>My biggest issue with stories written exclusively by Russell T. Davies (especially the specials where running time isn’t strictly mandated by the BBC) is that each one has moments where the story lags or treads water, waiting for the next big development to come along. Last week, we had a lot of this is the first half of the story with David Tennant and John Simms chewing scenery as the Doctor and the Master. And for the conclusion, we got a lot more of that with the Doctor going back and forth on whether or not to shoot the members of the High Council who had re-emerged from the time lock or the Master himself.
In this day and age where you can (practically) read an entire script outline on-line months before it airs, it’s easy for the bigger details of a script to get out there on the Internet and virtually impossible to avoid them. I’d known for months that this was the final Tennant story and I also knew we’d have a check-in or final scene with various recurring cast members and companions from the era. I also knew Simms would be back as the Master.
What I didn’t know was that Davies would try to use the script to wrap up the last few dangling threads from his era–namely the beating of the drums from inside the Master’s head from series three and what really happened to the Time Lords in the Time War. I have a feeling this is a close to seeing the Time War on screen as we’ll ever get (and it’s a good idea since at this point every fan worth his or her salt has imagined exactly how it played out in his or her head and any on-screen depiction would fall tragically short). It’s interesting to see how Davies showed us the corruption of the Time Lords as a whole and the acknowledgment that by the end of the Time War, they’d become just as corrupt and hell-bent on winning at all costs as the Daleks had. We’d seen this trend starting to emerge toward the end of the classic series–especially if you look at the events of “The Two Doctors” and how the CIA wanted to keep the secrets of time travel from anyone else in the universe at all costs.
It was interesting to hear just why the Doctor felt like he had to time lock his own race and how he chooses to remember them as they were before they fell as it were.
It gave Tennant a lot of time to act his socks off–and for the most part it was pretty good.
Where the script kind of left me hanging was a lot of lags in the action leading up to it. The Doctor and the Master chew scenery and the Doctor escapes to a space ship for an extended period of time. A lot of this is simply to tread water as the Master sets his real end game in motion and as the Time Lords (specifically the High Council) puts their plan to re-emerge into motion. We find out what the four beats in the Master’s head meant and we get a retcon that is the High Council who made the Master into the bad guy he became. Not exactly the most original notion and I’m not sure yet if or how it might value or devalue his role in the classic series. It may put a new light on his role in “The Deadly Assassin” but beyond that, I’m still a bit undecided on how I feel about it. It could be the new debate among “Who” fans–maybe replacing the old UNIT dating controversy. (If only…)
There were a few quieter moments I did like, such as the Doctor’s conversation with Wilf and Wilf’s unrestrained joy at being able to travel into outer space. The script did lag a bit as the Doctor put things back together but doesn’t tell anyone until the most dramatic moment possible and then leads an assault back to Earth. I did like the Doctor’s reasoning for not wanting to carry a gun and then his decision to take it with him. However, I didn’t necessarily buy his diving from great height into the hall where the Time Lords are re-emerging. But then again, we’ve seen this trend over the past couple of seasons of Davies giving the Doctor almost super-hero like attributes, so it’s nothing necessarily new.
And, of course, the Doctor saves Earth, the Master is defeated and Gallifrey is sent back to Time Lock. It’s all to save Earth and it felt like Davies wanted to have one last moment of the Doctor saving humanity to cap off the era. Nice, but didn’t we do that in just about every other season finale before now? I guess I was hoping for something original to end the era…
And then, it’s the Doctor sacrificing himself and his last check-in with the companions. Which again goes on a bit too long, but you can see what Davies is trying to do. One thing I like is that we didn’t somehow bring the current Rose back in again. I like the companions from the Davies era but I will be glad to see them maybe finally go into the rear-view mirror a bit.
Then, it’s over. The longest regeneration scene ever culminates with the Doctor thinking it’s the end, but he somehow doesn’t die. Instead we get a moment of Matt Smith and then it’s a new era.
Overall, “The End of Time” was a good but not great end to the era. I may need to watch it all again as one big episode and without the expectations that this is the final Tennant story to appreciate it a bit more. But for now, I’m ready for the next era of the show to begin…