Dr Who and the Daleks written by Terry Nation and directed by Gordon Flemming
TO BE REVIEWED...
Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD written by Terry Nation and directed by Gordon Fleming
TO BE REVIEWED...
K.9 and Company: A Girls Best Friend written by Terrance Dudley and directed by John Black
This story in a nutshell: Sarah Jane is going solo…and she has a metal dog for company!
Investigate Journalist: Elisabeth Sladen is one of my favourite actresses because she has the awesome ability to turn shit into gold – she turned what could have been dreadfully pious and militant feminist character into a warm, witty and wonderful human being to travel with the Doctor. If she had any doubts as to whether she could hold up her own series they were completely unfounded because she once again takes a hold of something pretty unremarkable and wrings some golden moments out of it. Its nowhere near the vehicle Invasion of the Bane was for her character (I loved how that story built her up as an enigma across the road to be cracked) but it is a valuable stepping stone between The Hand of Fear and The Five Doctors which then seams into School Reunion. Sarah has been abroad (hopefully chasing stories) and has come to her Aunt’s to write a book. Interestingly considering she ends up running something a teenage crèche in later years she tells Brendan that she doesn’t want to be surrogate mum. However she falls into the role with effortless ease and has a very appealing maternal side to her. When she realises K.9 is a gift from the Doctor she sweetly realises that he hadn’t forgotten about her. Sarah is told to knock a drink back or two and it might make her a little less prickly! Its always nice to catch Sarah behind a typewriter at work and in this fire lit location it works a treat. She always was a townie and gets to rail against the eccentricity and relaxed attitude of the country folk in the police station. I think I just wanted to spend more time in Sarah’s company than anything and when she is laughing away at the end of the story I wanted to know what happened to her next.
Posh Twat: I rather like Brendan even when he acts like a bit of a twat (that awful laugh) and he is brought to life by a reasonably good actor in Ian Sears. It’s interesting to compare him to the other male assistant at the time (Adric) and he winds up looking even more impressive. Frankly Seers would have been far more likable in Waterhouse’s role but I guess it was a case of finding him too late.
The Good: To be fair to John Black’s (whose direction is laid back at the best of times) his handling of the nighttime coven scenes is surprisingly atmospheric. The robed figures chanting around a fire and those horrible goat masks conjure a ambiance of dark magic and it all looks sumptuous captured on film. One of the reasons I am glad this story was made is to get a chance to see Aunt Lavinia, Sarah’s surrogate parent and the career driven scientist brainchild of the family. Mary Wimbush lights up ciggies like there is no tomorrow and doesn’t disappoint – Lavinia clearly loves the scandal her work erupts and won’t be deterred by gossips and doom mongers. Despite a very different tone it’s surprising how many elements of this adventure feel familiar to Lis Sladen’s later spin off, The Sarah Jane Adventures. Had this gone to a series it would have featured Sarah Jane, a boy genius and K.9 and would have been primarily set a grand old house. I really like the sets for Lavinia’s house, they feel huge and they are packed full of curios, painting and lovely old-fashioned furniture. There is a domestic feel to this series that was completely missing from Doctor Who at the time and was very welcome. Mind you perhaps a little too welcome because Sarah seems to spend the first half of the story flitting from one living room to the next!
The Bad: I would say that the story had pacing issues if it ever approached anything called pace and whilst the early scenes are cute enough the story plods from one introduction to another with very little momentum. It feels as if we are moving to Morton Harwood rather than getting involved in a story. Why does Linda Polan play Juno as though she is always conniving something? Her phone call to Sarah suggests an evil plan being hatched when really she is just being neighbourly! Where has Sarah moved to, Royston Vasey? The incidental music is all wrong because it has the tacky, outer space feel of season eighteen as created by the radiophonic workshop whereas it needed a sinister, orchestral feel. How funny is the sequence where K.9 pursues that fella out of the house and past the greenhouses? He is so slow the actor has to keep stopping to get his breath back to allow the poor automaton a chance to catch up with him! I wonder if Simon Pegg hadn’t seen K.9 and Company before embarking on Hot Fuzz because there is a familiar feeling that every bugger in this village is up to satanic ritualism! In the film it is played for laughs whereas here it is treated with deadly seriousness and in some ways that is even funnier. Sarah leaps to the rather odd conclusion that somebody is trying to kill her when a tractor leaps out of a field onto the road she is driving on although it is clearly visible for about half a mile and she could have easily have slowed down! This is either poor direction on John Black’s part or an overreaction on Sarah’s. I tend to believe it was the former. The conclusion is really frustrating because it actually builds quite nicely with what feels like a genuine threat to Brendan’s life and some nice music but then K.9 dashes off to the rescue and the whole thing goes down the pan with actors holding up knives and waiting for his stun ray to hit them to fall over! It goes from atmospheric kiddie horror to science fiction farce in a few seconds! Commander Pollock, the man who has been dogging Sarah’s footsteps throughout the story, turns out to be the head villain! We’ve now blundered into Columbo territory! Predictable doesn’t cover it.
The Title Sequence: I was going to stick this in the bad section but then I suddenly remembered how much joy it has given me over the years and I had to give it a section of its own. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience of watching the title sequence when I bought my VHS copy. As far as I recall my coffee went for a burton and I was left in agonising fits of laughter on the living room rug! What on Earth were they thinking? Without a doubt the most 1980s sequence ever committed to film – if you want to see where everything went wrong in that era just stick these titles on. The fashion, the cars, the hair, the awful gadgets, the way everybody tried to look hip, the editing, the horrendous zooms…and the godawful music. Poor Lis Sladen is made to look as though she is blissed out on wine wandering around the country in her metro, occasionally getting out to jog along the country roads and pull down a paper and stare into the camera as though she really is sizzled. It’s agonisingly awful and very, very funny. I always stick it on when I am in a bad mood (its got its own little clip on YouTube) but as a title sequence to introduce a gritty new series about an investigative journalist it fails on every level. What on Earth was K.9 doing on that wall?
The Shallow Bit: Poor Brendan is put in a white dress to be sacrificed. I guess the idea was to make him look virginal but he just looks like a geek in a petticoat.
Result: There is a shot of Sarah, Brendan and K.9 discussing the disappearance of Aunt Lavinia when I caught a glimpse of the potential of this series and could see with some tighter storytelling that it could work. Of course they went on to prove that many years later with The Sarah Jane Adventures but for scant moments you can see what an engaging series this could have been too. There is an engaging Enid Blyton-esque atmosphere to some of the material that should have been capitalised on far more than it is. Kudos to the designer (the sets are lovely) and the principal actors who help to keep the story afloat but the two key areas, writing and direction, are what let this story down. The dialogue is pretty leaden (I can’t think of a single line that stands out) and the story moves at a glacial pace and John Black doesn’t help by shooting it in the most pedestrian way possible (the camera is usually fixed to the spot and there is no attempt at high or low angles, shooting through the sets, etc). The best thing on offer is Lis Sladen who is as marvellous as ever and lights up the story whenever she appears. Ultimately I can see why this wasn’t picked up as an entire season in this vain would have been too much but Sarah working without the Doctor and looking into supernatural happenings is a tempting possibility that has now reared its head and without it Russell T Davies may never have followed up on its promise: 5/10
Doctor Who The Movie written by Matthew Jacobs and directed by Geoffrey Sax
TO BE REIVEWED...
Planet of the Dead written by Gareth Roberts & Russell T Davies and directed by James Strong
This story in a nutshell: A bus in a desert…
Mockney Dude: The trouble with the tenth Doctor at this point is that Russell T Davies is struggling to find new things to do with the character and so he backtracks and uses reliable characteristics that feel bland through overuse. So all this rubbish about being at the real Easter, the little dish on his device and his assuring speeches feel desperately tired because we have seen it all before. In the very next story Davies would prove that this incarnation has some surprises still locked away inside of him but this is an unfortunate trip down memory lane before we get there. Sonicking his glasses into sunnies should be a very cool moment but it just made me groan. The Doctor speaks every language, even insectoid, which means we have two unbearably conceited protagonists in this story. It would have been much more interesting had communication been a struggle. Scenes between the Doctor and Christina talking flirtatiously about their thieving lifestyles fails to muster any interest…if the spark aint there its just two people nattering in a very boring fashion. Why does the Doctor kiss every person that offers their lips these days? At least Matt Smith reserves himself for one woman but the tenth Doctor is like the ultimate tramp. Just when you think the Doctor might still have some balls by turning down her request to travel with him he helps her to escape police custody. How crushingly predictable. Remember when this Doctor could bring down the Prime Minister with five words, I miss that guy.
Lady Christina: A huge problem at the heart of this story is that David Tennant and Michelle Ryan fail to connect in the same way he did with Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman and Catherine Tate and what should have been flirtatious moments look awkward (go and watch Matt Smith and Alex Kingston to see how this sort of thing should be done). A second problem is that Christina doesn’t feel like a remotely believable person, she sounds like a management training textbook half the time and her plumy upper class tones make you want to kick her about a bit every time she smugly trumps the Doctor. Christina is right, they don’t make any sort of couple thank you very much. ‘What the blazes was that?’ – Ryan should stick to being a cockney in Eastenders…she’s far more convincing at it.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He will knock four times.’
The Good Stuff: Who would ever have thought Doctor Who could conjure up images as cinematic as the crumpled bus lost in a desert of crisp, glowing sand dunes? The blistering vistas of Dubai are visually stunning. Lee Evan’s Malcolm is the Sergeant Osgood of the noughties and pretty much the best thing about this story but he is only a peripheral comic plot device so that isn’t really saying much. To be fair to the director his whopping great first zoom in on the Tritovore is gloriously tacky and made me whoop with laughter. Mugambe pointing a gun at Malcolm was the one moment my interest really perked up. The funniest scene comes when Lee Evans falls off a chair.
The Bad Stuff: The opening scenes are the most expensive art theft scenes outside of a big screen movie you are likely to see and whilst they are easy on the eye it is pretty hollow opening to a story. It is all a bit too stylised and self aware for its own good (‘happy Easter’). By this stage I was truly bored of seeing red London buses and long shots of City. It felt like the show never went anywhere else. Despite attempts you can’t really have a dynamic action sequence featuring a bus. Keith Parry really got the short straw by biting the dust within 15 minutes and not getting any characterisation beyond being called ‘bus driver.’ Paul Cornell has a lot to answer for when he introduced this touchy feely lets get to share each other feelings bollocks which turns up in the new series every now again. This is a particularly vacuous bunch and their tales of staying in a watching telly and chops and gravy being special is blatant audience manipulation of the worst kind. Even a faceless bunch of UNIT soldiers turning up doesn’t feel special anymore after their host of appearances in Doctor Who, Sarah Jane and Torchwood. The Doctor has connected mobiles phones across space and time ad nauseum. We’ve had soothsayers spitting out future plot developments before (Fires of Pompeii) and it was a lot more interesting then. Swarms of creatures (the Reapers, the Vashta Nerada) are old hat. Insect monsters that are less than convincing…it’s The Web Planet innit? Rather than give the idea of the planet of the dead any emotional worth the script would rather make cheap shots about dead people in Christina’s hair. The swarm looks very similar to the monsters in the Longoliers and have about as much interest – they are just a bunch of hungry creatures and with no voice or personality once again the episode misses a trick in getting the audience involved. The story wastes time showing Christina performing death defying stunts which aren’t very impressive. Argh – they even repeat the ‘I had this friend once and that’s what they used to call me’ scene! Get some new material! Was I the only person who wanted to slap the woman who kept blubbing (so unmemorable I cannot even remember her name!). Why is it when they superimpose objects over the London skyline it looks so unconvincing. They had the same trouble in Doomsday with the floating Daleks and the bus looks similarly daft here. More clapping, cheering and saluting of the Doctor – makes me want to vomit.
Result: Planet of the Dead is a whole bunch of tatty New Series clichés wrapped up in a very pretty package. It the dullest approach to telling a story in years by revealing the twist of the tale in the title and then following that up after half and hour with a bucket load of exposition. We have no reason to connect with what has happened on this planet, no personal stakes and as a result genocide feels like an event to shrug your shoulders at. The tenth Doctor feels remarkably tired in this story, happy to trade off his old clichéd characteristics and obvious humour and Michelle Ryan doesn’t register in the slightest. You have a threat devoid of personality and a story that always goes for exhibitionism over emotional involvement and no sense of danger. Even the musical cues are old hat. There are a few moments of gift wrapped spectacle and the odd laugh with Lee Evans but ultimately the one and only Easter special fails to live up to that name – more than ever before in Doctor Who’s history does a change of administration feel necessary. This is the ultimate popcorn telly; light, forgettable and even whilst you are consuming it you would hard pressed to figure out why: 3/10
The Waters of Mars written by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford & directed by Graeme Harper
Mockney Dude: Of the four specials that were created to see the tenth Doctor off I find The Waters of Mars has the most provocative and engrossing characterisation, beating even his swansong. Tennant was asked to give a lot throughout his tenure but I think this might just be his best performance in his run, inching out his previous bests of Human Nature, Forest of the Dead and Midnight. What I really love is the contrasts, he plays the first half of the episode quietly and sensitively and then goes for the kill and unleashes bloody vengeance on Time (oh yes it deserves that capital here). This is the sort of story that could only be attempted when the incumbent Doctor is knowingly departing (and both the viewers and the character know this) but I still think portraying the Doctor as a hysterical, wild-eyed egomaniac full of his own self importance and willing to take on anybody that stands in the way of how he sees things is remarkably brave. It would appear that Donna was right and companionless he is more reckless than ever. This is great story to reveal the Doctor’s insatiable thirst for knowledge as every fibre of his body is telling him to leave but as things get more dangerous he just has to know what the truth is about Bowie Base I. His compassion towards Gadget pays dividends since the robot manages to save the day ultimately. His relationship with Adelaide is gorgeous throughout, initially distrustful, then respectful and then the Doctor twists a knife her gut by telling her it is her fate to die and she begs him to them. If Catherine Tate hadn’t made such an impression in my heart I would say that Adelaide was the best companion the tenth Doctor had. Only appearing in this story that is quite a statement. During the unforgettable climax the Doctor declares his Godhood and that he is taking over from where the Time Lords left off and his hubris is instantly trampled on by Adelaide who demands to know who the hell he is to decide who is ‘little people.’ When she backs away from, genuinely terrified by what he has become the audience realise that the Doctor has crossed a line. He declares himself terrifyingly unstoppable and as Adelaide tells him like a slap round the face, that’s wrong.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Earth is so much water. It has so much beauty. We should like that world.’
‘Water is patient. Water waits.’
The Good Stuff: The messages that the crew of Bowie Base I receive from their loved ones is simple, powerful economic characterisation (sums up Russell’s greatest strength as a writer, I feel). Has Mars ever looked more gorgeous than it does here, blood red skyline, glowing sands (and the TARDIS looks incongruously resplendent). I really enjoyed the subtle interplay between Ed and Adelaide, as well as the shocking character development on display there are lots of quieter moments as well that really sell the idea that this is a unit with history. Gadget is as cute as a button and perfect fodder for the kids. The direction is fantastic throughout but certain moments such as the first transformation, blurred in the background to heighten the tension, are inspired. Knowing that these characters are all due to die ramps up the tension at a very early stage. The exterior of Bowie Base is dazzlingly authentic and I love how the ‘camera’ swoops across it so dynamically, cleverly putting us in each location. There is some nice world building with the mention of the dangerous climate and an oil apocalypse. We have a stereotypically creepy Doctor Who location in the hydroponics area and yet it’s visually stunning (the birds are a lovely touch). Yuri’s brothers story about the car not only manages to be a very sweet gay reference (some of them are quite laboured throughout RTD’s era although I do appreciate their inclusion all the same) but also distracts us from Maggie convulsing in the background. Ewww…those mouths blackened by fission and grotesque cracked lips, the vomiting water and pupils like daggers, this is one example of make up scaring the shit out of me! The skin crawling glug glug glug music courtesy of Murray Gold. Abusing Gadget for a ride (plus Roman’s electrifying epilepsy) is way cool. How nice is to finally have a decent reason for an alien force to want to travel to Earth…for the water. Maggie, mutilated, bleached red and screaming her alien scream is enough to give you nightmares. Its nice to the see the fixed moments in Time notion brought to the fore (ala Fires of Pompeii) to bite the Doctor in the butt again. There is a flashback to The Stolen Earth that offers a new perspective on an old story (like Love and Monsters) but it features some stunning characterisation (‘It simply went away. I knew that night I would follow it’) and sensual music. The airlock scenes between the Doctor and Adelaide are remarkably intense, usually Davies equates drama with scale but here he this is an emphatically quiet moment between two astounding actors and their penetrating reactions to the dialogue. To be told that your death would have such consequences is an awful burden to live up to and typically of this story’s no easy options approach. I always get goosebumps when the water finally breaks through, every single time I watch this story – I am so absorbed by this point I find these moments genuinely terrifying. Stephie watching her family on the screen as she is killed hits a level of psychological terror this show usually avoids (and probably with good reason). Wow, the fireworks when the rocket explodes are budget breakingly dazzling. Gadget soars across wine coloured Mars to the TARDIS – I could just bottle that moment as why I love Doctor Who so much. Those the most intense 10 minutes of Doctor Who you are ever likely to watch and they are incredibly assembled by Graeme Harper, ending on an almighty explosion. Adelaide’s suicide is intimately played; it’s a genuinely chilling twist both in its action and its implication that that Doctor has gone too far. The Cloister Bell tolls the Doctor’s death.
The Bad Stuff: The cuts to the screen with the information about the fate of the Bowie Base crew is a lovely idea and well executed but the point is laboured by far too many cuts after each character is introduced. There’s a lot of macho running in this story! The hysterical performances of Tennant and Duncan as they discover Andy looks like an uncomfortable moment of improvisation.
The Shallow Bit: Yuri is desperately cute. I can’t say that I fancy him but I would sit him on my bed and cuddle him before I go to bed.
Result: The Waters of Mars is the only Doctor Who story that gives me goosebumps every time I watch it. There is a dynamic pace that is maintained throughout and the tension intensifies with every single second. Viscerally and emotionally it is one of the most unnerving and discomforting Doctor Who stories and it also features the most powerful characterisation in NuWho, economically painted in some very deep strokes. It’s a superb cast that totally convince as a unit working together under siege. Lindsey Duncan deserves much praise for her turn as Adelaide, one of the most impressive guest appearances in Doctor’s near half decade. Adelaide is likable, intense, utterly believable and riveting foil for the Doctor. The story keeps pushing at the end until you are gagging for air and it says some frightening things about the tenth Doctor who has started believing his own reputation. If this does turn out to be Graeme Harper’s swansong it demonstrates why he was the best director to work on Doctor Who: 10/10
The End of Time written by Russell T Davies and directed by Euros Lyn
This story in a nutshell: Bye Bye, David…
Mockney Dude: A tour de force performance from David Tennant in his final story bringing an intensity to the role that has rarely been touched on before. Clearly the Doctor desperately needs a companion since he walks out of the TARDIS and babbles on for what feels like the length of a bible with no one to tell him to shut up. His hair is modern according in Wilf, you know all sticky uppy! The Doctor and the Master can sense each other, its almost as if they are sniffing each other out like dogs! He manages to drive both old men and old women mad with lust! In a very intimate confession he admits to Wilf that he is going to die soon and even if he changes it feels like dying and a new man goes sauntering away. Whilst the novels have explored regeneration in some depth (Kate Orman’s The Room with No Doors is a great example) this the first time we have heard the Doctor’s thoughts on the process and the psychological implications (unless you count The Twin Dilemma) and it’s fascinating. He looks out of the window and sees Donna and is quietly devastated to be so close and yet so far from his best friend. In acknowledgement to The Waters of Mars he thought he would be better travelling on his own (given the heartbreak over Rose, Martha and Donna you can see how he might have come to this conclusion) but he did some things, it went wrong. The scenes between the Doctor and the Master in his wasteland hell suggest an intimate friendship as well as being bitter enemies. I have never been keen on their relationship but it is portrayed in a very intense, fascinating way. He just loves playing with Earth girls. He tells the Master he could be beautiful and he doesn’t need to conquer the universe, just see it. The Doctor doesn’t know what he would be without the Master and he would be proud if Wilf was his dad. Admits he is not an innocent, that he has taken lives but he got clever and manipulated people into taking their own lives (nice follow up from Davros’ examination of him in Journey’s End). Sometimes he thinks a Time Lord lives too long. Refuses to take the Wilf’s gun. The Doctor chose to remember the Time Lords of old but they went to war and it changed them. Has he ever looked so cut up and bloody, it really looks as if he is on the way out? He’s wild eyed, spitting, bloody and gun toting – an unforgettable image as he confronts the Master and Rassilon. ‘You never would you coward’ says the Master when he points a gun at him. Just when you think things cannot get any more intense we realise how the Doctor is destined to die and he rails against the unfairness of the universe that has determined his time is up. Tennant is better than ever in his final scenes, like a spectre of death. When he is on the bridge staring down at Mickey and Martha he looks just like the Watcher. As if today wasn’t bad enough…Sylvia is smiling at him! How wonderful that sacrificing his life is rewarded by him surviving long enough to visit all of his old companions (we only see the Davies companions here but we learn in The Death of the Doctor that he visited them all, except Adric presumably). The Doctor is alone, stumbling towards the TARDIS with the universe singing him to his death and his last words are ‘I don’t want to go’ before one of the most explosive regenerations ever. Some of the finest characterisation of the Doctor in any medium sees the tenth Doctor depart the series.
Old Codger: Does anybody not like Bernard Cribbins as Wilf? Is it possible? How can you fail to adore such a cheerful, sentimental, loving old codger? How long have I been waiting for the Doctor to have an older companion (aside from the fabulous Evelyn Smythe in the audios)? All my wishes came to true when Tennant and the Great Cribbo were creeping outside the Naismith Mansion in a very old-school Doctor Who fashion! Wilf has never been one for churches, they are too cold. His little dance against the bus is fabulous and I love the idea that he has a secret network of old cronies to call on. Wilf runs away from Sylvia saying ‘you’re not leaving me with her!’ He would be proud to be the Doctor’s Dad. Wilf’s reaction to being space reminds you of the wonder of travelling with the Doctor in a very understated, beautiful way. He has always dreamt of a view of the Earth from space. Bernard Cribbins makes the character background dump of his time in Palestine at the end of the Mandate in 1948 so poignant and his admission that he may never visit his wife’s grave broke my heart. Private Mott surrounded by a blizzard of bullets, the whole world gone mad. Not an original observation but Wilf larking about in the laser is beyond pleasurable – I whooped with joy throughout! When he thinks the Doctor is on a suicide run he refuses to stop him. Watch as Wilf leaps into the booth to save a strangers life without a second thought, what a guy! He was always here, waiting for the Doctor’s life to end. The last shot we see is of Wilf bleeding with tears knowing the Doctor is heading off to die. He might be one of the shortest ‘companions’ on record but he is also one of the most wonderful.
Tempestuous Temp: I went into this story in two minds. I was desperate for Donna to get her memories back and remember her life with the Doctor and yet I always get so annoyed that Davies continually turns his back on his devastating companion endings (bringing Rose back, bringing Martha back…). Cleverly he gets to have his cake and eat it by bringing her back, reminding us of how terrific she was, have her remember everything in a very tense moment and then give her a happy ending without turning his back on that upsetting twist. Smart sod. Donna is getting married again, this time to dreamer Shaun Temple. Sometimes there is a look on her face which is so sad and she can’t remember why. Donna is subconsciously still helping the Doctor out without even realising. Her final scenes are deliriously happy and the Doctor helping Donna to become a ‘triple rollover’ millionaire is the next best thing to her not getting her memories back.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There is only the Master Race!’ Love that line!
‘The human disgrace!’
The Good Stuff: Dalton’s voice over gives this story a real sense of importance, of gravity. Car locking the TARDIS just works. It looks as though millions has been spent on this story, the Ood Sphere looks dazzling and the Elder Ood is an awesome prosthetic. ‘The End of Time itself’ – well you can’t say they didn’t go for something truly apocalyptic for Tennant’s last story. John Simm is utterly chilling as the gluttonous, rabid, feral Master, he is completely psychotic and his ‘DINNER TIME!’ scares the crap out of me! I don’t think the Master has ever been as scary as this. The skeletal Master effect, glowing blue with an electric scream really chills the blood. Is the Master mad or has that noise in his head driven him to insanity. The Noble family scenes are marvellous; they are the best (and by far the most convincing) family Davies brought to Doctor Who. Conker heads Vinvocchi are a welcome touch of madness in an unusually dark story. Ripping apart the chicken is really disturbing, could the Master get any scarier? The idea of the hospital that cures an entire planet is another very nice conceit. I like how Davies drops in the glass doors early on so people can’t say at the end of the story ‘where did that come from?’ Some people really had a problem with the Master clones all over the world, didn’t they? Like this is the oddest thing we have seen in Doctor Who! I love it, its pure craziness but so convincingly and excitingly done I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in it! Gallifrey has never look so splendid, it’s an awesome image of destruction (and the crashed Daleks ships just made my day!). Russell T Davies has finally got his way and dressed the Master in drag. Is that the Seeker from The Ribos Operation? ‘I will not die!’ – Timothy Dalton brings real gravitas to the role of Rassilon. Gallifrey’s salvation is the Earth, how the mighty have fallen. I was screaming with twisted excitement when Donna was pursued on the streets by the multiple Masters. The Master’s madness, the heartbeat of a Time Lord, sent back in time when he was eight years old to torment him all of his life to save Gallifrey in his final days. What a poor sod, Davies turns the Master into Doctor Who’s ultimate tragic character, a victim his whole life. The direction of the Vinvocchi ship is exceptional, smoky, oily pipes and the creaking hull, it is very evocative. The dogfight is the most dizzyingly spectacular action set piece in any Doctor Who story, Wilf having the time of his life firing the lasers, the ship tearing through the atmosphere, screaming across the ocean and ducking and avoiding the missiles! Breathlessly dynamic and huge fun. I would love to see the Skaro Degradation. The Time Lords wanted to become beings of consciousness (echoes of Lawrence Miles there) and leave the universe to go to hell is some pretty meaty development. Its great to see the Master off as a flawed hero, kicking the crap out of Rassilon. The dreadful realisation that Wilf is responsible for the four knocks (and the way the music just dies…) is probably my favourite ever Doctor Who twist. The music throughout is great but the last ten minutes are amongst Murray Gold’s finest ever work. It is indulgent but I think Davies was perfectly was within his right to celebrate everything he has brought to the show and lets face it these are some wonderful scenes. The look Sarah gives him always gives me goosebumps, the Cantina scene look great (and what bad thoughts I had about Jack and Alonzo!), Jessica Hynes makes a superb re-appearance (and if any story was worth celebrating along with the characters it is Human Nature) and it is delightful to see Donna get a happy ending. Geoffrey Noble giving the Doctor the pound to help his daughter after his death turns out to be the most wrenching moment, Davies’ character drama at its finest. Rose and Jackie pre-2005’s first series is the perfect finishing touch. That is one truly explosive, dramatic regeneration – the music is gobsmackingly good.
The Bad Stuff: I still have no idea what the TARDIS in the stained glass is all about except to pad out the story. Who the hell are those Master wannabes? I still have absolutely no idea how the Master was brought back, some biometric whatnot or something? They may have well have just said abracadabra and then he was there! I found Lucy Saxon’s plan within a plan to kill Saxon really pointless, once again padding out the story. President Obama has promised to end the recession – he didn’t do a very good job of it, did he? What a lame Obama double! What’s with the Master leaping about all willy-nilly? The mention of the Weeping Angels is pointless continuity. Rassilon waving his magic glove and turning the human race back is just so easy! The ending with Gallifrey’s blink and you’ll miss it is not only a bit samey from what has come before but its no where near as exciting as the character work going on around it. Martha and Mickey?
The Shallow Bit: I kind think the Master is a little sexy with his blond hair and stubble. Just not when he’s devouring a chicken.
Result: A spectacular conclusion for the tenth Doctor, albeit overlong and padded in the first half. It’s a dazzlingly gorgeous production with the best effects, direction and music we have ever seen, there is no area of the production that you can fault. The scenes between David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins will break your heart and they both give exceptional performances and they are almost trumpeted by John Simm who gives a bravura turn as the Master that is impossible to forget. Sparkling moments abound from the fabulously nutty cliffhanger; the dogfight and the testosterone stand off between the Doctor, the Master and Rassilon. My biggest gripe is that the first part takes far too long to get to the point, constantly reminding us that this is something important rather than getting on with being important! The second episode is practically flawless, the pace is divine, the character work soars and Davies’ love letter to his era is beautifully pitched. Ending on a gasp of explosive joy, The End of Time closes one magical chapter of Doctor Who and kick starts us into another. Episode one scores a 7 and episode two scores a 9 and the overall mark is: 8/10