Archive for January 4, 2010

Doctor Who the End of Time Review

Part One

So here it is at last. After a year with only two episodes, one shit, one average, David Tennant’s reign as the tenth Doctor finally comes to its cataclysmic end. At the same time, the tenure of Doctor Who showrunner and head writer Russell T Davis comes to its close. Will the two manage to bow out gracefully?

After accidentally causing a woman to kill herself by messing about with time, the Doctor has followed the Ood to their home world for a council with the elders. Unfortunately, they show him a vision of what all of humanity is dreaming at nights: the Master (John Simm), returned and triumphant.
Meanwhile, Wilf (Bernard Cribbens) is being contacted by a mysterious woman who informs him of the prophecy – the Doctor will die and something will return.
Elsewhere (another word for meanwhile…) two evil black people (thank you, BBC) want the Master for their Plot Device Alien Technology.

First off, any episode that features John Simm’s utterly wonderful Master is guaranteed to be at least watchable, and this episode is no exception – it’s plenty watchable. What is a huge shame is that it never really stretches itself out to become something other than just average.

The Master’s resurrection makes next to no sense (he wrote it down? HE WROTE DOWN THE RECIPE TO LIFE AND DEATH?) and the fact that he now has the ability to shoot lightening with his hands and jump huge distances actually reduce him as a character. Here it is, folks: the Master as viewed by Tex Avery.

Tennant is as reliable as ever, with much less gurning than usual, thankfully. It’s one of the very rare instances where the Doctor seems like an underdog, as opposed to a man waiting until he can build a magic device that undoes everything. (Naturally, we all know that what’s going to happen, but it’s nice to not expect it for once.)

Bernard Cribbens’ Wilf has come on in leaps and bounds this time, presumably because he’s not saddled with trying to carry Donna (Catherine Tate) throughout every scene he stars in. Mercifully, the ginger witch herself is kept to the bare minimum of scenes, with very little dialogue. It’s like Russell T knows how awful she is and isn’t being forced to use her anymore…

The constant references to Obama are infuriating – it’s like the BBC are still amazed at a black man on TV outside BBCThree. Likewise, the stupid green aliens almost manage to ruin the entire episode simply by being there.

As with all Doctor Who two-parters, this first instalment is mostly setting up the bigger story and lots of running around, with a few silly gags thrown in for good measure. It’s not great, it’s good, and if the rest of the episode matched up with that utterly stunning cliffhanger, (your jaw might severe on the epicness of the final reveal) this would be a huge leap in quality. Unfortunately, Tennant’s swansong is off to a patchy start.

3 stars

Part Two

So… the Master has turned himself into everyone on Earth (apart from Wilf – apparently one Alien Technology trumps another), the Doctor has all but lost, Donna is about the remember the past and thus die (shame, huh?), the Time Lords are about to return from the Time War, Tennant is about to go out all guns blazing and Russell T Davis is going to craft a masterpiece for the ages! What could go wrong?

Where do we begin? To start, the previous episode clearly didn’t do enough of a job setting up the story, apparently, because the first forty-odd minutes of this episode continue the setup. The story bounces back and forth between the on going battle between the Master (all seven billion of them) and the Doctor, who does a remarkable job of running away, and the plan of the Time Lords to escape from the Time Bubble the Doctor placed them all in.

Unfortunately, what this plan does is over-explain and destroy the Master’s brilliant character. The drum beats that drove him crazy were actually a signal to get the Time Lords to returns somehow because they knew he would manage to turn himself into all the humans on the planet and triangulate the position of the magic diamond that brings them all back. Still here? Good, it’s about to get worse.

Donna, annoyingly, doesn’t die. The Doctor lied in the previous episode – she won’t die if she remembers, because he’s placed a magic widget in her head that does something in a wide radius. Still here? Really?

The green aliens return to save the Doctor before buggering off in a completely unresolved subplot. Until then, they spend their time on screen gurning, making stupid noises and flying a silly ship with an infuriating sound effect engine.

But all of this could have been forgiven. Could have been forgotten, ignored and buried just for one moment. One shining example of awesomeness that might have tipped the scales completely and seen this as possibly the best Who episode ever… Seven billion Masters, the Time Lords, led by Timothy Dalton, and the Doctor caught in the middle. It could have been brilliant. A cataclysmic showdown for all time.

But no. Russell T decided that would be far too good and instead gives Dalton a magic glove with a big undo button that erases all the extra Masters and then the Doctor shoots a computer and gets rid of all of them for good.


Even Tennant’s death scene is agonising – a full fifteen minutes of slow wandering to musical montages as he rubs shoulders with every single creature Russell T invented in the most hideously painful moment in all of Who history. His death doesn’t even make sense – if the Doctor’s chamber of the pod will be filled with radiation, why not just trigger it from outside with the Sonic Screwdriver?

The good points of the episode are genuine highlights – the production values are the most incredible to yet grace a British TV show, that moment when the Doctor realises his time is up (four knocks…) and Matt Smith’s scenery-chewing entrance are all great. Such a shame the rest didn’t want to be like this.

Tennant and Russell T could have gone down in history on this one. Instead, we’ll remember Tennant as the gurning clown who just wouldn’t lay down and die and Russell T as the man who solved two hours of plotting with a magic glove and a single bullet. Roll on the next series – new Doctor, new assistant, new showrunner, new Tardis, new logo. Get in.

2 stars