"It's not like I'm an innocent. I've taken lives. I got worse. I got clever. Manipulated people into taking their own. Sometimes I think a Time Lord lives too long."
IN THIS ONE... Gallifrey almost returns and the tenth Doctor becomes the eleventh.
REVIEW: While I was terribly down on the first part of this story, I don't feel quite the same about Part 2. Maybe I forgive it more because it has more, and better, emotional beats, and because it's this Doctor's very last episode. I don't forgive it everything though. I think the biggest problem with The End of Time is how clunky the plot is. It feels like RTD needs for something to happen, figures out a quick solution, uses it, then doesn't know what to do with the solution's delivery system. For example, he introduces characters he needs to make some element of his story happen, and they just disappear, or get a fate off stage, when he no longer needs them. The Naismiths are given too much of a build-up to just go away like that (though I didn't care for them at all), and similarly, the comedy cacti, needed only for their comedy ship (and apparently to shout at the Doctor and call him an idiot a lot, in this, the writer's final love letter to his character) just leave. If they're THAT unimportant, why have them at all? A lot of RTD's solutions are things he should have done away with in the second draft somewhere. Some of it is outright cheating. Having been told Donna would die if she ever remembered the Doctor, it turns out it just sends a blast of energy that knocks out the Masters coming after her, as if the Doctor planned this all along. You can't raise the stakes like that, then say you were kidding. Not when the final fate of a beloved companion is involved. It cheapens her Journey's End. The Master's big crazy plan, having served its function, is also undone, literally by the wave of someone's hand. Other complaints include the Doctor surviving a fall from that great a height, the inconsistent way the Masters communicate with each other (and why would any of them feel subordinate to the original?), and the fact Davies can't tell the difference between what is ambiguous and what is opaque and unsatisfying. Case in point, the mysterious woman bit is, ultimately, infuriating. Either it's a character we've never met and that has never been mentioned (the Doctor's mum), so who cares; or she's someone we do know or have heard about (like Susan) and her appearance is wasted. And what's with the shamed council members business!?
Once again, the stand-out scene is a quiet moment between the Doctor and Wilf. Bernard Cribbins is your prototypical national treasure, sweet and touching without being cloying, and that's what this scene is. He's a father figure to the Doctor - that's perhaps odd, but feels very appropriate - and his confessor. Only to him does the Doctor admit he's a killer, one that's somehow kept most of the blood off his hands, or who's justified the deaths one way or another. It's another pity party (with more to come), but a strong one. For all his protestations, he won't take Wilf's handgun and kill the Master. Learning the Time Lords are returning, he does grab the gun, which feels like manufactured tension, but it's tension that's allowed to breathe in the climax. The Doctor considers one murder or another before finding a third option, which is what he's all about. Making this big epic event about a moral dilemma is very RTD - and what he does best - which takes the sting out of it really being a scene where everyone just stands there.
So the Doctor's death. Let me say up front that Tennant's performance from the banishment of the Time Lords on is spot on, moving and real, regardless of whether or not we agree that the Doctor should be acting that way. Is he heroic in those moments? No. He's self-serving, self-pitying, bitter, ugly and selfish. But RTD (again, at his best) isn't a judgmental writer. When it comes to character and emotion, he presents and lets US judge for ourselves. Rose was a selfish brat and yet the world loved her. The 10th Doctor's flaws run in that direction too. He doesn't give his life for Wilf's easily; it's inevitable he will, and he knows that, but still feels the need to shout at the sky and guilt trip poor Wilf even though he's on the clock. This Doctor loves himself so much - presumably a mirror of the fans' own love for what is likely THEIR Doctor - he once again refuses to regenerate and goes on one last companion tour, where somehow, everyone seems to sense they'll never see him again. If this is his "reward" (and we can resent the idea that an altruistic hero like the Doctor would want or need a reward), then it may be that he's playing the Time Lord Victorious here, changing established events. Why else would he somehow show up where Martha, Mickey and Luke Smith were about to be killed and save their lives? Was Donna never meant to be rich? Was Captain Jack never meant to boink Alonzo? The tour and reward are all quite indulgent, but that's RTD's great flaw as showrunner, so we can't be too surprised. Journey's End was a fine send-off for most of these characters, so it's a bit redundant, yeah? My favorite bit of the tour isn't even about a companion - it's Jessica Hynes returning as Joan Redfern's descendant Verity Newman (of course). I like that the Doctor spared a final thought for the woman he almost gave up being a Time Lord for. As for seeing Rose one last time, see Theories. From there, it gets a little cheesy, with the Ood singing opera while the Doctor shuffles back to his TARDIS to finally let go of his incarnation. Tennant's "I don't want to go" is heart-crushing, despite being more of that self-pity, Christ-on-the-cross, "why have you forsaken me" bollocks that's moving, yes, but not commendable. In these last moments, RTD pours it on THICK, telling the world that there will never be a better Doctor, don't even try (speaking of self-serving) instead of letting us decide for ourselves. And then Matt Smith shows up, and the sadness evaporates - Doc10 was right, a new man does stand up and saunter away, the heaviness of the past incarnation hopefully purged from his system.
THEORIES: Just to give closure to the Bad Wolf theories expounded in these reviews, specifically the one about the entity deciding what the Doctor's 10th incarnation would be like based on Rose's tastes and desires, wouldn't it make sense for it to pick Ten's look from Rose's memory of that cute mysterious bloke she met earlier that year? If the tour is about breaking all the rules to get his reward, why not that paradox?
SECOND OPINIONS: My original review, The End of Ten, isn't far off this one, but it does cover a few theories I chose not to repeat here - who the woman might be, whether Timothy Dalton is playing the original Rassilon, and my completely wrong theory about the 10th Doctor's marriage with River Song.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Indulgent and strident, Ten's finale nonetheless packs a great emotional punch. Another case of fast-forwarding to the bits with Wilf, though I'd probably let the last 15 minutes run without pressing buttons.