Army of Ghosts

Posted in Episode by - April 16, 2016
Army of Ghosts

Aired 1 July 2006

Even as the first episode of a two-part finale, ‘Army of Ghosts’ makes it abundantly clear that this will cover very different territory than last year’s ‘Bad Wold’ and ‘The Parting of the Ways.’ Whereas those episodes presented the Doctor with his ultimate conflict in either submitting to the Daleks or destroying the entire human race, the script literally turning Rose into a godlike being to find a viable alternative, ‘Army of Ghosts’ gives the impression that this will be a much more straightforward- though no less emotional- adventure.

The Cybermen have found a way to traverse the gap between Earth and its parallel version seen earlier in this series. At first they appear as ghostlike figures at designated times, playing on the fact that humans are quick to anthropomorphise and to accept strangeness as commonplace if present for long enough. The scenes in which the hazy and unspeaking ghosts star on television shows is particularly telling and humorous, though, to that same extent, the scene in which Jackie introduces Rose to her grandfather in ghost form is equally and resonantly sad. Of course, this slow invasion eventually progresses to the next stage with the Cybermen already having successfully invaded and infiltrated by the time of their full emergence. At least as of now, there is no higher force that is present to get into ethical and theological debates with the Doctor as the Dalek Emperor did previously, simply presenting overwhelming numbers and odds for the Doctor to defeat once again.

The introduction of the modern-day Torchwood Institute is completely expected given its mention in nearly every episode going back to ‘Bad Wolf,’ and fortunately everything is presented very logically and thoroughly, managing to handle some of the past criticisms thrown at the Doctor, and in some instances this Tenth incarnation, as well. Harriet Jones stated in ‘The Christmas Invasion’ that, no matter how hard he try, he simply is not around reliably enough to take up the mantle as Earth’s defender. Likewise, Queen Victoria herself in ‘Tooth and Claw’ took exception to the rather pedestrian manner of the Doctor as utter chaos unfolded around him. The Torchwood presented here is the amalgamation of those two ideas, Queen Victoria’s vision for a strong defense force against extraterrestrial threats fully realised. It does seem like, to some extent, this could step on the toes of UNIT in terms of on-screen storylines and real-world application, but perhaps that distinction will become clearer as time progresses.

Tracy-Ann Oberman has superb presence as Torchwood leader Yvonne Hartman, portraying her as a passionately confident character who- no matter how misguided- has only the best interest of the planet at heart. There’s some fun to be had with her character as introductions are made, the reactions to Jackie being introduced as Rose to allow Rose to investigate unhindered being absolutely priceless. The biggest issue, at least in this opening act, is that she is so clearly wrong about the ghosts being harmless, displaying a casual coolness toward the Doctor as she claims to have the ghost situation under control despite obviously playing with forces well beyond her understanding. Yvonne is without question an intelligent and dominant force of nature, and whether Queen Victoria marked the Doctor as a criminal or not, his broad knowledge and proven results should have yielded more consideration.

‘Army of Ghosts’ is, of course a setup episode for the concluding events in ‘Doomsday,’ but the manner in which it presents its threat is handled much more fluidly and excitingly than in the earlier ‘Rise of the Cybermen.’ Ultimately, though, it’s the last few minutes and the cliffhanger that are going to be the biggest talking points of this episode. Again making perfectly logical sense, the reappearance of Mickey in this universe is handled perfectly by having him already infiltrated Torchwood himself and working on a means to save this world from the threat that originated in his adopted world. Rose and he haven’t always been on the best terms, but the genuine happiness that the two show each other is fitting and well handled by both. That appearance is quickly dwarfed by what appears next, though, as in this series of the Cyberman the Void Ship opens and reveals four Daleks coming to land. This is easily the best cliffhanger of the new series so far, opening up exciting possibilities for the inevitable showdown between two of the Doctor’s most iconic foes and also giving a logical reintroduction of the Daleks after Rose seemingly destroyed every one in existence previously.

The Beast in ‘The Satan Pit’ alluded to Rose’s death coming soon, and the opening scene in which Rose declares that this is the story of how she dies provides a superb start to the story while heightening the tension. After the events of ‘Army of Ghosts,’ the Earth has successfully been invaded by the Cybermen and the Daleks have now appeared to take the threat and danger levels to incalculable levels, providing a realistic backdrop in which the Doctor’s beloved companion could realistically meet her end.

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