The End of Time Part Two
The Doctor: I don’t want to go.
Episode star rating:***** (out of a possible five)
Two-parter star rating:*****
Two men, the Doctor and Wilf, against the two teeming hordes of two planets – that was the cliffhanger of the previous part (click for review), now Doctor Who story number two-oh-two is complete – as is five years of Doctor Who, five years brought full circle in more ways than one. The story of the Time War is complete. The circle is completed.
After the pre-credits recap and the opening credits the story opens on the final day of Gallifrey, the final day of the Last Great Time War. The production design is superb – Roger Murray-Leach’s celtic-circle from The Deadly Assassin has been used as inspiration for the circular spidery clockwork Time Lord motifs seen in the TARDIS and other Time Lord (clockwork) technology from 2005 onwards, and here in this scene these motifs become a whole aesthetic.
That 1976 DW story also provides the basic Time Lord robes and caps and collars (that were popular in the ’80s too), not a mixture of robe-colours though, the colour not quite the traditional scarlet – all blood-red this time (with gold flourishes), perhaps to signify the unified Lords are all on a war footing?
The President certainly seems to brook no dissent (as shown by his Gauntlet. At this point in the story I must say the thought of the phrase “The Gauntlet of Rassilon” occurred, though I didn’t realise how significant that would prove later.)
They divine from the circular prophetic scratchings of the The Visionary, they divine that two of their number will survive the War – and one word is repeated, Earth. (The sense of style encompasses the idea that all these Lords have simple descriptives like The Doctor and The Master rather than space-names like Borusa.)
The story then focuses on those two – The Doctor, The Master – with Wilf, the only men on the planet unchanged by the Gate machine. Some more backstory, this time the Master-gazing into the schism from The Sound of Drums – at the same “time” the Time Lords discuss what they know of the Master – the sound of war drums? More like the rhythm of four, the heartbeat of a Time Lord, reckons a president – more circles, as a circular plan is formed (they know of the rhythm-of-four signal that was received and so they send the rhythm-of-four signal!) The Grainer and Derbyshire rhythm-of-four DW theme.
While Donna’s defence mechanism gifted to her by the Doctor saves her, the Doctor tries to reason with the Master again – “You could be be so much more…”
After the Vinvocci lend a hand, the first quarter of the story ends on their ship orbiting the Earth – the 73 minute run-time can be neatly divided into four acts. A rythym of four – a spectacular Act I, a quietly powerful Act II , a spectacular Act III, a quietly powerful Act IV.
Act II – like the previous story-part, the plot events are fairly skeletal, with space for lots of dialogue for the characters. The heart of this Act II is this part’s version of the cafe scene – the Doctor and Wilf have a melancholy conversation, again subtly referencing the events of The Waters of Mars (while a diamond propelled from the Last Day of the Time War to Earth propels the plot along).
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off” – RTD must surely be aware of the concept of “Chekhov’s Gun”, and Wilf is reminded of his service revolver of the “first chapter” by the Mysterious Woman; the gun is also discussed by the two men on the ship, another element of the simple elegant plot. The question is raised, will the Doctor follow Wilf’s suggestion?
If Act II is the ship hanging darkly in space, Act III kicks in with the lights thrown on and a cinematic hurtle to Earth as the Doctor races to confront Master and, he realises because of the “white point star” diamond, the plan to bring back the Time Lords (who have been “changed right to the core” by the War).
The culmination of this desperate race seems, possibly, regeneration, as the Doctor free-falls through the massive skylight clutching Checkov’s revolver, though Tenth is still going after that spectacular arrival – it won’t be a regeneration like the 4th Doctor then.
There’s the reveal of, if not exactly WHO the Mysterious Woman is, then where she is from. The guiding of Checkov’s revolver to rage against the machine is subtly done, as she barely motions to the Doctor with her gaze, though she does. She gives the Doctor a third choice.
“You did this to me!” – “You made me! One! Two! Three! Four!” More circularity as the Master keeps the Time Lords at bay, ensuring they and he vanish back to the last day of the Time War.
So to Act IV, another quietly powerful Act, the final 23 minutes. The Doctor is still standing, but like the Fifth and the Ninth, he chooses to save a companion and begin a regeneration. Like the Second Doctor, he rages against the dying of the light and the unfairness of it all.
Recalling all these Classic stories – and one other story. Planet of the Spiders, the Third Doctor is gone for weeks from his companion until he returns in the TARDIS, as the radiation slowly, very slowly brings about his regeneration.
So, the final scenes – an elegiac celebration of an era in six parts.
1. Mickey and Martha in what is presumably some sort of “Dark Future”, are still “saving the Earth” – together. Like a New Adventures novel chapter made into onscreen scene, this is a startling though fun end for the two characters.
2. The last goodbye for Sarah – a silent wave which perhaps means “A tear, Sarah Jane? No, no, don’t cry”.
3. Cap’n Jack (after the events of TW3) is prompted to smile again.
4. An unexpected and moving coda to a 2007 two-parter.
5. Goodbye to Wilf, Sylvia, and, Donna – full circle in wedding dress, he leaves her as he met her.
6. More full circles, full circle as the TARDIS lands where it did when the Tenth Doctor first arrived on Earth, also full circle to 2005 and Rose.
After all these poignant goodbyes, the final words from the Tenth Doctor – “I don’t want to go”.
The Eleventh Doctor falls to Earth, as the Earth rises towards the audience just as it did in the first episode of 2005.
Five years of Doctor Who stories brought full circle by a magnificent final story.
(The End of Time Part Two iplayer)