Friday, December 25, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 4x17: "The End Of Time Part 1"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Euros Lyn

The Master (to The Doctor): “The human race was always your favourite Doctor but now there is no human race. There is only the Master race.”

2005 in a lot of ways blessed TV because in terms of Christmas specials, the ones Doctor Who produce are the only ones that are really worth spending an hour and while some of them are better than others, they’ve all been worth watching no less.

“The Christmas Invasion” properly introduced David Tennant as The Doctor while “The Runaway Bride” gave us Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble and “Voyage Of The Damned” debut Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott. “The Next Doctor” just gave us the Cybermen so this two parter was going to have to one better.

Yes, we’ve had enough finales and specials that have featured the Daleks and a part of me always wondered if it would be them and Davros that would see the Tenth Doctor regenerate. From the looks of it, not so much. Why have the ultimate Nazi allusion when you can bring in the best villain on the show ever?

I love The Master and I make no apologies for it. Whether he’s a cool, collected number, camp as hell or stark raving mad, I will always rank him as the best villain on Doctor Who without question. So, having John Simm return not only meant having an ultimate smack down between two Time Lords but there were other factors to consider.

In “Last Of The Time Lords”, Lucy shot The Master and I made the wrongful assumption that she collected his ring at the funeral pyre (better than those who assumed it was Donna or Harriet Jones) but in actual fact, it turned out to be a woman called Miss Trefusis. It seems that not only did The Master inspire terror but also a daft cult who would aid his resurrection.

Without sounding like a sadist, there was an element of glee when their little ceremony went wrong. Lucy warned them that they were getting in over their heads and low and behold, The Master killed them to further the process of being raised from the dead. Of course Lucy would then have to go and spoil it by poisoning him.

Given the lack of spoilers that had been circulating for the character, I had come under the belief that Lucy was going to be a goner – provided she doesn’t mysteriously show up in the second part of this story. What did surprise me however was that her loyalty wavered from The Master. She tried to stop him from coming back to life but didn’t really succeed.

If The Master as Prime Minister and dominator of the Earth in Season Three was a scary concept, then what happened here was unbelievably. John Simm made some apt jokes about ‘emo Master’ given his chavvy attire but watching The Master ranting like a maniac was nothing compared to his eating habits.

I had trouble getting through the colossal amount of Christmas dinner and the last thing I needed to see was The Master munching on burgers, homeless people and turkeys. I know rebirth can be hungry work but Jesus Christ, did I not envy anyone who watched this special whilst eating. Some of those scenes were pure sickening.

One of the mistakes of The Master’s previous visit in 2007 was that Russell T. Davies made the bad decision to keep him and The Doctor apart from each other for too long. They had nowhere near the amount of scenes in “Last Of The Time Lords” that they fortunately get here. Fans of this particular ship should be happy.

The episode opened with everyone apparently having nightmares of The Master but The Doctor was genuinely shocked to see the madman return. Funnily enough, even without the shock of it, all The Doctor wanted to do was to actually help his old friend/enemy. He even let The Master shock him a few times during their second altercation in the wastelands. That alone seemed to see The Master hold back a little on doing further damage to The Doctor.

Season Three mentioned the drumbeat in The Master’s head and The Doctor assumed it was insanity on The Master’s part. The Master noticed that it was becoming louder, even goading Lucy about it before The Doctor finally had no choice but to believe him. The Master’s connected to something big alright and he’s not the only one.

The sort of other villains in this first part were father and daughter duo, Joshua and Abigail Naismith. Compared to some elements of the story, they were one of the weaker parts. Nothing to do with David Harewood or Tracy Ifeachor but I would’ve liked some semblance of a motive as to why Joshua wanted to give Abigail the gift of immortality. Apart from the fact that she seems like a narcissist, why would Abigail accept?

More importantly, Joshua and Abigail made the ultimate of enlisting The Master into aiding their foolish cause. Sure, The Master got to be tied up, gagged, put in a straightjacket and even forced to wear a dog collar but there was no doubt that he was going to turn the situation around and seize control of things.

As soon as I realised that the Immortality Gate not only healed people but other worlds, I could see exactly where this storyline was going to go. Vinvocci duo Rossiter and Addams wanted to use The Master themselves but the arrival of The Doctor and Wilfred more or less put the kibosh on that plan. I got the impression that the Vinvocci aren’t bad and the last thing we need is another villain of the piece.

Joshua and Abigail paid for their misguidance when The Master stepped into the bloody Gate and pulled the craziest fecking stunt. One Master is bad enough but wiping out all humans and turning them into nothing but Masters is beyond insane. This was definitely one of those times where I couldn’t believe what the hell I was actually seeing on my screen.

Of course because of The Master’s little stunt, the next thing I could believe. If I had been a good fan and resisted spoilers dating back to late spring, then the return of the Time Lords would’ve actually been a genuine shocker. Then again, maybe not as they were the next logical thing to put out there when you think about it.

Timothy Dalton was an interesting choice in the role of The Narrator and his narrations throughout the episode kept the dark and doomy tone beautifully going over until the big reveal at the end of the episode. Well, Doctor, you’ve got your people back and something tells me that by next week that you’re going to wish that you really were the last of your kind.

The Ood explained it as well – time is being ripped apart. Because of The Master’s resurrection and the little Master-race stunt he’s managed to pull, the consequences are going to be high. However this episode also made it painfully clear that The Doctor and The Master aren’t the only significant players of the piece.

The return of Wilfred was always going to be a crowd pleaser but giving him the important role of this story is a testament to Russell T. Davies and Bernard Cribbins. If it wasn’t for his granddaughter, he probably would be the companion of this closing era. Every scene involving Wilfred is a mixed bag of ominous and wonder.

The scenes where he’s being contacted by The Woman at the start kicked everything off. The trailer for the next part seemed to have spoiled that she’s a Time Lord but the Time Lords interest in Wilfred was interesting. The Woman pushed him into looking for The Doctor upon an encounter in a church and even managed to communicate with him without Sylvia or Donna copping on.

Even The Doctor’s come to realise that Wilfred is more crucial than ever before. It was hinted in “Journey’s End” that something was continuously drawing The Doctor to both Donna and Wilfred. I hope that when the true motive is revealed that it’s something utterly spectacular, given how good the build up has been so far.

Plus, it’s more than a coincidence that the only two people in the world who haven’t turned into The Master are Wilfred and Donna. While Wilfred dominated the episode, Donna was largely kept in the background. I’m gonna go out on a limb and hope that the next episode amends that.

As for Wilfred and The Doctor, how can anyone not love their scenes together? The Doctor got a wonderful culture shock when he met Wilfred’s little silver cloak. Minnie in particular is a character we’re not going to forget soon. Poor Doctor, getting sexually harassed by June Whitfield. Oh well, someone had to.

Scenes like that were needed for this episode but while The Doctor and Wilfred do have a good reunion, it’s the cafe scenes that really got to me. I nearly choked up during the moments where The Doctor talked openly about his fate to Wilfred. Even taking the time to try and get to know Wilfred was interesting as well.

It was also a master class of writing that The Doctor and Donna managed to avoid any interaction with each other at all. That broke my heart, but not as much as Wilfred begging The Doctor to fix her and The Doctor talking about the downsides of being alone. However, I really hope that she’s not just getting settling for Shaun because while we don’t see much of him, he does seem like a nice enough bloke and if Donna can’t travel in the TARDIS, then she should have that.

Of course while Donna was pretty underused in this episode, there were some moments that made up for it. She bought Wilfred the Joshua Naismith book and got a funny turn and while Sylvia and Shaun became all Master like, she was beginning to remember things. I know that means badness for her but if it means that she’s finally in on the action in the next episode, I’ll take it.

And then it’s back to the Time Lords. What is going to happen in the next episode? The trailers make it appear that both Wilfred and The Doctor are going to be presented with hard choices and the consequences of them. It also looks pretty obvious that The Master is going to come to regret pulling off his latest mad scheme.

Also in “The End Of Time Part 1”

The opening credits for this episode were David Tennant, John Simm and Bernard Cribbins. Shame Catherine Tate wasn’t back in them.

The Narrator: “It is said that in the final days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams.”

The original title for this episode was supposed to be “The Final Days Of Planet Earth” but Russell T. Davies changed it at the last minute. Also TARDIS on a stained glassed window?

The Doctor: “What do you want?”
Ood Sigma: “You should not have delayed.”
The Doctor: “Last time I was here, you said my song was ending and I’m in no hurry for that.”

Elder Ood: “Every night, every night, Doctor, we have bad dreams.”

Lucy had a private trial and seemed to spend her time in solitary confinement, yet she managed to harbour a back up plan if she was used for The Master’s resurrection.

Lucy: “Can’t you see he lied to you? His name isn’t even Harold Saxon.”
Governor: “And this was written also. For his name is The Master.”

Lucy (re Miss Trefusis/Governor/Prison Officers): “You’re killing them.”
The Master: “Oh, let them die, they’re just the first.”

The Master had been slumming it for a while on the scrap heap before Joshua had him captured. I almost thought that Abigail would become a Lucy replacement.

Abigail (re jail explosion): “Someone survived? Do you think it’s him? Oh, that would be such a Christmas present.”
Joshua: “You just leave it to daddy.”

Winston: “Were you misbehaving Minnie?”
Minnie: “I certainly was. Wahey!”

Minnie referenced the character Netty who appeared as a love interest for Wilfred in the book, “Beautiful Chaos”.

The Doctor: “Is that your hand, Minnie?”
Minnie: “Good boy.”

The Doctor: “Who are you?”
Wilfred: “I’m Wilfred Mott.”

Like a lot of things in this episode, the fact that Wilfred never killed a man during his soldier days seemed to be significant. Why else would The Woman mention it?

The Doctor (to Wilfred, re Donna): “If she ever remembers me, her mind will burn up and she will die.”

The Master (to The Doctor): “We used to run across those fields all day long, calling up at the sky. Look at us now.”

There was actually a series of Tenth Doctor books released this year called, The Darksmith Legacy and the last book in the collection was also called “The End Of Time”. Joshua Naismith’s book is called “Fighting The Future”

The Master (to The Doctor): “All these years you thought I was mad, king of the wastelands but something is calling me, Doctor. What is it? What is it? What is it?”

The Woman (to Wilfred): “Tell The Doctor nothing of this. His life could still be saved so long as you tell him nothing.”

Vinvocci duo Addams and Rossiter are related to Zocci, the same species that Bannanakafalata was in “Voyage Of The Damned”.

Donna: “Are you shouting at thin air?”
Sylvia: “Yes, possibly, yes.”

The Doctor (re TARDIS): “Bigger on the inside, do you like it?”
Wilfred: “I thought it’d be cleaner.”

The Narrator laid out the roles for The Doctor and The Master as well as the Naismith but said nothing about Donna. Another worrier. There was also mentions of Torchwood’s demise.

Addams (to Rossiter): “Oh by the saints, that’s better. Ugh, these people are so flat.”

The Master: “I like you.”
Joshua: “Thank you.”
The Master: “You’d taste great.”

Russell T. Davies seems to have done the homoerotic content between The Doctor and The Master more subtle than Season Three. Only the head touching scene really counted as a HoYay type of moment between the pair.

The Doctor: “You should stay here.”
Wilfred: “Not bloody likely.”
The Doctor: “And don’t swear.”

Joshua: “Mr Danes.”
Mr Danes: “The visitor will be restrained.”
The Master: “What, but I repaired it?”

Because it’s a penultimate episode, we had to get one more celebrity appearance and the Obama one was interesting. We were also supposed to get a scene where The Doctor interacted with Trinity Wells but it was scrapped, though she appeared once again.

The Doctor (to Joshua/Abigail): “Whatever you do, just don’t let him near that device.”
The Master: “Oh, like that was ever gonna happen. Homeless was I? Destitute and dying? Well, look at me now.”

The Master (to The Doctor, re human race): “They’re not gonna think like me, they’re gonna become me.”

Donna saw some flashbacks to the Racnoss, Ood, Sontarans and Davros when she was remembering. I also think the Ood are adapting a Watcher type of role for The Doctor.

Donna (to Wilfred): “They’ve changed. Granddad, it’s like this sort of thing happened before. My head, oh my head, oh my head.”

The Narrator: “This day was the day upon which the whole of creation would change forever. This was the day the Time Lords returned. For Gallifrey, for victory, for the end of time itself.”

This will be released on DVD with the rest of the specials from January 11th 2010. The commentary for this episode will be from David Tennant, Catherine Tate and director Euros Lyn.

“The End Of Time Part 1” is up there with Russell T. Davies usual penchant for epic finales. It certainly hits the right spots and is far more meatier than the other specials or The Master’s previous appearances. Here’s hoping the second part lives up to the high standards set by this little beauty.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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