Ood Sigma has a message for the Doctor. And it not an encouraging one. The Master is reborn on Christmas Eve. Battles rage across the wastelands of London and at the mysterious Immortality Gate.
And all I got was a cinder of coal and a Satsuma past its "Best before" date.
The expectation was greater. Christmastime always is.
THE END OF TIME, PART ONE was not all disappointing but it felt "samey"; nothing special but surely a prelude to second episode and the conclusion to the Tenth Doctor era.
After 60 minutes there was a ".and?" and a ".so, anyone for a cup of tea and a scone?, and all tinged with a sense of numbness. THE END OF TIME, PART ONE seemed like that singular hors d'oeuvre remaining on the platter at the end of the party; edges turned crispy, the cream cheese splitting back into its constitute ingredients and the olive hirsutely adorned like a Bobby Charlton comb-over.
There is better fayre on offer on New Year's Day. Isn't there?
So, why so mediocre?
Plot, related coincidences and paper-thin characters (even the formerly superbly serviced Wilf Mott was inadequately scripted - or directed?) failed to impress throughout.
The main coincidence of the salvaging of the "Immortality Gate" (IG) (from the TORCHWOOD hub wreckage) by the dimensionally challenged Naismith & sibling did not feel comprehensively logical. Perhaps, a better scenario was to retain the newly reborn Master within Her Majesty's Prison, organising the salvage and re-engineering of the IG from within (in the same fashion as he did in two CLASSIC SERIES stories; THE SEA DEVILS and, to a lesser extent, THE MIND OF EVIL) instead of switching to the country estate. The addition of the obligatory "action figure release" alien shape-shimmers, Vinvocci were purely that. The characters could have been a positive (i.e. an undermining threat installed by the Time Lord hierarchy) inclusion but, sadly, both the writer & director created - suitably at this festive time - second-rate pantomime creations that made the cast of (CLASSIC SERIES) PARADISE TOWERS look like the Royal Shakespeare Company.
In the same way that the "Master fodder" prison staff were employed - again directed by Euros Lynn with a mighty static wooden spoon - the billionaire investor, Joshua Naismith (could have been replaced by a resurgent Henry van Statten?) and his daughter's conceit bored (even the six year old I watched the episode with said, "How can that happen?" Quite. From the mouths of babes.). Add to that the perspicacity & coincidence that the Ood have the "oh, how convenient!" to look within time itself. Another plot device? Why didn't the Doctor just have a "vision" (see CLASSIC SERIES' 1976 THE DEADLY ASSASSIN) of the future?
And the music score? It seems cobbled together - and poorly mixed - from the three volumes of Murray Gold's DOCTOR WHO releases. And the "set design" and locations? Tired. The Vinvocci cellar has been used several times in the NEW SERIES. The stables? Used in THE NEXT DOCTOR? The IG looked like a pile of milk crates linked together with LED "rope lights" from the TOP OF THE POPS studio. The Master's resurrection location looked more ruined church than prison yard. The TARDIS has been too blandly lit since series 3 (SERIES 1's lighting was atmospheric and deep and rich) and I really felt disappointed for Wilf as he tried to comprehend the impossibility of the space within.
The special effects were, sorry, "run of the Mill". The curse of HD technology as the budget does not live up to the vision.
So, what are the redeeming features that made THE END OF TIME, PART ONE not feel like the end of time. Oh, I bet, T Davies has been waiting for that "line" since he magically summoned up that title in the bath.
It goes without saying but David Tenannt's character exceeds all expectation whether a cheeky grin, macabre tone or a "Once upon a time." distant stare as his destiny awaits. A legendary version of the charmingly renegade last but one of Time Lords (the main Time Lord race are hidden in the Great Void?) that certainly challenges both Hartnell and/or Baker (Tom) for the mantle of "the ultimate Doctor". The subdued & subtle sparring between he and the Master exercises Tennant's understanding of what makes this character tick.
The performance of John Simm is, as expected, sublime in its horror & terror. A remarkable inhuman (well, yes, his character is.) entity created by the Master's loathing of life & his loathing from Lucy Saxon (Did she escape the monumental cataclysm of the Prison or the "transformation" into one of the "Master-race"?). The character's new powers of energy propulsion and levitation are not explained and are as inappropriate was the energy bolt from the hand of the Dalek creator.
Equally excelling in his performance, Bernard Cribbins' heartening Wilf Mott is at the start of his final (Russell T Davies would not have the audacity to kill-off the character, perhaps, to save the Doctor from "real" death?) journey with the Doctor. In this household, in other episodes Mott has provoked a reaction of having to reach for the Kleenex (with thanks to the resonant performance of Cribbins and the exquisite choice of language of the writer). Tearful; funny and heartbreaking in equal measure. But, as the Doctor asks, who is Wilf? Another coincidence conceit created to pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-magician's-hat when convenient that resolved the plot in the same fashion that Rose did in SERIES 1 and Davros did in SERIES 4. Perhaps, Wilf has a fob watch. A large one that contains a microcosm constellation of Kasterborous?
And Donna? On the periphery of the story (so not to blanket the influence of her grandfather), she is not influenced by the "Master-race" and may have the proverbial "spanner" to undermine the Master's plans.
Unlike the previous year's THE STOLEN EARTH "cliff-hanger" (the faux regeneration), the conclusion was expected; a Time Lord "leader" regaling the "end of time" from a suitably regal throne. But here we got a bit more. A view of the Time Lord ranks (alike the image within the Senate Chamber created for the STAR WARS film saga), resilient, charged with revenge and threatening, cajoled by virulently spitting "the Narrator" (Timothy Dalton) sans iconic "shoulder" adornment. And in the "next time." trailer we witness more; a "soothsayer" visionary tapping out the heartbeat of the Time Lord race, and the Time Lord "council" within a white void (with a gun-totting Doctor). It's all looks interesting.
And "the woman in white" that Wilf encounters?
Overall, THE END OF TIME, PART ONE is not a "water cooler" episode (unlike "Are you Mummy?" or "Don't blink") due to misogynistic storytelling jigsaw that remains unfinished (and with a number of pieces ill-fitting).
VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED and THE NEXT DOCTOR were perfect stocking fillers being an antidote to the excesses to Christmastime fayre but with THE END OF TIME, PART ONE I was reaching for liquor-filled chocolates (thanks, Aunty) to drown my sorrows.