Saturday, January 02, 2010

Spoilers: The Disappointment of David Tennant's Doctor Who Farewell

I'm fairly certain that it was one of the wise and greatly missed Conrad Russell's maxims that you should read something three times before you react to it. Having acknowledged the wisdom of such a course of action, I am now going to completely disobey it by writing about my initial reaction to last night's Doctor Who, which I've only seen once and have yet to view rationally, without the emotion of the occasion. It'll be a long time before I'm able to do that, though, so you're stuck with my initial thoughts.

I was never going to like the instrument which deprived us of David Tennant, to be fair, but even in that light, last night's episode was a in many ways a disappointment.

To go to all the trouble of bringing back the Time Lords for little more than a cameo role just doesn't seem to do it justice. Maybe that's because the plot already had more holes than a string vest, but I'd have liked to have seen a bit more from Mr Dalton. I'm afraid I still don't get how, if the Doctor sealed the entire Time War, including the people he knew were plotting the End Of Time, how on earth were they there for the Master to make contact with? At least the Doctor remained true to himself and in the moment of maximum pressure, when it looked like he had to choose between killing the Master and killing the Time Lords that he found the third option.

The Time Lord's plot, to bring about the end of time and then ascend to another plane of consciousness, without mortal (although less mortal than most) bodies, is having a real go at religious extremists who do or get others to do terrible things on the hope of reward in the afterlife.

I don't pretend to remember every detail of every episode, but surely to goodness there's no way that the said sexily voiced Mr Dalton could be Rassilon. I mean, not the Rassilon. It's one thing Rusty getting it wrong, perhaps to wind up the purists in Fandom, but not putting the words in the Doctor's mouth. He, surely, should know better. If I've got this bit of Who history wrong, please feel free to correct me, but it just didn't feel right.

I still have no idea how on earth Wilf remained immune to changing into the Master along with everyone else bar Donna. Donna I can get because the Doctor had interfered with her mind, but Wilf? I don't care that much, because the amazing Bernard Cribbens made the episode in so many ways.
Maybe the explanation lies with the mysterious woman. We never got to konw who she was. I suppose she had her place in making sure Wilf gave the Doctor the gun because without it he wouldn't have been able to break the link, but who was she and how did she manage to do what she did? Maybe she also protected Wilf from the Master's actions.

Having said all of that, there were moments of genius. The less than smooth attempts by the Vincocci to get the Doctor and Wilf out of the Master's clutches was very funny. In Confidential afterwards, Rusty said that there was a bit of him trying to cause David Tennant as much pain as possible in his last story. Certainly strapping him to a wheeled chair and bumping him down stairs was easily going to achieve that end and certainly it deserved the Doctor's comment that it was the "worst rescue ever".

We saw a glimpse of the proper David Tennant Doctor on the Vinvocci ship as he turned a lumbering alien hulk into a fighting machine capable of defeating every nuclear missile on earth.

Once the Time Lords and the Master were out of the way, there was a beautifully crafted scene which started with a close up on the Doctor as he comes too and realises that he's still alive and starts to hope. Then you hear the four knocks and the camera pans out to Wilf who's got himself trapped in a room with a nuclear reactor about to go critical. You feel the Doctor's despair and anger as he realises how he will meet his death. Even if you had no idea that David Tennant was leaving, if you watched that, you'd know that there's no way the Doctor would leave Wilf to die.

I suppose I have to pay a bit of a tribute for the way he scripted the tenth Doctor's final seconds. My first reaction last night was one of overwhelming sadness when the Doctor said "I don't want to go." I would have been happier if he'd become reconciled to his death, if his visits to his companions and the song of the Ood had given him peace and he'd accepted his fate. That's it, though. I would have been happier, but it would have been completely unrealistic if he'd just stood there and uttered something inane like "Allons-y." Few approach death willingly and painlessly. In Confidential afterwards, they showed the four takes of that scene, the fourth being one where the Doctor was in much more distress. They decided against that because they felt it was too much for the audience to bear. I guess that was a reasonable balance.

On the subject of inane, though, I'll give the writers a bit of credit given the fact that the Eleventh Doctor had just regenerated, but I do hope his first words are not a sign of things to come. He sounded way too much like David Tennant, the "allons-y" equivalent appears to be "Geronimo" and if he continues to say that in that annoying tone, it's going to be highly irritating. It's too late to change anything for his first series, but right now, I don't like it.

Here, though, is the preview of what's to come. Snogging, weeping angels and vampires as well as the Doctor taking an axe to a very old fashioned looking Dalek.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to give Matt Smith a fair chance which will mean at least 2 seasons. Having said that, though, even if he was completely rubbish, I wouldn't stop watching. The thing about the Doctor is that there's always hope.

As I write this, it's almost exactly a year to the day since we found out that he was going to play the Doctor. Here's what I said then.


Andy said...

Re Rassilon: You're right that it requires explanation, since Rassilon is meant to be the ancient founder of Time Lord society, well before the Doctor's time (although see various hints in Remembrance of the Daleks that it wasn't actually all that before the Doctor's time, actually - taken further in the NAs). The Five Doctors shows that Rassilon is indeed still alive, so it's not beyond imagination to think he might have been resurrected by an increasingly desperate High Council (or even that he had set himself up to lie in wait for the time his race needed him again). But since to explain any of this would have bogged the episode down in fanwank, RTD didn't really have much choice but to leave it unexplored. Which is irritating to anyone for whom the name carries any meaning whatsoever. So I don't really see what was gained by chucking it in there at all. Unless it's a thread left to be picked up or not by Moff as he sees fit. But personally I hope that's a not.

Michelle said...

Notes on a couple of your points...

Rassilon - perhaps the present Rassilon was named for the historical one? Or it could be a name taken when he became the Lord President? (Much like "The Doctor" and "The Master" are names they have taken and not their real names.)

Re Wilf not changing, I thought the Doctor explained it to him in the episode as Wilf being protected by the radiation-proof booth he was locked in? Maybe I'm mis-remembering.

The mystery woman is one of the Time Lords, but by not identifying her beyond that RTD has left her identity open for Moffat to use (or not) as he wants. I got the impression she was one of the two who objected to their return.

And I agree that it would have been great to see more of the Time Lords. But there was a lot of story to cover in a limited amount of time so I guess they could only fit so much in. I felt it was more RTD's way of "taking back" having killed them off in the new series, so that future writers can play with them again.

MekQuarrie said...

Blimey! Where to begin..?

The Time Lords resurrected just about everyone to fight the Time War (including the Master). So Rassilon could just be another weapon.

I wanted Claire Bloom to be the long-forgotten Grand-daughter Susan (after all, she didn't have to be younger) and Bernard Cribbins to be the Watcher. (He didn't change because he was in the shielded cabinet at the time. Which was clever, and then - not so clever.)

I even suspected that RTD might actually kill off the Doctor proper-like and all the Matt Smith baloney was just a trick.

Aargh. Just too much to say; my head might pop like Donna's (mercifully sidelined thru'out).

Jennie Rigg said...

I think the Time Lady is Susan, too. That's how I choose to interpret the significant glance at Donna when Wilf asked about her.

And as for giving Matt Smith a fair chance: I gave Tennant two seasons. And even after that, bits of the rest. I still detest the characterisation, although I place the blame for that squarely with the showrunner, not the actor.

Anonymous said...

I thought the Time Lady woman was supposed to be The Doctor's Mother?
(I remember reading something about that a while back, but it could have just been fan speculation?)

Karen said...

Hi All I agree with anonymous I thought the mystery woman was a)a time lord and b) the Drs Mother.

Did anyone see DT's Hamlet on BBC2 on Boxing Day? Or is this strictly a Dr Who bunch?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting in words some of my many problems with this show. I think Doctor Who is at its best with stories like "The Waters of Mars," "Blink", and others. Not the overwrought, hole-riddled "End of Time." The Time Lords, and Timothy Dalton deserved better than to be posterboards for political clap-trap.


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