Review: The End of the World
Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005
"Jabe - You're made of wood."
I got to see a preview tape of episode two this afternoon. Since Jon got in such a huff last time about my revealing that the Autons make evil doubles of people, I'll keep these bleatings very definitely divided into 'Non-Spoiler' and 'Spoilerish' chunks.
First off, thankfully the incidental music is much better. I'd go so far as to say that the opening stuff with the Doctor manually setting co-ordinates, reaches the dizzy heights of 'quite good' as it stresses the ramshackle, clockworkyness of the TARDIS.
After complaints about the thin plot of 'Rose', this episode has much more going on. Not disimilar to 'Curse of Peleadon' (though thankfully not 'Monster'), it's an excuse to show that 'Doctor Who' can do space alien conference stories. It's nice that in typical WHO fashion, for every impressive creation (Cassandra, the truly creepy, clicky metal spiders) there's something else cheap and cheerful to balance it out - usually a blue midget.
The pace is still pretty frantic which, personally, I like - I'm all for self-contained stories after suffering so many Pertwee six-part monstrosities. Plenty of people seem to be missing the cliffhangers - well there's a nice one roughly half way in should you wish to dub on the screeching music yourself and wait a week to watch the second chunk.
The emphasis is still on the characters of the Doctor and Rose, and their burgeoning relationship. There's a great scene early on, in which Rose is hit by the realisation that she hasn't really thought through what travelling with the Doctor involves and there's a real tension when she confronts the Doctor about this. Eccleston's Doctor seems much more bothered by how his companion perceives him than, let's say, Davison ever was when faced with one of Adric's frequent strops.
You'll be pleased to hear that this week's crisis (Yes, of course there's a crisis) is sorted out in a much more satisfactory fashion than last week's 'Anti-Plastic'. There's a chance for the Doctor to do some detective work as well as some Pertwee-style physical stuff (no hovercrafts before you ask) though see also the spoiler section about a huge quibble I have with that last point.
My big worry is whether or not the general public will be as sympathetic towards all this wacky aliens in the far future stuff as I'd imagine they were to last week's more Earth-bound thrills and spills. I'm hoping that the hook of seeing the final end of Earth will be enough to make people realise that this isn't another dreary 'Star Trek' TUC conference in space.
Finally, the scenes involving 'traditional Earth music' should raise a smile, depending on what sort of clubs you frequent.
Oh, and the trailer for 'The Unquiet Dead' manages to look genuinely spooky.
I loved the fact that 'Rose' gave audiences the bare minimum of information about the Doctor ('Are you alien?' 'Yes'). I was hoping that this would be the case throughout the series, but since by now we've all seen the clip of Simon Pegg exclaim 'Time Lord!' you won't be too shocked to hear that more of the Doctor's background is covered here.
In a nice contrast with the The TV Movie, and indeed most of the original show post-'The War Games', the Doctor is extremely reluctant to reveal anything himself, but of course the cat's out of the bag by the end.
It seems unlikely to me that what we're told is an effort to tie the new show in with the BBC Eighth Doctor range of books - though it's a bit of a coincidence if not. I'm thinking that it may in fact be an attempt to make the Doctor much more of a loner - something that was lost when he was constantly being sent off on Time Lord missions or recalled to Gallifrey.
I've always thought it important to stress that despite being alien, the Doctor's only real superpower (and I'm not counting regeneration as that's a plot device to keep the series going) is his huge technical knowledge. His respiratory bypass system, McCoy's ability to Derren Brown people with his little finger and especially his 'stepping outside time' trick (Yes, I'm talking to you 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs') always smacked of lazy plotting. I'm a bit miffed that in this episode the Doctor seems to have some Zen Buddhist or Jedi Knight talent for scrunching up his eyes, concentrating really hard and pulling off something that would have otherwise been physically impossible. I didn't like this one little bit. I've a nasty feeling that we'll be seeing more of this sort of thing.
In closing I'd just like to say that I'm delighted that the TARDIS actually seems to work so far, landing wherever the Doctor has programmed it to go. I.ve never been keen on all this tedious, "where's that crazy machine brought us to now?" nonsense that, as with so much else, was lazily retained after the initial "will Ian and Barbara ever get home?" thing was over in season two.
Oh, and the mobile phone stuff was nicely done.
Just as a footnote, in the two weeks since this episode was broadcast, an astonishing number of male WHO fans I know have expressed a peculiar attraction to the blue plumber girl.
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