The End of the World

I’ve seen this episode multiple times now. It grows on me with repeat viewings.

“The End of the World” is a fabulous looking episode of the type we could only have imagined in Doctor Who prior to CGI. Just look back at “The Ark in Space” for an example of a space station orbiting the Earth in the old days. The opening shots of the ships docking at Platform One with the Earth in the background and the expanding sun beyond that are vistas that really make the imagination soar. I was never put off the old show because of sub-par special effects, but when they’re good I certainly appreciate them. So we have a convincing backdrop for the story.

Anyone get the feeling that Mr. Davies had “The Restaurant at the End of the Universe” in mind when he came up with the setting?

There are a lot of good ideas in this episode. The slow reveal of the Doctor’s history continues with the revelation that Gallifrey (never named as far as I can recall) burned like the Earth, “gone before its time”. I don’t like the loss of the Time Lords and Gallifrey, but so be it. Moving on, we also get the explanation about the TARDIS’s ability to get inside someone’s mind and translate, which Rose takes offense to because it was done without her permission. The visual demonstration of this is fun too: the little blue alien hands the Doctor a claim ticket written in some alien script, but when the Doctor looks at it, we can see just what it says. A nice touch. Rose having the sudden realization that she’s gone off with someone she knows nothing about and looking slightly panicked is a pretty good moment as well.

The aliens are suitably weird and varied, though mostly humanoid. I don’t quite buy the idea of sentient trees though. Not even in 5 billion years will trees have arms and legs and civilization. Cassandra is a suitably nasty villain, with a believable motivation when it comes to money.

One plot concern: why would the reset switch for the shields be across a walkway that is blocked by the fans? I can accept that there’s probably another way to the switch, and that the Doctor simply had no time to go and find it, but that still doesn’t explain away the proximity of the fans to the walkway. They seem to exist simply to provide an obstacle for the Doctor at the climax of the action, and as such are not too credible.

The coda at the end where the Doctor and Rose stand on the streets of a planet they’ve just seen die, and ruminate about the fleeting nature of life is a good one, with music that is quite appropriate to the mood and setting. After the massive spectacle of the sun expanding and the earth dying, we come down to earth for some chips. The contrast between the fantastic and the mundane is a staple Doctor Who ingredient, and it’s presented quite well here.

All in all, a lightweight, fun little action episode, with an imaginative setting.

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Posted in 9th Doctor - Christopher Eccleston

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