So here it is. Season? end rushes towards us and Hell is about to descend upon the Earth. The TARDIS appears in London as the Doctor and Rose pay a lightning visit to Rose? long-suffering mum Jackie. But Jackie? expecting another visitor ?her father. Rose is understandably puzzled because Jackie? dad has been dead for ten years. Then Jackie starts to explain about the ghosts?n

This is DOCTOR WHO at its pulse-pounding best. It? an episode which practically roars out of the screen, grabs you by the throat and demands that you just sit there and revel at the scale of the thing, the cinematic scope and style, the verve and wit and imagination of a production absolutely and assuredly firing on all cylinders and then a few more. From the hair-raising pre-credits sequence ?Rose, voice-over, reminding us of her history as an unexceptional shopgirl, a girl with no past and very little future to look forward to, until a man in a leather jacket grabbed her hand and implored her to ?un!??to that final mind-blowing sequence leading into the end credits, ?rmy of Ghosts?has us in its power and it won? let go. There? a palpable air of doom throughout the episode ?probably engendered by the leaked news of Billie Piper? impending departure from the series ?and even some sly, arch Russell T Davies laughs can? shake us from that feeling that things are very shortly never going to be quite the same either for the Doctor or for his TV series.

Ghosts are appearing all over the Earth ?even on TV shows (cue hilarious spoof scenes from EASTENDERS and TRISHA) and loved ones are reunited with their families. Or are they? The Doctor quickly realises that it? an illusion, that the bereaved are allowing themselves to believe that these visitations are their loved ones. A bit of jiggery-pokey with some gizmos from the TARDIS ?and a quick joyous chorus of ?hostbusters??leads to the Doctor to Torchwood Tower, a complex hidden in Canary Wharf, where scientists are investigating salvaged alien tech and are creating ?host shifts? opening a rift which allows ghostly apparitions to flood the Earth. Torchwood, you?l have noticed, is the ?ad Wolf?like thread which had run through this series since Queen Victoria unsubtly announced its formation at the end of ?ooth and Claw?(it? also the name of the forthcoming John Barrowman spin-off series, currently filming its thirteen episodes in and around sunny Cardiff). Torchwood, headed-up by slick people-person Yvonne Hartman (Oberman), has been waiting for the Doctor to return for 150 years and now he? here at last. But Torchwood? joy at capturing this most famous of aliens (ignoring for a moment all the hideous continuity questions Torchwood? existence throws up in the face of over forty years of Torchwood-free DOCTOR WHO lore) is rather short-lived when there? a sudden burst of activity form the mysterious sphere held in stasis deep in the bowels of Torchwood. The Doctor quickly identifies it as a voidship, a capsule from outside Time and Space, a machine which exists between parallel worlds and thus, can? really exist at all let alone be held captive in a laboratory. At the same time some mysterious force hiding behind some plastic sheeting is doing something nasty to Torchwood personnel with the sole intention of sabotaging the next ?host shift? Despite the Doctor? opposition, the shift goes ahead ?and the ghosts are revealed at last to be Cybermen, crossing over from the alternative Earth we last saw them in a few weeks ago. Cybermen are now everywhere and the Doctor is helpless. As Rose stumbles upon her old boyfriend Mickey, back on the real Earth and still fighting the good fight, the Doctor ponders how the Cybermen could have managed to come by voidship technology. The audience? blood runs a little bit colder when the Cyberleader tells him the voidship is nothing to do with them and that the Cybermen just followed it through the spatial rift it caused? Down in the bowels of Torchwood, the sphere opens up?pilling out a squad of flying Daleks.

There are times when I wish I could keep away from the DOCTOR WHO rumour mill. Imagine how I might have reacted if I hadn? known for about six months that the Daleks were going to make an unexpected reappearance at the end of this season? I can take solace in the fact that a generation of eight year-olds, part of DOCTOR WHO? lively new audience, will undoubtedly have fallen off their seats in shock and been screaming with joy as the Daleks rushed towards them. As it was I found myself jumping up and clapping as the credits started to roll. Great TV can do that; DOCTOR WHO, in case you hadn? noticed, is very regularly great TV nowadays.

?rmy of Ghosts?in just a delight from start to finish. Davies?script is fast and furious, urgent and exciting, genuinely witty when it needs to be and sometimes bloody terrifying ?kids around the country are surely now traumatised for the years by the sight of a Cyberman kicking down the front door of a regular family home and looming threateningly over a cowering nuclear family? Equally exhilarating are the wonderful FX shots of squads of Cybermen appearing in Paris and outside the Taj Mahal. Indeed, it? the scale of this episode which is so very special. ?rmy of Ghosts?just looks big ?from the massive Torchwood sets, the stunning visuals (The Mill rock!), the promise of so much more to come in the astounding ?ext Time?trailer wisely positioned at the end of the credits.

It? been touch and go this year on DOCTOR WHO. There have been some genuinely astonishing episodes and there?e been a handful of episodes which didn? quite hit the mark. Ratings have remained impressive, popular acclaim generally good ?but there was an undercurrent that the show didn? quite have the same bite it had last year, that the ?hock of the new?had worn off and that DOCTOR WHO was becoming part of the TV landscape again. ?rmy of Ghosts?seals it though; this is about as good as we can ever seriously expect British TV to get and it effortlessly lifts this series of DOCTOR WHO significantly above the bar set by last year? set of episodes. And if that trailer is anything to go by, next week? ?oomsday?is going to blow this one right out of the water.


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