TARDIS Thoughts: NaBloPoMo: Series 1, Episode 2, "The End of the World"

2.02.2013

NaBloPoMo: Series 1, Episode 2, "The End of the World"

WARNING: THIS ANALYSIS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT WATCHED DOCTOR WHO OR AT THE VERY LEAST HAVE NOT SEEN THIS EPISODE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. 

Hey there Whovians! It's February 2nd, and as far as I know, spring is not coming late. But besides being Groundhog Day and Candlemas, it's February 2nd, and that means time for Day 2 of my NaBloPoMo challenge. Today I'm covering Series 1, Episode 2, "The End of the World."

This was the first time I used my Netflix app on my iTouch to watch something. I found myself with extra time to kill before going to work, so I camped out in Starbucks for an hour and watched the episode. Watching any TV show on a mobile device is in many ways not the same as watching it on your TV. In good and bad ways. But thankfully, one good thing is that I was able to set closed captions to appear, because as I've said before, I can't understand what people are saying half the time on this show because of the accents, no matter what I set the volume to. And thanks to watching lots of subtitled anime, I can easily read the screen and watch the action at the same time.

So...the title of this episode kind of says it all. It takes place 5 billion years in the future, at the time the sun expands and basically incinerates the Earth. We all know from scientists telling us so that this sort of thing will indeed happen, astronomically speaking. But, as shown here, it will take billions of years before it does, at which point we'll probably not be living on Earth anyway, either because of space exploration or pure extinction.

It's kind of weird that the first place the Doctor takes his new Companion Rose is to what is basically the end of her home planet. In the episode, it comes across as him more or less trying to impress her with what he can do (and also because he thinks the 22nd Century is boring and the year 12,005 not impressive enough). But I have heard some Whovians refer to it as a sort of test - that he's testing her to see if she's Companion material. It's highly possible; we see this sort of thing later on with Amy Pond (with Starship UK) and with Clara (in "The Snowmen" both Vastra and the Doctor put Clara to the test). You can also sort of view it as a first date, especially considering how he refers to her as his "plus one" when confronted about whether he has an invitation, and how at another point a character thinks Rose is the Doctor's wife or partner.

So, basically, the episode takes place on a spaceship/observation deck called Platform One, where rich aliens gather to watch "artistic events," which in this case is the death of the Earth. And it is essentially a party, with everyone being introduced as they come in, and people mingling and giving gifts of peace to one another, complete with refreshments. There are even stewards and private suites, as if this were a cruise ship. And, as the Doctor tells Rose, people do this for fun. It actually gives a sort of macabre feeling to the whole affair. It's kind of like The Hunger Games actually - where the wealthy people of the Capitol gather basically FOR FUN in the huge stadium to watch 24 young people fight to the death against each other with increasingly rising stakes like the Cornucopia, electrified water, tracker jackers, and creepy monkeys.

This episode has an almost mystery feel about it, like Clue or Murder on the Orient Express, with a bunch of people gathered in one place, something going wrong, and the culprit by necessity having to be one of the guests, due to there being no possibility of outside influences bringing about the incident in question. At the same time, it has elements of adventure, like the Doctor having to dodge the spinning air conditioning turbines to get to a switch that has to be activated to save everyone, all while the temperature is rising rapidly. We also see conflict between the Doctor and Rose as she gets angry at him for not telling her about himself, and some inner conflict on the Doctor's part as he's forced to face the past he's clearly avoiding. Rose also goes through some inner conflict as she realizes she basically hitched a lift with a guy she doesn't even know, without even thinking about it -- while meanwhile she's having to deal with the impending death of her world, not to mention getting captured by the monk-like Adherents of the Repeated Meme and being trapped in a room as the sunfilter is malfunctioning.

The steward was an interesting character. There's one scene where he is talking to his unseen boss and clearly panicked about a tremor that just happened onboard, then he gets on the intercom and calmly tells everyone not to worry, they're just experiencing turbulence, before promptly returning to his panic as soon as the intercom's off. This two-faced behavior is an interesting idea, but so true to how we sometimes act in times of trouble - we try to appear all calm, when we're really panicking.

The blue-skinned plumber Rose meets, Raffalo, reminds me a lot of Jenny, Vastra's companion/wife. She has the same innocent, Cockney maid thing going for her. She also is a bit like Martha in The Secret Garden - really polite but talkative and pleasant. She's played by Beccy Armory, a relatively unknown actress who is primarily known for this role.

Another major character of this episode is Jabe, a woman from a race of humanoid tree people, who's played by Yasmin Bannerman. Bannerman's had a few TV roles but that's all. Nor was this her last involvement with Doctor Who; she also appeared in the Doctor Who audio dramas The Bride of Peladon and The Fourth Wall, as well as guest-starring in an episode of the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood. I kinda liked Jabe actually; she worked well with the Doctor, and I was kinda sad that she doesn't survive in the end.

And then there's Cassandra, the last "pure" human on Earth. If one can call her human - as Rose points out, she's just a face and skin, stretched out on a rack with some sort of cyllinder below filled with liquid (which probably holds her brain). And because of her state, she must be followed round-the-clock by two servants who periodically moisturize her with hoses. If anything could scare women away from plastic surgery, it would be this lady. She is a clear sign of what happens when plastic surgery goes too far; after all, she's had 708 surgeries and is scheduled for another within the next week. And, lo and behold, it turns out she's the bad guy in all this, releasing mechanical spiders into the station to basically take over its systems, disabling the shields and the sunfilters, with the intent of killing everyone on board so she can make money off the shares she holds in their rivals' companies (either that or set up a hostage situation; she admits to both plans). She does, however, have the Adherents of the Repeated Meme do the dirty work of getting the spiders on board and distributed to the guests - in the form of mysterious iron balls - in hopes that they will take them behind the code walls guarding their suites on the station, thereby allowing the spiders to access every part of the station's systems. Which in fact they do. She also uses the Adherents so that if something goes wrong she can deflect the blame off of herself (which she does).

One thing I personally thought of with Cassandra is that she sounds an awful lot like Dame Judi Dench, especially as she was playing M in James Bond. Maybe I just thought that because I'm a pretty big Bond fan. (She's actually played/voiced by Zoƫ Wanamaker, an American-born British actress who's done a fair amount of TV and movie work, such as Madam Hooch in Harry Potter and Ariadne Oliver in Agatha Christie's Poirot, as well as doing stage work with the Royal Shakespeare Company).

Thankfully, the Doctor is able to reach the switch to save the day, though it doesn't end without some casualties due to the sun's radiation getting into the station due to Cassandra's spiders shutting off the gravity machines keeping the sun back. By this time, Cassandra has teleported herself to safety, but the Doctor manages to teleport her back, at which point she becomes exposed to the increased temperature in the room and starts to dry out (since there's no one there to moisturize her). She then basically explodes.

Some interesting moments in this episode: Cassandra brings as a gift something she calls an "iPod." But it is clearly a jukebox. One that plays vinyl records and everything. At first it plays Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" (a song that strangely even I recognized) and later Britney Spears's "Toxic," which I am vaguely familiar with. The Doctor mentions the TARDIS translation field to explain why Rose heard the aliens speaking English, to which Rose protests about his machine getting in her head. Frankly, I think I wouldn't much like that either, though it would definitely help with communication. Also, this episode features the first mention of the "Bad Wolf" theme that pervades Series 1. And - something I probably noticed due to having the contextual knowledge of later seasons - it's worth noting that one of the guests on Platform One is the FACE OF BOE. Yeah, the same Face of Boe that shows up later in Series 3. Not sure why he gets introduced this early but hey. Oh, and apparently the TARDIS has some sort of hand crank thing the Doctor needs to use in order to travel through time? Never knew that.

Overall, I found this episode an engaging watch. It was interesting to see the Doctor actually show emotions, which he didn't really do in "Rose." He also finally begins to open up to Rose by telling her a bit about his past at the end of the episode. This Ninth Doctor might not be so bad after all.

***

NaBloPoMo Special: 
The Love of the Doctor and Rose Tyler 
Part Two: The First Date (Or Test?)

Since the theme of NaBloPoMo this month is "Love and Sex" (probably because of Valentine's Day), I feel compelled to write something about love in my posts. Hence, since I am exploring Series 1 and 2 in this challenge, I am going to write a little special essay throughout the month about the growing love between the Doctor and Rose. Please note I am in no way an expert on relationships.

In this episode, we see the Doctor and Rose on what is essentially their first date (I think they even refer to it as such later in the show). They're still kind of wary of each other at this point. Rose even comes to the realization in this episode that the Doctor is a complete stranger to her, and that she "hitched a lift" with him without really thinking. The two also have conflict in this episode since the Doctor still refuses to tell her anything about himself. She also doesn't much like the idea of his TARDIS getting in her head without her permission (she says this in reference to the Doctor explaining the TARDIS's translation field, which allowed her to hear the aliens speaking English; part of me wonders whether this isn't just a gimmick to save the writers from having to create alien languages). But overall, he's pretty genial to her in this episode, and he does try to save her from the room she's locked in by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme, though he seems less concerned about saving her than about saving the station itself.

It is shown at the beginning of the episode that the Doctor is trying to impress Rose. He asks her when in time she wants to travel to, and she tells him a hundred years in the future. He adjusts some levers, cranks his little hand crank thing, and in no time at all, he announces that they are now in the 22nd Century, though he admits it's kinda boring. He then tries to impress her further by going to the year 12,005 (10,000 years in the future), which he adds is the time of the New Roman Empire. (My first thought at this was that Amy Pond, who's fascinated with Roman Britain, would probably love to go to the New Roman Empire). He then can plainly see that she's not that impressed. So he decides to go all-out, and says he knows just where to go - and that's how they end up on Platform One in the year 5 billion (or, more technically, 5.5/Apple/26).

The Doctor does seem to be warming to Rose though. He actually doesn't shoot down her comment about her not liking that the TARDIS is getting in her head, but instead says he hadn't thought of it like that, actually being willing to acknowledge that's he's rather inconsiderate of others. He even mods her cell phone so she can call her mom, who's back at home in the present day, as a way of cheering her up, though this only makes Rose more sad as she realizes that, at the point in history she's at, her mom would be dead.

The real moment for these two's relationship, though, comes at the end of the episode. Rose looks at the now-destroyed Earth, and sadly points out that everyone was so busy saving themselves no one saw the Earth actually explode. The Doctor then tells her to come with him, and they reappear in modern-day London, in the midst of a crowd who apparently can't see them. He points out that all that we see will be gone one day. He then breaks down, and admits to Rose some of his past:

DOCTOR:...My planet's gone. It's dead. It burned like the Earth. It's just rocks and dust before it's time.
ROSE: What happened?
DOCTOR: There was a war and we lost.
ROSE: A war with who? What about your people?
DOCTOR: I'm a Time Lord. I'm the last of the Time Lords. They're all gone. I'm the only survivor. I'm left travelling on my own 'cos there's no one else.
 

Rose tells him there's always her, but he reminds her how dangerous traveling with him is and asks if she wants to quit. She says she's not sure what she wants. She then gets distracted by the smell of chips (what we Americans call French Fries) and asks the Doctor if they can go get some before they head off again - insisting that he pays. He doesn't have any money, though, so Rose is stuck paying herself. They then run off, with Rose adding at the end: "We've only got five billion years till the shops close."

So, things seem to be moving forward for this couple. They had their first date -- and Rose seems to have passed the Doctor's initial test of her worth as a Companion. How will it develop? We'll see!


***

See you tomorrow for Day 3 of the challenge!

Quotes from The Doctor Who Transcripts.

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