Infinity War Vs. The Stolen Earth
Infinity War, Marvel’s “most ambitious crossover event in history” was certainly that. But, we in the Doctor Who world have seen our fair share of ambitious crossover events. Multi-Doctor stories, anniversary specials, and so on. But none were more ambitious, perhaps, than the 2008 finale, The Stolen Earth / Journey’s End.
I will admit, off the bat, that this is something of a cynical click grab, but there are some interesting parallels to talk about, here. There’s perhaps something in the nature of big crossover events that leads to some repetition of similar ideas.
Building a Universe
The Stolen Earth came after four years of Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, and the whole team creating a Doctor Who expanded universe. Before it was cool, if you will. Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures ran more or less alongside the main series, targeting either ends of the perceived audience for Doctor Who. They helped flesh out the world and specifically the way the people of earth were dealing with the various alien invasions.
But, more than that, they also developed characters and concepts of their own. They allowed companions like Captain Jack Harkness and Sarah Jane to be really fleshed out. The audiences got a chance to connect with them and see who they were when the Doctor wasn’t around.
We got to see how the various institutions dealt with the implications of everything going on in the universe. UNIT and Torchwood became less vague and periphery settings and got to be their own thing in their own way.
So it was that, after three years of building the Doctor Who universe outside of the main show, the creators decided to bring it all back again. The Stolen Earth saw many of the heroes of the now extended universe come together to face a threat none of them could hope to defeat alone.
One of the obvious ways in which this mirrors what has happened with Marvel’s Infinity War (beyond just being a crossover) is in the scope of it. Rarely had something like this been tried before. Though the three shows were certainly connected, they were also developing their own unique identities.
By 2008, Torchwood was firmly in the older viewers’ category while Sarah Jane was building its own loyal audience of youngsters. The tone of these shows was starting to shift away from Doctor Who’s and I suspect that had they waited another year or so, this crossover would have been incredibly jarring for fans of one of the other shows.
Marvel has also run this risk. The first Avengers film came four years after the first Iron Man film, which many see as the starting point of the whole experiment. (Because very few people saw or remember The Incredible Hulk). This felt like just enough time to establish a brand and a tone for these films.
While Thor often felt more theatrical (it was directed by Kenneth Branagh, after all), and Captain America was drenched in war time themes, Iron Man maintained a lighter approach. The Avengers seemed to reflect the tone of Iron Man in many ways, so bringing these franchises together was always going to be a challenge for producers and audiences.
Given the continued popularity, I suspect they would count it as a success.
I’m going to have to dive into some spoilers for Infinity War to talk about some of the interesting parallels. The stories, ideas, and even some of the visuals are quite striking in their similarities. I freely admit that some of these are kind of a stretch, but this is mostly for entertainment and please don’t sue me.
Let’s start with the villain. For both we have a figure who is from the franchise’s history, has been involved in a lot of beloved stories and is well liked by the fan base. A villain who is intent on causing mass destruction, but for a cause they believe in. This villain has been collecting items that have appeared in previous installments and has now gathered them together for their ultimate weapon. The villain also as kind of a weird face.
Davros and Thanos are quite different people, it must be said. While everyone’s favourite Dalek scientists revels in the idea of destruction, Thanos sees it as a means to an end. Though they both believe they are right in their convictions – Davros that his creations are the rightful owners of reality and Thanos that wiping out half the universe will benefit the half that remains. Thanos at least seems to take some recognition of the horrors he is using to achieve his ends.
The Last Stand
Both Infinity War and The Stolen Earth involve an invasion of Earth. An invasion that ends in defeat and failure for the heroes. The Daleks do what they do best – they exterminate people on a massive scale. Thanos sends the Chitauri to conquer Wakanda in a massive and horrifying spectacle of violence that would make Davros proud.
Many of the well loved faces from previous installments have their moments in this last, perilous battle. For Marvel, is is Black Panther, the Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and others. Everyone gets a least one heroic deed and epic moment. For Doctor Who, we see Wilf, Martha Jones, Gwen and Ianto, Sarah Jane, Luke and even K-9. They all do their bit in the battle and afterwards.
Children of Time, Children of Iron
There’s another near little parallel between how Tony Stark feels towards Spider-Man, and how the Doctor feels about his companions. Towards the end of Journey’s End, the Doctor’s companions reveal that they have banded together to present Davros with some ultimatums. Surrender of be destroyed, surrender or lose the Earth (an essential part of his plan). Davros uses this moment to say something about the Doctor; about who he is and what he does to those around him.
In both Infinity War and Spider-Man Homecoming, we see a side of Tony Stark not really explored before. He brings up Peter Parker as a sort of protege, and yet he feels tremendous guilt. Peter does a lot to emulate Tony, and this makes Tony incredibly uncomfortable. Because he wanted Peter to be better than him. He feels that his actions have encouraged Peter to put himself in danger, because that is what Tony has indirectly taught him to do.
The Ending Approaches
We’ve got another year to wait to see how the Infinity War saga is resolved. Will we see more Doctor Who parallels then? I hope so because I’d like something to write about. Will somebody experience a Human/Asguardian Meta-Crisis and save the day? We can only hope so!