Monday, December 7, 2015

Recap: Doctor Who "The End of the World"

Happy December, NewtCave readers!

As we prepare for yet another round of pre-holiday panicking, I think it's important to give thanks that we're not doing an entirely different type of panicking. I'm sure we all remember the "Mayan Apocalypse" scare of 2012.

Luckily, in case you missed the news, the world did not come to an end, and future children have yet another reason to make fun of my generation's paranoia along with the Y2K bug. And they'll probably bring up Orson Welles' War of the Worlds hoax, meaning I'll have to remind them that I'm not that old. Dang future kids.

But today, I'm going to take a look at the Doctor Who episode that's going to seem just as silly as the movie 2012  if the Earth is still around in the year 5,000,000,000 or so.

We'll probably be on the 4,999,786,517th Doctor by that point at least. Unless they reboot the show.
The episode opens with a quick recap of the series premiere, just in case you watched something else last week and only tuned in this time because your best friend kept bugging you. Doctor Who fans are slightly notorious for forcing their friends to start watching after a really good episode. And are usually punished by having to sit through an episode like “Love and Monsters” or “Aliens of London” while continually insisting “No, no! It’s usually better than this!” And then the monsters made out of eye boogers show up.

That's not even a joke.
Anyway, after the Cliff’s Notes version of “Rose” ends, we pick up right where that episode left off: Rose abandoning her boyfriend to run off with a mysterious stranger. Once she enters, he asks her a series of simple questions for her first trip through the fourth dimension.
  1. Backwards or forwards? She picks forwards.
  2. How far? She picks 100 years, and he warps them straight there.
And so, they arrive in the 22nd Century. But they don't spend much time there, and they don't even get out of the TARDIS. They end up deciding that perhaps they could do a bit better, and I have to agree. The 22nd century wasn’t exactly the best time. There was a galactic economic recession, and Earth was a bit preoccupied with that Dalek invasion.

It wasn’t exactly the largest of Dalek invasions, but still.
So the Doctor jumps straight ahead to 10,000 years into the future.

12005 AD, the New Roman Empire. So that would mean that the time’s New Roman.

But seriously, folks....
Rose: “You think you’re so impressive.”
“I am so impressive!”

So he pulls out all the stops and takes her… well, he doesn’t tell her, he gestures to the door. Braving the unknown, she exits the TARDIS to find…

A vent!
Well, no, that's just a myth that pops up on the internet now and again. That's not a vent, it's a big window with closed shutters. Once it opens, they find the real sight to behold.

They should have sent a poet.
The Doctor follows her out and, being who he is, starts fiddling with a control panel on the wall using his sonic screwdriver. In no time, he gets a nearby window shade to rise, showing Rose the beauty of her own home.

Doctor: “You lot. You spend all your time thinking about dying.”

Well, to be fair, Doctor, humans only do it once. Twice, if you’re James Bond.

Doctor: “Like you’re gonna get killed by eggs, or beef, or global warming, or asteroids.”

Considering that the Doctor Who timeline involves the Earth getting roasted by solar flares no fewer than three times (more, if you count the Expanded Universe) in episodes like “The Ark in Space,” “The Beast Below,” and “In the Forest of the Night,” I’d say that global warming is a perfectly logical fear by this point.

Doctor: “But you never take the time to imagine the impossible… that maybe you survive.”

The Doctor and Rose are so far in the future that the dating system has changed. It’s the year 5.5/Apple/26. The Doctor checks his watch, and the yellow sun known as Sol suddenly starts growing. Yeah, remember what I said about the Earth getting roasted?

Doctor: “This is the day the sun expands. Welcome to the end of the world.”

Doctor… you are an idiot.

You found a young lady who had never been outside of the small portion of the Earth known as the UK, and you took her to a point in the future where the Earth itself is a little over twice as old as it was when she was born. To watch the only home she’s ever known burn. You took her first glimpse at forever and used it not to show her how vast and wonderful the universe is, but to show her how small and ephemeral she is.

I’m reminded of the Total Perspective Vortex from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. Long story short, because every particle of matter is in some small way affected by every other particle of matter at some point, a guy managed to analyze a piece of fairy cake and extrapolate a map of the entire universe. One brief glimpse of this map (with a microscopic dot labeled “You Are Here”) is enough to drive anybody insane. And the Doctor just pulled that on Rose, more or less.

Thankfully, he learned his lesson and simply took his next companion to meet Shakespeare.

After the opening titles, we get a shot of some shuttlecraft docking with a space station above the Earth in a sequence that took up a good chunk of the budget for the entire series. There’s also a voiceover announcing to the visitors of Platform One that while they’re there, they’re not allowed to use weapons, teleportation, or religion. Because Russell T. Davies likes to take intentionally cheap potshots at religion whenever he can; it’s one of his preferred methods of intentionally riling people up.

"Yeah, I’m such a troll. Probably the biggest troll this show will ever see."
"Challenge accepted."
Anyway, the Doctor and Rose make their way to meet the other guests. Rose asks if “guests” refers to “people.”

Doctor: “Depends what you mean by ‘people.’”
Rose: “I mean ‘people,’ what do you mean?”
Doctor: “Aliens.”

The Doctor explains that, basically, honored (rich) guests are assembling to watch the world burn.

Rose: “What for?”
Doctor: “Fun.”

"Now that's what I call a party.”
The Doctor also gets to explain a couple plot holes that people would otherwise point out.
  1. The sun’s expansion into a red giant should take a very long time. And it would have, if machines hadn’t been keeping the sun’s expansion at bay until they lost funding.
  2. Earth’s continents are in the familiar shape that they are in 2005. Because people like it that way and kept it like that on purpose. 
Doctor: “That’s a classic Earth.”

And in about half an hour, it’ll be no more. Unless the Doctor does something, right?

Doctor: “I’m not saving it.”

Makes sense. After all, the people moved out into the universe. The Earth is only kept for sentimental attachment. And without proper funding, they’re just going to let nature take its course, maybe build a hyperspace bypass.

Before Rose can let the situation sink in, a blue-faced alien demands to know exactly what they’re doing here. In response, the Doctor whips out some blank credentials and claims that they’re an invitation. When the blue man leaves, the Doctor explains this bit of New-Who tech to Rose and the audience. Psychic paper, which shows people whatever the Doctor wants them to see.

Personally, I like this addition to the Doctor’s arsenal. It makes it easier for him to get into places like… well, this. It would have probably taken five or six minutes of Tom Baker-ing to convince the blue guy that they were supposed to be here without it.

Baker intensifies.
Even the Doctor notes this to Rose.

Doctor: “Saves a lot of time.”

But Rose is caught up on something else.

Rose: “He’s blue."

Da ba dee, da ba di.

Some tinier staff members (the distinction between the tiny employees and the blue employees really isn't important, so I'll simply refer to them all under the blanket term "Bloompa-Loompas") get into position as the other guests are brought onboard.

Blue Guy: “Representing the Forest of Cheem, we have… trees.”

This goes out to all my dendrophile readers. You're welcome.
Blue Guy: “…we have the Moxx of Balhoon.”

I feel like I should be censoring his head.
Blue Guy: “…we have the Adherents of the Repeated Meme.”

Sounds like the internet gained sentience.
As the other aliens enter, the Doctor has a bit of a problem with the trees of Cheem. Apparently, they were all supposed to bring gifts for each other, as evidenced by Jabe of the forest of Cheem’s offering to the Doctor.

Jabe: “I bring you a cutting of my grandfather.”

“He was an odd fellow. He liked to tell people that his name was Groot.”
Scrambling to come up with a return, he gives her “air from [his] lungs” and blows in her face.

Jabe: “How intimate.”
Doctor: “There’s more where that came from.”

Yeah, the Doctor usually is a good source of hot air. After a big giant head in a jar called “the Face of Boe” enters, the Moxx of Balhoon gives Rose a loogie to the face, followed by the Adherents of the Repeated meme offering up a silver sphere. Finally, the most special guest arrives: Lady Cassandra, the Last Human (ZoĆ« Wanamaker).

Wow, the term “face lift” takes on a whole new meaning in the future.
Her servants moisturize her frame as she give a little speech about her parents, and being the last human and all.

Yeah, no. That title belongs to Dave "Cinzano Bianco" Lister.
She also has a bunch of gifts for everyone, like the last ostrich egg, and a jukebox… which she refers to as an iPod. With it, she treats the guests to some classical music by one of Earth’s greatest composers. Specifically, Soft Cell’s cover of “Tainted Love.” As the music sings about running away and getting away, Rose suddenly feels the same way, overwhelmed by the culture shock. Before the Doctor can follow her, though, Jabe comes over to flash a device at him. At the same time, one of the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hands a metal ball to the Steward.

"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this."
Jabe tells her future-device to identify the Doctor’s species, and gets back an impossible answer that we don't see. All the while, a spider drone emerges from one of the metal balls the Adherents were passing out. Rose starts having a personal blue screen of death while staring out the window at the expanding sun, but ends up starting up a conversation with a blue humanoid worker, who she was kind enough to give permission to talk. Because I guess the bloompa-loompas aren't allowed to talk otherwise.

Man, isn’t that always the way? Always keeping the blue people down.
Exploring strange, new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations... and still oppressing people with different-colored skin. Although actually, the implication seems to be that Satellite Five is just Disneyland-level strict with employee regulations.

The worker is named Raffalo, and she’s tinkering with the plumbing to get the Face of Boe some hot water. The conversation quickly gets difficult as Raffalo explains where she’s from in terms that make no sense to a 21st Century Earthgirl. Rose deflects the question of where she’s from, and suddenly realizes what the Hell she’s done by running away with a nameless stranger to the end of the Earth. Despite this, they part amicably as Rose runs off yet again, so Raffalo gets back to work. She finds a weird robo-spider in a vent and crawls in after it, meeting her inevitable end at the hands of a robo-spider swarm. Because of course the blue chick dies first.

Speaking blue people, the Steward from earlier is in his office, announcing that the owner of the strange, blue box should report to him immediately. Meanwhile, Rose talks to the twig Jabe gave her as her robo-spider emerges.

Elsewhere, the Bloompa-Loompas are bust moving the TARDIS and presenting the Doctor with a parking ticket as even more robo-spiders start swarming. The Doctor heads over to see Rose, and she talks about her problems.

Rose: “They’re just so… alien. The aliens are so alien. You look at ‘em, and they’re alien.”
Doctor: “Good thing I didn’t take you to the Deep South.”

What, are we talking Florida or Atlantis?

Rose: “Where are you from?”
Doctor: “All over the place.”

So you’re Connor McCleod now?

Rose asks why everyone speaks English in the future, and the Doctor explains that the TARDIS hacked her brain and she’s hearing every language as English.

This is entirely the correct reaction.
Rose is understandably upset at the idea of having her brain hacked without permission.

Doctor: “I didn’t think about it like that.”
Rose: “No, you were too busy thinkin’ up cheap shots about the Deep South!”

Rose starts demanding some answers as to who exactly the Doctor is, but he keeps deflecting them. After a short shouting match, the Magic Voice announces twenty minutes until the death of the Earth, and the two make up, mainly because Rose can’t exactly call for a taxi if the Doctor decides to leave her behind. As a small gift, the Doctor swaps out her phone’s battery for a small device that gives her “universal roaming,” in a callback to the time he did something similar to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's walkie-talkie in the Classic Series. She can now call anyone, anywhere. She tests it out by calling her mom, five billion years ago.

After a little small talk, Rose hangs up… and comes to the realization that her mom’s dead now.

Well, she figured it out quicker than Dave Lister did.
Doctor: “Bundle o’ laughs, you are.”

Suddenly, Platform One rocks and rolls, in a more literal sense than when “Tainted Love” was playing. The Steward tries to get an explanation from the computer, but nothing doing. After giving false reassurance to the guests, he starts running scans. When he picks up the robo-spiders on his sensors, one of them decides to deactivate the sun filter on his window, which probably shouldn’t be an option, seeing as how the sun’s rays fry him alive.

While the guests keep mingling, the Doctor futzes with a computer panel to try and get some information. Soon enough, Jabe comes over to take the Doctor to the a maintenance duct, after misidentifying Rose as the Doctor’s Wife Partner Concubine Prostitute. Well, because it would be a few years before Billie Piper became the star of Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Rose is naturally put off by Jabe’s increasingly incorrect assumptions. So Rose tells them to be on their merry way; she’ll talk to Lady Cassandra for a bit.

Rose: “Quick word with Michael Jackson.”

As the Doctor and Jabe make their way through the ship’s bowels, he learns that Platform One is pretty much entirely run by computer.

Jabe: “Nothing can go wrong.”
Doctor: “Unsinkable?”

After mentioning the last unsinkable ship he was on (he wound up clinging to an iceberg), they keep going while Rose listens to Lady Cassandra’s tales of growing up as a little boy. Meaning that we have our first major transgender character in Doctor Who history. And since said transgender character is, as Rose says, a "bitchy trampoline" and probably the least-human looking character here, coupled with the fact that the reveal is treated like a punchline...

Well, let's just say that I wouldn't be surprised if Lady Cassandra eventually goes down in history as one of the most politically incorrect characters in Doctor Who since the yellowface makeup in "The Talons of Weng-Chiang."

Anyway, Rose asks the "Last Human" what happened to all the other humans, and Cassandra explains that the others… mingled. You know. "Mingled."

Boldly coming where no man had come before.
Lady Cassandra: “Oh, the call themselves ‘New Humans,' and ‘Proto Humans,’ and ‘Digi-Humans,’ even ‘Human-ish,’ but do you know what I call them? Mongrels.”

And so, 708 surgeries later, Lady Cassandra is still clinging on to life to spite the other humans, and suggests that Rose could do the same.

Rose: “I’d rather die.”

And after calling Cassandra a bitchy trampoline, Rose gives her speech about being born on Earth and how not having a horrifying number of surgeries makes her a better candidate for “Last Human.”

Rose: “You’ve had it all nipped and tucked and flattened ‘til there’s nothing left.”

Over with the Doctor, he’s learning a bit more about Jabe, like the fact that she’s a direct descendant of Earth’s tropical rainforest. She uses the topic to bring up her earlier discovery of the Doctor’s species.

Jabe: “Forgive me for intruding, but it’s remarkable you even exist.”

Clearly, something’s happened to the Doctor’s homeplanet since the Classic Series. I blame Michael Grade.

The Doctor and Jabe arrive at some kind of big ol’ fans overlooking some big ol’ pit that’s just begging for somebody to fall down it, especially with the complete lack of railings. Man, the Bloompa-Loompas need a better union if these are their working conditions.

As Rose walks down some corridors, she runs into the Adherents, who knock her right the heck out with a single blow and stuff her into an adjacent room. Meanwhile, the Doctor discovers a robo-spider in a control panel skittering up the wall before Jabe snags it with some vines.

The Doctor recognizes it as having been up to no good as Magic Voice intones that only ten minutes remain until the Earth burns, so they get going to return to the others. Lady Cassandra starts waxing poetic about the Earth’s impending doom, and decides to pay tribute with a traditional Earth ballad. I am, of course, referring to “Toxic” by Britney Spears, using a vinyl record which doesn't exist in real life.

The Doctor discovers the Stewards’ office smoking with his charred remains, and finds that another filter is set to descend. With Rose inside. Luckily, this one descends slower, so the Doctor can successfully reverse the process and save Rose from the sun’s harmful UV rays. But alas, with five minutes until the Earth dies, the door mechanism was melted by the sun’s rays. So the Doctor does what he does best and heads to where the other guests are to take command of the situation. He uses the robo-spider to sniff out the person who sent it by seeing who it runs to for more commands. It makes a beeline for the Adherents of the Repeated Meme, but the Doctor recognizes that they are also robots and shuts them down. And so, the robo-spider heads to the real non-robotic mastermind, Lady Cassandra. This gives her a reason to launch into an evil speech where she reveals that her spiders have full control of Platform One, thanks to all the guests taking them into their rooms as gifts.

Lady Cassandra: “I’d hoped to manufacture a hostage situation with myself as one of the victims.”

Being flat as a pancake is expensive to maintain, apparently. Which is why she’s turning to Plan B, where she lets all the other rich people burn while she benefits from having shares in their companies’ rivals. And with less than three minutes to go, she deactivates the force fields and teleports away. Jabe and the Doctor head back to the fan-room, where the idiocy of the room’s design rears its ugly head. To reset the heat shields, they have to cross a narrow, railing-less catwalk. With giant fans spinning in their path.

Jabe holds down a switch to slow down the fans… which the Doctor points out will kill her in the long run, because that’s exactly where the heat vents to when you hold that exact switch down. Which is like having to be at the bottom of a swimming pool in order to fill it up. Seriously, who designed this place?

Doctor: “Jabe, you’re made of wood.”
Jabe: “Then stop wasting time… Time Lord.”

The Doctor abides and gets through the first one with no trouble. But when Jabe's arms burn off, he's forced to use a trick that never shows up again by slipping between the fan blades using a bit of meditation. There’s some tension, some peril, and a last-second raising of the heat shields as the BBC uses up the rest of their visual effects budget.

For 2005, this was basically Avatar.
Rose emerges from her room, reuniting with the Doctor shortly before he gets all clever and figures out how to reverse the teleportation feed Lady Cassandra snuck into the ostrich egg. He brings her back, but only her. He lists the atrocities she committed, only for her to insist that her lawyers will get her out of trouble.  But what she doesn’t realize is that she’s in trouble right now. Without her assistants, her skin’s drying out in the overheated space station. And even after everything she's done, Rose, the only other human present, takes pity on her asks the Doctor to save her.

Doctor: “Everything has its time and everything dies.”

Basically, it's the end of the world as Rose knows it. And he feels fine.

She explodes in what is actually a fairly disturbing moment, if you pause it.

And if you can look past the CGI made with the money leftover from animating the earlier supernova.
And so, as Rose takes a last look at the dying sun, sad that no one was even looking as the Earth died, the Doctor takes her hand and walks her back to the TARDIS, taking her back to London.

Doctor: “My planet’s gone.”

This was a freaking bombshell back in 2005.

In the Classic Series, the Doctor occasionally visited Gallifrey and was even the President for a while. And in the time since we last saw it, something happened.

Doctor: “It burned, like the Earth.”

He doesn’t give specifics, only that there was a war. And his people, the Time Lords, lost.

Doctor: “I’m the last of the Time Lords.”

This is heavy.

So here they are. Two survivors. The last Time Lord, and the last human present as the Earth burned.

But right now, they’re in London. And with about 5 billion years until London is no more, they decide to go get some chips.

Rose: “And you can pay.”
Doctor: “No money.”

Oh, come on, even Doc Brown was prepared for that.
But they head off for chips, and the episode ends. So now that both the Earth and the episode are over, let's review.

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