“The End of Time: Part 1” – Review: Redux

Doctor “Even if I change it still feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away… and I’m dead.”

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As the world holds its breath waiting to find out which episodes that the BBC is going to announce have been returned to the Doctor Who archives, it falls to me to continue with this marathon of new episodes. And so it is that I fire up the old Blu-ray and get to grips with “The End of Time, Part 1”. Together with its second part, this was a massive tapestry of plot threads that needed to be woven together and developed into a coherent whole, it might just have been the most complicated Doctor Who tale of all in the five years of Mr Davies’ stewardship that we have enjoyed. It began with Wilf, the adorable Bernard Cribbins acting his socks off to widespread if not unanimous praise, being drawn into a church during a choral performance. A mysterious woman, played by Claire Bloom, appeared and talked to Wilf in portentous and somewhat vague terms about the Doctor. This was the first of a number of visions that this woman made to Wilf before finally being revealed as a Time Lady in the service of (but rebelling against) the Lord President of Gallifrey during the climax of the adventure.

Quite who Claire Bloom was actually supposed to be, has set fandom’s tongues a-wagging as if RTD wanted to give us all one last, parting tease/gift to argue about for years to come. Yet it doesn’t really matter. I got the impression that it was she who was behind the Ood’s accelerated capabilities as her projections to Wilf were exactly like the Ood’s projections to the Doctor that we saw in “The Waters Of Mars”, no doubt using some largely irrelevant wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey techniques. Although I was surprised that it wasn’t more explicit. One could argue that this ability of a Time Lord to communicate from inside the Time War to the outside universe, has set up the opportunity to incorporate the Gallifreyans into events at some point in the future although, having seen the ending here, I’m not sure this would necessarily be a good thing.

The next big return for this story was the Master. His resurrection and the plan, apparently put in place while he was still gadding about in the guise of good old Harold Saxon, for what to do in the event of his death was a little on the silly side. A Saxon inspired-cult somehow got its red finger-nailed hands on the Master’s ring, created a set of strange potions in one of Her Majesty’s prisons and, using the genetically transferred Time Lord DNA from the lips of former wife Lucy who clearly never washed her face since Harry’s death, recreated the errant Time Lord in a resurrection ceremony that, later on, Ten seemed to have some kind of knowledge about and took a little for granted. Lucy’s final act was to have persuaded one of her prison guards to supply her with an anti-potion that caused the resurrection process to go somewhat awry. As a result, the Master’s life force began to be dispersed in fairly extraordinary ways that effectively gave him some rather spectacular powers of leaping tall buildings and shooting energy bolts from his hands. His only course of action was to eat a lot of food in a Gollum-esque style, in order to stave off some non-specific, but probably unpleasant demise. Easy, eh? Why didn’t we all see that coming?

However, my favourite part of Part One was the cafe scene. RTD has already given us a pretty impressive ‘téte-à-téte-in-a-restaurant’ scene way back in the underrated “Boomtown” but this one was another level of bloody wonderfulness as Cribbins and Tennant poured every ounce of passion in to their respective performances. If that 3 or 4 minute scene didn’t make you fall in love with Doctor Who all over again, then you have no soul.  It was then that we got to the Naismith / Vinvocci scenes, which were absolutely vital to tying all these strands of plot together. The innocent Vinvocci, on a straightforward mission to reclaim a mysterious alien artefact, were caught in the middle of a whole heap of trouble as the Master was kidnapped from the Wastelands by Naismith and brought in to fix the Immortality Gate. A little bit of sabotage, and suddenly the whole population of Earth, even including Barack Obama, were turned into versions of the Master (except for Donna, Wilf, the Doctor and the two Vinvocci). And so the scene was set for Russell T Davies and David Tennant’s swansong.

Highlight: The cafe scene

Lowlight: The over-complicated way that the Master was resurrected

Talking Point: The Time Lords are back… but do you wish they’d stayed?

Demon’s Run Rating: 19 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 25th December 2009

Marathon Status: Almost at the end of the RTD-era

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