(One or two mini-spoilers may be present)
So, after twelve weeks - from the Doctor and Donna's silent meeting to learning that the earth is gone, part of a huge cosmic engine, we have the grand finale.
Good news - there are some good, slightly fannish touches which I really liked.
Bad news - it makes last season's "Last of the Time Lords" look like tightly written drama in comparison.
First, the good touches - Dalek Caan, aka "the nutty Dalek". Everyone in the TARDIS control room. Mickey & Captain Jack's reunion. Sarah Jane's confrontation of Davros, and her reassurance that the Doctor has a "large family". Daleks speaking German (well, I liked it). Some plot points which hint at a slight repudiation/retcon of information from an earlier Doctor Who movie.
However, two things towards the end make it absolutely wonderful - Bernard Cribbins, as always, hits the sweet spot. But just before then, as the Doctor is talking to Donna's family, he makes a very straightforward - almost terse - remark to Donna's mother. It's the kind of Doctor-ish touch that seems to be missing from new Who. It's minor, it's relatively pointless, but it reminds us of the kind of character the Doctor should be - a moral compass, reminding us that we can, in fact, be better individuals.
Now, the bad...oh, brother. This episode brings out Davies' worst excesses, swimming in a stew of scientific implausibility, plot contrivances, and deus ex machinae. It falls flat because it becomes almost Who by numbers - the universe will be destroyed! Only the Doctor can save it! And, of course, last episode's cliffhanger turns into a handy way to resolve key story arcs, leaving us with the Doctor, alone...as usual.
Good example - Davros. Last episode, he taunts the Doctor, claiming, "The Daleks are my children...where are yours?" However, this episode finds repeated references to "the Children of Time", with Davros then claiming the moral high ground, stating that the Doctor "takes people...and turns them into weapons". Let me now postulate my first corollary to Godwin's law:
"If you did something truly and completely reprehensible, like create a race of killing machines like the Daleks, you immediately give up your right to the moral high ground when discussing other people's actions or lack thereof"In other words, when I make fun of Mike Sterling for liking All Star Batman & Robin, his retort can be "Well...at least I didn't invent the Daleks!"
Am I being a little too anal about this? Possibly, but at least I'm not Lawrence Miles about it. It's sad that this was the most-watched show in England...and it could have been so much better.
This should have been a right and proper swan song for Davies, as his involvement with Who will end by 2010. (He has four specials to write, and then Steven Moffatt takes over Season Five). It could have brought the Doctor's arc - from war-weary survivor to transtemporal "father figure" - to a fine and fitting conclusion. This was a very strong season from the start, but unfortunately, ends with neither a bang nor a whimper, but a shrug, a tale full of sound and fury, composed from the bits off of cocktail napkins, coming to a blank, futile end.
And Who fans deserved better.