The End of the World
|Production Code||Series One Episode Two|
|Dates||April 2, 2005|
With Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper,
Written by Russell T. Davies. Directed by Euros Lyn.
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young.
|Synopsis: The Doctor takes Rose into the future.... the day the Earth died.|
The Last of the Time Lords by Jason A. Miller 20/2/21
I vividly recall watching The End of the World on the day that it premiered in 2005. I had to watch via BitTorrent, of course, because Doctor Who was several years away from airing on the same day in the US as it did in the UK. But, the events of the actual episode, as I watched them unfold, paled in comparison to the awe that I felt at two distinct facts: One, I was watching a Doctor Who episode on the day of its premiere for the first time ever; and, two, for the first time since Survival hit PBS in 1990 -- and having watched hundreds upon hundreds of hours of reruns during the 15 years after that -- I was finally watching a Doctor Who story where I had no idea how it was going to end. The scene where Rose is trapped in a locked room with the sun filter descending, legitimately had me on the edge of my seat (*) -- in a way that the premiere episode Rose, a remake of Spearhead from Space, had not done.
(*) I was in fact lying down on my bed, watching on my old laptop, so I wasn't on the "edge" of anything in a literal sense.
Looking back at the episode 14 years later, I was surprised to find how slight the actual plot is in The End of the World. In the end, it centers around a mere confidence trick: Cassandra stages a hostage crisis in order to extort money out her fellow gazillionaires on Platform One. And it's not some grand politically motivated hostage crisis -- no, she's just doing this in order to afford cosmetic surgery. "Five billion years, and it still comes down to money," the Doctor sneers. Cassandra's backup plan is to simply have the other guests killed, thereby profiting because she's already invested in those guests' rival companies.
So, while World's End (episode 1 of The Dalek Invasion of Earth) is actually about the conquest of London, in The End of the World, the Earth's final destruction in a ball of fire is mere backdrop, and nobody actually sees it happen, because they're too busy trying to protect themselves from Cassandra's evil schemes. The End of the World may be made up of memorable set pieces and memorable aliens but does not have a memorable story -- I'd completely forgotton Cassandra's financial angle in the intervening 14 years.
But Cassandra is worth talking about as a villain, because of some seemingly throwaway lines that whooshed right over my head back in '05, but which stick out quite prominently 14 years later. First, Cassandra refers to her assistants as "my lovely boys", a line pegged by The Discontinuity Guide (in their review of The Creature From the Pit) as a bit of Dickensian anti-Semitism. So that was a bit off. And, second and more importantly, we learn that Cassandra began life as a little boy in Los Angeles. This makes Cassandra the first transgender character of the New Series (and, obviously, not the last). And yet, she's also a conniving, scheming, money-grubbing, vain, utterly ruthless, murderous character.
So, as I have already said... that was a bit off.
But, apart from the paper-thin plot and the transgender villain, there's a ton of interesting stuff going on in the margins. There's the Face of Boe lurking in the background; he'll come back to be more important later. There's Jabe the tree, flirting heavily with the Doctor, who's much more receptive here than he was to Jackie's flirting in the previous episode. Jabe learns the Doctor's secret -- before we the audience do -- and he's very receptive to her sympathy. Her sacrifice at the end also builds on a theme that Davies would repeat over the next four years, and conclude with an emphasis in Journey's End. Jabe winds up being a very important character, even though this was her lone appearance.
Jabe's prominence is somewhat done at Rose's expense, as Rose spends the second half of the story largely locked in a room and sitting out the plot -- an interesting choice, coming so soon after she literally saved the day in her debut story. However, she does get to serve as the Doctor's conscience, telling him off for allowing the TARDIS's telepathic circuits to link into her brain. When the Doctor straight up murders Cassandra at the end, out of revenge for Jabe's death, Rose doesn't blink. But she does have a panic attack when confronted with all the aliens on Platform One -- the Doctor mocks her xenophobia by referencing the Deep South, and Rose calls him out on that cheap shot, too. At the end, it's to Rose that the Doctor confesses his home planet's been destroyed in a war and that he's the last survivor. This episode is all about Rose's weaknesses, but those weaknesses (fear of aliens, fear of having her mind read) draw the Doctor to her, as much as her insights and rope-swinging drew him to her in the previous story.
Other bits of the show have dated poorly, with the vintage jukebox being referred to as an iPod (they still had those back in 2005), with Soft Cell being called classical music and Britney Spears being called one of the "great composers". There's a joke about people remembering ostriches as having a 50-foot wingspan and breathing fire, and Cassandra makes a premature ejaculation joke, too.
But if the plot is slight and if the humor is facile or just plain not funny and if the fact that Lady Cassandra is a transgender villain is not something that the show would try to get away with today... The End of the World still holds up pretty well. Because of the Doctor.
We're only in Christopher Eccleston's second episode, having joined him in media res in his first. The character's mysteries are both revealed and deepened in this story. We learn here why he's isolated and angry, but of course we're a long way off from learning about the Time War's adversaries and the true fate of Gallifrey. Most interesting is the Doctor's reaction to the story's villain. The previous week, he insisted upon giving the Nestene Consciousness a chance to leave gracefully and then killed it only by accident -- when his vial of anti-plastic got inadvertently spilled into the Consciousness. Here, though, after his foiling of Cassandra's extortion scheme is made possibly only by Jabe's death, he becomes seized with cold fury, summons Cassandra back to Platform One minus her moisturizing attendants, arguably causing her death by intentionally withholding her life-saving medical devices. When she dies, when the flat sheet of villainy explodes and splatters the remaining audience, nobody questions his inaction or his... well, let's just call it what it is: murder.
This is only Episode 2, and already our Doctor is much more openly darker than his first five predecessors or seven of his first eight. In 2005, it never occurred to me to question how the Doctor dispatched Cassandra (or so he thought he was doing at the time). But Russell T. Davies was setting all this up as part of a grand plan, and, from New Earth all the way up through Journey's End, the consequences of this one seemingly-inconsequential little story would have broad and deep ripples. And I'm enjoying going on this journey all over again.
Tainted Love by Noe Geric 9/6/22
Brand new Doctor Who launched itself in the twenty-first century with a good, but weird pilot and continued on its way with an episode set in the future. I find rather funny that the second episode of a show is called The End of the World. For people who doesn't know what the show is about, it must look intriguing. The story is, for budgetary reasons, set almost only on a space station. And even if the plot is rather thin, the story is rather enjoyable.
The Doctor and Rose are still learning about each other. This new Doctor isn't dark in the same way as McCoy was, and it's quite interesting. Being a manipulator isn't the same thing as being a warrior who tries to forget his past. Eccleston manage to jump from a dark and broken man to a jovial and entertaining guy and then become serious all again. He began to show his skills as an actor and is quite attractive. His chemistry with Piper is obvious. As for Rose, she is the good old adventuress of Series One, not the jealous and capricious girl from Series Two. She hesitate between trusting the Doctor or not. Most of the episode is spent trying to develop their relationship. The plot is put in the background as RTD choose to makes this a character-driven story. Except for the scene with Raffalo (I don't know how to write it), which is just filler, and no one should talk about this ever again. It isn't character development.
The guests are just OK. They're characters who sit there long enough for the Doctor and Rose to have someone to talk to. Cassandra is fantastic, absolutely fantastic. She's written in a sort of humoristic and sarcastic way I love. Her appearance in New Earth is a bit of a let down because here she steals the show. She's a match for Eccleston. And as for the "substitute companion of the day" called Jabe, I don't know. Shall I say she is a wooden character (get it?) Or that she has enough characterization for her death to affect me. I'm divided.
Cassandra's deadly plan is rather easy to follow, and that's not bad for a second episode. Everything will become bigger at the end of the series. As I said, the plot isn't exceptional, but there are enough twists for 45 minutes. And the scene with Raffa... I won't talk about it again. The episode is character-driven, so some humour was needed. Most of the jokes are good. Perhaps the "prostitute" line was too much. But it managed to show good interaction between the characters. It contribute to the atmosphere as well as the score. Most of the recurring themes are introduced here. I love Rose's theme; for some reason it makes me more nostalgic for the Ninth Doctor than the Tenth. And we've got that final scene, which shows what a team these two are going to be. All this story was to build up the rest of the series. It's perhaps one of these essential scenes you don't notice first but on second watching you realise how important they are.
It's not the best episode, but it's a strong introduction to most of the Doctor Who elements, with development for the characters and a sort of Space Racist at the end of the world. Perhaps some scenes feels really empty and just there for the episode to hit at least the 45 minutes. But this is one of those I can't forget. It's a good introduction to the show paired up with Rose (The Unquiet Dull is more of a complete filler for me just there to introduce historical stories). The End of the World brought Doctor Who back on its path for the better and the... 8/10 And who wouldn't listen to Tainted Love at the end of the world?