The 10th Doctor’s swan song, The End of Time, is an odd one. It tells a good story, plays with the lore in fun ways and Bernard Cribbins can do no wrong, but the actual ending is overly drawn out (though that kind of retroactively makes sense now…) Still, lot’s of fun to be had, so let’s take a good look!
It is the Tenth Doctor’s final journey — but his psychotic nemesis, the Master, has been resurrected on Christmas Eve! Each determined to cheat death, the battle rages from the abandoned wastelands of London to the mysterious Immortality Gate, whilst the alien Ood warn of an even greater danger approaching, as a terrible shadow falls across the entire universe.
With the sound of the drums growing louder in the Master’s head and an ancient trap closing around the Earth, the Doctor and Wilfred Mott must fight alone. Sacrifices must be made, and the deadly prophecy warns: “He will knock four times.”
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
The Doctor, looking a little rough around the edges.
The Doctor (David Tennant) – The Doctor was told by the Ood that he time was up and his end awaited him… so he decided to travel to them the long way round. Sooner or later, though, The Doctor arrives to face the Ood, and his destiny…
Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) – Wilfred is the grandfather of the Doctor’s former companion and friend Donna. The Doctor sees him as a relative of a friend and soon as a friend himself.
The Master (John Simm) – The Master is resurrected… incorrectly. Crazy, dying and slightly… electro-skeletal (whatever that means!), this Master is just looking for trouble, and his old friend…
Rassilon (Timothy Dalton) – The immortal Rassilon is one of the great people of Time Lord lore, and one of two who gave the Gallifreyeans access to time travel. He’s been good, he’s been bad, but as the Time War drew to a close, he became desperate…
The Ood (Various) – An alien race with psychic abilities, they have seen how the 10th Doctor will die, and want to guide him safely to it, for the sake of everyone.
The Woman (Claire Bloom) – A mysterious woman from The Doctor’s past, who, as the Time War comes to a close, wants to help him survive…
Plus many more!
Sometimes the bad in a story can be very good!
It’s hard to pick between David Tennant and John Simm as to who stole the show in this story. The 10th Doctor going through hell and becoming bloody, battered and bruised before his eventual sacrifice is good, but The Master’s insanity and weird plan are great stuff, as is his final scene. Let’s call it a draw.
The Doctor knows, even if he doesn’t want to admit it, that this is his final story for this incarnation, but he pushes on and not only tries to stop The Master, but even tries to help him. Then all hell breaks lose, Rassilon of all people is trying to bring Gallifrey to the post-Time War universe and destroy the Earth as a result, leading to a great reveal that the Time Lords became just as bad as the Daleks in the end, and that’s why he had to destroy them both. He eventually confronts Rassilon and points a revolver at him of all things, but it’s the Master, who upon hearing that the crazy drum beat in the head was all Rassilon’s doing, weakens the legendary Time Lord enough for the breach to be closed and see Gallifrey sent back to the Time War, Master included. The Doctor thinks he did it without the prophecy of his death coming when he hears four knocks… until Wilfred knocks on the door of a small booth that he was stuck in, one that will leak deadly radiation in a matter of minutes.
The look of shock and sheer disappointment on The Doctor’s face is great, as is his little speech about how much good he still could have done, before he of course sacrifices himself to save the lovable granddad. All that works, and he still “dies”. What comes next actually used to really annoy me, but retroactively makes perfect sense. The Doctor holds back his regeneration and decides to go on a “farewell tour” and visit all his past companions, which at the time annoyed me because I kept saying “You’re the 10th Doctor, you still have three lives left, for goodness sake!” BUT now retroactively thanks to the War Doctor being inserted and his use of a regeneration earlier (which at the time no-one was sure was actually a regeneration use) this is his final regeneration. He is about to become the thirteenth body and therefore his Time Lord cycle of lives will come to an end with it. He holds back his death so he can visit all his old friends because once he’s his next self, he could die at any minute and it will be permanent. This is his last chance to take a stroll down memory lane while knowing he can survive it. Retroactively it makes perfect sense and adds a lot to a regeneration scene that was previously overly long and confusingly all encompassing (it’s still overly long, mind you…)
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Bernard Cribbins can do no wrong, and Wilfred is such a great character, so likable and heart-warming. His conversation with The Doctor over regeneration being like death for each Doctor, as they lose all of who they are, is a great scene not just for The Doctor, but for Wilfred as well. Likewise his visible guilt over causing The Doctor’s death is subtle and brilliant.
The Master, as mentioned, is great in this. His scary repeating of words and his… skeleton flashing, his reaction of jubilation when The Doctor finds out the drum beat in his head is real and his plan to copy and paste himself over every human on Earth is absolute insanity, and hilarious that he actually pulled it off. His sort-of redemption at the end is great as well.
Finally, in terms of the lead cast, Timothy Dalton is great as Rassilon, all spit and arrogance. The idea that desperate Time Lords in the end see destroying the universe, Daleks included, while they become some spirit-like beings as a plausible option is just about crazy enough to believe, based on past actions (especially if you count Rassilon’s appearances in the Eighth Doctor audios as canon, like I do…) I also, once again retroactively, like how this plot and the scenes in it tie into Day of the Doctor, with the council mentioning that The Doctor has “The Moment” and in Day when the war council mentions that the higher ups plans have failed.
Overall it’s a really fun story, but centred around the relationship between The Doctor and The Master, much like the original plan for the Third Doctor’s final story was going to be…
James Bond eventually became Rassilon?! How the…?
As mentioned a couple of times now, his actual death scene is spread out way too much, even factoring in the now retroactively understandable “farewell tour”. Talks with Wilfred, scenes with Martha, Mickey, Sarah Jane Smith and quite a long one with Rose, and then a quite long build up to the actual regeneration. “I don’t want to go” indeed… Apparently not!
While I do sort of like the ambiguity of “The Woman”, I would like to know who she was. All signs point to it being The Doctor’s mother, but either way it was an interesting thread that remains unpulled.
Oh and the scene where the Doctor ponders why he keeps meeting Wilf was annoying, mostly because just the previous day I watched him give the exact same speech to Donna…
The Doctor regenerates one final time (he thinks…)
This is actually the third time the Doctor has died via radiation, as we know from earlier in the marathon with the Third Doctor’s regeneration in “Planet of the Spiders” and the Sixth Doctor’s in “The Brink of Death”.
Rassilon was mentioned many times in the series (normally through objects being the “_____ of Rassilon”) until he was finally seen in the 20th Anniversary special “The Five Doctors”, where he seemed to have immortality. He was later revealed to be an egotistical madman when he returned to active life in the Eighth Doctor’s audio stories in 2002 and 2003, including the 40th Anniversary story “Zagreus” and later being trapped in the Divergent Universe in “The Next Life”. How he escaped, regenerated and became President during the Time War has yet to be revealed.
The Doctor mentions that he once killed by “manipulating people into taking their own life”, which looking back probably refers to the Seventh Doctor and his talking a Dalek into suicide in “Remembrance of the Daleks”, though could mean other things, or something we haven’t seen…
This version of The Master is later cured of his affliction and banished from Gallifrey, later showing up in the Twelfth Doctor two-parter “World Enough and Time / The Doctor Falls”.
As I mentioned in the Day of the Doctor review, in the opening of this story The Doctor lists marrying Elizabeth I in his list of things he did before facing his fate, a scene we eventually see in Day. In the long end sequence, Captain Jack meets Alonso from the 10th Doctor story “Voyage of the Damned”.
The End of Time is sometimes pretentious and overboard with the goodbye, but all the lead up to the final scenes is really good, with John Simm possibly stealing the show as the unhinged Master. A worthy send off for Doctor #10!