|“||I don't want to go.||”|
Silly, bombastic, over the top, shamelessly emotional, packed with fanservice and cameos - it's an RTD greatest hits package and decent Saturday night TV by any standards.
Basically the Time Lords want to destroy the universe to escape the Time War and the Doctor has to stop them. Meanwhile a completely fucking unhinged Mattress is running around eating people like hot roast chickens and Wilf has fallen pregnant with Ten's baby. How will the Teninch get out of this one?
Ten jumps out of a ship that has badass lasers and shit and lives long enough for the Mattress to save him from Rassilon or some fucking bullshit like that so he can sacrifice himself for Wilf and regenerate into a foot.
Thus began the Moffat dynasty...
TLDR: It fucking sucks
I'm not immune to this story's big budget cinematic fanfare, hyperactive exhilaration and fangasm mid-cliffhanger. Sometimes I still dig this out for a quick fix.
Nonetheless, the retroactive damage it does to the show's mythos almost single-handedly undoes any of RTD's previous good work.
Given that Christmas specials usually attract new viewers, it's inevitable Waters of Mars' bell tolling cliffhanger would be ignored in favour of skipping several years where the Doctor has since been partying like there's no tomorrow. Also the timelessly iconic TARDIS has a car lock now. For that alone, Russell deserves a month in the stocks.
Tennant labours the gag awkwardly, overexplaining the joke like a rubbish stand-up comedian who should get off stage.
So since Series 3's finale, Lucy Saxon was imprisoned in a hellish women's jail run by the Master's mad acolytes who get zero explanation for their insane motivations. By the Doctor's admission, this wasn't Lucy's fault. So why didn't he take her somewhere to get help where she wouldn't face a life imprisonment, as if she hadn't already suffered enough? No, he was too busy partying and deflowering virgin queens. RTD's fans don't tend to think about his stories' implications. Perhaps they're too ugly to face.
Anyhow a battle of protracted, convoluted expositioning ensues, Lucy sacrifices herself, but the Master survives. He's sought out by the Naismiths, who have a skin-crawlingly creepy incestuous undertone. They need him to operate the Immortality Gate. A rehash of Doomsday's dimensional portal. And fans accuse Moffat of reusing the same ideas.
I've never liked the suggestion that the Doctor cares more about the Master's wellbeing than his victims. Plenty of classic stories (Mind of Evil, Planet of Fire) suggest the old Doctor would've happily booted his corpse. But here the Doctor seeks him out, offering to help him? Even knowing the Master's now a deadly parasite sucking on the life force of innocents. We're supposed to believe the Doctor's in fear of his life by this man and what he's been forewarned. Surely self-preservation dictates eliminating the Master's the best option.
Why must RTD give the Master superpowers of flying and shooting lightning bolts? The old Master never needed that. He had subtlety, deviousness and hypnotic charm. Turning the Master into something he's not begs the question why use the Master at all? So for this important final Tennant story, instead of getting creative and going somewhere new and exciting, RTD delivers another rehash fight with the Master. Only this time there are thousands of them.
The Doctor's interrupted by a gang of randy pensioners, in what's supposed to be an endearing comedy moment but is actually quite creepy, uncomfortable viewing as they outright sexually harass him.
The cafe scene with Wilf is poignant. Then Donna shows up, behaving as a loud reductio ad absurdum, shouting at traffic wardens. Wilf urges the Doctor that maybe meeting Donna again might cheer him up, despite having been told it could kill his granddaughter. They're not even pretending there was ever any danger of Donna's brains frying are they?
The comical caricature that Donna was reduced to in Journey's End actually struck a tragic note. But seeing her here, she only works as a comical caricature. She becomes just another dead joke RTD can't resist flogging. There's actual fanfic that's done far more interesting things with a post-Journey's End Donna just by treating her as an actual flesh and blood character, trying to understand what happened in her life during that missing year and wondering if she was meant for greater things. Comparatively, what RTD does with her is pitiful and contemptuous. It seems, based on his fannish conceit, that everyone's a stupid, limited selfish nobody until the Doctor makes them better. All he can do is reverse that character arc with Donna 'untouched' by the Doctor.
What was the point of not-Obama's presence? Was it in any way topical? Is this just like random fanfiction where Stalin makes an appearance for no reason? And I refuse to believe Russell understands people if he really thinks Donna's family are expecting Obama to end the recession overnight. People aren't that naive or gullible, Russell.
And then the Time Lords appear. And Timothy Dalton is fantastic and bombastic.
But this leads to the real critical mass. This story single-handedly demystifies the Time War. Only Timothy Dalton is making an effort to act like this is a desperate situation. The rest of the table, the mad Sister of Karn excepted, seem very formal bordering on bored about the whole affair. One of them even suggests letting the Daleks kill them all wouldn't be so bad. In the final irony, Russell, purported to be the one who made Doctor Who emotional and believable, presents the Time Lords as the worst kind of soulless ciphers in a situation where they should all be losing their nerves. Oh but we learn it's a war without consequence where anyone who dies just gets brought back.
I used to care about the Doctor's loss of his home. Now I learn it wasn't a war worth caring about that ever happened to any real, believable people. And worse, RTD's burnt the bridge so that no one in future can write a decent story out of it that could ever carry dramatic weight.
In between this, the Doctor's strapped down by the Master and tries to appeal to him with flattery. "You could be beautiful" he says to the mass murderer. This is actually morally disgusting. Sure in The Sea Devils and Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor wasn't above buttering up to a reprehensible, powerful man's ego in order to persuade them to do a good deed and relent from war. He suggests to Davros that he could use his intellect to make the Daleks a force for good. He promises "Walker the peace-maker they'd call you." But in each case it felt like the Doctor was begrudgingly being condescending to unpleasant, selfish man-children by offering them a treat if they'll be good. This is just the Doctor being obsequious.
A chase ensues that microcosmically captures the RTD era. RTD's praised for his fast-paced, exhilarating writing, but really his era's only been running in circles fast. The Doctor takes the ship away from the Naismith mansion, breaks it, fixes it, then takes it back to the mansion. He might as well have stayed put.
Incidentally, Bernard Cribbins pretty much saves any rotten line RTD gives him. Consider the line "You're the most wonderful man and I don't want you to die," which on paper is awful, but Cribbins performs it so well it becomes beautiful. Rarely has a Who actor made so much out of so little.
There are things I love about the action climax, with Wilf as Luke Skywalker firing the port lasers, the Doctor's death dive where it briefly looks like he's going to deliberately crash the ship. The fact he lands through glass and finally takes some serious bodily damage. If there's pain, then there's visceral impact and suspense. The fact the Time Lords appear ethereal and ghost-like. Like a memory the Doctor can't banish. A deadly memory in all the ways Donna's weren't. How when his typical pacifist preaching and pleading fails, with the universe in danger, he suddenly becomes a stripped-down, cold, mute assassin, blankly deciding which of the two men to kill. An all-too-brief insight into the Tenth Doctor's underlying alien psychology and hidden depths. And I'm intrigued by what Romana's telepathic message was.
Even the choice is stupid though. If killing the Master will break the link, why was Rassilon going to kill him? Can't Russell even keep a script consistent for five seconds?
But in spite of Timothy Dalton giving this undue credibility, this is an offensive mischaracterisation of the Time Lords. Sometimes I think RTD gets too much credit for the Time War idea, which is actually a rip-off from the old Audio Visuals tapes. He's also not the first Who writer to try to rule future visits to Gallifrey out (see Logopolis, Trial). But now he has the idea of the Daleks and Time Lords mutually destroyed in a war to save the universe. An event that's seemed inevitable ever since Genesis. Yet he couldn't resist envisioning the fanboyish idea of 'hey, wouldn't it be cool if it turned out it was actually the Time Lords that were the worser baddies all along?'
That's the level of thought here. Along with RTD's atheist agenda, rewriting the Time Lords into a bunch of religious fanatic universal suicide bombers wanting to ascend to heaven. The old Time Lords were corrupt and self-serving, but by necessity. Because their society was incapable of changing for the better. They weren't insane, and never would it suit their self-interests to destroy the universe and themselves with it. But RTD deals only in hyperbole. In absurd melodramatic leaps.
So there was never any cost to the Time War. We lost two evil species that the universe would be better off without. Yes the Time Lords were supposedly a once-great race corrupted by war, but we're not shown how it led to this madness, or given a reason to care. This pretty much completes Eccleston's erasure from the show's lore. Now the Ninth Doctor's greatest crime and most defining act was never a moral dilemma at all and came at no moral cost. It makes even Dalek a weaker story that's no longer half as mythic or evocative, because its mythology's been overwritten and eroded by someone who clearly doesn't understand war.
RTD's been vaunted for destroying Gallifrey and thus dumping a boatload of continuity. Turns out he did it because he doesn't understand how to write the Time Lords.
As for "Look at you, not remotely important", I suspect even people who defend it found it uncomfortably difficult to process. Would RTD dare write this line from the Doctor to Rose or Donna? No he wouldn't! The exact same scenario happened in Parting of the Ways (where Rose took in vast amounts of radiation from the Time Vortex and the Doctor had to get irradiated to save her) and what was the Doctor's reaction to having to regenerate thanks to Rose getting herself in a fatal situation? "You were fantastic!". Bugger off RTD. Wilf was the most loyal and noble one. The Doctor called him for help. Wilf stood by his side even when he thought he was going to die, when the Doctor was seemingly going to crash the ship. And Wilf ended up in the cabinet by doing the decent thing to release a trapped technician.
And our 'noble' Doctor in reply tells him how worthless he is and how guilty he should feel. Does anyone dare think this 'enriches' the character? It's a "this is the reason why you suck" speech, only disgustingly reversed.
By the old show's serial nature, the Doctor often had to act and think based on immediately remembered events from that serial and little more. It's partly why the Doctor never raises the issue to Gharman of Davros betraying his city back in episode 3. We accepted this unspoken rule because it maintained the Doctor's easygoing, forgiving nature that didn't hold grudges. I'll never forgive Warriors of the Deep for turning this on its head just to make the Doctor unprecedentedly vindictive. 25 years later and RTD's brought us right back there. It could only be worse if Wilf actually died whilst the Doctor was busy ranting.
The self-indulgent farewell tour feels coldly redundant after Journey's End and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith. Only Ms Redfern's is worth keeping. Donna's happy ending was admittedly nice, and revisiting 2005 made me sorely nostalgic. But it goes on so long it's impossible to believe he's actually dying.
All RTD ever did was force his unpleasant personality onto the show. He understood two things about Doctor Who: fandom's taboos about the character, and how to upset them. The real Doctor would've gone out with dignity. Not with an overdramatic musical score and the most obnoxiously whiny final words ever.
- The Bad Guy Wins - The story ends with Moffat successfully taking over the program and ruining the show forever.
- Call Back - This isn't the first time the Doctor regenerates...
- Crowning Moment of Awesome - How cool was it when the Doctor grabbed a gun and went after those guys, that was cool.
- Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra - When the Doctor enacted the Xanatos Lottery and Bought Frank An Ice Cream.
- Elvis Impersonator - Elvis died on the shitter and 10 imitates by dying in a story that should be flushed down the shitter.
- Fetish Fuel - The Master exists!
- Keet - What the actual fuck does this word mean
- Parental Incest - The Naismiths
- Rape The Dog - The Master changing everybody on the planet into him.
- The Doctor sending The Master into the Time War, what a douche he is! To get rid of mai perfect husbando!
- True Art is Incomprehensible - If you believe Tumblr this is the greatest piece of media ever despite it being impossible to tell what's going on.
- Worst Decision Ever - Steven Moffat taking over the program