Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Four

Our look back at the past series of Doctor Who - in time for the Twelfth Doctor himself's début series coming in a few months time - this month materialises on the final full-series of the last Scottish Doctor to play the part (fun fact: there's been three); the series that's never a bore and leaves us wanting more, that's Series Four.

Starring: David Tennant (the Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) with John Barrowman (Captain Jack) and Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith). 
Produced by: Phil Collinson and Susie Liggat
Executive Produced by: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner and Phil Collinson

Best Episodes

The Unicorn and the Wasp by Gareth Roberts
After Series Three's 'The Shakespeare Code', Roberts proves himself as Doctor Who's wittiest and certainly funniest writer with a cracker of a pastiche on Agatha Christie mysteries, starring the queen of detective stories herself. Due to its whimsicality and breezy tone, it's an adventure that might not have the blockbuster factor of other episodes this series but should be equally celebrated none the less.

Turn Left by Russell T Davies
It is rare in Doctor Who that we ever see things get too bad as the Doctor is always on hand to save the day - although, not in 'Turn Left' he's not. One of the show's bleakest ever episodes, 'Turn Left' gives us a skewered version of the Whoniverse wherein every alien invasion goes right, delivering a number of striking scenes, great emotion and Catherine Tate's finest performance as Donna.

Midnight by Russell T Davies
Series Three arguably showcases RTD's greatest work on Doctor Who and that is no better demonstrated than in this chilling stage play of an episode. Bravely taking place largely in just one set, Davies cranks up the claustrophobia with the unseen entity that mimics its prey before possessing them. This is a Doctor Who that isn't afraid to be different and daring and is all the better for it.


To counteract his past two companions who had both harboured romantic feelings for him, the Doctor was now simply after 'a mate' - something he found when remeeting his old acquaintance Donna Noble. 
As with Rose and Martha, Donna's journey aboard the TARDIS is one of maturity and self-discovery as well as one around time and space. Although where they came to appreciate their own worth and skills, Donna is forever racked with a lack of self-confidence which bubbles under her fiery façade. Something which tragically comes to a head when she reaches the 'Journey's End'...
This being the last full series of the RTD era, the series finale has a suitably celebratory feel, bringing together not only Doctor Who with its offspring, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, in the return of Captain Jack and Sarah Jane, but also rounding up all the major characters from the past four years. However, the show still has Donna at its heart, providing the revived series stand-out saddest moment. Previous friends of the Doctor have exited the TARDIS, if not always of their own accord, then with a wealth of wonderful experiences behind them and as better people. The tragedy of Donna's story is that she has her entire time with the Doctor erased, as if it had never happened. Even though he has the biggest family on Earth, the Doctor ends the series alone once again. As he would be until the end of his life. Which was actually, right around the corner.  

Story Arc

Series Four has by far the loosest story arc of these first four series, completing the trend that had begun with Series Two's lighter approach to a linking narrative than Series One. In lieu of shadowy mentions of 'Torchwood' or 'Mr Saxon', we have ominous remarks about the Medusa Cascade, the bees disappearing, 'there is something on your back' and the like which all reference something to come later in the series. However, the recurring motif here is really more of a visual one. Across the series we see, hidden on screens that the Doctor doesn't see, the face of Rose Tyler, the Doctor's tragically lost best friend, screaming out the Time Lord's name. This is kicked off in the series opener when Donna inadvertently speaks to Rose on a street corner and builds to the series' penultimate episode 'The Stolen Earth' where the Doctor and Rose are finally reunited, just in time to face the Daleks yet again. This time, however, returning for the first time since the classic series, they also come head-to-horribly-scared-head-with-a-third-eye with Davros, the original creator of the Daleks, who plots to destroy the whole of reality. Just another day for the Doctor...
With the series basking in and drawing to a close its own mythology that had developed over the past few years, Series Four has a certain valedictory feel, and thankfully goes out with a bang. Ready for a brand-new incarnation of the show. Because the journey never ends...

Next month: Series Five - Doctor Who may have regenerated but it's still got legs...

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