I started The Stolen Earth with some reservations thanks to the previous episode—a de facto prologue—which managed to both waste and diss Catherine Tate simultaneously, but the first scene won me over a bit. It’s an exterior street scene with Tate and David Tennant and it’s actually shot well. There’s no telling how much better this show might be with better lighting from Ernest Vincze (in general, though this episode too).
Not to mention the CGI. There’s a lot of grand scale CGI this episode and… it’s not good. It’s not even on par with the non-CGI “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” which is a bummer. If “Who” were ever going to deliver on visuals, Stolen Earth would be the time to do it.
The episode kicks off the two-part (three-part including last episode, which should count but apparently doesn’t) season finale… it’s the end of the world. The end of all worlds.
Though we don’t see the all worlds, because Billie Piper’s already here on Earth and now it’s time for Tennant to find her and why isn’t he more excited (because it’s the end of the world, Donna).
Right after the opening scene—and the last good exterior lighting in the episode—the Earth disappears and the TARDIS stays in place. Cue opening credits, including the full “Doctor Who” revival cast (well, not Christopher Eccleston but whatever)—Freema Agyeman, John Barrowman, Elisabeth Sladen, and Billie Piper! In addition to Tate and Tennant, obviously. Written by revival creator and main writer Russell T. Davies!
The first half or so of the episode—which is really well-paced regardless of the questionable special effects–is the “Who” sidekicks trying to figure out what to do without the Doctor. Finally they all figure something out by working together—well, with the help of a special guest star, whose inclusion is nice but just points out how the show failed them (though failing your actors is the only singular thing about “Doctor Who: Phase II”)—and are able to get Tennant to Earth.
Tennant and Tate have been hanging out at the Shadow Proclamation, which isn’t a document but a (poorly CGI-rendered) place, where there are some aliens in charge and then the Rhino cops from last season. The Rhino cops are just comic relief then gone (they’re probably there for last episode’s teaser).
It’s time-killing with a lot more emphasis on the Earth sidekicks, with Piper sheltering with Tate’s family, Bernard Cribbins and Jacqueline King, and Agyeman reuniting with mum Adjoa Andoh (the other four people in the family are completely forgotten). Piper goes from being a badass interdimensional warrior last episode to mooning over absent Tennant, albeit with a giant gun (she looks like she’s walking around with a guitar).
Once the episode—just about halfway through, not even the cliffhanger—reveals the villains, things pick up a bit. Especially since Piper and Agyeman move on out of their respective shelters and the companion supporting cast energy drain goes away.
There are some predictable moments with the reuniting and the villains, with a bit of a cheap cliffhanger device too, but if you’re going to assemble a bunch of likable actors—almost Piper this time too—and have them dramatically goof off around sci-fi, you could do a whole lot worse than Stolen Earth.
Also, am I the only one who thinks “Torchwood” crossover guest star Gareth David-Lloyd looks like Zach Morris?