Not that it matters, since I’m probably the last Whovian on the planet to see the last episodes of the 10th Doctor, but there will be spoilers herein. I don’t have the heart to try to edit myself to the extent of keeping them out…
So a few weeks ago I discovered that the Doctor Who specials were available on On Demand, and I was grateful, since otherwise it would be months before I got to see them. “Waters of Mars” was up first, and it was horrific… That is to say, it was an excellent episode, beautifully made, great characters and story and acting (including Servilia of Rome, which took me ten minutes to figure out) – but the horror quotient was higher than I ever remember even from recent vintage Doctor Who – I don’t remember ever being afraid watching Doctors 1 through 8 (except when 8 said something about being half human, which was a worse nightmare than any weeping angel) and was surprised at the old series’ reputation for needing to be watched from behind the couch. But this … this scared me, creeped me out, and grossed me out, and horrified me. The “monsters”, yes, definitely, because of a masterful (so to speak) job of makeup and how very very easy it was to become one, and because it would have been so easy for them to come here if not for the pure courage of the crew … and not least because of what the story – and what led up to it – did to the Doctor. He’s the Doctor. He’s not supposed to consider world (or universal) domination. He’s not supposed to power trip.
He’s not supposed to be alone.
I would rather watch a thousand water monsters than have to see the Doctor lose himself like that. And suffer like that.
“The End of Time” became available, and … I didn’t watch it. I kept, and keep, getting Sarah McLachlan in my head –
Hold on to yourself
for this is gonna hurt like hell.
It took a while before I worked up the courage to watch “End of Time”. See, I’ve loved Doctor Who … always, or as close to it as makes no difference. Peter Davison was My Doctor, as he was David Tennant’s, the first Doctor I ever saw and the one dearest to me. Then they did terrible things to the franchise – they let the Americans get their hands on the Doctor, and I prefer not to think about what happened. As if Colin Baker’s Doctor hadn’t been bad enough (I will never forgive “effete”)… And all those years passed, and then there was Christopher Eccleston. I went into “Rose” expecting to – wanting to – find fault and hate the whole thing, and, entirely against my will, was won over, heart and mind. Then came regeneration – hurt like hell – and David Tennant, and again I expected and, yes, wanted to hang on to my resentment that the Eccleston Era consisted of one brief season. But David Tennant… He’s a fan. He’s a geek. He’s a Whovian. He was living his dream, and took those who wanted to go along for the ride. And I loved it. I loved him. He WAS the Doctor.
And then I read that he was leaving. It was a hard shooting schedule, he has a bad back, whatever the reasons… It was a lot easier to accept the idea of Matt Scott Smith taking over the role when it was a future abstract. Sitting in my chair looking at the listing on On Demand for “End of Time, Part 1” and “End of Time, Part 2” was a bit like sitting in a dentist’s chair looking at the instruments of torture waiting for a tooth extraction. The end result might be a good thing, but it was going to hurt like hell to get there.
I certainly couldn’t watch last week. For reasons I will go into another time and on the main blog, I was already depressed, dangerously; the last thing I needed was to sit and watch a beloved character die. I want that kind of pain I’ll go watch Wash die again in Serenity.
As an aside, all of this – reality and fiction – has been incontrovertible proof that, although anticipation is hell, still, knowing about something bad ahead of time can indeed be better than being ambushed. Reality: if I hadn’t known in advance that I was about to be attacked by a vicious and heartless former employer, it would have been a very, very bad situation. (Knowing in advance let it be only a pretty awful situation. Nothing would have prevented the depression.) Fiction: at least I knew when the end was coming with the Tenth Doctor. Being surprised, as in Serenity, is … bad. Very, very bad. Cry for hours bad. Yeah, give me spoilers, at least when it concerns the bad.
So. Last night I settled in and argued with myself for a little while and called myself a few mocking names and reminded myself that there wasn’t all that much time left to be able to watch it, and I queued up both parts of “The End of Time” and turned off the lights and curled into a tight ball and held a cup of hot tea close to my heart and ran Part One.
That didn’t hurt.
I mean, it wasn’t fun; watching a character I care about played by an actor I care about showing such pain and dread was miserable. But … While John Simm is wonderful, and he gives a depth to the Master that I don’t remember being there in the past (no disrespect in all the world to Anthony Ainley), the special effects in this episode pretty effectively diluted the emotion. The ravenous gorging was borderline; it was horrific, as it was supposed to be, and did what it was supposed to , I guess. But the lightning bolts and the shooting off into the sky and the flickers of metallic-looking skull beneath the skin – hm. Now was not the time for the show to return to its buck-ninety-eight special effects roots. It did not look good, and it was unexplained – how did the jump-start resurrection allow a Time Lord to suddenly do Superman and Storm impressions? – and, overall, unfortunate. Though I am compelled to say what an awesome (and I mean that the way it’s supposed to be used) sight it was for the Doctor to stride forward unflinching in his wonderful coat as the Master flung lightning bolts toward him and fires raged behind him…
I wound myself up to watch Part One, and gradually as I watched it I unwound. It was a sort of betwixt and between episode; it certainly wasn’t one of the joyous romps the show is capable of, and it wasn’t out-and-out scary, and it wasn’t a lot of other things Doctor Who usually is. It was kind of a prolonged deathwatch, given both my knowledge that it was the end of the Tennant era and also the Ood prophecy – “He will knock four times.” On televisionwithoutpity I saw a link to a review that said “For something called ‘the end of time’ you’d think it wouldn’t take so long.” Well. They weren’t wrong, really. What should have been a straightforward mano a mano between the Doctor and the Master turned into a rehash of the last several years’ worth of episodes – there weren’t many that weren’t referenced between the two parts of this story. And who the hell were the Naismiths anyway? Surely there was another way to get to where they needed to go? (Whoever they got to play Obama from behind was pretty good, though – accurate ears.)
The most important part of the first episode was, to me, actually part of the preview to the second: a Time Lord (was I supposed to know that was Rassilon?) saying about the bumbumbumbum “The heartbeat of a Time Lord”… Well, duh! It was a completely forehead-slapping moment: of course the four-beat was the beating of twinned hearts. So obvious, like most riddles once explained.
So – the first part was a huge, messy buildup. And when it was over, it was getting into the wee hours – which doesn’t really signify, since I have no real schedule right now – and I dithered a minute, and finally with more self-mockery (“Coward.” “Damn right.”) I watched an episode of Medium instead and then went to bed.
And tonight I dithered a bit more, and finally committed: Part Two. I skipped the precautions I took last night; I left the lights on and didn’t make tea, and didn’t ball up, and my fists didn’t clench… and it really was rather a mess. And in the midst of already mourning a Doctor I’ve really, really loved, I didn’t need the joke of John Simm in various women’s clothes. It made its way (via a long and bumpy road dotted with a truly surprising Star Wars pastiche starring of all people Wilf) to a climax that … should have been more. The Time Lords return, through a pathway they planted in the young Master’s brain when he was a child (thereby helping to make him into the villain he was), and are about to, I think, bump Earth out of orbit and replace it with Gallifrey (really? Like a game of planetary marbles?), or maybe not, because it was impossible that only the Time Lords would come through but inevitably the Daleks and a host of other evils would follow, and hell would follow, but the Time Lords knew that, and they planned that, and in fact they figure it’s about time for everything to end and they will go on to exist as pure consciousness. ‘Kay. It comes down to the Doctor holding Wilf’s old service revolver on Rassilon, then the Master, and back again, and back again, and me sitting there bleeding as Rassilon points out that the Doctor’s last act will be murder… Well, of course it wasn’t, and the Doctor in true Doctor form solves the problem, with some rather surprising Storm-like help from the Master (who would have ever thought that the Master would be, could be made a sympathetic character?), and the Time Lords are banished back where they came from, and the Master – er. What, exactly, happened to the Master?
Having survived a jump from the low-flying spacecraft of the cactus-people that would have brought on regeneration right then at another time, and then having survived the final confrontation, the Doctor had a moment of shocked – relief? “I’m alive.” He sounded like he didn’t quite know what to do with that. But before he could even get to his feet he heard knock-knock-knock-knock. I guess he never told Wilf what the prophecy’d said. Wilf was locked in the chamber I never really understood – two compartments, like a confessional, with one person in one side at all times, not able to leave until someone entered the other side and hit a button locking himself in and letting the other out… Why? I don’t know. To get us to the end of the story. Wilf went in to release the poor schmuck who was in there to begin with, and watched events unfold from behind the glass. And now that it’s all over and the Doctor isn’t dead yet, Wilf would like to be let out, please. Knock-knock-knock-knock. And there was the Twilight Zone twist: the obvious answer, that the four-beat knock was so obviously the Master’s, was wrong. In order to get Wilf out, the Doctor has to go in, and going in will mean certain death because the chamber is about to flood with radiation. Wilf protests that he’s old and has lived his life, and the Doctor protests on general grounds, and then … pulls himself together and trades places. And the gas floods in. And for a horrible moment I really thought they were going to recreate Spock’s death… That would have been too ghastly to recover from. But they didn’t, thank God, and … he doesn’t die. Again. And now that the radiation’s done its thing and the machinery is fried, he can walk out. And … well, of course he’s not okay.
And thus begins the longest, most painfully drawn out regeneration in history.
I suppose I understand; this was a goodbye on many levels. This was Russell T. Davies’ goodbye to the show; the bastard is leaving. Has left. Came back to write this (which is why it’s so surprising it was such a mess – his hand is usually a great deal steadier). He loved Doctor Who. He’d bloody well better have tremendous confidence in the people he’s left in charge. It was also David Tennant’s farewell, of course… Both of them men who dreamed the same dream I’ve had since about age fifteen, of stepping aboard the TARDIS and … going. Both of them men who got their wish. Both of them men who walked away from it, and I confess to adolescent disbelieving confusion at it, as deep as my bafflement at any Companion’s voluntary leaving. And the farewells had to be expressed through this Doctor, the Doctor who came to his end with bitterness and grief and perhaps gratitude that it was almost over, but in the end only a desire to not give up, to linger. And so this regeneration was protracted, delayed, held off long enough for him to appear just in time to save Mickey and Martha from assassination by a Centauran and to let them see him – and they’re married now, which is … anyway; to appear just in time to save Sarah Jane Smith’s son from being hit by a car, and for her to see him; to appear in the Mos Eisley Cantina to see to it that Captain Jack met Midshipman Frame (played to my confusion by Russell Tovey – I’ve seen Being Human a lot more recently than “Voyage of the Damned”, and it took me a minute to remember Alonso) (I truly hate finding things like this: “In his book The Writer’s Tale, Russell T. Davies indicated that actor Russell Tovey was one of his personal candidates for playing the Eleventh Doctor.” Oh, break my heart. My beloved George was almost -? *sigh*); to attend a book signing by … erm. I … don’t know. The granddaughter of the woman from the episode with the animated scarecrows that made me fear mirrors? (ETA: Yes: Joan Redfern, from “The Family of Blood”, and the granddaughter was Verity (after Verity Lambert?) Newman.) And then to visit Rose on New Year’s morning 2005… And then barely made it back to the TARDIS.
“I don’t want to go.” I don’t want you to go.
And in flame – that was new; because he held it off? – he regenerated. And I wept. And then there was Matt Smith – “Still not ginger”, and thank you for that line at least … and … that’s it, then.
I am going to miss Ten. I haven’t seen the trailer I understand is on YouTube (even though I can at least now watch YouTube videos, something I could never do with dial-up), and I don’t want to tonight. I can hope that Eleven will win me over; that Smith will win me over as Eccleston and Tennant did (though that would be a minor miracle), and that the boy will stay in the role for a couple or three years at least: the regenerations are burning up fast. (Though here’s something I’m fuzzy on, whether because they never specified or because I can’t remember how it’s been worded: is it one original incarnation plus 12 regenerations, or 12 selves altogether? Because if it’s the former then things aren’t as dire as I’d been thinking: there are two more regenerations, not just one.) (Still.) I can hope that the boy will make me stop referring to him as Matt Scott and “the boy” and resenting the hell out of him for being from what I understand completely unversed in the series and taking over the role from someone who loves the series as I do. I can only hope BBC America will keep putting episodes on On Demand, because even if I get the job I interviewed for Friday I don’t think I’ll be spending the money any time soon to get whatever package includes BBC-A. However all that turns out – I will miss David Tennant more than I can type.
On the bright side, his production as Hamlet was apparently brought to film, and Patrick Stewart plays Claudius – so even if things go horribly badly with all that I mentioned above I still have that to look forward to.
And we’ll always have New New York.
Farewell, Doctor. Thank you.