In what is hopefully the first of a new feature for my Big Gay Longblog, I am going to look at some of the "Next Time Trailers" that end most episodes of the new series of Doctor Who. They try and show lots of exciting bits from the next episode with the intention that this will make the viewers want to see it.
For multi-part stories, showing off some of the next episode can mean sometimes giving away the resolution to the cliffhanger straight away. Now I'm only a cat, but it seems to me that this is effectively replacing the cliffhanger with the trailer, both of which are tools for making viewers want to tune in for the next episode. Maybe that's why we don't get many cliffhanger endings in the new series? That's sad if true.
But the real trouble with these trailers comes when they end up promising something very different from what the actual episode they are trailing is really like. And sometimes what they hint at in 30 seconds ends up being a lot better than the 45-minute long episode that follows.
It's these trailers that I really want to look at, and then I'll consider how the promise that the trailer offers compares with the reality that the next episode delivers.
Doctor Who: Doomsday
This is the trailer that followed the episode Army of Ghosts, which ended on the cliffhanger of Daleks coming out of their voidship (which is like a spaceship that can go in the void between universes), into the Torchwood base that had already been invaded by Cybermen.
Daleks AND Cybermen - what's going to happen next?
Here's the trailer:
It starts with the Doctor saying that the Earth will blow up, so we know that the stakes are going to be really high. Then we see Cybermen and Daleks fighting, which promises to be the most exciting thing ever in Doctor Who! (That is if we don't count Paul Darrow's two appearances.)
"THE GENESIS ARK IS PRIMED" says a Dalek (maybe the leader of the Daleks?) and that introduces a mystery, because we don't know what the "Genesis Ark" is. The Dalek also says "WE MUST PROTECT THE GENESIS ARK" so we know it must be very important to the Daleks. Here the trailer is successful at being intriguing as well as exciting.
"The Cybermen came through from one world to another. And so did we!" It's Jake, who was in Rise of the Cybermen earlier that season. The trailer shows that he will be back, which ought to make fans of his happy, and also his speech may hint that he will be important at helping the Doctor save the day somehow.
Pete is also a character from the other universe of Rise of the Cybermen, and he's here too. He says "This is our world, not yours. And you're gonna listen for once," which is a defiant speech presumably being said to the Daleks. His defiance is good because it brings a note of hope into the trailer.
Rose, who was the Doctor's Companion at the time, says "You didn't have to kill him!" to a Dalek, which raises the question of who has been killed, because we don't know. The Dalek answers:
"NEITHER DID WE NEED HIM ALIVE" which is just a Dalek being properly evil.
The trailer concludes by raising the stakes even more. A Cyberman says "Cybermen plus Daleks. Together we could upgrade the universe!"
The final shot is of the faces of Rose and Mickey, with them looking horrified at the prospect of the Cybermen and Daleks teaming up instead of fighting each other. This is cleverly contrasted with the expectation that the viewer would look forward to that same prospect with eager anticipation.
In summary, this is a brilliant trailer that promises so much for the finale of that season of Doctor Who: high stakes; excitement; mystery; the return of old characters; but most importantly of all both Cybermen vs Daleks and a Cybermen/Dalek team-up.
So what did Doomsday deliver after all that?
I'll come back to that in a moment. First, let's give Doomsday some credit - it does feature great scenes of Cybermen vs Daleks, and - perhaps even better - Daleks insulting the Cybermen as they fight. This almost makes up for the lack of Cybermen/Dalek team-up, because the Daleks (even though there's only four of them to begin with) don't need to team up with anybody in this story.
The Genesis Ark turns out to be full of Daleks, which fits well with what has gone before and does not disappoint (often, the trouble with a trailer setting up an intriguing mystery is when the real answer doesn't live up to the answers you can come up with yourself - more on this in future 'Promise vs Reality' entries, I hope).
Also, and this may be a minor point but it is important, at least one Dalek gets away at the end, rather than having every single Dalek be destroyed. Again.
Those are the things the episode does well. Very well, even. But, no matter how good they are, they are overshadowed by the prominence given to the departure of Rose from the series, and the way it utterly dominates the tone of the episode.
The very first lines of the episode are delivered by Rose: "This is the day I died" she says. It then goes on to present the episode as the story of how Rose dies, not the story of Daleks vs Cybermen vs mannys from another universe that the trailer had promised us.
And Rose doesn't even die for that matter. It's a cheat - she is declared 'officially dead' in that universe, while being trapped in the other universe. Now I'd be all for Rose dying for real, because not only would it give me an excuse to post this picture
After the Daleks and Cybermen are defeated, Rose is trapped in a different universe from the Doctor - one he can't get to because of reasons - and it turns out that they were deeply in love with each other and this is supposed to be epically tragic and boo hoo hoo hoo hoo. Romeo and Juliet it isn't.
Blub blub blub goes Rose. Blub blub blub goes the Doctor. That's how the story ends. Not with a bang but with a crying competition.