Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part 2

Doctor: “I don't want to go.”

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this episode. A humongous battle between the Doctor and the Time Lords, perhaps? An alliance between the Doctor and The Master, eventually culminating in the defeat of Rassilon? What I wasn't expecting was the Doctor dying such an intimate, low-key death. In the end it wasn't the Master or Rassilon who destroyed the Doctor, it was Wilf. And of course, despite the absolute certainty of irreparable radiation damage, the Doctor went to his aid.

I thought John Simm's Master was vastly improved this episode. His exchanges with the Doctor were top notch. What would the Doctor be without The Master? More pertinently, what would The Master be without Rassilon? Would he have turned into someone more like the Doctor? It's hard to say, but tonight there was a tired humanity about him. He just wanted the endless drone in his head to cease. His fury at Rassilon, although partly born of desperation, was completely understandable. All his life he'd been used by the Time Lords, a pawn in an end-game designed to nullify the time lock. No wonder the red mist came down. How sad that his intervention to save the Doctor ended in him being swept into the Time War.

The scenes between Wilf and the Doctor, predictably, were the highlight of the episode. The Doctor telling Wilf that he'd be proud if he were his Dad; Wilf pleading for the Doctor to take his service revolver and kill the Master; and finally, Wilf breaking down, begging the Doctor to save himself. That really set my lip awobble. And then, to see the Doctor in such pain, writhing in agony inside the containment chamber, before curling into a ball, head in hands, his sacrifice over, was just miserable.

But there was something missing from this episode that I can't quite put my finger on. The acting was obviously top notch: Mark Lawson, writing for the Guardian, likened Tennant's performance to that of Hamlet. There were some plot similarities with Hamlet too, from the Ood singing him to his rest, to him agonising over whether or not to kill the Master. And Tennant's scenes with Simm, Cribbins and Dalton were just superb—they were just draped over such a poorly realised plot. I thought the Time Lords returning was a great idea: it was epic, unexpected, and had all the dramatic weight you'd expect from such a massive plot twist. The Master returning again, was likewise a good idea. The Master taking over the world, however, was terrible. It shouldn't have undermined the whole episode, yet somehow it did. It felt lacklustre. Uninspired.

The episode was also scuppered by the impossibility of a happy ending. Many of us have grown to love David Tennant over the years, and few of us wanted to see him gone, yet this whole episode was geared towards just that eventuality. It was like sitting there, waiting for someone to die, and to make matters worse, the Doctor kept fighting it—to be honest, at times, it felt as though Tennant himself were fighting it—and despite us knowing otherwise, there was always this feeling that he might somehow pull it off. Which made it all the more difficult when he didn't.

On the plus side, they did add a depth of emotion to the regeneration process which prior to tonight's episode has sadly been lacking. Regeneration has always been a practical means of moving from one actor to another—mildly upsetting, but seldom anything to write home about. Never has a regeneration had the emotional impact it had tonight. The Doctor spent the whole of the episode fighting his destiny. Should he have killed the Master or Rassilon? In the end, had I been in his shoes, I'd probably have shot myself. And after the Time Lords had been safely dispatched back through time, for a fleeting moment, it almost seemed as if he'd won.

Then came the four knocks, deafening in the silence, and the look on Tennant's face said it all. It was over. It was a foregone conclusion that he'd lay down his life to rescue Wilf. Not that Wilf wanted rescuing. He seemed cautiously content with his lot. He was an old man, his life almost over, whilst the Doctor was still so powerful—so full of vitality. But in the end it's always been about the little people—and it was the Doctor's honour to die for Wilf.

And I know many didn't like it, but I found the Doctor's reward reasonably satisfying. After the gloominess of 'Children of Earth' it was good to see Captain Jack again, and the Doctor gifting him Midshipman Frame from 'Voyage of the Damned' was both a thoughtful and apt parting gesture. Seeing Sarah Jane again also tugged at my heart strings. You could tell from her face that she knew the Doctor wasn't long for this world. And him hiding in the shadows just to see Rose again—back before they'd even met—was a nice touch. Rose looked so young in those scenes. We even got to see Donna's wedding—which was an unexpected treat. And it was fitting, too, that the Doctor should save Martha and Mickey, one last time.

You couldn't help but feel the Doctor's isolation in his dying moments. There was no companion there with him this time round, no rousing speech to reassure everyone that everything would be all right. When Tennant finally said his final words—'I don't want to go'—despite the realisation that the moment had finally arrived, there was still that feeling of being under-prepared. Murray Gold's music was stellar towards the end. Since when have the Ood had such a strong sense of the dramatic? And thus the tearful Tennant transformed into the fresh faced Matt Smith, and though it's nigh on impossible to judge anyone's performance after such a brief cameo, my sadness turned into a reluctant grin at Matt Smith's confused, post regeneration dialogue. 'I'm a girl....NO...I'm not a girl!!' Not quite, Matt. At least not yet.

Other Thoughts:

-- Six billion, seven hundred and twenty seven million, nine hundred and forty nine thousand, three hundred and thirty eight versions of The Master? That's a lot.

-- Martha's now freelance and married to Mickey? Good grief Martha, what's wrong with you? What the hell happened to Tom Milligan?

-- The bar Captain Jack was in reminded me of Chalmun's Cantina in Star Wars.

-- So who was the woman stood behind Rassilon? The general consensus seems to be that it was the Doctor's mother (and by 'general consensus' I mean online gossip).

-- Nice touch bringing back Jessica Hynes to play Verity Newman, great-granddaughter of Joan Redfern ('Human Nature/Family of Blood') .

-- A tip of the hat, too, to Donna's dad Geoff Noble. Howard Attfield was supposed to reprise the role for season four but unfortunately died in 2007.

-- It looks as if this isn't the last we'll see of Wilf. The Doctor promised they'd meet again. Hurrah! Or did he just mean at the wedding? If so, then... booo!

Quotes:

The Master: “Oh, he loves playing with earth girls.”

The Doctor: "You don't need to own the Universe. Just see it.”

The Doctor: "I wonder what I'd be without you?”

Wilf: “God bless the cactuses!”
Doctor: “That's cacti.”
Vinvocci: “That's racist!”

Doctor: “Worst... rescue... ever!”

Wilf: “We must look like insects to you.”
Doctor: “I think you look like giants”.

Doctor: “Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long.”

Wilf: “And please don't die. You're the most wonderful man... and I don't want you to die.”

Donna: "That's 'cos you are a peach. Furry skin. Stone inside. Going off.”

Doctor: “Wilfred. It's my honour.”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

18 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Great review, Paul. I totally agree with you. (I expected to totally agree with you, that happens a lot.) The plot was off, but the long farewell made me cry.

David Tennant is my Doctor. Matt Smith, you have a tough act to follow.

Mark Greig said...

Another great review, Paul. This was Russell T. Davies’ Doctor Who in a nutshell. It was epic, funny, exciting, emotional, fun, ludicrous, heartbreaking and ultimately flawed.

I was disappointed that we didn’t find out who Claire Bloom’s character really was. I don’t like the idea of her being either the Doctor’s mum or some future incarnation of Donna. I’d still like to think she was Romana but I’m leaning more towards her being Susan all grown up. We’ll likely never find out for sure, unless the Moff’s got something up his sleeve.

There were too many goodbye scenes that could’ve easily been cut as some felt extraneous and had little emotional impact. Then again the scene with Jack hitting on Alonso had me howling with laughter and wondering if anymore of the cast of Being Human were going to turn up. Jessica Hynes’ cameo was touching, a nice call back to one of Tennant’s finest hours. And going back to Rose, to that estate and the year it all started was a nice way to bring this entire era full circle and to a close.

So I’ll let Russell off. This was his big goodbye to the series so let the man have his sentiment. I’ve never considered him a bad writer just a frustratingly inconsistent one who tended to get too carried away with himself. For all his flaws he’s still the man who overcame the odds and brought Doctor Who back to us. A big thank you and goodbye then to David Tennant, Russell T. Davies and Julie Gardner.

As for Matt Smith, he won me already with just two little words (“Chin? Blimey!”). Although, I can’t see "Geronimo" catching on, it’s no "Allons-y".

shawnlunn2002 said...

I don't know, this episode was just something else altogether. Wonderful, bonkers, glued me to the screen but I didn't cry. Does that make me a bad person?

Interesting that the first visual is of the Doctor bound and gagged and spending ages in a chair. I bet David Tennant was glad for those scenes to be over. The slash material with Doctor/Master certainly had some great moments but we'll never get that series of two Time Lords travelling the stars together.

The Master's little stunt got changed pretty quickly thanks to the Time Lords but I suppose that they were the only people who could essentially change. Still with the Big Plots, though. Did the Time Lords plan make any sense? And the Doctor almost got rid of them too quickly.

Wilfred was wonderful in this episode, maybe even eclipsing David at some points. It's good that Wilfred hadn't been the Doctor's father when you take Donna into matters.

I wanted more for Donna but it looks like her fate is pernament. Missed it all again but at least she married a nice man in Shaun and the Doctor saw her wedding.

The cameos worked a lot better than before. Martha/Mickey getting married wasn't as bad as I thought it would, I could get behind Jack/Alonzo, Sarah Jane's awareness of imminent regeneration was interesting and both the Verity and Rose appearances packed the right emotional punch.

The regeneration scene took a little too long but it was sad (and slightly creepy thanks Ood universal singing). Loved Eleven's introduction, totally bonkers and makes me awaiting for Series 5, 10/10.

Review .... http://shawnlunn2002.blogspot.com/2010/01/my-review-of-doctor-whos-4x18-end-of.html

HellBlazerRaiser said...

I know I am in the VAST minority on this one, but....
Doctor Who: THE END OF TIME - Stink. Stank! STUNK!!!

THE END OF TIME, both parts, was the worst DOCTOR WHO story ever.

I have my own lil' blog and I posted my feelings on it there:
http://hellblazerraiser.blogspot.com/2010/01/doctor-who-end-of-time-stink-stank.html

Anonymous said...

This last episode was absolutely brilliant! With so many issuing a strong warning to Matt Smith that he has big shoes to fill, I sure as hell hope he does fill them and exceed those by the former doctor. David Tennant was fantastic. I would hate for us to sacrifice such wonderful television because so many would give up on Matt before he has a chance. From what I see, he will be different, but remember David Tennant was different from Chris E and we didn't know about him at first. Chris brought the Doctor back and David had four years to establish him. I'm holding out great hope for Matt.

Michael Reid said...

Could the woman behind Rassilon have been Romana?

Paul Kelly said...

RTD said in the commentary that "the woman" was the Doctor's Mother; though her identity remains a mystery on-screen.

Mark Greig said...

You can download all RTD's scripts for the Doctor Who specials. Just follow this helpful link:

http://www.thewriterstale.com/scr.html

Paul Kelly said...

Mark, when I saw your link I thought it said "the writer stale" and was expecting a spoof script. Thankfully, it wasn't... lol. I just ordered this book last week. I just need it to stop snowing long enough for the postman to get to my door. The last time I saw him was three days ago, and for some bizarre reason he was wearing shorts. In the snow! He's probably in hospital suffering from hypothermia.

Mark Greig said...

You’ve seen an actually postman? I was beginning to think the snow had made them all extinct. Although if shorts are now standards uniform they might soon be.

Michael Colvin said...

Lovely ending. I thought that a lot of the episode was Epic. I still think that the Master was mis-cast. I was also hoping that somehow the Doctor would be able to have "fixed" Donna somehow. But what a lovely send-off for David Tennant.

I know that I'm in the minority, but somehow the "woman" standing behind, when Wilfred asked who she was, we saw the Doctor look at Donna. I thought that hinted that it was Future Doctor Donna, somehow all healed. Alas, seems not to be.

So I've now seen every new Who episode. Fun to catch-up! Paul, thanks for all of the great reviews to help guide me into this new universe. It's been fun so far!

Paul Kelly said...

Michael, thank you for your kind words. Judging by your comments, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy season five (which has just finished airing here in the UK). It's a real step up in terms of quality.

Michael Colvin said...

Paul - I actually have been watching Doctor Who Series 5 on BBC America. So I'm only a couple episodes behind at this point. I've been LOVING Matt Smith as the Doctor and think that it's just been a brilliant season...I'm about to watch Mr. Van Gough - so hopefully the series will end on a strong note!

Back to this episode - now that I've had a few more moments to reflect on it, I am still very much in awe of the swan song that David Tennant got. It was a lovely good bye. Especially his good-bye to Rose - his making peace with not being able to be with her - being in the shaddows, it was just lovely.

Paul Kelly said...

"Vincent and the Doctor" is one of my favourite episodes of the season. I'm pretty sure you'll love it. The ending of season five is a bit of a departure; but well worth the effort.

And I agree with you about Tennant's farewell. Some aspects of the story didn't gel (the Master, as you say, was one), but even that couldn't detract from those last moments. The regeneration scene was nigh on perfect.

Valerie L said...

finally got around to watching this, great review by the way. was it just me or did the time lord (I didn't catch a name) have the glove that brought people back to life from Torchwood?

Sooze said...

I just finished watching Seasons 1-4 in about a 3-week time frame. It was like reading a book that I HAD to reach the end of...and now I am just sitting here feeling forlorn with tears streaming down my face. I would watch an episode and then read all your reviews and comments...thanks Paul, Billie, Mark and everyone else, reading the blog as I went along was really fun. Can't wait to start on Season 5, but I think I need to give myself a little time to morn David Tennant's Doctor. Loved him. Maybe in the meantime I'll overdose on another one of your shows that I haven't had the chance to watch yet...or perhaps I should get back to the laundry, cleaning, work...nah...

Anonymous said...

The only thing that bothererd me is the doctor saying " I don't want to go" Since his memories and experiances will still be there all that is changing is his looks so it is not like he is "dying" just changing his form" So in hindsight his last 5 words make little sense

Kenneth Serenyi said...

Did the women standing behind Rassilon remind anyone else of the 'weeping angels' from Blink? I think Rassilon even says something about angels weeping in this episode...