The Stolen Earth

Doctor WhoConfronted with the imminent arrival of Rose from the alternate universe, the Doctor and Donna make a quick jump to modern-day Earth, finding that everything is all right and returning to the TARDIS. But a sudden displacement of time and space leaves the TARDIS floating in space – without Earth. The Doctor flies into action to try to track the planet down, even going so far as to pay an unannounced visit to the Shadow Proclamation, an intergalactic law enforcement body, where he talks his way past Judoon guards and discovers that Earth isn’t the only planet missing: the Shadow Proclamation has placed the entire universe on alert. Taking note of the mass and properties of the missing worlds, the Doctor hypothesizes that the planets may have been stolen to become components of a massive engine, generating energy on a scale not seen since the creation of the universe. The representatives of the Shadow Proclamation are prepared to go into battle, but only if the Doctor surrenders his TARDIS; he opts to go it alone instead.

On Earth, chaos has broken out. Night has fallen around the world, and the sky is now teeming with unfamiliar planets. At UNIT HQ in New York City, at Torchwood in Cardiff and at Sarah Jane Smith’s home in Ealing, former companions of the Doctor are among the first to hear a message transmitted from an oncoming barrage of spacecraft: a Dalek voice endlessly repeating the word “exterminate”. The Daleks attack the planet, concentrating their firepower on military installations or entities that have prior knowledge of the Daleks: Torchwood and UNIT are among the first targets. An unlikely ally unites Martha, Torchwood and Sarah, using a technology invented for an emergency in which the Doctor hasn’t arrived to save the day. But the TARDIS does indeed make its way to Earth, finding the stolen planets time-shifted within the Medusa Cascade. The Doctor discovers that Davros, creator of the Daleks, has survived the Time War and bred a new race of Daleks to do his bidding. As the Doctor’s former companions race to join up with him, Torchwood comes under Dalek attack and Gwen and Ianto are left to fend for themselves. Sarah finds herself at the mercy of the Daleks, and even when Rose finds the TARDIS, it may not be enough to save the Doctor when he finds himself in a Dalek’s gunsights.

Order the DVDDownload this episodewritten by Russell T. Davies
directed by Graeme Harper
music by Murray Gold

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Thomas Knight (Luke Smith), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Julian Bleach (Davros), Michael Brandon (General Sanchez), Andrea Harris (Suzanne), Lachele Carl (Trinity Wells), Richard Dawkins (himself), Paul O’Grady (himself), Marcus Cunningham (Drunk Man), Jason Mohammad (Newsreader), Paul Kasey (Judoon), Kelly Hunter (Shadow Architect), Amy Beth Hayes (Albino Servant), Gary Milner (Scared Man), Barney Edwards, Nick Pegg, David Hankinson, Anthony Spargo (Dalek Operators), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voice), Alexander Armstrong (voice of Mr. Smith)

The Stolen EarthNotes: Davros first appeared in 1975’s Genesis Of The Daleks, and returned to terrorize each of the Doctor’s successive incarnations until his final appearance in 1988’s Remembrance Of The Daleks. Even the cancellation of the original series didn’t slow him down, as he returned to do battle twice more with the sixth Doctor, and then with Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor in Terror Firma, and even appeared in his own audio spinoff series, I, Davros. Apparently he’s been missing since a battle during the first year of the Time War, which – just to drive fans crazy – remains unrecorded in either novel or audio form. Actor Julian Bleach becomes the fourth actor to play Davros, having played the Ghost Maker in an episode of Torchwood’s second season. Bernard Cribbins, as Donna’s grandfather, has come up against the Daleks before – 42 years before this episode’s premiere, in the 1966 feature film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. starring Peter Cushing as Doctor Who. Penelope Wilton returns as former Prime Minister Harriet Jones, not seen since the then-newly-regenerated Doctor uttered six fateful words in The Christmas Invasion. Appearing as himself, evolutionary science advocate Richard Dawkins is the husband of former Doctor Who co-star Lalla “Romana” Ward; coincidentally, they were introduced by former Doctor Who writer and script editor – and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy author – Douglas Adams.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: A sense of inevitability surrounds The Stolen Earth from the first frame, picking up from Turn Left‘s rather surprising “Bad Wolf” refrain. At this point, we know that Rose is returning, the Daleks are returning, and Davros is returning. What role any or all of these will play, and how they all come together…that’s the mystery. Right before the opening credits, it really seems like all-star night on Doctor Who, and the opening credits themselves then hit you with a barrage of familiar names. Atypically, major guest stars’ names continue into the beginning of the episode, almost like the current revival of Battlestar Galactica, which puts some of the show’s topliners after the credits.

Stolen Earth also picks up Turn Left‘s dark, fatalistic atmosphere. When the Daleks broadcast their message to Earth, we get reactions from all of the new series companions, with Jack and Sarah mourning the likely fate of their loved ones. It’s almost frustrating that the Doctor is separated from the action for much of the story, but I quite liked the plot point that in this great gathering of the Doctor’s friends, Rose is left out. Like the audience, everyone else has safely assumed that she’s gone and won’t be returning. Jack and Martha both know she was trapped in another universe, and if Harriet Jones tried to look her up, she likely would’ve seen Rose listed as a casualty of the battle of Canary Wharf. No one has any reason to expect Rose to show up and save the day. (I did, however, like the little fourth-wall-busting moment in which Sarah says that she’s aware of Torchwood but doesn’t approve of the ease with which Jack and his team unholster their guns in any given situation, motioning toward her son Luke as she says it.)

Speaking of Harriet Jones, I would really have liked some build-up to her appearance here, somewhere else in the past two seasons. There’s a whopping great gap between her post-Christmas Invasion fall from power and her cobbling together a super-sophisticated top-secret communications network in what appears to be her living room, and even a mention of her would have been sufficient to bridge that gap – especially with Saxon’s ascendency to 10 Downing Street in the third season, during which there would’ve been a perfect opening for such a mention. While she mentions that her financial backer was Mr. Copper (from Voyage Of The Damned), it seems almost sad that she’s been shacked up alone, bringing technical skills that we never knew she had to bear on her task. Though I will admit to laughing out loud at the Daleks’ response to Harriet introducing herself! All of that being said, I have a theory that Harriet wound up in the script because someone else was unavailable: if a retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart had been the sad old hermit cobbling together improbable technologies to bring the Doctor’s companions together, it would’ve made almost infinitely more sense, though I would’ve hated to see him go out the way that Harriet did, i.e. decidedly not fighting.

Julian Bleach turns in a wonderful Davros, though he doesn’t honestly have much to do in this episode except make grand pronouncements of victory. I was caught off guard by the Dalek civil war not being reintroduced here, though I suppose it makes sense that the Dalek factions, during the Time War, would have pooled their resources against the Time Lords and put the matter of loyalty to Davros on the back burner. And it makes just as much sense that, in desperation, the sole surviving Dalek in the universe would have hatched a mad plan to bring Davros into the present to preserve the species. The scene in which Davros graphically demonstrates how he did this is possibly the greatest moment of stomach-turning horror in Doctor Who’s history, but again, it makes sense – and troublingly, it repopulates the universe with a whole new race of Daleks. How that issue will be resolved remains to be seen.

But none of the above elements are as surprising as Stolen Earth‘s cliffhanger – possibly the biggest shock I’ve gotten out of the new series to date. Needless to say, if it’s the real deal, then Russell T. Davies, the cast and crew, and the BBC as a whole have done a masterful job of concealing a huge plot development in the series. When very little of Star Wars Episode III survived unspoiled, and when you have entire sites devoted to TV and movie spoilage, this is no mean feat.

But I won’t say any more than that until the next episode.