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06 May 2013 @ 02:00 pm
The Randomizer: The End of Time  
Re-watching The End of Time was fascinating. It seemed to sum up both the good points and the bad points of RTD's Doctor Who output which, I suppose, is only right and fitting.

One of the things that surprised me was how much of the contents of these two episodes I had forgotten. I remembered, very clearly, Wilf tapping away at the door of his cubicle, four times. That is such a clear and desperate image, the four knocks, that I wonder if that is where the story started and everything else was written outwards from there. That is definitely one of RTD's strengths, the arresting image that is not only stunning in and of itself, but also cuts to the heart of character - both Wilf's good-natured bumbling and the extremes of the Tenth Doctor's mood swings, his God complex, and his tendency to throw a tantrum.

While I love that image of Wilf, tapping on the door of his box. The whole regeneration set-up somewhat irritates me. Much of the script is working thematically towards a big tragedy. Tennant gets lots of space to muse on death and regret, there is foreshadowing and prophesy and yet... at the end of the day his regeneration isn't because of any particular choice or character flaw or grand confrontation, it is because of a stupid plot device in the form of a door that won't open unless someone else is trapped. I can see what Davies was trying to do, make a point about aftermath and how the Doctor will sacrifice himself even over small things for little people, but somehow it doesn't quite hang together and, in general, I think that is one of Davies' big failings as a writer. His stories and his themes often fail to dove-tail quite as well as they might.

The other bits I recalled were everyone turning into the Master (which I still think is silly and goes on for too long), and the image of the time lords returning (lovely images, rather boringly acted). But I'd completely forgotten about the cactus aliens (who were great! I should start a campaign to bring back the cactus aliens), and Wilf's bus full of old age pensioners and June Whitfield (amusing but ultimately entirely pointless), not to mention the Naismiths and Lucy Saxon's death.

I've just looked back at my review first time around and I really hated it then so I'm going to say that, on rewatching, it wasn't as bad as all that but I struggle to describe it as good. It remains a poorly paced mess in which we spend too long on some aspects - the Master bouncing around the wasteland - and not enough on others - Lucy Saxon. I'm more forgiving, this time around, of Donna's light role in the story. I strongly suspect that RTD didn't really want to write about Donna here, but if he wanted Wilf as a pseudo-companion (and let's face it, who wouldn't) then he was forced to reference Donna.

I'm interested to note that given a space in which to tell a story of the same length as a traditional classic Who four-part serial (a bit longer in fact), RTD really doesn't appear to know what to do with it. In fact it is almost two separate stories - the Master and his takeover of the Earth followed by the Time Lords, their plot and defeat.

So, in summary, I don't think I'm ever going to really like this story. The regeneration is almost, but not quite, a moment of greatness, but everything else is, ultimately, forgettable.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/96576.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on May 6th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC)
I agree with most of this. Like the other stories in the year of specials (with the partial exception of The Next Doctor), I strongly disliked it at the time and have never watched it since and have no plan to do so unless I decide to watch the whole of Who in order again. Totally agree that the story fails as tragedy because it isn't actually tragic. The tenth Doctor has plenty of potentially tragic flaws, but none of them actually lead to his death, hence the awful scene where he complains about how unfair it is that he's going to die to try and highlight some kind of character flaw.

The Naismiths and Lucy Saxon seemed fairly pointless, purely there to move the characters from A to B so we can see what Davies really wants to show us: everyone turning into the Master (why?) and the return of the Time Lords (who turn up, shout a bit and vanish again). And I'm still not sure why the Doctor keeps saying he killed all the Time Lords now we know they are not actually dead. Bernard Cribbens was great, though.

Davies' multi-part stories often seemed to split into distinct mini-stories e.g. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways is an episode about killer gameshows/reality TV leading in to an episode about Rose trying to get back to the Doctor and stop a Dalek invasion. I don't know whether this was due to personal writing style, an attempt not to alienate viewers who missed part one or something coincidental or unconscious. Steven Moffat's two part stories during Davies' tenure felt more like a single story, but those written since he became show-runner are more like Davies' e.g. The Pandorica Opens is about all the Doctor's enemies teaming up to trap him, while The Big Bang is about various people (and a stone Dalek) running around a museum trying to stop the TARDIS exploding. One wonders if we will ever see a single 100 minute Doctor Who story again - or, like the six (and more) part stories of the sixties and seventies are they not considered viable for a modern audience?
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 6th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC)
The Naismiths were pretty pointless, generic pseudo-villains who were, as you point out, almost entirely plot-functional. I wish more had been done with Lucy Saxon though - there was some potentially rich material there about love, betrayal, abuse, atonement and redemption, some of which would have tallied well with the themes the rest of the episode was playing with, and it was just thrown away for a quick set piece at the beginning.

I was actually a bit unclear whether the Time Lords were dead or not. I recall my take away from first viewing was that they were all conveniently trapped in a pocket universe, but this time around I was less sure. Some of the dialogue was strongly implying that this was their final option before being wiped out (possibly within the pocket universe).

End of Time is an interesting contrast to much of this seasons Who which seems to be struggling to keep its plots within 45 minutes, while End of Time really felt like it only had enough plot for one episode - even with the two part structure.

I shudder to think what it would have been like without Bernard Cribbens though, the man should have a medal for rescuing the story.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on May 6th, 2013 04:49 pm (UTC)
Lucy Saxon wasn't used particularly well in her first appearance either and tends to be the focus of a lot of attention regarding Davies' treatment of women as victims or plot functions.

I thought the Time Lords were trapped in the pocket universe. If we were supposed to think otherwise then this wasn't at all clear to me. Certainly the Moffat-era dialogue about them seems to imply the Doctor destroyed them at the end of the Time War and that was that.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 7th, 2013 10:06 am (UTC)
There was definitely some dialogue along the lines of "this is the last day" - initially I thought it was the last day before they became trapped in the pocket universe, but subsequent events suggested they were already trapped at this point and hence had to use convoluted methods to get out.

I suspect it is merely incoherent and thus open for interpretation any way you wish.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on May 7th, 2013 11:10 am (UTC)
Wikipedia suggests "Gallifrey... is "timelocked" in the middle of a Time War, shortly before its destruction, a fate which it is otherwise unable to escape. Gallifrey materialises above Earth, and all the other horrors of the Time War are likely to follow." This was not what I remember and makes no sense at all to me (if it is timelocked before its destruction, does that mean the Doctor destroyed, then took time back and 'froze' Gallifrey before he destroyed it? Does that make it destroyed or not?), which of course does not mean that it was not what Davies wrote...

My head is beginning to hurt now, so I'm going to think about something else. There probably was a good story somewhere about the end of the Time War, but this wasn't it.
Celeste: dw: marthaceleste9 on May 6th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
I hated the End of Time to the extent that I have absolutely no desire to ever watch it ever again. I found it confusing and convoluted and silly and by the end I *wanted* DT to regenerate to stop his horrid whinging, because if RTD meant it to come off as the Doctor's willingness to sacrifice himself for a single life, what I got was the Doctor is a whiny little brat.

But, Wilf. So it wasn't all bad.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 6th, 2013 03:59 pm (UTC)
I think the whinging was a (failed) attempt at a "tragic" narrative - hence foreshadowing and reflection. I'm not sure if the fact it does, as you say, come across as whinging is a failure of the script, the direction or the actor (or a bit of all three).

But Wilf, yes. Wilf is great.
bookwormsarahbookwormsarah on May 6th, 2013 03:35 pm (UTC)
Have you read The Silver Hoard (on AOOO, can't remember the author) - a short story about Wilf and Co? I definitely recommend it.

I didn't like the 'everyone becomes the Master' section either, but yes, we need more cactuses/cacti/'that's racist'.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on May 6th, 2013 04:02 pm (UTC)
Hmm... I've not read it and can't find it. However a search on Silver AND Wilfred Mott nets me The Silver Cloak - is that the one you were thinking of? In which case I shall download it to the ereader.