Post Game TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO: THE END OF TIME Pt. 1

TV Recap: DOCTOR WHO: THE END OF TIME 1

Sweet Merciful Pancakes it's going to be a long week.  The world is in a terrible state, and just when you thought you knew who the bad guys were, some old friends return from the past (or is it the future?) and make you question where everything's going.  It's David Tennant's last adventure as The Doctor, and the cast and crew do not disappoint.  Okay, spoiler batteries to power, turbines to speed, Roger, ready to move out...

The End of Time - Part One

Written by Russell T. Davies

Directed by Euros Lyn

The episode starts with a shot from outer space, and a mysterious voice talks about the end of the Earth.  He's very clearly talking about it in past tense, as well.  He says that near the end of the world, everyone had nightmares, dreams they forgot as soon as they woke, "because they must".  In England at Christmas (or as he calls it, "A pagan rite to banish the cold and the dark.") one man has not forgotten the dreams, it's Wilfred Mott, Donna Noble's grandfather.  He remembers the nightmares, flashing images of a madly laughing man, who we clearly recognize as The Master. Shaken by the images while shopping, he sees a church and is drawn to it.  There's a choir inside, and an ornate stained glass window in the front, featuring a number of assorted holy men...and a small stained-glass TARDIS in the lower corner.  A woman standing behind Wilf, explains that it's referred to as "The legend of the blue box".  The church, she explains, was the site of a convent in the 1300's, where it's said a demon fell from the skies and was caught and destroyed by a man in a blue box whom they called "The Sainted Physician".  The Woman suggests he may be returning, and as Wilf turns to her wishing that were so, she has vanished.  Wilf starts seeing The Master's face again, and the credits roll.

The TARDIS lands on Ood-sphere, home to the race seen originally in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, and in a more active role in Planet of the Ood.  The Doctor is almost giddy, talking about the adventures he went off on before arriving, clearly stalling the inevitable. Ood Sigma is waiting for him, and is none too pleased he took so long to arrive.  Ood-sphere has changed quite a bit since The Doctor's last visit, but when he learns it's only been 100 years, he realizes that they've been advanced artificially.  The Ood are having bad dreams, and The Doctor is called to meet with the Elder of the Ood, and share in their visions. The first vision is that laughing face of The Master, who The Doctor declares is quite dead.  More visions appear-Wilfred Mott, looking nervous.  The Doctor asks after Donna, but gets no answer.  The Elder remarks as well that The Doctor should not have delayed his arrival.  Visions of an unknown man and a young woman, people The Doctor don't recognize, and of Lucy Saxon, The master's wife during his masquerade as Prime Minister Saxon.  The Doctor tries to explain what happened to The Master, but the Ood show what the Doctor didn't see - the ring that fell from the master's corpse, picked up by a mysterious woman.  More even than this, the Ood warn The Doctor that their visions all point to one thing.  "The end of time itself".

The Doctor races off to get to Earth.  Meanwhile, on Earth Lucy Saxon is being taken out of her cell in Broadfell Prison by her jailer, the mysterious woman who picked up The Master's ring. She's brought to a courtyard where what appears to be an arcane rite is being prepared.  Apparently The Master had a backup plan, leaving behind directions of how to re-create his body.  Lucy tries to get them to realize what they're doing and who he really was, but it's clear they know full well who he is, and what they're doing.  The ring, a series of elixirs, and from Lucy Saxon, an imprint of his DNA from her lips.  The rite begins, and The Master begins to re-form in a vortex of energy.

The Doctor is racing to Earth to stop this, but the TARDIS can't move fast enough.

Lucy is ready for this, however.  She too heard about the "books of Saxon", and was able to contact her family, who were able to create a counter-agent for the potions described.  A guard working with her hands it to her, and she throws it into the vortex of energy.  There's a massive explosion...

The Doctor arrives, but well after the events of The Master's abortive return.  Broadfell prison is little more than a blast crater.  Elsewhere, the mysterious gentleman seen in the Ood's visions is looking over the footage of the explosion, where a figure racing away can be seen.  He remarks to the also seen young lady that they might be in luck.  Walking to an adjoining room, they talk to a number of scientists, all working on a strange device referred only to as "The gate".

Back in Cheswick, Wilf calls out to the family that's he's off to the pub.  But when he slips outside, he calls to compatriots who arrive quickly in a private bus.  He's drafted his fellow pensioners into searching for The Doctor all over town.  He gives them his description, including that of the TARDIS.  Between them, they can cover the city like "The Silver Cloak", as Minnie coins them.  When asked who the guy is, Wilf can't say, but tries to explain that he's the only one that can help them, reminding them of the bad dreams they've all been having.

Down by the docks, a charity van is serving hamburgers to homeless people.  Two walk off, and the next to step up...is The Master. His hair is dyed blonde, and he tells the lady in the van that he's "so hungry".  The homeless men are talking about the upcoming Christmas broadcast, which will apparently feature President Obama, with a plan to end the recession.  Dropping out of the air behind is the master, startling them.  He's raving, talking about being hungry, and how he has to hide his smell.  He scares off the homeless men, especially when his flesh starts to fade, exposing his musculature and skeleton.  They run back to the charity van, to find that the staff are all dead, reduced to skeletons.  The master screams after them, leaps up into the air, and swoops down upon them.

The Doctor is nearby, looking over a junk yard, and the two time lords sense each other.  The Master grabs a length of pipe and begins banging against a metal oil drum...in a beat of four.  The Doctor hears it, and races towards the sound.  He finds The Master atop a heap of rocks, who glares at him and leaps off, The Doctor in chase.  They run through the dock area, seconds apart.  The Doctor runs around a corner only to be met by...Wilf Mott and the Silver Cloak.  He tries to get away from them, but they're so happy to have found him they surround him with hugs and cheers.  He's too polite to leave them behind, and poses for a couple of photos, getting goosed by one of them.

The Doctor travels with them back to town, and Wilf and he share a moment in a small pub.  The Doctor is amazed at what Wilf was able to do tracking him down, and he wonders who this resourceful pensioner really is.  He opens up to Wilf, tells him he's going to die.  Wilf can't grasp this, having heard about regeneration.  The Doctor talks quite heartfully about the process, saying that it "feels like dying.  A new man goes sauntering away, and I'm dead." As he talks, Wilf notices that Donna is outside the cafe.  It's why he picked this one - he wanted The Doctor to see her again, and maybe cure her.  But The Doctor is adamant - if Donna remembers all she learned, and rediscovers the secrets of the Time Lords, her human mind won't be able to handle it, and she'll die.  They watch her from the window as she sasses off a meter maid ("she's not changed" quips The Doctor) and meets her new fiancÈ, a young man named Julian, and they're quite happy.  This makes the Doctor feel better, but Wilf comments that there's times she looks sad, and can't recall why.  "She's making do", Wilf  says.  "Aren't we all?" replies the Doctor.  He tells Wilf he's travelling alone now, but he's made some terrible mistakes as a result (likely referring at least to the events of Waters of Mars) Wilf tries to get him to realizes that he really needs Donna.  The Doctor's near tears, and breaks the dour mood with an exasperated "Merry Christmas".  He leaves the cafe, Wilf looking after him sadly.

The narrator's voice returns, remarking that the pieces were in place for what was to come: The madman (The Master) his savior (The Doctor) the idiots and fools (the wealthy man and his daughter with their mysterious gate) As the narrative bridge ends, the narrator is revealed to be a man dressed in ceremonial garb (not to mention being Timothy Dalton).

The Doctor confronts The Master in a rusted out factory back at the docks.  The Master attacks The Master with lightning bolts from his hands, finally dropping the Doctor to the ground.  The Master starts to talk about his Father's estate back on Gallifrey.  The Doctor realizes that the strength and power The Master is using is his life force - the resurrection went wrong thanks to Lucy's interference, and The Master's body is leaking energy, which is why he's so hungry.  He's killing himself.  The Master continues to rave, talking about all the food and drink humans put down at Christmas.  The Doctor lays his cards on the table and asks The Master for help.  The Doctor realizes that the "Something" that is returning is much more than The Master, something that will end time.  The Master is still going on about the endless drumming in his head, the drums he has heard since his initiation ceremony as a child.  He begs the Doctor to be able to hear it, but he cannot.  The Master places his head against the Master's...and he can hear it.  The Doctor is amazed that the noise exists, and the Master is almost ecstatic that someone else can hear it.  He flies off, energy pouring from his hands like rockets.  The Doctor catches up with him outside as a helicopter flies in, black-clad soldiers capturing The Master and flying off.

At the Noble home, Wilf is opening his gift from Donna - a book by the mysterious wealthy man, whose name we learn from the cover is Joshua Naismith.  When he asks why she chose it, she can't quite answer, she just got a feeling it was something he needed.  The book features an interesting title - "Fighting the Future".

We cut to the Naismith mansion, where we learn that apparently he was responsible for the abduction of The Master, or as he still thinks he is, Harold Saxon.  Joshua's daughter had heard about the cult planning to bring Saxon back, and thought if he did, he could help them in their plans.

Back at chez Noble, Donna's fiancÈ arrives with presents as Wilf settles down to watch the Queen's speech.  But the broadcast is interrupted, by the mysterious woman he met in the church.  She warns him that he is at a point of causal importance - she calls him an "old soldier" but was too late for the war.  She says he never killed anyone, and he bristles the way she says it as if it's a bad thing.  She say he must "take up arms", and more importantly, to tell The Doctor nothing of the conversation.  As Donna and her mother cackle downstairs, he goes up to his room, takes out a suitcase filled with old things, and takes out his service revolver.  There's a tap at the window; The Doctor is pitching rocks up to attract his attention. 

Wilf sneaks outside, and The Doctor says that he needs his help - has he seen anything odd lately, something that might be important.  Wilf keeps mum about the woman on the TV, but recalls the book he was given by Donna.  The Doctor recognizes him as the man the Ood showed him in their visions.  He realizes that even with her memories hidden from her, Donna is trying to help them.  Donna's mom comes out, horrified to see The Doctor, fearing for Donna.  He takes off, Wilf close behind, and they both enter the TARDIS.   Wilf is, of course, gobsmacked by what he sees in the TARDIS, and after recovering, asks the Doctor why ha can't just pop back to yesterday or whatever to stop all this.  He explains that he can't cross his own timeline, and must stay relative to The Master, helping to explain why the Ood were so upset that he didn't come quicker.

At the Naismith mansion, The Master is shown the mysterious Gate.  The Master immediately realizes that the device isn't from Earth, and Naismith calmly counters that The Master's not either.  Two scientists excuse themselves to check power levels in the basement, and we quickly learn that THEY aren't from Earth either.  They finagled their way into the project with the intent of stealing the secrets, but now that "Mr. Saxon's" been brought in, he's a wild card they don't know how to handle.

Upstairs, Naismith explains that the device was found in a spaceship that crashed many years ago, and was in the possession of the Torchwood institute, and then was obtained by him when Torchwood collapsed.  The Master is served dinner, a whole turkey, which he reduces to bones in seconds.   Naismith explains that as far as they can tell, the device encourages cellular regeneration - a test subject was cured of burn scars.  Naismith believes that if "Saxon" can fix the device, it can give a person immortality.  Naismith doesn't want it for himself, but for his daughter Abigail. 

The TARDIS lands in a stable on the grounds of the Naismith estate, and The Doctor and Wilf start investigating. The Master senses him immediately, and starts working on the device.  He is fixing systems left and right, making amazing strides.  The two secret aliens are amazed at the progress, as is The Doctor, who confronts the female one in the basement.  As her partner races down to investigate, The Master finishes calibrating the device, and it thrums to life.  Naismith has The Master restrained, careful to make sure he's not allowed anywhere near it, and making clear that everything he has done will be checked and re-checked.

In the basement, the aliens explain that they're a salvage crew, and plan to transport the device away as soon as it's fixed, which The Master has just done.  They explain that it's a medical device for repairing the body.  The Doctor senses there's got to be more, something more far-reaching.  Wilf, in classic Noble style, asks the right question - why is the glorified sickbed so big?  The aliens explains that it's not for healing one person, but whole planets.  It can transmit a medical template across an entire planetary population.  The penny drops, and The Doctor races upstairs.

Naismith has a television turned on to watch President Obama's broadcast, something that will allegedly end the recession.  The Doctor races in, warning that they should not allow The Master to get near the Gate.  The Master rolls his eyes and chooses this moment to escape from his bonds, leaping over everyone and into the gate.  The Doctor tries to get the device shut down, but everyone starts acting strangely, seeing The Master in their mind's eye.  Even on the TV, the President sees the same thing.  The Doctor gets Wilf hidden in a radiation-shielded control to keep him safe, but can't do anything to stop The Master's countdown.  Wilf gets a call from home - Donna tells him that her mom and fiancÈ are acting strangely, tho oddly, she's unaffected.

The process begins, and The master imprints his DNA onto everyone on Earth -everyone has become The Master.  The only people not affected (so far) are Wilf in the shielded room, Donna Noble, The Doctor and the two salvage aliens.  Donna sees the Master's face, and the sight starts to unlock her buried memories.

The Master has now replaced the entire human race, making it (wait for it...) the Master Race.  Everybody across the world laughs with him as the music swells.  Sounds like a cliffhanger, doesn't it? Wrong!

The narrator return, explaining that this was the day the human race ceased to exist.  But the Master, it turns out, had a far more important role to play.  The narrator is revealed to be a Time Lord, addressing the entire Panopticon, heralding (just as the elder Ood said) The end of time itself. 

Now THAT'S a cliffhanger.

A powerful episode, successfully balancing the needed whimsy of a Christmas episode with drama the end of the series calls for.  The most delightful surprise is the amount that Bernard Cribbins had to play.  He delivers some sold acting, something people only knowing him from his comedy might not expect.  His scene with Tennant in the cafe is a prizewinner, both in the acting from the pair as well as the writing.

BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details

IT SETS YOUR NAME APART - John Simm gets his name in the titles, before Cribbins but after Tennant.  This is the first time an actor playing a villain has made the opening credits.  Also, it's notable that for all the excitement her return created, Catherine Tate did NOT make the opening credits.  This is fitting, as it's much more Cribbins' / Wilf's episode.

SET PIECES - The high street where the episode starts is the same street of shops that's been used for nearly all the other Christmas episodes so far - it was blown up by robot Santas in Christmas Vacation, and got covered with cash from an ATM in Runaway Bride.  The stable on Naismith's where the Doctor lands the TARDIS was seen last Christmas in The next Doctor.

FORESHADOWING, THE SIGN OF QUALITY LITERATURE - As Wilf enters the mysterious church, he stands in front of a large memorial of people who died in defense of their country.  tying this to the later scene where The Woman reminds Wilf that "The War passed you by", there's more than a small reason to fear that Mr. Mott may come to a brave end next episode.  In the BBC Commentary, Russell Davies categorically denied the populat theiry that "The War" in question was the Time War, and that Wilf is a Time lord in hiding, just that he signed up for service after WWII was functionally over, and always felt he'd "missed his chance".  RTD then admitted that the listeners were certainly assuming that he was lying to their virtual faces about that...

LET'S SEE THE TIME LORDS AGAIN - The collars and robes we see the Time Lords in are inspired by the Tom Baker serial The Deadly Assassin, the story that told us more about the Time Lords and Gallifrey than any other story before or since.  The costume design was so impressive it's been used in every story about the Time Lords since. 

Ironically, one of its most identifiable images, the Seal of Rassilon, was recycled from an earlier episode - it's a sigil  the production designer created for the golden planet Voga in Revenge of the Cybermen.  The look of the seal was inspired by The Book of Kells; the Celtic cross style had not gained the popularity it has today. 

"I got married...that was a mistake" There's no knowing exactly how long the Doctor waited before answering Ood Sigma's summon from the end of Waters of Mars - the list of adventures he had may have been real or he may have been joking.  But considering many people were talking about how his first meeting with River Song should have happened while he was still in his current incarnation, that offhanded remark about a wedding may not have been a joke.  (Tho one hopes the one about Queen Elizabeth I was...)

Also, it's possible that his side-trip to see Sarah Jane Smith in her series may have happened at this point, and not before Waters of Mars. 

"We keep on meeting, over and over like there's something still connecting us..."  Bernard Cribbins was to only appear once as the newsagent in the Christmas episode Voyage of the Damned.  But two things happened - one, he got on with the cast and crew like gangbusters, and two, the actor who'd originally played Donna Noble's father in The Runaway Bride had taken sick, and was unable to appear again.  In a fit of inspiration, they chose to bring Cribbins back, retconning the character of the newsagent to be Donna's grandfather.  Davies has been hinting since last season that there might be more to ol' Wilf then there appears.  Well, we'll certainly find out soon...

"I met someone like you, but he was little and red" - The Doctor is referring to diminutive alien cyborg Bannakaffalatta from Voyage of the Damned. Russell T. Davies said he always like that makeup, and saw an opportunity to re-use it in this story. Bannakaffalatta was a member of the race the Zocci, but as they explain, the aliens from this episode are of the Vinvocci.

GUEST STAR REPORT - this is gonna be a long one folks...

A great deal of the guest stars on Doctor are far better known to British audiences than American ones. Bernard Cribbins is a prime example of that. Known to Sci Fi fans fans as the hapless constable who ended up in Peter Cushing's TARDIS in Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., the second of the Doctor Who films in the 60's, but he's had over a 50 year career in stage, screen, television, and even a couple pop music hits. He was the main voice for beloved British animated program The Wombles, The male lead in The Mouse on the Moon (and appeared in a couple "Carry On" films) and his novelty pop hit "Right Said Fred" was the inspiration for those gentlemen afflicted with excessive shirt-sexiness. Still going strong at 80 years old (81 on the 29th) he is a quick-witted and spry as ever. On a recent guest appearance on popular British panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks, he slayed the other panelists with one ad-lib after another.

Timothy Dalton ("The Narrator") is no stranger to science-fiction and comics fans. He was Prince Barin in the infamous Dino DeLaurentiis Flash Gordon, was almost uncannily cast as Basil St. John in the execrable Brenda Starr film starring Brooke Shields, and was the secret baddie in Dave Stevens' The Rocketeer. Most famously, he had a woefully under-appreciated two film run as James Bond. He parodied that role in Looney Tunes: Back in Action as super-spy Damian Drake. Most recently he played evil grocer Simon Skinner in Hot Fuzz. He'll be doing a voice next year in Pixar's Toy Story 3.

June Whitfield (Minnie "the Menace" Hooper), is best know to American audiences as Edina's Mum on Absolutely Fabulous, but as with Mr. Cribbins, that's merely the tip of the thespic iceberg. Most recently a regular on Last of the Summer Wine, she starred in classic series Terry and June, appeared regularly on The Dick Emery Show and worked often with Brit comedy legend Tony Hancock.

Claire Bloom (listed only as "The Woman") was once married to Rod Steiger, and should go straight to Heaven just for making it through that. In addition, she's had over a 60-year career on both sides of the proverbial pond. She appeared in the original (superior, most say) version of The Haunting, played Hera in Clash of the Titans and Nan Perry in The Spy Who came In from the Cold.

Barry Howard is best known in the UK for playing Barry Stuart-Hargreaves in the series Hi-De-Hi! Like the character he played here, there were regular suggestions that his character was gay, but considering the time, it was never stated.

I think it's legally impossible to keep David Harewood (Joshua Naismith) off British television. Playing Tuck on the new Robin Hood, he's had a regular role in one British drama or another for over ten years, and no end in sight. He'll be playing Nelson Mandela in an upcoming TV movie about his crusading wife Winnie.

Fans of other BBC Sci-Fi series will recognize Sinead Keenan (Addams), who was last seen as head nurse Nina on Being Human and Kelly Hawkins on Moving Wallpaper.

The voice of the elder Ood was provided by veteran actor Brian Cox, the first man to play Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter, Vesper Abbadon in the short-lived NBC series Kings, and Stryker in X2.  He'll be seen next in the BBC's remake of Day of the Triffids.

 NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Everybody run, The Doctor’s got a gun.  And that four-beat drumming in The Master’s head isn’t just the riff from the theme song, it’s the sound of a Time Lord’s heartbeat.

Twitter activity