New Series Review #2 – The End of the World

“There was a war…and we lost.”

With the high-energy, typical Alien-invasion story of Rose comes the claustrophobic, character-piece The End of the World. Having just watched it – and naturally in light of what has happened in the last few days I was a little cynical – I can honestly say that episode 2 is better than the first. There is more structure and reason – but there is also the development of Rose as a living, breathing, human girl torn from Real Life and the Doctor’s own recent past slowly coming back to haunt him…

A simple tool – the recap – brings us into the story via a pre-titles sequence and deposits the Doctor and Rose into the year 5 billion. On board a space platform chartered to observe the expanding Sun destroy the Earth (now empty), Rose experiences her first friendly aliens. In particular is the Moxx of Balhoon, the Forest of Cheem (it’s leader Jabe is descended from the Amazonian Rainforests) the The Adherents of the Repeated Meme and the last “pure” human, the Lady Cassandra (voiced wonderfully by Zoe Wanamaker). Within 45 minutes, the Earth is about to end. This time the Doctor isn’t there to save the planet. But instead the space platform is going to need a helping hand…

The episode proceeds at a perfect pace, developing the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. Of particular note is the moment when Rose realises she is so far from home, surrounded by aliens. Thankfully the Doctor is at hand with a clever mobile phone accessory to enable her to call Earth, 2005. Elsewhere, small 4 legged-droids are investigating the platforms infrastructure – there can only be a sinister purpose for them.

The CGI in this episode works so much better than in Rose. Why? Probably the context – we admire the alien characters’ costumes and makeup as we watch the Sun slowly expanding behind them. The CGI fits perfectly with the otherworldly and naturally the Lady Cassandra character is the main beneficiary of this. She appears completely 3 dimensional and real, not in no small part to the talents of the actress behind her; Testament to the Production Team’s policy of hiring capable character actors. Appreciation too should be given to the destruction of Earth. The best non-Lucas planet explosion you’ll see for a long time.

It’s fair to say that Russell T Davies has a very distinctive writing style, which focuses on one area – dialogue, which can only enhance plot and character. Hence a lovely exchange between Rose and the Lady Cassandra, where they discuss the latter’s 700 operations into what Rose describes “a bitchy trampoline”. Meanwhile, the Doctor is investigating the worsening condition of the platform with Jabe, the Queen of the Forest of Cheem. The relationship between the two is warm and respectful. There is a suggestion of attraction, especially as the Doctor (surprisingly empty-pocketed) offers a gift of the air from his lungs during an etiquette exchange.

In the service duct, looking for the cause of the platforms decaying orbit (and the death of the administrator), Jabe reveals to the Doctor that she knows where he has come from. For the first time we see the Doctor cry. Now that completely astonished me and I wasn’t ready for what was about to come; Jabe offered her sympathies.

Meanwhile, Rose is trapped in an observation room as the heat shields of the platform are disabled. The Doctor and Jabe have discovered the 4 legged droids and retrieved one in order to reveal that someone or something is attempting to destroy the station as the Sun expands.

The revelation that the Lady Cassandra is the perpetrator of the situation developing on the platform is not entirely surprising. Her motive however – hold the very rich guests hostage – is perfect. How else is she to pay for the endless operations?

Again, I shall shy away from presenting any major clues to the resolution of the story – although the Doctor’s new talent for moving faster than time (think “Jedi Speed” in “Star Wars Jedi Knight 2”) is astonishing. Rose’s compassion is astonishing, but the real interest is the developing plot of the series. Last week we had mention of a war during the Doctor’s face-off with the Nestene Consciousness: “I couldn’t save your planet, I couldn’t save any of them”. This week the Doctor again cannot hide from the past. Jabe believes it “remarkable” that he even exists.

“My planet’s gone. It’s dead. It burned, like the Earth. It’s just rocks and dust – before its time…I’m a Time Lord; I’m the last of the Time Lords. They’re all gone – I’m the only survivor.”

The Doctor reveals to Rose his heritage, and his tragedy. Gallifrey’s demise appears to be directly related to the War, now mentioned in subsequent episodes.

Whatever has happened in the World of Doctor Who Fandom in the last 7 days, from high audience figures to departures and opinions thereof, remember this – Doctor Who is back, and it is TOTALLY addictive.

And it comes without added Graham Norton!

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