This review may contain spoilers.
Four years ago, I wrote an article saying goodbye to my Doctor and it truly was a bittersweet event. I say my Doctor because Christopher Eccleston was the first Doctor I watched from start to finish as part of its original run and it was tough to see him go – he was essentially in resurrecting the series and brought a level of credibility and sophistication to what has to be classed as an “out-there” science-fiction series.
Then again, his departure allowed for me to experience something unique but also matter of fact – a “Doctor Who” regeneration. Sure, I’d seen the repeats as a child on various television channels and I now own a selection of the DVD’s, but the passing of the Tardis keys from Eccleston to David Tennant was my first regeneration.
And it was brilliant.
Now though, I find myself in the same situation again. I’m ready to say goodbye to one Doctor and then welcome the next. Only this time, with four years worth of experiences to his name — not to mention three full-time companions — it will be a far more emotional experience. Plus, thanks to the insane levels of foreshadowing, hints, nudges, winks, and plot-building, the moment when it finally comes will be nothing short of a television event.
And as the first installment of “The End Of Time” begins with a cryptic monologue from an unknown being it becomes clear that this will be the most chilling festive adventure the series has produced. And it’s not because of the baddies – John Simm is utterly fantastic as The Master and it comes as a genuine thrill to have him back on the show, but it is the emotional desolation of The Doctor that really carries the episode.
Just as in the previous specials, he is tortured, alone and completely directionless. As Wilfred (Bernard Cribbins) and the Doctor discuss their mutual impending demise at the hands of time Tennant provides a performance that will have you reaching for the Kleenex.
And through this I am reminded of exactly what will be lost when Tennant regenerates next week. There may be the added excitement of seeing a new Doctor come into being, but it may not be enough in the wake of Tennant’s departure.
Even with the dark themes of death and despair, the episode includes much of the laugh in the face of danger humor that has defined the series. “I locked it like a car,” and “Oh my Lord, she’s a cactus,” being among the best one-liners, plus Cribbins provides some solid laughs with his geriatric Mystery Machine seeking the Doctor, and Donna (Catherine Tate) is always a hoot.
“Planet Of The Dead” and “The Waters Of Mars” were a terrible disappointment both failed to reach the dramatic levels that “Doctor Who” is so renowned for. The same cannot be said of “The End Of Time” which relies on its entire cast to accomplish what those episodes could not.
First and foremost, seeing the Doctor and the Master together again is fantastic. Both Tennant and Simm have a thrilling chemistry that keeps their each and every exchange fascinating to behold. And thanks to Russell T. Davies’ talent for such banter the duo provide so much to the episode.
The resurrection of The Master is exactly that – a resurrection. So many theories went flying after the funeral pyre scene in season three as the mysterious fingers clutched Mr Saxon’s ring. Personally, I was hoping for The Rani, but a cult following the Master is good enough. It was oddly reminiscent of The Master’s resurrection in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” … only without the bone smashing conclusion.
Then there is Bernard Cribbins, who is simply wonderful as the Doctor’s latest companion and is perfect for this adventure. There is something so loveable about his bumbling grandfather nature and open honesty with the Doctor given their old age and life experience.
The Ood offers a way to catch up even the most casual viewer so that the significance of this climactic adventure’s events will not be lost on anyone.
And it doesn’t even need to be said, Murray Gold’s score is, well, pure musical gold.
But none of it compares to the reveal of Timothy Dalton’s role in the episode which is nothing short of a last minute game changer.
What Didn’t Work
Despite the thrill of the resurrection scene, the corruption of the process comes as a trifle to convenient and is simply riddled with inconsistency; Lucy Saxon (Alexandra Moen) knows nothing of the resurrection process and needs the entire matter explained yet she somehow has a vial that will corrupt the entire process. Then there is the need to throw in an explanation of where this liquid comes from, how it works and how it came to be in her possession. There are also numerous questions on how the followers of the Master even came to know of him considering the Doctor quite matter-of-factly stated that Lucy is the only one to even remember him.
At the same time, other story elements struggle with convenience – the legend of the blue box and the Sainted Physician was completely unnecessary
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
“Doctor Who” stars David Tennant, John Simm and Bernard Cribbin. “The End Of Time” (Part 1) was written by Russell T. Davies and directed by Euros Lyn.
“Doctor Who” airs Friday on BBC One, and Saturday on BBC America.