So many strange delegates: Trantis and Malpha,
Celation and Beaus, Arcturus and Alpha,
Jabe and the Moxx are brilliant too, though
The greatest of all is The Face of (Jack) Boe.
Like Rose, The End of the World draws inspiration from Doctor Who’s past, with the mystery in space element bringing to mind The Robots of Death (later drawn upon more obviously for Voyage of the Damned) and the third section of The Trial of a Time Lord, and the collection of weird and wonderful alien delegates reminiscent of The Curse of Peladon and Mission to the Unknown. However, this time round the aliens are rather more visually impressive. The best of the bunch is Cassandra, a character that simply could not have been created for the original series, as she is entirely computer generated. Cassandra is the last ‘pure’ human alive, and has been enhanced so much by plastic surgery that she now consists merely of a piece of skin and a face – a warning perhaps to modern celebrities! She is voiced by Zoë Wanamaker, who clearly relished the chance to play such an incredible character. Her talents, combined with the incredible CGI work, really bring Cassandra to life.
Most of the other aliens fall into the actor-in-a-mask category, a la Star Trek, but they are all very well done, particularly the very creepy Adherents. The Moxx of Balhoon is a wonderful creation, an ugly creature that turns out to be quietly spoken and gentle (ring any bells? Doctor Who has taught this lesson before.) Yasmin Bannerman plays Jabe with great elegance, and her ultimate fate is a very sad moment. The Face of Boe is another impressive alien, although it is perhaps rather obvious that he is a model, as he does not seem to do much. Who could have guessed how significant he would become to the Doctor in later episodes!
If anything there is even more humour in this episode than in Rose, but it certainly seems to work well within the format of Doctor Who when done properly. A lot of the humour is to do with popular culture. The music choices for the ‘iPod’ were perfect. There are two pop songs played during this episode, Tainted Love (Soft Cell) and Toxic (Britney Spears). This was not unheard of in Doctor Who before, but extremely unusual, the most famous example being Ticket to Ride (The Beatles) in The Chase. But it does feel different and modern, a definite departure from Classic Who.
Both Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper turn in great performances again, and Rose is fast emerging as the star of the show. It is Rose’s reactions to the things she sees that are so impressive: the TARDIS interior in the first episode, and now the strange aliens she encounters – a baptism of fire for a companion thrown in at the deep end.
There is a brave decision made here with the characterisation of the Doctor. He effectively executes Cassandra, bringing her back and watching her dry out and explode. There is a hint of enjoyment in his face and he is merciless, despite Rose appealing for her: ‘help her’. This is a side of the Doctor we don’t see very often, but perhaps his hearts have been hardened by the Time War (the Doctor reveals for the first time in this episode that his planet has been destroyed, following a war, but that is all we know at this stage). How far this kind of thing should go is a discussion for another day, but I will just say at this point that there is a world of difference between a Doctor who has fleeting moments like this of a different kind of morality (or indications of being damaged by something), and a Doctor who is generally unlikeable from the start, and Nine is definitely not in that category. More of that when we look at the debuts of Six and Twelve.
So what is the greatest legacy of this story: the Face of Boe? No, it’s actually the psychic paper, which debuts in this episode. And it is such a good example of the genius of Russell T Davies for finding obvious solutions to problems that nobody had thought of before. We used to have all that tiresome stuff with the Doctor being treated as an intruder, stopping him from actually getting to the plot and properly interacting with it. Now he’s right in the thick of the action, and that’s my kind of Doctor Who. RP
The review above is partially taken from the original Doctor Who Review website and has been updated and expanded (explanation here) – also from the original site is the following review:
The view from across the pond:
Where does one start when talking about this visual treat? Ah, well the visuals perhaps? This episode is a symphony of sight as well as sound. Let’s be honest: this is Doctor Who getting back at the Americans for always saying Star Trek was better because it had better effects… and the Doctor did it with style! About time too! I had long hoped that the day would come when we could tell all the Trekkies that now Doctor Who is better in story AND in SFX! HA… beam this up! And the music is presented, once again, on a high note. Some stunning moments of sound: the Doctor talking about his people, the Doctor walking through the final fan, Rose crying over the destroyed Earth that no one got to see go… amazing!!
Ok so the most notable plot point is that the Doctor takes Rose to the end of her world; in this way perhaps building a relationship with her based on the none-too-healthy foundation that they’ve both lost their worlds. Yet for some reason, it’s ok for the Rose to go back to hers but the Doctor can never go back to his world… (a sad, and strange, fact undoubtedly based on the transduction barrier and the Time Lords’ hyper advanced technology). This bond is not solidified until the episode’s end when Rose tells the Doctor (in relation to the fact that he is alone) “there’s me” – an essential moment in the understanding that Rose is now the Doctor’s equal – they’ve both lost their home and are essentially the last of their kind. Rose even gets to call her mum to bring home just how dead her mum is the moment she hangs up. A strange start to this friendship, I dare say!
But as far as first encounters go, Rose is given a cornucopia of aliens to look at, but once again, as in Rose (the episode), she shows her humanity by needing to escape, to take a breather. This is all totally normal for the Doctor but clearly a bit much for a department store teen! This is an interesting counterpoint to Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor, who also gives another stunning performance in the role of public alien #1. Here again we see that the Doctor, while 900+, still acts like a child one moment, weeps over the loss of his estranged race the next and finally is willing to let a woman not just die, but die horribly: an act of vengeance or justice? He is not human, and it shows. Even Rose is willing to release the evil Cassandra (“help her”); a wonderful statement at least from the writer of the episode that humanity ultimately cares for one another and is willing to forgive. Perhaps that is the human element that no Dalek would even understand! I digress… The fact that Rose is willing to help the villain is interesting when thinking back to the conversation she has with Ruffalo that she doesn’t really know the Doctor. What must she think of him now that he has let a woman explode?! That conversation too epitomizes Rose’s humanity. The Doctor again is shown to be … not human, though he is initially reluctant to say what he is! Tom Baker once said that to help highlight that difference between the human and the Time Lord, he liked to depict opposite emotions to what one would expect. Chris does this to perfect effect when asking Jabe if there is anyone to help nearby. Her negative response elicits the ubiquitous “fantastic”! Great stuff!
So what of those moments outside the range of the visuals? The ones that may not push the story one way or the other, but they make for a more believable story: An iPod… classic. Why is it that they always get it right in so many SF shows? This hints at the very likely fact that the research would not be 100% accurate after 5 BILLION years! Jabe’s inability to understand the machine sounds is another superb touch – the answer was not readily accessible for the Doctor and it shows that Jabe is a different type of alien! Also, such great lines as “use of weapons, teleportation and religion are strictly prohibited”… stunning, brilliant… fantastic! Ruffalo was an awesome addition – shame she didn’t survive. And doesn’t Cassandra know that she would have been called a “girl” or is this again some mistake on her part, being as old as she is (calling herself a boy), or did the research not turn up anything about that? Or did she go through changes…? Is the Cassandra/Rose conversation a hint at the fact that humanity is too concerned with being thin? This is the final result? I commented before that Rose is perfect in form because she is real: not a stick model. This is a subtle testament that there are extremes to size; a lesson long overdue in our society! Are the Adherents of the Repeated Meem an obvious “baddie” because they are dressed in black, and hooded? Perhaps another subtle reminder that one should not take things at face value. And finally, what of the brilliant comment, akin to today’s jargon “talk to the hand”; this one is more comical for what it means: “Talk to the face”. HA! Brilliant!
One question about the phone call: how long has Rose been gone when MUM gets the call? We have to assume, based on what we learn later, that this is probably the day after the attack of the Nestenes; but there again, wouldn’t mum have wanted her home to make sure all was well? A minor quibble, but worth mentioning. The other is why the Steward doesn’t think to leap up and run when the shields go down! Why is Rose, new to all things futuristic, smart enough to get the heck up and run, while the steward (and for that matter everyone in the observation dome) sits there and screams like a pixie…?
So money may still motivate humans 5 billion years from now, assuming we don’t eat ourselves to death, egg ourselves, crack from mad cow or globally cook ourselves. But would humanity know what the “bad wolf” situation is all about? One must assume so, in the episodes to come. But can we then consider how the Moxx meant that they were in the Bad Wolf scenario? I think so… but that is for another review. For this, I am glad that the Doctor has come back full force in this second episode. He didn’t waste much time; maybe he took Jabe’s excellent advice: “Quit wasting time, Time Lord”. ML
Read next in the Junkyard… The Unquiet Dead