1.2 – “The End Of The World”
The Doctor casually demonstrates that the TARDIS really is a time machine by taking Rose to the destruction of her homeworld, Earth. Things heat up. Then they heat up again. And again.
“The End of the World” is a strangely calm episode given the eponymous apocalypse that it presents. Although ostensibly structured as a murder mystery, fairly little screen time is given to this – the main characters don’t even get introduced to any real sense of danger until 20 minutes in. At its heart, it’s a character drama between The Doctor, Rose, and Jabe (Yasmin Bannerman), a tree who is closer to The Doctor’s level.
Even without the risk of life or limb, taking Rose to the future to watch her planet burn is perhaps not The Doctor’s finest hour. Having been introduced to a large group of diverse aliens, with no real consideration from The Doctor as to how she’s managing, Rose promptly freaks out and bolts (to a fantastically cheeky use of the song “Tainted Love” – one of two bits in the episode that are structured as music videos) to decompress. She’s further weirded out by the revelation that the reason she understands all of the alien languages is thanks to the TARDIS’ telepathic field, something which The Doctor had never thought to mention. (As a side-note, the bit with Raffalo, played by Becky Armory – apparently a late addition – is lovely. How is it that she hasn’t done any telly since?)
Meanwhile, The Doctor has his own arc this episode that is just as significant. Rose is quite fun, he’s found, but that turns out to be no basis for a serious relationship and she finds his boundaries pretty quickly; he has no desire to tell her where he’s from or anything about whatever trauma he has clearly experienced in the recent past. It takes another person to break him a little out of his shell; Jabe, a pretty tree-lady from the forests of Cheem who is able to look him up and discover his secret – that he is a Time Lord, who shouldn’t even exist. People look back and say “Bad Wolf” was the plot arc of series 1. It wasn’t. It was this – the slow unfolding of the story of the Time War and its effect upon The Doctor. Bad Wolf was just the hundreds and thousands liberally sprinkled on the Time War cake. Jabe soon dies, of course, in a self-sacrificing way necessitated by the plot. She’s the first woman the new series fridges (although, a fridge would have been exactly what she needed, ho ho ho). If she’d lived, she should have become the new companion. Or she’d have imparted advice to Rose, and we couldn’t be having with that.
With that done, The Doctor saves Rose and brings back Cassandra (Zoe Wanamaker) (already revealed in true Accusing-Parlous style as the villain of the piece), to take his revenge. There’s moral fudging of merely “failing to save her” invoked here – by reversing the teleporter she is using to escape, he ends up killing her. It’s a wonder he can look her in the eye in “New Earth”. She might have been a wrongun but summary execution is not really The Doctor’s style. And this despite Rose’s plea. And then finally – in the first big misstep of New Who – the narrative just forgets that. It’s as if it never happened. Given the entire experience, Rose really ought to run away at the first opportunity. Instead, she held The Doctor’s hand on the platform when he revealed his great big dirty secret, and then buys him chips. Maybe that’s real, but he’s still a bit of a bastard.
This is a competently executed piece of television that I’ve just taken a bit of an ethical dislike to when picking it apart for the review. It’s fine, really. Eccleston is great at being the more subdued torn-up Doctor and doesn’t go for the scenery like in some of the later episodes and Billie Piper gets plenty to do. The set dressing and aliens are good too, even if I’m not entirely sure which is which. A serviceable 6/10.
Written and edited by Abigail Brady