"The End of the World" shows again that when it comes to plots, it's not really Russell T Davies' forte. Fortunately, he's gotten better, but as of these first two outings, the weakest part of each episode has been the plot. In this one, it's a different issue than in the first episode which was about, let's face it, a fairly lame villain (I mean, really, living plastic?). Here, the villain(ess) is quite good and Zoë Wanamaker does a wonderful job with her lines, but the mechanics are so inorganic. That's the word I finally came up with that seemed to best fit.
Things like the auto-reset button being behind the fans; it's such an unnecessary, complicated, and stupid plot device. Rose being knocked out by Cassandra's idea fellows and dragged into the room. Why? Yeah, she had ticked off Cassandra, but wouldn't it have made more sense then for Cassandra to have wanted her in the room when she unveiled her evil plan, rather than have her die separately from everyone else without Rose knowing that Cassandra did it? Cassandra's a vain egomaniac, she'd want Rose to know. And on a smaller scale, but still quite annoying was how there were a few times where Rose and the Doctor SHOULD have heard the metal spiders (especially Rose in the quiet of the earth-watching room with the metal thing clicking behind her). The worst, of course, was the sun filter stuff and the cracking glass. I get that it's five billion years in the future and they're able to create super-awesome-amazing shields that they can be that close to the sun exploding ... but the sun filter breaking down and it just pops out sections of the room, but yet it's not hot enough to roast Rose alive in a matter of seconds? Or how about the glass actually cracking, fracturing ... and yet, heat to that magnitude doesn't seep in enough to kill her (but does Pixie, short, squatty dude, but no one else)? Just sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
Every time I've watched this one (and this would be the third time), I find myself thinking these thoughts as I'm doing so. Every single time. But yet, with that said, as well, every single time I watch it when I get to the end and think on the episode later, I don't think of these plot fumbles, rather I think about all that was so very good about the episode. Namely, the character-building scenes, Christopher Eccleston's acting, Billie Piper's acting, Eccleston and Piper's blooming, off-the-freaking-charts chemistry, and the build-up of the Doctor/Rose relationship, as well as three guest star performances (one major, one minor and one vocal) that were wonderful. And those above all combined just make the shoddy plotting pale in comparison. (Still, I'm so glad to say the plotting has gotten much better.)
Looking at those goodies ... First off: The character building scenes, both with the Doctor, Rose and even a small one or two for Jabe and Raffalo. The obvious ones for the Doctor are the scenes with Jabe when she talks about knowing who (or rather, what) he is, and the final scene where he shares with Rose who (and what) he is and what helped make him what he is today. On that note, I found myself wondering why there was so much time spent with the Doctor and Jabe bonding, when Rose -- the secondary lead, his companion -- was off elsewhere and had as yet not spent much time with him at all. Now bear in mind that I'd only watched it once recently -- as in the last two years -- and as I stated in my rewatch-review of "Rose," when I watched it a month ago, I wasn't looking for any deep-seated meaning, merely living in a world of 'Ooh, look! Christopher Eccleston is lovely and I miss him,' and 'Ooh, yeah Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper did have really amazing chemistry! Squee!!!' So, I hadn't thought deep about pretty much anything Who related at this point. Still, since I was in analysis-mode, I wondered while watching if I would get my answer and if there would be pay-off in the final scene with the Doctor and Rose. Sure enough, there was.
We know that the Doctor has been alone, and because of his experiences, is clearly used to keeping things close to his chest. It took Jabe calling him on who he is, the wonder in her voice opening that door -- alongside the destruction of the Earth and seeing Rose's reaction -- that allowed the Doctor to open up to Rose and reveal something fully of himself with real words, and not vague (albeit, heart(s)felt) words about the Earth spinning. And furthermore, it took the Doctor taking a slight fancy to Jabe and wanting to spend time with her, and thus connect with her, that allowed him that moment with her that led to the moment with Rose. And that moment in the end was important in showing that the Doctor is beginning to trust her; and it also allowed Rose to see more of the man (so to speak) which, in turn, allowed her to continue on this mad journey with him.
Of course, none of these strong character scenes would have any true power were it not for how awesome Christopher Eccleston is. We see so many shades and layers to the Doctor in this episode that it's spellbinding. We get him goofy, excited, solemn, flirty, devastated, curious, angry, amused, touched, worried, sad and a dash of sexy too ... all in one episode, and, of course, being Christopher Eccleston, he delivers on every single layer. That's right, every layer ... including the sexy. Sure, he may not be handsome like David Tennant, but he's got a mighty dose of charisma himself and I know that I certainly can't watch the Doctor/Rose scene clipped below where they discuss TARDIS telepathy and not have an immediate, 'yeah, baby!' response when he leans down and relaxes on the landing. Pretty boy or not, he's still got sex appeal. Admittedly, we don't get much evidence in his Doctor, but the moments that we do ... well, oh boy. Ahem, still, that is just the shallow, he also brings so much more to table.
Eccleston does so much with his eyes, his facial expressions, his body language -- sometimes a bit broad (as befitting the moment), but more often, with subtle shifts and changes. He really is an amazing actor. (God, my kingdom for just one more series of Eccleston. Why couldn't we have had two series of Nine?!?!? Yes, yes, I love the Tennant; I love Ten ... but damnit, I loved Eccleston first and long before Who, and I adored Nine. Sigh.) One other thing I REALLY loved about his Doctor in this episode is that much more than in the first episode, there were moments where he was so alien. His reaction to certain things, and gosh, I'm blanking on them now! (arggh!) but they were small things, aside from the biggest which was him not seeing how the end of the world would affect Rose; how seeing all of the aliens would be too much. It could have come across as him underestimating her love for her planet (compared to his for Gallifrey), or even him just being a clueless guy, but because of this just slightly-off note in how Eccleston played the scenes, they came across as not quite a human reaction. Alien. He's just so, so good. Ah yes, indeed, this episode was a showcase for Eccleston and it was a smashing success at that.
As well, it also featured a wonderful performance by Billie Piper. What I loved about Rose's character scenes in this episode is how they so organically (unlike the plot!) grew from what happened in the first episode. I loved how it went straight from the end of "Rose" into this one without a second in-between. (Hmm, it almost makes me wonder if this was originally intended as a two-hour episode, but that it was decided to split them up except for the fact that they do play out so differently in tone and tenor. On the other hand, it also gives us some Doctor history for new viewers, so yeah, maybe it was originally intended at some point to be a two-hour episode. Double hmm.)
Anyhoo, back to Rose and the immediate follow-up to her decision to join the Doctor. We saw her joy and enthusiasm, her curiosity and excitement. And then, and then as things settled a bit, as she was thrown into this crazy situation with aliens -- real-live-looking aliens! -- it all hit her. She was billions of years from anything she knew with a man that she'd known for about twenty-four hours. Practically a stranger. She had completely placed her life in his hands with barely a second thought. I loved how that realization hit her and how, while it carried through to the next scene with the Doctor, she was grounded somewhat by the appearance of a plumber. I loved that; it was such a small, but brilliant way of showing that Rose is good with this kind of life because she can grasp so quickly, so easily, so rightly that while everything changes, so much stays the same. The fundamentals stay the same. Five billion years in the future? We still have sanitary waste issues. Thus, plumbers. Same shit, different millennium. Literally.
Backing up a bit to when it all hit her, though, I want to recount that scene because it was done so well, the execution of it was just perfect. Rose seeing alien after alien in front of her, all assembled and then a jukebox (erroneously called an i-pod, just showing again how "alien" this all was) starting up Tainted Love, with these lyrics Sometimes I feel I've got to/Run away/I've got to/Get away playing over Rose as the camera angles went a tad wonky and the growing confusion and fear of taking it all in washed over Rose leading her to run away, get away. Brilliantly done, as was her scene with the Doctor when he finally got there where she discussed how "alien" the aliens were. What follows featured some fabulous acting from both Piper and Eccleston where we saw them coming from such different points of view -- going back to the Doctor's alien-ness, and it also showed how in tune they can wind up being, knowing when and where to push and when to back down.
And this brings us to the Doctor/Rose relationship which really began here, shown so brilliantly through both Eccleston and Piper's talent, through their mad chemistry and how intricately their relationship was being forged. I say often that I think there is much more Rose/Ten fiction, vids, etc. because Rose and the Doctor were more overtly a couple (just without the shagging, per the Tennant) and I still think that's the case. But I also state just as frequently that we couldn't have had Rose and Ten as they were without Rose and Nine building that foundation. The scenes (all of them) in this episode were perfect examples of that foundation being built.
In the first scene, we had the Doctor showing off for her. It's as simple as that. Was it in an overt romantic and/or sexual way? Of course not. But regardless of the motive behind it, the Doctor was showing off for her, and her teasing responses about his impressiveness had a touch of flirting to it. Through their scenes on the base, first with the steward and then with the aliens, there are quite a few moments of the Doctor just looking at Rose, positively delighting in her reaction to all that was going on around her. Still, obviously, it wasn't of a romantic/sexual bent at all, although there were subtle undertones. "She's my plus one." Rose noting the attention Jabe and the Doctor were paying to one another; Jabe assuming a sexual relationship between the two -- although, that was likely more about her making sure Rose wasn't competition, LOL!, and Rose, even after essentially giving her blessing to Jabe, throwing a tart reminder that he had to come back, conscious or not, staking her claim -- although, again, that likely had more to do with him being her designated driver. Still, the subtle hints of maybe something more were there.
And then they burst into full-fledged hints when he found her after her reaction to the aliens. Beginning with the Doctor oblivious to how bad a choice he made in (a) exposing her to so many aliens, and (b) taking her to the end of the world. We already know from the previous episode that this incarnation does not hold humans in the highest regard, so it's understandable that he wouldn't think how the destruction of her planet would devastate her, even as he knows personally of how it feels (albeit, on a much more real and personal scale). Following his bone-headedness, Rose's anger was beautifully done, built up just perfectly and made so much sense, her anger was directed not at what he'd done, but the principle of not asking her. He didn't even think to ask her about the TARDIS going in her mind and interpreting and doesn't see why it would be a problem since it was helpful. She can't understand how it couldn't even cross his mind and makes that clear. Right there, without saying so, Rose was asserting her importance as a human, refusing to consider herself a lesser species.
At that point, we have the anger free-flowing between them, both yelling, both of them tense and welling up with emotion, hers based on this crazy, impulsive decision she made, him having memories of all he's lost during her push to find out who he is. It was tense, and electric. And again, as stated above, maybe I'm wrong, maybe there was never an intention to have it come across as even having quasi-undertones, but regardless of their age difference, Eccleston and Piper have sexual chemistry and it leaps off the screen in intense moments. Of course, that bent isn't hindered by their make up bit where she's practically flirting with him with her eyes, with her body language and he ain't too far off from that either. I mean, just look at the two of them -- the tension, thick and intense in the air as they're yelling at one another, the stiffness and smoulder as they separate, and then the sideway glances, the smiles, the body language as they make up. The vibe between the two just felt more like that of a couple rather than just mates. (Download the scene for better quality, or watch it here via youtube.)
And that was even more evident in their final two scenes. Rose's sorrow as she watched bits of the Earth float by in space as the Doctor watched her from a distance showed that he realized that by bringing her here to this point in time, he had created a connection between the two of them. Perhaps, maybe, it was even intentional ... to see if she really was someone who should travel with him, be with him, this young girl. Judging from his response to her response -- the taking of her hand and leading her to where she could at least have something to hold onto after the destruction -- made it clear that she was someone worth traveling through time and space with. Clear not just to the Doctor, but also to viewers that she was more than just a young girl. The end of the Earth and she mourned its passing and that no one witnessed it; she mourned its history and its legacy.
Ah, and then the immediate follow-up, the Doctor opening up to Rose about who he is, the destruction of his planet, the Time War. By telling Rose about this just as she was dealing with the loss of her own (albeit in five billion years), the Doctor took a big step in forging a connection between the two of them. And that bond already at work was apparent because before she stopped to think about it, she offered herself up as his continued traveling companion. It was only when he questioned whether she wanted to despite the danger that she thought about it and came up with the safe, sensible answer ("I don't know"). Still, all it took was a touch of the familiar (the smell of chips) to re-assert her desire to simply be with him and push aside the sensible. And again, the body language, the vibe between them was one with tones of a romantic nature. Intended or not, the chemistry between the two actors set the path for the love story that developed between the Doctor and Rose.
On the other hand, maybe it was indeed intended all along in Russell T Davies' mind. After all, in that final scene Rose refers to the two getting chips as a "date." Which is significant in the context of my wondering by the fact that when Rose and Ten discuss this event in "New Earth," she saucily calls it "their first date." Which says to me that either Davies' did intend for that path to truly start in this episode, or he saw it begin here unintentionally due to the chemistry between Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. (Fear not, Tennant/Piper fans, I'll be talking about their chemistry just as much in their episodes, LOL!)
(Download the scene for better quality, or watch it here via youtube.)
Okay, moving on from Doctor and Rose, I wanted to comment on the three guest stars that I truly enjoyed. Yasmin Bannerman as Jabe gave a beautiful performance, even under all of her tree make-up. I liked her, even as she was flirting with the Doctor -- who belongs to Rose, damnit, LOL!, and I was affected when she died, and how she died. I also really liked Beccky Armory's Raffalo. Just one scene, but the actress did a lovely job, and RTD was brilliant in showing how life was like for the "lesser" species with her comments about permission to speak, creating an interesting, nice character in a few minutes. Finally, Zoë Wanamaker as Cassandra's voice -- a part she played just as delightfully in "New Earth" -- was just wonderful. Even with some of the lame dialogue -- which I rather think was written as such on purpose as part of Cassandra's character -- she just shone. Voicing this vain, silly, stupid, greedy character stretched all out, she made her three-dimensional.
Phew, okay, finally some random comments and then I'm done with another ridiculously massive post the likes of which that I never, ever think will be this bloody long when I sit down to write!
- Hmm, so wardrobe saved on money for these first two episodes. Not only did the Doctor wear the same outfit as the episode before, but so did Rose!
- I think that Murray Gold does a lovely job with the music, but I actually thought that the use of sung music (Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" and Britney Spears' "Toxic") were actually used quite, quite well, really appropriately amping up the scenes. It makes me wish that the show used this type of music a bit more because I feel it would be used correctly. Ah well.
- Hmm, first episode that questions whether the Doctor and Rose are a couple, and it's the first of many. I wonder if the whole romantic angle was intentional, was that Rusty's way of subtly getting that thought stuck in viewers' minds. Were there any quotes and/or thoughts out there on this from when this originally aired?
- Loved the line and Billie's delivery of "I'm talking to a twig." Hah! Makes me laugh out loud every time.
- Sigh, like Clive in the last episode, yet again, a likable, one-scene character dies. Damnit, RTD! I liked Raffalo.
- I know I mentioned it above, but man, that was a great fight scene between the Doctor and Rose. It also made me think ... I don't think we ever saw Rose and Ten fight like that. (Or really fight much at all. I guess they got it all out early on.)
- What a difference a few episodes make ... in episode five the Doctor takes a minute to decide whether he wants to save the Earth if it means losing Rose, and in episode six, Rose is referred to as the "woman he loves" and he's devastated by the decision he has to make to sacrifice her. Here when he finds out that Rose is the one locked in the room with the sun filter going off, instead of being worried, he's annoyed that he has to bail her out. And when he saves her ... no hug!!!!! Heck, not even hand porn!
- Interesting, Rose wanting the Doctor to help Cassandra, and him coldly, simply not wanting to and therefore not doing so. Looking ahead to "Dalek," and even further ahead to the Racnoss in "The Runaway Bride," it really shows how he reacts when he's devastated by loss. He wants others to suffer, and so allows suffering to be inflicted upon those who deserve it, either through his own actions or others.
- Finally, a small thing, but like the excellence of the music/camera angles of the aliens scene with Rose slightly freaking, I loved how the introduction of the Earth still spinning and filled with life was done in the final scene. Rose steps out, slight wonder on her face and through the strain of the music the first thing we hear is a baby crying. Nice.
- Finally, handporn! time: Only one hand-hold in "The End of the World," but it's a great one. Filled with compassion and comfort.
Okay, if you're read through all of my rambling, as a treat, head on over to this "The End of the World" picspam by fid_gin which captures many of the moments I talked about above. And it's pretty dang fantastic picspam just on its own. So go.