Doctor Who: The End of the World

Doctor: 'Everything has its time, and everything dies.'

A story of two halves this week. On the one hand, we had a rather lightweight yarn about vanity gone mad—on the other, a profound tale about loss and the end of the world. Oh, and the Doctor tried to get off with a tree.

The Doctor's identity was the focus of this week's episode. Despite agreeing to travel with him, it suddenly dawned on Rose that she knows precious little about him. She doesn't know his name, where he's from, or even his species—and at first, the Doctor was less than forthcoming with answers. Clearly he has issues, and serious ones too, if his moody demeanour's anything to go by. When Jabe touched his arm and told him that she was sorry, his eyes welled up with tears and you could clearly see his pain. Full marks to Russell T. Davies for managing to slot some pathos in amongst the lighter material.

Rose was likewise at sixes and sevens with herself this week. Part of it was homesickness, and part of it was the realisation that she was about to watch her home explode and die. That has to mess with your mind. There was an interesting parallel too between the Doctor and Rose—both are beings isolated from their worlds and loved ones. Despite being on a ship positively teeming with people (and I use the term 'people' loosely), Rose still feels desperately alone. As she says, 'the aliens are just too alien'. Which raises the obvious question: just how alien is the Doctor? Was it a mistake for Rose to leave earth with a man she knows so little about?

By the end of the episode Rose did get some answers. The Doctor's planet was destroyed along with his people, leaving him alone—the last of the Time Lords. Likewise, Rose had just witnessed her own world crash and burn ('all those years, all that history and no one was even looking') and now exists in a future where everyone she knows is dead—so she can certainly empathize with the Doctor. Whether they have anything in common beyond circumstance is yet to be determined, but at least the Doctor appears to behave like a human being. Will it be enough to satisfy Rose's desire for companionship in a mostly alien universe?

The Doctor's 'what's a tree like you doing in a place like this' come-on was worthy of a chuckle... or maybe a groan. Last week we were left wondering about the Doctor's ability to form romantic relationships with humans, yet here he was putting the moves on Jabe—a tree, of all things. If you can flirt with a tree, then you're game for anyone or anything! And Jabe's death added some much needed poignancy to the tale. Another example of a person touched by the Doctor, risking all to save her fellow beings.

Also of note this episode was Cassandra O'Brien Delta 17 (AKA the bitchy trampoline), living proof that cosmetic surgery doesn't necessarily make you a beautiful person. She looked like a wash leather with eyes, and had the personality to match. No wonder Rose took an instant dislike to her. All that subterfuge just to fund more surgeries on herself? On which bits, exactly? There was virtually nothing left of her to operate on. And wasn't it a little odd that 'the last pure human' didn't recognise Rose as a fellow homo sapien? I suppose she did struggle to identify the jukebox correctly. And maybe the Doctor is sort of human looking too. Okay Cassandra, you're forgiven.

A mixed bag this week. I'm not sure the combination of comedy and pathos worked as well as it could have, but the Doctor and Rose are back on good terms—not to mention eating chips—so all is well with the world.

Other Thoughts:

—This week's episode had a distinctly Restaurant At The End Of The Universe feel to it.

—The Doctor used psychic paper for the first time this week (AKA the lazy writers best friend). Can't work out a plausible way of getting the Doctor into a building... wait, didn't I say this last episode?

—It's not often you see a show so in love with chips. This is the first chip reference of many in Nu-Who. For American viewers, chips are fries in your language. And chips in your language are crisps in ours. Confused?

—Two Titanic references in two weeks. Last week, Clive showed Rose a picture of the Doctor aboard the Titanic. This week the Doctor said, 'I was on board another ship once. They said that was unsinkable. I ended up clinging to an iceberg. It wasn't half cold'. Silly but fun.

—Two near death experiences for Rose in two weeks. It would be nice to think that the benefits of time travel outweigh the negatives, but when the negatives are almost dying—well, surely that's too high a price to pay?

—Blue Ooompa Loompas? Britney and Marc Almond? Good grief, the future looks bloody awful!

—Our first 'Bad Wolf' reference—the Moxx of Balhoon mumbles something about 'the Bad Wolf scenario'.

—Quite a few UK cultural references this week Firstly, Newsround Extra is a news programme on the BBC aimed primarily at children. Secondly, we had mention of The Big Issue, a magazine sold by the homeless to raise money for the homeless. Lastly, the Doctor makes a reference to 'beef and eggs' killing everyone, a nod to the BSE crisis that crippled the UK beef industry in the 90's and the salmonella scare of the late 80's (caused by a somewhat misinformed Edwina Currie).

Billie says...

Not that wild about this one, for the same reasons that Paul pointed out.

A time jump this big just doesn't work for me. The aliens were too Douglas Adams, while the computer interfaces and the air conditioning ducts resembled present day. (After five billion years? Come on. After five billion years I'd expect things to be so different that they'd be unrecognizable.) And Cassandra, racist trampoline extraordinaire and the only "pure" human left, was a caricature of the worst of us. Apparently, you *can* be too thin. (Loved Rose referring to her as Michael Jackson.)

I also thought (at first) that it was an odd choice for Rose's first trip in time and space. The Doctor seemed both inappropriately comic as well as insensitive; Jabe the tree actually died, Rose got way too close to immolation, and the Doctor seemed so casual about it all. You could see Rose wondering what she was doing with him, if she'd made a huge mistake.

But as it turned out, it was all about the Doctor, after all. He had lost his own planet and his own people, and somewhere deep down, he must have felt a need to share the heartbreak and loneliness of that experience with Rose. In the end, he gave her a gift of himself, and told her what he really was. And that saved this episode for me. To some extent.

Quotes:

The Doctor: "I came first in jiggery pokery, what about you?"
Rose: "No. I failed hullabaloo."

Rose: "It's better to die than to live like you: a bitchy trampoline."

The Doctor: "You think it'll last forever. The people, and cars, and concrete. But it won't. Then one day, it's all gone. Even the sky... My planet's gone. It's dead. It burned, like the Earth. It's just rocks and dust. Before its time."

Doctor: "This is who I am, right here and now. This is who I am."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

10 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Hi, Paul & Billie. Loving the Who reviews.

This was an improvement over the previous episode but still not one of the show’s best. Russell T Davis overstretched himself in the first series, writing more than half the season solo. As a result most of the episodes he wrote this season were often substandard or in some cases downright lousy.

Then again, even at his best RTD is a love him/hate him kind of writer. For everything great and good he brought to the series there’s all the stuff that, well, isn’t. Did we really need to see the Doctor jiggling along to Tainted Love? Nope, didn’t think so.

I thought getting rid of the Time Lords was a masterstroke, it added an extra sense of loneliness and isolation to the Doctor character. And I don’t mind the psychic paper that much as it finally put an end to the Doctor always getting locked up the minute he steps out of the TARDIS.

shawnlunn2002 said...

I actually thought this episode was stronger than the first. Loved the crazy mixture of aliens, especially Jabe.

Cassandra made a good comic villain but showing Rose the death of Earth wouldn't exactly rank high on lists of ideal dates.

Getting rid of the Time Lords, definitely an interesting. Apart from the Master (and I suppose Romana/Rani/Omega to a lesser extent), the rest of the Time Lords are a bit well, Watchers Council - inept, dictatorish IMO.

daniel c w said...

To be honest, I do not realy get the review. Billie's segment started with "Not that wild about this one, for the same reasons that Paul pointed out" and that made me read Paul's part again, but I still fail to find the negative sides in his words.
Would somebody care to point them out?

Billie Doux said...

Okay, Daniel C W. As my mother used to say, I'll play your silly game.

Quotes from Paul: "rather lightweight yarn about vanity gone mad"; "worthy of a chuckle, or maybe a groan"; "good grief, the future looks bloody awful"; "a mixed bag this week. I'm not sure the combination of comedy and pathos worked as well as it could have."

Compare to my section. Shake well.

daniel c w said...

Hi Billie!

"I'll play your silly game."

What's silly about it?

Quotes from Paul:
"rather lightweight yarn about vanity gone mad";
In context "a rather profound tale about loss and the end of the world" it doesn't sound negative.
Especially when you you consider, that the vanity gone mad part is just the setting, and loss is the core of the episode.

"worthy of a chuckle, or maybe a groan";
How is that negative?

Wasn't it the intention of the whole paragraphto say the Doctor hitting on someone/something is a good thing, or at least something Paul likes about him.


"good grief, the future looks bloody awful"; (in Bits and pieces)

I thought Paul was exaggerating, because he does not like this particular vision of the future, but that was probably the intention of the episode.


"a mixed bag this week. I'm not sure the combination of comedy and pathos worked as well as it could have."
That was after your part and it's the conclusion, isn't it.
Paul wrote: "not [...] as well as it could have."
If he used: "should have", or "did not work at all", it would have sounded negative.

Daniel

Billie Doux said...

"I'll play your silly game" is an expression, Daniel, that means "I think what you're talking about is pointless, but I'll play along." And I think that's about all I have to say.

Paul Kelly said...

Hello Daniel,

Fair comment about the summary being poorly placed. I've lifted it up the review, so as not to confuse.

PK

Anonymous said...

I also have mixed feelings about RTD's writing, but in different way than you are. I absolutely love his standalone episodes, dislike his season finales (with exception of "Parting of the ways", which was great) and feel rather indifferent about the specials. The thing is you gotta like this guy's absurd, often gross sense of humor and the way he mixes it with drama.I do, and that's why episodes like 'end of the world', 'gridlock' and especially 'love and monsters' belong not only to my favourite Who episodes but also to the best hours of television I've ever seen.Oh, and serious "Midnight" was excellent as well.

But those season finales... They contain some of the most breathtaking and moving moments in history of television along with some of the most stupid and head-scratching story choices I've ever seen in any fiction. "Journey's End" is especially guilty of this...

By the way, sorry for some language mistakes, english is not my primary language.

Mr.Evil

farsighted said...

the last two years finales have been mixed. Some of it was great stuff, and the rest just awful. I dunno, seems like RTD gets so carried away: this last business about the earth being towed away by the TARDIS, well that probably ranks as the #1 absurdity in the entire new series (probably the 5 years old watching thought it was cool though). But do 5 year olds really watch this show? It's pretty scary at times, and a lot of people or aliens die! Not too many happy endings in this tv series. Plus did we really need to have everyone in all of the Doctor Who spin off shows show up in Journey's End? Was that really necessary??? Oh well. I imagine this years' Christmas Special will probably top all the others and be more absurd than ever....

Looking forward to Moffat; just hope the new Doctor works out...

HonestIago said...

I actually feel this episode is one of the stronger ones in S1 because of the pathos of Earth's destruction.

Rose and the Doctor show both sides of the emotions this would create, Rose understandably gets upset about her whole world, all her family dying, but the Doctor manages to give hope even in such a seemingly depressing situation - humanity moves on, it become stronger and more interesting, touching every star. That's pretty cool.

Plus, some great characters were introduced: Cassandra, the Face of Boe and Jade (loved seeing her in the Journey's End montage).

Even after 4 series, I still rate this as one of RTD's best.