Or, as I like to call it, Doctor Who:
MAKE IT STOP
MAKE IT STOP
I was subbing a choir class two weeks ago, and I happened upon a piano leg. Must have been a spare or something. Anyway, as I hefted it, I began to realize why it has a bit of a cult history as a favorite improvised weapon. Looking back on that experience, I can think of no better implement to bring down onto the head of Russell T. Davies with all the might and fury of an entire scorned fanbase. The End of Time, David Tennant’s finale as the beloved, iconic, quintessential British figure, the Doctor, was utter trash and a complete waste of camera time. From start to finish, the thing was utter garbage, and I cannot think of a worse way the Tenth Doc could have gone out. I even pulled the thing up on YouTube and forced my parents to watch it, because they have been fans since the Tom Baker re-runs on PBS in the 80s… they had to see what was wrought. I couldn’t wait for them to see it whenever SciFI (not Syfy, screw you) ports it over. It was an inglorious punch to the face that can only be softened with a heavy dose of cynicism and nerd rage.
For Sydney, Verity, and all the rest, here we go.
Let me say one thing first: these two episodes had possibly the best companion in the revived series. Wilfred Mott (played by Bernard Cribbins) is genuine, lovable, engaging, and effectively baffled yet stoutly informed. I reallty like the guy. I even like his raisin parade of oldsters who he recruits to run around and find the Doctor, even with the obligatory gay agenda. I love how he’s tied into the entire Donna memory erase storyline, which was actually poignant and a nice way to ditch an admittedly annoying companion. I like that he cares, and that he manages to make me well up more in two episodes than Rose did in two seasons. He’s an all around wonderful character. Therefore, I have no idea how he wound up in such a horse vomit story as this one. Other than that, almost everything in these two episodes flies, spits, and widdles directly in the face of Doctor Who, the fans, the legacy, and good writing in general.
Things start off with the Ood. Good gravy, am I sick of the bleepity-bleeping Ood. I loved them in their original appearance, where they were a noble slave race without any particularly overwrought slavery metaphors, and they all died because they kinds were in cahoots with the Devil…sorta…maybe. It was cool and ambiguous and they were very interesting an enigmatic characters… so of course RTD pulls the same garbage he did with the Slitheen and promptly tries to drive them down our throat with a bunch of overwrought slavery metaphors and unnecessary disappointing exposition. Listen, I knew Who is still done sort of on the cheap, but I’m sure you can afford more costumes. When the show was made with particle board and Prit stick they at least managed to have a few different monsters every week. But this isn’t a budgetary concern, oh no, this is RTD stomping about screaming “LOOK AT WHAT I HAVE CREATED ISN’T IT NEATO KEEN I AM AWESOME.”
Remember that, it’ll be important later.
So the Ood tell the Doctor that they had bad dreams and shit’s gonna go down, yo. Standard prophesying and foreshadowing… kinda like the lady from the “Planet of the Dead” special, but of course she wasn’t such a BRILLIANT CREATION as the Ood so she gets shunted. Sorry, interesting old lady, next time glue some spaghetti to your chin. We then cut to a cult who apparently worships the Master, and who has apparently managed not to forget when the Doctor reversed time and… made everyone forget the Master. Yeah. Why? They juist do. Anyway, they pour a bunch of MacGuffins into the Pensieve from Harry Potter and by using the “Books of Saxon,” the manage to resurrect the Master with the genetic imprint he left on his “wife” when he frenched her every five seconds back in season three.
Sidebar: season three’s climax was AMAZING with the return of the Master and Derek Jacobi’s seat-moistening performance…then they threw in Scissor Sisters, a Paradox Bomb (that they ripped off trom ME, thank you very much!) and an ending so contrived and awful that it still causes the bile to rise in my gullet and threaten to heave the delicious IHOP pancakes last night. It was like running a marathon and tripping five feet from the finish line…and then soiling one’s self.
So yes, the Master has returned…but his wife, who DOES remember (because she was on the ship where the Doctor turned back time, long story) thinks he’s a big meanie-poo-poo-head and uses something else from the “Books of Savon” to toast the whole proceedings, leaving the Master to live a cursed half life where he needs to constantly consume to keep from disappearing. Hmmm…now let me think: a bunch oi MacGuffins that basically allow for an evil mastermind’s resurrection, but by destroying them you cause him to lead an imperfect life where he must constantly consume…
I CALL SHENANIGANS!!!As do we all, no-nose, as do we all.
Thankfully (and understand that I use that word in the most sarcastic way possible) this incomplete Master (Beta-Master?) is constantly hungry, so we’re treated to delightful little monstages where he not only eats incredibly quickly and grossly, but also talks very quickly about all the things he wants to eat.
Yes, we get to see John Simm stuff his pie hole like a bellicose boar TWICE, just in case the first mic-ed up schlorp-fest wasn’t enough. And oh yes, I love to hear someone talk in a long LOOOOONG, stream-of-consciousness way about beef and chips and fat…twice. It’s just unpleasant…but then again I am one of those twitchy goons who hate it when people chew with their mouth open…grah. Oh, and remember that whole cult and the “Books of Saxon” and all that spooky evil stuff? Never mentioned again. EVER. You’d think some kind of cult that could figure out how to bring people BACK FROM THE DEAD would be mentioned again, even in passing, but no. No one word. What a convinient little scene to make up for the fact we killed off a character, and now we blew them up so it’s okay to say all gone bye-bye. I’M SUCH A GOOD WRITER, RTD says, patting himself on the back.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned Raisin Bridgade finds the Doctor in a scrapyard, and in a bit of classic-Who lampshading (no doubt) we have a confrontation between the Doctor and the Master… and the Master can apparently now Hulk-jump like he’s in an Ang Lee movie and shoot lightning out of his fingers like he’s Emperor Palpatine. SURE. BECAUSE THAT MAKES PERFECT SENSE. And is any of that explained? No. Apparently all Time Lords when they’re half-reincarnated can jump eight hundred feet in the air and shoot lightning bolts from the sleeves of their anoraks. Didn’t you know that? They totally mentioned it in The War Games. Oh wait NO THEY BLOODY DIDN’T. So the Doctor and Master have a chat, where the second “beans chips bacon wine pork fat” rant comes in and the Master forces the Doctor to listen to the Sound of Drums in his head. WHOA WHOA WHOA RTD, you can’t just go explaining unexplained plot points from two years ago… not when you’re busy creating fifty more now! Actually, I was glad that they finally mentioned what the crap the Sound of Drums was, even if the payoff is a big letdown. So the Master finally finds out that he’s not a complete nutter (a few people might disagree with you there) and flies off…yes, FLIES, because he can FLY NOW…
This is how I feel right now.
He…flies off…and is immediately captured by some rich black guy who wrote a book about…something and who bought a piece of alien bric-a-brac when Torchwood folded and wants to use it to give his daughter eternal life. If that last sentence made any sense to you, then you clearly enjoy SciFi. Anyway, the rich black guy needs the Master’s supah-brain to make ths “Immortality Gate” work. So they cart the Master off and some hired soldier plonks the Doctor with a rifle butt so he blacks out. I thought he’d been shot, and this lead to what I perceived to be the second regeneration fake-out of the episode. For those of you who don’t know, when the Doctor is close to death, he can regenerate into a new body and keep on truckin. Originally, this was done because the actor playing the Doctor was slowly dying of athersclerosis, bur the tradition has continued and everyone knows when the Doctor’s gonna do it. It’s like a national holiday in Britain: who’s it gonna be next? What’s gonna happen? How’s he gonna do it?
The first time I thought it was gonna happen was when the Master shot the Doctor in the heart with his Force lightning. The second was the rifle butt I mentioned up there. I thought “Wow, wouldn’t that be a complete and awesome writing decision, to make the regeneration happen surprisingly in the middle of the story to shock the audience, and then make the new guy defeat this mondo evil? Wouldn’t that be a bold choice and possibly redeem the RTD who re-started Who with pretty clever stuff and big shockers like destroying the Doctor’s home planet right off the bat? Yeah, that would totally be shocking and cool!”
So it doesn’t happen. Instead, we see more of Wildred (yay!) and Donna (boo!) as they enjoy their Christmas. Donna gives her old Gramps a book by the rich black guy, and through the convoluted excuse that “Donna must still somehow be in communication with everything that’s about to go down, yo,” they decide that the Master must be at the rich black guy’s house. Even Adam West’s Batman would want you to double check that one, guys. Oh, and somewhere around here there’s a scene in a cafe where Wilfred works up some tears (and I almost do, too) begging that the Doctor restore his granddaughter’s memory. The Doctor, being a modern creation, immediately steers this conversation into how he’s fated to die and even though it’s regeneration it still feels like death blah blah blah Linkin Park aren’t we deep. For a character who once faced death with a noble sense of duty, this Doctor sure is whining a lot. To top it all off, there’s some weird lady in white who keeps bugging Wilf through various methods (all of them seeeeecret) about how he’s important to what’s about to go down, yo, and you betta be packin. So Wilf grabs his service pistol from the Palestine campaign in 1948 and gets ready to pop a cap or something. Oh, and the Lady in White? Never really explained. Get used to that, cuz it’s gonna happen again!
While trying to fix the Immortality Gate, the Doctor runs into two comic relief aliens who explain that the gate is actually meant to heal entire planets, or some such rot. Naturally, the silly humans cannot handle the Master, who Hulk-jumps into the gate (possible Stargate rip-off) and uses his epic brainz to transform everyone on Earth into himself.
Yes, you read that correctly.
HE TRANSFORMS EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING INTO HIMSELF.
Not robots with his face, not slaves, but literally him. Like, and entire hive mind. The planet, apart from a few exceptions, are all one guy now. I know this is RTD trying to out-epic his previous finales, but even a five-year old knows that this is just a cliffhanger that will be resolved as soon as the next episode airs. Now that the Master is, well, everyone, he can use the combined brainpower to find out where the drumming sound in his head has been coming from since birth. He basically places an interstellar *69 and finds out it came from *gasp* GALLIFREY, the thought to be destroyed home planet of the Time Lords. It’s one of those time traveling loopholes that’ll make your head hurt if you think about it too much.
But we’re not done yet, because the epic narratorz we’ve heard intermittently throughout the episode turns out to be the voice of the Time Lord President, and it turns out that Gallifrey is not exploded, but merely hidden from Time, and all the Time Lords are coming back, and one of them is Timothy Dalton! But, of course, this isn’t a good thing, because there’s lots of ominous music in what looks like Star Wars’ Imperial Senate and lots of Nazi-like chanting, so apparently the Time Lords are t3h Evil now. They were hinted at being corrupt quite a long time ago, so it actually makes for a pretty nifty cliffhanger, even if I had to see John Simm’s head pasted onto a woman… and John Simm shooting force lightning.
I CALL SHENANIGANS!!!
So the Time Lords are stuck in some kind of Void (with yet ANOTHER cryptic sooth-saying character) beyond time to start episode two, but they can sttill fling a super-special Gallifreyan diamond between dimensions…somehow…and get it to the Master. He goes all “whoopee, I’ma bring back the Time Lords!” and the Doctor had one of his big dramatic speeches about how bad they became and they were locked away cuz they were now eeeeeevil. There’s a few more beautiful bits with Wilfred in here, but it’s IMMEDIATELY ruined by a lame spaceship chase scene where the Doctor has to evade missles and help blow them up with Wilf and one of the alien comic relief guys. Oh, and there’s a CRINGE-inducing sequence when the alien comic relief help him escape when the Doctor shouts out “worst resue ever!” Like he’s the comic book guy from the Simpsons. I don’t want Simpsons in my Doctor Who. I like Doctor Who in my Simpsons, but not the other way around. Yeeeesh.
So yeah, they climb into these little gun pod thingies and start blasting away at the missles and…wait a minute…
There’s homage, and then there’s just ripping off.
They get close to rich black guy’s house, and the Doctor decides that it would be a boffo idea to JUMP OUT OF THE SPEEDING SPACESHIP AT 300 FEET UP WITHOUT A PARACHUTE, landing with a thud between the Master and the returning Time Lord Timothy Dalton. He point’s Wilf’s service pistol at the Master, who speaks, then at Timothy Dalton, who speaks, and he goes round and round like this for wayyy too damn long, until finally shooting the control box on the Not-Stargate and sucking both the Master and the returning Time Lords back into the Time Lock. Oh, and at one point he calls Timothy Dalton “Rassilon” which is kinda like throwing a rancid bone to a dog that’s too proud to eat it. Sorry RTD, but you can’t go around refusing to mention the old series and then hope a few nuggets will make us happy. Not gonna work. Also, the Lady in White is seen again as a dissenter to Mighty Timothy Dalton…but that’s it. We still don’t know who she is. Grrf.
There’s an awful lot of padding in these two episodes: lots of talky talking and way too many scenes of the Master stuffin his face (read: more than one). It almost seems like the writer was trying really hard to squeeze this into two episodes to make it seem epic, but instead it really seems to drag. However, any dragging that it did before is absolutely nothing compared to what’s going to happen in the next few minutes.
You see, turning off the Not-Stargate and reversing the Master’s “make everyone look like me” spell has caused a bunch of radiation to build up in the radiation-shielding glass chamber that Wilf unknowingly locked himself in. The old lady I mentioned earlier (the THIRD soothsayer of this story) had mentioned that “he will knock four times” and then this Doctor will die. We hear the Master bang on a bin four times, we hear the drums in the Master’s head as a beat of four, but in the first clever writing decision since this ham hock of a hack picked up the pen for this God-awful dreck, it turns out that Wilf is the one who knocks four times, adking to be let out of the glass chamber. The Doctor then performs the noble sacrifice, locking himself in and absorbing the radiation, and the regeneration begins!
It would be logical to call Shenanigans.
I know, I know. But hey, ripping off another, better Sci-Fi story is still better than the absolute nightmare that is to come next. Brace yourself, because it’s gonna get ugly.
You might have noticed that I was able to sum up the second hour long show, the climax of the story, no less, with a substantially shorter paragraph. Seems weird, don’t it? Well, it does, until I tell you that the last twenty minutes of the show are devoted to the regeration.
The length of an entire sitcom.
Devoted to the regeration.
For those of you not in the know, the old series of Who used to be broadcast in twenty-odd minute episodes and in serials up to about five or six episodes apiece. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Up until now, the longest regeneration scene, starting from the time of the action that caused the regeneration, comes in at about five minutes.
This regeneration takes twenty.
See the difference? Because apparently Russell T. Davies didn’t. Instead of a quick, dignified exit for who some claim to be the best Doctor, instead of a tragic and sad lonely death for the Doctor in the arms of a relatively new companion, like several other incarnations, we get twenty mnuites of RTD playing with himself. Yes, the writer actually thought it would be a good idea to buck tradition entirely and take almost HALF AN HOUR to show his beloved character dying, because God forbid anyone have a more epic death than his beloved Doctor. The whole thing smacks of self-satisfied, fanfiction level gushing to the point where I can’t believe it made it on TV. It is an absolutely transparent exercise in RTD going “LOOK HOW GREAT I AM,” showing the Doctor managing to interact with every sngle one of the companions he’s had in the last four years, including yet ANOTHER Star Wars ripoff. Davies’ grimy mitts is all over this, and you can tell he padded out the episodes with enough crappy filler just so he could give a big explodey send-off for HIS Doctor. It’s childish. It’s puerile. It’s selfish and disrespectful. It’s something a melodramatic fifth-grader would write because their character is just so wicked good that he deserves a twenty-minute sendoff. It’s one of the most unprofessional pieces of writing I’ve ever seen, most notably because it directly contradicts the series’ history, history Davies himself adhered to with the departure of the Ninth Doctor. Short and sweet. Instead, we get twenty minutes of self-aggrandizement where you can almost imagine RTD typing one handed, if you know what I mean.
And this Doctor is so damn WHINY. Most of the Doctor’s have some noble line to go out on, like “Is this death?” or “the moment has been prepared for,” or “no tears,” to a crying companion. Tennant’s Doctor? Well, RTD decided his last words should be “I don’t want to go,” which is more of a tell that RTD is a petulant little gobshite who doesn’t want to leave and is speaking through his character. Awful, awful writing. Good riddance, RTD, you fucking hack.
I mean…I watched The Happiness Patrol, which had a monster made of CANDY, and I thought “not bad.” I watched rubber monster after rubber monster throttle Jon Petwee and Tom Baker and all the rest, and I bought it. I was even okay with the farting Slitheen when RTD first started, they weren’t that bad. But this…transparent, badly-written, mastubatory garbage masquerading as a regeneration sequence… it’s almost too much. This coupled with Avatar was just a double punch to the groin and might as well have screamed in my ear “writing doesn’t matter! writing doesn’t matter!” in an infuriating singsong tone. Remember the rich black man and daughter? Written off in one line. The comic relief aliens? One line. The old people? Never mentioned again. The cult of Saxon? Never mentioned again. The ENTIRE BLOODY WORLD BEING TRANSFORMED? They get about two lines, just so everything can be shunted aside for RTD’s little romp down self-absorption lane. THIS IS NOT GOOD WRITINGI! i just…I feel like I’ve been betrayed, after spending all this time getting into the show, for it to devolve into this, the awful words of a power-drunk clod that even fanfiction.net would turn down… it’s just heartbreaking. However, there is hope. Davies is gone, thank the Heavens, and in his place will be Stephen Moffat, the man responsible for some of the best written episodes of Who in recent memory. Hopefully he can salvage this travesty Davies has left for him. Sometimes, I think Davies was actually TRYING to write crap so the handover would be easier, and if that was the case…mission accomplished, you hack. Yes, I said hack again because he is one. HAAAACK.
Here’s to Matt Smith and Stephen Moffat. Sure, the new Doctor looks like he’s a Twilight reject, but Moffat’s a good writer. All the best. You can’t possibly do ANY WORSE than The End of Time, unless you had the Doctor crapping his pants for two hours.
…no, wait. That would still be better.
Until we meet again, I tenderly remain,