This review may contain spoilers.
Last week, as the planet Earth appeared on the screen with an ominous voiceover proclaiming this to be "the final days," it was hard not to feel overcome with the knowledge that this is the beginning of David Tennant's final adventure.
However, as the concluding part of the epic tale commences, it is hard not to feel another pang of sadness for the series - not only is this Tennant's final adventure, it is the last hurrah of showrunner Russell T. Davies and his entire creative team before Steve Moffat takes change. As a writer on the series, Moffat always delivered scripts of substance, complete with thrills, chills and plenty hide behind the couch moments. More so than Davies has done. Yet, despite all of his skill as a five-star writer, it is hard not to worry over the direction he will be taking "Doctor Who" in for its fifth season.
Back to its roots with a new man, new Tardis and adopting a more classic look, "Doctor Who" will be undoing a lot of the established mythology that has filled the series with such exuberant storytelling over the last five years. "The End Of Time" serves as a way of blending the two takes of the show into a single cohesive story, but, with the return of the Time Lords, it is hard not to feel the departure of Russell T. Davies every bit as much as Tennant's and appreciate his unique vision for the franchise and also his unabashed enthusiasm for what it was - something wonderful.
For, despite all of the dark themes, foreshadowing and build-up that has already taken place, the second part of "The End Of Time" remains every bit as much of a delight as the first. There are belly laughs, swoon worthy effects (Gallifrey for starters) plus a couple of homage's to "Star Wars" (think Cantina and Death Star escape).
Delivering a very human feel to the now vulnerable Doctor, Tennant goes out with a bang. A very noble bang indeed. His final moments prior to the inevitable regeneration prove to be something utterly moving thanks to the incredible talents of Murray Gold who just had to go and make the whole ordeal of losing Tennant more traumatic - that atmosphere he creates is most certainly one that requires Kleenex.
Steve Moffat, you have some dramatic shoes to fill :
John Simm is again every bit as fun to watch on screen as ever. And, this time, there are billions of him. And his mischievous schoolboy grin never fails to chill. Infinitely complex, Simm offers a very different insight to the Master beyond the usual villain with a master plan - this time he becomes the victim. He was robbed of his life by having the drums inflicted upon him and has been living in a state of lucid confusion ever since. Now, he is finally able to find some closure. And, through his victimization, a full answer for the drums is finally provided.
Overall though, the real heart of the episode was the interaction between Bernard Cribbins and David Tennant. Both actors are again able to turn even the smallest piece of dialogue into something spectacular. Every heart-to-heart the duo has is a moment for the Kleenex : especially when the four knocks finally come.
And, oddly enough, one thing that worked was the fact that there were no real answers to some of the many questions that the previous episode offered. For instance, was the woman in white -- credited as The Prophetess - just another Time Lord or was she in fact the Doctor's mother? Beyond this woman, the connection between Wilfred and the Doctor is never explored leaving something of a loose end.
In the end though, we are also treated so a small update on the lives of our faithful companions as the Doctor takes a moment out to revisit Donna (Catherine Tate), Rose (Billie Piper), Martha (Freema Agyeman), Mickey (Noel Clarke), Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Luke (Thomas Knight), and the infamous Capt. Jack Harkness (John Barrowman). Every encounter is a goose bump moment thanks to the haunting chills of Murray Gold's score. And its Donna's wedding when the water works really start as you realize just how much the Doctor's encounters mean to all of his companions : and how much David Tennant's mean to us.
What Didn't Work
They say more is less, and when it comes to regeneration scenes that is certainly the case. When Christopher Eccleston regenerated into David Tennant following his battle with the Daleks on Satellite Five, there was only a smattering of words before the credits rolled. This time, however, not only do we see Matt Smith go through the customary "am I ginger?" but we also see how this new Doctor reacts in a crisis : and it makes the loss of Tennant so much more painful.
Also, despite its inclusion in the classic series, the title of Lord President is far too American a term. Normally, that isn't such a bad thing, however what makes "Doctor Who" such a pleasure to watch is just how British it is. So, when a notable British actor -- on a British series -- takes on what is best described as an American title it can be a little disconcerting.
Speaking of Time Lords, the ease with which they are able to escape the time lock is a tad convenient - throwing a white point star diamond through the time lock (something only Dalek Caan has been able to do) is an impossible event. The Doctor himself explains that the only thing that can move in and out of the time lock is something that was already there (like the beating of the drums) - not a diamond that never existed on Earth.
The biggest disappointment of all however remains that of Naismith - setup as a major villain early on in the first part of "The End Of Time," he has no real involvement in how the episode concludes beyond a single fleeting reference.
And, at the very end, there was a slight disappointment to discover that the Doctor had nothing to do with helping Capt. Jack out of his dark spiral following the events of "Children Of Earth."
Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due
"Doctor Who" stars David Tennant, John Simm and Bernard Cribbins. "The End Of Time" (Part 2) was written by Russell T. Davies and was directed by Euros Lyn.
"Doctor Who" returns to BBC One in Spring.
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