Friday, October 14, 2016

"The End Of Time, Part One" Returns The Master Wrong (And So Right!)

The Good: Good performances, Some good character moments, One or two neat twists
The Bad: Special effects are decidedly mixed, Fits poorly with the episode that preceded it, Ridiculous set-up for the return of the villain
The Basics: "The End Of Time, Part 1" sets up the big finale of David Tennant's tenure as The Doctor with mixed results.

In science fiction epics, there is the old, unfortunately accurate, adage that no one truly stays dead. Doctor Who is no exception. As David Tennant's reign as The Doctor wound down, a suitable end needed to be constructed for the character. That end began with the prophecy at the climax of "Planet Of The Dead" (reviewed here!) where The Doctor was told his death was imminent and that death would knock four times. To realize that, the two-part "The End Of Time" presented the story of the end of Tennant's Doctor with the return of The Master. For those keeping score, The Master was killed at the climax of "Last Of The Time Lords" (reviewed here!) by his human wife.

But, in true science fiction form, Doctor Who plays the resurrection conceit in "The End Of Time." Not insulting the viewer with using time travel or some "The Master wasn't really dead" ridiculousness, "The End Of Time" has a straightforward resurrection of The Master. The science behind The Master's return is completely wonky; it has the feel of magic and that, combined with The Ood suddenly being evolved in weird ways while The Doctor mindmelds with them, weakens some of the feeling of reality that usually grounds some of the more fantastic elements of Doctor Who. Saxon's attempt to stop the resurrection with information from "the secret books of Saxon" just seems ridiculous.

Opening with narration that implies that many people on Earth are having bad dreams as part of the end of the world, Wilfred Mott recalls the nightmares that many others have forgotten. He has a flash of The Master laughing and it leaves him unsettled. At a church, Mott is visited by a strange woman who tells him of the Legend Of The Blue Box, who implies that The Doctor is soon to return. The Doctor arrives on the Ood homeworld to visit Ood Sigma and learn about his impending death. There The Doctor realizes that the Ood's evolution has been accelerated and the Ood have been experiencing a collective nightmare, which leads him to believe something is not right in time and space. The Ood show The Doctor Lucy Saxon, imprisoned and alone, and people on Earth who might be interested in The Master.

On Earth, Christmastime 2009, a coven of women loyal to The Master use Lucy's DNA, The Master's ring and their own life forces to bring The Master back. While The Doctor makes his way back to Earth, Wilfred Mott organizes the senior citizens to try to find him. The Master, resurrected hungry, crazy, and with the apparent ability to fly, starts to kill people to try to gain power. Elsewhere, the wealthy Joshua Naismith activates a strange, alien machine. After an intimate conversation with Wilfred Mott, The Doctor tracks down The Master, who incapacitates him before he is captured by Naismith's forces. Naismith has resurrected The Master for his daughter, but soon finds he is unable to control the crazy Master.

"The End Of Time" makes Wilfred Mott into a full-fledged assistant to The Doctor in such a way that the viewer almost instantly feels they were robbed of The Doctor's next great Companion. That Mott and/or one of the Ood were not given the chance to be proper Companions for The Doctor and that he went through a period without any Companions is somewhat disappointing. "The End Of Time, Part 1" illustrates some of what could have been by showing how cool Mott and the Ood would have been as Companions. Wilfred oscillates between fun and horrified in "The End Of Time, Part 1," which makes him more interesting than some of the Companions were initially.

John Simm bursts right back into the role of The Master. Simm plays The Master as undeniably crazy and he is unsettling to watch, from his first scenes laughing to him beating the trash can at a construction site. The Master, in "The End Of Time, Part 1" is not a subtle being and Simm plays him as dangerous and insane quite well. The Master, in being resurrected, now has superpowers - he has lightning hands reminiscent of Emperor Palpatine. The sudden conceits surrounding The Master - his powers and his resurrection - make the episode feel like it is relying on something supernatural instead of scientific.

The superlative scene of "The End Of Time, Part 1" is not the big battle scene, but rather an emotional scene between The Doctor and Mott. The scene makes an oblique reference to the climax of "The Waters Of Mars" (reviewed here!), where The Doctor made a tragic mistake. The emotion of his epiphany and the tragedy of those events is muted by The Doctor's ridiculous time spent off between that episode and this one. The ridiculous entrance of The Doctor on the planet of the Ood does not pick up directly where that loss left off and so The Doctor breaking down with Mott is somewhat refreshing to see, even if it feels somewhat contrived getting him back to that point.

"The End Of Time, Part 1" marks the return of Donna Noble as well. Donna buys Wilfred a copy of Joshua Naismith's for Christmas, not quite knowing why. The idea that Donna still has some connection to The Doctor and The Ood is good and presented fairly subtly within the episode.

The special effect of The Master phasing is pretty cool. Unfortunately, his monstrous ability is balanced by some of the most fake looking skeletons ever seen on television.

Ultimately, "The End Of Time, Part 1" is a mediocre set-up episode that packs in a lot and has potential, but to play off all the conceits moves far too often into the ridiculous.

For other works with Timothy Dalton, please check out my reviews of:
The Tourist
Toy Story 3
Looney Tunes: Back In Action
License To Kill
The Living Daylights
The Lion In Winter

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


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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