Mon
Jan 4 2010 1:09pm
"The End of Time" Brings the End of An Era

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

- Dylan Thomas

It’s the end of an era.  David Tennant, the Tenth Doctor, MY Doctor, and THE Doctor for many, many others, ended his four year run on BBC’s Doctor Who this weekend in the final part of the two-part episode, The End of Time.  I’ll admit it.  I shed some tears.  What can I say?  I’m a huge sap.

But what made The End of Time such great television wasn’t merely the passing of the torch from one Doctor to another.  It wasn’t that we got to see so many faces from Who’s past.  It was the fact that, at the end of the year, in the thick of the death of the world just before the New Year and the rebirth of things in the spring, Russell T. Davies told a story about what a frightening thing it is to die.

The story begins with a Doctor who knows that his life is coming to an end, and he is miserable.  He has refused further companionship after Donna so no one else’s life would be in danger, and yet he has left himself to die alone, whenever and however that is to happen.  And then there’s The Master, who when we last saw him was being burned on a pyre by The Doctor after being defeated by the prayers of the world and shot by his human wife.  He would not abide death, so he left instructions to a group of disciples on how to bring him back.  Lastly, there’s Joshua Naismith, a wealthy man who finds and employs The Master for help with a piece of alien tech he’s found, which he dubs “The Immortality Gate.”  It is a gate that was originally designed as a piece of medical equipment, one that could “mend” entire planets at a time.  Upon finding this, Naismith decides to invest his resources in making this work again, hoping to use The Master’s genius to make it capable of “mending” permanently, making whoever steps into it immortal—not for himself, but for his daughter.  He wanted to give her immortality as a gift.  While Naismith tries to stay a step ahead of The Master, his reputation as the Harry Saxon Who Took Over The World and Brought Himself Back to Life preceding him,  he can’t stay far enough ahead, and The Master ends up using the gate to transfer his genetic template across the entire human race.  Immortality via cloning.

And that’s just Part One.

In Part Two, we see that all of these goings-on are the machinations of—wait for it—THE TIME LORDS!  Specifically, the Time Lord President, who “WILL NOT DIE!”  We have flashed back (if such a thing is possible on a show involving time travel...is it a flashback?  A flashforward?  A...flash?  But I digress...) to the very end of the Time War, and everyone is losing.  A Time Lord prophet sees the end of Gallifrey, and the President refuses to allow their demise to happen.  However, the prophet also sees that two Children of Gallifrey—The Doctor and The Master—survive the Time War, and the President, who refuses to allow Gallifrey’s demise, comes up with a plan to reach out to The Master, setting an elaborate scheme in motion that would end with not only the return of the Time Lords to the present, but the return of Gallifrey itself. 

Not only is no one in this story willing to die, but they go to extraordinary lengths to stave it off.  The Time Lords, supposedly wise because of their awesome responsibility over time, use time to selfishly prolong their civilization without taking consequences into account.  The Master clones himself all over Earth not suspecting that his Grand Plan is really just a speck in the larger scheme of things, and not realizing that despite that effort, his original self is still dying. 

And then there’s The Doctor.

Throughout both parts of The End of Time, The Doctor knows he’s going to die, though he doesn’t know how or when.  Despite that knowledge, despite the fact that he’s had a bit of time to get used to the idea and prepare, and despite the fact that he can regenerate, he is deeply saddened by this.  For The Doctor loves life and devours it with the enthusiasm of a child.  We watch as he is overwhelmed with emotion when talking to Wilfred Mott in a cafe about his impending death and his sadness about dying alone.  He barely smiles the entire episode.  And when the moment comes when he hears the four knocks that lead to his death from an unexpected place, he rages at the unfairness of it all in a heartbreaking tirade.  But he is The Doctor, and in that moment a helpless human being needs his help.  His heroic nature and his selflessness call for him to put another’s life before his own.  And so he does.  And it isn’t fair.  But it’s right.

Yet, even as he takes this on, willingly causing his own death to save another, he clings to life with both hands, taking the time to say goodbye to anyone who has ever meant anything to him.  Martha and Mickey.  Captain Jack.  Wilfred and his daughter (and Donna by proxy).  The descendant of Joan Redfern.  Even Rose.  He only goes back to the TARDIS to regenerate when he can no longer physically go on.  An Ood appears to him and tells him that the Universe will sing him to sleep.  And as he stands in the TARDIS, alone, his last words before regeneration are I don’t want to go.

Therein lies the strength of this story.  The Doctor doesn’t go quietly, nor does he go with any kind of a Zen peace about it, or a British stiff upper lip.  He goes fighting, angry, and visibly scared.  This episode acknowledges that death is absolutely frightening, even if one is over 900 years old and has experienced this kind of thing before.  It acknowledges that, even if one dies nobly, heroically, it doesn’t mean they’re dying peacefully.  However, in a way, knowing that even The Doctor can feel this way, is a comfort.  It teaches us that fear of death isn’t something that we need get over.  It is frightening, and we shouldn’t ignore it.  Rather, we should stare it in the face and scream at it.  We shouldn’t just go on living, but we should live, for as long as we are physically able.  And when the end is near, it’s OK to be afraid.  It’s OK to want to hang on; to love everyone and everything you’ve experienced so much that you don’t want to let it go.  That fear doesn’t make one weak, it makes one human. 

Interesting that it takes a Gallifreyan to teach us that.


Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is the NY Geek Culture Examiner at Examiner.com, and she’s also a contributor to PinkRaygun.com, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on PopMatters.com, on the sadly-defunct literary site CentralBooking.com, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Summer 2010!  Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

30 comments
Mike Conley
1. NomadUK
I haven't seen the second part yet (I've downloaded it from the BBC iPlayer), and I've studiously skipped over most of your article to avoid too many spoilers, but I just have to say that part I was everything I expected from Russel T Davies: sound and fury, signifying — well, not nothing, exactly, but that which could well, in the hands of someone with some talent, be signified in a much less irritating way.

I mean, you know it's bad when my 15-year-old gets to the end of the episode and breathes a sigh of relief that it's over. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to convince anyone to watch the second half at all.

Given all that, whilst I'm sure I would be otherwise predisposed to shed a tear or two at Tennant's exit, I'm not sure I'll be able to, for all the ringing in my ear, the afterimages burned into my retina, and the spinning of my head as I try to make some semblance of sense of all the yelling and running that passes for plot.

I look forward to nothing so much in the new series as less from Davies and more from people who grasp the concepts of subtlety and drama. Anything by Steven Moffat will be greatly appreciated.
Thrillsville
2. Thrillsville
I'm afraid that the love and goodwill that people have for David Tennant's Doctor is blinding them to the fact that the episodes were not really very good.

I really like this Doctor and individual scenes were good (particularly with Wilf/Cribbins) but in the end I was extremely disappointed and unsatisfied in the story as a whole.

It strikes me that the two episodes were just an excuse for the last half hour where the Doctor could give his soliloquy and Russell T. Davies could indulge in previous characters as a cheap epilogue.

Individual scenes seemed just that - individual. Every scene ramped up to a fevered pitch only to begin again. It was as if there were enough bluster and flashiness we wouldn't question what was going on.

But here are a few things I wondered/cringed about:

1) The Master has inspired not one but two religious sects?

2) Who accelerated the Ood's development?

3) The Master has superpowers? The Doctor doesn't react to him jumping 10 stories into the air?

4) The Doctor can fall from who knows how high to crash through a glass ceiling onto a marble floor and not need to regenerate? (The fourth Doctor regenerated after having fallen from a great height).

5) Donna was completely superfluous to the story. She didn't change into the Master so I thought she would have some pivotal moment but instead she just ran, exploded and then fell asleep.

6) The Time Lord's gauntlet was...?

I have been very negative about these episodes but it's because I don't feel that the emotional heights that Russell T. Davies wanted to reach in the end were earned. With an extremely popular show and one of the favourite Doctors' exits so much more could have been achieved and less bludgeoningly so than a runaround forbidding us to question the plot developments whilst dictating our feelings.

PS. While I liked Rose her first season may we never, ever, ever, ever, ever see her again.
Teresa Jusino
3. TeresaJusino
@NomadUK - Thanks for your comment! I would definitely wait until you've seen the second half before passing judgment. I wasn't thrilled with Part One either at first, but after the second part aired, I watched both of them again, and they fit well together and made a lot more sense as a whole. Would love to hear what you think after you've seen it!

And let's not be too hard on Russell T. Davies - he is, after all, the person responsible for giving us New Who in the first place!

That said, I'm very excited for Steven Moffat's tenure! His episodes, "Blink" in particular, were some of my FAVORITES over the past few series. I'm looking forward to seeing how he shapes the next series. As my friend, a fellow Whovian, and I have been saying for a while now, "Doctor Who is going to be a lot creepier, and have a lot more talking dolls/inanimate objects in it!" :) And I, for one, can't wait!
Teresa Jusino
4. TeresaJusino
@Thrillsville - I definitely wouldn't say this episode was perfect. And I did notice some of the plot holes you mention. However, it doesn't bother me that this episode was less about sci-fi plot points and more about the emotional aspects. You say the emotional heights weren't earned. I'd argue they were earned by 4 years of great storytelling. I also wanted to address a couple of the plot points you referred to:

1) The Master has inspired not one but two religious sects?

It was only the one, I thought - the people who brought him back to life. Who are the second you're thinking of? There was Naismith's daughter, but I thought was just someone who'd heard tell of Harry Saxon's return. Not a separate sect, a disciple, but not a priest like the ones who resurrected him, if that makes any sense. Also, I wouldn't call it a religious sect so much as a cult - which might mean the same to you, but I thought I'd make that distinction. :)

2) Who accelerated the Ood's development?

I need to watch it one more time, as I feel like this was explained in the section with the Time Lords, but I'm not 100% sure.

3) The Master has superpowers? The Doctor doesn't react to him jumping 10 stories into the air?

He does react - he tells him that whatever happened to him, he's overusing his energy and killing himself the more he does it, then offers to help him.

4) The Doctor can fall from who knows how high to crash through a glass ceiling onto a marble floor and not need to regenerate? (The fourth Doctor regenerated after having fallen from a great height).

While I did think the spectacle of this was a bit much (why didn't he just land?), you said it - "who knows how high." I've known people who've fallen from really high heights who've managed to be fine. We don't know exactly how far up he was. Also, the rules about regeneration have always been fuzzy. Regeneration itself was added after the First Doctor left the show. I don't think we should be sticklers for elements of the story that are constantly in flux! "Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey and all of that." :)

5) Donna was completely superfluous to the story. She didn't change into the Master so I thought she would have some pivotal moment but instead she just ran, exploded and then fell asleep.

I think Donna was important to the story in that the Doctor referred to her as his best friend, and he gave her something that would protect her and allow her to go on living a normal life. Something none of his other companions get to have. It's a foreshadow of his saying goodbye and leaving things to those he loves in the end. We see hers first, because she was his closest friend. At least, that's how I took it.

6) The Time Lord's gauntlet was...?
Not sure what you mean here. Explain?
Mike Conley
5. NomadUK
Teresa@3:

Would love to hear what you think after you've seen it!

I'll let you know, once I've recovered from this bout of flu; I think watching it in my weakened state might just do me in....

And let's not be too hard on Russell T. Davies - he is, after all, the person responsible for giving us New Who in the first place!

Yes, he did, but George Lucas gave us Star Wars, and, let's be honest, doesn't everyone pretty much agree that we'd all have been a lot happier if all six episodes had been scripted by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, and directed by Irvin Kershner, rather than just The Empire Strikes Back?
Thrillsville
6. Thrillsville
@TeresaJurino - Thank you for your reply and I should probably apologize for my randomly splattered criticism. I believe I got my hopes up too high after the very good "Waters of Mars" episode. I was hoping that we would get solid story after the good work Russell T. Davies did on "Midnight" and the Torchwood - Children of Earth mini-series. Instead we got something that I perceived akin to "The Sound of Drums"/"The Last of the Time Lords" (Oh, Dobby Doctor, oh magical-floating-sparkly Resurrection Doctor, hang head in shame and disappointment).

My points explained/apologized for:

1) I interpreted Lucy Saxon and her followers as a separate sect of the Saxon "cult" by being opposed to them.

2) Ood development: Yeah, I'll watch it again too when I buy the discs and can throw the subtitles on.

3) Doctor's reaction to the Master's powers: I meant right away. It didn't seem to shock him when the Master immediately jumped straight into the air. A quick reaction shot of unbelief could have put my mind at rest.

4) Regeneration different each time: I agree but even if Davies had thrown in an "alien parachute" or something I would have preferred it to what transpired on screen. This highlights to me the "not earned" emotion or thrill that many scenes have. It's like Davies thinks "This'll be a spectacular visual" and doesn't set it up properly so that I'm taken out of the show to shake my head in disbelief.

5) Donna: I'll still hold firm on Donna. I see your point about her being a visual representation of what the Doctor is giving up. However, if you'll allow me a tangential rant - The Doctor says she can never remember "It'll burn her up" but when she does remember he winks at Wilf and says "You don't think I'd take care of my friends?" meaning he put some sort of safeguard on Donna's psyche? This seems like poor writing - there is no solution to the problem except for the solution that breaks the rules now that I need a solution.

6) The Time Lord's gauntlet was a weapon that seemed to come out of nowhere and is criticized just because I was lashing out through disappointment. I apologize.

On a positive note I too am extremely excited about the new series and am bursting with anticipation.
Teresa Jusino
7. TeresaJusino
NomadUK@5

Hey, hey, HEY! You leave George Lucas out of this! :) I really don't think the comparison is valid. TV works differently than film, and even though Who scripts are written by other writers, they were still being shaped and added to by Davies. Just because Davies' name wasn't on the episodes you might have liked more, doesn't mean he had nothing to do with them or how they turned out.

But speaking of Star Wars, have you seen the AWESOME review of The Phantom Menace on YouTube? If not, watch it. Watch ALL seven parts. It will change your life! :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI
Thrillsville
8. JJD111
Sorry to disagree with the article, but both episodes were awful. Dismal and, in my opinion, the worst two episodes of the new Doctor Who series. I was severely disappointed by Tennant's send-off. It did NOT do him justice.

First of all, it seemed too much out of character to have the Doctor whining about his death. And he kept saying how much more important he was than Wilf. What?! Okay, sure, he is, but I don't see him saying that to Wilf's face. And, like you said, he hardly smiled at all in either episode. He wasn't fun at all. Because he was mopey about dying, he wasn't the same Doctor. He was weak and annoying. I mean, he faces death almost every episode. So, suddenly, just knowing that he WILL die changes his entire persona. I'm sure we could go back and find several examples of when the Doctor felt he might die doing whatever he planned to do.

Davies is just awful with finales, I think. I'm glad the show is being handed over to Moffat, who is consistent with good storytelling.

As for Thrillsville's comment, here's my take. I mostly agree with what he/she said too.

1. There was the cult that wanted to resurrect the Master, along with the one that also knew of his coming and made preparations to prevent it. (You do recall his wife whipping out that potion and tossing it in the fire, hence ruining his revival...it was kind of important). That whole bit was pointless.

2. The Ood's development is never explained in the episodes.

3. I was thrown off by the Doctor's lack of reaction to the Master's powers too. I mean, wtf? He can suddenly shoot lightning and jump like a giant grasshopper? Kind of odd. How was he able to do this anyway?

4. I agree. Falling that far and barely getting hurt? Plus, it was kind of ridiculous anyway.

5. I absolutely HATED that they all but ignored Donna. They didn't give her character proper closer at all. And the Doctor just knew that she would need a defense at some point in the future? It was a cop-out, a way to put Donna in the episode without ret-conning anything. And it failed.

6. The gauntlet held by Timothy Dalton's Time Lord character. The one he used to make one lady go poof, the one he threatened the Master with. It glowed blue. He wore it on his hand. Also hard to miss. What was it all about?

Anyway, I'm excited for the next series with Matt Smith. The preview looked fun and exciting and back to what Doctor Who has become for me. It's not meant to show me that death is scary. I don't fear death. And the Doctor isn't supposed to reveal his humanity. He's NOT HUMAN! So I don't want him whining like one! I'm sad to see Tennant go because he was awesome. But I think it IS possible for Time Lords to live too long. It was good for the last one to die after that trash and the rubbish at the end of Waters of Mars.
Iain Coleman
9. Iain_Coleman
This is an excellent post, that really puts its finger on the story of "The End of Time". And it's story that matters. There is plot, too, but in typical Davies style the plot points (Time Lord conspiracies, the Master's plans for domination, etc, etc) are quickly dealt with in order to give maximum space to the story of how a man faces death.

Most of the objections people have been raising are the usual sort of bullshit that sci-fi fans witter on about, i.e. things that were either (a) explained on screen, if you had been paying attention, or (b) in no need of explanation. I mean, who cares if the Lord President's Magic Gauntlet is called "The Fist of Rassilon" or whatever? Time Lords are notorious for these ultra-powerful devices (The Sash of Rassilon, the Hand of Omega, and so forth) - this is just another in a long line.

And as for the Doctor "whining about his death" - this is his Gethsemane moment. There's no doubt - in his mind or ours - that he will do the heroic thing and rescue Wilf, even though he has every excuse in the world not to do so. It's his rage about it that gives the moment dramatic and emotional weight.

People who know about screenwriting (such as, say, Steven Moffat, and indeed pretty much everyone else in British TV writing) regard Russell T Davies as one of the finest dramatists around - and with good reason. I would recommend that his critics in fandom rewatch some of his episodes, read some of his scripts, and try to figure out why that might be. It would be an excellent learning experience.
Teresa Jusino
10. TeresaJusino
@ Iain_Coleman

Thank you! And yes, this being his Gethsemane moment is the perfect way to put it.

And I agree with you re: the typical sci-fi bullshit. One of my other fandoms is another long-running sci-fi franchise from the 60s: Star Trek. :) It always annoys me when people are all "That's not how dilithium crystals work!" And I'm all "WHO CARES?! THAT'S NOT REAL ANYWAY!" :)
Mike Conley
11. NomadUK
Teresa@7:

Hey, hey, HEY! You leave George Lucas out of this! :)

Well, okay, then, how about Gene Roddenberry?

Just because Davies' name wasn't on the episodes you might have liked more, doesn't mean he had nothing to do with them or how they turned out.

True, and that's fine. But, in the same way that Roddenberry came up with a great concept, and had a lot to do with how the scripts written by others were filmed, it's generally the case that Roddenberry's scripts were okay, but not stellar (Bread and Circuses was the best of them).

Just because one is a great creative force doesn't mean one should be let loose on a typewriter or a word processor.

But speaking of Star Wars, have you seen the AWESOME review of The Phantom Menace on YouTube?

I hadn't, but it is, indeed, awesome. I love the bit where he asks people to describe the traits of the various characters.

Iain_Coleman@9: People who know about screenwriting (such as, say, Steven Moffat, and indeed pretty much everyone else in British TV writing) regard Russell T Davies as one of the finest dramatists around

Wow. One of the finest? That's pretty good, considering as a quick glance at IMDB indicates that he's written not a whole lot other than Doctor Who and derived stories.

You know who's a fine dramatist? Andrew Davies. Same surname, different fellow. You sure you're not thinking of him? Because if you look at what he's written, the word 'fine' comes relatively easily to mind, whereas when I look at what Russell Davies has written, the word somehow just doesn't want to show itself.
Teresa Jusino
12. TeresaJusino
@JJD111

You certainly have every right to not like the episode, and I think you and Thrillsville made some very valid points.

However, the one point I DO have to take issue with is your assertion that the Doctor wasn't being true to his character in this episode. I couldn't disagree more!

First of all, one thing I noticed about the Ninth Doctor, played by Eccleston, was that he was usually very serious - deeply affected by the Time War until Rose softened him a bit - so that whenever he WOULD smile, his eyes would light up like a child and the contrast would make his smile really pop, and I loved that! The opposite has been true of Tennant's Doctor. The Tenth Doctor is usually happy-go-lucky and smiley - so when he gets hurt, or angry, or sad, THAT really pops.

The question for the Ninth Doctor was "How do I get over what happened in the Time War?" The question for the Tenth Doctor, from the very beginning in The Christmas Invasion, was "How do I deal with my power, being that I'm the only one who can wield it?" In The Christmas Invasion, he starts out by showing us "what kind of man" he is. In The Runaway Bride, he kills that spider queen and her babies despite Donna's pleading. In The Family of Blood, the Doctor doesn't kill them, but he dispatches with them pretty cruelly nonetheless, and it's chilling when the son says "We wanted to live forever, so he made sure we did." In The Waters of Mars, we see all of that come to a head when he actually says out loud that, since he's the last of the Time Lords, he can do whatever he wants with his power, and becomes slightly megalomaniacal just before being brought back to Earth with Adelaide's suicide. The Tenth Doctor has ALWAYS been a Doctor who struggled with his power, and with striking a balance between knowing how important he is, and putting others ahead of himself. In the end, he always does the right thing, but it's the struggle that keeps him from being a one-note, stock "hero" character sketch.

Lastly, it's true that The Doctor isn't human - but good sci-fi, though it often features aliens, is all about commenting on humanity. Great sci-fi, like Doctor Who, acts both as a mirror showing us ourselves as we are, and as a crystal ball, showing us what we could be.
Blake Ellis
13. galaxyexpressed
I haven't seen either of these episodes, but I just gotta say, isn't starting this article with a bit of Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" a bit trite?
Eva Casillas
14. EvaLou
My husband and I discovered the new Doctor Who a couple of years ago and immediately became devoted fans. I almost feel like they can do no wrong (writing, directing, acting, etc). That's how much we love it. And I know there are many other fans who feel the same.

I was very disappointed when I heard about David Tennant leaving the show. But I think The End of Time was a brilliant way to end it. I felt emotionally connected to this Doctor through his struggles/growth over the past four years, and I didn't want that to end. But when I pull myself out of the scifi world and realize that the actor has a career to think about, I understand that things must change. But that's what makes this show so unique. The actors can change but the show will go on.

This particlur episode, as you so eloquently put it, shows us the fear of death which is inately human. No other Doctor has expressed his fear of regeneration the way that this one did. And to top it off, we weren't competely sure that the Doctor would be able to regenerate after absorbing all of that radiation. The way he went about saying goodbye to those he loved made us feel the finality of his life. And I thought the new Doctor was relieved as he inspects his new body and finds all of the pieces are there.

To me, the fear before regenerating speaks to all of us who believe in the afterlife. I have experienced this personally with family deaths. No matter how strongly you believe that there is life after death, it's still a sad and fearful event.

All in all, I thought it was very well done. Bravo.
Jason Henninger
15. jasonhenninger
I thought part one was wonky as hell but part two worked much better. I expect that some of the unanswered details may come back later, such as the Ood acceleration. (or, if it was explained I missed it.)

I'm only a Who fan since Eccleston (sp?) so the whole Time Lord backstory is not very clear to me, nor did I ever feel much about the Master. All that aside, I have some hope for Matt Smith. I liked his exuberance.
Thrillsville
16. Ace_Sigma
"And it isn’t fair. But it’s right."
That about sums it up. Thank you for a beautiful piece.
Teresa Jusino
17. TeresaJusino
@galaxyexpressed - Um, no? :) Are you anti-poem useage in general, or anti this particular poem...?

@EvaLou - I kind of feel like they can "do no wrong," too! :) Though there have been plenty of times when I've complained about some small thing or other, on the whole, it's consistently one of the best-written things on television.

@jasonhenninger - I, too, thought part one was wonky when I first watched it. But I think it works much better when you consider both parts as one long piece.

And yes, the Ood acceleration is explained by the Ood themselves. They're able to do this, because "time is bleeding." What happens in their far future starts affecting them much sooner in their history simultaneously because of what the Time Lords are doing. And I started with Eccleston, too! :) But I've been doing a LOT of homework to catch up!

@Ace_Sigma - thank you!
Blake Ellis
18. galaxyexpressed
@teresajustino Not anti-poem usage, just sentimental poem cliches like "Do Not Go Gentle..." Not that I don't think it's a powerful or exceptional poems, but stapling it as the header of a review about the goodbye episode to the tenth doctor reads like a middle schooler epigraphing their first short story with the last lines of T. S. Eliot's "The Hollow Men". It's played out. It seems silly.
On the other hand, I really unsarcastically appreciate your wholesome use of an emoticon to cooly address my snip. Just saying, you know? And way to stick to your guns! :D
Iain Coleman
19. Iain_Coleman
NomadUK@11 Wow. One of the finest? That's pretty good, considering as a quick glance at IMDB indicates that he's written not a whole lot other than Doctor Who and derived stories.

If you had taken the time to scroll down the page at IMDB you would have discovered Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Bob and Rose, Mine All Mine, Dark Season, The Grand, Century Falls and many others. You may never have seen these shows, you may not have liked them, but it is a matter of fact that they earned Davies an extremely high reputation as a screenwriter in the UK.

The reason why Doctor Who came back at all in 2005 was that the BBC were very, very keen to have Russell T Davies, and he said to them "I'll do any show you like, as long as it's Doctor Who".

And here's a quote from Steven Moffat, writing about the Series 3 opening episode "Smith and Jones":

Anyone who's interested in writing should study that script - it's one of the most technically brilliant scripts you'll ever get your hands on. The construction of it is dazzling, and yet - and this is the REALLY dazzling part - it's designed to feel light and airy and simple. And for that dim-witted reason, people think it IS simple. It's not, it's incredible. Look, what's folded away in all that gorgeous froth. A new main character, whole and complete - an old friend within minutes. Her entire background and family, all there for us, perfectly clear. And while all that’s going on, AT THE SAME TIME, a hospital gets stolen and taken to the (bloody) moon. All this in under ten minutes! And never mind all that, the entire format of the entire show is explained and sold to a brand new audience. Stunning. But - and this what makes your blood boil - because it's made to LOOK easy, idiots and critics think it IS easy. Try it! Go on, get yer pen, TRY it.

Thing is, I get a lot of praise for the complexity of Blink, and quite bloody right too. But because I know what I'm talking about, I can tell you as a matter of FACT, that Smith And Jones is WAY more complex. But because Blink wears its complexity on its sleeve, cos that was kind of the point, Smith And Jones conceals it, cos it's a means to an end.

Really and truly, Smith And Jones, go study. And if you don't think it's brilliant, shut up until you understand that it is.
Mike Conley
20. NomadUK
Iain_Coleman@19:
If you had taken the time to scroll down the page at IMDB you would have discovered Queer as Folk, The Second Coming, Bob and Rose, Mine All Mine, Dark Season, The Grand, Century Falls and many others.

Erm, not that many others, actually; I had, in fact, scrolled down the entire page before I wrote that, and didn't think there was all that much there, really. In any case, the Doctor Who and related stuff simply swamps all his other work.

Look, I'm sure that he writes technically lovely scripts, I'm sure it's very difficult work, and I can see for myself that he has a great imagination. But the end result, to me, is more often than not annoying and therefore not entertaining. I don't think I'm alone in that, but, obviously, others disagree. There's no accounting for taste.
Iain Coleman
21. Iain_Coleman
NomadUK@20:

A TV drama CV that most other writers would give their non-typing hand for doesn't seem to you to be "all that much"? His immense stature and respect in the TV industry, and the excited anticipation when it was revealed that Russell T Davies himself would be bringing back Doctor Who, must seem wholly inexplicable to you.

In any case, evidently you don't care for Davies' style. Fair enough. The obvious thing to do would be to avoid watching his dramas.
Teresa Jusino
23. TeresaJusino
@galaxyexpressed - I'm all ABOUT my guns. And, um, sticking to them. :) And emoticons. Apparently.

And yeah, using a poem kind of reminded me of my days posting emo entries on my LiveJournal. :) But you know what? I really like that poem. And it's honestly the first thing that popped into my head as I was watching the episode, so I used it.

@Iain_Coleman - thanks for posting that Steven Moffat quote about Smith and Jones. That's really cool! And he's very right.
Ian Gazzotti
24. Atrus
It seems my main gripe with RTD is the same reason why others think he's the best thing since sliced bread: he thinks Loud Drama is more important than plot, and upping the stakes makes it matter more.

I admit I'm extremely old school in that regard: the plot *is* the frakking drama. You pull people into your story by making it a story they can believe in. And as usual, show, not tell. If you have to stop the action to have a character spend 5 minutes _saying_ what they feel, you failed. If you have to derail the logic of your own plot because you cut yourself into a corner for the sake of 'drama', you did it wrong.

I thought The end of time was stupid, silly, uselessly over the top, and I spent half of it wishing the Doctor would just die so he'd stop being such a whiny baby.
Compare it to Caves of Androzani: no threat to the Earth, or the universe, or time itself; just a small political squabble and a man trying to save his friend he barely even knows. And yet it manages to be so much more intense and grandiose and heartbreaking than the Davies finales could ever hope to be.
Or, as death scenes go, the finale of Babylon 5 "Sleeping in light".

Incidentally, it also makes for a very nice comparison. The modern Doctor is always portrayed as some kind of messianic saviour, the lonely god, yada yada yada, while the Doctors of old were mostly blundering around, traveling for the sake of traveling and ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. And yet, Tennant's Doctor rants for a while that "oh, it's so unfair that I have to die^Wregenerate for this guy I just said I'd be proud to have as my dad!" before saving Wilf, while Davison's Doctor doesn't even think about saving himself before Peri. Who's the real hero here? Who could have done 'so much more'?

PS: that might make it seem as if I didn't like RTD at all, and that's not true. I loved his Casanova, Rose, and most of his episodes with Donna. I just think he works best with personal stories than with the Save The World scenarios.
Mike Conley
25. NomadUK
Okay, saw the second half, and it met all of my expectations.

Looking forward to the new series....
Ashe Armstrong
26. AsheSaoirse
I'm still kinda affected by it. I had those same plothole "Wtf" moments but really, I just let them go cause I was more concerned with seeing David go. The fall through the roof still bugs me but whatever. I was so in the moment that it only flashed briefly and then I was back in. Matt Smith had a great intro and if that's any indication to his style, I'm very much looking forward to him.
Thrillsville
27. a-j
Personally I was underwhelmed, but then RTD and David Tennant lost me a while back (the regeneration that never was to be precise). RTD's portrayal of Dr Who as Christ (good call on the Gethesemene reference) didn't work for me. But the important thing to remember is that RTD brought back a much loved TV series against a great deal of opposition from the BBC who always seemed to be embarrassed by it. In an interview he gave he stated that a great many were willing the series to fail. He did not and that excuses a lot, an awful lot. He has also realised that he needs to move on. One of the factors that ended the original series was the producer John Nathan Turner had been in place against his will for far too long and it showed. Steven Moffat has a proven track record with his Dr Who scripts and his mini-series 'Jekyll' which I highly recommend. I'm looking forward to the new series.
Thrillsville
28. Brian3
There's a nice moment in David Drake Some Gold Harbor where one character (Daniel) drifts into sounding motivational when the other (Adele) just wants to know what's going on. After she calls him on it, it becomes clear to him that "He'd been speaking for effect rather than talking to Adele."

That's what's tended to put me off Davies' Who. You can see what he's set out to do, and he's technically very good, but the result comes out feeling contrived and self-conscious, and it seems to preen a little over what strikes me as half-baked ideas. Not to sound dismissive, since of course he did bring back Who to begin with, and made something very good of it (generally when Moffat or Cornell were writing it). I do like some of his scripts a lot, such as Smith and Jones, and the reintroduction of the Master. But too often I feel that he's writing for effect, and not addressing the viewer as an equal.

In this case, Gethsemane moment, really good idea. Nice touch that the Doctor died over a small-scale event rather than a large one. Very well played by Tennant and by Bernard Cribbins, who's brilliant in this. I would have loved to take a bath in it. But it left me unmoved, as if I'd been watching the writer playing chess. The drama ended up being about how Davies would handle the story.

I suppose it would have played better if so many rabbits weren't being pulled out of hats (and then jammed right back into the hat, as you knew they would be, Gallifrey for example). While I admire Davies' impulse to put everything he had into the story, the plot was a very mixed bag. Some nice touches, for example the throwaway point that the narrator is actually Rasillon, apparently brought back in Gallifrey's last hours. The bit about the Master jumping about and throwing energy bolts was okay, in its way -- right, here's something you didn't know that Time Lords can do, but that's because they wouldn't do it unless they were barking mad; it added to the atmosphere of these being the Last Days, and Tennant played it correctly, unsurprised and rather sad. The trouble was that there was so much of it in the end that by the time the Doctor's death came up there was no longer a sense of action and consequence, but rather just one damn thing after another. At that point you really needed to believe what was happening, and see some cause and effect in it, and that had gone out the window.

Case in point, the way the Doctor died. Broadly speaking, well conceived -- the Doctor dies saving just one life, no distractingly big stakes, and it comes out of nowhere. But the execution undermines the whole point. Unless I missed it, which is quite possible, the whole radiation chamber thing wasn't set up at all. It was just by the way, something physically unbelievable happens in that chamber, which is that we're using it to somehow channel the power of a fusion bomb, and of course the chamber's in the same room, and there isn't a lock or a warning mechanism, and ... This could have been made a lot less ad hoc. And the reason it wasn't was that Davies was trading shamelessly on Spock's death in Star Trek II, just as he'd quoted Star Wars earlier on.

And who was that woman who was advising Wilf on what to do? Apart from a plot device, I mean. If this weren't the end of Davies' time on the show, you might hope to get an answer sooner or later, and if there'd been fewer bangs and crashes generally you might have had a chance to see her as mysterious, but it all fell rather flat.
Chris Meadows
30. Robotech_Master
@AsheSaoirse, I suspect we were supposed to be left wondering about the subtexts and so forth, but from the looks that passed between them and the way she was concerned about the Doctor when she talked to Wilf, I suspect she may have been supposed to be the Doctor's mother. But it was left deliberately undefined, perhaps so fans could argue about it for the next umpty-ump years.

I wonder if I'm the only one who was a little bothered that Wilf seemed to know a lot more about the Doctor than his appearances in the TV show can explain. I don't seem to recall him ever spending all that much time around the Doctor in the show, yet he knows an awful lot about him.

And he drops these little gems like lines about how the Doctor always talked about the Time Lords as being wonderful. Always when?

Yes, there are always those myriad adventures that don't show up in the show and are left to expanded continuity like novels and such. But really, that's just sloppy. :P
Thrillsville
31. AnthonyOmen
I must apologize for jumping in, but saying that people "nitpicking" details about the plot that aren't explained is "bs" is just lazy. I too had a TON of questions about this episode, and not in a good "I want more" way. The Master's lightning powers seemed really bizzare, and the Doctor's non-surprise that the Master could suddenly shoot lightning from his hands seemed a bit odd and was never even given a throwaway line. Also, the point where (spoilers) the Master shoots a sustained bolt of lightning into the Doctor's chest kindof killed my suspension of disbelief. The Doctor gets visibly nervous around guns and blasters, yet can suddenly absorb levels of electricity that mere seconds ago were powerful enough to cause FLAMES to spring from the ground. It makes no sense even in the context of the show's own reality.

I agree with people that said these episodes felt like a bunch of scenes strung together with the intention of getting The Doctor to his final scene. In "The Waters of Mars", the Doctor realizes he's becoming something he doesn't like as the "Time Lord Victorious", yet in this episode he waffles beteween whining about his fate and strutting around exactly like the "Time Lord Victorious" that he just realized he didn't want to be. It's disjointed and hard to watch, not because of the acting - David Tennant manages to make almost any writing seem brilliant, and Bernard Cribbins gives him a run for his money in the moving scenes department - but because none of th hallmarks of this Doctor in David Tennant's run seems to have made it into the finale. This episode just seemed to lose that magic that almost the entire rest of the series had. Also the rest of the series was anchored in bringing us along for the ride - the exposition in most episodes was always of a caliber that made the rest of that episode seem worth it. The payoff at the end of each episode when you figure out along with the Doctor just what the hell is going on is one of the hallmarks of this Doctors run, so to say suddenly in the last episode that expecting that to continue is "bs" is rediculous. This wasn't even a variation on a theme - this seemed almost like a "What If" tale, completely disconnected from the continuity somehow.

The voiceover bit felt clunky and forced, as well. And while we're on Time Lords...all of the Doctor's exposition about how wonderful and good the Time Lords are seems to be completely unfounded. The Time Lords come across as manipulative and egomaniacal, not in any way as the peaceful keepers of the Laws of Time. It throws the Doctor's grief over their previous fate into a weird spotlight -

The Doctor faced death on a number of occasions and only slightly showed hesitation in a few instances. Yet for some reason this prophecy has him knee-knocking and moping about. I agree that it does humanize the Doctor, but the way this incarnation has established himself is as "always alright". Hes the most "Keep Calm and Carry On" of all the Doctors so far. I felt like the Doctor we had come to know was already dead, and I couldn't quite pinpoint when it happened. Going off on holiday when the Ood appear to him in vision? Really? Because he's facing his own death? Where is the Doctor from the Waters of Mars literally an episode earlier, shouting "THREE KNOCKS IS ALL YOU GET!" Where is the Doctor who was willing to blow himself up along with the Sontarans to save the Earth? Running about after the Master instead of using his wits?

also the whole ending scene seemed clunky as well. I'm not saying I could have written better, but David certainly deserved a better send off.

I could be alone but just watching this on my own without checking Internet for opinions beforehand, I felt like this wasn't even a Doctor Who episode. Everything compelling about David's run as the Doctor was absent.

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