2008-10 Specials (Apr 2, Apr 3, Apr 15, Apr 17 - 19)

April 2: "The Next Doctor"
April 3 continued: "Planet of the Dead"
April 15: "The Waters of Mars"
April 17: "Dreamland"
April 18: The End of Time Part One
April 19: The End of Time Part Two

April 2: "The Next Doctor"

So.  After the broadcast of "Journey's End" in July 2008, David Tennant announced in October that he would be leaving Doctor Who at the end of 2009.  And so what was the next episode called...?

I know there are some fans out there who are still annoyed by Russell T Davies essentially having a bit of fun -- some because they perhaps actually thought David Morrissey would be the eleventh Doctor, some because they felt they were denied a more interesting story that had an actual future Doctor in it -- but if you can get past that, there's actually a pretty good storyline running through "The Next Doctor".  Of course, there's also a rather poor storyline running through "The Next Doctor", so the end result is something of a mixed bag.  Where this story succeeds is in the part dealing with the Doctor and this mysterious person also claiming to be the Doctor, while the part with the Cybermen is in general a waste of time.

The tenth Doctor and the next Doctor regard each other. ("The
Next Doctor") ©BBC
The half of "The Next Doctor" that's about the Doctor and a different Doctor is really quite charming.  I like how our Doctor remains open-minded for a while as to the identity of this other Doctor, willing to believe that this might be a future incarnation of himself that's undergone some sort of memory loss.  The interaction between the two is really nice, and David Morrissey is really good as this other Doctor -- he's suitably Doctor-ish, willing to rush into danger to save people, and even when you know that he's not the Doctor, not really, you still root for him.  It certainly doesn't hurt that Jackson Lake was a hero while he believed he was the Doctor.  "All that bravery," the Doctor tells Lake.  "Saving Rosita, defending London town, hmm?  And the invention.  Building a TARDIS.  That's all you."  (Oh, and while we're here... the joke about Lake's sonic screwdriver is cute, but I really like his version of a TARDIS: "It stands for Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style," Lake says proudly as he shows off his hot-air balloon.)  And even when Lake's mind starts to reassert itself, he still proves to be heroic as he assists the Doctor along with his erstwhile companion Rosita (who is played very well by Velile Tshabalala).  All this and a sequence (finally) showing all ten Doctors, which at least settled the question of whether Paul McGann counted as a Doctor.  (Although, where's John Hurt?  You'd think an infostamp from the Daleks would have included him...)

So this part of "The Next Doctor" is suitably lovely, but it's the stuff with the Cybermen where things go badly astray.  The best thing about this is Dervla Kirwan as Miss Hartigan (nice touch with the "Miss", by the way), who does an outstanding job as the face of the Cybermen.  Miss Hartigan is every inch the vengeful woman, striking back against all the men who ignored her as they entered the workhouse to help the people inside (although, judging from Miss Hartigan's remarks, this was more to assuage their consciences rather than about actually helping the poor and thus little more than a token gesture).  The Cybermen have given her the chance to lash out and she's taking it -- she didn't even need to be converted to agree.  There's also the part when she's strapped into the Cyberking and is able to take it over -- that's also a good moment.

Miss Hartigan with two Cybermen. ("The Next Doctor") ©BBC
But everything else about this plot is at best odd and at worst stupid.  All right, the Cybermen are desperate, having broken out of the Void into Victorian England.  But why is their plan to make a giant steampunk version of themselves that will walk around destroying London?  The Doctor recognizes it as a Cyberking, a kind of Cyber conversion ship -- but hang on, why do these Cybermen know about Cyberkings in the first place, if the only place they've been is Pete's World and our world (briefly)?  (Or, alternatively, if the Cyberking is a Cybus Industries thing, why does the Doctor recognize their Cyberking?  There is a get-out clause with the infostamps, but it's not terribly satisfying.)  Why do they need children specifically as their workforce -- wouldn't it be better to just get whoever they can?  And who on Earth (both in terms of internal continuity and the production team) thought the Cybershades were a good idea?  They literally look like guys in black shag rugs running around on all fours.  It's not clear what they're supposed to be from a story point of view (is Miss Hartigan taking the piss?), and from a production standpoint they should have been scrapped the minute someone suggested actors running around on their knees.

All this and a climactic battle where the Cyberking shoots up whole sections of London while stomping on other parts, yet ends with the Doctor (in the balloon TARDIS) causing all the Cybermen and Miss Hartigan to literally explode and sending the Cyberking into the Void.  It looks nice, I suppose, but from any other standpoint this is a dud.  It's not a very satisfying ending (and Miss Hartigan deserved better -- even Russell T Davies agrees on that), and it also suffers from the general problem of, "Why does no one remember this?"  They try to turn it into a joke ("...the events of today will be history, spoken of for centuries to come," Lake says; "Yeah. Funny that," the Doctor replies), but it's a large enough problem that it surely occurred to just about everyone watching.204

So "The Next Doctor" ultimately ends up as a game of two halves.  When they're focused on the characters, this story really shines, but when they muck around with the Cybermen it falls badly flat.  If you can get past that (admittedly major) problem, then there's quite a bit to enjoy here, but it will definitely take some doing.

April 3 continued: "Planet of the Dead"

Now we move on to 11 April 2009 and "Planet of the Dead", the second of the five special episodes of Doctor Who that aired instead of a full fifth series (as David Tennant is busy playing Hamlet at the Royal Shakespearean Company).  This is ostensibly the Easter special -- how appropriate, given that this is Easter Weekend 2015 -- but other than a quick reference from the Doctor it doesn't come up the way Christmas comes up in all the Christmas specials.  But perhaps more importantly, this is the first episode of Doctor Who to be filmed in high definition205 -- as striking a difference in picture quality as the switch from 405-line to 625-line was in 1967.

But beyond that, this is essentially treated as business as usual for Doctor Who.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  It's good because it means they can just get on with their story, but it's bad because there's not a lot of Who going in 2009, and so a lesser episode is more obvious in this context.  And the thing is, they try really hard to make this an event: not only are they promoting this as the 200th episode (which, you'll recall, involves counting "Utopia" as the first of a three-part story and making The Trial of a Time Lord one big story -- see Dragonfire if you're not sure why this is significant), but they've actually sent a film crew out to Dubai to film their desert planet.  It should be epic and wonderful and marvelous, and instead it falls a bit flat.

Part of the problem is the character of Lady Christina de Souza.  I'm not sure if it's Michelle Ryan's performance or just the way the character is written, but there's a smug edge to everything that makes her desperately unlikable.  The production team mentioned Romana as a similar starting point, but the differences are striking: while Romana is initially presented as a supercilious, self-satisfied know-it-all, she quickly learns that that's not going to get her far while working with the Doctor, and by the end of her first story she's noticeably mellowed.  Lady Christina, by contrast, never undergoes this character arc -- she remains smug and arrogant the entire time; it never feels like her eyes have been opened to the wonders of the universe but rather that she's decided that there's more that the universe can offer her.  It's not at all what you want out of such a character, and yet it becomes very hard to shake the feeling that we're being presented with someone's idea of a perfect companion.  It's therefore something of a relief that the Doctor doesn't take her along with him.

The passengers of the Number 200 survey their new surroundings.
("Planet of the Dead") ©BBC
It does look gorgeous, though; heading out to Dubai really paid off, and director James Strong has some really great shots to add to the effect.  He's not afraid to give us some lens flare, to try and add to that cinéma vérité feel (although, thankfully, we're not afflicted with lots of shaky handheld shots), and you can sort of tell that everyone's realized that they're going to be shooting in high definition, so everything looks more detailed, and that adds to this feeling.  I also really like the design of the Tritovores -- it's a great-looking mask, and I really like the way the mandibles move.

We also get some nice character moments from the other characters.  I'm not sure why Lee Evans has decided to put on a Welsh accent for Malcolm Taylor, but he has, and his performance is rather fun (even if it often feels like they're just remaking part of The Dæmons).  Captain Magambo makes a reappearance (albeit her first one in the real universe) and continues to be the stalwart UNIT officer, even though it puts her in conflict with Malcolm.  Everyone on the bus is great, and I even like the acting from the Tritovores -- no mean feat, given they're essentially just gesturing and moving their heads around.

But ultimately, "Planet of the Dead" feels a bit underwhelming.  There's not a lot wrong with it (other than the aforementioned concerns with Lady Christina's characterization), but it does end up feeling rather matter-of-fact instead of impressive.  Still, that's hardly a crime, and the fact that "Planet of the Dead" ends up as another one of those pleasantly average Doctor Who stories isn't the worst thing in the world.  You just wish they'd done more with this, given the paucity of new televised Doctor Who this year.

April 15: "The Waters of Mars"

Ergh.  This might be one of the most frustrating episodes of Doctor Who ever.  The first three-quarters are really impressively well done, but the last quarter, where the Doctor essentially loses his mind, are so frustrating to watch that it ends up coloring the whole story for me.

We might as well talk about it now.  The episode ends with the Doctor, unable to listen to the crew of Bowie Base One dying over his communications link, deciding to rescue the survivors even though history says they died and their deaths subsequently inspired others to explore the stars.  He can do this even though the destruction of Bowie Base One is a "fixed point" that cannot be changed, because he's the last Time Lord and "It's taken me all these years to realise the Laws of Time are mine, and they will obey me!"  Captain Adelaide Brooke is (somewhat understandably) horrified by the "Time Lord victorious", and decides to kill herself to put history back on course.  (Never mind that there's a difference between sacrificing yourself on Mars and shooting yourself on Earth.)

The problem is that there's no real reason why the Doctor couldn't save them properly, for real, without any of us this "I'm the winner and what I say goes" nonsense.  We're told that Bowie Base One exploded on 21 November 2059 and that can't be changed, but we also know it exploded in a massive nuclear explosion that almost certainly vaporized everything in the base.  So why can't the Doctor rescue Adelaide, Mia, and Yuri and take them somewhere/when else?  As long as history thinks they died (and it's not like there were bodies to collect), what's the matter?  Why can't they live somewhere else?  (This becomes particularly irksome when the Doctor subsequently wriggles out of his own "fixed point" death in "The Wedding of River Song" in a not-entirely-dissimilar manner.)  But no, this story is building up to a vengeful, cruel Doctor at the end (er...except this aspect won't actually be brought up in The End of Time), and so it has to reach this point, logic be damned.

The Doctor looks out over Bowie Base One. ("The Waters of
Mars") ©BBC
As I said, this is a really frustrating aspect, because everything else is really very good.  As you might expect, Graeme Harper gives us a fabulously well-directed episode, with a really simple yet creepy and effective alien in the form of the Flood.  The makeup on the affected crewmembers is really good, with the cracked skin around the mouth and the altered eyes.  The base itself looks fabulous, a nice extension of modern technology with enough touches (like the keyboards) to suggest a world fifty years along from our own.  And I also really like the way this is treated as an historical event that absolutely 100% happened, no changes -- we haven't had anything like this since The Tenth Planet 43 years earlier.  Plus there's some great dialogue.  The Doctor's response to Adelaide's challenge of "State your name, rank, and intention" -- "The Doctor.  Doctor.  Fun" -- is both genuinely funny and a nice summation of the Doctor, and the picture the Doctor paints of the future of humanity's journey to the stars is lovely.  Plus we get a passing reference to the Ice Warriors!

It's not perfect; I've mentioned the huge problem at the end (and why is the Doctor seeing Ood Sigma of all people?), but there are some minor issues along the way: there are slightly awkward lines like, "Water is patient, Adelaide.  Water just waits", but there's also the weirdness of the Dalek in Adelaide's childhood electing not to kill her because she was involved in a fixed point -- even though the Daleks' plan in that story was to eliminate all life in the universe, which one would think would preclude Adelaide's death in 2059 (and incidentally, the webpage describing her death talks about the Dalek invasion of 2008, not 2009, but we can probably call that a typo and move on).  There are also some curious accent decisions: the Russian sounds Russian, the Australian sounds Australian...but the Americans sound British.  (Thus giving credence to the theory that something happened to the US in the mid-21st century -- although you wouldn't think the accents would change...)

But normally these things wouldn't matter -- they're largely minor niggles, and everything else is done well enough that this should be a classic.  But I just have such a hard time with the resolution of the storyline that it brings everything down as a consequence.  If you don't have this problem, then "The Waters of Mars" should be one of the standouts of the Tennant era (certainly a lot of people thought enough of it to award it the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form210) -- I just have a really hard time getting past the resolution; it weakens the entire effort.

It's sweet that they dedicated this to the memory of Barry Letts, though.

April 17: "Dreamland"

And here we are, with Doctor Who's second (and to date final) foray into the world of animation: "Dreamland".  This began airing on the BBC's Red Button on 21 November (so the day after The Gift finished) in smaller chunks, similarly to how "The Infinite Quest" was broken up in 2007, before it aired in its entirety on 5 December on BBC Two.  Unlike "The Infinite Quest", we get a look at a completely CG version of Doctor Who.  The result isn't exactly pleasant.

It actually looks decent in stills, as you can see from the DVD cover and the screenshot further down (even if it's kind of ugly), but once it has to start moving it's initially incredibly jarring -- they don't move smoothly, and there aren't many unnecessary pieces of animation.  This means that we get oddly stilted-feeling performances from the characters -- in particular the Doctor, who when robbed of David Tennant's body language feels really strange; you don't realize just how much Tennant puts into his physical performance until it's removed.  Of course, the minute anyone has to start running it looks like animation from a Nintendo 64 game, with slow-moving legs and a sort of sliding motion.  And while you do start to adjust to the style after a few minutes, there are lots of awkward chase sequences to pull you right back out again.

Where the animation excels, though, is when it's called upon to realize things that would be difficult to do in live-action.  The opening moments with the spaceship being chased down to Earth (hey, look, it's the same ship that we saw in Prisoner of the Judoon, just like they said!) are impressive, and all the aliens look great -- the Viperox in particular are a great creation, even if the image of the Viperox queen laying eggs makes it hard not to think about the Slurm Queen from Futurama.  I also like how Doctor Who finally tackles the subject of the "Grey" aliens of popular culture and has them just be misunderstood.  And all the scenes of the barren New Mexican desert are really well done as well.

The Doctor asks Rivesh Mantilax and Saruba Velak for help while
Cassie and Jimmy look on. ("Dreamland") ©BBC
But the main advantage that "Dreamland" has is a good script from Phil Ford.  Although it's somewhat hampered by having to have a cliffhanger every 6 minutes or so, there's a scope to this story that's quite lovely.  We move through several different locations (all well realized) at quite a fast clip, but it never feels rushed or unnecessary -- and the appearance of more and more interested parties doesn't seem cluttered but rather natural.  It makes sense that the Men in Black (OK, the Alliance of Shades) don't want alien involvement to be discovered, and it's a clever move to make them androids.  Jimmy Stalkingwolf's grandfather and his fellow American Indians make a brief appearance, but it makes sense.  There are a lot of Army personnel about, but they fit into the story.  It's all handled really well, and Jimmy Stalkingwolf is a really great character -- I found myself cheering for him quite a bit, even while I could barely remember Cassie's name.  Colonel Stark also gets a chance to not be a close-minded warmonger, as he decides to listen to the Doctor even though Stark thinks he sounds like a Communist.  (Great line about this by the way: "I thought the fifties were supposed to be a time for optimism," the Doctor complains.  "I mean, you think you're going to have flying cars in another ten years."  "Yeah, sure, if the Reds don't nuke us first," Cassie replies pessimistically.  "The Reds?  Manchester United?" the Doctor responds, confused.  "Oh, the Russians," he then realizes.)

If it weren't for the fact that so much of this is unappealing to actually look at, "Dreamland" would stand proudly with its fellow specials.  But because it looks rather primitive and ugly at times (and that it wasn't really promoted as one of David Tennant's specials, but more as a curiosity), it's a story that's been largely forgotten (if you were even aware of it at all).  That's a shame; the story itself is really good.  Maybe you can just close your eyes and experience it as an audio story instead.

April 18: The End of Time Part One

And so here we are at last, at the end of David Tennant's time as the Doctor -- as well as Russell T Davies' time as Doctor Who's showrunner.  This is, strictly speaking, the 2009 Christmas special, but while Christmas is a part of this, The End of Time Part One has a lot more to do than worry about Christmas.

It starts oddly, though; we get some portentous (some might say pretentious) narration about the "final days of planet Earth", but then it's a complete change of pace with some frankly appalling jokey material regarding the Doctor.  The TARDIS remote-locking fob (complete with car locking noise) is bad enough, but we also get some nonsense about the Doctor marrying Elizabeth I and her having to change her nickname.211  And it also seems strange that the Ood are suddenly this race with the power to transcend time in order to call the Doctor to them.  (Mind, even the Doctor thinks this is strange, but the explanation is only half-formed; hopefully they'll elaborate in the second half.)

There's also a worrying amount of technobabble going on; the Master's resurrection seems strange enough, with its secret disciples of Harold Saxon and a counter organization designed to stop them, but then this somehow leads to the Master turning into a super-powered madman who can fly like Iron Man, leap like Superman, and shoot electricity from his hands like the Emperor from Return of the Jedi -- there are some passing references to how "[y]our resurrection went wrong.  That energy.  Your body's ripped open.  Now you're killing yourself," but that's about it.  Combined with the utterly mad cliffhanger of the Master turning everyone into himself, you start to worry that maybe it's Russell T Davies who's lost his mind.

The Doctor welcomes Wilf aboard the TARDIS. (The End of
Part One) ©BBC
But where this episode comes up trumps is in the character moments.  The Master flying around is bizarre, but the Master talking to the Doctor, making him hear the constant drumming in his head...that's a great moment.  And even after everything, the Doctor still would rather help the Master than fight him.  "Let him go!" the Doctor yells as Joshua Naismith's men capture the Master.  Plus we get the welcome return of Wilf, and just about every moment with him is special, from him rounding up the senior citizens to help him find the Doctor (which leads to the great moment where Minnie the Menace (played by the legendary June Whitfield) grabs the Doctor's butt, much to his surprise) to having conversations with the Doctor about death and Donna.  That particular scene, in the cafe, is astonishing; we've never seen the Doctor quite so vulnerable before, as he opens up to Wilf about his impending death:
DOCTOR: I'm going to die.
WILF: Well, so am I, one day.
DOCTOR: Don't you dare.
WILF: All right, I'll try not to.
DOCTOR: But I was told.  He will knock four times.  That was the prophecy.  Knock four times, and then...
WILF: Yeah, but I thought, when I saw you before, you said your people could change, like, your whole body.
DOCTOR: I can still die.  If I'm killed before regeneration, then I'm dead.  Even then, even if I change, it feels like dying.  Everything I am dies.  Some new man goes sauntering away, and I'm dead.
It's an amazing piece of acting from both David Tennant and Bernard Cribbins, as the Doctor starts to lose it at the thought of dying, while Wilf just wants to desperately to help the most amazing man he's ever met.  It's a very powerful scene and one of Tennant's best-ever scenes as the Doctor.  But he also gets other great moments, such as dealing distractedly with Wilf's first look inside the TARDIS after Wilf barges in ("You can't come with me," the Doctor says.  "You're not leaving me with her," Wilf replies, indicating Sylvia.  "Fair enough," the Doctor replies, as he lets Wilf in) or offhandedly deactivating the Vinvocci's "Shimmer" camouflage without even looking.

These are the sorts of things that make this episode, by and large, worth watching.  It may be incredibly daft/poorly thought-out (delete according to preference) at times, but there's such an unwavering conviction at work, that they absolutely know what they're doing and they're not going to let anyone stop them, that's it's hard not to be swept up in everything.  The actors make this work, and the direction and script both trust that we'll be willing to come along for the ride.  And at this point we are.

(But what a cliffhanger!  The Time Lords (led by James Bond!  All right, Timothy Dalton -- but still!) are coming back!)

April 18: The End of Time Part Two

The High Council of the Time Lords deliberate on the last day of
the Time War on how to save themselves. (The End of Time
Part Two) ©BBC
In some ways this is a story that threatens to tear itself apart.  Russell T Davies is consciously crafting an epic story to send the tenth Doctor out on, but he's throwing in so many elements that it's hard to see the line connecting everything.  We get a planet full of Masters, a technobabble-y plan to bring the Time Lords back from the end of the Time War, a bizarre nuclear monitoring station set-up, a spaceship dodging missiles, and lots of death-defying stunts in between.  Any one of these would have probably been enough, but we get them all instead, and so the story threatens to collapse under the weight of it all.

More worryingly, things that look like they might actually have some bit of logic turn out not to.  You might think, for instance, that the Master has turned the entire planet into himself so that he could use everyone to help figure out more about the drumming sound.  He does do this, but it occurs to him after the fact, while talking to the Doctor -- it's not the actual reason for his plan.  That, in fact, seems to be something of a mystery; maybe he did it just because he could?  (There's a hint that he was trying to stabilize his body -- "The Gate wasn't enough.  Your body is still dying," the Doctor says -- but that's all it remains, a hint.)  And while there's a certain sense of perverse justice in learning that it was the future Time Lords who drove the Master mad all those years ago, just so that Rassilon and the High Council could try and escape from the Time War and destroy everything, it's another thing that you just have to accept (that the High Council could put the drumming in the Master's head in the first place, or that they could get a fancy diamond out of the Time War, despite the fact that it's apparently "time locked" and nothing can get in or out).  Then there are lesser problems, like how we're repeatedly told that if Donna remembers her time with the Doctor her mind will burn, but when she finally does it just knocks her (and everyone around her) out, with seemingly no other ill effects.  (Let's quietly draw a veil over the question of how the Doctor could survive the jump from the Vinvocci spaceship when a similar fall killed his fourth incarnation.)

Where this story succeeds, however, is in the character moments.  Part one had a number of them, and this episode has just as many.  You can rest assured that any scene Bernard Cribbins is in will be amazing to watch -- he's so good an actor that you don't realize how much he's working during a scene; it just feels like he's providing the most natural reactions in the world.  And so when matched with someone like David Tennant, it becomes mesmerizing to watch them both -- the scene aboard the Vinvocci ship, where Wilf tries to give the Doctor the gun and he repeatedly refuses, is fantastic, as both of them display the full range of emotions buried just beneath the surface.  It's not just them, though; when Tennant and John Simm get the chance to play a quieter scene together, they're just as good, as the Doctor asks the Master to come with him, while the Master just wants the drumming to stop.  And even the final confrontation at the end, with a desperate wounded Doctor squaring off against both the Master and the Time Lords, is worth watching because of the actors involved: Timothy Dalton is every inch the proud Time Lord, seemingly driven mad by the Time War but unable or unwilling to realize it, while the Doctor is determined to stop the Time Lords.  "You weren't there in the final days of the War," the Doctor tells the Master.  "You never saw what was born.  But if the time lock's broken, then everything's coming through.  Not just the Daleks, but the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-weres.  The War turned into hell."  The Doctor seems torn about who to attack, until he sees one of the women with Rassilon -- the one that keeps appearing to Wilf212 -- and that helps him decide to send them all "back to hell", with the aid of the Master at the last moment.  It's a big moment, with the Master redeeming himself as he sends himself back with the other Time Lords.

David Tennant regenerates into Matt Smith. (The End of
Part Two) ©BBC
So there are lots of action sequences, thrown in seemingly without too much thought, to give the tenth Doctor his send-off.  But it's ultimately the small moments that make this work, with perhaps none so small as the tenth Doctor's final fate.  All the stuff he experienced, and it's ultimately just the act of Wilf saving someone in the nuclear station thing that dooms the Doctor.  These moments are heartbreaking, not just because the tenth Doctor rages against the universe when he realizes what that "Planet of the Dead" prophecy was really about, but because Wilf understands what it will mean for the Doctor to save him and he begs him not to: "Look, just leave me. ... No really, just leave me.  I'm an old man, Doctor.  I've had my time."  It's the anguish on Bernard Cribbins' face, as he sees he's dooming the Doctor, that really cuts to the quick -- and while the Doctor is initially mad, his true personality reasserts itself: "Wilfred, it's my honour [to save you].  Better be quick," he adds.

The follow-up sequence, with the Doctor seeing all his previous companions as his "reward" before he regenerates, feels an awful lot like the end of "Journey's End", and thus in some ways is like the Russell T Davies' equivalent of the Doctor seeing all his companions' faces swirl around him as he regenerates in the 1980s stories.  But even here we get some lovely surprises, such as seeing the great-granddaughter of Nurse Redfern from "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood", Verity Newman.213  "Was she happy, in the end?" the Doctor asks. "Yes.  Yes, she was," Verity replies.  "Were you?" she asks, but the Doctor doesn't answer.  And the scene with Rose at the very end is clever and understated, which is exactly what they needed.  (It's still the scenes with Bernard Cribbins that make me tear up a bit, though.  God bless that man.)  Nevertheless, this closing sequence does exactly what it's meant to, hitting the right notes as the Doctor dies.

The End of Time is therefore an incredibly uneven production; there's so much going on that just seems to be happening without good reason that you can see why some people hate this story (and make no mistake: some people hate this story).  But because the character interactions are so good, and because that air of supreme confidence fills every corner of the screen, it's easy to give in and go along with this, and to enjoy it for what it is: the final epic storyline for a Doctor (and showrunner) who has often delighted in epic storylines.  It may, in fact, be almost the prototypical Russell T Davies Who story, with all the virtues and faults on display in equal amounts.  You might be one of the people who hates this: fair enough.  I personally rather love it.

And so we say goodbye to the tenth Doctor, the most human incarnation of them all, with humanity's greatest traits and its worst ones existing side-by-side in David Tennant's portrayal.  It's slightly ironic that we're reminded here of "Human Nature" / "The Family of Blood", which went out of its way to show us that the Doctor is emphatically not human, because there's nothing quite so human as what we see here, as even at the very end he tries to hold on to his life (as opposed to other Doctors -- like, say, Jon Pertwee -- who approached their death with more dignity).  "I don't want to go," he cries, before the regenerative energy that he's been holding back finally overwhelms him as it explodes outward, damaging the TARDIS in the process.  (At least, that seems to be what's happening.)  David Tennant has not only consistently shown us how good he is as the Doctor, but he's also managed to get better and better with each series -- such that he's rarely in better form on the show than in this final story.  I have to admit, when watching these stories the first time I was often unconvinced by Tennant.  "This doesn't really feel like the Doctor," I thought to myself.  I can now wholeheartedly admit that I was wrong; Tennant is emphatically the Doctor, the Doctor that's most like us.  He certainly leaves huge shoes to fill, both in terms of performance and in the public consciousness -- it's an awful lot like Tom Baker finally leaving the show in the latter regard.

He's not the only one leaving with big shoes to fill.  Russell T Davies did what many at the time said was impossible; he not only brought the series back, but he made it a mainstay of British television again and captured a whole new audience.  He did so by doing what the best producers of the show have always done: making it for a family audience, rather than a niche demographic.  He wasn't a perfect producer by any means, but his knack for knowing what works for that larger audience was on target more often than it wasn't.  Even if all he had done was bring it back, that would be probably be enough -- the fact that he made it a tremendous success worldwide is proof of how good he was at updating the format while keeping the core of the show the same.

But now it's time for Steven Moffat to take over with a new lead actor, and if the final moments of The End of Time are any indication, we should be in for a good time with Matt Smith...


204 "Flesh and Stone" will eventually explain this away as the result of the Cracks in Time making everyone forget these events.
205 Though not the first of the franchise -- that would be Torchwood, which has always been filmed in HD.
210 On the other hand, both "The Next Doctor" and "Planet of the Dead" were also on the shortlist for the Hugo that year, so maybe we shouldn't read too much into it.
211 Fortunately, Steven Moffat will subsequently explain this one away in "The Day of the Doctor".
212 No, you're not supposed to know who this mystery woman is.  Theories range from the Doctor's mother to his wife to his daughter (aka Susan's mother) to Susan herself to Romana to someone unknown, but we intentionally never find out for certain who she is.  Unless Steven Moffat wants to tell us in a future story, we'll likely never know -- and it's probably better that way.
213 I see what they did there.