Boy, am I glad that's over!
Republibot 2.0 has already done a great play-by-play in his review, so I won't bother with one here. Where to begin with this ending? As anyone who ever watched "Melrose Place" or "Northern Exposure" o r "Lois an Clark" or the new "Battlestar Galactica" knows, there comes a point where you've jerked your audience around so much that it becomes increasingly difficult for them to give a damn. I'd say Doctor Who passed that threshold with the season 30 finale. (Which, in typical Russel T. Davies was basically a bunch of sound and fury signifying nothing)
Things that bugged me: The Master turning everyone on earth into him was goofy enough, but that turning out to be just a fake cliffhanger to ramp up tension,and then be dispenced with out of hand (Literally) in Part 2. Gah!
The long, long, long, long goodbye in the regeneration scene.
Rose. Dammit. Enough with Rose already! More than enough Rose already. Look, I loved Billie Piper in the 27th season when she was young and cute and all. I tolerated her in the 28th season, but didn't love her because the dynamic was different and something about Rose herself was different. When she left, I was happy to see her go. But how many times have they brought her back now? I realize it's only three or four, but I feel like I've seen her more since she left the show than I did when she was on it. Added to which, trying to pass off a 27-year-old chick with waaaaaaaaaay the hell too much plastic surgery off as the 22-year-old version of herself was painful (if brief) to watch. Seriously, what have they done to her upper lip? Tragic. I was more excited to see Jackie than I was to see Rose, honestly.
I get what was going on, of course, The Doctor’s Reward was selfishly helping out the people he loves, trying to spare them some pain. Giving Alonzo to Jack will to presumably heal some of the pain from murdering his own grandson; Saving Sarah Jane’s son to spare her pain; Saving Martha’s life; Making Donna a millionaire. I get that, and I even like it, but you know what would have made it better? If it didn’t come at the end. If the Doctor had realized he was going to die, so he went about setting his affairs in order before going to the Oodsphere, or perhaps before going after the master, rather than that stupid chase to earth, and oh, I’m late crap. How can you be late in a time machine? The doubletalk explanation is, like most doubletalk, unsatisfying.
It’s not my job as a critic to rewrite the script, of course, but in watching this silly, stupid, and sad (But not in the way it was meant to be sad) piece of dumbassery, I couldn’t help thinking “man, this would be so much better if…” or “Wow, they really oversold that” or “Haven’t we seen this all before? Like a dozen times?” I cite the example above only to show how simply arranging the episode differently would have salvaged it. Simple things like having the Doctor regenerate when he fell though the skylight, and have the new guy finish out the story, or move the looooooooooong goodbye somewhere else in the two-parter so that it appears the Doctor is resigned to his fate, and has made peace with it, *Then* you get more payoff, more emotional depth, when he says “I don’t wanna’ go” in the end.
Gah. I’m doing it again. Sorry. No more of that, I promise.
But, man, it really was a mess, wasn’t it? I really am glad to get this out of the way. Be done with it, put a new driver in the car, move on. It’s been a year of ponderousness for this? And since when can The Doctor fall a thousand feet and just shake it off? And if the Doctor absorbed all that radiation, why isn’t he a health hazard to everyone around him? Ok, doubletalk Time Lord mojo, fine. So why isn’t his coat radioactive? Why did his regeneration trash the Tardis? I know the behind-the-scenes reason: they wanted a new set, but you need to have some kind of in-universe reason, don’t you? And Donna’s “Remembering” turns out to be really no big deal. Martha married Mickey the Idiot? Really? I actually really like Mickey, but I find that hard to believe. And they’re freelance alien hunters, Martha’s out of UNIT? What is this, “Sanctuary” with aliens instead of supernatural hoobajoobs? Sigh.
Ultimately, what bugs me about this is that all these elements were set in place in the season 30 finale. If you superimpose this finale over that one, you can see all the same beats are hit, and you can see how that one was hastily re-written to be open-ended, whereas this one was basically padded out of the unused bits of that one. Case in point: The Doctor gets a goodbye to all his chums in the Season 30 finale, he regenerates (Flag on the play) he saves the world. Lather, rinse, repeat this year.
There was some stuff I *did* like, however:
- Wilfred. Wilfred was great. He’s an 80-year-old kid. I love every scene he’s in, but the scene where he’s gleeful about being in space, where he tries to talk the doctor into saving his own life, and his obvious guilt and pain at causing the Doctor’s “Death,” are all golden. (Neither here nor there, but I remember a quiet scene with Wilfred talking to The Doctor a season back. We don’t hear what he’s saying, but it ends with “Don’t tell Donna,” and the Doctor says, “I won’t.” I *STRONGLY* got the impression from that that Wilf was dying, and didn’t want her to know. That would seem to be a dropped thread.)
- The scenes where The Doctor was trying to reason The Master out of his insanity - “You can go with me, it would be my honor, we can find a way to fix this” - not so much because The Doctor is trying to redeem his worst enemy/best friend…again…but rather because of the way The Master reacts. He’s seriously thinking of it. It seems like a good option to him. He’s tired of what he is, he’s like another way. For a moment, there, he’s on the hook, and there’s a whole lot of pain and tired and wearyness behind his eyes. Then his megalomania kicks in and, well, that’s the end of that.
Except that it’s not: He saves the Doctor’s life in the end, partially out of rage over what the Time Lords did to him, but a part of that rage is being forced to spend a lifetime fighting the only person who could ever keep up with him, for no damn reason whatsoever. I don’t really want to see The Master ever again, but if we do, I hope it’s the John Simm version.
- The Time Lords are Evil. I suspected something was up, but I never suspected that, it caught me flatfooted. Not only evil, but a totally psychopathic Dalek-brand form of evil, minus the incompetence. They make it pretty clear that the entire species has gone mad, with only two votes against their plan of universal destruction.
- The Mysterious Time Lady was one of the dissenting votes: Who was she? I like that they didn’t resolve it, that it’s something that’ll probably be revisited latter in some fashion, but there’s really only two people it could reasonably be: Romanna or Susan. My bet is that it’s Susan, as there’s more of an impact that way, having to kill off your own granddaughter. (Who was the other dissenter?)
- Rassilon - the reveal of who he was really was a jaw dropper for me. He’s been hinted at for thirty years as on one hand the Adam of the Time Lords, on the other hand, a person mad, bad, and dangerous to know, but we’ve never see him before, and I doubt we’ll see him again. Solid performance, with a good mix of ego, forcefulness, and complete whackado crazy. I particularly loved the line where he calls The Master “A disease, albeit a disease of our own making.”
- Conceptually, I like the idea that The Doctor can pull off the demigod like stuff easily - saving the universe, winning the time war, fixing the time stream - but it’s the human stuff that does him in again and again. I don’t think it was terribly well done, however.
So I’m a little bit confused about this whole Time Lock Time War thing - Is Galifrey trapped in an eternal bubble of time, fighting the war over and over and over again, or did all this happen on the day before Galifrey was destroyed? Did the planet come forward in time, briefly, before getting snapped back to the Time War just moments before The Eighth Doctor destroyed it?
The first appearance of the 11th Doctor didn’t do much for me. The whole ‘extreme adrenaline junkie’ thing could probably get really old really quick, but I’ll withhold judgment for now.
In any event, I'm really glad that's all over. Hopefully the show can get back to being about Doctor Who, and not about it's producer.