Matt watches the Christmas specials #5: The End Of Time Pt 1&2

23 Dec

Three wise men.

Title: The End Of Time Part 1/The End Of Time Part 2
Written by:  Russell T Davies

Year: 2009 

Ood! Wilf! The Master! Vinvocci! The eternity gate! The Master race! Something is returning! The Timelords! He will knock four times. “I don’t want to go…”

And so it came to pass; the penultimate retrospective review. For those of you who remember, part 2 of the story was actually shown on new years day – but it’s still set during Christmas and is the second half of a story that started on Christmas day so that’s good enough for me. Anyway, on with the review!

The End Of Time is, to say the least, an ambitious piece of Who. Each episode is about an hour long alone, bringing the total story length to longer than most films, not to mention the special effects and set design seem to have not suffered from the time extension. Most people however, remember these episodes not as Christmas specials but as Tennant’s swansong: the tenth Doctor’s final allons-y. We are gathered, for The End…

The Doctor meets Ood Sigma again.

The story moves forward at a good pace and is more or less a continuation of themes coming straight from where The Waters of Mars left off. More or less. We are presented with an Ood society unlike one we have ever seen before that is now well developed and thriving as the Doctor responds to Ood Sigma’s mysterious summons. Things (as the Doctor points out) are not as they should be. “Something is returning” and the Master is somehow linked to it all. Can the Doctor prevent “the end of time itself”?

Wilf

Personally, I prefer to remember John Simm’s Master as the way he was in Utopia/The Sound Of Drums/Last of The Timelords – formidable, menacing and hilarious. In The End Of Time he is treated as more of a sub-plot and is quite frankly just ridiculous for most of the first episode: it is only in the second part that we begin to see more of what made him so good in Series 3. This is not because Simm fails to portray him properly – in fact, he actually salvages many scenes that could have potentially just been awkward to watch – but is in my opinion just down to the way RTD decided to write the character for this story. In that respect, The End Of Time is not just a showcase of all of the best traits of the Davies era, but also of some of the worst. At best it is epic, heart-warming, tear jerking, exciting and memorable. At worst, it is over the top and cringe worthy.  Don’t get me wrong, Russell T Davies is a fantastic writer, simply stellar in fact, but as with any show of Doctor Who’s length; there will always be slip ups. That said however, The End Of Time is still a good story, and certainly a titan worthy of sending off the tenth Doctor (and Tennant) with appropriate grandeur. Scenes between the Doctor and Wilf (played by the wonderful Bernard Cribbins) are what really shine in both episodes, and you can’t help loving Donna’s granddad for having such loyalty to the Timelord throughout. It is scenes like those that the two old men share that highlights RTD’s incredible power to capture such emotional moments – tiny moments – so perfectly. It’s not all raw emotion and doom and gloom however. There’s plenty of comic relief in TEoT and also a pair of new aliens to admire in the form of Vinvocci salvagers Addams (Sinead Keenan) and Rossiter (Lawry Lewin). The plot hurries on with the Doctor generally pursuing the Master, but that’s not really what’s being addressed.

Regeneration.

At it’s core, The End of Time is not just about dealing with the death of the tenth Doctor, but also of tackling the huge departure of David Tennant who was immensely popular. The Doctor is given a mirror image of what he could become when faced with his own species – corrupted through years of immortality and absolute power – and this is what restores our Doctor to what he should be: the noble hero who will always make the final sacrifice. The Doctor’s final words before regenerating, “I don’t want to go” are not just a symbol of his bravery but also a triumph over fear of death – something the Timelords (particularly Rassilon) seem to have forgotten. It is though, the regeneration sequence at the end that is the crowning moment of this story. As the Doctor visits Martha, Mickey, Jack, Sarah-Jane and Luke and even the granddaughter of Joan Redfern from Human Nature/The Family of Blood (and actually, as we learn in the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death of the Doctor”, all of his other previous companions) and finally Rose in something of a final goodbye, the viewer is reminded of the massive addition to the shows history that RTD crafted so well. If each Doctor and his set of companions can be called a family, then Davies gives one final, brilliant send off to this one.

Obviously the end scenes, introducing Matt Smith’s Doctor, are notable but not relevant to this review. Though what did strike me while watching was just how far Smith really has come since that first appearance.

Favourite moment: In which the Doctor and Wilf converse at a cafe after losing the trail of the Master. Wilf asks the Doctor for help and pleads for him to restore Donna’s memory, while the Doctor laments his imminent “death”. This scene is easily my favourite because of it’s raw simplicity: two old men, in a cafe, discussing life and death and making-do at Christmastime. Particularly heartbreaking are the moments where the Doctor describes how now (without Donna) he has no one, before nearly breaking down to tears. “Merry Christmas… look at us.”

The End of Time is  damn good television. The only thing holding it back is its format – which restricts scenes that could have been magnificent  like the arrival of the Timelords, to just being good. It does showcase RTD’s best talents too though, and deals with loss, fear of death and eventual bravery in the face of the end of everything for its hero. You’ll laugh when Wilf and the “Silver Cloak” are on screen, you’ll grip your seat as you watch the Doctor hurtle towards the Master, you’ll gasp in awe as the formidable Timelords make their return and you’ll cry out when you think the Doctor survived after all… only to hear those four knocks. The Tenth Doctor truly departs in style.

7/10

Next reviewed episode: http://goo.gl/BcUjg

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One Response to “Matt watches the Christmas specials #5: The End Of Time Pt 1&2”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Doctor Who – The best Christmas special? (Vote! And read!) « gravityshmavity - December 19, 2012

    […] The End of Time (2009)  – 7/10 […]

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