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December 27, 2009

Digging A Hole

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part 1

Is this how Jan Vincent-Rudzki felt when he watched The Deadly Assassin

Endtime1I'll begin on a positive note: Bernard Cribbins was great. But let's face facts, Bernard Cribbins reading the telephone directory would have been nothing less than enthralling. He's bullet proof. Stick him in Paradox and he'd still be watchable. And besides, Bernard is the only man on the planet who can pull off a ridiculous moonwalk as he backs into a mini-bus and still maintain something that resembles dignity. OK, maybe Lionel Blair on a good day, but still.

Cribbins steals every scene he's in. He's so damnably good in that bit the fans are already calling "the cafe scene" that David Tennant is forced to cry a little, just so he can compete. This was actually the most interesting exchange in the episode: the revelation that the Doctor actively resents the man that he will eventually become and how he's not looking forward to "dying" really struck a chord. For an all-too-brief moment the episode felt suitably elegiac and doom-laden, with added hints that the head-scratchingly bizarre Doctor-Donna meta-crisis might actually make some kind of sense next week. I just pray that Claire Bloom is playing Romana and not {preposterous rumour removed} but I'm not holding my breath. I also hope that the TARDIS isn't dyslexic and she was trying to warn us about Bad Wilf all along...

Stick Bernard Cribbins in Paradox and he'd still be watchable...

Sadly, the indomitable Cribbins aside, the rest of the episode is complete and utter bobbins.

We begin with a trip to the Oodsphere, where the bloke who does the adverts for Pizza Hut (what a coup!) reminds us that Alexandra Moen really is a terrible actress. She must play a important role in the story though, so stick with it. We are also led to believe that immediately after the closing moments of The Waters of Mars, when the cloister bell was tolling and the Doctor gritted his teeth and proclaimed a defiant "No!" to the laws of the universe, he immediately nipped back in time so he could shag Elizabeth I. How very heroic.

Endtime2But the Master's resurrection is easily the stupidest thing in the first 15 minutes of this episode; which is really saying something. Magic potions! Magic kisses! An hilarious exchange about an anti-potion subplot! All mashed-up with the sillier bits from The Omen III, Prisoner Cell Block H, Harry Potter and Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time. Yes, the episode goes batshit crazy even before we've had a chance to settle down. It also makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If the Master had really planned for this eventuality why didn't he just secrete some of his DNA in his ring? The idiot. You'd have thought he have learnt something after turning himself into a bloody snake.

However, I must admit that it was a stroke of genius to reveal that the identity of mysterious person who picked up that ring at the end of The Last of the Time Lords - something that had kept fandom's tongues wagging for years - was actually a non-speaking extra that we'd never actually seen before. OK, hands up - who saw that coming?

Anyway, the Master ends up skulking around in a junkyard with some new superpowers. And why not? If you are going to use magic why not go the whole hog and throw in some cool superpowers as well. I know, why not make him telepathic while you're at it, just like in True Blood? Or haven't you got to that boxset yet? Too busy watching The Matrix Trilogy on Blu Ray, I bet. Oh well.

The Master's plan is remarkably simple at first: terrorise tramps and eat plenty of hamburgers. This detail is quite amusing. The fact that the Master has to disguise himself after unsuccessfully ruling over the country fairly recently is a neat, logical touch. Simm's performance is also mesmerising at times, especially during his long overdue chat with the Doctor, but just when you think that we are finally getting somewhere, Joshua Naismith turns up to fast-track a nefarious plan that took the Master months to cook up the last time. How nice of him.

The Naismith subplot is as unsavoury as it is convienient. There's a faint whiff of incest about the whole affair (his daughter? really?) and the handy properties of the alien tech is either something that will be ingeniously resolved in part two or a Deux Ex Machina Gate. It's too early to call.

The episode goes batshit crazy before we've had a chance to settle down.

Endtime3Just thank your lucky stars that Doctor Who isn't made in 3D. Tennant's jaw would give you one hell of a headache after the first five minutes. And if you were ever in any doubt that this is some SERIOUS SHIT we're dealing with here just check out Tennant's determined grimace as he chases Simm through that secret level from Super Mario Brothers. The Master must be stopped! Time itself is in danger! Oh, hang on a minute, there's just enough time to be sexually assaulted by June Whitfield!

But it's Christmas, isn't it? You have to have a pointless celebrity cameo and some enforced comedy to lighten the mood. It's the law. Besides, it's either that or patronising thick working class stereotypes in Welsh caravans and that's simply too close to home to contemplate. Or perhaps they were simply trying out another potential spin-off, something they could put out in the Quincy timeslot: The Silver Cloak Investigates, or something. Quick! Somebody get Frank Windsor on the phone before he dies.

This madness reaches a brain-levelling crescendo in the final 10 minutes. Yes, it actually gets madder. Just when you think you've seen it all, you still haven't seen John Simm in a badly fitting dress clapping like a seal. It's mental. But where was the shot of Simm in a pram?

Actually, if you extrapolate from what we are shown on screen (an entire housing estate populated by John Simm) then your mind will be left with some really weird images that may take some time to dislodge: John Simm discovering himself shagging himself; John Simm as a Victoria's Secret model in the middle of a calendar shoot; John Simm as Gwen and Rhys's baby. My head was shaking just as fast as everyone elses, believe me. And is it just me or is that effect they used for the transformation infuriatingly naff? All that's missing is a Hanna-Barbara comedy sound effect. It's probably on the same CD that features the mechanical door effect from Doom. And I know they have that.

Seriously, I have never been so embarrassed to be a Doctor Who fan as I was when that Obama lookalike starting holding his head in what looked like shame to me. And when I was at university I made my flat mates watch Silver Nemesis. 

You tell him to stop spitting! He's Timothy ****ing Dalton!

A final "**** me" climax was inevitable, of course. This was Russell's last opportunity to deliver a cliffhanger. Do you really think he'd play things down at this late stage? How do you top Daleks versus Cybermen or a fake-out regeneration anyway? The ending to this one had to go one step further and there was only one logical step left for Russell to take.

Endtime4And so, the episode concludes with a "surprise" appearance by the Time Lords, spearheaded by Timothy Dalton and Spit the Dog. Hey! He's Timothy Dalton! You tell him to stop spitting! He's Timothy ****ing Dalton!

The Time Lords are made to look like a bunch of Daleks hanging around on Coruscant and they'll probably end up being the ultimate bad guys, which will makes the 10th Doctor's interminable pining for Gallifrey throughout his tenure look a bit stupid in retrospect.

I haven't given up hope, though. Maybe Russell has got whatever it is he ate out of his system. Maybe we've been set up beautifully for a heart wrenching finale that will force me to reevaluate this incoherent drivel.

Or maybe we'll just get Midshipman Frame's head spinning in space as John Simm gives Tennant the kiss of life and Barack Obama orders him to regenerate. 

Hold on tight. Normality will be resumed in 73 minutes...

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