Saturday, 2 January 2010

Dr Who - End Of Time

The Russell T Davies-Dr Who era unfortunately ends with a whimper.

After seeing all of these specials I wish they hadn't bothered and finished at the end of the last season, which had a strong second half, and generally had a pleasing sense of purpose and most of Davies' strengths, with his pacing and character focus.

The specials droned on, all of them having the feel of being second-hand ideas that should have stayed unused. All had a tired feel, like the fun was over and the hard work to tie the character energies to plot wasn't there, all of them killing time to the regeneration. A year off would have been better as these were damaging. The scripts flaws in keeping interest became apparant as each special dragged on. Also not interesting was Tennant, who was oddly blank on his way out. He seemed as bored as late-era Tom Baker, but without the jokes. The worst offender was the direction throughout the specials, which didn't have much pace, covering events but never really leading any emotions. It was a little shocking to see an exit where people aren't really delivering despite having a general set-up that should provide a platform a very emotive conclusion.

The End Of Time had a better lead-up than conclusion, Part 1, while being messy and slow, at least had a point most of the time, with the regeneration build-up occuring as part of the mood, and John Simm being in a humorous rage. Part 2 basically ignored part 's build-up and implications with a few tricks, left Simm in a room with bad dialogue, having the Doctor and a few characters holed up in an old ship for half the episode before returning for a quick fight that covers what you wanted to see in a way too brief conversation, has a bit of shooting and things returns to what they once were. What they tell us about Gallifrey and the Time war, how the Master was used, is interesting but needed so much more time. Basically it needed interaction and there was none for the episode. Finally the Doctor makes a stupid sacrifice, leading to his regeneration. Its a neat twist on the he will knock four times to be his companion, and it not to be part of an evil plot, but the guy was 80, and they never sold the reason why he doctor would take his place. Its not sold in an intriguing way, is just a twist, which is damaging aftera year of build to this. Then you had the usual companion round-up, an unfortunately weak final line "I don't want to go.", which is whiney and annoying.

Then Tennant regenerates and the story becomes fun for about a minute, as Matt Smith is one eccentric actor, having the license to go nuts. "I have legs! I have ears!", yelling Geronimo as his tardis crashes towards the earth. And in that minute you realise what the episode and the specials have been missing. Life. The lacklustre quality, when the Doctor shows no real backbone or fight, becomes apparant here.

Davies did all of this far better in The Parting Of The Ways. That was actually a moving regeneration story, with intimidating villains who are defeated in a way which made sense within the frame-work of the story, and had a sacrifice that felt earned. It also had lead actors working well and a central actor going out at peak. Not to mention The Caves Of Andronzani, the Peter Davidson regeneration story and the best over-all, which was a fast-moving melodraama and had the threat of the regeneration running throughout. Tom Baker's Logopolis was also pretty intriguing, Baker almost a ghost walking to his own death, as the universe collapses around him, something I think The End Of Time attempted but it never worked.

Its a shame Davies' era sputtered out a little at the end. I genuinely loved the first series with Eccleston and Series 3 with Tennant, also finding the second half of season 4, after a shaky start, to have wonderful moments. Which makes it annoying that he stayed a little too long. I'm sure it was with the best of intentions, to finish the Tennant era, but these stories just never caught fire and seemed trapped by the conventions already set-up, and they just dragged on.

So he had a weak exit. It happens. It was still a confident era, with next series looking really odd and interesting.