Doctor Who – Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

And here it is. The Big Finish to the 2006 series of Doctor Who. And what a really big finish it was. By the time the first half, Army of Ghosts was shown, the BBC had finally confirmed what had been widely rumoured (and indeed denied at least once) – Billie Piper was leaving. All the usual rumours and speculation spread, fuelled by the trailer at the end of Fear Her which had Rose saying “this is the story of how I died”. Leaving aside the obvious question of how she could be saying that if she was actually dead, this was one hell of a good teaser…

Army of Ghosts

It all begins peacefully enough. The Doctor and Rose pay a visit to Jackie, only to find that something odd is happening on Earth. Shadowy figures are appearing all over the planet at apparently random intervals. People, including Jackie, believe them to be the ghosts of their loved ones. Jackie believes that the “ghost” that appears in her flat is that of her father, but Rose and the Doctor don’t believe that for a moment. The Doctor knows that the “shadows” are projections from somewhere else – “a footprint doesn’t look like a boot”.

The Doctor sets up a trap for a “ghost” and traces back a signal which seems to be drawing them. He takes the Tardis to the source of the signal, taking Rose and Jackie with him. Well, he didn’t mean to take Jackie, but in the heat of the moment, he forgot she was in the Tardis…

The signal leads the Tardis to a very secret organisation: the Torchwood Institute. Founded by Queen Victoria after the events of Tooth and Claw, Torchwood has been protecting the interests of the British Empire ever since. When reminded that there is no British Empire, Torchwood’s current leader Yvonne Hartman suggests that this is a temporary state of affairs…

Over the years, Torchwood has been gathering alien technology and adapting it for its own ends. The weapon that destroyed the Sycorax in The Christmas Invasion was one of their toys, and they have a lot more technology that humanity shouldn’t really have at this point. They’ve also taken possession of the Tardis (if it’s alien, it’s ours), which still has Rose on board.

Hartman is pleased to see the Doctor – she knew he’d find them sooner or later, but they have something rather nasty in their building – a sphere that appears to have no mass, and which no instruments can detect, is just hanging in the air. The tower was built around it to make it easier to investigate.

The Doctor recognises it – it’s something he thought was just a theory: a Void Ship. This is a means to travel between the infinity of parallel universes, and it really shouldn’t exist.

Then things start to get interesting. The shadowy forms begin to materialise in a more solid, and terrible form: they are Cybermen. All the “ghosts” – millions of them, all over the world, are Cybermen. So many of them that, as the Doctor puts it “it’s not an invasion, it’s a victory”.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, down in the room where the sphere is held, things are getting even more interesting. Rose is there, having crept out of the Tardis. Also in the room is a Torchwood technician and Mickey, who was left behind in the parallel Earth in The Age of Steel. And the sphere is changing – it looks like it’s beginning to open.

Further up the tower, the Doctor asks the Cyber Leader how they managed to travel between the universes – the sphere which opened the way is clearly way beyond their technology. The Cyber Leader admits that the sphere is not Cyberman technology – they just followed it.

Back in the sphere room, Mickey tells Rose that he followed the Cybermen, and he’s here to deal with whatever Cyber Ruler, Cyber Leader or Cyber whatever is in the sphere. Then the sphere opens. And figures begin to appear. And they’re not Cybermen. Oh no. Something much more deadly. Daleks. Yup, they’re back. And ready to exterminate Rose and Mickey…

Doomsday

Now things start to get really interesting. The episode opens with Rose standing on an isolated beach with a voice over telling us that this is the last story that she will tell: the story of how she died.

Rose confronts the Daleks – one black one and three of the more usual copper-coloured ones. She tells them that she knows about the Time War. This makes the lead Black Dalek decide that she will be useful.

The Cyber Leader sends a few Cybermen down to investigate the aliens they’ve detected. And for the first time in Doctor Who history, Cybermen and Daleks come face to eyestalk. After some predictably aggressive posturing from both sides[2], the Cybermen suggest that together with the Daleks, they could “upgrade the universe”, but in their typically paranoid and aggressive manner, the Daleks want none of it. The single Dalek exterminates the group of Cybermen. The Cyber Leader, communicating through the screen in the sphere room tells the Daleks that they have declared war on the Cybermen. The Daleks are not impressed, even though there are only four of them to millions of Cybermen:

This is not war, it is pest control

Now we learn why the Daleks have kept Rose alive. They have an object they call the “Genesis Ark” with them, and they need Rose to open it. Rose has already told Mickey about the first Dalek she met, and how it was dying until her touch caused it to regenerate. Rose wonders why the Daleks would have something they couldn’t open. They tell her that it is stolen Time Lord technology.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jackie and the Torchwood people are in serious trouble with the Cybermen. Yvonne Hartman has been “upgraded”, telling herself that she had done her duty to Queen and Country up to the last moment. Just before Jackie is to suffer the same fate, salvation comes from an unexpected direction. Jake, who we last saw in The Age of Steel arrives with some friends, including the parallel world’s version of Peter Tyler – Rose’s dad, who in our world, died in Father’s Day. They materialise, using technology taken from the parallel Earth’s version of Torchwood, with all (large) guns blazing. In the excitement, Jackie escapes from the Cybermen and starts running down the stairs.

In the sphere room, the Daleks, having extracted the contents of the Torchwood technician’s mind (with fatal results), order Rose to place her hand on the Genesis Ark. She refuses, and tells them that she destroyed the Dalek Emperor. The Black Dalek tells her that she will be exterminated, at which point the Doctor strolls in. Realising that he has nothing more powerful than his sonic screwdriver, the Daleks tell him that he is powerless

Not me, never!

The Doctor does a typically hyperactive routine about why he likes his sonic screwdriver – it can’t kill anyone, or hurt anyone, but it is very good at opening doors. At which point, he activates it, and doors blast open all around the room. In rush a mixture of soldiers from the parallel Earth and Cybermen. And all hell breaks loose. Cybermen intoning “Delete”, Daleks screaming “Exterminate” and lots of shooting, blasting and general excitement. The Doctor leads Rose and Mickey out – but Mickey touches the Genesis Ark on the way out, which is just what the Daleks wanted. Rose tells the Doctor that the Ark is Time Lord technology, but he doesn’t know what it is.

The Daleks fight their way out of the building – flying out of a window with the Ark, which opens. And out of it come more Daleks. Lots of Daleks. Ultimately millions of Daleks. The Doctor belatedly realises that it’s a Time Lord prison – much bigger on the inside than the outside.

Having been to the parallel Earth, the Doctor knows that he has to close the link between the universes, or both planets will be destroyed by the effects of the breach between the worlds. The parallel Earth is already in trouble: temperatures are rising, and the ice caps are melting. He devises a plan to send the Daleks and the Cybermen into the Void (the space between universes) – or Hell, as some people call it. But there’s a price to pay. The force that will draw the invaders into the Void will also affect anyone else who has travelled between the worlds. Unwilling to endanger Rose, the Doctor sends her, much against her will into the parallel Earth with Mickey, Jackie (who’s happily “reunited” with Pete) and Pete. But Rose comes straight back, telling the Doctor that she made her mind up long ago: she will never leave him.

So, together they operate the Torchwood machines that will draw the Daleks and the Cybermen into the Void. But something goes wrong. Rose has to let go of the anchor that’s holding her to the wall so she can reset a vital lever. She succeeds, but loses her grip. Just as she is about to be sucked into the void, Pete Tyler pops through from the parallel Earth and catches her. They both disappear.

The Daleks and the Cybermen all vanish into the void. Apart from the Black Dalek who makes an emergency temporal transport (so we can be sure of seeing more Daleks in the future). The Doctor has saved two worlds. But the price is terrible. Rose is in the other universe, and there is no way he can reach her.

We see that Rose is utterly devastated. Her tears are more for the Doctor – who has to go on alone, than for herself. Time passes, and Rose hears the Doctor’s voice in a dream. Taking Jackie, Pete and Mickey, she reaches a remote beach in Norway, where an image of the Doctor appears. He tells her that he’s found a small breach between the universes, and that he’s using the power of a supernova to get a signal through – “burning up star to say goodbye”. He tells her that she’s been listed among the dead in her world[3]. In the brief time they have, Rose tells the Doctor that she loves him. And just as he’s clearly about to say the same to her, the link is lost. And Rose and the Doctor are parted forever. And for the first time, we see the Doctor in tears.

He stands in the Tardis for a moment, then steels himself to do what he must, what he always has done. To go on, alone. He starts twiddling controls when a figure appears in the Tardis. A woman in a bridal gown, who demands to know who he is and what’s going on. And we won’t find out about that until the Christmas special – “The Runaway Bride”.

Woo, and indeed, hoo. Totally thrilling, exciting, and not a dry eye in the house. A beautiful send-off for Rose Tyler, surely one of (if not the) greatest companions the Doctor has ever had.

As Russell T Davies explained, the only way to take Rose from the Doctor was to transport her to another universe. Nothing else could keep them apart. And at least she has Jackie and Mickey with her. For now, the Doctor is alone again.

[1] In a nice “if you want to hide something, put it in plain sight” trick, Torchwood is based in the rather large tower at Canary Wharf
[2] “Identify yourself!” “No, you identify yourself!” “Daleks do not take orders” “You have identified yourself”
[3] So it was the story of how she “died”…

10 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Army of Ghosts/Doomsday

  1. David

    just watched this on BBC three, what a cracking episode :grin:
    i nearly shed a tear :cry:
    I was a bit confused by that bride thingy tho :huh:

  2. Mark

    It was an amazing episode and I did shed a slight tear. Poor Rose. The introduction of the bride lifted the mood, but I do think that when the Black Dalek and his new army returns, Rose will make an appearance. After all, all it takes is another void ship to break through the breach of universes again.

  3. John Cosford

    Please can you help…This is a question rather than a comment. In the episode “Army of Ghosts”, one cyberman states to the doctor that “The sphere is not ours, we just followed, the origin is unknown. My question is “Who built the void ship”
    I have looked up about the void ship and all I can find out is that the daleks escaped the time war in the void ship with the captured genesis ark, but that doesn’t mean they built it. Did they build , did the time lords, who ? Thanks

  4. Les Post author

    Hmmmm. Good question. I suspect the Cult of Skaro Daleks may have built it, but I don’t know for sure.

    You’d have to ask Russell T Davies. He might tell you. If he’s decided on the answer.

  5. michaela

    I would have said that the time lords built it, just like they built the genesis arc [prison ship] and thats why the doctor wanted to send it back to ‘hell’ as he probably suspected what was inside it

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