Doctor Who: The End of the World   Rewatch 
June 12, 2014 8:13 AM - Season 1, Episode 2 - Subscribe

The Doctor takes Rose on her first trip in the TARDIS to the year 5,000,000,000, where wealthy alien delegates have gathered on observation space station Platform One to watch the Sun expand and destroy the Earth.

Spoilers:
First appearances: The Face of Boe. Lady Cassandra.
First mention: "Bad Wolf," which will become arc words for the first series and pop up every once in a while in subsequent series' episodes.
Notes: First mentions by The Doctor of the destruction of Gallifrey and his being the last of the Time Lords. At the time of broadcast, The End of the World featured the most extensive use of CGI yet seen on Doctor Who.
posted by zarq (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Right off the bat we go from a modern-day story about man-eating trash cans to a far-future setting that's entirely off-planet and where the Earth is burned to ash. For all that RTD got deserved flak for coming back to 2000s Britain for the “big” stories over and over, he made sure the new series kicked off by running the Who gamut from goofy to high-concept.

That said, The End Of The World is one of those stories I like the idea of way more than I like actually sitting down and watching it. Cassandra is not exactly a joy to see on screen and I have never quite been able to get past the existence of sexy tree ladies.

(On the bright side – it's the first appearance of Captain Jack Harkness! Y'know, maybe.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:56 AM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


This episode always struck me as quite Douglas Adamsy. Partly there are inflections of the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, partly the observation ship looks slightly how I imagined the Starship Titanic would look. Also, harnessing untold energies and crossing eons to take a girl to a party is a bit of a Zaphod Beeblebrox thing to do.
posted by figurant at 9:50 AM on June 12, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think this episode isn't so hot on rewatch, as theres not a great deal to it, but I do enjoy the sheer spectacle of the Earth being destroyed (also, Cassandra being the last pure human, but apparently humans are hanging about during the end of time....)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 10:36 AM on June 12, 2014


"Breath from my lungs!"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:31 AM on June 12, 2014


It may not be the biggest deal in the world, but I personally think it's at least sort of noteworthy that this episode marks the first appearance of something that will become a technological staple of NuWho: the sonic screwdriver-modified mobile phone that can dial across time and space.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:32 AM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cassandra being the last pure human, but apparently humans are hanging about during the end of time

I recall the Doctor saying something hand-wavey in "Utopia" about how humans keep evolving into something new and then eventually reverting to the same old two arms, two legs, hairless ape model.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:03 PM on June 12, 2014


phone that can dial across time and space

What I liked about it's use here is the way that Rose experiences her first real, visceral sense that the world she knew is gone immediately after speaking to her (dead in the "present") mother on the phone that can reach into the past. It's an interesting question to me, what this means: is it that the loss of death still retains some sting, even when you can access times in which the dead person is "still" alive, or is that loss in question isn't the loss of her mother? It may be the pangs of saying goodbye to "normal".

I guess that's probably obvious in the context of this episode, but I thought it was interesting how the sequence of events makes it a little clearer. And I like how it gives rise in its wake to a bit of delayed suspicion/paranoia about the Doctor and his motivations.
posted by Ipsifendus at 12:09 PM on June 12, 2014 [5 favorites]


DirtyOldTown: " I personally think it's at least sort of noteworthy that this episode marks the first appearance of something that will become a technological staple of NuWho: the sonic screwdriver-modified mobile phone that can dial across time and space."

Also, it's the first introduction of the psychic paper in the new show, which would be used in dozens of episodes by the ninth, tenth and eleventh doctors. Psychic paper had been used only sparingly in Classic Who.
posted by zarq at 12:11 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I first watched this, I was conflicted about the obvious Restaurant at the End of the Universe elements of it, but I eventually came to the conclusion that it was an intentional hat tip rather than a whole-sale rip off, so I was more okay with it when I rewatched it.

I really liked the Tree Lady, and in particular the clippings of her grandfather she hands out. It just seemed sort of neat, and like an interesting way to propagate your species.

And the jukebox playing Tainted Love was kind of super obvious but it still made me snicker. I was a sucker for every time Star Trek characters ever mentioned some 20th century totally common thing in historical context, too. I liked that they chose a song that wasn't current -- choosing something current would have dated the show quickly, while choosing something a little older suggested that the things we currently think of as charmingly retro may one day become truly antique and special.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:33 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's also worth noting that the episode uses Rose to play off of class issues quite a bit. It's not just that Rose's humanity is tied to her status as a working-class woman from a council estate while Cassandra's humanity is the justification for her aristocratic pretensions, but also the way that the fate of the Earth and Cassandra's plan are about the priority given to money by the wealthy.

Earth is being destroyed because the money for its upkeep has run out, and the party is for the superrich of the cosmos who can afford tickets. This comes up again and again in the RTD seasons, with characters like Henry Stratton, the Editor and his master, John Lumic, and Doctor Lazarus among others used to similar effect. And it really pays off next season when Rose visits Alternate!Jackie and is treated like dirt by her mother's counterpart due to the class difference.
posted by kewb at 1:31 PM on June 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really liked the Tree Lady

Jabe

.
posted by homunculus at 1:35 PM on June 12, 2014


I agree that this episode isn't the best on rewatch, but it did do something I really loved both on first and subsequent watches: I think it really brought home the reality of time travel and the shift in perspective it necessarily brings. It was something of an anvilicious move both on the part of the Doctor, in-universe, and on the part of the writers to take Rose to the destruction of Earth on her first trip out, but damned if it didn't work. This is the Doctor testing Rose: can you handle the vastness of time? Can you handle your inescapable smallness in the face of that vastness? Can you handle my pain?

Rose's answer of course is yes, and we see the reason she makes a great companion. She doesn't respond with sorrow or hopelessness. She responds instead with an immense appreciation for her Earth and her time, one that's predicated both on the acceptance that it will not last (the way she looks kind of wrecked as she steps out into a bustling, gloriously living Earth), and the certainty that they should enjoy it while they can, by getting some chips, because there's only five billion years before the shops close.
posted by yasaman at 6:04 PM on June 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Cassandra being the last pure human, but apparently humans are hanging about during the end of time

The key word is 'pure'; Cassandra is the last human by her own definition only.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:10 PM on June 12, 2014


Jabe is one of my favorite one-shot characters, both in characterization and high concept. It'd be great to see another Tree of Cheem character sometime.
posted by bettafish at 7:52 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


The cell phone thing has always bugged me in the back of my mind, though, because it brings up all sort of issues about how time passes for the Companions.

That is, if Rose has been on the TARDIS for two weeks and calls her mom, does it ring Jackie two weeks after Rose left? The show seems to imply that it does. Similarly, the Doctor and/or the TARDIS seem to keep some sort of continuity when they visit the Companions' time streams: if they've been gone about a month, they mostly pop back in a month after they left.

Which is fine...that's probably the way that's least confusing for viewers. I guess it just bugs me because it feels really, I don't know, conventional for a show about time-traveling. It hardly ruins my enjoyment of the show, but it always made me half-frown for a moment.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:39 AM on June 13, 2014


I think the show does have an overall sense that there is a "normal" way in which time passes and that time travel exists outside of that normalcy, but time travelers don't really. Companions are expected to continue to age in the same way they always did -- the Doctor talks about how Rose can stay with him for the rest or her life, but it won't be the rest of his life -- and I'd assume the timekeeping functions on a piece of electronic equipment would continue to tick over in linear time.

So I just sort of assume that the phone has an internal clock that knows what time it is back on Earth because the electronics in it have been ticking away at whatever rate they tick away at and keeping track of the time all the while.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:55 AM on June 13, 2014


Yeah, I agree that this is how the show handles it, especially in the RTD era. I'm just saying it bugs me a little bit, that's all.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2014


I think it kind of has to work that way, or the show would have to have a reason -- like 'no going back on your own time stream' is a reason -- to avoid calling people up 10 minutes before some bad thing happened to them and telling them to run away. And then it would be like every horror movie made in the last 15 years -- at some point in every episode, someone would have to say "No signal"
posted by jacquilynne at 10:24 AM on June 13, 2014


the Doctor and/or the TARDIS seem to keep some sort of continuity when they visit the Companions' time streams: if they've been gone about a month, they mostly pop back in a month after they left.

They play with this expectation considerably during the Amy/Rory adventures. Recall that everything that happens between adult Amy leaving with the Doctor and the wedding--virtually the entire season--happens overnight, where Amy and Rory's time is concerned. Similar things happen repeatedly (including a quick jaunt mid-dinner party, with Rory's dad calling them out because their clothes have changed).

Most notable of all, there is an implication during the last Angels storyline that Amy and Rory have actually spent so much time travelling with the Doctor that they are aging out of proportion with how time is passing in their own era.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the dinner party interlude is implied to be something like three episodes' worth of stuff if you look at the context? One of many reasons I liked that half-season a lot.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:49 AM on June 13, 2014


With New Who's increased focus on companion "origin stories" and their family lives, it makes sense that the contemporary companions would stay roughly in sync with their original presents. When the Doctor invites them on board, he promises them (and vicariously the viewers) the chance to live out their escapist fantasies – however poorly that turns out in the end, as it has for most of the companions, it's not a very good fantasy if it involves leaving your life and your loved ones behind forever.

But they're only in sync relatively speaking to the vastness of the universe. The Doctor makes a special effort to keep Rose and Jackie on the same timeline after he screws up two episodes from now and brings Rose forward a year, leaving Jackie to think she's dead. Mickey spent a while in another universe where time passes differently than ours, so he's technically in sync with where he should have been but not quite. Martha packs months of adventure into a few days, and that's before the Year that Never Was happens. Donna, like Rose, insists on coming home for visits regularly, so she might not be entirely in sync, but it's close enough. Clara is even more of a stickler – she's the only one who seems to be managing her onboard life in exact sync with her real life, in contrast to Amy and Rory, who get so immersed in "Doctor life" that they live years more on board the TARDIS than in "real life" before they get zapped back to 1938.

Of the contemporary companions who've completed their TARDIS travels, so far only Donna is the only one who hasn't experienced some sort of timeline blip (though arguably that's exactly what happened from her internal perspective, sob), and three ended up forcibly relocated to other times or universes. And then there's Jack Harkness getting stranded, though that has less immediate impact because he's already out of time when the Doctor and Rose meet him.
posted by bettafish at 12:02 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Going back to Classic Who, when I watched Curse of Peladon, I very much got the vibe that that story had helped inspire this one. Obviously some Douglas Adams stuff, too. It's a great collection of aliens that return or don't, and a real showpiece for the new budget.

Also, the psychic paper was never used in the classic show. It's a new invention. I guess some of the old doctors have used it in books and audios since then, but it's 100% Russell T Davies.
posted by rikschell at 12:34 PM on June 13, 2014


rikschell: " Also, the psychic paper was never used in the classic show. It's a new invention. I guess some of the old doctors have used it in books and audios since then, but it's 100% Russell T Davies."

Oops! Looks like you're right. More on it here.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on June 13, 2014


It's also worth noting that the episode uses Rose to play off of class issues quite a bit.

Is there a scene in this episode where Rose has a nice chat with some kind of servant girl, which causes her to think a lot of Big Thoughts about whether the future is such a nice place? Or is that another "traveling very far into the future/maybe a space station" episode?

Either way, the scene I'm thinking of -- and Rose's habit of doing this from time to time -- is the major thing that drew me to her as a character. She's so wonderfully down to earth, but in this curious and open way that makes her really fun to travel in space and time with.

Like who thinks to chat with all the various servants? Most of us, when presented with the prospect of time travel, would probably want to hobnob with major historical figures, or at least people who were relatively elite. Nobody says "I want to time travel to Victorian times and hang out with a simple Welsh servant girl!" I like the idea that, when Rose arrives in a bizarre new milieu, her first step is to find somebody she can relate to.

I bet Rose and Donna would have so much fun together. OMG FEMSLASH IS HAPPENING

Also I cannot fucking wait till we talk about the Queen Victoria episode. Rose is so much fun to throw into the 19th century.
posted by Sara C. at 12:56 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


a real showpiece for the new budget

How so? It's like 99% CGI and makeup. I think this episode is a showpiece for the BBC's digital effects house, which is nice, but if I had to guess from a production standpoint, I'd think it was one of the cheaper episodes of NuWho.
posted by Sara C. at 12:59 PM on June 13, 2014


Is there a scene in this episode where Rose has a nice chat with some kind of servant girl, which causes her to think a lot of Big Thoughts about whether the future is such a nice place? Or is that another "traveling very far into the future/maybe a space station" episode?"

That was this episode! I agree, that's a great thing about Rose – wherever she goes, she immediately bonds with the underdog. Cf the Ood in The Impossible Planet.
posted by bettafish at 1:33 PM on June 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


I really enjoyed this episode, actually; I'm not sure it was the best, but it was fun, and well-done, and rewatchable. (Blink, while excellent, doesn't do so well on rewatch.) I thought it let Rose really come into her own (I know all the problems with her but I love her as a character anyhow).

Are we going to do Torchwood within the Who rewatch?
posted by jeather at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2014


If we're doing Torchwood, we should also do Sarah Jane Adventures.
posted by bettafish at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


TORCHWOOD! I'm SO on it.
posted by zarq at 2:57 PM on June 13, 2014


Torchwood rewatch thread has been submitted and approved for FanFare posts. I've submitted episode one. Will link it here when it goes live. I've also submitted the Sarah Jane Adventures for approval. That will allow us to create posts about it.
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Okay. Have submitted rewatch threads for the first episodes of both Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures to FanFare.
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2014


No that is screwing up continuity argh. I figured we'd watch Torchwood after appropriate Who seasons. (I don't think SJ matters as much for timing.)

Yes, I might overthink things.
posted by jeather at 5:00 PM on June 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also yay because I love Torchwood.
posted by jeather at 5:01 PM on June 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


%n: "No that is screwing up continuity argh. I figured we'd watch Torchwood after appropriate Who seasons. (I don't think SJ matters as much for timing.)

Yes, I might overthink things.
"

I had the same feeling, but at the rate we're going through episodes it almost doesn't matter – especially if we pace the spin-off episode posts slower than the main show.
posted by bettafish at 5:12 PM on June 13, 2014


If it were up to me -- and bear in mind that I will totally participate in all the threads no matter how they are ordered -- I'd do something like this viewing order.
posted by jeather at 5:16 PM on June 13, 2014


Yeah, I was expecting to get to Torchwood and SJA in due time, not tonight. Whatever works though.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:12 PM on June 13, 2014


As someone who came to The Doctor during the Tom Baker era, this seemed like another classic Doctor Who story. If there was anything I would complain about it's that the scene with the giant fans went on a little too long.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:00 AM on June 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I felt like it was a dick move to bring Rose to watch the destruction of her own planet on her first go in the TARDIS. But I think this doctor is a sad, angry pessimist who is still actively grieving for his planet, and needs a companion to share that burden. Yet even in this early ep, we see Rose being unflappably hopeful and wanting to help other people. She even tells the Doctor "help her" while Cassandra is drying out, to which the doctor sneers at her and says "Everything has its time and everything dies" without looking away from Cassandra.

I'm excited about this rewatch!
posted by sarahnade at 1:00 PM on June 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sara C., according to Wikipedia, this episode was designed to be expensive. CGI doesn't come cheap.

And yeah, I'd forgotten that this doctor has a bit of a mean streak to him. In fact, I think you could make a very cogent case that the Ninth Doctor is the Sixth Doctor done right. Arrogant, self confident, a bit of a bully, but charming and mad in a black leather coat. With a dark past, but growing to be a bit more human as he goes on.

Tennant quickly overshadowed Eccleston, but I don't think his doctor would have had the impact without the dangerous alien of season 1. I think it's a shame Eccleston's written off Doctor Who; he brought something really new to the role while keeping the character familiar.

I'm looking forward to Capaldi's take on things. I don't think we need another "dark" doctor, though a lot of fans seem to want that. But less whimsical magical boyfriend would be lovely.
posted by rikschell at 6:22 PM on June 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ecclestone is far closer to the image that Colin Baker had of his character.

Baker actually wanted to dress in black (although I believe it was black velvet that he had in mind)

Ah.. actually, here is the quote:

"I was asked what I would like to wear for my Doctor, and I set about describing what turned out to be exactly pretty much what Christopher Eccleston got years later. I said a long black coat, dressed all in black I think. Someone who is going around causing havoc everywhere in the name of what he sees to be good is not likely to want to draw attention to himself. So, something that enables him to slip in and out unobserved, dark colours, slimming as well. You wouldn't know it now (points at his light colour clothes) but I favour dark colours myself. Hum, so, there was a kind of brief pause, and then he said "No, I think you should be tasteless." I said (looking disappointed) "Oh! Allright." "
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:48 AM on June 16, 2014


"Whimsical magical boyfriend" is pretty much the perfect descriptor of the Matt Smith eps and probably why I don't like him very much.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 10:52 AM on July 16, 2014


I'm really just catching up on the later seasons of Who, but I feel like Matt Smith's manic pixie dream doctor is getting a lot less manic and pixie as his run goes along. I just recently watched Amy and Rory's last episode, and the run up to that with River talking about how he doesn't like goodbyes and they shouldn't upset him creates a sense that a lot of the mania is him denying the darker realities of his existence even to himself. I'm liking him a lot more as I get further into his episodes.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:28 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


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