Saturday, December 26, 2009

'The End of Time Itself'

Russell T. Davies is obviously given to hyperbole on occasion--especially when he is writing dialogue for the Ood (how do they articulate so well when their mouths are a bag o' wormy veins? Oh right, with that telepathic speaking ball. Handy.) So when we are warned that the danger the Doctor is facing in this 2 part final special means the final act of Time as well, it doesn't really hit home. I mean, the Doctor has saved the past, the present, the future, Earth, the universe, and reversed horrific events...well, time and time again. Plus we know that Matt Smith is the Doctor next year so obviously Time doesn't truly end (unless Matt Smith is some kind of younger Doctor, as in, the Doctor's exploits pre-Christopher Eccleston and Rose Tyler).

But when the Doctor sits at a cafe with Wilf, and explains why someone who is technically immortal, who can regenerate and be young again every time he is mortally wounded, actually feels terror and intense grief at the prophesy of his death, it's something completely new in this series. It's an earnestness, a simple statement of personal facts, that the Doctor does not often divulge. He explains that the regeneration is not always guaranteed, and then the doozie: that even when he does regenerate, it feels like death. Every. Single. Time. Some new man just walks away with his memories and skills and life. He, That Particular Incarnation of the Doctor, is gone forever.

In the face of Tennant's imminent departure, the poignancy of these admissions is for once backed up by the fact that we know this Doctor really will die soon. (Though I do predict a return of the half-human, half-Doctor Tennant clone who is hanging out in a parallel Earth with Rose Tyler in, say, a year and a half? maybe two? Once that NBC lawyer show Tennant is filming doesn't get picked up for its' back-nine episodes.) And who better to spill his guts to than Wilf? The father of the one companion who was actually an equal, a friend? The man who seems inextricably tied to his own personal timeline? An old man, with various lives of his own, experiences as a soldier and someone unique in the universe?

A man who might very well be a Timelord himself. Honestly, when Wilf went to his old private memento box, and unwrapped that ancient gun, I was positive it was gonna be that fob watch that hides a Timelord's persona within a human. I still feel that he IS a timelord in hiding (not knowing it himself obviously) which would explain the Doctor's comfort (and momentary suspicion) with him, his reemergence in the Doctor's life and ability to locate him so swiftly, his love of the sky and stars, his encouragement of Donna's adventures, and even Donna's own participation in the Doctor's life.

Think about it. If Wilf is a Timelord, that means Donna is part Timelord, part Human, which is exactly what she became in last series' finale. The Doctor thought that was the first time that has ever existed, and that it wasn't physically possible, hence his decision to wipe her memories. But what if that's what she already was! What if that was WHY the timelines bent to activate her as the DoctorDonna? What if she IS capable of sustaining the mind of a Timelord in the body of a human? That would mean she could come back. The DoctorDonna can return, and least as far as Part Two of The End of Time is concerned.

This episode was unlike any other Davies' Doctor Who episode I have seen, especially in the last two years. Like in The Waters of Mars, the Doctor was essentially alone throughout. I suppose Wilf became his companion by the end, but it seems more circumstance and fate than choice. More importantly, the Doctor seemed terrified throughout. Often he'd get scared, or see the danger in situations, the impossibility of evil machinations, but this time, alone, faced with his own 'inevitable' demise, he seemed thinner and more breakable. It was acted beautifully. I mean, Tennant brought this 900 year old, nigh omnipotent alien and Lord of Time, to the brink of tears at a Chiswick cafe, and it was entirely believable.

Not only was the Doctor more different than ever, but the Master, resurrected and somehow imbued with superpowers was a shock. Perhaps any Timelord could access that kind of temporary flight, lightning bolt wielding, human eating abilities, but it seems to cost whatever lifeforce he has in that particular body. And then it turns out the Master and the Doctor are not the only Timelords anymore. The episode opens with narration, and continues with it until about 2/3rds in, when we see the face of...a character/actor I probably should know if I was an old school Doctor Who fan who watched the (kinda cheesy and dated) series in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But I'm not, I'm a 2005 series fan, and not ashamed of it. Still, it felt like seeing Leonard Nimoy in the Star Trek Movie, and I have some feeling (read it somewhere?) that the narrator is a Timelord named the Professor (seems appropriate). Suffice to say that he tells us today is the day that the Timelords return.

So somehow the Timwar get's un-time-locked, or the Master (or the Doctor) goes back in time and saves them and the entire planet of Gallifrey, or changes the universe, or something equally big. (The narrator said the Master was to have a time of enormous glory in the near future; guess that could be good or bad but I feel it hints at some redemption for the Master.) Definitely feels like the New Year's Day one will be a game changer.

Other highlights include: seeing the Master's old human wife Lucy from Season 3, and her defiance to his return. The producers somehow managing to make a trash dump into a scary, mountainous immortal warrior arena. The shot of the council of Timelords of Gallifrey. The TARDIS locking with a car alarm sound, and then the Doctor hiding the TARDIS a second out of sync (just like the Dalek's hid the Earth and the other 27 planets they stole last season--pretty cool to see how the Doctor learns and adapts as continues to grow older and see more and face more--and to sort of be a part of it, having seen and learned with him.)

As for disappointments, I'll just say that there was far far too little screen time for Donna for me. I understand that Wilf is the companion right now, and I definitely see how that works for the tenor of the show and Tennant's exit, but I hope to God that Part Two has a really heavy Donna storyline, where she remembers, and evolves and returns, at least for a little while, to her previous glory and personality. The other storyline I didn't love was every human on Earth turning into the Master (creepy) BUT I see it as the foil for the exact plot development I want; namely, both Wilf and Donna do not change. They are the only humans to stay the same.

Means they're Timelords, or half-Timelords, or at least very important and integral to the Tennant-Doctor's final story.

All in all, was one of the best Doctor Who episodes I've seen in a long time, and certainly one of the most different. Very glad Davies took some risks and changed things up for his final story, and I cannot wait for next week's continuation/conclusion.

If you've never seen the show...well, then you probably didn't read this post, or at least didn't get to the end. However, I highly recommend it, but start with the 2005 season. Christopher Eccleston is quite different from Tennant, but I still fell in love with the show immediately, and also you should get to know Rose before you meet Tennant, and Martha Jones, and then Donna. Watch it as they made it. (It goes faster than you'd like.)

Happy day after Christmas! Long Live the Doctor.


  1. What a great review of the episode, thoroughly enjoyed reading it!!

    Supposedly, Wilf was protected from the Master's imprint because he was locked inside the radiation shield of the machine... but I reckon that he could well be a timelord, or else has something else special about him.

    The Time Lord narrator - the actor - I don't think he is someone we should have heard of before (I loved the old TV series). But the actor is Timothy Dalton, who played James Bond for a while.

    Anyway thanks for the review, I enjoyed it!

    Adam (UK)

  2. Thanks for the kind words!

    I rewatched it and remembered the radiation screen/box thing the Doctor put him into. Pretty good plot device to keep his current companion as part of the story, but yeah I'm still hopeful that Wilf is more than he seems.

    I also realized it was Timothy Dalton in retrospect. I like him way better as crazy omniscient narrator Time Lord than as Bond! I'm sure I saw one of the movies and I don't remember his voice being so velvety. Narrator's are a tricky business, and ordinarily I would not think it would be a good fit with Russel's writing (gets too cheesy) but it worked quite well, and didn't last the whole episode which was interesting.

    So, yeah, pretty damn curious about the second part. All the spoilers and solicits I read over the months online hinted that other companions would return, but possibly in fantasy sequences. Even if it IS just Donna and Wilf I'll just be happy if Donna gets a good story.

    Thanks for reading! And commenting! Appreciate it very much. Feel free to contribute any other ideas or speculation--no one in my New York life watches Doctor Who so I'm jealous of all the Brits who get to talk about it at work and throughout the day with people.

    And have a frakkin' brilliant New Year's Eve!

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