THE END OF THE WORLD - 2nd April
Review and Commetary by Andrew Panero
It’s been fascinating watching the ripples this story
has created already in cyberspace. I saw Doctor Who just before going
out last night and by the time I got back in again and looked around on
the net everyone seemed to be talking about this show and the implications
for ‘continuity.’ I have my own thoughts on these, but I shall deal with
To begin with there is the episode itself; it begins with the
Doctor inviting Rose to pick a period of time to visit. At first they
visit the 22nd Century, the Doctor working frantically at the controls.
Deciding that is too boring they go to 10,000 AD where the Doctor announces
that the Second Roman Empire is in control. But the TARDIS doesn’t stop
there either. Instead the Doctor sets the controls for five billion years
in the future, for the day the world is due to end.
The next few scenes seem like a homage to Douglas Adams;
the TARDIS has materialised on board a space station orbiting Earth.
A selection of alien dignitaries have assembled to watch the planet be
engulfed by the Sun. Amongst them are trees (the Forest of Cheem), a blue
skinned dwarf with sharp teeth, a giant head and a group of cloaked figures
called the ‘adherents of the occurring meme.’ One expected an intelligent
shade of the colour blue to make an appearance at anytime. Instead we had
the Lady Cassandra, the last human being alive, six thousand years old and
reduced to a layer of skin stretched over a frame like a macabre canvas.
She ostentatiously announces her presence and brings with her two gifts,
the ‘last remaining ostrich egg’ and ‘an I-pod’ which turns out to be a 1950s
jukebox. She then plays some ‘classical music’- in this case ‘Tainted Love’
by Soft Cell. (Perhaps Russell T Davies self-referencing ‘Queer as Folk’,
Amongst the other guests other gifts are being exchanged; the
Adherents of the Occurring Meme hand out curious silver spheres as a
‘sign of peace and in good faith’. The Moxx of Balhoon shares some saliva
with Rose and the Doctor shares the air from his lungs with Jabe (Yasmin
Bannerman), one of the Forest of Cheem. She finds this very intimate;
Rose meanwhile, is suffering from culture shock. She leaves the party to
be alone and the Doctor follows her. Whilst he is leaving, Jabe takes a
picture of him with a strange silver device. This turns out to be a machine
for identifying different species of life; it has difficulty identifying
who the Doctor is.
Rose is quietly reflecting on what has happened when she comes
across a maintenance engineer called Raffalo. Rose learns that plumbers
still exist in 5 billion AD and Raffalo enjoys chatting to one of the guests.
After Rose has left she continues inspecting a service duct when a small
spider like machine comes charging down towards her. At first she takes
it to be an upgrade and decides to report it in. However some more of the
spider like machines appear and drag her into the service duct where her
screams are heard echoing out.
Whilst Rose watches the Earth from an observation deck, the sphere
given to her by one of the Adherents begins to open. One of the spider-machines
hatches out and scuttles off as the Doctor enters the room. Rose
is overwhelmed by the experience of being in such an alien environment.
She is puzzled as to why all the aliens seem to be speaking English; the
Doctor explains that the TARDIS has imparted some telepathic ability to
her so that she can understand what they are saying. Rose is horrified that
the Doctor’s machine has been ‘inside her head’ changing things and asks
why he didn’t tell her. The Doctor is mortified, even more so when Rose
begins questioning him about who he really is. He refuses to answer and
stands brooding, watching the Earth below them. To fill the uncomfortable
silence Rose begins to chatter about not being able to phone her mum. ‘Out
of range, just a bit,’ she quips, holding her phone up to the glass. The
Doctor takes her phone and replaces the battery with a strange alien looking
device, Rose is then able to phone her Mum 5 billion years in the past.
The Doctor seems to pass this off as a party trick, and then the platform
they are on begins to shudder.
Meanwhile the spiders have been busy at work trashing the space
platform’s safety systems, along the way they kill the steward in charge
of the station by lowering the sunscreen in his cabin. Many of the
guests are getting fretful because of the ‘turbulence’, which is passed
off as gravity wells. The Doctor is convinced that they are not gravity
wells and is sure that something is wrong with the engines. When he and
Rose return to the party the Doctor explains his fears to Jabe who tells
him there is a service corridor behind her quarters. Feeling somewhat
put out by all this badly concealed flirting, Rose decides to have a chat
with the Lady Cassandra.
The last remaining human being turns out to be a selfish, shallow
bigot who tells Rose that all the other humans had ‘mingled’ and become
‘mongrels’. Rose points out to her that after seven hundred operations
that had altered her body so dramatically the Lady was hardly in a position
to comment on who was ‘pure’ human. Cassandra takes this to mean that
Rose is jealous of her flatness and chides her for having ‘a bit of a chin.’
Rose’s response is to tell her she’d rather be dead than end up as a ‘bitchy
trampoline’ and rubs it in with the news that she is a ‘purer human’ than
Cassandra. This irritates the Lady intensely and one knows instantly that
Rose is number one on her hit list.
Meanwhile Jabe has been talking to the Doctor as he busies around
inspecting the station. She tells him that she scanned him earlier and
that her machine had big problems identifying what species he was; ‘I
couldn’t believe it when it told me,’ and she tells him that it was ‘remarkable
that you are here.’ Putting her hand on his arms she leans closer and says
she is very sorry, a small tear appears in the corner of the Doctor’s eye.
Rose is wondering around when she is knocked unconscious and dragged
away by the adherents of the occurring meme. She is taken to the room
where she and the Doctor were earlier which has a large glass panel on
one side overlooking the Earth.
Meanwhile the Doctor and Jabe discover that the Steward is dead
and that the sunscreen in where Rose is starting to lower. Battling
with the computer the Doctor manages to reverse the sunscreen but is
unable to free Rose from the room.
He and Jabe return to the party with one of the spider machines
that they had found near the air conditioning shaft. The Doctor re-programmes
the machine to find its owner, after taking a glance at Cassandra the
spider trots over to the Adherents. The Doctor is not convinced however
and pulling the arm off one of the Adherents explains (for the benefit
of 90 percent of the audience) that a meme is just an ‘idea’. He pulls
a finger from the clawed hand and the Adherents collapse in a heap, and
the Spider trots over to its real owner-Cassandra: She had planned to use
the Adherents to stage a hostage situation and then sue for compensation
afterwards. ‘Flatness costs,’ she tells the Doctor airily and then uses an
illegal teleport device to escape. She has made investments in all the rival
companies to the ones owned by the guests and expects the share prices to
soar after their deaths.
As the sun surges forward to engulf the Earth the Doctor and Jabe
race against time to save the platform. Here the storyline gets rather
silly and the Doctor has to race across a long metal walkway dodging
enormous propeller blades to reach the reset switch on the other side.
This part just seemed too much like a computer game to me, especially with
all the extensive CGI. Having said that though, this naffness was off set
by the very moving way in which Jabe sacrifices herself to ensure the Doctor
can succeed. Very rarely do we get so attached to a supporting character
before they get the chop and this moment was one of those special occasions.
The Doctor restores the shields as the sun finally destroys the
Earth, returning to the party he finds the relay for Cassandra’s teleporter
inside the Ostrich egg she had brought as a gift. He uses this to teleport
her back to the station; she is unrepentant and tells him that she’ll
battle it out in court ‘for centuries.’ However without her attendants to
constantly apply moisturiser her skin dries out and contracts, until finally
she explodes in a welter of blood. ‘All things have their time,’ the Doctor
Rose is dismayed that in all this chaos they had missed the world
coming to an end. She feels an intense loss as she watches the rocks
of her home planet spinning in space. When the Doctor returns her to
her own time he explains how easy it is to imagine that life will go on
the same forever, that the world will always be there for you. He then
tells Rose that he is the last of his species and that his world was wiped
out a war. ‘Its just dust and rocks now,’ and it becomes clear why he needs
Rose. He needs someone to travel with, he is utterly alone, and he is the
last of the Time Lords.
I’m sure that a lot of fans out there are dismayed by the destruction
of Gallifrey. For myself, well I won’t miss the place too much; all
those bloody time lords and their arcane mythology just annoyed me anyhow.
Getting rid of Gallifrey seems like a good move to me; after all the
Doctor seemed at his best when he was either running away from the place
or in Exile. When he started going back to Gallifrey on a regular basis
to be Lord President or to visit K-9 one just felt that there was no
mystery left anymore. So instead of a brooding exile we now have the last
survivor of his species, spinning around the cosmos in his fabulous machine,
able to go anywhere in space and time. But with a great need to share that
with somebody, it would seem.
Although this new version of Doctor Who is not perfect (there
are jarring moments believe me, especially when they started playing
Britney Spears!), I feel for the most part it is going along the right
track. The major plot thread is relationship between the Doctor and Rose.
This is what keeps the viewer watching from week to week in lieu of cliffhanger
endings. Having said that there are a couple of two parters this season,
so that will be interesting to see.