In the last season, the Doctor and Rose were almost sickeningly in love, an almost adolescent, all-consuming kind of love. But, in the end, they were torn apart.
It’s hard to move on from that kind of heartbreak. For a while, nothing else matters. “But your heart grows cold, the north wind blows, and carries down the distant – Rose.” It’s the one name that has power over him. He might have a new friend, Martha – but it’s still all about Rose. “Ever heard the word ‘rebound’?” Martha asked him, realising the Doctor’s revisiting places he took her predecessor, but rebound isn’t quite the right word – the Doctor’s leading her on, almost auditioning her, offering her just a few trips in the TARDIS, dangling the hope of a relationship like he had with Rose just out of her reach. He could, quite honestly, say that he promised her nothing, could be legitimately incredulous if told his behaviour was cruel. But Rose’s shadow lies long over the TARDIS crew.
Many people have to face the pain of moving on, of growing up, over the course of this season. The inhabitants of New Earth reclaim the city of New New York, no longer driving endlessly on the road to nowhere, they will have to step into the world beyond and create a new future. Dalek-hybrid Sec is ripped out of his safe certainties, the black and white vision of the Daleks, forced to consider the world in a more adult way. It’s unsurprising that the rest of the Daleks can’t bear to contemplate this more complex existence, and opt to destroy all the Dalek-humans rather than allow there to be shades of grey in the Dalek world view.
Nothing in this season demonstrates the human resistance to moving on than The Lazarus Experiment. Professor Lazarus swore as a child that he would never face death – so he spent his entire life working on a way to reclaim his youth, rather than spending it living. The pupils of Farringham School are still young but have to grow up suddenly, shockingly, the war games of the school corps suddenly becoming real as they stand against the scarecrows’ siege. The relief when they realise that the scarecrows weren’t real, that they didn’t really kill anyone, is unbearably poignant when the viewers know that there’ll be no such reprieve soon; these boys – these children – will find themselves in the trenches, in the cruelty of the adult world of war.
In Utopia, the Doctor runs away from Captain Jack, and we learn it’s not the first time he’s done it. Abandoning Jack in the future because he didn’t realise he’d been brought back to life was one thing – realising that the Doctor ran away, didn’t want to face what he’d become, was quite another. But now he’s forced to face his fear. In a way, Utopia reflects Doctor Who itself moving on, the way it regenerated in 2005. Here is Professor Yana – an old-fashioned gentleman in Edwardian garb – transforming into a young, manic, thoroughly modern man. The old gives way to the new, and now, as this season comes to an end, it’s time for everyone to take stock.
Captain Jack is no longer obsessed with finding the Doctor, finding answers. He realises he has a team that needs him, and he must take responsibility for them.
Martha. Oh, Martha! Has any companion ever had the journey that she has here? She spends a year walking the world, alone, facing death and danger. Little wonder that an adolescent infatuation seems unimportant by the end. She still loves the Doctor, but she’ll no longer let her life be ruled by an unrequited crush.
Martha’s family, too, have suffered. Mid-life crisis and trophy girlfriend are forgotten; with Martha’s help they will move on from what’s happened to them.
Everyone has to move on. Everyone has to grow up. But here, at the very end of the season, one person refuses to. “It’s not fair!” cries the Master when the Doctor foils his plans, the very essence of a petulant child, and then, stubborn, spiteful and spoilt child, he refuses to adapt, preferring revenge on the Doctor even to his own survival.
And that just leaves the Doctor. The Doctor’s extreme ageing in this final story is symbolic of the changes he’s facing. “Maybe I’ve been wandering for too long. Now, I’ve got someone to care for,” he says, contemplating his life ahead with the Master, before that possibility is torn from him. We know he’ll never forget Rose, but her shadow has lifted and he finally faces the life that’s in front of him – but in turn, both Jack and Martha opt to built their own life, rather than prop up his. This Doctor has grown up. And now he can move on.
1. “I will cling to the old wooden cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.” One of the last things you’d expect: a rousing hymn from the early twentieth century sung on a motorway post the year 5 billion. Gridlock.
2. “We wanted to live forever. So the Doctor made sure that we did.” Has there ever been a darker Doctror in fifty years of Doctor Who than when he granted eternal life to the Family of Blood? The Family of Blood.
3. “It was raining when we met.” “It’s the same rain.” The amazing Blink is really 45 minutes of memorable moments, but the scene where Sally Sparrow visits the older, dying Billy is especially poignant. Blink.
4. “And some say, that’s where it all began. When he was a child. That’s when the Master saw eternity.” The Master has never been madder – but this glimpse of his past explains why. The Sound of Drums.