Shown in two parts (on Christmas Day and New Year's Day) and attracting an audience of 10+ million viewers (which is very respectable for a cult TV programme), this was David Tennant's final appearance as the Time Lord.
We'd been out of the country for Christmas and the new year, and so far, I'd managed to avoid reading reviews about the two episodes (apart from one on Digital Spy) or talking to anyone about the programme.
So, here we are, I've caught up with my work, I have the morning free and the road conditions are so treacherous, that I'm not going anywhere – a perfect scenario then, for a thorough review of both episodes. I hope I'm not going to be disappointed – the episodes had been hyped-to-death leading up to Christmas day, and they'd even created a BBC ident featuring Tennant, a snowed-in Tardis and a herd of reindeer! Sometimes, the Who episodes don't live-up to the hype!
Here we go then…
The episode began with voiceover (a sinister Timothy Dalton) – a good start that set the tone for the episode and his occasional narrative style worked well throughout this episode. The Ood (great characters!) appeared early in the episode prophesying the Doctor's demise. There were also some touching moments including a scene in the cafe with Wilf, (Bernard Cribbins) and the Doctor reflecting on their lives – almost a tear in the Doctor's eye as he explains his is to end shortly…
Well, having watched it through, I'd say overall it was a pretty gripping episode. Maybe a few too many characters – two actually! - what was the purpose of those spiky green aliens?
I'm not sure about the wisdom of intertwining religion and the who-mythology – the Tardis showing in the church's stained-glass window and frequent voice-overs extolling: "…and so, it came to pass…", just seemed a bit presumptuous to me. Hopefully kids watching this aren't going to grow-up thinking Jesus died in a police-box.
Typically with RTD, he's able match serious moments with humour with equal strength and June Whitfield's role as Minnie the Menace continues this as an amorous pensioner who fancies the Doctor.
John Simm returned as the Master – and he played it well. If you thought he was mad the last time we saw him in Who, then he's completely barking in this one. And, just when you think the episode is just about good vs. evil - Who vs the Master - a bigger picture is revealed by introducing a couple of characters who have a strange device that looks like a prototype StarGate.
There's an ongoing mystery about how Wilf managed to find the Doctor so quickly when he returned in the Tardis. No doubt, that'll be explained in episode 2. (err, it wasn't).
It was good to see Bernard Cribbins play a bigger and more significant part in these episodes. Who-fans will remember Bernard as an official companion with Peter Cushing in one of the big-screen versions of Doctor Who, back in the 60s, and it seemed rather fitting to see him 'promoted'.
A few references to TorchWood and the Doctor's torment at not being able to let ex-companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) in on things kept the whole Whoniverse on track and will have pleased die-hard fans obsessed with continuity.
Bits I didn't like? Not many actually; apart from the religious undertones, and the green aliens, the only other bit was the 'shaky-heads' scene as everyone turned into the Master towards the end - it just looked daft. Technologically though it was very clever – they used a special camera recording at 4 frames/sec then played it back at normal transmission speed.
The episode finished with the role of Timothy Dalton being revealed – as a high ranking Time-Lord which set the scene for the final episode - the return of the Time-Lords.
Some significant lines from the episode:
- "Every night, we have bad dreams…"
- "The King is in his Counting House…"
- "This was the day, the Time Lords returned…"
On the strength of episode 1, I'm looking forward to watching part-two.
A short scene set on Gallifrey where the Time Lords realise their fate is followed by the revelation that Donna has been unaffected by the whole world being transformed into the Master. The Doctor is captured by the Master only to be rescued by those green spiky aliens – I think I'm growing to like them!
The episode continued apace, with Wilf showing his courage in charge of a laser-gun on the alien's space-ship helping to save the World.!
A slight red-herring 15 minutes from the end where it looked like the Doctor was about to sacrifice himself to save Wilf…but even though he didn't die, he commented that the 'regeneration has begun…'
Some significant lines from the episode:
- "My lord Doctor, my lord Master, we are gathered for the end…"
- Wilf: "Where are you going..?", Doctor: "To get my reward…"
- Doctor: "Wilfred, it would be my honour…"
- Doctor: "I don't want to go…"
The final scenes that followed were brilliant – very sentimental: Visiting Martha Jones (who's now married Mickey), then Sarah Jane, then Captain Jack, then Donna's wedding, and finally back to see Rose on January 1st, 2005 before he'd met her as the Doctor the first time round (sniff).
The regeneration scene from Tennant into Matt Smith was visually stunning and very touching when Tennant's delivered his last words: "I don't want to go..".
Who-purists will wonder why as the change took place, the interior of the Tardis spontaneously combusted as well – that's not happened before – maybe it's to please the American's audiences and their love for explosions!
A great episode with superb performances from everyone. It pulled together most of the plot strands, gave a good send-off for DT and set-up Matt Smith nicely for Spring 2010.