Sunday, January 03, 2010

Doctor Who: The End of Time Part Two

Last week, when writing about the first part of the Tennant/Davies swansong, I talked about not making any predictions, as well as the possibility of expectations not being met. On the predictions front, I’m glad I didn’t bother (although one of the few that I did make may actually be true – more on that in a bit), because there’s really no way I could have predicted the bizarre manner in which this tale concluded. The narrative meat of this episode – the stuff involving the Time Lords, Gallifrey and the Master – was quite frankly difficult to wade through on the first viewing; a second viewing alleviated some of that, and yet I’m still not convinced it all makes perfect sense. Perhaps I’m looking at it too deeply, and wanting more than there is?

I’d also be lying if I said I went into this episode without any expectations – I mean, how can you not? Many, if not most of them weren’t met, although there were plenty of other treats on display that made up for that. Indeed, this episode was hell bent on subverting expectations. “The End of Time” as a whole, which is how it should be judged, is a landmark slice of Doctor Who, even though the writing isn’t as tight as the intricate standard set by “The Waters of Mars.” Oh well – based on previous finales, I didn’t really expect it to be, and on that level it can’t be called a letdown. It’s so steeped in the mythology of Davies’ vision of Who, that it’s difficult to imagine it could possibly work as a piece of standalone drama for anyone unfamiliar with the past five years of the series. But that also can’t be a criticism, since what it really is is a jagged love letter to everyone who’s been paying attention during that time. Davies really backed himself into a corner with this one, because “Journey’s End” very much felt like the end of the era, only it wasn’t. So this proper ending, which feels more like a coda or an afterward, had to be a horse of a different color, and it most certainly was.

The episode wastes no time addressing the final moments of “Part One” by diving straight into the Gallifrey situation. Before going further, let me just say how incredibly fucking cool it was to have James Bond playing the Time Lord President. If someone had told me 20 years ago that Timothy Dalton would someday be playing such a role on Doctor Who I’d have thought them bonkers. Sure, it’s not as if Sean Connery is gracing the screen, but anyone who really appreciates the Bond franchise knows Dalton got a bum deal, and that both of his outings were pretty damn good entries. Anyone who appreciates both Bond and Who will also acknowledge how the two concepts – which, aside from their inherent Britishness, really only have the changing of lead actors in common – have worked oddly parallel to one another over the past 40 some-odd years. Dalton is terrifying here, especially for anyone who doesn’t know the history of the classic series, and expects the Time Lords to be the good guys. Even as an old school fan, it was shocking to see the Time Lords as they’re presented here, but the more I thought about it, the more it was perfect and right. These guys – even from their very first outing, “The War Games” – were bad news. It’s just that they were so passive in their assholedom before; here they’re proactively destructive. Even though it’s never stated in the episode, the old Time Lord decree of “non-intervention” was obviously filed into 13 once their existence was threatened. And then there’s the Deus ex glove! Oh, how I loved and hated that stupid glove! (Maybe it’s a relative of the glove from Torchwood?) My teenager hilariously dubbed it “The Glove of Time.” He started making up dialogue for Dalton: “I am endowed with The Glove of Time!” and “The Glove of Time will smite you!” We got, and will continue to get, a lot of mileage out of that silly glove.

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