The End Of Timennant

Saturday, January 2, 2010 11:20 | Filed in Reviews, Science Fiction, TV/Film

Right, well, what can I say about the Christmas two-parter?

Along with many others I have commented in the past about Russell T. Davies’ series endings, and how he’s seemed to rope in extra characters for sheer sentimentality, and not because they actually do anything to benefit the plot, and how there is a tendency for an ending where someone suddenly comes up with the idea with ten minutes to go, and the baddies manage to be defeated, and Doctor Who saves the universe again.

And having heard Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Rose Tyler, Jackie Tyler and Donna Noble were all due to feature in the final episodes, I had dire feelings of characters being shoe-horned in for sentimental reasons at the expense of the plot. And probably bloody Davros coming back too.

I had no objection to Wilfred Mott featuring as the Doctor’s companion; partly because I’ve enjoyed him as a character, and he brings a different dimension to the Doctor’s adventures — someone who at least thinks he’s older than the Doctor — and partly ‘cos, well, it’s Bernard, and you’ve gotta love Bernard, haven’t you?

The rest of this review may contain significant plot spoilers, so if you haven’t already seen it, you may wish to look away now…

Episode one saw the reintroduction of the Master, who was revitalised through some big secret ceremony by the cult who had supported him; his wife tried to spoil the ceremony and managed to put a bit of a spanner in the works, but basically the Master was back, and although he had gone blond and kept flashing into a skeletal figure and back again, was enormously hungry, and seemingly only had a matter of time until that body fell apart (and not for the first time), he was back.

Gloriously, full-on Master, now with extra insanity. John Simm’s portrayal of the Master — particularly over these two episodes — should be seen as definitive. The main problem with the Master in the old series (irrespective of how well Delgado or Ainley played the role) is that he was never properly fleshed out: you knew he was a contemporary of the Doctor’s, but never what had made him into the Master. With the backstory that started to be introduced in The Sound of Drums, the Master was becoming a much more rounded character, but still as marvellously megalomaniacal as before.

I wasn’t entirely sure about the crackling electricity bolts he could fire out of his hands, mind you. I always thought he was supposed to be a Time Lord, not a Sith Lord…

The Doctor’s and the Master’s destinies always seem somehow to be intertwined: to some extent they appear to define themselves as standing against the other, and the Doctor’s obvious admiration for the genius and general non-homicidal bits of the Master is obvious.

Also, it is worth noting that the Doctor and the Master don’t appear to have names, even when other Time Lords refer to them; this seems suggestive that the Doctor and the Master are something more than just individual Time Lords; they are almost a Time Lord archetype, some sort of primal Time Lord force personified, perhaps. Hints of the Cartmel Masterplan leaking through, after all this time?

But it can’t be ignored that Part One took quite a long time to build; that the Naismiths seemed to be being built up to be quite a sinister oligarch-and-daughter pairing who could pose a threat in future only to be dismissed once he’s served his purpose in the plot, and that the spiky-headed aliens again seemed to be there more as a useful plot device than for any real reason of their own.

But if my main problem with Part One was the slow build, there was certainly enough to keep you occupied while you waited for things to actually happen: some little amusements with June Whitfield reflecting on her past as a provocative young minx — and rather suggesting that it was only the ‘young’ bit which had changed; the whole bit where Wilf was using Fogeyscope (his collection of pensioner mates) to track down the Doctor, and of course the Master.

The Immortality Gate was originally designed to convey immortality on Abigail Naismith, but what Naismith Senior didn’t seem to be aware of was that it was not set to work on the individual within the field but on a planetary setting (bit of a miss this, how could he have worked out it could be used to convey immortality but not on who?). And of course, he got the Master to fix it, which meant that it didn’t do exactly what he’d wanted.

Instead, everyone on earth got turned into the Master, which meant no doubt that John Simm had to get dressed up in a lot of different sets of clothes for filming, as there’s presumably a limit to what you can do effectively with CGI (I wonder if he got paid at six billion times his normal rate, given that he theoretically appeared six billion times?).

So, with the Earth full of Masters (not so much clones, as they seemed to be willing to defer to the original Master — more of a Queen Bee affair?) there was only Donna Noble, Wilfred Mott, the Doctor, and a pair of aliens left to somehow try to resist the Master’s plan.

And that was the end of Episode one, although we knew the Time Lords would feature in the second…

If Episode One had been mostly building to the point where there was an Earthful of Masters, Episode Two was about the Time Lords seeking to return from inside the time-lock where they had been placed by the Doctor, along with the Daleks and others, at the height of the Time War. They had seeded a way to communicate with the Master because it was they who had planted the sound of drums in his head as a child.

So the Master was calling the Time Lords back (normally, you’d think a good thing, but the Doctor explained that the Time Lords from the time of the Time War weren’t Time Lords as he would prefer to remember them, suggesting that they were ruthless and warlike, and they had to be stopped — and he would take a life if necessary to stop them.

The Final Showdown — the Doctor caught in the middle between the Master and the Time Lords and knowing his final act could be to kill one of them — Dalton’s Time Lord President, or Simm’s Master. In the end though, he found himself unable to shoot either and got the Master to dive out of the way to shoot his machine, breaking the Master template on all other earth-beings by destroying the machine, rather than the Master.

Despite having turned him into their tool, and messing up pretty much his entire life by implanting him with the sound of drums, it turned out that now he was a bit messed up and insane, the Time Lord Council didn’t want anything to do with him, which made him a little cross. He then returned the favour to the Doctor — after all this time, were they finally coming to understand one another — and got the Doctor to dive out of the way so he could electrozap the Time Lord president.

Little aside about President Dalton here: the Doctor referred to him as Rassilon at one point, which would seem to suggest that he is an ancient and powerful mysterious figure from very early in Time Lord history (who was immortal, but seemingly sleeping in a stone form when encountered in The Five Doctors). It’s interesting that he was brought back as when encountered before he always had a certain menace about him, so if anyone could lead the Time Lords into a bloody war which would change them, I’d imagine he would be the chap. But with the Doctor being the other standing against him, and previously against Omega, it’s a bit more Cartmel Masterplan leaking out of the time lock…

With a zapped Pres, and a broken machine, the Time Lords didn’t return, and Gallifrey didn’t land on earth, so everyone was saved. Not entirely sure where the Master went, mind you. Was he just “dead”, did he follow the Time Lords into the time-lock, or did everyone just forget about him? Never mind, I’m sure he’ll tell us next time (hint: please get John Simm to agree to take on the role at least once every two or three years).

The only problem was Wilf. Going back into Naismith’s lab to rescue the Doctor, he ended up rescuing someone else at the expense of trapping himself inside a containment area. And when all the baddies were gone, he knocked on the wall to ask the Doctor to let him out. He knocked … four times.

So in order to save Wilf, the Doctor had to go and let Wilf out and wait in the containment area while the nuclear loop — or whatever it was called — blew up and fired a big lot of radioactivity into his body. Thus the David Tennant era was to end.

But it didn’t end right there: first he had time to pop along and visit various characters he’d encountered before: Jack Harkness — who he set up with Midshipman Frame from Voyage of the Damned — Martha Jones, who was by now married to Mickey Smith and fighting as a mercenary against the Sontarans (presumably for the Rutans? — also no idea whether this was supposed to be in Mickey’s parallel world or the ‘real’ one), called in to see Donna Noble finally get married, met the grand-daughter of the woman he was going to marry in Family of Blood, and finally bumped into Rose Tyler, three months before he first met her in Eccleston guise.

Then he turned into Matt Smith.

So we had a good ten to twenty minutes of extra free sentimentality, the loss of which would not have damaged the story in any way. However, and I have to give full credit to Russell for doing this, unlike Journey’s End where characters seemed shoe-horned in for the final encounter, he kept them out of the main thread of the story, so they didn’t interfere, and certainly didn’t damage the story. They were just there so the Tennant Doctor could say goodbye in his own way.

And I don’t think anyone good begrudge the Doctor a few goodbyes first. In my mind, this is the best series finale yet: there was no sleight-of-hand about the ending — we knew about the Master, we knew about the Master’s machine, we knew about the Master’s jedi electricity bolts — and the whole thing was nicely sewn together (and combined with fine performances from the cast).

If that is to be the last Russell ever writes for Who, or Tennant ever appears in, they can feel very proud of the way they’ve bowed out. But maybe a Three or Five Doctors style reunion would be interesting at some point…

So Moffatt and Smith have a lot to live up to when they appear in Spring. But the taster of their series that I saw has already left me wanting more. And so it goes:

Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!

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10 Comments to The End Of Timennant

  1. Twitted by deburca says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 11:44 am

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  2. Steve Pugh says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I don’t think Martha and Mickey were mercs. I took Mickey’s line about “going freelance” to mean that they were freelance earth defenders like Sarah Jane rather than part of an organisation like UNIT or Torchwood.

    I think it has to be the real world as that’s where the two of them were last seen at the end of season 4 and if the Doctor could have gone to the parallel world to see Mickey he would surely have seen Rose there now rather than back in 2005.

  3. “The End of Time: Part Two” and related posts « Twitter says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 1:28 pm

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  4. Seb Crump says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    As you say it’s great that the sentimental nonsense was sectioned off rather than crassly interwoven (I do hope that means that we’ll get the excellent Russell Tovey in the next Torchwood though). Although it made the episode rather disjointed and does The Doctor normally get that much time before regeneration? He certainly didn’t when he was blasted by a Dalek.

    Minor correction – it was the Time Lord President that reset the human population not The Doctor blasting the machine.

    What really spoilt it though, for me, was after a great action adventure episode the very contrived feeling to the ‘real’ (storyline) ending, which left a huge credibility gap. Firstly the stand-off – why on earth didn’t the Time Lord President just blast The Doctor and Master immediately with his glove? He had no use for them and knew they were needing to be got out of the way. Then the sonic screwdriver suddenly can’t open a locked door and The Master just happened to have left the nuclear whatever in a dangerous state, but also that it was designed for the radiation to leak only onto the new occupant in the empty section when they pressed the button (obvious air gaps around the door – and had to be otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to have conversations with people inside them).

  5. JackP says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Obvious air gaps? Yeah, but it was a thingummy-wotsit containment chamber. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got holes with one of them…

    I had presumed Rassilon’s relative inaction was to do with not being properly ‘there’ yet, plus the big staged, show-off ending (rather than the “just shoot James Bond” one) would fit with Rassilon’s scheminginess from the Five Doctors also.

    Would be happy to see Tovey in TW – but want to see him back in Being Human first! As for the error – well, I can’t be perfect all the time*.

    *Well, actually, I can, but I like to give the impression I’m imperfect from time to time, so as not to demoralise the rest of you.

  6. Gary Miller says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Great ending for Tennant and great write up Jack!

    Although I really enjoy watching the Doctor now (having lost interest in it with the advent of Pertwee), I’m not as ‘into’ the finer details as you are. Having said that, for Christmas I received the box set of Series 4 – can’t wait to watch it!

    Perhaps you could shed light on 4 things that are puzzling me?

    Firstly, Dalton referred to ‘the two weeping angels’ presumably, I thought, the two female Time Lords with their hands over their eyes? At one point, one of them removes her hands and it’s clear that the Doctor recognised her – who is/was she?

    Secondly, I’ve never seen such an explosive regeneration – I’ve taken that to be a result of all the radiation the Doctor soaked up?

    Thirdly, I must’ve missed something, but who was the woman who kept appearing to Wilf?

    Finally, I thought that Tennant put so much emotion into his final words (‘I don’t want to go’) that it was almost a personal thing, and not just for the script. Think he was having second thoughts about leaving the role?


  7. Steve Pugh says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 10:45 pm

    I hope Jack won’t mind me having a stab at answering your questions Gary…

    3. She’s the same person as in your question 1…

    1. No one knows for sure. There’s some non-verbal clues in the scene at the wedding where Wilf asks who she was that suggests that she’s a close family member of the Doctor. Julie Gardner (producer) suggested in the online commentary that she was his mother, other people think that she’s his granddaughter, Susan. But wife or daughter would also work.

    2. In story, yes. Out of story, the next series is being filmed in HD so the TARDIS set (inside and out) needed to be refreshed…

    4. That’s just the writer milking the emotion of the scene. From what they’ve said Tennant and Davies are both sad to go but believe that it’s the right time to do so.

  8. Gary Miller says:

    January 2nd, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Cheers Steve!

    Funny, but as I was watching it, my first instinctive impression about the Time Lady (Question 3)was that she was his mother…

    Thanks mate…

  9. Dave29 says:

    January 3rd, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    The other option that occurred to me for the mysterious lady was that it was Romana. Her and Tom Baker’s doctor were quite pally. But his mum kind of feels nice!

  10. test says:

    September 19th, 2011 at 11:21 pm


    …When you are aware when working at your projects you can be a lot more successful than if you don’t have much skills…..

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