SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who, The End of Time Part I

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part I aired on the BBC on December 25 and the following day on December 26–a far wiser policy than having large differences in air dates between the two countries. Warning, this review contains major spoilers.

As this is the first of a two part episode designed to set up the regeneration in the final episode for both David Tennant and Russel T. Davies, it is difficult to judge all aspects of it. While it ends with a cliff hanger, it does stand up on its own with a major change in the mythology for the renewed series.

While every fan probably is aware that this is to set up  a regeneration story, the show suggests the danger of even more ominous outcomes ranging from the final death of The Doctor to the end of time itself. Some of these warnings occur as part of the story while others come from a narrator played by Timothy Dalton. Early in the episode we find that The Master had left behind a cult determined to save him. The last thing they needed was his DNA, taken from the lips of an imprisoned Mrs. Saxon. The revival doesn’t work out correctly, resulting in The Master being even more insane than previously, but with new powers.

Besides the return of The Master, the episode ties into previous Davies stories in additional ways. Donna Noble’s grandfather, Willfred Mott,  is the equivalent of The Doctor’s companion in this episode.  Adding further continuity, a major portion of the show centers around technology which was recovered with the destruction of Torchwood.

This leads to three key aspects of the cliff hanger. The alien device was intended to cure the ill–on a planet-wide level. The last time we saw The Master he tried to conquer the entire Earth. This time he goes even further. The Master alters the alien device to turn everyone on earth into a copy of himself.

Russel T. Davis has tried to present big endings in recent seasons, including The Master conquering Earth and the movement of the entire planet during recent seasons. This cliff hanger is rather silly, but did present amusing scenes at the end with everyone on the planet being The Master. Before judging the idea, it will be necessary to see what is done with it in the conclusion. While a product of The Master’s insanity, it is difficult to see how this really serves his ends. A planet full of equals is not the same as a planet of humans who serve him.

The second part of the cliff hanger is that Donna begins to remember her past with The Doctor. At the conclusion of the fourth season, Donna acquired the mind of a Timelord. This necessitated the wiping of all her memories of her time with The Doctor with warnings that her mind would burn itself out should she regain her memory.

It is easy to imagine solutions for each of these cliff hangers, however the third cliff hanger has the potential to change the series for the Steven Moffatt era. At the end, the narrator played by Timothy Dalton, is revealed to be a Time Lord. The Time Lords of Gallifrey have returned, in a scene reminiscent of the Imperial Senate in Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith.

It is fitting that the story of the time war and apparent end of the Time Lords takes place in Davies’ final episode as this was a change to the mythology which he brought with the return of the series. I have always questioned the end of the Time Lords, questioning the possibility of  destroying a race which can travel anywhere in both space and time. While dealing with time has been inconsistent throughout the series, it also doesn’t make sense that the paths will never cross between either the other Time Lords and The Doctor when both can appear at different points in time.

Although the stories are about a time traveler, Russell T. Davies primarily used the Tardis as a device to place The Doctor at different places in space and time while avoiding dealing with the concept of time travel within most stories. Previous interviews have revealed that Davies has been working with Steven Moffatt to leave the Doctor Who universe as he desires it when he takes over as show runner. In contrast to Davies, when Moffatt has written individual episodes time travel has been more important. This has included Blink which involved aspects of the story at different points in time. The Girl in the Fireplace took place over a large time span.  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead involved a character who knew The Doctor from a point in The Doctor’s future time line.

It is possible that Steven Moffatt wanted the Time Lords and Gallifrey to return for use in future episodes. I do hope this is not a one-episode event. It also remains to be seen how their return will affect The Doctor and the universe. It was never clear to what degree The Doctor voluntarily fled from Gallifrey or was exiled by the Time Lords. They have placed him on trial twice, and have even forced a regeneration. This scene from Part II gives a clue about the nature of the Time Lords:

The above scene is from early in the episode. Following is an actual trailer from the episode, which will air on New Year’s Day on the BBC and the following day on BBC America:

Update: The End of Time, Part II

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