused on the doctors hand (the one attached to his body). Earlier we had a shot of the hand in the jar. So clearly that is the direction the story will take. I too noticed the Mr. Cooper foundation statement so that will have play along with the thing that Martha has (whatever it was called). Also, who is Rose talking to when she teleports (control is what I think she said). Perhaps we will see Micky again? And do you think the Shadow Proclamation will join in or better yet, if the Daleks survived the Time War how about some Time Lords too?

Write your comment here...

Norton77 on Jun 29, 2008 said "If 'The Sun' newspaper hadn't printed an article on the day of the show saying that the episode ended with the Doctor being shot by a dalek as he ran to see Rose, I'd have been surprised..."

A newspaper once described as 'soft strong and very absorbent!' But seriously it really can be hard to stay spoiler free these days. And its very annoying to come across something like that.

BTW did anyone laugh out loud at the "Vision *not* impaired!" line from the dalek Wilf shot with the paintball marker...brilliant!

It wouldn't surprise me if Bernard Cribbens turned out to be The Doctor's son

Interesting - I posted a speculation that Bernard Cribbens is The Doctor's son & it mysteriously got taken down. Does anyone at Den of Geek know something mewonders?... hmmm...

Anyways, am I the only person who found Dalek Cahn quite endearing? I especially liked the way he waved his little tenticles

Heh - it's not been taken down, it's just the site is getting a lot of Doctor Who hits right now, so your comment took a few seconds longer than usual to appear.

Wouldn't that be a great twist, though?!

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منتديات موقع منتدى 
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