DOCTOR WHO (2005) series 1, episode 2
"THE END OF THE WORLD"
WRITER: RUSSELL T. DAVIES
DIRECTOR: EUROS LYN
AIR DATE: April 2 2005
Five billion years into the future, the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston)
and Rose (Billie Piper)
land on Platform One, a space station orbiting the Earth. The vessel is an observation deck designed for a select party of wealthy aliens to witness the last moments of Earth from behind the safety of a protective shield. Earth, once inhabited, is on the brink of destruction as the Sun now rapidly expands. As the guests arrive, the Doctor and Rose meet a colourful assortment of aliens. They also meet Lady Cassandra O’Brien (Zoë Wanamaker)
, the last human, whose obsession with cosmetic surgery has reduced her to a vein-streaked sheet of skin who constantly needs moisturised. Rose finds herself overwhelmed by the situation, and the Doctor follows her to an observation room where he lets her phone home, across time, to settle her nerves.
Meanwhile, hidden inside orbed gifts brought on board by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme, robotic spiders emerge and begin sabotaging the space station. As Platform One starts breaking down, the Doctor sets out to investigate and discovers that the spiders are to blame. Elsewhere, Rose is wandering by herself when she is accosted by the Meme who knock her out and lock her in an observation room where the solar filter begins to lower. The Doctor arrives in time and manages to reset the filter, but has to leave Rose when he fails to open the door.
Back at the guest room, the Doctor releases a captured spider, knowing it will return to its master. The spider initially scuttles to the Meme, but the Doctor reveals them to be no more than controlled robots themselves, leaving the spider to reveal its true master, Lady Cassandra. She defiantly confesses that the deaths of the other guests will finance her indulgent lifestyle and addiction to surgery. Before illegally teleporting off the ship, Cassandra disables its protective shield. As the Doctor and Jabe (Yasmin Bannerman)
, a humanoid tree, race off to restore the shield, several guests are incinerated as the solar filter begins lowering, while Rose also faces a fiery demise in the room where she is locked up. On another part of the ship, the Doctor has to get past a series of giant rotating fan blades to restore the ship’s shield. Jabe holds down a switch to slow the blades, helping the Doctor to succeed while losing her own life as she combusts in the scorching heat.
The best place to watch the planet burn
The Doctor returns to find the surviving guests and Rose, who is now free. There he finds a hidden teleportation device which he uses to bring back Cassandra. She begs for mercy, but the Doctor lets her dry out in the heat before she ruptures. The Doctor then travels back with Rose to the present, where he explains to her that he is the last Time Lord, his homeworld Gallifrey having been destroyed in a great war. More immediate concerns press on them as they set off to find some chips to eat.
This second episode of the 2005 series of Doctor Who raises the already high bar set by the first episode. It’s a much more lavish production this time around, set as it is in outer space, and the special effects are consistently top notch, from the scampering CGI spiders to the coterie of exotic aliens, who for the most part are brilliantly realised here. The giant Face of Boe in his glass case and the diminutive blue-skinned Moxx of Balhoon deserve particular praise for their imaginative designs. With more money to play with on this episode, the designers have gone to town, concocting a heady brew of weirdness which makes Rose’s panic attack, in the face of such otherness, seem altogether truthful. Her understandable reaction is an attention to detail which resonated with me in a powerful way, showing what a brilliant writer Russell T. Davies really is, having a strong handle on authentic human behaviour, albeit in a fantastical context.
Another triumph of design comes in the form of Lady Cassandra, the cosmetic surgery-fixated nightmare whom Rose witheringly dismisses as a “bitchy trampoline”. Cassandra, wonderfully voiced by Zoë Wanamaker, livens up the proceedings as the scheming villain of the piece, who will literally kill to pay for her fixation. Her messed up descriptions of an ostrich as a giant fire-breathing bird and an old 20th century juke box as an iPod brought a smile to my face, while her final demise at the hands of a merciless Doctor was genuinely shocking. When the Doctor leaves her overheated and overstretched face to burst asunder, it’s a real “what just happened there?” moment, reminding us that the Doctor is not always the squeaky clean hero, becoming ruthless when provoked in the extreme.
Lady Cassandra O'Brien Dot Delta Seventeen
The last living human
I also have to mention a brilliant but incredibly sad scene involving the Doctor and Jabe, a beautiful female humanoid tree. The writer turns on his magic yet again, getting us to care for Jabe, who spends a good chunk of her on-screen time flirting with the Doctor. By the time her fate becomes sealed, as she risks everything to help the Doctor, we have already been charmed by Jabe as much as the good Doctor himself, making her death feel like a monumental punch in the gut. I tip my hat to some seriously good writing.
In short, this is quite simply a wonderful episode, mixing comedy and pathos to great effect. The chemistry between the Doctor and Rose impresses even more than before, with Billie Piper acting her socks off as a homesick soul, out of place and unsure of her bearings. Chris Eccleston also nails it with some brief comedy-gold dancing (which only Matt Smith will later surpass), and exuding real menace as he condemns Cassandra to her blood-splattered death. After a solid start, Season One just cranked up a gear.