I don’t know about you, but I thought my reaction to the back half of The End of Time was somewhat curious. Upon initial viewing my emotions while moved certainly, were somewhat reserved. Then I watched Confidential, and the tears started to flow, not so much because of the material presented there, although there were moving moments there as well, but more from whatever background processing I had been doing regarding this regeneration story. I’ve watched the episode two times since, and cried more each time. Whereas I thought the valedictory lap taken in the final twenty minutes was initially wildly indulgent, repeated viewing of this (still indulgent) series of codas leaves me emotionally spent, and I suspect there’s still more that can be wrung out of me should I try again. All of the investment of time and emotion I as a fan have put into the series was being in some way repaid.
Despite the obvious flaws in this (paper thin) story, that’s great television.
Tennant was absolutely superb throughout. Of course, the scenes with Wilf shone again, but there were other moments too that sang, such as his conversation with Simm near the beginning of the episode. There was also the requisite RTD dollop of spectacle (Wilf as Skywalker, the Doctor as skydiver) that ultimately went nowhere in hindsight. But mostly this was Tennant’s hour (or rather 73 minutes) to shine, and he was riveting. For a Doctor which might superficially be more known for his exuberance, it’s his melancholy which resonates more.
Did Davies subconsciously know he was channeling previous regeneration stories? I strongly suspect he was… as they were most certainly there. Pertwee dying from radiation and traveling for a while before finally succumbing. Tennant acting almost as the Logopolis Watcher looking out for Mickey and Martha. And of course–most strongly since they’re linked both in story and heritage, Tennant offering himself to save just one other soul, just as Davison did in The Caves of Androzani. Well done sir.
Even capping the episode was emotional. Anyone looking for restraint this time around will be sadly disappointed. Images and caps for The End of Time Part Two are now online. More thoughts will follow.