Doctor Who: “The End of Time”, Parts 1 and 2

So now that I’m done writing up all the rest of my 2009 Book Log reviews, it’s time to jump over to another topic near and dear to my heart. Let’s talk Doctor. And specifically, the Doctor Who “End of Time” story, which I’m pretty sure most of you reading this will have seen by now. But just in case you haven’t, oh my yes ginormous spoilers behind the cut!

And, picoreview: fairly sloppy story overall with some moments of beauty. Russell T. Davies does tearjerking sentiment much better than he does logical cohesion of plot these days, I fear. And man, I’m going to miss David. Sniff. (Okay, yeah, the tearjerking sentiment got to me! ;) )

First and foremost: yeah, sloppy mess of a story. Last couple series of Who, it’s seemed to me like RTD has focused way more on the big, splashy finales than he has on tightness or cohesion of story–and this is particularly apparent to me now that userinfospazzkat has given me the Ninth Doctor boxed set for Christmas. I’ve been rewatching those, and as I’ve reminded myself that the first few of them were indeed written by RTD, it’s striking to me how much his storytelling emphasis has changed over the lifespan of New Who thus far. I really rather miss the days when he could tell stories that tight. I think we had the last gasp of it with “Midnight”, at the tail end of Tennant’s last full series.

userinfospazzkat and userinfosolarbird and I were all pretty much in accord: Steven Moffat can’t take over fast enough. RTD seems like he’s run out of… if not good ideas per se, then at least the ability to implement them in a truly tight fashion.

All that said? Ultimately, I’m not terribly sure I care much that “The End of Time” was a sloppy mess. We’ve all had a whole year at this point to get used to the idea that Tennant was leaving. I am regretful that this didn’t give him a sendoff that was truly worthy of his acting talents–but on the other hand, there were indeed moments of brilliance and beauty scattered throughout this story.

John Simm? Awesome. I’ve said many a time that I’m a huge, huge sucker for a Bad Boy Redemption plot, and you don’t get much badder a boy than the Master. The scenes between him and the Doctor were powerful indeed. The scene in Part 1 where he urges the Doctor to listen and touches his brow against the Doctor’s was captivating, as was the one in Part 2 where the Doctor almost sells him on the idea of travelling the universe with him. And, of course, the Master telling him to get out of the way so he can blast the hell out of Batshit Lord President Dalton? Awesome.

Yet a lot of the Master’s part of this story didn’t make much sense at all, starting from the cult of fanatics with their “Secret Books of Saxon” arranging to bring him back from the dead, to Lucy apparently having prepared for the same thing (and being a lot less batshit than she came across before), to his ability to fire energy blasts and spring into the air like Iron Man. We had a whole lot of DA HELL?! in our household about that. I did like the idea of his resurrection having gone “wrong” and how he was burning up his own life force; every line where Simm had to rant and rave about food and starving was chillingly delivered. But the whole Iron Master schtick? Um, what?

Similarly ambivalent about the return of Wilf and Donna and Donna’s mum into the scheme of things. Don’t get me wrong, Bernard Cribbins was lovely for the most part. I quite liked just about all of his interactions with the Doctor, especially the scene in the diner where Ten admits that he’s traveling alone and that he’s done “things” that he didn’t elaborate upon–the Doctor’s voice breaking and his having to swipe at his eyes, while Wilf looked on in anguish, was very, very moving. I also had the obligatory “aw, MAN, NO” reaction when it finally came out that it was his knocking four times that was going to herald the Doctor’s death. Yet I also felt that the whole “ordinary man being so hugely, hugely VITAL” thing was a tad overplayed–like a lot of this plot, really.

Relatedly, although it was nice to see Donna again and I was very pleased that we never went down the road of her actually seeing the Doctor (and therefore putting her at risk of her head exploding), I did wonder what the hell was up with the “defense mechanism” that the Doctor apparently put in her head. To wit: huh?! and when did that happen, then?! No fair back-writing stuff in there, RTD. Bah.

About the whole Return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey portion of this plot… okay, this I thought was actually pretty neat. This, the first real glimpse into what happened during the Time War, lets us know that the Time Lords took a hard turn into assholery in the last-ditch efforts to save their planet–and that the Doctor indeed was the one to cause their downfall. I quite liked the entire concept of the Time Lords deliberately driving the Master batshit with the “neverending drums”, and that they were willing to destroy the entire Earth by pushing it out of orbit if it meant Gallifrey could live again. Gallifrey appearing in the skies over the Earth? Brr. Beautiful and scary all at the same time.

(Raise your hand though if you had a momentary flash of Invader Zim and the “Battle of the Planets” episode where he was going to squish the Earth with Mars, though. Okay, maybe it was just me. ;) But I digress!)

Timothy Dalton was suitably batshit as the Lord President of the Time Lords, although I was startled to see that he was apparently supposed to be Rassilon himself. I’m not versed enough on Classic Who lore to really know his background, but I did have a big flash of “wait, what, wasn’t he dead?!” Not that this ever keeps a Time Lord down for long, but hey! Also, what exactly was that gauntlet thing he was wearing? userinfospazzkat thought it was the same gauntlet we saw in Torchwood, but I wasn’t sure about that.

Also: not at all sure what I think about the Mystery Time Lady who kept showing up in visions to Wilf and who apparently was Highly Important to the Doctor. Indications on the Net abound that this was in fact his mother, and if so, that’s a highly entertaining little bit of the Doctor’s past finally coming on camera. Although I do note, this was not actually called out on camera. There was only Rassilon’s ranting about two lone dissidents who voted against Gallifrey’s rising, and one presumes that if the female Time Lord was the Doctor’s mother, then perhaps the other was his father. And! Highly interesting to note the reference to the Weeping Angels as well, although I only caught that belatedly when I started reading up on the episode and realized I’d missed the actual line.

Last but not least we do of course have the final sequence leading up to the Doctor’s death. I have to admit I actually like how they played it out. userinfosolarbird pointed out that radiation poisoning does take several hours to kill you, so the Doctor had plenty of time to go get final glimpses of all the people who were important to him. So that was pretty nice, although I did do a double-take at the idea of Martha actually being married to Mickey. I actually approve of this, although I definitely must have missed something if she wound up with him. And of course because this is RTD we’re talking about, we had to have the final visit be to Rose.

ETA: And how the hell could I forget the best thing in the visits sequence? I.e., the Doctor showing up in the bar where Jack is drowning his sorrows. Four words: “His name is Alonso.” WHEE! :)

And yeah, I liked that. Sniff. That final line of the Doctor’s to her about how she’s about to have a very good year? Very sweet.

And the Ood singing him to his sleep as he stumbled into the TARDIS? Aw.

Which of course brings us at last to the regeneration. David’s last line and the look on his face… sniff. Raise your hand though if your reaction to “I don’t want to go!” was either “We don’t want you to go either!” or “So DON’T, man, you were the one who decided to quit the role!” ;)

Surprisingly explosive regeneration, though, with the things catching on fire and the TARDIS going out of control and things. Nice reactions though as Eleven took over… “Legs! I’ve got LEGS!” and “I’m a girl!?” and “still not ginger!” and “I’m… CRASHING! GERONIMO!”

Yeah. I’m definitely going to miss David… but I’m ready for the new Doctor. Nice to meet you, Eleven. Looking forward to seeing more of you in the spring!

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Angela Korra'ti

As Angela Highland, Angela is the writer of the Rebels of Adalonia epic fantasy series with Carina Press. As Angela Korra'ti, she writes the Free Court of Seattle urban fantasy series. She's also an amateur musician and devoted fan of Newfoundland and Quebecois traditional music.

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who: “The End of Time”, Parts 1 and 2”

  1. “Legs! I’ve got LEGS!” Yes, and Matt can kiss his own knee. He *must* be a space alien. :D

    BTW, BBC America put up some trailers for the new series on their website; it seems that “Geronimo!” is going to be this Doctor’s catchphrase, joining Ten’s “Brilliant!”, Nine’s “Fantastic!”, and Six’s “Can I *please* take this wretched outfit off now?!”. :)

    Okay, I lied about Six. He never said that. Aloud.

    1. I’ve seen one of the trailers, yeah! Interesting stuff in there. :) And I’ve seen references to the likelihood of “Geronimo!” being his catchphrase.

      *snicker* Big Finish did apparently have Six lose the wretched outfit. Which is one of the reasons I actually want to check out their audios. ;)

  2. Could the female Time lOrd have been his granddaughter, Susan, from the the old days? Also thought of his mother. Just wondering. Also thought the gauntlet thing was form Torchwood.

    1. It’s certainly possible that the female Time Lord could have been Susan! From what I’ve heard on the podcast I listen to, Russell T. Davies has been quoted as saying he was envisioning that woman as the Doctor’s mum, although this apparently never got called out in the script. So it sounds like to me that’s still quite open to interpretation. ;)

      As for the gauntlet, I’m fairly sure both of those gauntlets were accounted for, so that would indicate that what Rassilon was using wasn’t one of those… but.

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