“The End of Time: Part 2” – Review: Redux

Doctor “I don’t want to go”

The End of Time Part Two

The king is dead, long live the king! In this case, the former is Russell T Davies and the latter Steven Moffat who wrote the final, post-regeneration minute or so of RTD’s swan-song opus, “The End of Time”, shown in two parts on Christmas Day 2009 and New Year’s Day 2010. Now that we see the baton being well and truly handed over it is a good moment to dwell for a moment on my little re-analysis of these early years of the Doctor’s resurrection. The 60-episode era really does stand up well. I went in to the process a little unsure about what I might find: would the magic still be there after eight years? Would Eccleston and Tennant compare favourably to Smith, or would Moffat’s fairy-tale take on the mythology outshine its predecessor? There will be time enough for that another day, but in isolation this was as perfect as something so diverse could be, and the end of Tennant, the end of Russell T Davies, and “The End of Time” were wrapped up as perfectly as anyone could’ve hoped.

In Part Two, as in Part One, Bernard Cribbins delivered a tour de force performance. Few could’ve imagined that his little cameo in “The Voyage of the Damned” would lead to such dizzying heights of perfection and his character, Wilf, being such an integral part of the fall of Ten. It was a pleasure to behold. Where there’s Wilf of course, there is Donna but her return seemed somewhat secondary, if not tertiary, to the main events. It seemed to be a bit of a cop-out that allowed Donna to begin to remember her travels with the Doctor during the cliffhanger to part one, only for some sort of emergency shut down process to have been ‘installed’ by the Doctor to protect her and reset the memory blocks. I was pleased that she was given a happy life in the end but more on that later. Catherine Tate was on good form in the role that so many people doubted her for prior to the start of series four, but if truth is told the acting of Tennant, Cribbins, Simm and Dalton overshadowed all around them.

Way back at the end of the Time War, The Time Lords created a plan to escape from the Time Lock that the Doctor was planning to instigate to end the war. They seeded the drumbeat signal in to the Master’s head when he was eight, turning him insane. Then they looked for the signal coming back to them but it’s only when the Master had replicated himself 6 billion times that the signal strengthened itself and could be turned into something more tangible into which a tiny object like a white point star diamond could be sent. Upon receiving this diamond, the Master worked on strengthening the connection even more (“the signal becomes a path”) and the Time Lords got access to come through physically. After breaking free from the Master(s) in the “Worst. Escape. Ever.” the Doctor and Wilf had to head back to Naismith’s mansion in order to stop the Time Lords and the Hell they brought with them from returning. It turned out after much prevarication that all the Doctor had to do was shoot to the Gate thingy to close the pathway and send the Time Lords (Rassilon, no less) back in to the Time War along with the Master who was pretty peeved at the Lord President for seeding the drum beat in his head in the first place.

Just writing the precis in that paragraph above, has demonstrated to me that this was an astonishingly complicated story and the text here does absolutely no justice to it whatsoever. I can see why some people, mainly fans, can start to pick apart at the elements that went to make up this tale and look at some of the details to explain why the whole thing didn’t work for them but it was only after the Time Lords and the Master had been sent packing that the core of this story came in to sharp focus. Before discussing that, some huge big dollop of credit has to go to Euros Lynn for directing this epic, cinematic story with such aplomb, and to all of the production staff that turned this in to such a visual treat.

After his success in restoring everything to its proper place, the Doctor regains consciousness on the ruined floor of the Naismith mansion and is astonished and not a little delighted to be alive until he hears four gentle knocks from the corner of the room. All the foreshadowing and premonitions are coalesced in to that moment. Wilf is about to die and the Doctor realises he must sacrifice himself to save the old soldier. Tennant runs the gamut of emotions at this point, knowing what to do but not wanting to die before, inevitably stepping in to the radiation pod and absorbing the fatal dose of whatever it was. Then we head into a fairly controversial but, in the humble opinion of this novice blogger, a bloody fantastic denouement to the RTD era.

Holding back from regenerating there and then through sheer force of will, the Doctor heads off to get his “reward”. Appreciation of this coda to the story is clearly quite subjective. The Doctor describes it as a reward to himself, which can easily be interpreted as coming direct from RTD’s mouth himself. And you know what? Good luck to him. After 60 episodes of Doctor Who since it came back, I am more than happy with a quarter of an hour of self-congratulation. It was thoroughly deserved. More than that, each scene (the Mickey Smith & Martha Jones freedom fighters, the Cantina scene, the book signing, Donna’s more successful wedding, and finally the pre-”Rose” Powell Estate encounter with Billie Piper’s Rose) was actually rather sweet and touching and gave David Tennant’s final words, “I don’t want to go” all the more power.

I have been known to describe Doctor Who as the greatest piece of artwork that humanity has ever produced. It usually involves alcohol and my unhealthy desire to create unnecessary debate but whenever I get in to that discussion I always call upon the concept of regeneration being one of the smartest storytelling devices in television. When Matt Smith appears in the burning TARDIS he blazes in to our collective awareness with an energy that probably puts Mr Tennant to shame. All the emotion and angst and heartbreak of the final episodes of the Tenth Doctor are washed away within the blink of an eye as the Age of Moffat begins, but there will be time enough to discuss all that when the new series starts being reviewed tomorrow. The final comments here are reserved for David Tennant. His four years in the role have been nothing less than incredible. He has shown us an acting talent that could lead him to become one of Britain’s finest of all time, not just of his contemporaries. I wish him every success in the future and really just want to say, “Thank You”.

Highlight: The last fifteen minutes

Lowlight: At a push the Ood Sigma appearance might’ve been a touch unnecessary

Talking Point: So, was Claire bloom’s character really the Doctor’s mum?

Demon’s Run Rating: 19 out 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 1st January 2010

Marathon Status: 60 down 42 to go.

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