Saturday, April 10, 2010

But for all the fine supporting actors, the Specials in particular belong to David Tennant, and he is wonderful. In the final episodes especially he is up to the challenge of being epic and also totally grounded in key scenes, such as his discussion of his own death in a cafe conversation with Bernard Cribbins—this startling scene stops the action in pretty much an unprecedented fashion, which allows Tennant’s Doctor to open up emotionally in a startling and mesmerizing way. It pays off again in his final scenes, where the personal and the epic merge.

The last glimpses of the companions are brief and reasonably satisfying—with some surprising twists—and they fittingly end by going back to just before the beginning. And the 10th Doctor’s final words—“I don’t want to go”-- will be probably be debated for years, especially in reference to Tennant’s departure.

Tennant’s reasons may be those he’s given in public—time to move on, leave with the team of Davies and Gardner, and leave when he’s still wanted. (John Simm, who plays the Master, said something similar in commenting on the decision to end the series he starred in, “Life on Mars,” while it was still very popular.) On the other hand, I suspect there are contributing reasons that may or may not be known at some time in the future.

But the Davies’ book disabused me of one notion I had about Tennant’s decision. I couldn’t figure out why Doctor Who would forgo a full season and just make the Specials for a year so Tennant could play Hamlet, if he wasn’t intending to come back for another full season. But according to Davies, the decision to do the Specials instead of a full season was made independent of Tennant—it was Davies plan all along. Tennant took the Hamlet job only after this decision was made.

In fact, throughout the Davies book, Tennant comes across as the same generous, energetic, intelligent and caring good guy he’s seemed to be. But the book adds one detail to the previously known meeting between Tennant and Steven Moffat about the fifth season. Tennant said publicly he was tempted to stay. But according to Davies, he added that while Moffat’s plans were “genius,” he’d rather watch those stories than act in them.


liminalD said...


"And the 10th Doctor’s final words—'I don’t want to go'-- will be probably be debated for years, especially in reference to Tennant’s departure..."

I'm sorry, I just HAVE to share my own understanding of The End of Time here.

Season 3 was always my least favourite season (but let me be clear: I love Martha, I just thought the S3 stories mostly sucked except for 'Smith and Jones, Human Nature/The Family of Blood and Utopia/The Sound of Drums'), but now I believe that S3 was RTD laying the groundwork for his big finale, 'The End of Time'. Yeah, true, there were bits through S4 that contributed too ("I think your song must end soon"), but I think the really important stuff is in S3, and I now have a lot more respect for and enjoyment of those episodes.

I think RTD intended all along that the Master would use Lucy as a backup... we know that those crazy women were able to resurrect him from a genetic imprint left in Lucy's lips, and I believe it was always RTD's plan that this would happen - the Doctor kisses Martha deeply to put his DNA into her lips in 'Smith and Jones' in order to escape the Judoon on the Moon, and then when the Master is in power as Prime Minister we see him very obviously kissing Lucy in the same way several times.

Given all the other links between S3 and 'The End of Time' (such as foreshadowing of the Time Lord Victorious in Donna’s telling the Doctor he needed someone to stop him in 'The Runaway Bride', and his terrible vengeance in 'The Family of Blood', and Queen Elizabeth inexplicably chasing after the Doctor in 'The Shakespeare Code' and his later revelation at the start of 'The End of Time' that he’d married her after the events of 'The Waters of Mars' but hadn’t known it back then, and all the exposition about the Time Lords and Gallifrey in 'Gridlock' and 'The Sound of Drums'), I think perhaps RTD began planning 'The End of Time' at the end of season two. It all ties in together...

liminalD said...


... also 'Smith and Jones' marks the first time the Doctor’s double heartbeat is heard, and the Time Lord's double heartbeat is an essential element of the Master storyline in both 'Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords' and 'The End of Time'.

Also looking at the Master’s 'Harry Potter' like resurrection, I think it's foreshadowed in 'The Shakespeare Code' with the Doctor’s three references to J. K. Rowling (he mentions that he cried at the end of the 7th book, there's Martha's insertion of ‘Expelliarmus!’ into the ‘spell’ that banishes the Carrionites, and the Doc says "Good old J. K." when the day is saved). It could just be meta-humour, as David Tennant played the role of Barty Crouch Jr. in the film adaption of 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire', but I suspect there may be more to it than that. A fundamental aspect of 'Harry Potter' is the equal but opposite relationship between the (mostly) good Harry and the utterly evil Voldemort, similarly, an important aspect of Doctor Who is the relationship between the (mostly) good Doctor and the utterly evil Master. The Tenth Doctor even becomes ‘bad’ towards the end of his life (Waters of Mars), but manages to turn this around and redeem himself. Remind you of anyone? And let’s not forget the Master’s ring – it’s very much like one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes, isn’t it?

According to Wikipedia, 'The Shakespeare Code' was named after Dan Brown’s 'The Da Vinci Code', which is also about a well-known figure of the Renaissance, but is also about solving an essentially Christian mystery through anagrams and symbology. The third season of Doctor Who takes a decidedly religious tone, (the names Lazarus and Martha being intimately associated with the story of Jesus) even going so far as to ‘resurrect’ the Doctor as a messiah figure through ‘prayer’ in the finale...

liminalD said...


... How do I know I'm not just making RTD look smarter than he really is? That I'm not just projecting my own tendency toward literary analysis onto a man who freely admits he goes for bombast and spectacle in his writing?

I think RTD is rather self-deprecating about his work, and I point to my favourite RTD episode, 'Midnight,' as evidence that in fact he's not quite the hack he makes himself out to be. Not only is that episode tense and tightly scripted (I think it's the best thing he's ever done, in fact), not only does he seed in this episode the knocking four times as a foreshadowing of the Doctor's death, but he also has the ever observant Dee-Dee quote from Christina Rosetti's 'Goblin Market' in which one of two fair maidens is possessed by a malevolent outside force as a result of her desire for pretty things and forbidden fruit, and what has just happened to Miss Sky Sylvestry, one half of a female couple, on a chartered tour across a strange planet to see a waterfall made of diamonds?

That's my theory, anyways, and I'm sticking to it ;)

liminalD said...


... Though written by Gareth Roberts, 'The Shakespeare Code' becomes quite important to 'The End of Time'. At the very least, we know from Wikipedia’s entry on 'The Shakespeare Code' that the ending with Queen Elizabeth was RTD’s idea. Most importantly, perhaps, the Doctor also quotes a line from Dylan Thomas' poem 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night', “rage, rage, against the dying of the light,” and in 'The End of Time' he does just that.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

My interpretation is that the Doctor is the wise, good, wild and grave man. He is enraged when he finally knows he's dying, he rants and raves and curses, "I could do so much more!" but in the end he resigns himself to it, because as a wise man, he knows that 'dark is right.' And throughout 'The End of Time' Wilf has been set up as a father figure - Wilf is the father who will bless the Doctor with fierce tears. And the Doctor refuses to just die - he holds it back, he goes to look after the people he cares about and see them all one last time, and then when he finally can't hold the regeneration back any more, he cries, uttering those final words: "I don't want to go." He does not go gentle into that good night (goodnight? the Ood even sing him to sleep!), his resistance has held the regeneration back so long that he explodes the TARDIS! Talk about not going calmly!

So there you have it, Season 3, and 'The Shakespeare Code' especially, are crucial for as full understanding of 'The End of Time'...

Captain Future said...

Judging from what RTD said in commentaries and in "The Writer's Tale" he didn't have all this worked out in season 3--he even resisted bringing the Master back in the finale--but that doesn't mean the echoes and connections you name aren't there. He seems very good at making those connections, but from the present back to the past episodes. What I take away from it is that he liked to leave some threads hanging, so that he--or another writer--could find a way to use them in the future.