“The End Of Time (Part 1)”
The Doctor returns to Earth in search of the newly resurrected Master, all the while haunted by the knowledge of his impending death.
And so we come to it; the last adventure of the Tenth Doctor. After the powerful events of “The Waters Of Mars”, expectations were high for Tennant’s final outing where he must discover why the human race is suffering from nightmares, prevent the return of his own people and go up against the returned Master, all while attempting to stave off what he believes will be his actual death.
Sadly, things get off to a bad start; the return of The Master is executed in the most pants-shittingly ridiculous fashion imaginable. With more than a faint whiff of Harry Potter at play here, we see The Master brought back from the dead via the questionable ‘potions of life’. Still, setting aside this goofiness, we at least get a new take on the character as we witness The Master channelling every last morsel of Time Lord energy within him in order to compensate for the interference of his wife Lucy in the resurrection process. The Master’s ultimate goal has always been to stay alive, whatever the cost to himself or others, this time resulting in a constant need for him to eat in order to maintain his strength and life force. He’s burning too brightly and his time is growing short as a result. When he finally confronts him, The Doctor warns The Master that he needs to stop because he’s bleeding his energy away with every little display of his crazy superpowers. But of course, being The Master, he gives not one fuck.
Some fans have argued that this super powered Master was a cheap idea and that it doesn’t work. I don’t entirely agree, especially as we’ve seen Time Lords display inhuman power before (The Doctor in “The Last Of The Time Lords”, that guy in “Terror Of The Autons” who flies, etc) so I don’t consider it such a huge leap in logic or even a retcon of the character. After all, wasn’t The Master a cat person at one point? And another time his essence became a shape-shifting snake. So this kind of gig isn’t exactly new to him, is it? And yet, I will concede that there’s only so many times you can watch The Master blasting off into the air like Iron Man before you just shake your head and wonder what ever happened to character development.
Bernard Cribbins returns as Wilf, bringing all of the humanity and compassion that we know and love in this character. He is the defacto companion for this story (a nice choice to have an older companion) and throughout he is doing whatever he can to assist The Doctor, even if it’s just talking things over with him in a cafe. Wilf’s faith in The Doctor shines through at all times and that conversation in the cafe is particularly moving. It’s basically two old men talking about death but it’s done superbly. One gripe though; Russell T Davies tries to add some emotional impact by altering the nature of regeneration and it’s not only unnecessary, it’s downright unneeded. The idea that The Doctor feels that he dies and a new man walks away every time he regenerates has no basis in any previous Doctor Who story and the whole point of this one was supposed to be that The Doctor was under the impression that he was actually going to die, not regenerate. As a fan, perhaps I’m a little too defensive over such things, but the new take on regeneration played out here does the show a disservice in my opinion.
The Master is captured by a government official and used to repair a piece of alien tech that turns out to be a genetic re-sequencer. Of course, he’s just playing along until the opportunity presents itself for him to take advantage of the machine and imprint his DNA onto every person on the planet. The Master Race idea is, at first glance, profoundly daft. The problem lies mainly in the delivery I suppose because when you actually sit and think about the prospect it’s actually quite disturbing and very much the kind of lunacy The Master excels in. Presentation, then, is the key problem here; perhaps there should have been less maniacal laughter and more imposing, threatening behaviour from The Master. I can only assume that was being saved for the cliffhanger in which a passionate Timothy Dalton ushers in the return of the Time Lords with a vitriolic call to arms and a liberal deployment of spittle.
Not the stronger of the 2 parts, with some of the key moments coming across as silly when really they should have been quite sinister but, for the most part, the acting is top shelf and the emotional countdown to The Doctor’s end is quite tangible. A watchable 6/10 then for the beginning of the end.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett