Now that's it's all over and the dust has settled and Gallifrey has been sent "back into hell", I'm finally able to see just where the Tenth Doctor's final adventure fits into the saga since its rebirth in 2005. I've come to wait a while on such things before making any rash judgements as most of the episodes which I now regard as my favourites took a second or third viewing to really help me fully appreciate them. (Although there are two episodes which I hated on first viewing and still hate even now, which I'll mention briefly later on.)
So was The End of Time any good? Was it a fitting send off for David Tennant, voted by readers of Doctor Who Magazine as the Most Popular Doctor in the show's history? Did the final episodes do him justice? Well, yes . . . and no.
To explain: As always, the double episode crammed a fair amount of drama into the two hour running time with some moments swinging wildly from the sublime to the fairly ridiculous. For example, the climax of episode one in which the Master hops into the Immortality Gate and turns every single human being into a replica of himself was a great twist to the plot. Fantastic! The idea was horrible - that we as a race had lost our indentity - even if the reality of seeing that played out, shaky heads and all, erred on the side of 'a bit silly'. The dogfight in episode two was also a great action-packed sequence subsequently ruined by the Doctor's utterly implausible leap from hundreds of feet in the air, miraculously hitting the target and crashing through the glass dome of the building to land on a marble floor - only suffering a few scratches and sore knees. Bloody hell! I know he was told he was going to die but there was no need for him to make it so easy for his enemies! The last few scenes, though, were brilliant - with reservations. Again, it took a second viewing to see how well acted that climactic scene between Wilf and the Doctor was. It was also beautifully poignant that after saving the world from complete oblivion (and surviving), the Doctor ended up giving his life to save 'just one old man'. Bernard Cribbins was absolutely fantastic throughout, but in that scene in the glass chamber he was exceptional. His timing and his reactions to the Doctor's 'rage against the dying of the light' amplified the emotion to such an extent that when he shouted at the Doctor, "No, Doctor, no, don't! Please!" I, for one, had to fight back a tear. (I'm such a softie.)
But then, after that . . . the ending kind of didn't end, for a looooong time. On first viewing I didn't mind, I was caught up in the whole thing so I just went with it, but in retrospect I think allowing the Doctor so many farewells robbed the whole thing of much of its impact. The idea of the Doctor having a little time before his regeneration is an interesting one, it hasn't been done before, but it was overdone and more than a little indulgent on the part of Russell T. The only scene which had any real value was allowing the Doctor to see Rose one last time, and of all the 'visitation' scenes it was the only one I watched and thought, yeah, that's good. For me, if the episode had ended with the Doctor dropping Wilfred off at home and saying he was going to collect his reward and then cut to the Powell Estate and the scene with Rose, it would have been a much more satisfying ending. But that's just my humble opinion.
The Doctor's dramatic final moments staggering to the Tardis to the accompaniment of the Ood Male Voice Choir was well done, and his final line ("I don't want to go") was a poignant coda, especially for a Doctor who loved life so much.
So, in general, I thought The End of Time was great in parts but too uneven to be regarded as brilliant. My three favourite scenes were actually the quieter ones: the scene with Wilf and the Doctor in the cafe in part one; the scene with Wilf on the Vinvocci ship when he tries to give the Doctor the gun ("You're the most wonderful man I've ever met and I don't want you to die..."); and the scene with the Doctor rescuing Wilf from the glass cage. Ah hell, Wilf was just a legend!
Overall, though, I thought it didn't live up to the Season Four finale. Season Four is still my favourite season and saw David Tennant in his element with the most consistent run of good stories so far.
My two least favourite episodes since the show began in 2005 are New Earth (which I dislike for reasons too numerous to go into here as I've rambled on long enough!) and the Christmas 2007 special, Voyage of the Damned - again for many many reasons, but chiefly for the programme makers robbing the episode of any tension it may have built up over the previous hour by having that silly shot of the Queen standing on top of Buck Palace - waving for crying out loud! - as the flying Titanic soars overhead and saying, "Thank you, Doctor!" Worse than Moore-era Bond, that's all I have to say. Shame, such a shame.
David Tennant is a fine actor and made an energetic and engaging Doctor. I think he was right to leave when he did, though, because as Christopher Ecclestone remarked on his departure after one season that the show is basically this crazy guy saving the world every week; for Tennant to do that for three full seasons and still make the whole process interesting and entertaining is a testament to his acting talent and his enthusiasm. You could see how much he loved what he was doing.
Now, Matt Smith, let's see what you can do...