The Doctor takes his new companion, Rose, to the year 5,000,000,000 to witness the death of the world party on Platform One, along with some of the richest beings in the Universe. Meanwhile, robot spiders brought onboard by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme as gifts to the others on the station are infiltrating and sabotaging Platform One.
The End of the World is a bold second episode for the revived series. The story takes us to the far future, introduces us to a series of new aliens and shows us the destruction of their world. The episode does also briefly touch on humanity and what it means to be human – Cassandra regards herself as the last “true” human, despite her never-ending cycle of cosmetic procedures, as opposed to the rest of the human race, who went out into the stars and “mingled”. It is an episode that you’d expect to come perhaps slightly later in the series, with perhaps an iconic classic foe such as the Daleks or the Cybermen, but the fact that we get an episode like this is great.
It seems strange to praise an episode by jumping straight to the ending scene, but this episode really puts Eccleston in particular through his paces emotionally. He has to convey great joy at one moment, burning rage another and almost unimaginable sorrow at yet another. This is the first mention we have of the Time War. Taking Rose to witness the death of her planet almost gives them something to share, although, as the Doctor states, Gallifrey went “before its time”, meanwhile the death of the Earth is something much more natural. The way he says “my planet’s gone”, is so matter of fact but so weighed down with sorrow. It has parallels with the scene at the end of Gridlock, where the 10th Doctor tells Martha that he’s the last of the Time Lords. I love both of those scenes equally, but the scene here is slightly better as it’s the first occurrence.
There are several nice moments in this episode, and what surprised me is how well this episode has aged. There are pop culture references, such as the use of Tainted Love by Soft Cell and Toxic by Britney Spears, however, these don’t date as badly as some later on in series one (I’m looking at you, Bad Wolf). There is also a nice conversation between Rose and the plumber Jaffalo where Rose realises the absurdity of her situation and perhaps how foolhardy she has been coming travelling with a man she barely knows. I gather that this was an eleventh-hour addition, and if that is the case I’m very glad it made it.
That being said, the episode does have problems, especially surrounding the ending. It feels extremely rushed and the climactic scenes with the Doctor and Jabe with the spinning fans is a bit anti-climatic. However, the Doctor and Jabe are two of the most interesting characters in this story, and to spend more time in their company is definitely a positive. I also like the fact that immediately after Jabe’s demise, the Doctor goes to inform her people before reversing the teleport and bringing Cassandra back to the ship. However, the whole conclusion is ultimately rushed, although I do enjoy the fury and anger that we see come from the Doctor in this final confrontation. It is the first time we see this Doctor truly angry. I do also feel that there are perhaps too many aliens thrown in here, who serve no real purpose except to be in peril. This does allow us a fleshing out of the new universe but does seem a bit of a waste, especially when some of these creatures are never seen again. We also don’t really care when characters like the Moxx of Balhoon die, for instance, because we spend absolutely no time with them.
Verdict: A strong second episode for Eccleston which gives us our first mention of the Time War. 8/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jade), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoe Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices)
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lynn
Behind the Scenes
- This episode is the first to establish that the Doctor is the last of his kind and to feature mentions of the conclusion of the Time War, although the Time Lord’s foes are not named here.
- The psychic paper makes its debut here. Russell T Davies devised it as a time saving mechanism to prevent the Doctor spending time being distrusted and locked up, something that happened in the multi-part serials of the Classic series.
- The first story of the revived series to feature a cold open, something that would be consistent up until Series 11. The Classic series featured cold opens sparingly, with them only being included in Castrovalva, The Five Doctors and Remembrance of the Daleks.
- This marks the first appearances for the Face of Boe and Lady Cassandra, who would both appear in New Earth and the Face of Boe would also appear in Gridlock.
- Due to complexities regarding the animation of Cassandra, the episode ran short necessitating Russell T Davies to write scenes with Rose and maintenance worker Raffalo.
- First contribution of director Euros Lyn, who would direct a number of episodes including the final story of the Russell T Davies era, The End of Time.
The ending scene is just, to coin a phrase, fantastic.
Everything has it’s time, and everything dies.The Ninth Doctor