Doctor Who, S1 Ep2 – The End of the World

The Doctor & Rose look out at the Earth

Remember how I said that pilot episodes were hard? Sometimes, second episodes are even harder. They have to continue the build up from the first episode and carry that excitement and interest into the series proper. Welcome to the second episode of series 1 of Doctor Who and welcome to the end of the world.

The episode begins right where the previous episode ended. The last shot of Rose running into the TARDIS cuts into Rose entering the TARDIS, and she and The Doctor deciding on where and when to go next. Rose’s enthusiasm for the unknown is infectious, and she and The Doctor play a little game of how far can they go. They end up five billion years into the future when the sun is expanding and the world, as Rose knows it, is about to be destroyed.

Rose and The Doctor secure an invitation to the classy event of the earth’s destruction through the use of psychic paper and quick thinking. Together, on the floating space station, Rose and The Doctor are treated to a parade of various alien species, and their reaction to the gift exchange is a delight to watch, especially Rose’s interactions with the bitchy trampoline aka the last human.

The plot of this episode is a very basic whodunit in an almost Agatha Christie style. Just like Murder on the Orient Express, there is a murder with a limited number of possible perpetrators and one very clever Doctor who acts as the Hercule Poirot. Rose plays the classic emo damsel in distress, and for most of the episode she is either gloomy or locked in a room about to become literal toast. Since she is too busy almost dying, another alien steps in to act as the Watson to The Doctor’s Sherlock. (Yes, I have managed to reference two British literary staples in the space of a paragraph. This must be some kind of record.) In the end, it is as we all expected, and the last human, a stretched thin translucent sheet of lipstick and skin, is the Moriarty of the tale, just much less impressive.

With the predictable plot also comes a heavy-handed series of messages peppered throughout the narrative that mostly come in the form of racial and environmental pabulum. For example, the alien Watson is a descendant of the rain forest on Earth, and humans weren’t the only species that originated there. Then we have the last human that is obsessed with being thin and, as she tells Rose, pure. Pure in this sense has nothing to do with virginity, but everything to do with blood lines and her family not having mixed with non humans. Sprinkle the moral mess with greed in the form of the bitchy trampoline confessing to killing everyone for money, and we have the recipe of the human race: self-centered, racially bigoted, greedy bags of skin. Like, I said, heavy-handed. I’m not quite sure what the writers were trying to accomplish, but whatever it was, it was hardly subtle.

The purpose of this episode, however, certainly isn’t the paper thin plot or the thick moral quagmire it was insistent on addressing. This episode is about insight and development: insight into The Doctor and the development of Rose’s character outside of the world she knew.

The Doctor: Things We Learn

  • He is a firm believer that everything has its time. He says so about the earth and then again about the last human as she shrivels up and breaks to pieces. “Everything has its time and everything dies.”
  • He is the last of his kind, the last Time Lord. His planet was destroyed in a war that his side lost.
  • He is very emotional and bitter about this. (Hello, Malcolm Reynolds).
  • He is kind. Upon seeing Rose having her existential crisis, he fixes her phone so she can have a chat with her mum. He also likes to hold her hand.
  • He would rather forget the past. “All that counts is here and now and this is me.”
  • He likes to hit on tree ladies.

Rose: The Development

  • Rose goes from being all enthusiastic about exploring the universe until she almost gets burnt to a crisp by an exploding sun. Her enthusiasm then wanes.
  • She realizes The Doctor isn’t a hero. This happens in two exchanges: the first when she asks if he is there to stop the earth from exploding, and he responds with a resounding “no”; and the second when she demands that he help the withering epidermis, and he again refuses.
  • Rose was able to handle the reveal that The Doctor was an alien last episode, but when presented with aliens that actually look like aliens, she was less receptive. “He’s blue.”

In the end, it was a fair second episode of the series. It certainly won’t go down as a favorite, but it is one to remember just for the amount of character expansion that is offered to the viewer.

Things I Loved:

  • The misinformation about Earth’s past, i.e. the jukebox being called an Ipod, and “Toxic” by Britney Spears being called a traditional Earth ballad. (I’m okay with “Tainted Love” being given that title because it is kind of awesome.)
  • Also the legend of the ostrich — 50 foot wingspan and breathing fire!
  • Slightly psychic paper.
  • “I give you, in return, air from my lungs.” “How intimate.” “There’s more where that came from.”

Things That Were Unintentionally Hilarious:

  • The alien parade on the deck of the station. It was like watching the Mos Eisley cantina scene. All it needed was Ponda Baba and Han shooting first.
  • Rose’s spider eyes. I guess long last make-up doesn’t last for five billion years.
  • The spinning fan scene: suspenseful for The Doctor, too reminiscent of Galaxy Quest for me.