Doctor Who, “The End of Time” (part 1)

Dream logic abounds in Doctor Who. For decades, we’ve enjoyed stories where suddenly things happen, and suddenly things make sense, and suddenly things work out. Often, this is because of the force of the Doctor’s personality, sometimes the force of his will. In recent seasons, more often than in seasons past, it’s been because of the force of the Doctor’s reputation. Things happen because, it seems, they need to happen just that way at just that moment, and a strictly logical progression–or a progression which leads to failure–need not apply.

But with “The End of Time” (part one, anyway), the dream logic overtakes everything. The Doctor–indeed just about everyone in this episode–spends a lot of time merely running from one place to another. The Master, at least, runs in an interesting way, apparently now capable of jumping, bounding, leaping hundreds of yards at a go in a way which we have never been given to suspect Time Lords are capable. In itself, that’s OK, but there was no sense that this capability was anything more than a neat visual trick on the part of the creative team. The plot, you see, just doesn’t do much.

There’s potential. A group of wealthy people have gotten ahold of alien technology to do something to do with making people healthy (though not, presumably, wise). How they did this without drawing the attention of UNIT or Torchwood is unclear. There are some spiney-headed green aliens pulling the technology together. This is a sort-of typical, if run-of-the-mill Doctor Who setup. Somehow the Master appears to be aware of this project, manages to get himself kidnapped into the heart of the project, makes some adjustments, and viola! Everyone on Earth, with one or two exceptions, is now a fully-fledged copy of the Master. That’s pretty neat, too.

But it’s only about a half-hour worth of story. The rest of this episode feels aimless, wandering, or padded with sentimental scenes for the actors to say good-bye. Now, I’m not opposed to sentimental scenes for the actors. But they seemed to be getting in the way of both–both!–the story and the episode. We’ll see. We were teased throughout the entire episode by the Narrator (a very unusual device, possibly unique, in Doctor Who), with the possibility that there was more going on. But, really, the tease only came at the very end when we see that it’s Time Lords. Well, this should be good news for we viewers. The return of the Time Lords and Gallifrey seems like something that could shake up the show for the next Doctor, especially since there seems to be some menace to it. But then it’s weakened by the reveal that the drumbeats that have been dogging the Master for who-knows how long are the sound of a Time Lord’s heartbeat. Like the Master wouldn’t have been able to recognize that sound, after all.

But the cliffhanger is a good one. Not only is nearly everyone a clone of the Master, but as a result of the Master-ification of nearly everyone, Donna Noble has her memory back, and her brain is about to explode!