Hannah Hart is back for another week of retrospective fun as she hosts another episode of BBC America’s The Doctor’s Finest, a curated look at some of the best episodes in the recent years of Doctor Who. The series airs weekly until the premiere of Series 9 on September 19. If you missed my review of the first two stories being shown, “Blink” and “The Waters of Mars,” you can find that here, and if you missed Hannah interviewing Jimmy Wong about them, that can be found here.
This week, Hannah welcomes comedian and frequent @midnight panelist Sara Schaefer to discuss Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s swansong, “The End of Time,” (both parts) which aired originally on Christmas Day 2009 and New Year’s Day 2010. That will begin Saturday night at 8:00pm ET/PT on BBC America!
If you’d like my thoughts on the episodes, continue below…
For a generation of fans, Tennant was their Doctor, and pretty much just was the Doctor. Having taken over for Christopher Eccleston following Series 1, Tennant quickly became a fan favorite and a swoon-worthy addition to the pantheon of great Doctors. He was a romantic, swashbuckling hero who was also a huge dork (geek chic was very in) and a bit of a know-it-all. His incarnation was one of the most human, the most fallible, and yet one of the bravest and most selfless. This is why I have a problem with “The End of Time.” I don’t think it’s the way the Tenth Doctor should have gone out.
“The End of Time” features the return of the Master, played by John Simm, who was brought back to life (through potions of some sort) by a cult who worship him. He’s back, but he’s damaged, even more mad by the sound of drums in his head and ravenous for sustenance. He eats meat (including humans) with the ferocity of a piranha. He holes up in a quarry, because why not? The Doctor, meanwhile, has been traveling around, trying his hardest to avoid his future and the Ood’s prophecy that his song is ending and the sound of four knocks ushering in that ending. He goes back to Earth and finds Donna’s grandfather Wilfred Mott and, in a really lovely scene in a cafe, they talk about getting older, and the Doctor mournfully says each regeneration feels like dying.
The Master then gets captured, after proving to the Doctor about the drums in his head, but the Master betrays them and tries to make the whole world Masters. And then the Time Lords come back. Attempting to save themselves in the waning days of the Time War, the Lord President decides to replay Earth with Gallifrey, which, needless to say, is a bad thing to happen.
I know a lot of people really love this story because it’s a sad goodbye to their favorite Doctor, and I have to admit, at that point, after basically binge-watching all four previous series and three specials, the Tenth Doctor was my Doctor. But it’s precisely because of this that I think “The End of Time,” for me, comes up short.
The Tenth Doctor, as I said before, was always selfless, willing to sacrifice his own life for that of others. He was arrogant, of course, but he was a hero because he saved people, or did his best to. In “The End of Time,” all he does is complain about not being ready to die, which would be okay at the beginning; I already said I like that scene in the diner with Wilf a whole lot, and there’s even another scene with Wilf in a spaceship in Part 2 that I think is equally lovely. But the point of being a hero is to suck it up and do what needs to be done, not to howl and carry on about how unfair it is that he has to regenerate and how it’s all dumb old Wilf’s fault that he has to do it. He never accepts his fate like a hero, or like the Doctor, would.
And then we get the lengthy goodbye scenes, which I admit are quite nice, both because the Tenth Doctor is leaving but also because the showrunner, Russell T. Davies, is leaving. It’s a nice wrap-up to the entire era, which was the reason Doctor Who returned. But then, after all of that, after seeing everybody and saving them one last time, and even staggering by a pre-Doctor Rose Tyler on New Year’s 2005, the Doctor enters the TARDIS to regenerate. And does he say “it’s time,” or “I’m ready,” or just sigh with a look of resolve on his face, knowing he’d gotten to do everything he wanted to? Nope, he tearfully says, “I don’t wanna go.”
Anyway, I realize I’m in the minority on this issue, but it wouldn’t be Doctor Who without differences of opinion, right?
We expect Hannah and Sara enjoy this story more than I did, which you can see Saturday night at 8:00pm. And next week, come back here when I’ll get to write about “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Doctor’s Wife,” and Hannah Hart will be back to interview Grant Imahara about them!
I look forward to your anger, share it in the comments below.
Kyle Anderson is the weekend editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com, as well as being the resident Whovian. Follow him on Twitter!