Army of Ghosts
Jackie: You’re always doing this, reducing it to science. Why can’t it be real?
Production Code: 2.12.
Doctor Who Season: S28 (Ep12).
Story Number: 177a.
The most epic story so far…
“He’s not happy when I know more than him” – Jackie’s exclamation regarding the Doctor highlights the mystery of this two-parter, or rather the mysteries. Jackie’s convinced she knows what the ghosts are – the audience might have a pretty good idea if they’ve read the pre-publicity for this episode. What was a complete surprise (for this viewer at least) was the resolution of the mystery “What’s in the sphere?”
Doctor Who in 2006 was a masterclass in “event television”, with the Radio Times covers between this episode and next displaying (on variant) the two big bads of the programme – covers with a World Cup theme – this is the clash all Doctor Who fans had been waiting for since the “almost” of The Five Doctors, shared screentime at last for these two iconic monsters.
Before all that, there was something – appropriately for this new “emotional” Doctor Who – particularly expressive and warm about this gradual invasion. No skulking in sewers or coldly emerging from hatches for these new Cybermen.
Like Aliens of London the Doctor gets the latest news not from the TARDIS scanner but from Jackie’s telly.
Traditional Classic Doctor Who elements are still part of this story however, like the Base Under Siege (Torchwood One) and “Martha’s cousin”, flirting with her colleague isn’t that dissimilar to the secondary characters of The Wheel in Space. Cybermen (the advance force, not the ghosts) emerging from layers of polythene is another classic Doctor Who image.
New “emotional Doctor Who” is encapsulated though in a wonderfully unsettling scene in which Jackie quizzes Rose about her future with the Doctor – “I’ll just keep on travelling”, yes Jackie says , until you’re “not even human”.
This subtle thread of the theme of humanity is continued with Yvonne Hartman keep to keep a “human” side to Torchwood – “Torchwood is a very modern organisation – people skills, that’s what it’s all about these days” but the corporate bonhomie belies a cold purpose behind the welcoming applause for the Doctor.
The standoff between her and the Doctor as he psychologically convinces her to stand down on the “ghost shift” is a great scene – a scene just before the advance force of Cybermen shift the “ghosts” anyway, and the final scene of the sphere unloading its spectacular contents.
Rating: 5/5 (for this part of the story)