The fourth series of Doctor Who has been perhaps the finest season out of the lot. My main reason for believing that is when I compare this series to the ones before, this seems to have stood out more in terms of overall quality. When judging the series by each episode individually, I've found that Series 4 has been more consistent than anything that's gone before it.
The fourth and final DVD volume of this series justifies my belief. Without doubt, this three-parter is the highlight of Season 4. Collectively and individually, these episodes are real classics and the ultimate way to end this spectacular series. They have everything and features both David Tennant and Catherine Tate at the peak of their abilities.
The first episode, "Turn Left", is truly one of the most outstanding and psychological ever seen in Doctor Who, and it's important for so many reasons. It revisits the parallel world concept first established in Series 2 and explores a very captivating and powerful possibility. What if Donna had NEVER met the Doctor in the first place? Only here, it actually happens. And there are plenty of consequences because of it. As Donna and everything around her falls apart...the only hope is a mysterious blonde woman that's kept popping up throughout.
For those who criticised Catherine Tate and the Donna Noble character, "Turn Left" is an episode that silences all naysayers and puts all unfounded negative comments about her to rest. Catherine gives the performance of her LIFE here. Her portrayal of Donna in this episode represents the epitome of the character's success. Watching this symbolises perfectly just how much the Doctor changed her and her life for the better, and without him to show just how brilliant she was, everything goes to hell and she's powerless to do anything about it.
While Catherine does the amazing job of carrying the nightmarish episode on her shoulders, it would be criminal to ignore Billie Piper, who finally makes her first proper return as Rose Tyler to the series after "Doomsday" and all those cameos throughout Series 4. And she hasn't lost anything at all. Rose acting as Donna's guide is superb and that coupled with her warnings of `The Darkness' plus the shocking ending makes "Turn Left" a diamond of an episode.
This awesomeness continues with "The Stolen Earth", where after so long, the dreaded Daleks make their highly-anticipated return. Bigger and badder than ever, the new Dalek Empire conquers the Earth along with a host of other planets. With the Doctor and Donna nowhere to be found, Earth's greatest heroes assemble to try and oppose their fiercest foes. But in the shadows...lies an enemy long-thought gone. And his return will be their greatest challenge.
Russell T Davies has obviously saved the very best till last here. The fate of the Daleks had been in serious question ever since the events of Series 3's "Evolution of the Daleks" and their inevitable return was bound to be huge. And it's bigger than huge as it turns out. The Daleks have NEVER been deadlier and it's a given fan boy's dream to see the cast of spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures appear as well. The circumstances, plot, horrors etc all make "The Stolen Earth" absolutely epic. The Doctor, Donna, Rose, Martha, Captain Jack, Sarah Jane, as well as Gwen and Ianto (from Torchwood) and Luke and Mr Smith (from Sarah Jane Adventures), are all given proud moments to shine and interact yet again. The explanation of the Daleks' comeback is plausible, horrific and brilliant, and the highly-anticipated return of Davros (after 20 years) is the icing on the cake. Finally, the epic cliff-hangers finish off an absolute thrill-ride of an episode.
And "Journey's End" is an exceptional finale. The Doctor and all his friends have all come together now (including Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler) to face-off against Davros, the Daleks and their deadliest scheme ever to conquer and destroy all of reality. But a haunting prophecy looms over the Children of Time, decreeing that at least one of them will die.
What's sensible about this episode is that it adds an extra twenty minutes. Given all the great characters returning to the action, all the various sub-plots, the excitement and horror; it's far too much for forty-five minutes to contain, so Davies deserves credit once again for making "Journey's End" an extra-long special.
The resolution of each of the character's stories has been so well crafted and couldn't have been written or executed better. Each of the actors/actresses are on top form here but the most outstanding person is unquestionably Julian Bleach for his terrific performance as Davros. Bleach gives the character such new life and makes his return to modern-day Who a resounding success that deserves an award. Chilling malevolence, insidious intellect and a fitting dry wit make Davros an unforgettable villain that even older Who fans can appreciate.
As for the ending, there is great happiness all-round balanced out by an equally heartbreaking moment for...well, I'm sure everyone knows now. The character's departure made me both really angry and sad when first broadcast, and the power of the tragedy hasn't lessened at all. I suppose it's the only logical way to end the series given that there won't be another full-length series until 2010, despite the various one-off specials coming up. But still...the ending creates such a painful paradox for me that I don't quite approve of.
Final analysis? Thank you, Russell T Davies, David Tennant, Catherine Tate and everyone else for this masterpiece of a finale. It's absolutely classic and naturally the best volume out of the Series 4 Dr. Who DVDs. To all fans and everyone else, I advise that you do NOT miss out on one of the best bits of television to grace our screens in recent times. Truly, truly essential.