Timestamp #163: The End of the World

Doctor Who: The End of the World
(1 episode, s01e02, 2005)

 

A trip to the end of the Earth is the gateway to a Time Lord’s scarred psyche.

Picking up immediately after the thwarted Nestene invasion, Rose and the Doctor determine where to go for their first trip together. The 22nd Century? Nah, that’s too boring. The New Roman Empire in the year 12005? Rose gives that a pass. A space station orbiting Earth five billion years in Rose’s future, the very day when the Earth dies after a solar expansion? That’s the ticket to adventure!

Rose is forlorn at the death of her homeworld, but the planet has long since been empty and in the possession of the National Trust as a sort of amusement for the rich and powerful. The travelers are confronted by one of the station’s stewards, and the Doctor uses his psychic paper to pose as a formal invitation to the proceedings. They are soon joined by the Moxx of Balhoon, the Face of Boe, living humanoid trees from the Forest of Cheem, and Adherents of the Repeated Meme. They are also joined the last remaining human, the Lady Cassandra O’Brien, a piece of stretched skin on a frame.

The guests exchange gifts, and Lady Cassandra offers the last ostrich egg and a jukebox (which she calls an iPod before playing “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell). The events are overwhelming for Rose and she flees from the gathering. Meanwhile, the silver spheres brought by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hatch into mechanical spiders and the humanoid trees determine the truth about the Doctor’s origins.

Rose has a conversation with a station worker which illuminates her position so far from home with a stranger. When she leaves, the spiders attack the worker as they swarm through the station’s system, and Rose finds her way to an observation room. The Doctor offers a friendly ear as she talks through the overwhelming events. She also confronts him over the TARDIS and the translation matrix being in her brain without consent, and demands to know who he truly is. The Doctor stares at the viewport with the look of a haunted military veteran. As Rose pulls out her cell phone, he changes the topic by adjusting it so she can call home across time and space. She phones her mother, but the moment is disrupted by a tremor in the station. Moments later, the station’s steward is killed by the spiders.

The Doctor and Rose investigate the disruption, but Rose leaves as Jabe – the leader of the delegation from the Forest of Cheem – joins the Doctor in the maintenance corridors. Rose, in the meantime, speaks to Cassandra, but is disgusted by the portable face’s racist rhetoric. Rose declares herself as the last true human, insulting the Lady. As she storms off, the Adherents find her and knock her out.

Jabe talks with the Doctor, offering her condolences over his situation as the last of the Time Lords. He is visibly moved before he opens the ventilation system and (with Jabe’s help) captures a spider. As the Earth nears death, Lady Cassandra spins up “Toxic” by Britney Spears on the jukebox. Rose wakes up in the observation room with a lowering window filter, exposing her to the lethal rays of the sun. The Doctor finds her and eventually overrides the filter, but the door is jammed.

The Doctor and Jabe rejoin the assembled guests, and the Doctor uses the spider to trace the invasion to the Adherents. The Doctor discovers that the Adherents are merely remote controlled robots, and that the true villain is Lady Cassandra. She’s seeking the ransom on the assembled guests to fund her cosmetic operations, and the ransom can be paid whether they are alive or dead. Cassandra transmats away and the Doctor springs into action. He and Jabe return to the ventilation room, and the living tree sacrifices herself so that the Doctor reset the system.

Several of the guests died before the shields could be restored, but the station is able to defend itself just before the Earth is consumed. Rose is freed from her captivity as the station begins automatic repairs, and the Doctor pays his condolences to the Forest delegates. A furious Doctor finds Cassandra’s transmat device and brings her back to the observation room. He confronts the skin piece, and despite Rose’s requests for mercy, he watches coldly as she dries out and explodes.

Later, Rose watches through the window and muses that no one cared about the Earth’s death. The Doctor takes her home, telling her that people think things will last forever, but of course they won’t. He then tells her about being the last of the Time Lords, a man who watched his planet burn away in war. Rose offers companionship and to buy him chips.

 

This story, after hinting at the destruction of Gallifrey, really highlights the Ninth Doctor’s position as a haunted war veteran who is trying to reconcile what he did with who he is at heart. He shares a seat with Rose and listens to her concerns, but later shows no mercy in allowing someone who hurt innocents to die at their own hand. This Doctor is a troubled incarnation, and watching this hero work through his demons while still trying to do good, almost seeking redemption for his sins, is amazing.

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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