Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Doctor Who Review: The End of Time (Part 1)

I would advise watching the episode I’m talking about before reading this review. There are some bits that might not make sense to you if you haven’t and there are most definitely spoilers.

This year there isn’t any new Doctor Who until autumn. Fair enough, they’re probably setting up something spectacular for the show’s 50th anniversary next year. I don’t mind this because it means I’m probably going to end up with a really good set of episodes. On the other hand, it does mean I don’t get to write any new reviews. Luckily however, there are 48 years worth of episodes I’ve got to choose from. So, to get us started on our trip through the archives let’s look at one I’ve actually been asked about. I told someone I didn’t like the last David Tennant story and they were shocked. They wanted me to explain why. And so, I will. Here we go, or should I say ‘Allonsey!’ No, I probably shouldn’t.

Normally when I talk about a two-parter, I talk about both parts together. But in this case, the two halves have such different tones and purposes that I think they might as well get a look at individually. The first part is the set-up. Does it do that job well? I’d say so. We have a mysterious voiceover from a man that we see more and more of each time he speaks, and what he says doesn’t really match up with any circumstance where he would say them, but it doesn’t really matter. Timothy Dalton is a brilliant actor, and he brings a lot of mystery and an epic feel to this episode. We also have an interesting idea with the Master.

The Master in this episode is both good and bad. Good, because of John Simm’s performance and I for one like the idea of the Master’s body falling apart and him becoming an outcast in the wastelands. He’s desperate and this makes him seem more dangerous as he might and could kill you any time, as exemplified by the murders of the burger stand people. The see-through skull might be taking it to extremes and this isn’t how I’d like to see the Master all the time, but for a one-off, I like it. The bad though. Two things. One is the Master’s resurrection. This scene is stupid. I want to say a better word than stupid, but really that is the only word to describe it. Why are there followers of Saxon? Why are there secret books of Saxon? What is the point of using weird magic potions in this scene instead of some kind of Time Lord science thing? This is Doctor Who not Harry Potter. Why was Lucy Saxon needed, surely after about two years any trace of the Master on her would be gone? Why was there a focus on Lucy Saxon by the Ood when she was only in it for about two minutes? We’ll get back to the Ood in a minute. So, basically that scene asks too many questions and is a really strange scene that feels like it’s from a completely different show. The other problem isn’t really one with this episode, but more with the next, the whole idea of the Master-Race. It seems like a good idea that makes a huge threat and has a good build-up for the second half of The End of Time but, it doesn’t pay off. But more on that when we look at Part 2.

So I said we’d get to the Ood. Now we have. The Ood can see through time. Why? How is time bleeding? The Time Lords haven’t done anything yet. Even if it was due to the Time Lords, why would they have visions of each of the important characters in the story? This seems awfully not-make-sense-just-there-to-make-the-plot-work-y. The Ood need to see these things to give the Doctor a prophecy to make the stakes seem higher and to get him involved in the story. However, in the story there is no reason for them to know these things so it doesn’t feel right. Because the plot says so, that’s why. That’s the reason. It’s also the reason the Naismith’s kidnap the Master instead of the Doctor when due to their connection to Torchwood and their knowledge of Saxon, you’d think they’d know about the Doctor and that he’s more trustworthy. But then the Master couldn’t get control of the machine and we wouldn’t have a plot. We also wouldn’t have a plot if the human race didn’t have dreams of the Master… long before he gets anywhere near the machine to put him into them. So why do people have dreams of him? If it’s because ‘time is bleeding’ surely they’d have dreams about Lucy and the Naismith’s too and they’d find out what was going on. But then we wouldn’t have a plot.

Beside the fact the whole plot relies on things that don’t make sense and there are a couple of weird scenes, does it work though? Yes. The story elements all add up to provide a sense of dread and it builds up the tension and stakes to get us hyped for the next episode. It’s not all serious though and has moments of humour with the brilliant chemistry between David Tennant and Bernard Cribbens. When they are both on screen they are fantastic and really bring the show up to greatness. Also any parts with ‘the silver cloak’ or Donna’s mother are hilarious. I would say that it doesn’t really follow up on any of the issues raised in the previous story The Waters of Mars, which is a shame, but in general this is a very good episode. It’s not the best ever, it has its flaws, but it really builds up a good atmosphere for the final episode of David Tennant’s run. But, I did say I didn’t like The End of Time. And if I like Part 1, what does that imply about Part 2. Well, find out tomorrow when we look at the second half of this story and see why it’s all downhill from here.


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