Saturday, June 4, 2011

#2 (1.2): The End of the World.


1 episode, approx. 44 minutes. Written by: Rusell T. Davies. Directed by: Euros Lyn. Produced by: Phil Collinson.


THE PLOT

Trying to impress Rose as he takes her on her first TARDIS trip, the Doctor decides to go far, far into the future, bringing her to Platform One, a space station orbiting the Earth. It is the day that the world ends... and the end of the world is an entertainment. Very rich and privileged members of multiple alien races gather to watch as the sun expands and the Earth burns.

But something sinister is happening on Platform One. Insect-like metallic robots have been smuggled onto the station, to reproduce and interfere with the station's systems. Soon, the Doctor finds himself pairing up with Jabe (Yasmin Bannerman), a member of a mobile and sentient species of tree, to try to reverse the damage - before Platform One and all of its inhabitants burn up right along with Rose's home world.


CHARACTERS

The Doctor: Eccleston brings an edge of manic near-desperation to the opening scene in the TARDIS, as the Doctor becomes determined to show Rose the single most impressive thing he can think of. Any reasonable person would know that the way to a girl's heart is not showing her the destruction of her home. But that such is his notion emphasizes that he is an alien. Also, it could be read as a way of him reaching out, to try to make his new companion understand something of his reality. He has lost his world, so his first act effort to really connect is to show her the destruction of her world. Once she has seen Earth burn, he can reveal to her that most painful piece of himself.

Rose: The euphoria and adrenaline of her first adventure with the Doctor is swept away by the sheer alienness of her surroundings. In the new series' first genuinely superb scene, Rose comes to the realization that she has now tied herself to a man who is essentially a complete stranger. It's a wonderful moment, something we haven't really seen before in more than 4 decades of Who, as the companion realizes that she is completely out of her depth in a situation where literally anything could happen to her. Of course, we know the Doctor is trustworthy... but it's good for Rose to realize that she doesn't actually know this man, and that his turning on her in a bad way is a genuine possibility.

Villain of the Week: Zoe Wanamaker is Cassandra, "the last human." An example of plastic surgery taken to the most nightmarishly ridiculous extremes imaginable, Cassandra's personality fits that profile: greedy, vain, smug, and superior to all around her. Wanamaker is wonderful in the role, voice dripping with honeyed venom.


THOUGHTS

Rose did everything it needed to do as a pilot. But I have to admit that when I first saw it in 2005, I found it a disappointment - and my opinion has not changed since. Had it been the first episode of just some generic new science fiction series, I would probably not have bothered with Episode Two.

The End of the World was the episode that eased my fears, and persuaded me that the new Doctor Who would be a good show after all. I complained in my review of Rose that all characterization there was done in broad strokes. This episode begins filling in the details, giving excellent character moments to both the Doctor and Rose. In Rose, they sometimes felt like cartoon characters. Here, they gain a sense of emotional reality, and both actors' performances are more confident and genuine here than they were in that episode.

It's also an episode that goes to town on the visual element. Rose launched the series in the only way the series could be launched: with an Earthbound story, bringing strange elements into a familiar world. The End of the World is the flip side. Rose and the Doctor are our only familiar anchors in a completely alien world. We have walking trees, blue men, giant faces in giant jars, talking CGI skin... It's like spending 44 minutes in the Star Wars cantina scene! The visual effects of the expanding sun and the space station are wonderfully polished, with this episode effectively announcing that 21st century Doctor Who will be anything but cheap-looking.


Rating: 8/10.

Previous Story: Rose
Next Story: The Unquiet Dead

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