Doctor Who: The End of Time


Rating 3

Directed by Euros Lyn

Written by Russell T Davies

Starring David Tennant (The Doctor), Bernard Cribbins (Wilfred Mott), John Sim (The Master), Timothy Dalton (Narrator / Lord President), Claire Bloom (The Woman), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble), Karl Collins (Shaun Temple), David Harewood (Joshua Naismith), Tracy Ifeachor (Abigail Naismith), June Whitfield (Minnie Harper), Sinead Keenan (Addams), Lawry Lewin (Rossiter), Alexandra Moen (Lucy Saxon), Jessica Hynes (Verity Newman), Russell Tovey (Alonso Frame), Freema Agyeman (Martha Jones), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Tommy Knight (Luke Smith), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler) and Matt Smith (The Doctor)

The Doctor is summoned to the Ood Sphere, where he learns that the Ood have experienced visions of his arch-nemesis the Master, who he until now believed to be dead. They tell him that something is coming and the end of time is near. The Doctor races back to Earth, arriving on Christmas Eve. Aided by the elderly Wilfred Mott, the grandfather of his last companion Donna Noble, it is now a race against time to stop the Master and, ultimately, the return of the Time Lords themselves.


‘The End of Time’, broadcast on BBC1 in two one-hour segments on Christmas Day 2009 and New Year’s Day 2010, marks the end of David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor, as well as providing a farewell to Russell T Davies, the show’s head writer and one of its executive producers since its return in March 2005. The show has proved to be a huge ratings success in that time, a winner with (most) fans and critics alike, and David Tennant is now arguably the most popular Doctor of them all, although each fan will have her or his own particular favourites. Mine will probably always be Jon Pertwee, the Doctor between 1970 and 1974, and Sylvester McCoy, who occupied the role between 1987 and 1989. I would also have liked Christopher Eccleston to have stayed around for a while longer, although his single season does have a very distinctive and quite unique flavour to it.

The show, since its return, was undoubtedly at its peak in the first two seasons – the one with Eccleston and the first season with David Tennant, when Billie Piper was on board as Rose Tyler, the Doctor’s companion and perhaps the most iconic companion since Elisabeth Sladen appeared as Sarah Jane Smith between 1973 and 1976. That character was brought back by Russell T Davies and subsequently given her own series, ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’, which has run for three seasons so far. ‘Torchwood’ is another successful spin-off of the revived show, proving the extent of its enduring popularity. Since the end of season three of ‘Doctor Who’ in July 2008 there have been a number of “specials”, taking the place of a full fifth season. These have proved to be a little hit or miss and it has been difficult not to conclude that the formula set in place by Russell T Davies and the full-on approach of David Tennant has become a little stale at this stage. The same impression lingers during ‘The End of Time’.

I find that the constant frenetic pace can become rather tiring after a while and across two hours it is positively exhausting, although I do appreciate that the intention is to provide exhilarating Christmas entertainment for a widespread family audience. The Master’s appearance here is perhaps not quite as successful as John Sim’s initial appearance in the role at the end of season three and I wasn’t all that keen on having so many of him on the screen at the same time after the Master has become, more or less, every single person on Earth. It sometimes seemed as though Sim and David Tennant had shared a private bet to see who could give the most exaggerated performance, although they are certainly no slouches when it comes to acting ability. The characters Joshua and Abigail Naismith were far too sketchy, particularly given their central roles in the plot early on, as were the two “Vinvocci” aliens, whose presence was rather artificially and unconvincingly engineered as a plot necessity. Even the presence of Bernard Cribbins did not wholly rescue matters, although I have added an extra star rating for giving him such a central role and so much welcome screen time.

For all of the frenzied running around, it was at times strangely flat and rather convoluted, veering too much into metaphysical storytelling for my own tastes. However, for all of these criticisms it ultimately proved to be reasonably successful, although I imagine there will be much debate amongst fans about it, especially those who have been critical of Russell T Davies and his handling of the show – for example, the reference to the Lord President (played by Timothy Dalton) as “Rassilon” is sure to have raised a few eyebrows.

I did like the cameo appearances at the end of the second episode by various departed central characters from the four most recent seasons. This could so easily have been clumsy, but I thought it worked very well and highlighted the lovely emotional undercurrent that exists in the writing style of Russell T Davies at his very best. I am curious about the appearance of Russell Tovey (whose name had at one point been put forward as a possible candidate to take over the lead role when David Tennant announced his departure) and I wonder if there are plans for him to feature in the fourth season of ‘Torchwood’, assuming there is going to be a fourth season.

The regeneration scene before the brief appearance of Matt Smith as the new Doctor was perhaps rather drawn out, but David Tennant has been a particularly successful Doctor and so probably deserves such a send off.

Judged on the extremely high standards that Russell T Davies set for the show, ‘The End of Time’ proved to be slightly disappointing, but it was no less welcome for that and there was a whole host of nice little touches, especially during the closing scenes.

Review posted 2 January 2010


No comments: