Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"The End of Time" Part Two

Is it too harsh of me to say that the best part of this episode is the bit where the Tenth Doctor dies? I'd never think anything could be more self-congratulatory, ridiculous, overblown and needless than "Journey's End" but this somehow manages it. I think the sheer pomposity of it and the fact that it was the final Tennant story can probably render it the worst Doctor Who episode of all time legitimately in contrast to previous mentions because of how pathetic the narrative is and how smug its conclusion.
Last episode we had the Master turn all the humans into copies of himself and now he's captured Wilf and the Doctor. The Master has a whinge about Gallifrey and then he gets knocked out by the male Vinvocci who actually has no reason to help the Doctor. The Doctor has one of those nauseating pieces of dialogue where he tells the Master how brilliant and amazing he is even though all the Master's done so far is horrible stuff. It's more of the 'tell don't show' attitude and we're supposed to accept it in direct opposition to the immediate evidence of our senses. The Master says his body "was born from death, all it can do is die" in a case of utter nonsense apparently being used to explain how the skeleton thing is happening and why he can shoot lightning and crap. A bunch of Master clones also go and hunt down Donna, who for some reason has a 'defence mechanism' built into her by the Doctor which causes her to shoot gold light out of her head and knock all the Masters out. It's just another in a series of cop-outs in these episodes where characters essentially perform magic to stop anything bad happening.
This for some reason jumps into a comedy escape sequence which stupid people seem to find funny and which is totally jarring and the Doctor, Wilf and the two Vinvocci go to the Vinvocci spaceship in orbit to hide from the Master, who really wants to find them for... some reason. Meanwhile the Time Lords are sitting around in some black emptiness because they clearly blew all the money on needless CGI of Timothy Dalton walking through a big metal door so they can't afford sets and he has a discussion with the High Council of the Time Lords; it turns out he's the Lord President - neat enough reference to Classic Series Time Lord Lore. A woman objects and gets evaporated. Then they realise there is a prophecy, and "The Visionary" is introduced, a purple prose-spouting madwoman who epitomises the worst excesses of RTD's oldey-worldy pseudopoetic pastiche fixation and who I absolutely despise. She sits there ranting all this nonsense which is meant to sound impressive but just sounds ridiculous and you have to wonder why Timothy Dalton is buying all this crap. They figure out some plan to do with the Master by putting the drum beat in his head, so I guess maybe that explains why Delgado, Ainley and Roberts never complained about it. For some reason they can make a two-way link by throwing a diamond to Earth and getting the Master to plug it into some bollocksy machine. It's totally meaningless unscientific rubbish which makes no sense whatsoever.
Meanwhile the Doctor and Wilf are sitting around on the ship and they have another good old chat which is by miles the best scene in the episode. Bernard Cribbins is again very good apart from when he starts telling the Doctor he's such a wonderful man and having a bit of a cry which comes across as a little soppy, and it's good to see the Tenth Doctor constantly refusing the gun until he learns that the Time Lords are coming back, at which point he grabs it straight away. As opposed to having people going "Oh no oh no" about the Daleks or whatever this very effectively represents the sense of threat.
Wilf's still seeing this mysterious white-garbed woman, but it's never revealed who she is, and again it turns into another piece of deliberate hype-drumming mystery with no meaning. RTD weaves in all this ambiguity, but not in regards to theme or character, in terms of facts and figures so that you really have no idea what's going on. Who's this woman? Why is she helping the Doctor, and how is she able to mysteriously show up if she's a Time Lord and she's locked in the war? RTD said it was meant to be the Doctor's mother but this seems pretty meaningless. Isn't his whole family meant to be dead? His mother's never even been signficant in the show before so I don't see how seeing her would teach him what to do.
Anyway there's a terrible Star Wars homage as they fly the Vinvocci ship, which is basically ripped off from Starbug in Red Dwarf, down to Earth and the Master fires some nukes at them. Earth has tens of thousands of missiles but he fires about fifty and none of them hit even though they only have two laser batteries. Then the Doctor jumps out of the ship back into the mansion and must fall about a hundred feet or more and still survives. That killed the Fourth Doctor in "Logopolis" but apparently it's okay now! Then he stands there like a, yes, like a lemon, pointing his gun back and forth between the Master and Timothy Dalton. In the meantime Timothy Dalton has used his magic gauntlet, blessed with the power of cop-out, to inexplicably transform all the Master clones back into humans for no reason. I guess a whole bunch of disoriented humans are easier to deal with than six billion Masters. Although is the Master's consciousness in all of them or are they individuals? They all seem to obey the main Master, and you'd think he'd end up in conflict with himself, but they also talk to each other. Maybe he just enjoys the sound of his own voice.
Anyway the Doctor is pointing this ancient pistol from the Forties at Timothy Dalton and the Master as if it matters. It's not threatening at all. The Master can shoot fricking lightning from his hands and Timothy Dalton has a magic gauntlet which can apparently do anything. Why doesn't he just evaporate the gun? What does it matter what choice the Doctor makes, who to kill? Timothy Dalton could easily remove the choice. I'm not sure what stops him. Then Gallifrey appears in the sky and for the thousandth time we get the typical scenes of mass panic in the face of alien happenings as everyone runs around in the street and the total consequence of a significantly more massive planetary body so close to Earth means a little bit of shaking. The Doctor says he trapped the Time Lords because they became all mean during the Time War, and that if Gallifrey comes back so will all this other horrible stuff from the war with the purplest names imaginable like the 'Nightmare Child' and the 'Could've-been King' which are all totally meaningless and are clearly meant to sound cool but just sound ridiculous. It's all so overblown and melodramatic, and the Doctor ends up shooting the Master's bollocks machine which for some reason stops everything, because Timothy Dalton had a plan to destroy 'all creation' and 'ascend to beings of pure consciousness'. Isn't that like just a cross between what Davros was planning in "Journey's End" and what the Ancients or whatever they're called in Stargate want to do? Anyway the Doctor has a big shout and reveals that Timothy Dalton is Rassilon.
Hang on a minute, he's Rassilon? What the hell, Rassilon's dead! Has RTD even seen "The Five Doctors"? I guess if they were going to get anyone to play Rassilon at least it was someone good, and at least he was a bastard like he was in the darker Time Lord myths. Regardless the Master starts attacking them and they all conveniently disappear for essentially no reason. Isn't that nice? They show up for no reason, say a lot of rubbish about destroying the universe, and then piss off and take the Master with them. It's all so incredibly convenient that I can't believe RTD came up with such a cheap solution. Even growing a spare Doctor out of a hand was less ridiculous than this. I think "Eye of the Storm" is less ridiculous. Why would you bring the Time Lords back, and then just have them stand around having a chin wag with the Doctor for a few minutes only to get rid of them again straight away? Clearly RTD's imagination had completely run dry by this point and he didn't actually know what to do with them because it's stupid that they'd be defeated in such a way and that their appearance was so arbitrary. It's also incredibly frustrating that RTD writes them and the Master back out in such a way that it will be incredibly difficult for future writers to come up with plausible explanations for having the Master or the Time Lords return. I suppose that never stopped them in the Eighties where the Master seemed to die horribly every time he appeared and still returned unscathed a season or two later. I'd say people expect more explanation these days but if the absurdly sycophantic praise this dirge of a finale received is anything to go by then clearly they don't, they'll swallow any rubbish if David Tennant shouts it fast enough and then has a bit of a cry afterwards.
Speaking of which, it's back to the crying game again as the Tenth Doctor has a bit of a tanty about having to sacrifice his life to save Wilf. I did think it was clever to make Wilf's four knocks the signal for the Tenth Doctor's death but even this seems ridiculous. Why is the nuclear bolt overloading? How come it's so sensitive? Why can't he just let Wilf out? It's not very clear. And the containment chamber may be constructed from 'Vinvocci glass' but the doors don't even seal, you can tell just by looking at them! It seems incredibly arbitrary. And then, having absorbed all the radiation the Doctor doesn't regenerate on the floor of the chamber, he goes on a little trip.
And this is where it gets ridiculous. After he suffered radiation poisoning on Metebelis III it took the Third Doctor three weeks in Earth time to pilot the TARDIS back to Earth and he was possibly lost in the Time Vortex for years in his personal time. The Tenth Doctor, however, goes and visits every single major companion he's had in the entire run of the show. It's absolutely absurd, unbelievably self-congratulatory and when you get right down to it, just plain dull. The Ninth Doctor had a good death, reassuring Rose and facing it with dignity, and now the Tenth Doctor goes off for the RTD Memory Lane. Martha and Mickey are married with no prior character development even though Martha was engaged to someone else a year ago. The Tenth Doctor sets Jack up with Alonso from the Titanic in what is essentially the Cantina from Star Wars because he is some kind of interstellar matchmaker now. He gives Donna's family a winning lottery ticket as a wedding present, which probably should have been the only companion visit if any. He saves Luke Smith from a car which is apparently some kind of Sarah Jane Adventures in-joke and so they can cram Sarah Jane in. For some reason he goes and gets his published journals from "Human Nature" signed by Joan Redfern's granddaughter. This one is especially arbitrary. How come he didn't also go visit Adam from Series 1, or all the two-bit barely-companions from the Specials, or the Fifth Doctor or something? Because it'd be ridiculous, and so is this. And then of course, dreck of drecks, he has to go and visit Rose before she knew him. How on earth has he survived this long? It's ridiculous and it's all done in the name of narrative-killing fan service. How long ago did Rassilon and the Master disappear? It's been ages since this episode had anything even approaching a plot and the entire threat of 'The End of Time' is revealed to be melodramatic and meaningless. Finally Ood Sigma appears and says they're going to sing him "to his rest". He's just going to regenerate, for heaven's sake. How does Ood Sigma travel around, anyway? How come Ood Sigma was never a companion? That would have been interesting.
Anyway he stumbles into the TARDIS, flicks some buttons and regenerates. He regenerates so violently that the TARDIS begins to explode, and it's like RTD's saying that without Tennant the show can't really go on and that everything's falling apart; like it's not really Doctor Who anymore and that everything's gone to hell without his guidance. I don't mind that he says "I don't want to go" per se, because the Second Doctor had much the same attitude when the Time Lords forced him to regenerate, but I suppose I resent the notion that the Doctor has become especially fond of this incarnation. Nonetheless it's thankfully time for him to go and suddenly the Eleventh Doctor is before us, being played by Matt Smith, also know as The Smith. He makes some funny remarks so that you know we've completely moved on from Doctor Angst Mode, gobs all over the TARDIS console in what I like to think of as a final response to the RTD era, and off we go.
It probably is the best part of the episode. All the rest of it is just hype and melodrama, and it's like the whole of the Tennant era and probably RTD's entire tenure. As a whole the scripts were rarely anything particularly good with only a few exceptions and were generally sentimental and unscientific. While the Tenth Doctor has moments of quality and there's nothing wrong with David Tennant's actual talent as an actor, the character he performed as the Doctor is cringe-inducingly manic and hyper at times and is far too trendy and human. He feels like just some guy in a suit with a magic wand. The episodes also rarely had any statement to make or message to deliver, and artistically seemed limited. The visions of the future were dull, Classic Series characters and concepts were often misrepresented and it relied far too much on mystery and hype rather than compelling narratives. Unfortunately it's quite obvious that a lot of Tennant's popularity relied on him being conventionally handsome and the fangirl 'cult of Tennant' which developed surrounding his portrayal is not healthy to public appreciation of the show. I don't begrudge RTD for bringing it back per se but I think some of his attempts to modernise it were unnecessary and that he dumbed it down too much for a modern audience. The fact that this era receives so much acclaim and worship quite honestly makes me despair about the cultural intelligence of the public. There was too much romance, too much pop culture, too much melodrama, not enough science, not enough originality and not enough art. But you know what? It's over now, and it's never coming back. Doctor Who is about change, and the show must move on...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.