Sunday, July 13, 2014

Improving Upon Doctor Who At “The End Of The World!”

The Good: Decent acting, Good character development, Irony
The Bad: Somewhat obvious plot progression
The Basics: An assortment of clever aliens and a decent bit of character development makes the otherwise underwhelming “The End Of The World” work extraordinarily well.

Arguably, one of the reasons it was so easy to get into the new incarnation of Doctor Who that began with Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor is how accessible the show was. While the series utilizes a number of fantastic concepts – the protagonist is virtually immortal, flying around in a time machine and utilizing a screwdriver that operates on soundwaves but cannot affect wood (though it solves a number of other plot problems, much like a Star Trek tricorder) – it works hard to very organically introduce the incredible elements without seeming blandly expository. The second episode of the new series, “The End Of The World” does that extraordinarily well.

“The End Of The World” is the first temporal adventure of The Doctor and Rose Tyler and it develops well. The show begins to delve into who The Doctor actually is and it also makes Rose Tyler into a more realistic and realized character. The relationship between The Doctor and Rose Tyler is moving very fast in “The End Of The World” and their banter makes the series very accessible and fun to watch. Thematically, “The End Of The World” has more going for it than the pilot episode, “Rose” (reviewed here!). “The End Of The World” picks up where “Rose” left off, though the recap at the beginning of the episode is enough for new viewers to pick up without feeling like they are missing much.

Challenged by Rose to show off the power and range of the TARDIS, the Doctor playfully takes Rose on little leaps into the future. When she is unimpressed, the Doctor stops their journey five billion years in the future. There, they land on Platform One, a space station that is orbiting Earth to witness the final moments of Earth. The Earth has been put in trust and the money has run out, so the Doctor is having Rose witness the force field stopping the sun from expanding being turned off. As dignitaries and the rich arrive on Platform One, the Doctor and Rose rub elbows with the galaxy’s notables.

Thirty minutes before planet-death, robotic spiders begin taking over Platform One. After Rose encounters a plumber named Raffalo, the blue woman is dragged off into the air conduits by the robot invaders. After the Steward is killed, the humanoid tree, Jabe, and The Doctor begin looking into the underside of Platform One. The Adherence Of The Repeating Meme (one of the alien visitors) knocks Rose out and tries to kill her by removing the sun filter on one of the outside chambers, but The Doctor arrives in time to save her. Reprogramming a spider, the Doctor uncovers the creature behind the plot to kidnap or kill all of the dignitaries on Platform One!

This early in a television series, one of the key things I look for is character development. “The End Of The World” has it and it helps to define the Ninth Doctor and Doctor Who as a modern show. “The End Of The World” feels like a bottle episode, but it actually lays a solid framework for the serialized nature of the first season. This episode has a good sense of consequences for Rose, especially as she relates to “Rose.” Rose seems to suddenly realize just what flying off with The Doctor actually means. Despite the fantastic elements and characters, Rose is grounded with a strong sense of realism. Facing the destruction of Earth, she just wants to call her mother and understand who The Doctor actually is.

The Doctor’s slouch is what allows the robots to invade as much as they do. “The End Of The World” hinges, in part, on The Doctor looking down while robot spiders go over his head on the wall in front of him. The Doctor is an interesting character and in “The End Of The World,” he is characterized well as being a man in the moment. The Doctor tries very hard in this episode to pretty much deny his past and exist in the present. The implication of a horrible event in The Doctor’s recent past adds a level of intrigue to the character. “The End Of The World” plays well in that The Doctor takes Rose to the destruction of Earth before he is able to confess to her that his planet has been destroyed and that he is the last of the Time Lords. Despite appearing potentially cruel, the idea of both Rose and The Doctor (for a time) being the last of their kinds allows them to bond in a way that nothing else could.

There is a smart sense of consequence in both the backstory and in the episode “The End Of The World.” The Doctor is wrestling with the actions that brought him to Earth and ended the Time War (though it is not explicitly mentioned). The Doctor is characterized as judgmental, not bloodthirsty. In dispensing the episode’s final judgment, The Doctor illustrates that he is not just goofy and living without any sense of consequence; he acts and when he does, he has no one to keep him in check.

Writer Russell T. Davies has a decent sense of irony in “The End Of The World.” There is a good moment of irony of the big event being missed by everyone who was present. Only the viewers get to see the destruction of Earth; the characters in the episode are all looking elsewhere.

“The End Of The World” is packed with good banter. The Doctor and Rose have nice moments of flirtation and Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper have great on-screen chemistry. The performers sell their character’s burgeoning relationship perfectly and with a decent sense of realism.

The second episode of Doctor Who is a good episode that illustrates how Doctor Who will have consequences that resonate through the episodes. “The End Of The World” pushes The Doctor and Rose together and it sets up their characters to depend upon one another, even as those around the pair suffer. Davies creates a darker universe than Star Trek; the motivations five billion years from now are still based in greed and humans are not the only entities motivated to do horrible things for money. Fortunately, the themes and motivations are drawn out well in “The End Of The World,” making it worthwhile.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sole season with the Ninth Doctor here!

For other works with Zoe Wanamaker, please visit my reviews of:
My Week With Marilyn
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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