Well, it had to come sooner or later, and it came too soon.
But last night, New Years Day, brought the final episode of Doctor Who as we have known it, with David Tennant, Russell T. Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson. The next time we see it, almost everything will be different. So how did it end?
Warning – if you haven’t seen it yet, then stop now – spoilers follow.
What was good:
- I have to admit that it was a real joy seeing Bernard Cribbins’ name in the titles. He is a legend, and it was cool to see him get a major role. And it worked very well. As a side note, I noticed that the Doctor seldom accepts salutes from anyone, but he accepted them from Wilfred. I liked that too.
- In some ways, the timing was good - I’d hate to have to wait a year for the next episode.
- The Master was good. As a crime of opportunity, cloning himself onto the entire human race was very in character, and John Simm was fantastic as all the different copies of himself at the end of part one. In part two, there was less of that comedy, and instead we see the Master as the ultimate survivor, happy to join any side as long as he survived. I’ve always liked the Master, and though I think the character has been all wrong recently, I liked him in this.
- It was great to see the return of the Time Lords. I’ve been waiting for this. And to have Rassilon as president was a gorgeous touch. The Time Lords, in their desperation, reached back to find a leader of dubious integrity, but unquestioned power. That seems in character for them. And the plan to end the war by ending time itself seemed in character given the mood they were in.
What wasn’t so good:
- The Time Lords finally return, but leave again. That sucks. The Doctor has always rebelled against authority, and that stemmed from the fact that he was a rebel and an outcast from his own people. When he was the last of his people, he went from poacher to gamekeeper, which I think explained his actions in the Waters of Mars to some extent. I think it would have been better to have kept the Time Lords in place after their return, for the possibilities that it would have given. But it was not to be.
- How long can we drag out an ending? I was watching it online, so I could see that the plot ends had been tied up, but there was still a lot of time to go. I wondered what kind of plot twist was to come. What I didn’t expect was a farwell tour from the Doctor. I know why Russell wanted to do it, but I didn’t love it. And I don’t like Martha’s new hairstyle.
- In some ways, the timing was terrible - I complain quite a bit about Eastenders at Christmas, where they put so much effort into making sure that all the characters have the most miserable time possible, which I think is horrible. To be honest, I’d rather have had a Christmas special that was more upbeat, and kept the regeneration until later in the new year. But of course, then the BBC wouldn’t have had the huge ratings, and I suppose that’s what it’s all about (and not the okey cokey, as is so widely sung).
What I’m not sure about:
- The Doctor’s speech before he saves Wilfred. I can understand it, and it was a very human thing to do. But the Doctor isn’t human, and I’m not sure I like it – I don’t think it’s very in character for him. But I can certainly understand it.
- The regeneration setting the Tardis on fire. It didn’t do that last time, or any other time, so why should it this time? I believe I know the reason why – I’ve heard that the new series will have a refitted Tardis. But it still doesn’t make sense.
- There was an opportunity to show the Doctor’s actions in the Great Time War, but once again, it wasn’t done. It’s clear that he was fighting in the war, but not quite on the side of Gallifrey, which I guess we already knew. But it’s still a great untold story, unfortunately.
So there we have it. The end of an era. I said to someone recently that I could now die happy, because after all these years I have been proved right – that Doctor Who really is cool, and extremely important, as shown by the complete media saturation over Christmas. It’s extremely pleasing for those of us who kept the faith through the poor years of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, and the wilderness years of only books and CDs. It’s been wonderful to see Doctor Who back on top again.
And yet I keep having the same conversation with friends. We are all worried about what will happen next, when a whole new team takes over. But I have some faith in that new team, with Stephen Moffat at its head, and we haven’t too long to wait. In the meantime, in the words of the Doctor himself:
One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.