Tennant’s Last Stand: Doctor Who – The End of Time

Posted on January 3, 2010

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SPOILERS AHEAD

So, I finally got to see The End of Time Part Two and really I’m afraid to say I was in no fit state to blog about it last night because I was reduced to the most basic display of sadness, i.e. – sobbing uncontrollably.

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I know what people are thinking. I ended 2009 singing my love for Doctor Who and David Tennant on this blog, and god damn it that’s how I’m going to start 2010! But I promise, after this, you won’t hear another DW peep from me until Matt Smith completes his first 42 minutes as the Doctor sometime this coming Spring.

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So what better place to start than at the beginning. No, not the very beginning; that would take far too long. The first episode of this finale was, I thought, disappointing and a bit worrying. The narrative was severely lacking, what little it had was drawn out and the cliff-hanger, I found a little bit, well, crap, actually, despite my love for John Simm and wish that every man in the world would look like him.

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I’ll be honest, I text a friend after watching the first part saying, “I think Russell T. Davies may have lost his mind.” But, at the same time, I also decided to refrain from making any solid judgement until I’d seen the second part, which I did last night.

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I suppose, in a way, Christmas TV is very different to normal TV. In the same way, a regeneration episode of Doctor Who is very different from any other episode. So then, a Doctor Who regeneration episode at Christmas time was always going to be an interesting affair. I said long ago that killing Tennant at Christmas would be like drowning a puppy in front of your small childeren.

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The second part of The End of Time was a big improvement on the first but at the same time, would not make a list of Top Five Tennant episodes and might barely make a Top Ten. Yes, it was a big improvement but there were a lot of loose ends. This point is good, because it means we have some semblance of Tennant’s time as the Doctor to cling to as we settle into life with Matt Smith. Most notable of these are; the identity of the mysterious Time-Woman who Wilf kept seeing and who seemed to have a bearing on the Doctor’s decision not pull the trigger on his own people. The other loose end, happily, is the fate of the Master and the thought that we might, perhaps, once again see John Simm hamming it up, and hopefully making fun of Smith’s floppy hair.

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On the other side of this coin was the use of Donna. I can’t say she was wasted because with Wilf’s involvement, she had to be there. But what of her brain? What of the beautiful ending she had in Series 4? Russell T Davies has a habit of writing beautiful endings for people and then ruining them with lacklustre returns – see Rose Tyler.

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In terms of performance, Bernard Cribbins was immense all the way through, a truly wonderful actor. It would be difficult to picture him as anything other than a serious actor, despite his Carry On… escapades. It’s feasible to say that, of all the companions this tenth Doctor has had, it is probably Wilf that understands him the best, despite spending the least time with him. Indeed, some of the best moments of both episodes were the quiet conversational moments between these two actors.

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Timothy Dalton had a menacing factor but to me, it hinted a little bit of a pantomime villain. Since the series returned in 2005, I’d always had a feeling that a Time Lord Return story was coming but considering the gravitas such a story would hold, I felt just two episodes didn’t do what could have been a fantastic plot, justice.

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The other main player of the piece apart from Tennant, was John Simm. Very unnerving in the first episode, his character evened out a bit in the second part. A similar actor to Tennant in ways, his various times as the Master have shown him hit tremendous highs and lows. His death scene in LotTL was a delicate mixture of poignant despair and triumphant acceptance. He gave the character an extra dimension in this episode; his actions hopefully, may fully come to light at a later date.

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Probably the thing we must remember about these two episodes is that, at the end of the day, they are Russell T Davies episodes. I’ve written on this blog before about Davies impeccable ability to achieve beautiful poignancy in his writing. The simple fact is, that every single Russell T Davie series finale so far has had these kind of moments; the Master’s death, Wilf’s beautiful speech at the end of Series 4, Doomsday (probably his best finale).

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Because there is one thing about RTD’s writing and that is that you will cry. If you have a soul, a heart or any other contraption that enables you to cry, it will work when you watch anything he has written. (On a personal note, this is quite unnerving for me because I never cry, or rarely cry anyway. I always tend to rationalise sad moments in my head, convert them into anger and punch things instead.)But not with Doctor Who. Because it’s not possible to rationalise Doctor Who. It’s not possible to rationalise the emotions that RTD writes so well, which I suppose leaves me in a strange situation whereby I can only understand emotion properly when it’s not directly affecting me, which doesn’t make sense either when I think of how involved I get in TV series…. But enough about my strangeness…

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RTD’s been accused of self indulgence and  pretentiousness. And to be fair, it’s probably true enough. He’s made wrong decisions in the past, or maybe made right ones and dealt with them wrongly, again see Rose Tyler. On that note, I think that scene with Rose in this final episode was beautiful. I can’t help thinking how much more beautiful it would have been had it been the first time seeing her since Doomsday but that, we’ll never know. The Doctor’s final reward montage, stumbling through the scenes and appearing briefly in all of the lives he’s touched could be accused of self indulgence and it would be right enough, but damn it, it’s touching! He could have gone and spent his last moments as him on the planet Barcelona (someplace he still hasn’t got to…). He could have done anything or gone anywhere but instead he chose to see everyone he touched, who touched him, through his own eyes one last time. Self-indulgence it may be, a tad overdrawn, yes, but it’s Christmas and if we can’t all self-indulge a little bit, what’s the point?

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Davies plots have always been either simplistic or a bit poorly executed. Davie writes characters, and he probably does it better than any other writer the series has ever had. He tugs at the heart strings but he does it so well. The simple fact is that fans of the show, will probably not remember the full plot details of these two episodes, there weren’t that many (or at least not that were well established, developed and given closure to anyway). But that doesn’t really matter because the episode was more a farewell, not so much a finale. So, to Russell T Davies, farewell and thanks for reducing us to tears on such a regular basis.

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When we lose things or say goodbye to something, we never really remember or even think about the circumstances around it, we just remember the end. And the end came with the words, “I don’t want to go.”

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So to the star of the piece. And my word but he was fantastic wasn’t he? Like most of his other episodes, his emotions hit those highs and lows. He’s a physical actor without needing to punch heads – everything he says shows on his face and body language. In many ways, he wouldn’t have worked so well without Russell T Davies, and RTD certainly wouldn’t have worked so well without Tennant. I feared after the first episode that this wonderful actor was going to have a mediocre swansong but whatever else RTD did with the plot, he wasn’t going to let his Doctor go out without a serious bang.

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David Tennant’s last words as the Doctor didn’t just tug my heart strings, it broke the organ completely. Because we realise that this is the thoughts of the man when he first took this role, as an eager DW fanatic, someone who constantly told us he had the best job in the world. We realise that perhaps, in his heart, he really doesn’t want to go, but knows he’s made his decision, and feels it’s the right one. Even if we, the audience don’t. Because his last line is so simple in its execution. Chris Eccelston’s last lines echoed what an audience thought of him, he was fantastic. So too do Tennant’s, because we don’t want him to go either.

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Be he did, and he has. And we’ll miss him something dreadful. But whilst the role of Doctor Who is a defining one, I think Tennant will be more than ok. He has shown in his other work that he is perfectly capable of redefining himself – Recovery is a prime example. He is a wonderful theatre actor. This part of his career is over, but I for one, am excited to see where he goes next.

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So, to quote the good man himself, Farewell David Tennant, “You were my Doctor.”

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As for Doctor Who, the mantle has been passed to Matt Smith.

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You have very big shoes to fill, Mr Smith.

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An early Series 5 trailer is posted below.

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