In the second episode of the first series of Doctor Who, the Doctor takes Rose five billion years into the future to watch the literal end of the world. Realizing the enormity of her decision to travel with the Doctor, Rose faces an even worse danger in the face of the very last human left. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
I feel that if you are trying to get someone into Doctor Who and you are using these newer episodes as your guide, you have to make sure they watch this episode in addition to the new-pilot. If it was ever clear what this show is trying to accomplish, “The End of the World” is a brilliant combination of humor, satire, and the deadly serious philosophy that Doctor Who aims to sell to you. It’s leaps and bounds more exciting and intriguing than “Rose.” I don’t necessarily fault Davies for that, since first episodes are always hard to pull off, and he was working with DECADES OF MATERIAL. How do you distill that down enough to appeal to people who haven’t seen a second of it?
For someone like me, who understands next to nothing about the universe of Doctor Who, this episode starts to fill in the gaps of the story that I’ve missed over the years. I’m still unsure what the Doctor’s motivation is for traveling through time. I thought he might be receiving missions of some sort, but it appears his travel is completely random. He takes rose over five billion years into the future and by the end of the episode, I felt the trip was taken for a very specific point and the unfortunate disaster that occurs on Platform One was merely incidental to him being there. (Unless he planned absolutely everything, which is an even more intriguing idea.)
Like the pilot (Is it ok if I refer to it as that since it’s a new series?), this episode drips in sarcasm and wit. I’m not going to get sick of Eccleston’s comic timing any time soon, but it’s nice to see Billie Piper join in on the fun when she’s not busy being depressed or frightened. And that’s not a sleight on her in any way. “The End of the World” has a double meaning to me. Rose has lived a rather simple life in London, part of a working class family who have little to no aspirations to anything beyond their bubble. For Rose, the sheer enormity of her decision to follow the Doctor to this space station represents the end of the world she’s come to know. Time travel must never have even remotely crossed her mind in any capacity, and yet, here she is, five billion years in the future, watching the demise of the planet earth.
I don’t know if any of you went through the same thing, but the day I learned that the sun could die was a frightening moment in my childhood. Like Rose here in “The End of the World,” it’s an entirely foreign thought. Some indiscernible moment, billions of years in the future, the earth and every living creature living on it will cease to be. (Assuming the end of the world isn’t happening in two years LIKE THE X-FILES TOTALLY PREDICTED.) The scary thing for Rose is that, unlike every human being living now or years after her or decades after her or centuries after here, she gets to see this moment happen.
I’m glad to see Davies tackle this philosophical conundrum so early into this first series. Rose’s excitement of leaving her typical life in Britain has now begun to overwhelm her. It doesn’t help that the Doctor takes her so far into the future, but I think this was his plan all along. Not only does it help aid in his explanation to her about who he is, but she also has to face the general weirdness of what she’s getting into.
Let’s talk about weird. I mean, “Rose” certainly had it’s share of weirdness at the core of the episode, but here, it literally parades out onto the screen. Aliens and creatures and extraterrestrial beings and Adherents of the Repeated Meme and what is all of this. While Davies and company are taking time to introduce Doctor Who to newbies like myself, there is no shortness of complete absurdity present here. I don’t like looking at the Face of Boe, first of all, because it scares me. Please never show up again.
The episode’s real charm is in Cassandra O’Brien Dot Delta Seventeen. I don’t mean to say she’s charming, as she’s rather the opposite, but Davies took the state of our celebrity- and body-obsession to it’s natural, exaggerated end: the final “human” is just a piece of skin stretched on a frame. It’s horrifying and hilarious at the same time, both for the parody and the visual spectacle.
The plot that ties this all together, a really fucked up hostage plot, isn’t nearly as exciting as Rose’s existential crisis or the moments between the Doctor and Jabe. With Rose, we gradually see her doubt her decision more and more; the Doctor even modifies her cell phone to allow her to call through time to speak with her mother. I think the Doctor thought this would comfort Rose, but it seems to do the obvious. The distance (both physical and temporal, is simply too immense for her to handle.
The Doctor, on the other hand, is faced with an ever-growing distress about exactly who he is as well. Jabe, a tree-based alien life, befriends the Doctor over the course of the episode, especially after she finds out who he is: a Time Lord. I don’t know what this is quite yet. PLEASE DON’T TELL ME. This all leads up to a heartbreaking moment in the bowels of Station One, where the two of them try to find where the shield restoration device is before they all die of radiation burns.
JABE: What about your ancestry, Doctor? Perhaps you could tell a story or two. Perhaps a man only enjoys trouble when there’s….nothing else left. I scanned you earlier. The metal machine had trouble identifying your species. Refused to admit your existence. And even when it named you, I couldn’t believe it. But it was right. I know where you’re from. Forgive me for intruding…it’s remarkable that you even exist. I just want to say…how sorry I am.
The camera pans to the Doctor’s face, his eyes flush with tears.
WHAT. What happened to him? And why is she sorry?
All of these questions, including the overall theme of “The End of the World,” are reflected in the final scenes of the entire episode. The Doctor had been repeatedly saying that all things have a point where they end. Death is simply a natural fact of the Universe, no matter where you are. But when he saves the station by turning on the shields just in time, Rose realizes that the end of the world happened while no one was paying attention.
ROSE: All those years, all that history and no one was even looking. It’s just….
It’s just gone.
The end of things are sometimes sudden, unexpected, and with celebrated. When the Doctor takes them back to modern London, his point is made: We are so obsessed with Death, even in those final moments, that sometimes we forget to live.
THE DOCTOR: You think it’ll last forever, the people and the cars and concrete. But it won’t. One day it’s all gone, even the sky.
An inconceivable notion in and of itself, Rose now knows that that is indeed true. And the Doctor shares why he said this: His planet is gone. Destroyed. I assume this is what the Time War refers to in the previous episode, but we learn the Doctor is the very last Time Lord. EVER. What a Time Lord is and what a Time Lord does is not answered, but I assume we’ll get to that.
The episode ends on a high note, despite all the heavy waxing on some pretty dense philosophical ideas. Rose makes a conscious decision that she’ll continue to accompany the Doctor. And then I smell chips in my house as soon as they start talking about them and then I’m hungry and now I’m hungry again. Thanks.
- Poor Raffalo. 🙁
- I didn’t even think about how everyone magically spoke English. The telepathic field explanation is pretty neat!
- “This is who I am! Right here, right now! All right? All that counts is here and now and this is me!”
- Watching Cassandra die was NOT PLEASANT. EW.
- The CGI in this episode was REALLY GOOD. Especially those weird spider robots. I was impressed.
- “Mind you, when I say “the great and the good,” what I mean is the rich.”
- The entire scene where The Doctor offers his air to Jabe is hilarious.
- “Bundle of laughs, you are.”
- THE DOCTOR WAS ON THE TITANIC. asdhf;sahdflsadfj WHAT.
- “It’s better to die than live like you–a bitchy trampoline.” BEST. LINE. EVER.