Thoughts on Doctor Who: The End of the World

Onto the second episode… and I feel fine.

Time once more to go back in time… a bit.

Owing to the lack of “new” Doctor Who in 2019, I’ve decided to go back and watch the rest of “new” Who… which isn’t very “new” at all, considering that the Christopher Eccleston series debuted in 2005, which was some time ago now.

I’ve already covered off Rose, which you can read about here, and, of course, if you want something more contemporary, I’ve also written up every one of Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who stories from series 11, which you can also enjoy.

I feel like I should try to explain about the bit with the blue dog… but you probably had to be there.

So, as is traditional, this is very much stream of consciousness stuff, but before I start, just in case, I’d better have some spoiler space. And this seems like the most appropriate spoiler possible.

  • Second episodes are always tricky, and I don’t recall thinking all that much of this one.
  • Opening with a quick recap of series 1 really does show how this was a series reboot. It’s a habit that didn’t stick, thankfully, but here it makes a fair bit of sense.
  • Christopher’s Doctor is doing his Wizard of Oz bit with the whole “where do you wanna go, Rose Tyler” bit.
  • Not a huge fan of bits of the TARDIS controlled by a bicycle pump. Yes, I get it’s a family sci-fi show, but still…
  • It’s only just occurring to me that the TARDIS is going exactly where the Doctor wanted it to go after the whole “how far into the future” game. Which means this really is a new Doctor Who for a new millennium!
  • 5.5/Apple/26 is the day of the heat death of the sun. It’s a bit of a cruel trick on the Doctor’s part, really, especially for a first time travel adventure.
  • Roll the credits! I do like me a time tunnel credits sequence.
  • The spaceship effects… have not dated well. Then again, for the budget that BBC Wales had, they’re essentially miraculous.
  • Earth Death is scheduled for 15:29… so.. wait. In space, they have 24 hour time, but the marking of years is with (presumably) numbers, keyboard characters and emoji? How does that work?
  • The psychic paper isn’t one of my favourite macguffins, but I guess it had to start somewhere.
  • The Forest of Cheam looks like a ST:TNG set of characters, with just a little more paper maché for the foreheads.
  • The appearance of the repeated meme turns up. This was, of course, before memes utterly infested the internet, so (knowing part of the resolution) it’s a reasonably clever twist.
  • The Face of Boe looks shifty. He’s probably not to be trusted. Just a feeling I have.
  • The memes give people spheres that look just a little bit like toclafanes. Oh, wait, that’s… quite a bit early on my part.
  • Cassandra is another effect that doesn’t work well, but of course it’s the completely OTT performance that makes it work to the level that it does. You can sense how much fun Zoë Wanamaker is having with the voice-over, so it’s passable.
  • It occurs to me that Cassandra’s got no nose. How does she smell?
  • (You can answer that in your own time. I’ll wait.)
  • The jukebox “i-pod” joke is all the proof you need that this was made in 2005.
  • Rose should probably run away from this whole scene. Not that the music is instructing her to do so or anything.
Wait, forget I said that.
  • We’re a reasonable number of minutes into a story that hasn’t actually moved much beyond “look at the astonishing aliens” as its central hook.
  • Ooh, the balls have little alien spideys in them. I’m sure that’s completely innocent and the OVERLY LOUD OMINOUS MUSIC IS JUST A COINCIDENCE.
  • Rose cannot deal with giving permission for her new smurfy friend Rafallo to talk. Fits the character well, even if the character is just a simple makeup job.
  • The Face of Boe isn’t getting hot water. That’s going to ruin his cup of tea!
  • “I just sort of hitched a lift with this man. He’s a complete stranger”. 
  • Well, yes, Rose. Forward thinking doesn’t seem to be your strong suit… yet.
  • Rafallo is going into an air duct on a spaceship. This won’t end well.
  • I was wrong. They’re not spideys. They’re Portal Turrets on legs!
Except that Portal came out two years after this episode, so maybe Valve ripped off Doctor Who?
  • “Would the owner of the blue box in private gallery 15 please report to the stewards office immediately”
  • Russel T is still going the comedy route, and I guess that’s to avoid the whole crushing-weight-of-watching-your-planet-die theme that would otherwise dominate, but it’s not always hitting with the weight that it should. Similar story with the plastic Auton arm last week, really.
  • The sound on the spidey turrets bugs me, and I’ve just worked out why. They make a mechanical clanking noise — because they’re made of metal — but the characters don’t seem to notice the sound. But it’s otherwise quiet out there.
  • Rose is outraged that the TARDIS has babelfished her. She’s got a point. She didn’t ask to instantly understand every language ever and miss out on all the tedious rote learning that’s involved with that. How dare it!
  • Rose wants to know who the Doctor is, and it’s a VERY touchy subject. This is (or was) new ground for Doctor Who back in 2005 of course, and we didn’t know what the story was. But Christopher Eccleston’s performance here, brooding and angry and upset all at the same time is perfect. I once again state that he’s overlooked for his role in redefining the Doctor for the 21st century.
  • Rose has a Nokia phone! A ragged, knocked about Nokia!
  • Jackie is back, and I love her to bits. See, this is comedy that works, because it’s also got heart behind it. Rose is delighted to hear her mum through the years. Also proof this was from 2005, because Jackie has a small CRT telly in her kitchen.
  • “5 billion years later, my mum’s dead”.
  • Well… yes.
  • Dear steward: Do not talk to the spidey thing.
  • And now the steward needs some SPF 5 Billion to avoid being crispy host. I did try to warn him.
  • I’m not sure if Boe is an effect or a puppet, but he’s rather nicely realised. Lovely cheekbones, although they seem to have sagged with age. I’m sure that’s not relevant.
  • A Michael Jackson joke about Cassandra being pale skinned. Hmm… not sure that gag sits so well in 2019. Not sure it sat that well in 2005, to be honest.
  • The Doctor and his tree friend are walking past miles of cables. I could insert a “that’s where the NBN went” gag, but this is the year 2005, so it’s a bit early.
  • Cassandra was a little boy at one time. That’s slipped in subtly and not for comedy effect, and I like that.
  • Rose accuses Cassandra of being a bitchy trampoline. Now who’s being judgemental, Rose?
  • The repeated meme hums ominously. I bet they do a great Jawa cosplay on casual Fridays.
  • “I know where you’re from. Forgive me for intruding, but it’s remarkable that you even exist. I just want to say how sorry I am.” 
  • Yes, series 1 did introduce series arcs to Who, but it did so slowly, and without forcing it into the stories to speak of. This just left me (at the time) wondering what had happened, wanting to know more but invested in the world that was being built. So even though the story is slender, it has meaning.
  • Oh god, the bit with the fan blades. Of course, even at the time I was having Galaxy Quest flashbacks.
  • And then we have Britney with “A traditional earth ballad”. Because of course we do.
Unlike Cassandra, Britney has a nose. Also, in deference to memes, I’m leaving her alone.
  • The meme has knocked out Rose, and the sun filter is going down to try to cook her. That’s a slow way of killing her given they have a whole host of those spidey portal things. It’s almost Batman ’66 levels of villainy, really. Especially with the up-down-up-down nature of the sun filter.
  • Actually given that, maybe the Konami code could help? Got to be worth a try, because even if all it does is give Rose 30 lives, that’ll keep her going while the Doctor figures out something to do.
  • The spidey things are named as “Spider Creatures”.  And the Doctor has one.  I preferred “Spidey Thingys”, although I guess it is a bit Buffy-speak of me.
  • The meme is guilty! But of course, it doesn’t exist, because back in 2005, few people thought about memes as much as we do in 2019.
  • Cassandra would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for that meddling Doctor!
Just imagine what Murray Gold would do to that theme tune.
  • Wow. It’s all about the money, which means that The End of The World is… Die Hard. In SPACE!
  • And now the Doctor has to run past the switch, and I’m reminded again of, well, this:
  • I do applaud Russell T Davies for bringing Who back, because of course, but this is, still, 14 years later, very much Doctor Who by the numbers.
  • Jabe, the sentient tree, sacrifices herself so that the Doctor can save everyone else. So essentially, she’s very… sappy.
  • No, I’m not proud of that joke. I’m not deleting it either, so that tells you everything you need to know about me.
  • Now, it may be the angle of filming, but it looks like the Doctor could have crawled pretty easily under these blades without an issue. At which point, Jabe didn’t need to die!
  • And now… the Doctor just randomly slows time with the power of his BRAIN. A power I don’t recall him ever having before, or having afterwards. Again, I don’t quite get the writing here, because for a new fan, you’d assume the drop of the words “Time Lord” of Jade before she dies indicates he can directly control time. Maybe he could.. once. When the script needed it.
  • Yes, OK, Patrick Troughton had telepathy once upon a time. But that at least got alluded to a few more times after his run, whereas this was an entirely random superpower that the Doctor just happened to have this one time, but never again when it could have been handy… because?
  • Eccleston is cranky. And as we know, when the Doctor is cranky and you’re the bad guy, bad things will happen to you.
  • Cassandra is creaking, and the Doctor knows it. And he’s letting it happen, which seems rather cruel for him. Now, this is interesting in a longer-term story sense, because he’s not much removed from his prior regeneration here. But we won’t find out about that for a while now. So at the time, it was a little jarring that he would just let Cassandra pop like that.
  • Nobody watched the Earth die, and Rose is sad. Something tells me the effects department at BBC Wales was pretty happy about it, though.
  • Billie Piper can act, but she’s not quite got Rose down pat as a fully fledged character just yet. Christopher’s giving her a lot to act off, though, so it works well enough.
  • “My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned, like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust.”
  • “What happened?”
  • “There was a war, and we lost.”
  • “A war with who?”
  • “I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone. I’m the only survivor. I’m left travelling on my own, ’cause there’s no-one else.”

Final thoughts: This isn’t much of a “story” as it is a plank to set up what’s to come. That makes watching it a fine exercise, but only in the context of watching further episodes. It just doesn’t stand up all that well by itself, because it’s pretty thin.

Time to rank the episodes of Series 1!

With only 2 eps in, of course, the ranking is rather obvious.

  1. Rose
  2. The End of The World

Next time: The Unquiet Dead, and a maid who might be more significant than she seems!

The wails of the dead… in Wales!

Author: Alex

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