Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part 1

The Narrator: 'This was the day the Time Lords returned. For Gallifrey! For victory! For the end of time itself!'

With the exception of 2005's 'The Christmas Invasion', Yuletide episodes have never been the show's strong suit. After season three's 'The Last of the Time Lords', I had visions of this year's offering being another gag-laden, testosterone-fueled, face-off between the Doctor and the Master—high on festive cheer, but distinctly lacking in satisfying storytelling. How wrong I was. I was pleasantly surprised by this episode. It wasn't perfect, but the flaws were minor and the storytelling epic. I even enjoyed the Master's return! How's that for a Christmas miracle?

It's episodes like this that make me glad that I avoid spoilers like the plague. The return of the Time Lords completely blind-sided me. I thought the cliffhanger was going to be the Master's return—it never for one moment occurred to me that the narrator might be an integral part of the story. I thought the voice-over was just a gimmick, thrown in to add drama, but when the camera panned round, and we caught our first glimpse of Timothy 'Spit-master' Dalton and Co. (standing before what appeared to be the Panopticon), I almost choked on my mince pie. Aren't the Time Lords supposed to be dead? Weren't they killed in the Last Great Time War... or locked inside it... or some shit like that? Obviously, Russell T. Davies has got some 'splainin to do—but, regardless of the logistics, what a bomb shell!

I was completely thrilled to see Wilf step across the threshold of the TARDIS for the first time. And all because the Doctor couldn't bear to leave him with an irate Sylvia. What an absolute thrill for Wilf, to accompany the Doctor on his last adventure. But what is it that's connecting him to the Doctor? I have this uneasy feeling about Wilf. I hope the next episode doesn't turn out to be his swansong, too.

The Doctor opening up to Wilf was the highlight of the episode for me. It was a relief to see him confiding in someone. He even told Wilf of his impending death. We got a real insight, too, into how the Doctor feels about regeneration. His body and personality will change—the man he is will die—but why does he fear this death more than any other? Is he afraid the prophecy foretells his utter annihilation? Regeneration isn't a given, after all. There are conditions which can prevent the process from completing. Is that what he's afraid of? Dying forever?

He also admitted that his self imposed solitude had caused more problems than it had remedied. Mistakes had been made, lives had been lost—and, of course, he still misses Donna. How awful, to be able see her through the cafĂ© window, yet be unable to communicate for fear of killing her. There was a real forlornness about Donna's existence. Ostensibly, she'd moved on—but Wilf knew that there was this great sadness inside of her: a void which had once been her life, a life in which she'd once been someone, a life she was slowly starting to remember—with potentially fatal consequences.

The Master taking over the world didn't really work for me. One cliffhanger per episode is more than enough. Plus, everyone turning into the Master seemed like small potatoes in comparison to the Time Lords returning. But I can't lie, I did get a kick out of seeing John Simm in heels and a dress. When he stood up in front of the President, arms raised, and whooped with delight, I howled with laughter—but the whole master-race plot reeked of overkill, and his OTT laughter quickly became an irritation. Which was a shame, because his condescending smile was undeniably infectious. Even imprisoned, he looked supremely confident.

And I really felt the connection between the two Time Lords, as they reminisced about Gallifrey like old friends. The Master even allowed the Doctor inside his head—desperate for confirmation that the drums were real, and not the product of some degenerative madness. Of course, real or not, the Master is bordering on the insane. He's never been the most stable person in existence, but his recent resurrection must surely have unhinged him further. Nobody likes burgers that much.

So, what about the prophecy? Who's going to knock four times? Has it been fulfilled yet? The Master seemed to think the prophecy pertained to him. Of course, he would—he's mad and full of his own self importance. The Doctor, however, seemed less sure.

Other Thoughts:

—What was with Timothy Dalton gobbing all over the place? Swallow before you speak, man!

—The secret books of Saxon? The potions of life? Biometric signatures? We give ourselves so Saxon might live? What a load of old shite!

—Loved the Vinvocci. Far less annoying than Bannakaffalatta.

—I didn't think much of the Naismith's. As characters they were horrid stereotypes, and the Immortality Gate sub-plot was as old as the hills.

—How comes the Master had blond hair and stubble after his resurrection?

—The Legend of the Blue Box? Kids will be looking for blue boxes in stained glass windows the country over.

Quotes:

Doctor: “Last time I was here you said that my song would be ending soon. And I'm in no hurry for that.”

Narrator: “The darkness heralds only one thing. The end of time itself.”

The Master: “The whole stupid stinking human disgrace can fall into the pit.”

Doctor: “Who are you?”
Wilf: “I'm Wilfred Mott.”
Doctor: “No, people have waited hundreds of years to find me and then you manage it in a couple of hours.”

Doctor: “I'm going to die.”
Wilf: “Well so am I, one day.”
Doctor: “Don't you dare.”
Wilf: “All right, I'll try not to.”

Doctor: “Even if I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away. And I'm dead.”

Wilf: "She's making do."
Doctor: "Aren't we all?"

Doctor: “I've been told that something is returning.”
The Master: “And here I am.”
Doctor: “No, something more.”

Donna: “Are you shouting at thin air?”
Sylvia: “Yes. Possibly. Yes.”

The Master: “I like you.”
Naismith: “Thank you.”
The Master: “You'd taste great.”

Wilf: “Oh my Lord. She's a cactus.”

The Master: “My name... is the Master.”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

8 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Great review, Paul.

I liked this one a lot more than most people seem to have done. Wasn’t perfect but far from the total disaster other critics are calling it. Felt like Russell didn’t want to produce something too dark for Christmas so decided to balance all the doom and gloom with some fluffier stuff like June Whitfield pinching David Tennant’s bum while Barry Howard watched with envy.

Can’t say I ever expect to see that on Doctor Who.

The Master’s resurrection was too Harry Potter for my liking but it was still great to have John Simm back, now bleach blonde, destitute and crazier than ever. Is it too much to hope he escapes in the end? Or should they get a new Master for Matt Smith?

The Time Lords have returned and judging by Russell’s comments in Confidential these are the Time Lords as envisioned by Robert Holmes, ancient and powerful but also corrupt and treacherous. Perhaps the Master won’t be the big bad this time round, maybe it’s Timothy Dalton and his spittle of doom.

I’m curious to find out who the mysterious woman haunting Wilf really is. Popular fan theory at the moment is she’s either a new incarnation of Romana or possibly the White Guardian. Personally, I’m hoping its Romana.

Billie Doux said...

It was fun to watch, but I was mildly disappointed. I liked John Simm's Master a lot more this time, but that might be because I fell in love with Life on Mars this fall. The Master taking over everybody's body was bizarre rather than scary. If he's intent on creating a new Gallifrey, then won't the lack of females be a problem? I'm encouraged by the advent of Timothy Dalton; I've always liked him. Let's hope the ending makes up for the flaws in part one.

shawnlunn2002 said...

You can trust RTD to bring out the big guns for this one, couldn't you? I spent a good portion of this episode, generally thinking 'what the hell?' I don't doubt that I was alone there.

The Master's resurrection, naturally it'd go wrong and Lucy turning out to stop him was a little unexpected. I'm glad she wasn't faithful to the last. Trefusis and compay gave their lives to resurrect a sociopath. Some people are clearly stupid.

The Master though did go wrong. Some tramps recognised him as Saxon and he did what, eat them? I could've gone a long stretch without seeing the Master's gorging scenes with the burgers and turkey, they were revolting.

Still the Master went from having no plan to an ultimate one when he got kidnapped by Joshua and Abigail. A whole Master race certainly takes the biscuit in a big way.

If I hadn't spoiled myself months ago, the Time Lord reveal would've been bigger a shock for me. It's a good reveal and now made sense to reintroduce them. I think when it's come to all the big things - Daleks, Cybermen, Master, Davros and Time Lords, RTD's instincts have been bang on. They don't look happy.

The Ood are so watcher material for Ten and his impending resurrection. Liked the brief stuff on the Ood-Sphere.

Wilfred's got a big role - other Time Lord? Why else is the Woman pestering him and why is the fact that he never killed anyone significant? The trailer for the next episode might have answered that one.

Loved Donna's brief moments in this episode but she had far too little to do. It did seem like she was remembering stuff while everyone else was becoming the Master. Hope she see the Doctor next week, regardless of consequences. Liked Shaun too.

Why were the Vinvocci interested in the Gate, besides the fact that it was theirs? We're not suddenly going to have to worry about them as well, are we?

Doctor and the Silver Cloak. Netty mentioned makes Beautiful Chaos cannon, yes? Minnie, there's a law against that sort of thing. Amusing character though.

Wilfred scenes with the Doctor, especially the cafe one choked me up.

It's going to be one hell of a week to wait, 10/10.

I did a review on my blog but there's spoiler clips for Part 2. http://shawnlunn2002.blogspot.com/2009/12/my-review-of-doctor-whos-4x17-end-of.html

Derek, London said...

Shawn, I sure hope your blog has better sentence structure and grammar than the post I just read! You are a little difficult to read, don't mean to be rude.

Erin said...

Glad to see you liked this better than most; I did, too, and don't really understand the savage outcry against it. It is head and shoulders above the series 3 ender which was absolutely painful to watch. Can't wait to see how this all wraps up.

WhyMe said...

Did anyone catch the "Sparrow lane" on the sides of the bus. It appeared three times in the episode and kept reminding me of Sally Sparrow from "Blink".

HellBlazerRaiser said...

There's still 30 minutes left and I am declaring THE END OF TIME the absolute worst DOCTOR WHO story EVER!!!

Mark Greig said...

You’ve obviously never seen The Twin Dilemma, mate.