And so time – pardon the pun – has been called on the Russell T. Davies Era of Doctor Who, and on the 10th Doctor, David Tennant, as well.
It’s been a good run, but it probably was time to hand it over to a new team.
The question is though, do they go out in style, or a whimper?
As I’ll explain, I think The End of Time is a bit of both.
In fact, I think it’s a case of polar opposites.
Doctor Who – The End of Time Review: What’s This One About?
The Doctor has a “final” showdown with *sigh* The Master, The Timelords make an aborted comeback and then when that’s all over, Wilfred is accidentally the one who knocks four times.
To put it another way, The End of Time is about 108 Minutes of absolute garbage and then the 24 best minutes of Doctor Who there has ever been.
And I mean that.
Thoughts – Before We Begin…
Before I get onto the plot and the story as a whole, I want to address perhaps the most ludicrous part of The End of Time.
Barack Obama is the President.
I could understand a different production team making this mistake, but for Russell T. Davies – a man who has deliberately avoided using current political figures in his show up to this point and has killed off three Prime Ministers and one US President in his plots – to suddenly revert to using the real life US president in The End of Time is the schoolboy-est of schoolboy errors.
Who did Obama follow as President? The guy who The Master killed in The Sound of Drums? So what about George W. Bush? Where does he figure into it all?
And it’s not even as if the US President featured in the story much at all. If RTD had to use a US President in this story – which he didn’t, because the recession busting plan added nothing to the plot at all – it could have been a nameless bloke.
That really bugged me, because it was just lazy writing. And RTD has shown he’s a bit better than that.
But then up to a point, the End of Time is one of his worst efforts.
To me, the early parts are a shambles.
I understand where he wants to get to, and to get there needed a few things to happen, but my God, what a disappointment.
The first thing to look at is Mr Naismith, the man who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.
What’s his motivation? He’s a rich man who wants to give his spoilt daughter immortality. And that’s it; he has nothing else to offer the story.
He’s used as a means to get The Master into a situation where he can transplant himself into every human (which I’ll get to shortly) and that’s it.
So, in this world of convenience, he has this machine, but he can’t quite get it working. He somehow finds out that Harold Saxon is alive and – even though he has no evidence to suggest that Harold Saxon is anything more than a disgraced politician who has been in hiding – he decides that he’s the man to program this immortality machine.
Oh, and by chance he also has two aliens in disguise working for him.
All that is, is lazily finding a means of having the tools the Master needs to do what he has to do. It’s very poor.
Then we have the Master himself; hands down the worst aspect of this story and probably the worst thing about Doctor Who since it came back.
You know I don’t like the character of the Master, or at least the character of the Master beyond Roger Delgado and a two-minute cameo by Derek Jacobi, but he plumbs new depths here.
Whether it’s the writing, the acting or – more likely – a combination of the two, I just hate John Simm’s take on the character.
It was over the top in his first appearance, but now it’s just ridiculous.
He’s a disgraceful over-actor who you can’t take seriously. Watch him here and compare him to Delgado. Hell, compare him to Peter fucking Pratt. He’s awful. While the rest of the cast are taking it seriously, he’s bouncing around the screen like a cartoon character.
Oh, and this time he’s got superhuman characteristics, like the ability to fly, throw energy bolts and…er…eat food at an alarming rate.
Again, it seems to me that the writing of the character has layers that are completely pointless and are designed to waste time.
Ok, so he’s hungry. That’s fine; but do we need to see him waste scene after scene in Part One saying “Ooooh, food. Gravy, dripping, meat, sandwiches. Ooooh”. No, we don’t. It adds nothing to what’s going on.
And all that nonsense about turning into every human? Again, a waste of time. It didn’t go anywhere, it offered no drama and it was reset by a click of Rassilon’s fingers.
I just didn’t see the point.
So why is the Master in it at all? As a swerve of course.
We were all meant to believe that “He will knock four times” meant the Master. It didn’t, and the way that it didn’t turned out to be brilliant.
So it’s not like he shouldn’t have been in the story at all, it’s just that the use of him in it was annoying and poorly constructed. It could have been so much better.
Oh Look, The Time Lords Are Back
The other threat in this story is the return of the Time Lords, led by a man who can’t help but spit every time he talks. Dirty bugger.
Anyway, for all this time, the Time Lords have been painted as a force for good, Time Locked in their bitter struggle versus the Daleks.
Except now they are Super Villains, intent on destroying the entire universe.
That’s a bit of an about turn is it not?
Beyond a good cliffhanger, and maybe beyond a need RTD had to use them just once in his era, The Time Lords serve no purpose. The scenes with them aren’t the clearest to follow, the acting of Timothy Dalton is way over the top, and their motivation is puzzling to say the least.
What’s most annoying about them though is that they are used in that way that I hate.
RTD builds up their arrival as if it’s the end of the universe, but when they do arrive, they are defeated with ease two minutes later.
Argh, that sort of thing annoys me.
Wait, Shouldn’t The Doctor Be Dead?
One more bit of writing that leaves a lot to be desired is the way The Doctor jumps out of a moving spaceship from hundreds of feet in the air, crashes through a glass roof (which must have been very difficult to aim for by the way) and lands hard on a marble floor…
And yet he’s absolutely fine.
Come on, eh?
I know that was another moment where we’re supposed to think he’s about to die, but seriously? Wile E Coyote would have sold that one better.
To Sum Up the First 108 Minutes
So to sum up, the first 108 minutes comprises of bad characterisation, over convenience, odd writing, a terrible lack of consistency with US Presidents, the worst Master performance ever (oh, and by the way, wasn’t it convenient when The Master
decided to suddenly become a good guy and save everyone), a classic case of building up a threat only to have it vanquished two minutes later, and a lot of time wasting (all that stuff in the wastelands was a snoozefest).
Was there anything good?
Yes, there was, but it was almost exclusively the interaction between The Doctor and Wilf.
The scene in the cafe where the Doctor explains that regeneration is still the death of that version of himself set up the regeneration scenes perfectly.
And the scene on board the Vinvocci Space Ship where Wilf tries to give him the gun was great too. To be fair to the writing, the way he refused the gun up until the point where he realised the Time Lords were returning made them seem far more threatening than anything Dalton did.
Really, all the stuff with Wilf was great, but the rest left a lot to be desired.
Things were going so badly in the End of Time, until…
The Best 24 Minutes Of Doctor Who Ever
Once all the swerves, all the fluff and all the incidental stuff had been disposed of, the story starts properly for me with 24 minutes to go.
The first time I saw this, when the Doctor was lying on the floor remarking that he was still alive, an idea popped into my head and I said to my dad, brother and friend who I was watching it with “Wilf is about to knock four times”, and then he did.
Just that little realisation made all the crap that had come before it worth it.
And so began the process of the end of the 10th Doctor.
That two handed scene with David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins is – dramatically – unparalleled in Doctor Who. Everything about it, from the dialogue, to the delivery, the direction and especially the incidental music in the form of Four Knocks, is fantastic.
The Doctor knows that he’s away to die to save an old man who has stupidly got himself trapped in a booth that’s about to be filled with radiation, and he’s pissed off.
David Tennant is absolutely believable in his anguish and anger. Why shouldn’t the Doctor be annoyed? As he says, he could do so much more. He doesn’t need to die at all, he could just walk away.
But when he says it would be his honour to die to save an old man like Wilf? Crikey.
It’s David Tennant’s finest moment.
But then, just when you think it’s over, it’s not.
The Doctor gets to have a bit of time to go about and say goodbye to all his companions.
The Goodbye Scenes
Now, a lot of people seem to think having the Doctor go about visiting all his companions and friends is overly dramatic and mushy, but I’m not one of them.
To me, it’s the right thing to do. It’s not just The Doctor saying goodbye to all these people, but it’s the viewer as well. And it works, and I like it.
The saddest of all the goodbyes is the one to Wilf and Sylvia.
Not only is it sad because he can’t say goodbye to Donna himself, but the bit where he says he went back to borrow a pound off Donna’s deceased father is heartbreaking. And the look on Bernard Cribbins as he cries, salutes and blows a kiss to the man he knows he’ll never see again? Jesus…that man just has to give one look to bring tears to a glass eye.
But then, the end comes.
And what a way to go.
After saying goodbye to Rose in a time before he met her – which was a clever way of writing her in, by the way – we have the Doctor finally show signs that he’s about to pop his clogs.
Now here’s the thing; when you watch a TV show, you form an emotional bond with the characters. So when a TV show ends or a character is killed off, you feel a sense of loss.
And even though the Doctor himself will live on as a different man, this is the end of The Tenth Doctor, so it’s the loss of one of TV’s most beloved characters, such is the strength and popularity of Tennant’s portrayal.
So we’re all sad to begin with.
But having the Ood turn up and offer to sing the Doctor to his sleep? That’s just turning up the emotion to the max!
And then on top of that, they get the incidental music absolutely bang on. Murray Gold’s finest work, mere minutes after his previous finest work. Actually, they are probably equally good.
Here we have a man, showing such grit and determination to walk through the snow and make it back to the TARDIS as this beautiful piece of music plays over it.
The look on David Tennant’s face is exactly right for what he wants to achieve.
Then, as he gets back to the TARDIS, he stands alone and defeated, knowing he’s moments from death.
And how does the scene get topped off? With his final words “I don’t want to go”.
I tell you, when this story finished, the four of us sat in the room, shell-shocked. As blokes of course we had to put on the bravado, clearing our throats and muttering “That was good” and other such platitudes, but it was clear we were all wrecks after seeing it. To this day, I know my mum won’t watch it because she thinks it’ll be too much emotion for her to handle.
I can’t give RTD much credit for the previous 108 minutes of this story, but I give him all the credit in the world for the last 24 minutes.
It was the best regeneration by an absolute country mile, it was the most emotional piece of Doctor Who ever (and it still hasn’t lost any of its impact on repeat viewing), it had probably the best bit of acting from any Doctor and it has hands down the two best pieces of incidental music ever used in the show (Vale Decem & Four Knocks).
The New Doctor
And what about the new Doctor?
Well, let me say that I actually think the regeneration effect was quite poor. You could see the obvious cut between Tennant and Matt Smith.
But when Matt Smith first appears, the shift in tone and music (again, The New Doctor is another piece of superb incidental music from Murray Gold) is spot on as it creates a suitable cliffhanger for what’s to come.
So no complaints on that score.
- Why does the Master even want to put himself into every human? It’s just *big* for the sake of *big*
- And why does he have a cult following who wants to resurrect him anyway? That opening sequence was just stupid.
- That Ood at the start has an incongruous voice.
- It’s good that Captain Jack manages to get over killing his own grandson by having promiscuous sex with Alonso, eh?
- If I’m going to be critical of the part of the story I like, I’ll ask this; how do the likes of Martha, Mickey and Sarah realise that he’s about to die just by looking at him?
- And why does he choose to visit the granddaughter of Joan rather than just Joan herself?
- Also, how come he doesn’t visit Madame de Pompadour?
- Or does he? In the Sarah Jane Adventures episodes that involves Katy “With A Face That’ll Scare The Kids More Than Any Monster” Manning, he says he went to visit everyone at that point. But I bet he didn’t visit Dodo.
- You’ll notice that Ood Sigma has one of the best voices for an alien in Doctor Who, and gosh, it just so happens that it’s not voiced by Nick Briggs.
- The Doctor should have let Luke be run over by a car. Stupid boy.
- It was a nice touch to have the Doctor reference meeting Queen Elizabeth again, considering the last scene of The Shakespeare Code
- RTD does it again; he brings another potential Earth changing disaster upon modern-day society with Gallifrey popping out of the sky. And it falls to Sarah Jane to put out a story that “WiFi went haywire”. Aye, cos that’s a reasonable cover-up, isn’t it?
- Seeing that Sarah will be dead within a couple of years of this, who will put out cover stories instead?
- How come the Doctor took so long to think about which person to shoot, only to save the day by shooting the machine instead?
- I love the line “Gawd bless the Cactuses”
- As I’ve said, the incidental music at the end of this story is the best that Doctor Who has ever had. I use Four Knocks & Vale Decem when doing Relaxation type exercise like Yoga, Pilates or Stretching, while The New Doctor is a great piece of music to use for your last big burst of energy when doing cardio stuff.
- The End of Time Part 2 has become a Christmas Eve viewing tradition for me. Unfortunately I have to wade through 40 minutes of crap to get to the good parts.
- I thought to myself “I’m sure I’ve used the tagline “The Ultimate Mixed Bag” before, and it turns out that I have, in Utopia, Sound of Drums & Last of the Timelords. I’ve amended the title accordingly
- DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: N/A
Doctor Who – The End of Time Review: Final Thoughts
Ranking a story like The End of Time will be difficult for me.
As I think I’ve made clear, it varies in quality a lot.
The storyline with The Master is awful, and the Time Lord stuff ends in a cop-out of mammoth proportions.
But it got the narrative to the point where they could do that last 20 minutes, so that’s something. It’s almost as if RTD was working backwards.
The last 20-odd minutes is the most emotional piece of Doctor Who ever, and I love it, but the stuff before it does nothing for me.
What I will say is this; if you don’t like that last part, you’re an emotionless robot.
Shame on you.