Review: Doctor Who, Episode 4.17, “The End of Time, Part One”

This is it, the penultimate episode for David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and Russell T Davies as showrunner, and it delivers the goods it promised. Oh, does it.

The Master (John Simm) is resurrected and it’s up to the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) to stop his latest nefarious plan with the assistance of Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins), the grandfather of former companion Donna Noble (Catherine Tate). That’s all one really needs to know, because no one should be spoiled about how that bare bones description actually plays out.

Outgoing showrunner Russell T Davies delivers a story that’s big, bold, dark with moments of lightness, moving at times, and brings this incarnation of the Doctor ever closer to his fate. There’s nothing terribly complex about the story, but it allows the cast to shine, delves into the relationship between the Doctor and the Master, and delivers a cliffhanger ending that’s simply awesome to behold. It gave this Whovian fangirl of nearly 27 years a major case of the squees.

Love him or hate him, Davies is a master showman, the P.T. Barnum of Doctor Who. Some will always criticize Davies for the improbabilities of many of his stories, but improbable seems to be his forte. He took a canceled television show that had been off the air for over a decade and a half, with the exception of the 1996 telefilm, and brought it back better and more successful than ever. What could be more improbable than that? Take a bow, Mr. Davies. You deserve it.

Director Euros Lyn (Torchwood: Children of Earth) is more than up to the task of realizing Davies’ script on screen, and his strength of drawing strong performances out of his actors is one that’s important here, and no doubt even more so in the conclusion.

What can one say about David Tennant than hasn’t already been said? He ranks up there with Tom Baker on the iconic scale, and I will continue to argue that the range he’s shown since the 2005 Christmas special puts him at the top of the list of actors to have played the role. That range serves him well once again. Enough said.

John Simm returns as the Master, even more over the top than in his previous appearances. Some may disagree, but I don’t have a problem with how he plays the character. Because it works. At times, his performance here reminds me of Malcolm McDowell’s in A Clockwork Orange, in how completely he gives into his character’s madness and then spits it all back at the audience.

The Master’s full-blown raving lunacy actually makes sense within the show’s fictional history, between the pounding drums the Master has heard since looking into the time vortex as a child, and being sucked into the Eye of Harmony (or a gateway to it) and later resurrected by the Time Lords during the Time War, further compounded by use of a Chameleon Arch, the Master has become completely unhinged.

Bernard Cribbins is simply marvelous as Wilf, and I’ve never made any secret of thinking Wilf is made of win, so it’s nice to see him again and having a bigger role to play in a story. It’s also nice to see Catherine Tate as Donna again, who against all odds became one of my favorite companions because of the great character arc Davies gifted her with last season. We also get a fun cameo from June Whitfield, and former 007 Timothy Dalton has a very surprising role to play.

In summary, “The End of Time, Part One” is everything I hoped it would be, and oh my, that ending will leave me squeeing for the next week. It’s going to be hard to patiently wait for the conclusion. Bring it on!

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