“The End Of Time (Part 2)”
The human race has been reshaped in The Master’s image but The Doctor faces an even greater threat with the return of the Time Lords.
What a way to call it a day. It’s rare that Doctor Who can ever really be described as ‘epic’ even when the show maker’s are aiming for exactly that. But with the conclusion to “The End Of Time”, Russell T Davies manages to not only give David Tennant’s Doctor a fitting send-off but also deliver an excellent piece of drama on a truly epic scale. And the reason it works is because it’s not the storyline that is epic, but the character development. The real case in point here being The Master.
Back in the Jon Pertwee era, when Roger Delgado was The Master, the show runner’s had plans to feature a dramatic storyline in which The Master sacrifices himself in order to save The Doctor – a shocking but ultimately affecting turnaround for the character. This never came to pass but with “The End Of Time Part 2″ we are finally given the sacrifice that never was. And for that alone you have to love Davies and his writing. The return of the Time Lords should be a joyous occasion as far as The Master is concerned, but he soon realises that not only has he been manipulated by them his entire life but also that the Time Lords had become dangerous and, frankly, a bit nuts towards the end of the Time War. This was why The Doctor had to let them fall alongside The Daleks – because they had become the greater threat.
So here the Time War is finally ended by the sacrifice of The Master, when he realises the Time Lords implanted the four beat signal in his mind (“the endless drumming”) for no reason other than to give themselves a get-out clause from the time lock. He finally sees the danger and the selfishness that has corrupted them and understands why The Doctor allowed them to die with The Daleks. The Master sacrifices himself to preserve The Doctor’s original actions at the end of the Time War and the circle is complete.
And people say Davies can’t write for shit…
Now ultimately The Master is acting out of a need for vengeance more than anything else. We can’t really argue that his whole character has suddenly changed but there is also no getting around the fact that he is saving The Doctor and indeed the universe through personal sacrifice. Personally, I feel this is the true highlight of the episode and some of the best writing RTD has ever delivered.
The build up to this epic conclusion though? Something of a mixed bag. We have some wonderful moments; The Doctor and Wilf hiding from The Master on board the spaceship, Wilf’s pleading with The Doctor to not let The Master kill him and his heartbreaking “I don’t want you to die” speech, Tennant’s brilliant performance when The Doctor realises that the Time Lords are returning and his look of sheer terror, the heart-to-heart he shares with The Master. But we also have some fairly stupid moments as well; the stairwell escape, Wilf and an alien shooting down missiles with amazing accuracy, The Doctor jumping from a height that managed to finish off the Fourth Doctor back in “Logopolis” and coming away with only a few cuts and bruises.
As for The Doctor’s inevitable end…well, it is genuinely heartbreaking when you realise who it is that knocks four times and what that means for The Doctor but it’s all a little bit overblown after that. He is overcome with emotion, even moments of outright aggression, all because he has become unwilling to meet his end. It’s a very powerful and unique approach to regeneration, sure, but I don’t think it was needed at this point. The Doctor has always approached death and regeneration very easily, perhaps you could argue too easily; surely there is some degree of trauma? It’s interesting to see it explored here and kudos to Tennant for pulling off the performance but I still feel that this approach to regeneration doesn’t quite fit and that this moment would have been better suited to The Doctor dealing with the possibility of actual death, with no chance of him regenerating. The farewell, as most fans have already commented, is way too protracted and The Doctor’s final words of “I don’t want to go.” are completely out of character for the Tenth Doctor, but Murray Gold’s score and the explosive arrival of Matt Smith still make this a wonderful moment in the show’s history.
At times a strangely moving finale, at others a bafflingly silly one, “The End Of Time Part 2” proves to be a difficult episode to either love or hate. Davies proves once more what he is capable of delivering with the show in terms of drama and character, with a particularly wonderful send-off for The Master and a bittersweet epilogue for The Doctor, but conceptual problems and some overwrought emoting make it an episode to be viewed with a fast forward button in reach so that you can skip to the good stuff. An enjoyable 7/10 then for the departure of the Tenth Doctor.
Written and edited by Richey Hackett