The End of Time, Part One

And so it came to pass that at the end of his days, Russell T Davies finally got his crazy back.

I’ve liked a lot of Davies’ Doctor Who, but I’ve felt as the series has gone on, that a lot of his more outrageous ideas have been a little tempered, or disappeared entirely. Season four was enjoyable, consistent, and safe. And subsequently, nowhere near the awesome of earlier seasons. It doesn’t take long to realise where Davies’ priorities are when writing popular science fiction, and they’re certainly not in the science area. It seems like he writes as if you would a fairy tale; anything’s possible, but everything has a price. And as long as there’s some involving fantasy logic at the core of the story, things work well. When there isn’t, well, then you get ‘Journey’s End’.

But with ‘End of Time’, the man who blew up Number 10, opened a two-part finale with reality TV spoofs, and wrote ‘Love & Monsters’ is back with a vengeance. There’s two twists at the end of ‘The End of Time, Part One’, and while both are exciting, it’s the first which is so delightfully mad that you’re both laughing and intrigued at the same time. I won’t go into either of them here since all my guesses are probably wrong. After all, if I’d actually managed to write something about ‘Waters of Mars’ before now, I’d probably have guessed that whatever was happening this week was caused by the Doctor’s interference there, and not, as it seems, completely unrelated. So instead, I’ll focus on the individual elements of what is, really, an episode of setting up and not paying off. Prepare to be unsatisfied.

The Ood. Meh. The Ood do nothing for me. Ood Brian Cox is cooler than your average Ood but would appear to be just a big-brained exposition machine. The obvious caveat here is that it’s quite possible they’ve got something to do next week. Unfortunately, just looking at them again reminds me of ‘Planet of the Ood’ and the fact that a species has evolved which HAS TO CARRY IT’S BRAIN IN ITS HAND. Ahem. It would appear I’m still not over that.

The Master’s Return. Oh my, but this scene feels dumb. I’m not sure exactly what it is. It could be Lucy Saxon’s painfully long and undramatic piece of vaguely implausible exposition right at the end. It could be the idea that Lucy hasn’t washed her lips for a year or so. It could be that the “Potions of Saxon” sound as stupid as the ludicrous legend of the gun that could shoot the Master in ‘Last of the Time Lords’, but appear to be very real. I think it’s mostly just because it’s a lot of shouting by people who sound very silly when they shout.

It’s a shame, because as Davies alludes to in the commentary,1 he’s playing around with the idea of the Doctor and the Master’s timelines being linked here–a concept hinted at but never really explored in the original series–and the whole idea of the Doctor rushing across the universe to catch up to events (and failing) is kind of cool. Or rather, the idea is cool when it isn’t juxtaposed with one of the lamest scenes in new Doctor Who ever.2

The Master Himself. Based purely on this story I think we have to put John Simm’s Master up on top of the “Best New Who Villain” pedestal. Yes, he’s still insane3 but he’s also amazingly sympathetic in places. It surprises me that an alien who grins like a loon, eats entire people and has previously decimated the population of the earth feels less “eeeeevil” to me than the big army doofus from Avatar. What’s particularly satisfying is getting a nice, solid, proper scene between Doctor and Master, after being cruelly denied it in ‘Last of the Time Lords’. Watch for the bit where the Master zaps the Doctor, catches him before he hits the ground, then realises what he did and drops him. Awesome stuff.4

Wilf. It’s nice having a male companion every now and then, but of course even more interesting to have an old one. Everyone’s going on about the scene in the cafĂ©, so I won’t, except to say that I was very relieved that no one actually quite broke down. Hard-hearted bastard that I am, I wasn’t completely sold on Cribbins until ‘Turn Left’, but I’m a complete convert now and his storyline with the mysterious woman in white is the most intriguing aspect of the episode.

Lots of random old people. I guess they were almost funny. I’m letting them off only because generally everyone’s so young in Doctor Who–including next year’s Doctor. I reckon Minnie was the Tenth Doctor’s last chance for a snog though, so he’ll be totally kicking himself on New Year’s Day when he realises what got away from him.5

Joshua Naismith and his weird daughter. I think I may have missed something here. If I did, it was most likely the point. Seriously. These two have about three scenes where they generally act a shade peculiar in not terribly interesting ways, and then seem to get removed from the plot completely. It seems barely worth even having them in the story at this stage. Why not just have the whole thing run by the comedy aliens? Perhaps they’ll do something fascinating next week, but I somehow doubt it.

The comedy aliens. Inaccurately named. But potentially important to the plot, so they’re at least one up on the Naismiths.

Timothy Dalton. I’m not sure there’s many people out there who could speak the narration he’s given and make it sound awesome instead of stupid.6 He will have to work on his problem with spittle though. It’s unprofessional. Ron Howard never spat on anyone for three years of Arrested Development.

Donna’s Mum. Suddenly gets to be really funny. I didn’t see that coming. More of Donna’s Mum!

It’s tempting to say at this point: “What a lot of silly plot elements that didn’t go anywhere.” But that would be a stupid thing to say halfway through a story. That said, I’ll be disappointed if Minnie doesn’t save the universe come New Year’s Day.

  1. Here’s the podcast URL if you’d like to grab it–part two’s commentary should turn up next week as well.
  2. Note I didn’t just say Doctor Who. That’d be a somewhat larger call, and not one that I’m comfortable with.
  3. Something that has rather hamstrung previous Masters, making them appear cartoonishly stupid. I’m looking at you, Anthony Ainley Master.
  4. Not stuff which I actually explicitly noticed until Davies pointed it out in the commentary though. I’m clearly not very perceptive.
  5. Unless he pashes John Simm.
  6. And some of it is certainly stupid. “To the west of the north of that world”? Oh come on. Do I have to sit down with Russell and explain to him about spheres? How about “Many of the humans of that world did gather…”?
Each and every one of those people had dreamt of the terrible things to come. But they forgot... because they must. They forgot their nightmares of fire and war and insanity. They forgot... except for one. — The Narrator

One Response to “The End of Time, Part One”

  1. Typically Davies. Full of over bearing characters announcing that storm’s are coming and that shadows are falling across things, characters turning up to do nothing and apparently time itself is going to stop. If I hadn’t already seen the other part, I’d be placing bets on which subplots are resolved in disappointing ways.

    Did you mean to write more about Donna’s mum, Tom?