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Tansy Rayner Roberts

Watching New Who: The End of Time

July 18th, 2013 at 16:07

David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Series 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the “Doctor Who in Conversation” team, with a history in Doctor Who watching that goes WAY back.

We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points.

radiotimesTHE END OF TIME
THE DOCTOR: David Tennant
WILF: Bernard Cribbins
THE MASTER: John Simm
RASSILON: Timothy Dalton
THE WOMAN WHO IS NOT CONFIRMED IN ANY WAY AS THE DOCTOR’S MOTHER: Claire Bloom
DONNA: Catherine Tate
ROSE: Billie Piper
MARTHA: Freema Agyeman
MICKEY: Noel Clarke
JACK HARKNESS: John Barrowman
SARAH JANE: Elisabeth Sladen

TEHANI:
*sniff* I had been determined not to become a Tennant fangirl, but I admit it, he really won me over, particularly in Season Four, and coming to the end of his run is a bit sad. I mainlined so much of him when I first watched these that I found myself adopting Tennant-esque speech patterns and idiosyncrasies (“What? What?!”), which could be rather embarrassing.

That said, I’m afraid so much of this story leaves me a bit cold after multiple watchings, and some of it REALLY doesn’t make sense! There’s a lot to like about it, but there are some absolutely bizarre elements as well. I don’t think it helps that it has come of the back of some really cinematic episodes in the specials, but feels somehow smaller again – maybe just me?

TANSY:
I agree that very little of this story makes sense, or bears any kind of critical viewing. Having said that, I’m a million times more fond of it than any of the other Specials. I can’t explain why! I think perhaps because it has more emotional resonance than the rest of them put together, and possibly I am still deeply affected by how damn exciting it was to watch the first episode pretty close to live (within 24 hours of it screening!) – so many interesting questions, revelations and set pieces in that first episode, even if OK VERY FEW OF THEM are paid off in any way, or followed up on.

DAVID:
Wow, I can see this is going to be an interesting discussion! I really enjoyed this one, and thought that, with a few exceptions which I am sure we will get to, was very strongly written throughout. And, I personally found it a lot bigger in scope than some of the other specials, and definitely thought it far more satisfying than the last Master appearance – the three part “Utopia/Sounds of Drums/Last of the Time Lords”.

TANSY:
There are so many individual scenes in this that are delightful Doctor Who, even if it’s all stuck together with duct tape, fairy glitter and damned cheek.

The early scenes on the Ood world, for instance, are mesmerising and weird and full of possibilities … that never actually get paid off. But great scenes. Likewise, the Master’s acolytes and his wife fighting it out as to whether he will return to life, using potions and lipstick – every inch of it is ridiculous, but the performances are great, Lucy Saxon’s in particular.

I don’t have the common fan reaction of “POTIONS?” to this scene, because dude, let’s talk about the Sisterhood of Karn for a minute. Mystical claptrap has been part of Time Lord lore for a long time … though the use of a word so associated now with the Harry Potter Lexicon was a touch mismanaged. I do wonder if fan reaction would have been the same if they had used ‘philtres’ or ‘elixirs’. Meanwhile, I save my exasperation for the ‘she bears his imprint’ line and the lipstick on the tissue, because COME ON.

(Cue Time Crash and the ‘does he still have a beard?’ line that I still can’t quite believe David Tennant said out loud)

DAVID:
The whole potions thing didn’t bother me, either – you get used to stuff like that in Doctor Who. The show’s writers have always taken Clarke’s maxim that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic to heart!

TEHANI:
It was a bit bizarre, but it didn’t bother me either – not in relation to the rest of the weirdness of the scene!

DAVID:
The Ood added some nice atmospherics, but I thought that they could have been quite easily taken from the story without losing too much! There were a few bits like that, but I was quite happy to just sit back and enjoy them.

TANSY:
My suspicion is that RTD was doing his usual thing of seeding intriguing ideas to be picked up on later … and of course, with a new showrunner coming in, many of them ended up getting left on the shelf. Which is fine, really. All the more material for book and audio writers to fill in later. I look forward to the 50 volume audio series Secrets of the Ood coming from Big Finish in 2023.

wilfTEHANI:
Wilf as companion was simply marvellous, and I really enjoyed his performance throughout. He’s such a funny addition to the story, but he completely brings the pathos too.

TANSY:
I adore Wilf and Bernard Cribbins both, and all of his scenes with Tennant are gorgeous.

DAVID:
Wilf is the core of this story, as much as the Doctor is, really. I loved every scene he was in, whether it it was being played for laughs, or whether they were tugging at the heartstrings. His “Dad’s Army” was awesome! I can’t talk Wilf up enough, he is the Harry Sullivan of New Who.

Throughout this story we see someone determined to do the right thing and willing to sacrifice himself for others, and by doing so teaching the Doctor a lesson. There haven’t been many people able to do that.

I have to admit that I got a little angry with the Doctor’s speech when Wilf is stuck in the booth. It seemed incredibly arrogant, but more than that, un-Doctor-like. How many times have we heard the Doctor stress the importance of every individual, regardless of who they are?

TANSY:
Yeah I get more annoyed at him about that every time I see this story – not just the arrogance (which I would argue is really quite Doctor-like) but the selfishness. Since when does the Doctor resent the people he saves, or make them feel bad for his own sacrifices? Seeing Wilf’s lower lip wobble as the Doctor basically sneers at him for making a mistake that now means the Doctor has to take the hit for him is … well. It’s mean.

Donna-Noble-doctor-who-the-end-of-time-9434275-450-450I remain very cross about Donna, and unhappy that Catherine Tate was brought back for this story only for NOTHING TO CHANGE about her memory, but I do love the team up of the old soldiers.

TEHANI:
I’m so with you on that Tansy – what a perfect opportunity for the Doctor to find a way to give her back her memory, her SELF, and completely wasted :(

DAVID:
While I was happy to see Donna end up with a degree of happiness in the end, it still didn’t take away the bad taste in my mouth completely. It was as if she had so much of herself stolen and ended up settling for far less than she deserved. All those memories gone, and so much of her growth and development and blossoming as a person taken away. Say what you want about RTD, he certainly sticks to his guns. I couldn’t have written what happened to Donna in “Journey’s End” in the first place, let alone gone away and thought about and still not taken the chance to fix it! *shakes head*

TANSY:
John Simm’s performance is something I deeply appreciate here – I know many fans were turned off by this reappearance of the ‘Skeletor’ Master with the superpowers and the savaging of food, but I can’t take my eyes off him when he’s on screen, and I quite like the idea of seeing some of the damage that has been caused by the Master’s constant attempts to beat death.

The Master’s more monstrous appearances (the TV Movie, for instance, and The Deadly Assassin/The Keeper of Traken back in the 1970s) are important, of course, and become more intriguing as ‘our Doctor’ gets closer and close to that key 12th regeneration, because whatever the writers end up pulling out of their hat to allow the Doctor to keep going past 13 (they’d BETTER) the one thing they can’t do is allow the Doctor to want more than his allotment of lives – as soon as he actually desires immortality, he becomes as bad as the Master.

Plus the sight of John Simm tearing a roast chicken to bits is horribly fascinating. I am so glad they gave him a cooked one!

doctormasterDAVID:
This may put me in the minority, but I much preferred Simms in this to his last performance. While the Sith lightning straddled the line of ridiculousness at times, I thought he he conveyed a real sense of menace – he wasn’t simply eccentric but terrifyingly insane. I thought Simms was excellent right through.

And, Tansy, the first thing I thought when the skull first appeared was Deadly Assassin!

TEHANI:
I really liked Simm in this outing, but it’s also possible I love him better this time around too, because I’ve seen Life on Mars now! Having said that, I kept misremembering these scenes from the finale episodes of Season Three – it’s almost like most of “The End of Time” could have come directly after that!

DAVID:
It’s interesting, Tansy, that you mention about his lust for immortality, as compared to the Doctor. They did use the Doctor’s fear of death quite well in this story, but you are right in saying that we can’t have the Doctor seeking to increase his number of lives. I actually had more patience for him once he felt threatened by true death, rather than just a regeneration. It was poignant when he was saying that regeneration meant he, as in Ten, would be gone, but fancy whinging about a fresh new body like that to an 80+ year old man!

TANSY:
That is a very good point. They handled that aspect very nicely.

I like the rare scenes where the Doctor and Master are around each other in this story – not enough of that, but Simm and Tennant are brilliant together as always. I always laugh at the cliffhanger to Part One because just as the whole ‘I’m going to call myself Harold Saxon and become Prime Minister of England’ plot felt like something Roger Delgado’s Master would do, the whole ‘replacing every human on Earth with the Master’ likewise feels like something they would have done in the old days if they could have juggled the Chromakey to achieve the effect. Imagine Delgado’s beard in all those crowd scenes!

Rolling my eyes at you since 2009

Rolling my eyes at you since 2009

I also really like every scene with the Vinvocci – they look great, and Sinead Keenan’s character in particular, rolling her eyes at the Doctor every chance she gets, and arguing with him. I would have loved it if she ended up as his companion. He needs someone who thinks he’s ridiculous and is prepared to get huffy at him when he is pompous.

It was cute that they pointed out how often aliens are just hanging around on earth (ShiMMMMER) doing their own thing. Makes me wonder how many more of them had to suddenly deal with a world of John Simms. Surely the Vinvocci weren’t the only ones…

TEHANI:
I think you’ve had some talks on Verity! recently Tansy, about the New Who trend of modern Earth companions. It would be cool to have a non-human companion or two – we’ve seen some great alien guest stars, so it’s not like they CAN’T do awesome and believable alien characters *cough* Madame Vastra *cough*

TANSY:
I suspect considering the incredible hours they already work to film this show, having a regular (rather than recurring) character with massive makeup or prosthetic requirements would be a logistical nightmare. It’s not like Star Trek which had much larger ensembles. But we have a long history of alien companions who don’t look that different to humans, and I’d be happy with one of those! Or a future/past one.

Doctor_Who_-_Time_Lords_in_The_End_of_TimeTEHANI:
And of course, we have the unexpected (to me, at least!) appearance of James Bond, er, Timothy Dalton as Gallifreyan Lord President Rassilon! I was thoroughly surprised by the ending of Part 1, I truly had no idea this was a story that brought Gallifrey back!

DAVID:
Well, I have long held the theory that James Bond was a Time Lord – it would explain why he is still active after 50 years, the different incarnations, plus we know that all Time Lords prefer to hang out in England!

TEHANI:
That is a scarily clever suggestion…

TANSY:
Ha, I like that! Though I immediately start wondering if that means that Moneypenny was the Rani…

DAVID:
Timothy Dalton certainly made the most of his appearance, and doesn’t hold back. The phrase “say it, don’t spray it” came to mind once or twice. Saying that, I really enjoyed his portrayal of Rassilon, though I found it interesting that character made a return to the series in the story. The idea that the Time Lords, and particularly Rassilon, were responsible for the Master turning evil was definitely a bold story choice, though I am not quite sure how I feel about the concept.

TEHANI:
Well, there’s a long tradition of big guest stars chewing the furniture when they appear in Doctor Who, right Tansy?

Paradise Towers  was on Tehani's TV the other day and I almost made her watch it...

Paradise Towers was on Tehani’s TV the other day and I almost made her watch it…

TANSY:
There is, but Timothy Dalton definitely gives Ken Dodd and Joan Sims a run for their money! Richard Briers still wins the sparkly diva trophy for Most Acting Done In A Confined Space. But at least he didn’t visibly spit during his impersonation of a god architect inside a body impersonating Hitler.

I do rather like Dalton’s Rassilon, I have to say, even though his presence raises so many more questions than it answers (mostly questions beginning with the phrase WTF!?!?!). It’s just a shame that after all the gorgeous build up in Episode 1, ultimately so little is done with the Time Lords before they disappear back into the Time War.

In particular it’s hard to miss the fact that Time does not in fact End at any point in the story.

But damn, he wears those robes well.

DAVID:
One thing that I thought worked really well was the mysterious woman who appears to Wilf. I spent a lot of time trying to guess who she was meant to be, and judging from Wikipedia I am not the only person who came up with some interesting theories!

TEHANI:
I picked her as probably being the Doctor’s mother from the start, but unlike old school fans, I didn’t have any potential other Time Lords to choose from, really! RTD confirmed it was his mother, it seems?

TANSY:
He confirmed that was the intention, but if it’s not on screen it doesn’t count! I think it would have been fascinating if she was Susan, or indeed Susan’s mother (thereby the Doctor’s daughter) because there’s no reason that she should look younger than him. The idea that she was his mother felt weirdly disappointing to me – I don’t think you can throw an idea like that into the story without actually doing something with it.

In which case I am very glad she in fact wasn’t Susan or Romana because that means the options are still open for them both to be alive and well and not necessarily swallowed up by the Time War.

DAVID:
I think if she had been Susan it would have been brilliant. You’re right – there is no reason why she couldn’t appear older than the Doctor, and her calling him Grandfather would have been delightfully weird!

BBC-Doctor-Who-The-End-Of-Time-Wk-51-Dec09-Spoiler-Gallery-23So, what did we think of the Naismiths? It takes a certain type of arrogance to have a book cover like that! I got a definite creepy vibe from their interactions with each other, but maybe that’s just me. I did think that they were curiously under utilised in the story, they just seemed to fade into irrelevance by the end.

TEHANI:
I agree – particularly as I had to double check to see who they were! The story could probably have been told without them, I think?

TANSY:
They were creepy and villainous and definitely had a very weird incesty vibe about them, but ultimately they were red herrings, I think. Then again… really the entire plot is a bunch of red herrings tied together with tinsel. But I forgive it a lot for the scene in which they all ran away from the Master with the Doctor still tied to a chair. I’m just shallow like that.

TEHANI:
There is perhaps one of the best, most sad-making bits of the entire series in this story as well – Tennant’s final line, “I don’t want to go,” and his delivery of it, are just HEART-WRENCHING!

TANSY:
That one’s a line which perhaps works best without the context of waiting around for a year of slow, long, drawn out goodbyes and being immersed in a noisy fandom that’s awash with resentment at a certain actor for prioritising his Shakespeare career over being a lovely Doctor forever. I rather think that a good chunk of the audience were yelling “well why did you quit then” at this point, while I know for a fact that an awful lot were, sadly, saying “Just get on with it.”

TEHANI:
Keep in mind I mainlined Tennant in a not-very-long period, so I was very immersed in his run, and yes, Tennant too :)

TANSY:
I imagine that helps a lot! And I was sad to see him go, plus being very suspicious about that terribly young Smith bloke they had waiting in the wings.

Personally … I’m still hmm. I like the Tenth Doctor a lot in most of this story, his mix of manic energy and deep pathos, but while I adore the Suck-It-Lord-Of-The-Rings farewell scenes that last forever, I don’t like that last line very much. It felt too meta to me.

TEHANI:
I think the meta is part of why I liked it!

DAVID:
Well, that seemed to me to be Tennant speaking to the camera as much as it was the Doctor – reminded me of his line in Time Crash when he told Five how much he loved him.

TEHANI:
Yes, that’s it I think!

doctor_who_2005.the_end_of_time_part_two_2010_special.hdtv_xvid-fov (2)TANSY:
Let’s talk about those closing scenes. Conventional fan wisdom says they went on too long and made everyone yell ‘hurry up and die’ at the screen. A pox on them! I love every single one of those scenes. I love that the Doctor, knowing his time is up, says ‘screw you’ to the universe and goes around making a bunch of changes to the timeline to keep his people happy. I love that he not only saves Luke but that he has the class to say goodbye to Sarah this time around (SOB), that he bashed a Sontaran on the head to save Martha and Mickey, and that he took that one last opportunity to see Rose without her knowing it was him.

TEHANI:
Oh, not me, I LOVED THEM ALL! It was marvellous, a bit like seeing everyone in “Journey’s End”, but more so.

DAVID:
Conventional fan wisdom can bite me. I loved every minute of it. Yes, it might have been fanservice, but it was also quite in line with the story – the Doctor saying that he wouldn’t take more time for himself and cheat time for his own gain, but that while he had the power to do something for others he would seize that opportunity.

TEHANI:
“Conventional fan wisdom can bite me.” ? BEST LINE EVER! *runs off to put it on t-shirts*

DAVID:
That little moment with Sarah Jane was lovely, and I thought the whole wedding scene was well done. It was entirely fitting that the Doctor doesn’t just say goodbye to Wilf, but to Sylvia as well, considering how their relationship has evolved over the past few seasons.

The lottery ticket was a clever touch, but it still shows that the Donna we end up with isn’t the Donna that we loved, not in all her fullness. It’s as if they minimised her, and everything she had been through, to someone much more shallow.

TANSY:
Yes, I agree. The bit about her dad actually makes me cry a little bit EVERY SINGLE TIME, mostly because of the look on Sylvia’s face. But the idea that … money will fix everything for Donna is just shallow all around.

TEHANI:
Of anything in all of New Who so far, Donna’s treatment still makes me the most cross – if there’s anyone out there who is okay with how she was treated, please let me know how you reconcile it! This fan-fiction is the only way I can… (although in searching for the link to that one, I discovered there’s a WHOLE SWATHE of fan fic that has Donna regenerating and going off to have adventures – I like this idea very much!)

TANSY:
Okay, the setting a (grieving!) Jack Harkness up with a hot date thing wasn’t quite as classy as the rest, but how hilarious is it that they staged an entire cantina scene just for that? Having read A Writer’s Tale and knowing that RTD had a massive crush on Russell Tovey and thus this is an entire wish fulfillment scene totally had me in stitches. I don’t care if it’s self-indulgent, that’s what this episode was for, and it made me laugh in between the quivery lip moments.

Yes, I do sniffle every time I get to the final scenes, OK?

TEHANI:
Perfectly understandable.

DAVID:
Seemed to be a lot of pollen or dust in the air when I was watching the ending.

mm

TANSY:
MARTHA AND MICKEY, DISCUSS!

TEHANI:
PERFECT! What’s to discuss? :)
DAVID:
Wonderful. I love them as a couple. I love the man Mickey turned into, and I always thought Martha was awesome.

TANSY:
Excellent. I was delighted with that scene. I know that many were distressed she seemed to have jettisoned Dr Tom from “Last of the Time Lords”, but really he’ll be much happier with Miranda.

TEHANI:
*snerk* I had to think about that for a minute, then I laughed a lot!

TANSY:
It makes a lot of sense to me, as Mickey and Martha both have that deep experience in common, not only of travelling in the TARDIS and then coming back to “ordinary” life, but also playing second banana to the lovefest that was Ten/Rose. Plus I love the idea of them going “freelance” in using their skills of fighting alien invasions to do exactly that.

That scene makes me squee a bit now too because Dan Starkey as the Sontaran! Apparently he was the only Sontaran actor available to film that tiny bit (he was like third Sontaran from the left in “The Poison Sky”). You can recognise him because of the gap in his teeth. Cough, remember him, he might be important later.

DAVID:
It didn’t take long for me to realise that Mickey and Rose would never end up together, no matter how much my inner romantic might have wanted them to. After all, Mickey would have always been second best, and he deserved far more than that. It’s a much happier ending, and as Tansy says, makes a whole lot of sense. Who else would understand what the other had been through, and how could you back to “normality” after the sights and wonders they had seen?

verity

TANSY:
The scene I always forget of the farewells is the one with the very pointedly named Verity Newman, granddaughter of poor old Joan from “Human Nature”. A nice touch that the Doctor checked in on her, and that he was still thinking (at least a tiny bit) of the woman he left behind.

TEHANI:
That was a very nice touch indeed.

DAVID:
That was lovely. Still one of my favourite episodes from New Who, and it makes sense that the Doctor would be thinking of her amongst all the other goodbyes. And, the shout out to Verity Lambert is one of those things that have shown that this is a continuation of the old series, not a reboot. Something that, in fairness, one has to say RTD has been very good at.

TANSY:
And then Rose and Jackie! I enjoy that scene in particular, the very young Rose a few months before her shop blows up and her life changes forever. And Jackie, unlucky in love but still ready for a party. Such a nice way to say goodbye.

rosejackie

So David, what did you think of your first glimpse of Matt Smith? He’s got legs, you know, and arms, and blimey, what a chin. Still not ginger, though. Do we think the TARDIS blew up because she was cross at losing David Tennant too?

DAVID:
Well, I will talk more about this in our next installment, but Matt Smith was very different than I had expected. I had tried very hard to keep away from spoilers and had only seen a few photographs of him, and I was expecting someone who looked much younger, for a start. I’ve never encountered a Doctor played by someone younger than me! So, I was little concerned how I was going to handle it, but my doubts were quite quickly dispelled.

While he immediately seemed quite charismatic, it was a very different energy to David Tennant which I think was the right way to go. I really enjoyed the scene where he is exploring his body (haha bad choice of words, I guess) – very amusing.

I do wonder whether the ginger comment was a bit of a foreshadowing of things to come?

TEHANI:
We shall have to see…

TANSY:
And of course we’re not just saying a final goodbye to Mr Tennant, and all the companions he met along the way, but also to Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, whose heroic efforts brought our show back. Which means it’s time again to show the most excellent Wrap Party vids which sum up their achievement!

PREVIOUS “New Who In Conversations”


“Rose”, S01E01

“Dalek”, S01E06
“Father’s Day, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Series One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani

“The Christmas Invasion,” 2005 Christmas special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion,” S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04

“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, S02E12/13
Series Two Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy

“The Runaway Bride”, 2006 Christmas Special
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
The Shakespeare Code & Gridlock, S0302-03
Human Nature/The Family of Blood S0308-09
Blink S0310
Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Timelords S0311-13
“Voyage of the Damned,” 2007 Christmas Special
Series 3 Report Cards: David, Tehani, Tansy

Partners in Crime, S0401
The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S0405 S0406
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S0408 S0409
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End, SO412-13
Season 4 Report Cards: Tansy, Tehani, David

The Specials

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4 Responses to “Watching New Who: The End of Time”

  1. Faith Says:

    “Yeah I get more annoyed at him about that every time I see this story – not just the arrogance (which I would argue is really quite Doctor-like) but the selfishness. Since when does the Doctor resent the people he saves, or make them feel bad for his own sacrifices? Seeing Wilf’s lower lip wobble as the Doctor basically sneers at him for making a mistake that now means the Doctor has to take the hit for him is … well. It’s mean.”

    I was actually okay with that. Not him being mean, which as I recall he was a bit, but the fact that for once the Doctor wants to LIVE! He’s so constantly played as this martyr who’s happy to die for anybody, and I can’t help feeling that’s a terribly unhealthy way to spend your life. He’s going to make the sacrifice, but that doesn’t mean he should do it with a smile.

    I do agree about Donna though. It’s hard to rewatch her stories now knowing they were all leading to…nothing. No wonder River had that look on her face when they met in ‘Silence in the Library’ – maybe that’s what she was afraid would happen to her one day.

  2. David Goldfarb Says:

    Rich Morris (who did “The Ten Doctors”, and if you haven’t read that sprawling epic of fanfic, drop everything now and do so) has an unfinished comic called “A Time to Kill” in which Ten and Donna meet James Bond, and it plays with some of those same ideas about him.

  3. ElanorMJ Says:

    I’ve never seen ‘The Ballad of Russell & Julie’ before. How?

    I’m currently in hysterics on the study floor.

  4. tansyrr Says:

    I know, right? I repost it approx. every 6 months or so because I love it so much.

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