Ten years ago, the Whoniverse had its own version of an infinity war with an incredible tale featuring a solid ensemble cast.
Doctor Who’s season 4 finale “Journey’s End” was the last installment of a two-part story featuring the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) as he raced to stop the Daleks from destroying all matter in every universe. Twenty-seven planets were being held hostage and Davros seemingly had the upper hand against the Gallifreyan hero.
It was a large-scale crisis that called for backup and Doctor Who delivered in an epic way by assembling ALL of the Tenth Doctor’s companions and associates. The mega adventure crossed over with its two prominent spin-offs at the time, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures, and tied in lots of key elements from the show since its 2005 revival.
Donna, Rose, Martha, Sarah Jane, Mickey, Jackie, Jack Harkness, K-9, and even Harriet Jones (yes, we still know who you are Harriet) all worked their own individual agendas to help the Doctor restore the universe back to its original state.
Donna inadvertently becomes the MVP by creating a metacrisis Doctor and taking on some Time Lord qualities combined with her humanity to achieve victory by disabling the reality bomb.
The episode even features a heartwarming scene with his companions co-piloting the TARDIS and bringing Earth back to its proper location. There were a lot of moving parts in this story, but showrunner Russell T Davies did a great job bringing all the characters together in humorous ways, including a Mickey/Jack reunion.
The laugh inducing scenes were met with lots of tension and introspective moments to create an entertaining feature-length TV adventure.
The companion family reunion in “Journey’s End” is enough to make it one of the most memorable episodes in modern Doctor Who history, but the emotional beats of this story are stellar. The Tenth Doctor was forced to face the truth about the effect he had on his companions.
After traveling with him, Rose, Mickey, and Martha all became significantly different people for better and worse. Mickey recognized his own power and bravery while Rose finally felt like she found a bigger purpose and meaning to life.
But, they both went from being typical teenagers to people who had been exposed to frequent death and destruction. Martha’s brilliance as a doctor combined with her travels eventually helped her move up the ranks in U.N.I.T., but she went through an emotional wringer in the process.
She, along with her family, endured suffering while she traveled, which led her to make a conscious choice to return home as an act of self-preservation. She moved on, but she was much more militant when she later returned to the series.
They were willing to take violent (and morally questionable) actions, including sacrificing themselves and others, to gain leverage against enemies. Martha and Sarah Jane demonstrated this in Journey’s End by threatening Davros and the Daleks with mass destruction to thwart their plan.
Martha’s Osterhagen Key would have obliterated Earth and, as she said, taken one planet out of the specific equation. Sarah Jane also threatened to use her “warp star” to destroy the ship if they didn’t let The Doctor go.
These threats visibly bother The Doctor and Davros capitalizes on his pain by calling him out about how he often weaponizes his companions despite his frequent objections to violence. The Doctor also relives all the people like Harriet Jones who died to save his life.
It’s a poignant heart check for a character who rarely takes time to dwell on the past because there is always the next adventure or task ahead.
Of course, Davros was just trying to get in The Doctor’s head, but there is some truth in his observations. Traveling in the TARDIS seems like a dream for some Whovians, but there is a lot of risk involved with this gig, including the possibility of potential death.
Or, the horrors of the universe may be enough to haunt even the bravest person. Either way, the end can be grim. “Journey’s End” was the end of Ten’s relationship with his close friends as he decided to strike out on his own.
Surprisingly, most of The Doctor’s friends all got a satisfying ending considering the episode’s high stakes. Martha cemented her professional relationship with Jack Harkness, which led to some awesome guest appearances on Torchwood.
And, she married Mickey and worked with him as a freelance alien hunter. Yes, it’s weird to throw two Black characters together, but it almost makes sense for them to form a relationship since they are a part of this small ex-companion club. Shared time-traveling and alien-fighting experience is apparently the key to a solid marriage!
Sarah Jane reunited with her teenage son and continued her investigative work, which was documented on the spinoff series Sarah Jane Adventures until actress Elisabeth Sladen’s 2011 death.
Rose got to keep the metacrisis Doctor as her bae and live out her life on parallel Earth along with Jackie.
But, Donna’s journey ended with a heartbreaking fate. Becoming the half human-half Time Lord “Doctor Donna” led to her brain nearly burning from infinite knowledge, so The Doctor made a choice to wipe away all of her memories to save her life.
In one of the saddest scenes on Doctor Who, Donna begged him to not press her mental reset button because she didn’t want to go back to her mediocre life. It was disheartening to see Donna mature as a woman and develop a refreshingly fun friendship with The Doctor only for it to be stripped away in a matter of seconds.
She eventually got married and won the lottery, but nothing could compare to her life with The Doctor and how she helped save the universe.
“Journey’s End” brought together an entire era of familiar faces for one last journey together. It was the beginning of the end of an era in many ways, with Tennant and showrunner Russell T. Davies both leaving the series after a couple of years of Tenth Doctor specials.
It was also the last time that a Doctor’s companions were all alive (in a regular, human way) and well for a proper reunion. Since then, there has been a lot of twisted timelines, relentless running, and strange “deaths,” but “Journey’s End” is still representative of solid Doctor Who.