This the one where the Earth is finally destroyed. Oh, and spoilers!
OK, given that this story is called The End of the World, perhaps a warning of spoilers is not needed. Although if you haven’t seen this episode then there will be spoilers.
Having survived the plastic fantastics of the Nestene Soupiness in the previous story, the Doctor and Rose Tyler are now travelling through the time vortex. Cool, eh?
The Doctor, in the shape of the leather jacket and Christopher Eccleston and his cropped hair, asks Rose where she would like to go. First trip in the TARDIS and the whole of space and time is her oyster as long as it is a Saturday, doesn’t involve an alien planet and must have at least one human hanging about.
The Doctor ignores her suggestion of Leeds in 1976. Pshaw! She asks for a trip one hundred years in the future. The Doctor tells her about how Donald Trump is now the robotic overlord of the bricklaying human/chicken hybrids of 2105. Boring! Next stop the year 3000 where not much has changed but we all live underwater. Boring! 12005 and the Times New Roman Empire, boring-er! Each stop has a brief explanation and Rose takes this all in while not believing a word of it. She even yawns at one moment. In a bid to knock her socks off. He shows her the cat’s miaow of destinations: a space station in the year 5.5/Apple/26 (Yep, Apple own the universe now) or, to you and me, five billion AD. “Welcome to the end of the world,” he says to her. As first dates go, this is possibly not a winner.
The Earth has been empty of intelligent life for centuries and empty of human life for a couple of years (see what I did there?). Now it is run by the National Trust. Yup, they still exist. The Trust has stopped the Sun from wiping out the Earth at a cost of unknown squillions of whatever currency they use, all for a planet that nobody visits. Nice to see that some things don’t change.
Now the money has run out, keeping an unvisited planet free from the ravages of an expanding Sun being pretty damn expensive. So the richest people in the universe have been invited to witness the end of the world so that they can say they saw it to people who don’t care. This end will take place within the hour, have a nice day, y’hear?
All those alien races who tried to destroy the Earth and all they had to do was wait billions of years and save themselves the time and money Stupid monsters! Tch!
The station is controlled by a blue-skinned bloke who is a Steward. He is helped by a load of blue-skinned midgets and at least one blue-skinned female. The National Trust are not pushing the boat out budgetwise. At least not on unblue employees.
The Doctor bamboozles the Steward with psychic paper. This is a basic plot tool that gets him past pointless encounters with ease. This walleted piece of paper allows the Doctor to show others what he wants them to see. With stories lasting forty-five minutes, the script writers need the boon of this psychic maguffin.
They get past the Steward easily. Just in time too because the real guests turn up.
The Moxx of Balhoon
Horatio P Puddlecat, Emperor of the Littertray
The Face of Boe
El Plinko Montoya
Living Trees from the Forest of Cheem
The Adherents of the Repeated Meme
Cassandra O’Brien Dot Delta Seventeen
Mr and Mrs Pakoo
There are more (and I am lying about some of the guests but award yourself some geek points if you can identify the fake guests) but I don’t want to overwhelm you with alieny goodness. That and I am inherently lazy.
Rose is shocked and disgusted by the arrival of Cassandra. Don’t be fooled by the nearly normal name, this O’Brien is a rectangle of skin held in a metal frame. She has eyes and lips, heavens know how that is meant to work but work it does. Because of her condition, she needs to be moisturised by her lackeys. Leather cracks with time and this is true for Cass, leather is just skin remember? She is the last human in the universe. Well, that is what Cassy claims but would you trust a trampoline to tell the truth? Me neither.
Jabe, one of the mobile tree humanoids of Cheem, greets the Doctor and gives him a cutting that was taken from her grandfather. Yotsuba gives Rose a cicada that she caught. The tiny yet curiously fat (and blue-skinned) Moxx of Balhoon (a character that Russell T Davies mentioned in most of the interviews and articles he gave/wrote before the show started) gives the Doctor spit, saliva, sputum. The Adherents of the Repeated Meme hand out metal balls, spheres, paperweights to everyone including the staff. Basically just stuff you’d get in your Christmas stocking as a kid. Or is that just me? Stupid traumatic childhood…
And the trampoline? Cass gives the present of an ostrich egg laid by Mr and Mrs Pakoo and a jukebox which she calls “…an iPod…” which really made me laugh when I first saw this episode. Even now I still think that it is a funny thing. Nice to see an improvement of the humour given that the previous episode Rose was as funny as a bunch of farting aliens.
Oh, and the ‘iPod’ plays classical music such as Soft Cell’s Tainted Love and Britney Spears’ Toxic. This, in my humble opinion, is funny.
While the Doctor is getting a ticket for misparking the TARDIS, Rose ‘Rose Taylor’ Taylor has found herself a blue-skinned plumber to talk to. Raffalo the plumber makes Rose feel more at home, more normal but when she starts talking about where she came from, Rose gets a major case of cultural shock. Our blonde hero acknowledges to herself that she has put her life in the hands of a complete stranger. Did Jackie Taylor not warn Rose of Stranger Danger?
After the Taylor girl has left in search of cheese cubes and pineapple chunks on sticks, Raffalo sticks her head in a duct and is attacked by badly animated CGI metal spiderbots. She is pulled inside and turned into blue cubes by the spiders. These spiderbots go on to attack the computer systems of the entire space station and turning the toilets into laser cannons (which is murder on the Moxx’s haemorrhoids).
When the Doctor and Rose meet up again, she questions him about where he comes from, what he does for a living, and how much he earns. All questions he avoids by making Rose’s phone into some kind of super device for calling whoever you wish throughout space and time. Imagine the roaming charges…shocking! Rose is also spooked by the fact that her mother is dead by now…
ROSE: My mother is dead?
DOCTOR: Yes, your mother is dead, Rose.
ROSE: Even Mickey?
DOCTOR: Yes, Mickey is dead, Rose.
ROSE: No, not Mickey!
DOCTOR: Yes, Rose, Mickey is dead.
ROSE: Mickey is dead?
DOCTOR: Yes, Mickey is dead, Rose.
ROSE: My mother and Mickey are dead…
DOCTOR: Yes, your mother and Mickey are dead, Rose.
ROSE: Am I dead?
DOCTOR: Yes, Rose is dead, Rose.
ROSE: Oh, I missed my funeral!
The DOCTOR rolls his eyes.
Luckily for the Doctor, this awkward conversation is interrupted by the station suffering a mishap, the Coke machine is now dispensing urine. The Steward tries to investigate but one of the spiderbots takes away the window’s sun filter, and he boils away. The sun, by this point in time, being hugely deadly if its light should touch you. Deadlier than it is now, ahem.
The Doctor, of course, cannot resist a mystery and he pops off to investigate the mishaps with Jabe in tow. Jabe seems to find this Doctor man interestingly attractive. Tree women are weird but this one knows where the maintenance corridors are, so he allows her to tag along. Why does Jabe, a guest, know where the tunnels are? Like I said, tree women are weird.
Rose speaks with Cassandra who is effectively just a flat bitch. Seven hundred and eight cosmetic operations have turned her into a female Flat Stanley sans limbs and assorted parts (ten points to anyone who has read the book I am referring to here). Our Cass isn’t technically the last human but merely the last genetically pure human. Apparently the others have bred with aliens and are now just humanish plebs in her eyes. Très snobby.
Rose’s patience is put to the test by Cassandra and when she reveals that she plans another op – a blood bleaching – our plucky blonde heroine storms off and is promptly bopped unconscious by one of the Adherents of the Repeated Meme.
Deep in the recesses of the maintenance tunnels, Jabe confesses that she scanned him earlier and that she knows who he is and that she is amazed that he exists. This is a neat piece of writing by Russell T Davies. He is alluding to the show’s history but also to a backstory that we are largely unaware of. This is writing at its best.
The Doctor and Jabe come across one of the ill-animated spiderbots. Jabe lassos it with one of her whippy vine things and a few pervert Whovian conceived ideas for slash fiction. Yeuch!
Rose wakes up by herself in a room whose sun filter is lowering bit by bit. Why has she been singled out? Because it adds tension, duh! If it had been the Moxx of Balamory, who would have cared, what tension would there have been? Of course, the Doctor rescues her but it was a scary few minutes for Miss Peroxide.
Using his sonic screwdriver, the Doctor forces the spiderbot to return to whoever is the evil mastermind of this havoc. Guess who it returns to? No, not Mr and Mrs Pakoo. It goes towards Cassandra before walking up towards the Adherent chaps. The Doctor does his Hercule Poirot routine and explains that a ‘meme’ is an idea and is not something you could repeat. Just saying the word ‘meme’ over and over again doesn’t count. He gives the arachnidbot a kick, and it goes to Cassandra who says, “Yeah, I did it. And I would have gotten away with it hadn’t been for the fact that my plan was stupid!”
Cass’ attendants fire acid with their moisturiser guns and keeps everyone away from the flat one. As stupid as her plan was, her reason is only just slightly less stupid. Her operations were expensive and she was planning on keeping the other guests hostage so that she could afford more operations. Erm, so why was Raffalo killed? Why was Rose to be killed? Rose because Cass was jealous, perhaps? Raffalo because the script needed some more deathy goodness.
Giving up on her plan, Cass and her assistants teleport off the ship but not before Ms Flat commands the spiderbots to turn off the force field and to turn all the water taps on. Buttocks start clenching…
So there are mere minutes until the Sun explodes like a frog in an helium factory. The station is doomed, doomed I tell ye! The Doctor and Jabe hotfoot it down to where the computer switch is located, in the air-conditioning chamber, behind a huge fan, guarded by a leopard. Convenient, ain’t it?
This is the one part of this story that was laughed at in all the online forums. The inconveniently placed switch, ah, placed where it placed simply to add an extra piece of excitement. I hope that the designer of the space station didn’t design anything else such as a kettle with the plug-socket located on the inside of the kettle, or a doorbell that is inside a cage of Tasmanian Devils. This is, without a doubt, one of the biggest flaws in the story. It makes the CGI spiderbots look good by comparison (for a given value of ‘good’).
The heat from the Sun is boiling the people inside the station. Jabe, being made of wood, is more at risk than the others though. She dies as she tries to help the Doctor get past the fan to the switch. Her death is meant to be poignant and sad but given the cack-handedness of the misplaced fan scene, it isn’t. The Doctor gets past the fan and is sad for a little while after he turns the station’s systems back on. Still not poignant.
Some of the other guests have been killed by the sun rays but given the way they were more sketches than proper characters, we don’t feel too bad about their deaths. Their deaths, along with Jabe’s demise, has all the sadness of a soap bubble but none of the satisfying pop. There is an irony here because Russell T Davies mentioned in interviews prior to the show starting that nobody cares if people from the planet Zog died. He was right, nobody cares about these aliens dying. Sad it might be but then we all go “meh” and carry on watching.
Remember the ostrich egg that Cassandra gave? Inside is her teleport link. With a quick bit of jiggery-pokery, the Doctor uses it to reverse Cass’ teleport beam. Just Cass mind you, without her moisturising henchmen. The heat quickly kills her, bang dead.
This is an interesting thing because the Doctor should know about the effect of extreme heat on leather (which is what Cass largely is). So did the Doctor purposely allow her to die, did he kill her? You may recall Peter Capaldi’s Doctor and the ambiguity where we are not sure if he killed that clockwork creep, this is arguably worse because there is no ambiguity whatsoever. Is this Doctor a good man? Time will tell.
Earth is destroyed without anyone taking much notice of the fact. This makes Rose sad. The Doctor takes her back to Earth (and is it me or does he have more stubble in this last scene?) and gets all philosophical with her before they decide to have some chips.
Interesting scene this, the Doctor gives away a few titbits of details about the Time War and the Time Lords and how he is the last survivor. What does this all mean? Stay tuned, folks!
So what of the actors?
Christopher Eccleston is firing on all cylinders here as the Doctor. His performance is subtler than you initially think but there are so many shades of characterisation here. This is a more expressive portrayal than David Tennant who was very light in the way he acted. As dark and forbidding as he can be sometimes, this Doctor has a warmth that is very inviting. I do so like Eccleston as the Doctor.
Billie Piper hands us another good piece of acting. Nothing special here except for the bits at the beginning and the end. Much better than I suspected she was but she is not exactly great. Just good.
Yasmin Bannerman as Jabe is better…ish. She does less but does it better than Billie. But that death is just so lacklustre. Her part is nothing more than a light sketch that Bannerman turns into a proper character. She seems more real than Rose sometimes. Says a lot when a tree woman is more real than a human.
Zoë Wanamaker is great in this. Playing a flat piece of skin might daunt other actors but Wanamaker makes this shallow creature into a person that is more than just a villain. Cassandra is made into a believable person. Yes, still sketchy but more than just a sketch.
The only person whom I remotely felt anything for was Beccy Armory as Raffalo. Utterly convincing despite being bright blue. Loved her character and when she was killed, well, hers was the only death any of us could feel anything for. Fans always go on about how some characters should have travelled with the Doctor yet none mention Raffalo. Bit-part she may be but she is one of the best characters in the entire episode (besides the Doctor of course).
As usual, I have not mentioned everything about the episode because there is no reason for me to spoiler you completely. Some of the things have been made up too.
I enjoyed this episode despite some glaring flaws (those bloody fans for starters). Should you watch it? Of course you should. Then you can have some chips afterwards.