Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Doctor Who: The End Of Time

"Your song is ending, sir. It is returning, it is returning through the dark. And then... he will knock four times."

So went the prophecy first stated in Planet of the Dead all those months ago and here, in the latest Doctor Who special - The End of Time - it was Gallifrey that returned, albeit briefly, from the dark in a wonderful, dramatic, emotional (though slightly flawed) story.

The return of the Time Lords - from their dark, shadowy chambers locked within the Time War - was also short-lived. But then we knew it would be because they were fated to die by the Doctor's hand. But during their brief appearance they showed up here on Earth surrounded by bright light (a lovely bit of juxtaposition there) full of pomp and ceremony, with Timothy Dalton playing a spittingly marvellous Rassilon.

All that was after the Master had returned.

And, of course, is wasn't "he" that knocked four times. No, his constant drumbeat - echoing the theme tune and the heartbeat of the Time Lords - was too obvious. Instead, a glass-tapping Wilf in Part Two was a lovely little goose-bump-raising, and somewhat sad, twist towards the end of this final story for the Tenth Doctor.

"I don't want to go"

That's not to say that everything was perfect. Far from it. Part One of the End of Time, shown here in the UK on Christmas Day, was a bit messy. It's like Russell Davies couldn't decide what plot to follow and who was the ultimate enemy. We had the Master returning, then supposedly dying, then some guy called Naismith turning up with an Immortality Gate, then those green, spiky Vinvocci aliens, the Master reappearing and turning the whole Earth into copies of himself and finally the prophesised return of the Time Lords. All in Part One. Whew.

There was a lot going on, a lot of plot holes and unexplained threads, and the pacing was a bit choppy what with the running from one derelict site to another. I enjoyed Part One immensely (and it was nowhere near as bad as some on the internet have made out - it was far from the Worse Episode Ever that some are screaming) but I could see that it had numerous faults and seemed to be a little bit of a letdown considering all the hype.

But I needn't have worried - Part Two was better. Much better.

"Worst... Rescue... Ever!"

Again, it wasn't perfect. But I thought it was a fantastic, thrilling rollercoaster ride to the end. I love stories that circle back around to hint at the beginning and/or reflect earlier plots. At the start of New Who, the Ninth Doctor had just escaped the Time War, obviously devastated by the loss of his race and his actions to prevent their madness from spilling over into Real Time. And here, we have the Time Lords trying to escape the Time War and the Tenth Doctor agonising over whether he should send them back into the Time Lock and to their deaths.

Rassilon's use of the Visionary, a prophecy-spewing madwoman, echoed Davros and mad Dalek Caan from the Stolen Earth special over a year ago. Dalek Caan managed to break into the Time Lock and get Davros out of the Time War, so of course here we have a story where the Time Lords, the arch-enemies of the Daleks, break out of the Time War using a maddened Master. And, in both of those stories, planets appear in the sky above Earth.

Then there was the whole going back to the beginning of 2005 to visit a younger Rose Tyler before she met the Doctor. And it was snowing on the estate, just like it was in the Tenth's first story. Thus the end returns to the beginning.

Some have complained about the Doctor's "reward" at the end, stating that it went on too long or that it felt more like RTD's self-indulgent reward than the Doctor's, but I loved seeing the Doctor visit all his past companions one last time. (And, anyway, the Fifth Doctor took nearly a whole story to "die" and then regenerate from spectrox poisoning in what is considered one of the best Who stories of all time. What's a few hours suffering from radiation poisoning compared to that?). Visions of past companions seem to be a recurring theme with the Doctor's regenerations.

There have been other complaints but, overall, I thought this was wonderful telly! And a great end to David Tennant's, and Russell Davies', tenure on Doctor Who.

"This song is ending, but the story never ends"

It been a great four years with New Who. Who'd have thought this little ol' sci-fi show would be one of the most viewed on British telly before 2005? And now, other than the last 30 seconds of this story, Matt Smith's and Steven Moffat's time on the show starts in Spring. I can't wait!