End of Time
Doctor Who may now be approaching its fiftieth anniversary but it has come a long way since first aired on the 23rd November 1963 with the reclusive and pontificating William Hartnell and his doe-eyed, blushing granddaughter. With the resurgence of the show in 2005 came an evolving, transitioning being of broadcasting history combining the allure and magic of a well-beloved science fiction character with the stresses and accomplishments of modern theatrical acting and production.
With Russell T. Davies at the helm, an already established and well accredited artist in drama dialogue and understanding of the human psyche, the Doctor retained his other-worldly enigmatic charm and wit with the additional bonus of a beautifully constructed three dimensional personality that even transient earthlings could relate to and empathise with. The soft focus on introspection and character revelation, through intense acting and reading between the cleverly penned scripts, made the protagonist more alive and real for the audience.
Of course, in this day an age, TV production is now mini-movie making for the small screen. We have seen this shift in quality with the casting of internationally proclaimed actors in lead roles of television series’. For example, Kiefer Sutherland in 24, Jennifer Love Hewitt in Ghost Whisperer and the cast of Desperate Housewives, including the gorgeous Dougray Scott.
No more is television a secondary media; the special FX are breathtaking and the stories evocative as we invite these characters into our homes and they become as known and understood by us as close friends.
The ‘End of Time’ marked a celebration in British television. The standard of production now breathing life back into the BBC and giving it the credibility it once mastered. It also marked a permanent rebirth of this old show to a new generation.
Watching these episodes as stand-alone productions and removing their importance in the media and the history of broadcasting and they are still greatly satisfying. In the opening scenes the Doctor is a changed man, daring hubric punishment and unmaking himself and his ideals. The audiences already knows that this is going to be an intense personal journey as seen in ancient Greek Tragedy from the fall to the absolution but they know it won’t come easily.
Arguably the most nefarious and favoured of the Doctor enemies is back, the Master, so well convinced due to his lineage, his equal intelligence and polar opposition of everything the Doctor has come to represent. Many superhero’s over the years have had to battle with the darkness within and in many respects the Master embodies the evil potential of the Doctor, tortured and tormented by a power that, if he so choose, could be manipulated for selfish ends. The destruction of Gallifrey and the history of these two men only add to the significance of their fated meeting.
The Master’s pursuit is very understandable to humanity, the need to live on, immortality, at any cost. But he comes back not quite whole, infused with massive energy spikes that he can barely control, the cost of tampering with live and death. It isn’t the Master’s plan this time, but human arrogance that allows him the opportunity to take over the planet that the Doctor so stoically defends, remaking it in his own image, literally. The fallen, manipulated position of the Master in apparent subservience is soul shaking to the viewer and reminds them how much the Doctor has fallen and how much he has lost, the payment for his heroic life.
Davies than throws caution to the wind in a way that is very contemporary as he questions the very foundations of the show and these well known characters. We stray very far from the old time view of good and evil and right and wrong as being black and white, as the Master’s insanity is suddenly given validity and even excuse? These episodes shine a glaring, bright, interrogation light on the nature of man, the Doctor falling from grace and the Master rising, ever so slightly.
Gallifrey is returning, the Time Lords live and again the Greek tragedy is echoed in the idea that these two men, that we have believed to have so much power and individuality now become pawns and puppets to the ‘Lords’.
The cyclical nature of these episodes is glaringly obvious, the 2005 series beginning with the acknowledged destruction of Gallifrey to the resurrection of this ‘great and noble’ race and their egregious and pompous fashion sense. The revisiting of the old companions that viewers have grown to know and love and yet placing the burden very much solely on the Doctor as his personal war becomes a substantial threat to an unknowing world.
Pulling back the veil on the Time Lord’s and their megalomania is beautifully liberating for the Doctor as the Master, friend and nemesis, finally fully comprehends the double genocide at the merciful hands of the Doctor and the Doctor gets that decision validated. Perhaps now some of that guilt and shame can be alleviated.
Timothy Dalton is fantastic as the Lord President and what a gift to finally have Bernard Cribbins in the T.A.R.D.I.S.? These episodes are hard hitting and in fairness, a little egoistical in their conclusion as the era of Who with Davies and Tennant is wrapped up in a neat little bow leaving an entirely clean slate for the new cast and crew but few would argue that they don’t deserve it.
The End of Time broke my heart. The admission of ‘maybe a Time Lord lives too long’, the discussion of how regeneration really is like death and how this amazing, loving, unconditionally righteous and compassionate man really doesn’t ‘want to go’, is such a startling revelation to fans of the hidden thoughts and fears of such an untouchable and incomprehensible man. Thinking too hard about the years and trauma of the Doctor melts the brain and begs questions and feelings that no one wants to dwell on but in doing so garlands a new depth of respect for this hero and with the unbelievable talents and devotion of Davies, Gardner and Tennant disembarking form this magical emotional ship, Whovians everywhere reaffirm, ‘We don’t want you to go’.
Tear jerker in the extreme that questions everything you ever thought you believed about this millennia old madman in a blue box. Has to be seen but to a true fan, it has to be seen in the way live horrific images of war have to be seen, the message is important and the legacy interminable but the impact painful. This, my friends, was an attempt at closure but for me, at least, it just highlighted how much more could have been accomplished in this beautiful, symbolic and tragic end of an era and debatable end of a standard of production where all the variables just coalesced perfectly and that cannot hope to be seen again.