Wow, The Doctor is talking to me. Through my telly! How’d he manage that?
For those slightly confused, The End Of Time, Part Two was preceded on BBC One by David Tennant performing the continuity announcement (putting ‘young’ people out of a job again cries the Daily Mail and its twelve “mentally hilarious” readers). So, his doleful tones at the start set the mood for the most tearful episode of Doctor Who ever but I set my trousers to ‘stunned’ just in case….
What’s most remarkable about the finale to The Tenth Doctor’s time in the TARDIS is that Tennant kept his most captivating performances until the very end. He has impressed in general over the past four~and~bit~years, and greatly in stories like Human Nature, Midnight and The Waters Of Mars, but Russell T Davies gives him some beautiful and painful moments to go out on. Particularly his scenes with Wilf, so heart~wrenchingly played by Bernard “Doctor Film~Flam” Cribbins, (most noticeably when he cries “I don’t want you to die”) where the two old men discuss the use of the gun – a brilliant and thoughtful message to portray for sure.
But this message of peace is broken by two things: firstly – The Doctor’s admission that he’d taken lives and then, chillingly, telling Wilf he “got clever” manipulating people into taking their own; secondly, when The Doctor takes the gun on hearing about the return of the Time Lords – scary stuff. Tennant also excels in the scene, again with Wilf, as he rails against the inevitable after hearing those four knocks (as a side~note, Bernard’s little wave and “They gone now? Good~o.” was superbly played). The Time Lord’s arrogant childishness comes to the fore again as he cries, “I could do so much more!” and “It’s not fair!” shortly before he resigns himself to death. Powerful stuff and a gold star goes to Davey T for always giving 100% to his role and saving the best ’til last.
Not to be outdone, John Simm gets in on the actoring action too. He goes from the gigantical (is that even a word??) menace we see at the start to a little boy (not unlike The Doctor) desperate to be on the winning side. The conversation with his fellow Time Lord at the beginning of the episode was a real treat.com with the renegade sneering “Where’s your TARDIS?” and ending with everyone’s favourite son of Gallifrey asking, “I wonder what I’d be without you?” – marvelous stuff.
To finish with the acting side of the production I have to talk about Matt Smith and his wonderful introduction to the series. I cannot recall a more thrilling or better start for The Doctor in a story and he pitches it perfectly – all fingers and legs. Not to mention hair. And he gets a catchphrase too, “Geronimo!” Nice. I look forward greatly to seeing more of The Eleventh Doctor (and his trouser~tightening ‘companion’, *coughs*), but that’s a few months away yet – back to The End Of Time, Part Two.
The CG work throughout was excellent: from the beautiful realisations of Gallifrey and its citadel to the Star Wars~esque battle featuring Wilf as Luke Skywalker – truly cinematic visuals. The Time Lords themselves are a bad bunch, for sure, and their power, for the first time in the show’s history, is plain to see from reversing The Master’s template on the human race at the flick of a wrist (literally) to the recalling of their home planet into the Earth’s galaxy. Their wish to become “creatures of consciousness” evokes The Eternals (another race of bored idiots) and quite chilling as the audience realises just why The Doctor had to finish the Time War in the way he did. Mind you, those Skaro Degradations sound fun! (Good name for a band too.)
Curiously, the President did manage to name~check those creations from The Moff, referring to the two punished Time Lords that went against his wishes as “Weeping Angels of old.” Interesting… More mysteries are formed with that woman, you know, the one who looked like she was selling insurance to the over-60s. Was she Romana? Was she Susan?? Was she his mum??? His sister???? Is this the long~awaited spin~off Nurse Who????? Personally, it doesn’t matter – I like mystery. But I think the shot at Donna’s wedding, after Wilf asks about her identity, indicates which one RTD thinks she is.
Hearty congrats also go to director Euros Lyn who, yet again, delivers a work that transcends the small screen it inhabits so vividly. Every shot is cared for and framed expertly, going from tight action scenes (like the spaceship attack) to the more somber moments peppered throughout. His handling of the gun, and its use, unnerves every time it appears (as it should). Whilst I’m handing out plaudits, biscuits and cake must go to composer Murray Gold for matching the all the various tones present in The End Of Time. Particularly his themes for the return of the Time Lords and, of course, Tennant’s final moments and the gorgeous song of the Ood. Credit must go too to the production team for the numerous scenes where sound was dropped completely in favour of silence and dialogue (the Master chatting to the strapped Doctor for example), improving the scenes tenfold.
It wasn’t all perfect though. There a number of changes in tone that jarred, none more so than Captain Jack’s inclusion in the ‘goodbye’ sequence (though it would have given a chance for some to laugh and wipe away the tears that were flowing by that time). That sequence also threw up some other issues – Mickey and Martha? Married, really? And The Doctor giving a lottery ticket to Donna smacked too much of greed for my liking. Also, his visiting Rose would surely be more of a punishment to him than a ‘reward’ but these points are trifling in the face of such an emotionally draining story.
The End of Time has an enormous sense of majesty about it but, countering that, is the emotion and the truths of each personal moment. From Wilf welling up recounting tales from his youth to The Doctor asking Verity Newman “Was she happy in the end?”, Russell T Davies has continually knocked on the door of the heart, traipsed inside and gutted it completely whilst also delivering a story that only Doctor Who could tell. RTD & Co. went out at the height of their powers never failing to entertain since 2005 and always reminding me why I lurve this show so much. It will be a very difficult time to follow and I sincerely hope that The Moff & Co. can at least match it but, until ‘Spring 2010’, there’s time to celebrate the past five years. Best. Era. Ever.