Unearthly Times

The Tenth Doctor: David Tennant

The End of Time


N.B. there might (or might not) be spoilers in this article!

Bigger, louder and more bombastic seemed to have been RTD’s guiding principle towards each of his twenty-first century Doctor Who finales and, as befitting the finale of finales, The End of Time is biggerer, louderer and more bombasticer than ever.

But it’s thanks to the scenes — the quieter moments — between the Doctor and Wilf, that The End of Time is also better…er!

There’s also plenty of nonsense too, with the Master, at times, acting more like a Sith lord than a Time Lord and whose behaviour and scheming this time caused my daughter to exclaim ‘That’s bonkers!’ There’s some portentous bluster from yer actual Time Lords too, and Rassilon’s spitting put me in mind of Gary Oldman’s guest turn on Friends, where he encouraged Joey with the advice that all good actors spat while enunciating their lines. And yes, there is once again a big fat reset button, or in this case a reset gauntlet — the Gauntlet of Rassion!

“If I change, it feels like dying. Everything I am dies. Some new man goes sauntering away and I’m dead.”

The Doctor, The End of Time, Part One

But those quieter moments lift The End of Time considerably. Indeed, there’s a case for saying all the best bits of The End of Time involve Bernard Cribbins. The moments he shares with David Tennant in the café, on the space ship and in the Naismith mansion are some of the greatest scenes we’ve had in twenty-first century Who. None of this undersells just how good Tennant himself is in The End of Time (we’ve almost come to take that as read), but it’s the Doctor-Wilf scenes, with two great actors absolutely nailing it, that stick with you longest.

That said, I also like all those encounters Wilf has with the character known only as The Woman. And the hints were strong enough about her identity without it being stated for my daughter to pipe up with “Is that supposed to be his mother?” when the Doctor spots her behind Rassilon late on.

A special mention too to Wilf’s description of how Donna has been since the events of Journey’s End: “sometimes I see this look on her face, like she’s so sad, but she can’t remember why.” It’s a lovely line.

“We will sing to you, Doctor. The universe will sing you to your sleep. This song is ending, but the story never ends.”

Ood Sigma, The End of Time, Part Two

I’ve always been slightly ambivalent towards the Doctor’s farewell tour. Even as a sucker for a bit of the old sentimentality, it still strikes me as self-indulgent, but I’ve never quite been able to dislike it as much as it probably deserves.

For me, the Doctor should have regenerated in front of Wilf in the Naismith mansion. After the shock of those four knocks on the glass and the brilliance of the scene that follows, it would have been a perfect regeneration. I like to think in an alternative Whoniverse, where RTD wasn’t handing over the reins to the Moff, that might have well have been where the change to the next doctor would have happened, but even with the Doctor’s tacked-on reward, it ranks highly among Doctor send-offs.

The Tenth Doctor’s last goodbye may well be overlong and overblown, but it’s magnificently overblown — with Murray Gold’s music at times seemingly cranked up even beyond 11 — and The End of Time‘s good bits are so good it’s much easier to ignore its flaws than with some of the previous seasons’ finales.