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Recap / Doctor Who S28 E12 "Army of Ghosts"

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Rose: Doctor, they've got guns.
The Doctor: And I haven't. Which makes me the better person, don't you think? They can shoot me dead, but the moral high ground is mine.

Original air date: July 1, 2006

The One With… a Bazoolium and Martha Jones' cousin.

Written by Russell T. Davies.

The episode begins with a voice-over of Rose recounting that nothing happened the first nineteen years of her life, but that it changed when she met the Doctor, with whom she thought she'd travel forever. She then talks about ghosts, Torchwood and the war, and says that the story she is telling is of how she died.

The TARDIS shows up in a park near Jackie's flat so that Rose can visit her mother and do some laundry (apparently the TARDIS lacks a washing machine). Jackie greets them and asks if they want to stay and see her visiting father, which confuses and concerns Rose, as her grandfather died when she was ten. An insubstantial grey "ghost" appears and Jackie introduces it to Rose and the Doctor. The concerned Doctor finds out from watching television that this has been going on for months all over the world, and with Rose and an unwilling Jackie in tow quickly traces the source of the "ghosts" to a building that houses the Torchwood Institute, a secret British government organization with a mandate of protecting the United Kingdom and Earth at any cost (originally conceived by Queen Victoria after her encounter with the Doctor in 1879).

It is Torchwood who are causing the "ghost shifts" as they try to tap into a source of extra-dimensional energy. They also show the Doctor a mysterious globe that he informs them is a "Void ship", a craft designed to travel the non-existent space between parallel universes. The Doctor tells the head of Torchwood, Yvonne Hartman, that the Void ship's entry into Earth's dimension damaged the barrier between universes, and that each time they activate a ghost shift, they are damaging it further, which will eventually cause the barrier to collapse. She reluctantly agrees to delay the next ghost shift, but several technicians have been taken over by Cybermen from the parallel universe of "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel", and activate it anyway.

This brings some 5,000,000 Cybermen across the dimensional gap all over the world, even inside Torchwood, where they quickly subdue the operatives, including Yvonne. In the Void ship room Rose meets Mickey, who has also crossed between universes, and they watch as the sphere begins to open. Mickey tells Rose that the Cybermen left their original universe some time ago, then hoists a weapon designed to kill them, only to stare in disbelief with Rose as four Daleks emerge from the Void ship.

Dalek Sec: Location: Earth. Life-forms detected! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!


  • Affably Evil: Nationalist Yvonne "If it's alien, it's ours" Hartman takes care to remember the names of her employees and doesn't bat an eye at office romances ("And they think we haven't noticed").
  • Always a Bigger Fish: That Obviously Evil secret government agency hell-bent on capturing the Doctor? Wait till they meet the Cyberman army. That Cyberman army? Wait till they see what's come out of the sphere.
  • An Astral Projection, Not a Ghost: The "ghosts" are actually Cybermen trying to break through from Pete's World.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Rose tries to pull one off using the Doctor's psychic paper, but Torchwood employees are trained against things like psychic paper.
  • Benevolent Boss: While Yvonne is an imperialistic sort, she is benevolent toward her underlings, making a point of knowing their names, and not objecting to two of them slipping out to "double-check the readings".
  • Beyond the Impossible: A Void Ship has no detectable mass of heat and is designed to travel through the Void Between the Worlds, defying pretty much every scientific law. Even the Time Lords didn't think one could be built. Keep in mind, this is the civilization with commonplace time machines and a device capable of rewriting the universe.
  • BFG: Mickey has one stored in the sphere chamber.
  • Big Bad: The Cyber-Leader appears to be this, leading the Cybermen who use Torchwood's "Ghost Shift" to break through the Void and invade Earth en masse. Then the end of the episode reveals there's a Bigger Fish as the Void Ship opens to reveal a Black Dalek...
  • Black Site: Canary Wharf Tower in London houses the Torchwood Institute's secret headquarters, Torchwood One. It's unclear if Torchwood One occupies all of the tower or just certain floors. Torchwood One is also implied to have been located at a different Black Site prior to Canary Wharf's construction, but this location is never revealed.
  • Blatant Lies: When Rose gets caught snooping around Torchwood, the Doctor insists he's never seen her before. An unconvinced Yvonne replies that in that case, they can have her shot. The Doctor quickly caves in with the truth (much to Yvonne's amusement about the fact the Doctor's been dragging his companion's mother around).
  • Bollywood Nerd: Doctor Rajesh Singh.
  • Brutal Honesty: No, Jackie, the Doctor does not think dead relatives coming back is beautiful. In fact, it's horrific.
  • Catchphrase: "I should say 'Allons-y' more often..." He will, but he won't find anyone called "Alonzo" to say it to for a while.
  • Call-Back:
    • The way the Cybermen hiding in Torchwood reveal themselves is a homage to the way the Mondas Cybermen clawed their way out of their pods in "The Tomb of the Cybermen".
    • The "stay away from the scary humans" line the Doctor said back in "The Christmas Invasion" has come true. Yvonne says that Torchwood shoots down any aliens that come into their airspace whether they're hostile or not.
    • Torchwood doesn't know what Rose looks like. Russell T. Davies confirmed this is because of the "Bad Wolf virus" mentioned in "Love & Monsters".
  • Celebrity Paradox: EastEnders exists as a fictional television series. The character of Peggy Mitchell bars a ghost she presumes to be Den Watts from The Queen Vic. In the show, Watts was killed by his wife Chrissie, who is played by Tracy-Ann Oberman, who appears as Yvonne Hartman. Watts himself was also played by Leslie Grantham, who appeared in the role of Kiston in “Resurrection of the Daleks”.
  • Clothing Reflects Personality:
    • Yvonne's sharp black business suit and display of cleavage are integral symbols of her arrogant self-confidence and sense of feminine power.
    • Even while Dressing as the Enemy, Rose still wears her blue Punky Fish hoodie over the collar of her labcoat for comfort.
    • Mickey's grey long-sleeved Puma top is a mark of the brave new man he's grown into after battling the Cybermen in the parallel world.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When the Doctor is seeing reports about the ghosts, he sees an episode of EastEnders and asks how it all started. After Jackie starts to explain the storyline, he has to clarify he's not referring to the soap.
  • Composite Character: Yvonne Hartman is a combination of Yvonne Hartley and Doctorman Allan, from the Big Finish Doctor Who episode "Spare Parts".
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: By the time the Doctor's learnt about the ghosts, everyone's gotten used to them. How used to them? There are adverts for ghost-polish, ghosts on daytime talk shows, and even on EastEnders.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The Gelth from "The Unquiet Dead" are mentioned as a possible explanation for the ghosts. The Doctor dismisses it — the Gelth were only coming through the Cardiff rift, while the ghosts are projecting themselves across the entire planet.
    • The Doctor claims that Jackie is Rose after having undergone Rapid Aging by staring into the heart of the Time Vortex.
    • That sarcophagus at Torchwood looks... somewhat familiar.
    • One of Torchwood's Void gate technicians is Gareth.
    • When wondering what's in the sphere, Mickey rattles off several previous Cyber-things as potential candidates.
  • Deadline News: Not only the news, but any broadcast programme in which the eponymous ghosts are featured suddenly turns into one of these when the ghosts are revealed to be interdimensional Cybermen.
  • Didn't Think This Through: The Doctor's view regarding what Torchwood has done with the Breach.
    The Doctor: So you find the Breach, probe it, the Sphere comes through, 600 feet above London, bam! It leaves a hole in the fabric of reality. And that hole, do you think "Oh, shall we leave it alone? Shall we back off, shall we play it safe?" Nah, you think "Let's make it BIGGER!"
  • Distinction Without a Difference:
    Yvonne: They're invading the whole planet.
    The Doctor: It's not an invasion, it's too late for that. It's a victory.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Torchwood is presented as an allegory for the evils of the British Empire. It's planning to use the alien tech to enable a new period of British military conquest.note 
  • Doing In the Wizard: Lampshaded by Jackie, complaining that the Doctor is trying to turn the return of their loved ones as ghosts into something scientific. As always, the Doctor is right, the "ghosts" are Cybermen forcing their way into our universe from another.
  • E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: This is the explicit purpose of the original Torchwood: to defend the British Empire against Aliens and taking their stuff to make them stronger. The United Nations/Unified Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT) has a similar goal.
  • Everyone Can See It: The two Torchwood employees in a secret relationship that is not at all secret.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Cybermen versus Daleks is "Upgrade/Delete" vs "exterminate".
  • The Exit Is That Way: "No, Doctor!"
  • Flat "What": The Doctor when the Cybermen tell him they didn't create the Sphere.
  • Flying Seafood Special: During the opening narration, the Doctor and Rose are shown visiting a planet with flying stingrays.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • For Big Finish fans, the name "Yvonne Hartman" was a rather clever bit of foreshadowing for the arrival of the Cybermen: her name is based on Yvonne Hartley, from the episode "Spare Parts".
    • Also, the Bluetooth earpieces that all of Torchwood's personnel have. The last time we saw people wearing earpieces was in "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel".
    • The Doctor thinks the idea of loved ones coming back to life is horrific. We don't learn why until the Tenth Doctor's very last episode.
    • The news announcer talking on the Ghostwatch segment mentions the regular gatherings of ghosts around Westminster Bridge, almost like a military display... that's because it is.
    • When the Doctor talks about the Void Ship, the foreboding music is the same piece used for the scenes with the Controller and the Dalek Emperor in "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting of the Ways", but without the chanting. It's a big hint that whatever's in there is Dalek-related.
    • When the Doctor explains the Void Ship to the Torchwood staff, he mentions that he's never actually seen one before and that he always assumed it was just a theory. A savvy viewer will know that the version of the Cybermen appearing in this episode are in their infancy, barely above humans in terms of technology. If the Void ship is said to be on a technological level beyond even Time Lord technology, it's a pretty big hint that whoever is inside it is not Cybermen.
    • For that matter, the appearance of the Void Ship is a large golden sphere... not dissimilar in appearance to the hemispheres lining the skirts of the Time War era Daleks.
  • From Bad to Worse: Okay, there's an army of five million Cybermen spread across the whole world. What next? Daleks!
  • Gilded Cage: This is Torchwood's long-term plan for the Doctor: keep him as a "comfortable" prisoner so they can learn more about alien technology from him.
  • I Will Show You X!: Also counts as a Running Gag, since twisted ankles were the #1 cause of trouble in the earliest Doctor Who stories.
    The Doctor: Lead on. But not too fast. Her ankle's going.
    Jackie: I'll show you where my ankle's going.
  • Idiot Ball: Instead of arming up with special ammunition, like UNIT did back in "Battlefield", Torchwood use ordinary bullets, and there is absolutely no mention of them having any kind of special weaponry, nor do they even seem to recognize the Daleks and Cybermen at all. As a result, they are massacred en masse by the Daleks and Cybermen in the following episode. They also try Bullying a Dragon by trying to control the Doctor - which, if they've studied their history, they should know never, ever works. It's probably overall a good thing that they were destroyed before they could really try messing with him.
  • Immune to Mind Control: Rose discovers that the agents of Torchwood have enough psychic training to resist the Doctor's psychic paper.
  • Internal Homage: Yvonne Hartman's name, to Yvonne Hartley from the Big Finish Cyberman episode "Spare Parts".
  • Lady in a Power Suit: Yvonne.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: Canary Wharf is actually Torchwood's London base: they didn't just set up shop there, they built it themselves.
    The Doctor: You built a skyscraper just to reach a spatial disturbance? How much money have you got?
    Yvonne: Enough.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The Daleks are the ones behind the Sphere. Pretty much everyone, even casual fans, knows that this two-parter deals with the concept of Daleks vs Cybermen with the Doctor and Rose caught in the middle, but back when it first aired, the appearance of the Daleks was a total surprise to most people, despite the brief shot of the results of one of their exterminations in the "Next time" clip.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: The Doctor passes Jackie off as an aged-up Rose so the real Rose can sneak out of the TARDIS unnoticed. When they get found out...
    The Doctor: Please, when Torchwood comes to write my complete history, don't tell people I travelled through time and space with her mother.
    Jackie: Charming.
    The Doctor: I've got a reputation to uphold.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • Rose is caught by the Torchwood scientist, who tells his underling to check the security. Mickey replies he'll get on it.
    • The aforementioned bit with the Doctor, Yvonne and Jackie ends as the lobotomised Torchwood agents start activating another ghost shift.
    • The Doctor being told by the Cybermen that "The Sphere is not ours." It was made by the Daleks, so the whiplash is from "This is bad" to "We're all gonna die."
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Cybermen slicing through plastic sheets, complete with their leitmotif blaring away.
  • Mundane Utility: Jackie remarks that some of the technology Torchwood has captured would be great for carrying her shopping home.
  • Musical Spoiler: When the Cybermen reveal they didn't create the Void ship, the music switches to the beginning of the Dalek theme.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Yvonne, when the Doctor says Torchwood will never get inside the TARDIS, just smiles and retorts "et cetera".
  • Noodle Incident: During the opening montage, the Doctor and Rose are shown standing on a rocky beach watching pterodactyl-esque creatures fly around.
  • Not Me This Time: The episode follows three main plot threads: The mysterious ghosts appearing everywhere, the strange goings-on at Torchwood, and the giant sphere stored in the basement. The Cybermen are revealed to be behind the first two, and the Doctor and everyone else assume they're behind the third, only for the Cyber-Leader to reveal that they're just as confused as everyone else.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The concept of "the Void" as the gap which separates universes, according to the Doctor's explanation:
    There's all sorts of realities around using different dimensions. Billions of parallel universes all stacked up against each other. The Void is the space in between, containing absolutely nothing. Can you imagine that, nothing? No light, no dark, no up, no down. No life. No time. Without end. My people called it the Void, the Eternals call it the Howling. But some people call it Hell.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Rose's reaction to Jackie's announcement that Granddad Prentice is coming for a visit. The Doctor, having no clue what's going on, averts it at first and acts casual. But then Rose explains.
      Rose: She's gone mad.
      The Doctor: Tell me something new.
      Rose: Granddad Prentice, that's her dad. But he died, like ten years ago.
      [The Doctor does an Eye Take as the fact registers in his mind]
      Rose: Oh my God. She's lost it.
    • Played for laughs when the Doctor realizes Jackie is still on-board the TARDIS.
    • Rose after the psychic paper No-Sell.
    • "Earpieces, Ear Pods; this world is colliding with another... and I think I know which one".
    • Played straight when the Doctor realizes the Cybermen didn't make the Void ship, and when Rose and Mickey find out what's inside.
  • Rapid Aging: The Doctor pretends that Jackie is Rose after having undergone this. Jackie is not amused.
    The Doctor: And just last week, she stared into the heart of the Time Vortex and aged 57 years. But she'll do.
    Jackie: [indignant] I'm 40!
    The Doctor: Deluded.
  • Reverse Psychology: The Doctor uses this very effectively against Yvonne. After practically screaming at her to stop breaching the dimensional walls, failing to convince her, he... suddenly stops, says "Okay", and pulls up a seat to watch what happens next. Yvonne calls the "Ghost Shift" off.
  • Sex Signals Death: Two minor characters, Gareth and Adeola, end up stumbling into the Cybermen's hiding place in Torchwood Tower while looking for a place for a quickie.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sinister Geometry: The Void ship, a seamless sphere with no detectable radiation or atomic mass until the Cyberman invasion triggers it. Anyone who looks at the Void ship feels there's something unnatural about it.
    "It upsets people because it gives off — nothing. It is absent."
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Torchwood London is able to detect the Doctor messing with a ghost, find a public camera nearby and pipe the picture from it to a screen at their headquarters just in time to see the TARDIS dematerialize.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The sneak peek at the end of "Fear Her" all but gives away that the "army of ghosts" is made up of Cybermen. This was not actually much of a surprise when you consider that the fact had already been reported in various media. However, the Daleks also appear at the last minute of the episode, a fact that the show's creators went to great lengths to keep secret... only to be spoiled by a glaring shot of the distinctive X-Ray Sparks effect of a Dalek Death Ray in the same trailer.
    • The best part of it is that the Dalek attack scene isn't even in this episode — it's from the next one.
  • Uncommon Time: The music playing as the "ghosts" shimmer into Cybermen is in 5/4.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Rose tells us this is "the story of how she died" while she obviously still, at the very least, has some kind of presence; being shown standing on a beach in her future as her voice narrates (with an unnaturally-pale appearance and a detached expression on her face suggesting to the viewer that something happened to her and she might not be alive in the technical sense anymore). The next episode reveals that Rose was referring to the fact she was legally declared dead in her original universe after disappearing to a parallel Earth.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: The fate of humanity. And it's not coming without a Painful Transformation.
  • Void Between the Worlds: It IS possible to traverse the Void, with a specially designed "Void ship" (which the Doctor had previously thought was only theoretical, going so far as to call it "impossible"). This ship has 2 modes... normal mode, where it has mass/volume/etc and behaves like a physical object, and "Void mode", that is capable of traversing the Void. In Void mode, the ship has no mass, no volume, and doesn't register on any instruments, though it can still be seen. Objects with mass and volume aren't capable of navigating the Void because there is no space or time there. Even the human characters are unnerved by looking at it in Void mode, and the Doctor is downright terrified of it.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: The visitors are not aliens but the Cybermen from a Parallel Universe, being deliberately brought to ours by the Torchwood institute. (In the first act of the episode, the Cybermen take on a "ghostly" appearance and do not speak.) During the period where the visitors are assumed to be friendly, humans call them "ghosts", and many even think they really are the silent spirits of their deceased loved ones. The Doctor says, "No one's running, screaming, freaking out", to which Jackie responds, "Why should we?" Correct answer: Because you aren't, which means they're probably dangerous.
  • Wham Line:
    The Doctor: But I don't understand, the Cybermen don't have the technology to build a Void ship, that's way beyond you! How did you create that sphere?
    Cyber-Leader: The Sphere is not ours.
    The Doctor: What?
    Cyber-Leader: The Sphere broke down the barriers between worlds. We only followed. Its origin is unknown.
    The Doctor: Then what's inside it?
  • Wham Shot: The Cult of Skaro emerging from the Void ship.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: According to the Doctor, the Void Ship could allow someone to sit out an eternity. Existing completely separate from time and space, they could watch the Big Bang, the end of the universe and the start of the next and it wouldn't even touch the sides.
  • The X of Y: "Army of Ghosts".

Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 2 E 12 Army Of Ghosts