The End of Time

* Of all the one-off companions The Doctor has ever had, Wilfred is by far the best. He’s initially the focus of this epic story; we’re introduced to it through him, and his band of alien-hunting pensioners. How refreshing to have an older man fulfilling the traditional companion role, and for him to prove so worthy of the position – he dives in feet first, his deep love for The Doctor matching that of the audience.

* It’s a bit weird that, from The Doctor’s perspective, this doesn’t carry straight on from The Waters of Mars. It rather undermines the seriousness of that story’s climax; instead of carrying the weight of his huge mistake and his impending death, he swans in fresh from his holidays and boasts about shagging Queen Elizabeth.

* I’d forgotten exactly what Lucy Saxon’s role was in The Master’s resurrection. I’d seemed to recall that she was complicit in the plan – shooting him so that she could then retrieve the ring – but I must have been remembering my theory from beforehand, rather than the actual episode. Turns out that she’d just been caught up in all of it, and in fact managed to throw a spanner in the works right at the crucial moment.

*  Unfortunately, I’m not keen on the effects of her spanner. The whole concept of the resurrection was a very TVM-esque interpretation of The Master as some sort of irrepressible form of energy, rather than mere flesh and blood. I’m not quite on board with this – he’s more scary if he’s just an evil version of The Doctor, not if he’s shooting lightning bolts from his hands and flying about like a comic book villain. I’m not sure why the trauma has made him blonde either.

* Today’s “oh, it’s them!” watch: David Harewood! In a surprisingly small role for someone of his pedigree. June Whitfield! Her and Cribbins are totally at it. The woman werewolf from Being Human! I had to look her up, because I knew I recognised her from something but couldn’t place what. In my defence, she spent most of the episode disguised as a cactus.

* “President Obama has promised to end the recession”. This was less than eight years ago, but wow, the world truly was a different place, back when we had: a) a President who people around the world respected; and b) so few problems that one single action could make a tangible difference.

* It’s not very festive, is it? Other than the odd bit of tinsel, the only major concession to Christmas is The Master devouring a giant turkey. That’s about it until Part One ends with the words: “And so it came to pass, on Christmas Day, that the human race did cease to exist”. Well, Merry fucking Christmas to you too, James Bond.

* The Master making everyone into copies of himself is basically what happens in The Empty Child, but with an evil genius instead of an innocent boy. Honestly, it’s Simm City out there. With nearly seven billion clones milling about, it’s a good job the original Master seems to be in control of them – I’d have thought they’d all want to be in charge, bickering over who got to show off in front of The Doctor and who had to do the minor admin. It’d be like the Red Dwarf episode Me2, except they’d have to call it Me6.8billion.

* Considering all the epic stuff that’s going on, with The Master victorious and bloody Rassilon turning up with his special glove, the first time I felt moved was when Wilfred tearfully told The Doctor he didn’t want him to die. He’s so sweet, and his presence raises the stakes even further – we know that Doctors die all the time, so can be blasé about it, but I don’t want Wilf to lose his Doctor.

* Although let’s face it, how the fuck does he survive jumping from a spaceship and falling face first through a glass ceiling? That should have been it – Tennant dead and buried before the Time Lords even arrive.

* There’s certainly a hell of a lot going on here, but it’s hard to see what the point of anything of it is, other than it all being a prelude to The Doctor’s death. The Master being back was a big threat, but Rasillon undoes everything he’d done within seconds, so that’s all sorted. So therefore the Time Lords are now the big epic thing, but they turn up far too late in the day to really make their presence felt – we were told how dangerous they were without ever experiencing it ourselves. And then they’re dealt with in five minutes. Those five minutes are good, and it’s nice to see The Master getting some element of redemption, but it’s all very hasty.

* And so it comes to pass that what finally fells the Tenth Doctor is none of these things. He emerges unscathed, and the ultimate irony is that it’s poor old Wilf that inadvertently brings him down. That’s a lovely twist, but don’t be angry at Wilf about it, you prick. He was only in danger because he saved someone else, plus you can regenerate and he can’t. This attitude left a bitter aftertaste to the Tenth Doctor’s era – I hadn’t remembered until now, but my dislike for him towards the end has clouded my view of this incarnation.

* Then of course, there’s the famous farewell tour. First up, Martha, who’s left UNIT, dumped her fiance and married Mickey. That’s quite strange; I wouldn’t have pictured them as a couple, and I hope they weren’t put together just because they have one thing in common. I like how The Doctor saves their lives, then does the same for Luke, but that his gift for Jack is to get him laid. He knows him so well.

* I’ve always wondered why he tracks down Joan’s great-granddaughter, rather than going back and just visiting her himself. But I guess it would be a bit traumatic for her if he suddenly rocked up again, plus “Verity Newman” is a lovely touch. It’s sweet that he wants to make sure Joan was happy, and I found it quite touching this time round. Although obviously not as touching as when Cribbins cries again, and therefore I cry again.

* The bit with Rose is really nice, but it would have been infinitely better had she not reappeared in Series 4, so that a distant glimpse at a woman who doesn’t know him was the closest The Doctor got to seeing her again. In fact, that’s true of the whole sequence – it would have had so much impact if Journey’s End hadn’t have happened, and it still baffles me that the big multi-companion reunion wasn’t Tennant’s swansong.

* God, he doesn’t half make a fuss about regenerating this time, doesn’t he? The Universe itself sings him on his way, which seems a bit excessive when past regenerations have been about as ceremonious as getting a bump on the head whilst wearing a blonde fuzzy wig. It doesn’t really seem to be in the spirit of the show by making such a big fuss about one particular Doctor and one particular showrunner leaving – the console room being destroyed and “I don’t want to go” make everything seem so final, which could have really undermined the incoming regime.

* Mind you, we did see much more of the new Doctor than we normally do. I remember being distinctly unsure about Matt Smith at the time, but now with the power of hindsight, it feels like a baton being passed from a good Doctor to an even better one. But that’s another story…

RATING: 8

So it’s the end of an era – my era, in fact, considering I only became a fan thanks to Russell bringing the show back. It wasn’t without its flaws – looking back, I think the constant desire to make everything exponentially bigger and better began to harm the show towards the end – but I’ll always be incredibly fond of Russell’s work on the show, and indeed incredibly grateful. It was the first version of Doctor Who that I fell in love with, and twelve years later, I can barely remember what it was like to not love Doctor Who.

Technically speaking, this isn’t the end of a series, but I feel like I should do one of these anyway:

SPECIALS AVERAGE RATING: 7.5

  • Seasons/Series watched: Still 30 of 36
  • Stories watched: 202 of 275
  • Individual episodes watched: 756 of 839

It’s taken ages to get through these specials, what with all the spin-offs in between, so I’m really looking forward to having a nice regular series coming up next. I’m about to start the show’s current era, and I hope I can squeeze it all in before it’s no longer the current era…

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Voyage of the Damned

* Firstly, apologies for the increasing infrequency of this blog. It’s been a busy few weeks, and it’s taken me a while to find enough time to watch a feature-length episode. It probably doesn’t help that I’m entering a period that I’m not particularly fond of – quite aside from the fact that I’ve got more Torchwood coming next, I don’t think much of this period of proper Who either. But I’m reassessing as I go, and this one wasn’t quite as bad as I’d remembered, although still far from great, for reasons we’ll get to.

* The Titanic crashing into the TARDIS was a hell of a cliffhanger, and how was it resolved? Oh, The Doctor presses a button and everything’s fine within seconds. Meh.

* New theme tune! It’s better than the current one, but not as good as the one it replaced. Every new iteration throughout the revived series has added new elements over the top of Ron Grainer’s composition, and it’s diluted the impact of the fundamental bassline and melody. It’s basically followed the same pattern as the original series, but over a much shorter space of time.

* Kylie Minogue! “Stunt casting” is a term that always gets bandied about with negative connotations, but you’ve got to admit that this one’s a hell of a stunt. It’s clear from the start that The Doctor wants her as a companion, and so because she’s Kylie Minogue, and therefore unlikely to commit to a full series, that means she has to die, especially after The Doctor promises he’ll get her out of there. I quite like Astrid though – having the companion view everyday Earth in the same way most companions view alien worlds was a fun new dynamic.

* The rest of the guest cast are not bad either. Geoffrey Palmer! A man so loveable, you really don’t mind him willfully killing billions for money. Russell Tovey! Thankfully only exhibiting small glimpses of the squeaky voice acting that’s dominated most of his other roles, despite spending most of the episode bleeding out from a gunshot wound. Clive Swift! Mr Copper is pretty good, but I can’t separate the performance from that shitty interview he gave to DWM. Tit.

* The disaster movie ensemble provides mixed results. It’s hard to know what to make of Foon and Morvin at first, but they emerge as the most likeable and well-intentioned characters of the bunch. There’s clearly a good socialist message in there, as you compare this ordinary working class couple to the merciless and selfish posh cunt, who is absolutely loathsome and irritating to watch. I get Mr Cooper’s point that you shouldn’t be able to choose who lives and dies, but come on – it’s Christmas, let us see him get what’s coming to him. The whole thing is deliberately unfestive at times; there’s a very high death count, and a lot of heroic sacrifices in quick succession.

* But never mind all those accomplished actors and musical icons. Get you a guest star who can do both. IT’S BERNARD CRIBBINS. This is not quite the same Wilf that we’ll soon come to know and love – he’s slightly more of a cheeky cockney, and less of a wise old man. While later developments would add more significance to his scene in retrospect, it also continues RTD’s slow-burning arc that the human race have acknowledged the existence of aliens, and are increasingly aware of the dangers. Moffat has since undone that with a few big resets, and it’s entirely at his discretion to do so, but I liked the period when Who was set in a ever-so-slightly different version of the world to our own.

* Tennant delivering that line about who The Doctor is, with the sparks firing behind him to punctuate every clause in the sentence, is cheesey as fuck, but it really works in context. The big bank holiday movie feel provides a fun and thrilling ride, and while it’s not particularly complex or intellectually stimulating, it’s a decent episode… until Max Capricorn turns up and ruins everything, with his stupid gurning face and ridiculous pronunciation of the word “metal”. He doesn’t look like he belongs in this episode; it’s like he’s been dropped in from the JNT era, and his presence completely takes you out of the drama.

* And it’s at this point that everything just gets a bit out of hand – my one criticism of RTD’s tenure was that he sometimes got a bit overexcited and chucked absolutely everything at the screen at once. This certainly felt like he lost his discipline before the end. There’s a lot of pomp to The Doctor these days, but he couldn’t just leave it at the aforementioned cheesey-but-effective speech – the Messiah metaphor gets invoked again as he’s carried to the heavens by angels, then next thing you know, The Queen shows up to thank him, then he’s snogging the ghost of Kylie Minogue. At least some of this could perhaps have been reigned in.

* The Doctor tells Mr Copper that the £1m in his bank account is equivalent to 50m credits. Earlier on, Foon tells Morvin that she spent 5,000 credits on entering the competition, which is therefore equivalent to £100. And that’s going to take them 20 years to pay off, is it? She must have borrowed it from Wonga. Also, if Mr Copper wants to buy a proper house with a garden with his million quid, he’ll have to move out of London.

RATING: 7