The second episode of New Who’s first season sees Rose and The Doctor race forwards in time to the end of the world itself. Borrowing (as Who does often) from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the earth’s end is a spectacle for rich aliens as they watch the sun burn up the planet from a save distance, complete with gift giving and waiters.
Maureen: I really loved the opening sequence to this episode. We learn just enough about how The Doctor rolls (manically and with little care to his companions possible reactions, thoughts or feelings about what they are about to see) to get an idea of where the season is headed. You can really tell the show was written by fans for fans, with the mention of the New Roman Empire instantly making me want to run off and check for the fan fic of that particular adventure. I also noticed Murray Gold’s brilliant soundtrack with a vengeance in this opening. ‘Welcome to the end of the world,’ may be one of the best Who hooks ever to an episode.
Ben: Ahh… these ye olde special effects really take me back to watching Doctor Who back in high school… Anyways, this pre-title sequence sequence had some real snap crackle and pop to it, with Rose and the Doctor flirting up a storm! The Doctor was talking a big game about how far forward in time the TARDIS had travelled and Rose was acting suitably impressed, it was all very high school. But more importantly, their chemistry is excellent, especially in comparison to the chemistry between Rose and Mickey. Which brings us to The Doctor having the excellent idea to bring Rose to the literal death of the Earth! Great second date material there, Doctor.
Maureen: I liked Rose a lot more this episode (probably because she was sans Mickey). The banter between her and The Doctor felt more natural and their chemistry is strong. I love how out of place and confused Rose feels when The Doctor tells her she’s surrounded by different species of aliens because it felt realistic.
Rose: The aliens are just… so alien.
The Doctor: Good thing I didn’t take you to the deep South.
For the first time, the romance angle is overt. We see it in the exchange between Jabe and The Doctor about Rose’s function/relationship to The Doctor (Wife? Partner? Concubine? Prostitute?), The Doctor calling Rose his plus one and Rose telling The Doctor to go pollinate with Jabe and that she wanted him home by midnight.
I loved how Rose acted around the blue mechanic. She is interested and compassionate in what was a lovely little scene. I was less of a fan of how Rose interacted with Cassandra. She was fairly harsh in her assessment of Cassandra as ‘a bitchy trampoline… just lipstick and skin.’ To be fair, she is overwhelmed and confused by her surroundings so some frustration and snappiness is to be expected. She also didn’t do much other than be a damsel in distress while The Doctor and poor Jabe solved the mystery of the episode, but hey, it’s early days for Rose yet.
Ben: Poor Rose understandably had a bit of a tough time this episode. Being brought 5 billion years into the future to witness the destruction of the Earth is something of a mood killer. And then to be introduced to the ever so naughty Cassandra, who claims to be the last pure human whilst having had every last bit of humanity surgically removed? It’s enough to put even the happiest person in a mood, and from early on she clearly feels very awkward and out of place.
It is a bit disappointing how she gets sidelined for most of this episode, though. She has some good moments being snarky at Cassandra and Jabe, and the touching moment when the Doctor does some technobabble to her phone, enabling her to call home and talk to her mum. But mostly she’s either having a crisis of identity and freaking out that she’s travelling space and time with an alien she knows basically nothing about. Which, as I’ve said already, is pretty understandable considering the circumstances.
Maureen: This episode developed Nine nicely, letting us know he is broken and damaged and very, very angry. This Doctor is brutal, unafraid of punishing people and aliens when they seriously mess up. He also is filled with unbearable guilt; about the universe, about his people and about Jabe too.
Jabe: Stop wasting time… Time Lord.
I still remember how thrilling that line sounded as a teen!
‘Everything has an end and everything dies,’ Nine says to Rose, trying to justify why he let Cassandra die, but you know he’s talking about brave Jabe too.
We also hear the first about the dreaded last of the Time Lords trope, but it’s fresh at this early point and I loved Eccleston’s delivery.
The Doctor: My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned like the earth. It’s just rock and dust… there was a war and we lost… I’m the last of the Time Lords.
Ben: The Doctor had some pretty great moments this week: the introduction of the ever so useful psychic paper, “I gift you air from my lungs”, and letting Cassandra dry out and subsequently die a fairly horrific death at the end of the episode. Before that though, we have The Doctor being prickly and mysterious and refusing to answer Rose’s questions, and then doing the same with Jabe and her questions before caving and telling both of them the truth. It’s an important step, and while we don’t get the specifics, it’s still enough to explain some of why the Doctor is how he is.
The scenes he had with Jabe were all so good, as well. I know all the Doctor’s are serial flirts, but Eccleston can really put it on when he wants to. It’s that kind of charisma and connection that inspires his companions to do amazing things, such as Jabe sacrificing her life to save the station. And as a grand crescendo we had him walk between two blades of a fan set to maximum! It was a bit dumb, and you never really see Time Lords having that kind of ability again, but it sure looked cool.
The Alien of the Week
Maureen: Cassandra was a great villain; a capitalist nightmare highlighting everything wrong with our modern world, a world where we value objects and things over people. Cassandra is cruel and callous and vapid and I love that she calls a duke box an iPod and Tainted Love and Toxic classic earth songs.
The Face of Boe turns up for the first time, as do a number of other alien species. The blue people were nicely humanized and Jabe was a beautifully realized character. I would have dug her as a companion!
Cassandra’s little metal spider aliens reminded me of Michael Crichton’s Prey and were genuinely frightening. I can’t say that of every Who alien!
Ben: Boy did they pull out all the stops with the aliens this episode! The world building is simply phenomenal, with a veritable smorgasbord of aliens in attendance. We get some soon to be familiar faces, such as the Face of Boe, and the mysterious Adherents of the Repeated Meme (I hope it’s a dog-related meme). The one critique I have of this episode is, surely these advanced alien civilisations would have figured out a way to make sun shields a bit less fallible. But as far as complaints go, that’s pretty minor. The little robot baddies were animated surprisingly well, all things considered! And the twist with them actually being controlled by Cassandra was a really great moment.
Maureen: I’ve always loved this episode. Partly it’s nostalgia, but I just think it’s a strong episode in general; there’s a great central mystery, interesting world-building and aliens, moments of tragedy alongside humour and a deepening of The Doctor’s backstory and the mysterious Time War. It’s early in the peace, but I’m giving this one 10/10.
Ben: This episode was just peak Who, it’s sci-fi perfection, and we had the first Bad Wolf reference I’ve spotted so far! As much as I’m hesitant to give an episode 10/10 because there’s always the chance there will be a better episode, I really can’t justify a score other than 10/10. Onwards and upwards!
Next week, one of the few Gatiss penned Who episodes Inkashlings actually likes…