Ten Doctor Who episodes that are currently saved on my TiVo:
- The End of Time, Part One
- Waters of Mars
- The Next Doctor
- The Unicorn and the Wasp
- Last of the Time Lords
- The Sound of Drums
- Planet of the Ood
- The Fires of Pompeii
- The End of Time, Part Two
So, how about David Tennant's last episode as the Tenth Doctor? Yeah, yeah, I'm a couple weeks behind on this, but I waited because ... well, for no good reason, really. But the extra time gave me time to watch the whole thing a second time and flesh out my initial reaction, which was that most of it was very good but that the last fifteen minutes were self-indulgent and pointless. And for the most part, I still believe that, though I've moderated my stance somewhat on the latter point. Here's a quick rundown of what I liked:
The acting. Specifically, that of Tennant, Bernard Cribbins, John Simm, and to a slightly lesser degree Timothy Dalton. Russell T. Davies was smart to devote so much of the episode to scenes of Tennant just talking to Cribbins and Simm. Dalton did a fine job with what he was given; he provided just the right mixture of gravitas and spittle-flying craziness to really sell the role. Which is important, because without the right combination of majesty and insanity, I'm not sure the return of the Time Lords would have seemed so threatening. And I loved the way he undid the Master's plot with a flick of his glove and a completely neutral expression on his face, as if he was saying, this isn't even worth acting smug about.
The Master's plot. OK, it was goofy and served no particular purpose other than to irritate the Doctor. But look, the man was completely nuts, and he came up with the plan on the spur of the moment. It's not like he had more than a year to put it together like he did last time around. I did like the idea that he had a plan in place to resurrect himself if he was killed. That's a very Master sort of thing to do, and it sheds some additional light on why he refused to regenerate at the end of "Last of the Time Lords" (other than that not regenerating was sure to piss off the Doctor, which for this Master would have been enough).
The return of the Time Lords. There were plenty of evil Time Lords running around in the classic series: the Meddling Monk, the War Chief, the Rani, Morbius, Omega, Borusa, Goth, Hedin, and of course the Master. And there was no shortage of Time Lords who ran away: Professor Edgeworth, Cho Je, Professor Chronotis, and arguably Susan and Romana (who, by the way, I believe were the two Time Lords who dissented from the vote to shift Gallifrey out of the Time Lock, Susan being the Woman in White). So the idea that they could, as a society, turn irredeemably corrupt, rings true. And I like the idea that they resurrected Rassilon to lead the war. I mean, we knew they were willing to go so far as to resurrect the Master, so of course they would do the same for the founder of their society.
The Time Lords' plot. Doctor Who has always been pretty conservative when it comes to time travel, usually limiting itself to stories about the Doctor traveling forward or backward in time. Stories like "The End of Time," which shows events in vastly different time periods occurring simultaneously, are rare, which made its use here particularly appropriate, given the epic scale and historic nature of the episode. And the idea itself was clever enough that I'm willing to overlook the inherent silliness of throwing a diamond through a thought wave.
Why the Doctor regenerated. My sentimental favorite episode of Doctor Who is "Logopolis," in which the Fourth Doctor regenerates into the Fifth, but I'm willing to concede that it was far from the best of the regeneration stories. That honor goes to the next one, "The Caves of Androzani," which I might argue is not just the best regeneration story but the quintessential example of what makes the Doctor the Doctor. Let's face it, almost anyone would sacrifice himself to save the Earth from an invasion of giant spiders, or to prevent the universe from dissolving into dust, but the Doctor will sacrifice himself to save a single person, and in "Caves" that person was Peri. There is no other person in all of time and space who would have sacrificed himself to save Peri. Saving Wilf is nearly as admirable, and a fitting way for this Doctor to end his life.
Matt Smith. I've been on record for more than a year as being on board with the choice, and nothing about his brief appearance at the end of the episode dissuaded me from that. Dorian Wright of postmodernbarney.com pointed out that Smith's look of surprise as the regeneration ended was a "perfect bit of characterization," and I have to agree. Between this and the season five trailer, I remain excited about seeing Smith take on the role.
The scene in the bookstore. The look on the Doctor's face when Verity asks him if he was happy was heartbreaking, and the only part of the valedictory sequence that really got to me.
And boy, I've typed a lot here and it's almost midnight, so I think I'll have to get to what I didn't like as much in a subsequent post.