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January 02, 2010

Return of the Fan***king

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part 2

Well that was a blessed relief.

End2_3I'd heard some pretty wild rumours during the build-up to this episode. Bernard Cribbins is the Doctor's father (Wilfred Mott = Time Lord WTF!); Claire Bloom is the Doctor's mother; Matt Smith is going to be a rebooted 1st Doctor in a reset time-line where no one can remember anything from the past 46 years; the Master snogs the Doctor's face off to help him regenerate; and my own personal favourite, Paul McGann is seen fighting in the Time War. In a wig. Thankfully, none of this came to pass. But what remains frightening to me is the fact that all of these rumours felt entirely plausible right up until the very last moment. Even that one about President Obama urging the Doctor to change or how it all takes place in the Matrix.

The fact that none of this happened is something worth clinging to. Just think, it could have been even worse.

They didn't even bother to explain who Claire Bloom was in the end. You can happily go on imagining that she was Romana, Leela's daughter, his mom, or even Donna Temple-Noble if you are easily bewildered. Hell, she could be Omega or Flavia for all I care; it's your fanfic, you run with it. Whoever she is, her role in the plot remains vague to put it mildly (How did she manage to communicate with Wilf like that? Why didn't she warn him about the deadly closet of death? Who was the other bloke hiding his head in shame?) and for once I'm actually thankful. No explanation is preferable to an explanation concocted by RTD these days.

Incidentally, other things that we are given absolutely no explanation for in the 73 minute running time include: the reason why the Ood's civilization has been unnaturally accelerated which felt like a big deal last week (any ideas?), the fact that the Simms appear to have stood around doing absolutely nothing at all for 24 hours so the humans can all reappear in the very same place, and, most importantly of all, how Donna can survive her seemingly fatal brainf**k given what we've repeatedly been told about her condition. Or are we really told to accept that she will die if she remembers her adventures, only just not the first time it happens! Incredible.

Rassi-who???

End2_1The treatment of the Time Lords is laughable. First off, we have to accept that they are the ultimate Big Bad. Not because they are a bunch of bureaucratic tossers with questionable ethics, like they were in the classic series - no, apparently they were just fine back then - it's because the Time War has transformed them into a bunch of raging psychopaths. Now this is all very well and good but the Doctor never bothered to mention this little detail before. When he kept banging on about his home planet for the last five years it was "orange skies this" and "silver trees that". Not a sausage about how his own people were were a bunch of bastards backed up with some impressive sounding nonsense like the Nightmare Child, the Great Chrono-Buffalo of Promixa Three, and the Unholy Timey-Wimey Boogey-Woogie Man. Thanks for the heads-up, Doctor. Or maybe it makes you look less of a victim who sacrificed your own people and more of a hero who committed an entirely justifiable act that seems quite reasonable to me on the face of it.

Oh look, they managed to resurrect Rassilon as well. What was the point of that exactly? Surely the not-we must have been turning to each other to offer a quizzical, "Rassi-who?" (my wife certainly did) while the rest of us are left confused as to how that little twist is even possible. Maybe it's in a Virgin New Adventure or something? What a load of old fanw**k. Why not just have a batty Lord President instead? Just like old times. Why name-drop like that at the very last moment?

The Time Lord's plan is baffling too. If they really are cut-off from the rest of the universe then how can Rassi-whatsit throw a cheap diamond from Argos into a hologram so that it can land on earth? Or did I miss something important? In the 73 minute running time. 

The Master's plan is even worse (I will turn myself into loads of Time Lords - even though I am currently loads of Time Lords!) but at least he's making it up as he goes along. Simm was actually quite good in this. Bless him.

But most baffling of all is this: the 4th Doctor falls from a gantry onto some grass and he conks it. The 10th, on the other hand, can fall twice as far (Z'ha'Dum!!!!) onto a marble floor and he's practically unharmed. To paraphrase the Master: "Pre-Pos-ter-Ous".

He will knock sixteen times...

End2_4But when those final knocks came (he will knock 16 times actually but who's counting?) I was overcome with grief. Yeah, I admit it, I started to crumble at this point: it's hardwired into me. The Doctor was going to meet his end saving an old man. One life. One single life. How very Doctor Who.

Yeah, I welled up. Incredibly, I was still crying when I noticed that the glass doors weren't even sealed. There are clearly gaps between the panes of glass so how the radiation is contained is anyone's guess. But I went with it anyway. I was practically chewing the carpet in anguish when the Doctor started raging about how it wasn't fair, and how a part of him really wanted to just leave the old fart to die. But when he bravely opened that door I was blubbing like a baby. And then he died... a bit like Spock (and Spock dying always makes me cry) and then... and then...

Look, I'm happy to cry as much as the next fanboy, but I can't do it for 20 minutes straight. It's too much to ask of me. If the Doctor had regenerated there and then I would have been happy. Well, infinitely sad, but you know what I mean. So what if the preceding 40 minutes had been utter nonsense, at least that moment would have been unforgettable and beautiful and simple and timeless - but no. Oh God no. Instead we get 20 minutes - 20 MINUTES - of Russell T. Davies slapping himself on the back in a self-congratulatory coda that simply beggars belief.

Move over Graham Crowden, this death goes on for so long you'll need two YouTube links to see it all. 

They only had 73 minutes.

End2_2These brooding farewells start off annoying (Mickey and Martha - does anyone really care?) before becoming sentimental and repetitive (didn't we say goodbye to Sarah Jane a few weeks ago?) and then downright inappropriate (you've just killed your own grandson, here, have some casual sex with some bloke the writer fancies). Some of it was cloying of course (Rose. Again.) but Jessica Hynes remains lovely, even if her character is essentially cashing in on the contents of her grandmother's attic. The mad cow.

At least we were spared the Doctor's enigmatic visits to Elton Pope, Jackson Lake, Charles Dickens, Mr. Copper, Harriet Jones (before she went bad of course) and that little girl from Fear Her. They only had 73 minutes you see. And besides, didn't we get all this end-of-an-era nonsense out of our system during Journey's End? I know I did.

This seemingly never-ending epilogue will also inevitably lose some of its poignancy when we eventually discover that the 10th Doctor enjoyed entire seasons of adventures in between those little visits via a series of Big Finish audio adventures. Watch this space.

post-regenerative trauma can be a bitch

Finally, the Doctor remembers that he's supposed to be dying (thanks to a spooky Ood and a choir) and he makes it back to the TARDIS just in time for a trademark RTD regeneration. They feel quaint already.

End2_5But all is not lost. What I continue to adore about Doctor Who is that it can still make me lurch between emotions with such ferocity and panache that it's practically impossible for me not to feel both proud and impressed. The sadness that I felt when David delivered his final line (quite beautifully, I have to say, even after somebody on Twitter pointed out that he sounds like a toddler telling an anxious parent that they don't need the toilet) was immediately overtaken by wild, giddy laughter. That look on Matt Smith's face as he jolts out of the regeneration should be worrying but I found it liberating. He could very well end up being a real McCoy if those first few seconds are any indication but we all know that it's a long way to go until March and post-regenerative trauma can be a bitch.

But didn't it feel great? A new beginning. A fresh start. And a new TARDIS by the look of it. I can't wait.

The trailer for the next series (shown after EastEnders, weirdly) looked reassuring familiar and strangely different. Daleks, vampires, what I hope and pray aren't Silurians, and the unnerving sight of the 11th Doctor waving a gun in the air. This is especially interesting given what happened in tonight's episode. I still can't take my eyes of his hair, either.

And there we have it. The end of an era. I'll be back after the weekend my final appraisal of the RTD years where I will be mixing vitriol with praise.

Until then, the story never ends... look, it's on BBC3 right now...

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