Saturday, 7 February 2009

Doctor Who: The End of the World

Doctor: 'Everything has its time, and everything dies.'

A story of two halves this week. On the one hand, we had a rather lightweight yarn about vanity gone mad—on the other, a profound tale about loss and the end of the world. Oh, and the Doctor tried to get off with a tree.

The Doctor's identity was the focus of this week's episode. Despite agreeing to travel with him, it suddenly dawned on Rose that she knows precious little about him. She doesn't know his name, where he's from, or even his species—and at first, the Doctor was less than forthcoming with answers. Clearly he has issues, and serious ones too, if his moody demeanour's anything to go by. When Jabe touched his arm and told him that she was sorry, his eyes welled up with tears and you could clearly see his pain. Full marks to Russell T. Davies for managing to slot some pathos in amongst the lighter material.

Rose was likewise at sixes and sevens with herself this week. Part of it was homesickness, and part of it was the realisation that she was about to watch her home explode and die. That has to mess with your mind. There was an interesting parallel too between the Doctor and Rose—both are beings isolated from their worlds and loved ones. Despite being on a ship positively teeming with people (and I use the term 'people' loosely), Rose still feels desperately alone. As she says, 'the aliens are just too alien'. Which raises the obvious question: just how alien is the Doctor? Was it a mistake for Rose to leave earth with a man she knows so little about?

By the end of the episode Rose did get some answers. The Doctor's planet was destroyed along with his people, leaving him alone—the last of the Time Lords. Likewise, Rose had just witnessed her own world crash and burn ('all those years, all that history and no one was even looking') and now exists in a future where everyone she knows is dead—so she can certainly empathize with the Doctor. Whether they have anything in common beyond circumstance is yet to be determined, but at least the Doctor appears to behave like a human being. Will it be enough to satisfy Rose's desire for companionship in a mostly alien universe?

The Doctor's 'what's a tree like you doing in a place like this' come-on was worthy of a chuckle... or maybe a groan. Last week we were left wondering about the Doctor's ability to form romantic relationships with humans, yet here he was putting the moves on Jabe—a tree, of all things. If you can flirt with a tree, then you're game for anyone or anything! And Jabe's death added some much needed poignancy to the tale. Another example of a person touched by the Doctor, risking all to save her fellow beings.

Also of note this episode was Cassandra O'Brien Delta 17 (AKA the bitchy trampoline), living proof that cosmetic surgery doesn't necessarily make you a beautiful person. She looked like a wash leather with eyes, and had the personality to match. No wonder Rose took an instant dislike to her. All that subterfuge just to fund more surgeries on herself? On which bits, exactly? There was virtually nothing left of her to operate on. And wasn't it a little odd that 'the last pure human' didn't recognise Rose as a fellow homo sapien? I suppose she did struggle to identify the jukebox correctly. And maybe the Doctor is sort of human looking too. Okay Cassandra, you're forgiven.

A mixed bag this week. I'm not sure the combination of comedy and pathos worked as well as it could have, but the Doctor and Rose are back on good terms—not to mention eating chips—so all is well with the world.

Other Thoughts:

—This week's episode had a distinctly Restaurant At The End Of The Universe feel to it.

—The Doctor used psychic paper for the first time this week (AKA the lazy writers best friend). Can't work out a plausible way of getting the Doctor into a building... wait, didn't I say this last episode?

—It's not often you see a show so in love with chips. This is the first chip reference of many in Nu-Who. For American viewers, chips are fries in your language. And chips in your language are crisps in ours. Confused?

—Two Titanic references in two weeks. Last week, Clive showed Rose a picture of the Doctor aboard the Titanic. This week the Doctor said, 'I was on board another ship once. They said that was unsinkable. I ended up clinging to an iceberg. It wasn't half cold'. Silly but fun.

—Two near death experiences for Rose in two weeks. It would be nice to think that the benefits of time travel outweigh the negatives, but when the negatives are almost dying—well, surely that's too high a price to pay?

—Blue Ooompa Loompas? Britney and Marc Almond? Good grief, the future looks bloody awful!

—Our first 'Bad Wolf' reference—the Moxx of Balhoon mumbles something about 'the Bad Wolf scenario'.

—Quite a few UK cultural references this week Firstly, Newsround Extra is a news programme on the BBC aimed primarily at children. Secondly, we had mention of The Big Issue, a magazine sold by the homeless to raise money for the homeless. Lastly, the Doctor makes a reference to 'beef and eggs' killing everyone, a nod to the BSE crisis that crippled the UK beef industry in the 90's and the salmonella scare of the late 80's (caused by a somewhat misinformed Edwina Currie).


The Doctor: 'I came first in jiggery pokery, what about you?'
Rose: 'No. I failed hullabaloo.'

Rose: 'It's better to die than to live like you: a bitchy trampoline.'

The Doctor: 'You think it'll last forever. The people, and cars, and concrete. But it won't. Then one day, it's all gone. Even the sky... My planet's gone. It's dead. It burned, like the Earth. It's just rocks and dust. Before its time.'

Doctor: 'This is who I am, right here and now. This is who I am.'

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