Army of Ghosts Reviewed

With the final tale of the series come some interesting surprises, casting and sci-fi concepts from the pen of Russell T Davies. But as the next seven days will no doubt belong to Billie Piper, let us take a few moments to talk about the star of Doctor Who, David Tennant.

I’ll be honest – when I first saw the new face of the Doctor utter the words “Now where was I? Oh that’s right – Barcelona!” I wasn’t totally convinced. It wasn’t what the tabloids call Tennant’s “Dick Van Dyke-like cock-er-ney” accent but more a visual thing. He just didn’t look like a Doctor to me.

Over the months we’ve seen him sword-fighting in his pyjamas, channelling Zoe Wanamaker, exploring alien ruins, confronting shape-shifting aliens whose name escapes me, dealing with horses on spaceships that link to 17th century France and coming face-to-face with werewolves and Cybermen. He’s effortlessly walked into the role of the Doctor, and continued to redefine the role.

While Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor was northern, casually-dressed, abrupt, passionate and intense, Tennant’s Time Lord has showed an equally impressive range and does intensity without actually getting intense. It’s all in the eyes, you know…

Tennant has made a massive impression this season, and while Eccleston will be remembered, I suspect that within the next couple of years his rein will be largely overlooked. So it was nice to get a quick glimpse of him in flashback at the beginning of Army of Ghosts, a thrilling, non-stop adventure on modern-day Earth concerning the appearance of ghosts, the Torchwood Institute, Cybermen and another famous Doctor Who alien as told by Rose Tyler.

It’s the last story she’ll ever tell.

There has been a lot of criticism from this very website over Russell T Davies scripts this season, in particular New Earth and Love & Monsters. With the talent of the man concerned, he can only illicit debate about his work, although whether he was planning on upsetting Doctor Who fans in such a way is another matter. The pitching of the show as a family drama is all well and good; but it seems to me that Doctor Who 2006 is aimed more squarely at children than Doctor Who 2005, or indeed Doctor Who 1963-1989.

That said, despite a few wobbles (Barbara Windsor, “Ghostbusters”…) the first 45 minutes of the Army of Ghosts/Doomsday pairing is both intriguing and thrilling. The odds are fantastically mounting up against the Doctor as we enter the final stages of the episode, with the identity of the Ghosts revealed, the return of an old companion as well as two classic monsters to deal with.

I’m not giving anything away when I say that the tabloid-anointed new companion Freema Agyeman appears in the adventure, playing a key role – but as for her companion credentials I’m not so sure…

Dialogue-wise, the episode carries a few gems such as the Doctor’s opinion on carrying guns as well as his explanation of what is happening to the Earth. Incidental music-wise, merry old Murray Gold is referencing Hollywood classics left right and centre this series and continues to do so with aplomb – depending on your televisions sound system…

The fate of Rose will be revealed next week – and not before time. The episode sees her story come full circle, back on Earth, Jackie flirting with the Doctor, and while not perfectly served this series she has been the most well-defined companion in the show’s history. Her successor will have to be good…


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