The End of the World

The Doctor takes Rose to a party during the final hours of planet Earth.

Between the series opener Rose, and this second episode, Christopher Eccleston quit the role of the Doctor. Or at least, the news that he quit broke then. I was buying a lottery ticket from a newsagents on my way to work when I saw the headline of The Sun newspaper. It said, ‘Dr Who Quits’. I remember feeling quite conflicted. I hadn’t been very taken by his performance as the Doctor in Rose, but I felt annoyed that he thought so little of the show that he could just walk away after one series.

I think the announcement had already been made that a second series was commissioned, so at least there was no immediate concerned the series would be cancelled again. I remember hoping that the BBC would cast Bill Nighy as the Tenth Doctor; maybe he wouldn’t be offended that he was second choice in 2004 (I’d read that the short list was Eccleston and Nighy, indeed the Daily Mail reported he had won the part the same day the other papers ran the correct news). His role as Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie that was released about month later only served to prove how awesome he would have been in the role.

I don’t think I noticed at the time, but the space station, Platform One, looks like it is in the style of Nerva from The Ark in Space, cited by Russell T Davies as his favourite story.

nervaplatform1

They are not identical, but  it’s easy to imagine that it is the product of the same technology.

Of all the guests assembled to watch the Earth’s demise, the Doctor is immediately taken with Jabe, who represents the Forest of Cheem. He soon leaves Rose so that he can go off and spend time with Jabe. This mirrors Rose leaving Mickey at the end of the previous episode, Rose for someone more interesting.

Jabe’s line about many different species originating on Earth is interesting. We subsequently learn that the Silurians were spacefarers, but it leaves me wondering if the cat people of New Earth and Gridlock are descended from the domestic moggy, like Cat from Red Dwarf. In his ebook Keeping up with the Joneses for the Time Trips series, Nick Harkaway has the Doctor recalling that lemons eventually evolve into a sentient life form.

I feel I have done the Ninth Doctor a disservice. He is very proactive here, giving lie to the memories I have of this incarnation standing around while Rose works things out and saves the day. I really like him taking command of the situation once the Steward is dead and unmasking the villain of the piece. Rose is a more traditional damsel in distress who must be rescued and has no hand in the resolution. In the recent fiftieth episode of Toby Hadoke’s brilliant Who’s Round, Russell T Davies reveals that the scene where Rose is almost incinerated by the sun was originally envisaged with Platform One on it’s side, with Rose actually on the glass as it cracks, inspired by this scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park:

The Doctor won’t save Cassandra, he just watches her pop. It’s a telling moment. He insisted on giving the Nestenes a chance the week before, and will give the Gelth the benefit of the doubt in the next episode, The Unquiet Dead. Both Nestene and Gelth being victims of the Time War, which we are just beginning to hear of.

In some ways the story is reminiscent of The Curse of Peladon. There’s a variety of alien creatures and one of them is working against the others. It’s just a shame that there isn’t time to seed some clues here and have a proper mystery to try and puzzle out. Watching this again now, it’s pretty clear who the villain of the piece will be. The other characters just don’t get enough screen time.

The final scene, back on present-day Earth, sees the Doctor reveal that he is the last of the Time Lords. The rest have been wiped out in a terrible war. I can’t help feeling that any other Doctor would have delivered this revelation in a way that would have raised the hairs on the back of the neck. Eccleston delivers it with all the gravitas of a Coronation Street character announcing he’s lost his job. For the return of the character after a long absence this may have been a strength. There is a sense that the Ninth Doctor won’t do anything to make you cringe if you’re watching with non-fans, and new viewers won’t be put off. Eccleston wouldn’t be seen trying to shake roentgen radiation out of his foot, or sliding around on ice when everyone is walking normally.

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Order Doctor Who: Series One from Amazon:

Doctor Who – The Complete BBC Series 1 Box Set [2005] [DVD]

Order The Lost World: Jurassic Park:

The Lost World – Jurassic Park 2 [DVD]

On Blu-Ray:

Jurassic Park II: The Lost World [Blu-ray] [1997]

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