Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who--"Army of Ghosts"

I suppose speculation that rose isn’t going to be killed can be tossed aside. Or can it? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Russell T. Davies can be sloppy writer, not so much foreshadowing as beating you ever the head with what’s coming. Quite a few hints were dropped here, there, an yon and a few other questions arise along the way. I’ll tackle them as we get there. Before I recall the facts, I do have to tell you that as a comic book geek, I did enjoy the many references to past episodes, including an item or two from the original series. While that happens quite a bit in comics, it’s rare to see on television.

There episode begin with a Rose voiceover. She explains how boring and uneventful her life was before she met the Doctor. We even catch a glimpse of Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor in flashback. We see Rose and the Tenth Doctor traveling through exotic worlds, on one of which he asks her how long she will stay with him. She remarks, “Forever.” But in the voiceover, she explains this is the last story she will ever tell. First the war came, then she died.

The TARDIS materializes in a playground (the same one from “Father’s Day”? ) near Jackie’s home. Jackie is happy to see the two of them, apparently having gotten over her animosity for the Ninth Doctor. The reunion quickly turns worrisome when Jackie announces Roe’s grandfather is coming in a few minutes for tea. He has been dead for a decade, but right on cue, a ghostly figure comes through the kitchen wall, much to the surprise of the Doctor and Rose. They run outside to see ghosts everywhere, walking amongst people as they calmly go about their business. According to Jackie, this has been going on for two months now and it is no big deal. They have even become regular characters on television shows. We flash over to the Torchwood Institute (finally) to discover they are controlling the interval ghostly visits.

The Doctor doesn’t believe these are ghosts. They seem to be feeding off the desire of other people to believe thei loved ones have returned to life. The Doctor goes to the TARDIS with Rose and Jackie in tow to set up equipment to monitor the next interval visit. Much of the devices he sets up are reminiscent of props from Ghostbusters and in case we miss the reference, the Doctor butchers the Ray Parker, Jr. theme song. It’s all though. I’m sure Parker needs the royalty money by now. He hasn’t had a hit in 22 years. The Doctor catches one of the ghosts in some sort of energy field long enough to determine the source of the ghosts’ entry into our world. Meanwhile, rose and Jackie have a heart to heart about Roe’s future. Jackie believes she shouldn’t be a nomad forever. She needs to settle down sometime. Rose doesn’t want to listen, especially when Jackie reminds her she won’t be around forever. When she’s gone, Rose will be all alone. The Doctor reenters the TARDIS and sets it to travel towards the focal point of the ghosts’ intrusion, unaware that Jackie is along for the ride.

They arrive at Torchwood Institute. The Doctor steps out of the TARDIS to meet Yvonne, the lady in charge, and a battery of rifles pointed at him. Yvonne demands the Doctor present his traveling companion as well. The Doctor reaches in the TARDIS and pulls out Jackie. He passes her off as Rose aged decades through an accident. As they walk through the institute, Yvonne explains that Torchwood was established by Queen Victoria after “Tooth & Claw” to protect the United Kingdom from alien threats--including the Doctor. The TARDIS is then seen being hauled away with Rose secretly inside. Yvonne continues to explain that Torchwood is behind the ghost appearances. They found a tear between dimensions and while searching for a new power source, discovered the ghosts entering our dimension. Another thing they discovered is a sphere that no one can figure out anything about. The Doctor explains it is a kind of transport that exists outside of time and suggests they send it back wherever it came from.

Rose escapes the TARDIS and enters the lab containing the sphere after Yvonne and the Doctor are gone. She uses the psychic paper as credentials, but the Torchwood people can see right through the ruse. One of the technicians, much to Roe’s surprise, turns out to be Mickey, who shushes her before she can say anything. Meanwhile, an advance scouting party has taken over two Torchwood members (including she who is supposed to be the new companion.) and force them to reopen the rift. The Doctor mercy kills both, but it is too late. Millions of ghosts appear all over the world, but this time they reveal themselves as Cybermen. The rift in dimensions leads to the parallel Earth in “Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.” The Cybermen quickly take control of every corner of the earth. The sphere also becomes active. Mickey braces himself with a weapon, ready to blast what he assumes to be the Cybermen leader. Instead, Daleks emerge, ready to exterminate everyone in their path. To be continued.

I’m a scker for these kinds of stories. Big invasions, diabolical villains trying to take over the world, and a handful of heroes to stop it all. It’s classic, but you don’t see it much on television or in the movies anymore--at least not done well. The season ending two parter last year had a pretty similar premise, although I’d rate this episode higher than I would that first part, “Bad wolf.” There was more relevant stuff going on here, even though gags of strange television shows were featured in both. Last year’s season finale, “The Parting of the Ways” involved rose as a deus ex machina, but it fit there and there were consequences to her actions, so I didn’t consider that a cop out. It appears from the previews that she may play the role again, perhaps sacrificing herself to save the day. It does appear the Daleks enter the TARDIS with her and Mickey in it. In other ways, I suspect Jackie mentioning her own death may foreshadow that she dies instead. Heaven only knows, but I think the drama would be tighter if neither possibility was hinted at as much as it has been.

The CGI was pretty decent. I was bugged by the ghosts’ appearance at first until I realized there was some sort of psychic pull that made people see their dead relatives in them. Then it didn’t bother me so much that they appeared to be wisps. The reminded me of cheaper versions of the effects used when Changelings were morphing on Deep Space Nine. I am also puzzled as to how Mickey infiltrated such a top secret place as Torchwood, managed to ingratiate himself, and apparently has some clout there. I’m going to assume that will be explained next episode. The episode also makes me fishy about Totchwood as a television series. I have )ignorantly) described it as a UK version of the X-Files but they seem to be more like Consortium than Mulder and Scully. They are apparently too sloppy to be that very well, either. I am curious to see how that all pans out. I’m more curious too see the next episode of Doctor Who.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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