A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “The End of Time – Part 2”
What a bittersweet goodbye for the Tenth Doctor. In certain ways, it was a tidy finish: all of his friends are safe and happy. But it was also overtly painful. “I don’t want to go,” David Tennant said—immediately before turning into Matt Smith.
But first, Ten had to defeat the Master. When we left him at the end of Part 1, the Master had transformed the whole human race into himself. Six billion Masters, in six billion outfits, doing whatever the Master—the original Master, that is—wanted. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Wilf and those cactus aliens—sorry, the Vinvocci—are trapped in a malfunctioning ship above earth. And somewhere in a Time Lock far, far away, a counsel of stern-faced Time Lords are trying to reconnect with the outside world. You’d think Gallifrey’s return would be good—but it’s actually very dangerous.
We’ve seen snippets of Gallifrey via the Doctor’s memories and flashbacks, but this was the first time we were given a substantial look at the Time Lords in action. From the Doctor’s attitude, you’d think they’d be a fun-loving bunch—but it seems they are both austere and kind of scary. There was something Laurence Olivier-theatrical about the scenes at their counsel. Watching the Lord President (played by Timothy Dalton) lay down the law was sort of like watching Shakespeare—in space.
The return of the Time Lords, while reuniting the Doctor with his people, ultimately emphasized his solitude. It’s one thing to be alone because your people are dead. It’s another thing to be forced to reject and imprison your own people because their plans will harm the entire universe. Also, we still don’t have an answer to Wilf’s question: “That woman, who was she?” The Doctor’s mom? The Doctor’s wife? The Doctor’s crazy Aunt Silvia? Guess we’ll have to wait for another season to find out.
The result of the “he will knock four times” prophecy was a little underwhelming. After so much drama with the Master and the Time Lords, Wilf’s knocking felt like a side-note. He’s trapped in an isolation chamber, and needs the Doctor to let him out—i.e. he needs the Doctor to absorb a whole bunch of radiation on his behalf. Presumably this will kill the Doctor, but of course, they all get off safely—even if saving Wilf does jump-start the Doctor’s regeneration.
One thing that was interesting in this episode was the Doctor’s—and all the Time Lords’, for that matter—fear of death. Having lived a millennia, you’d think the Doctor would be ready. But since he suffers no decay of the flesh, he has no reason not to keep on going. Plus, pretty girls still think he’s cute.
For the final fifteen minutes of the episode, the Doctor popped in on all his former pals, bidding them farewell. His regeneration doesn’t come unexpectedly, or out of some pushed-in-a-corner necessity: the saddest part is that he knows it’s on the way. In the previous episode, the Doctor explained to Wilf that regenerating was kind of like death—”Even if I change, it feels like dying,” he said, “Everything I have dies. Some new man goes sauntering away.” It’s funny that a few seasons later—following Matt Smith’s regeneration into Peter Capaldi—a point is made (to Clara) that they are the same man. It’s the Doctor’s constant in-between-ness that causes pain: forever in between versions of himself, forever in between doing good and doing bad. There’s no doubt David Tennant’s Doctor was a very conflicted man—I’m curious to see if Matt Smith has a lighter conscience.
At least Eleven—from his initial, frantic inventory—has all his parts in place. Hands, fingers, ears, nose, chin and hair! We’ll have to see what he does with them next season.