Doctor Who – The End Of Time, Part 1 – episode review

Doctor Who - The End Of Time

Due to being excessively drunk yesterday, I had to catch up with the Doctor Who ‘Christmas’ episode earlier today. But then, I’d already seen the preview last Thursday, so I already knew what was going to happen. Part 2 of [[The End Of Time (Doctor WHo episode)|The End Of Time]] is the one that holds all the mystery for me now. And yes, there will be spoilers.

After taking a brief look around the web, the verdict for this first part is quite dire. After seeing the preview last week, my biggest complaint was at how The Master managed to fairly easily transform the entire population of Earth into copies of himself. Seemed like an overly complicated set-up to work in a “Master Race” gag.

I think it’s fair to say that Part 1 is a bit of a mess – nice to see the resurrection of The Master by a cult of Harry Saxon’s disciples in Broadfell prison. But are we really expected to believe that Lucy Saxon would be wearing lipstick in jail?

There are no complaints about The Master in the first part of the episode – John Simm returns as the manic, insane, rogue Time Lord. He’s got new abilities – an energy beam that he shoots from his hands, amazing jumping capabilities and a flash of an electric blue skull every now and again. However, by the time he’s captured by a billionnaire and made to repair an “Immortality Gate”, he inadvertently chooses to hack it and remake the world in his own image.

Now, for a guy who 15 minutes earlier was on the threshold of accepting The Doctor’s help with that nasty, pounding headache he’s had since staring into the Time Vortex, this all seems a bit random – I can’t fathom his motivations, and I certainly can’t envisage this world of Masters. Since The Master doesn’t appear to accept authority of any kind, are there several billion renegade Time Lords stuck on Earth together? How feasible is that?

But there were moments of greatness in the episode: Bernard Cribbins deserves special mention as the wonderful Wilf, now possibly the nation’s favourite Grandfather. The scenes with Wilf and The Doctor in the cafe were especially emotional, although we wonder what lies in store for Wilf in the next episode. What was that jibe about Wilf never actually killing anyone in the war?

Anyway, to cut a long review short, here are the good and bad bits from The End Of Time:

Things to love

  • Wilf as The Doctor’s companion. The scene in the cafe, and the later scene where Wilf jumps aboard the TARDIS to escape his daughter’s wrath are some of the finest moments in the episode.
  • The Doctor’s list of reasons why he couldn’t get to the Ood – including deflowering good Queen Bess.
  • Lucy Saxon counter-attacking The Master and blowing herself up in the process. Nice try, even if it killed her and didn’t really impact him.
  • The Master’s hungry rambling owes a lot to Gollum in Lord Of The Rings, doesn’t it? But his insanity is so compelling!
  • I actually thought the Barrack Obama part was quite good. Overblown, good fun, and reinforces that point that no-one was safe from The Master’s plan.
  • The mysterious woman who only Wilf sees. Is she friend or foe? I get the feeling that she’s manipulating him.
  • When The Doctor outwits the two green aliens (Vinvocci) and their ‘shimmer’.
  • Donna suddenly recovering her memory. I loved that this didn’t happen until near the end, so we have no way of knowing whether she’ll die because of her memories, or if she’ll be able to help The Doctor in some way.
  • The return of the Time Lords. Stunning, but almost a teaser for an entirely new episode. There’s virtually no indication how these two episodes tie together. My theory is that they knew the “Master Race” ending was quite lame and needed the Time Lords reveal to keep people interested. Somebody get Timothy Dalton a napkin, though…

Things to hate

  • The Master’s banal scheme to make everyone on Earth just like him. And the horrendous footage of the CGI Simms waving and goofing around.
  • Those pathetic cactus-aliens. And their random technology that’s weirdly reminiscent of those nano-genes from The Doctor Dances.
  • The weird ‘Cult of Saxon’/Cell Block H rejects. Once they’d resurrected The Master, they all kind of died, didn’t they? Weren’t there any more? 
  • Joshua Naismith, another billionnaire subverting mobile phone technology? Didn’t we do that before with Cybus Industries? And with the Archangel Network? The whole Naismith storyline seems contrived to bring The Master in contact with the Immortality Gate, even though he wasn’t really seeking it in the first place.
  • The first time we see Timothy Dalton’s ‘narrator’ character creates a false end to the episode, which makes it seem much longer. Just when you think the episode’s wrapping up (and it’s edited that way), you get the showdown between the two Time Lords.

Completely unexplained plot points

  • The blue box in the stained glass window. A story of a “sainted physician” who saved the world from a demon.
  • The Doctor’s sudden loss of interest in how quickly the Ood have developed their civilisation. Surely that part needed some investigating? Given their ability to see time, surely there’s a Time Lord connection there, or doesn’t The Doctor keep up to date with Internet speculation?
  • Seriously, were there only a handful of people in this ‘Cult Of Saxon’? Did they all die in Broadfell?
  • Since when could Time Lords smell each other? And judging by the Tenth Doctor’s success with women, they probably smell of pheromones…
  • Where did The Master’s new power’s come from? Shooting lightning, jumping huge distances, withstanding the blast that destroyed Broadfell and becoming ravenously, cannibalistically hungry. The “you’re burning up your life force” argument didn’t really explain much!
  • Doesn’t it seem that The Master allowed himself to be captured by Naismith’s men? With all that raw energy, he doesn’t put up much of a fight when he’s captured.

I’ve read some quite negative reviews of this episode. And considering it’s Tennant’s second-last episode, it’s definitely too patchy and feels crammed with unnecessary scenes. I felt the whole Naismith storyline could have been dropped, unless he has some relevance in the second part of the story.

However, it’s exciting to see the return of the Time Lords, and I have to wonder if Steven Moffat required the Time War to be wrapped up for series 5. For those of us who only joined [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]] in this new series, we’ve never come into contact with the Time Lords. It’ll be interesting to see how they fit into the wider story, both for the next episode and for the forthcoming fifth series.

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