If “The Next Doctor”, “Planet of the Dead”, and “The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith” was the beginning of the end of an era and the Tenth Doctor’s (David Tennant) run; “Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time parts I & II” are definitely the final chapters in the Tenth Doctor’s story (with some inserts in from “Day of the Doctor” as well.) To be honest, this is the second time I’ve had to say goodbye to the Tenth Doctor like this, and it still doesn’t get any easier than before. This time around though, aside from these two specials, I am also adding a little bit from “The Day of the Doctor”, as it still is part of the Tenth Doctor’s timeline. And now, let’s move on and delve into the last few televised full stories of the Tenth Doctor.
“Waters of Mars”, which aired on November 15, 2009, was written by Russell T. Davies and Phil Ford, and was directed by Graeme Harper. Within the Tenth Doctor’s timeline, the events that unfolded here marked a significant chapter in his story arc.
This story saw the Tenth Doctor arriving at Bowie Base One, the first human colony on Mars, on a very pivotal and fixed point in time in human history. This isn’t the first time that we have seen the Doctor encounter something like this before– remember “Fires of Pompeii”? However, this time is quite different since he does not have an actual regular companion with him, which makes this episode an interesting character study, not of the Doctor as a whole, but of this particular Doctor, due to the choices that he ends up making, armed with the knowledge that he has of history, his impending death, and everything that has been building up until this point.
Tennant, the rest of the cast, and the entire production crew all the way down to the art and make up departments gave their all for this episode, and the end result clearly shows it. Aside from this, this is one of Davies’ best, and he and Ford gave us another thing to be terrified of (aside from statues, shadows and gas masks).
When it comes to the Tenth Doctor’s timeline, the next televised major event that happened after this was actually “The Day of the Doctor”, which was the highly anticipated 50th Anniversary Special. Now, since that has already come and gone, it is very interesting to see it in light of “The End of Time parts I & II”, as both of these specials tackle the Time Lords and the very last day of the Last Great Time War. (Of course, this also gave me quite a headache while trying to reconcile things, but I think I managed to sort things out properly). Taking that all into consideration, and after thinking about it until my head hurt, I have come to the conclusion that “The Day of the Doctor” and “The End of Time” do work well together hand in hand, and that it only enhances the mythos surrounding the last day of the Time War, while making it quite interesting for the Tenth Doctor as well.
“The Day of the Doctor” was written by Steven Moffat and was directed by Nick Hurran, and starred future companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), the Tenth Doctor, and the War Doctor (John Hurt)).
“The End of Time parts I & II” will always be an emotional one for me, because not only is it the end of the Tenth Doctor, but this also marked the end of the Russell T. Davies era, as most of the producers during his time also left with him. Since handing over the reins to Moffat, characters from the Davies era have been mentioned, but those characters never really showed up or recurred again, which is why that ending wasn’t only just for the Tenth Doctor, but for the fans who had been watching the Davies era unfold in front of their eyes throughout Series 1 to 4.
Tennant and John Simm were just amazing in their roles as the Tenth Doctor and the Master, and I also believe that this might have been the very last time that Elisabeth Sladen appeared as Sarah Jane Smith on “Doctor Who” itself before she passed away. (Feel free to correct me if I am wrong!)
Davies made sure that this era was sent off with a bang, while tying up all of the loose threads that remained during his tenure as the show’s showrunner. Aside from this, this two part special summed up everything about the Tenth Doctor, making sure that he will always remain in our hearts long after he has regenerated.
All in all, these last few episodes were truly the best way to end both the era of the Tenth Doctor and of Russell T. Davies.
Alright, from here on out, there will be spoilers! And there will also be some spoilers for “The Day of the Doctor” as well.
“Waters of Mars”, aside from making me be scared of WATER, was, I think, was one of the best episodes of Nu Who ever, despite the fact that it was a special episode.
Starting with “Planet of the Dead”, Davies and the gang really went all out on everything, from the scripts, to the acting, to the production quality, and it really showed as these specials didn’t just feel like episodes, they felt like movies, especially when it came to “Waters of Mars” and “The End of Time parts I & II”.
“Waters of Mars” was very different as it had a really good sort of space thriller feel to it, and I never thought I would be scared of something as simple as water, as overflowing water coming from a person apparently is quite uncomfortable and disturbing to see. The acting was on point on all fronts, and it also allowed them to advance the story arc of the Tenth Doctor even further.
At this point in time, we know that the Doctor was travelling alone, and was becoming more and more of “the lonely god”, and that emotionally speaking, he was becoming a ticking emotional bomb just waiting to explode with the right catalyst, and that was Bowie Base One- a doomed space station and a fixed point in history. And this time around, he had no one, no companion to stop him, something that Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) did particularly well as seen in “The Runaway Bride” and especially in “Fires of Pompeii”. So, of course, in the course of the episode, once he realizes how fed up he is with always coming out on the losing end, coupled by the fact that there are no other Time Lords to keep him in check, he decides to actually DEFY time itself and the Time Lord Victorious- the darkest version of the Tenth Doctor- emerges.
And you can see it, in his arrogance, in the way he becomes even more superior, the wild look in his eyes, you know he had crossed a line, and it took Captain Adelaide Brooke (Lindsay Duncan) committing suicide on the actual day she was supposed to die on Bowie Base One in order to keep him in check, to make him realize that he had become the worst version of himself, and that can only lead to the impending demise that was prophesied to him. And this, knowing that this will be happening soon, causes him to run even faster, so that he can try and squeeze in as many things as possible before he dies or regenerates into another version of himself.
At this point, he does go on various other adventures before returning to the Ood Sphere, but somewhere in between, the events of “The Day of the Doctor” happens.
Now, from this point on, there will be spoilers for “The Day of the Doctor”, and how I reconciled the events of that special with “The End of Time” from both Gallifrey’s and the Tenth Doctor’s perspective. However, so that you have the option of whether or not you want to read it here, you can highlight the next few paragraphs to see what I have to say about that. If not, you can just skip right to the end part where I begin talking about “The End of Time”.
It was here, in “The Day of the Doctor”, in which the whole thing about marrying Queen Elizabeth I and why she was angry at him suddenly starts to make sense, and I really liked that they referenced that in “The Day of the Doctor”.
Aside from this, “The Day of the Doctor” does also reference particular points in “The End of Time”, because if you look at the timeline from the point of view of the Time Lords, these two specials actually overlap each other as they both occur on the very last day of the Time War. However, for the Tenth Doctor, it is an adventure very near to his upcoming regeneration, and yes, it is an event that he ends up forgetting because, as we have seen before, whenever two or more Doctors meet, because of “timey-wimey” stuff, their timelines are not in sync, and it is the most recent incarnation of the Doctor that retains these memories, which, are there, actually, but are fuzzy up until that particular moment does happen to them. Which means, for events to actually unfold in “The Day of the Doctor”, it was imperative that the War Doctor (John Hurt), the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), and the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), forgot what happened, because without them going through their respective emotional and character story arcs, the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) wouldn’t be who he is, and then what happened at the end wouldn’t have happened at all.
However, after watching both “The Day of the Doctor” and “The End of Time”, after much thinking, I have come to the conclusion that if you look close enough, “The Day of the Doctor” doesn’t really retcon or do a disservice to the Tenth Doctor or “The End of Time” at all.
Now, regarding the time line from a Gallifreyan point of view, these events overlap each other as they are both set on the same day. However, what happens at the “End of Time” with the High Council returning to Gallifrey, happens right before the three Doctors decided on their course of action at the end of “The Day of the Doctor”.
Now, finally, let’s go “The End of Time Parts I & II”. I have to admit that even though parts of it are just really camp the way the Davies era was, (I’m talking about the Master making himself EVERYBODY in the entire world), it actually came out really well.
I also totally forgot that the Master (John Simm) also wanted to make the Time Lords as copies of the Master as well. The effects were also done very well, and I loved the fact that at the end, it was the Doctor and the Master, and for once, they were strange allies, as their biggest enemy was the Time Lord President, Rasillon (Timothy Dalton) himself.
Dalton was great as Rasillon, and I loved the fact that he did the narration as well, as until now, it still gives me chills.
Now that I’ve seen Gallifrey and the Time Lords thanks to watching stuff like “The Deadly Asassassin”, I can see why the Doctor doesn’t like them that much, and I can see how that much power and how the Time War could change a great and majestic race like theirs. In fact, Rassilon’s “Ultimate or Final Sanction” not just only involved bringing the ENTIRE TIME WAR to Earth, but to also destroy reality itself so that all Time Lords could become “beings of consciousness”, which, basically, meant the “end of time itself” as we know it. And the Doctor had to stop all of this because it wasn’t just Earth at stake, it was reality itself. Sure, he’s faced Davros (Julian Bleach) trying to do this, with the reality bomb in “The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End”, but it’s even worse when your own people want to do this in the most horrible way as well.
But, in the end, I loved the fact that the Master got his revenge, as it was Rasillion who had made him into a madman that they can’t even accept. I also loved the fact that the Doctor was willing to help his arch enemy, as he was also, I think full of pity for this brilliant equal of his who was barely hanging onto life by a thread.
While I was watching this for the very first time, armed with the whole “he will knock four times” prophecy, I loved how my heart would skip a beat every time there was something like four knocks, and it kept on recurring until the end. There was the Master pounding four times over and over again on that metal drum, and the rhythm of four that was the signal that was planted in the Master’s brain. So, at the end, when the Doctor discovers that he was alive even after defeating Rassilon, you feel the same amount of joy; and then when you hear those four knocks from Wilfred “Wilf” Mott (Bernard Cribbins), a calm sense of dread just washes over you and everything becomes to make sense, which is also probably how the Tenth Doctor felt as well.
And then there’s that wonderful speech by Tennant, which, for me, was just an amazing piece of acting, even though he was firing at all cylinders during the entire thing. And the way he goes out was wonderfully done. Instead of him going out because of doing something heroic, the Tenth Doctor met his end because he CHOSE to save a very good friend of his, and his only link back to Donna.
Speaking of Donna, I love that line in the end when she realizes that she missed out on a big event again. Seeing Donna here was heartbreaking, especially because she can never live up to her true potential, as the Doctor’s companion or as the Doctor-Donna.
Also, I love how Davies wrapped everything up, and that even if the addition of Wilf to the Noble family was by accident, he made everything work so that Wilf would be that last loose thread connecting to the Tenth Doctor.
Many do feel that it was self-indulgent that the Tenth Doctor was able to prolong his regeneration long enough to check up on not just his most recent companions but to all of the Doctor’s companions since the First Doctor (as mentioned in the episode of “The Sarah Jane Adventures” entitled “The Death of the Doctor”), but I think that it was very much in character.
Aside from it being a chance for the audience as well to say goodbye and check up on all of the companions we have seen since the show got rebooted in 2005, it allowed the Tenth Doctor to be reassured that all of them are alright before he steps back into his TARDIS and regenerate alone. It was also interesting that the last person he met before he really did regenerate was the first person his Doctor had ever seen- Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).
It was also fitting that his regeneration was rather violent because he really didn’t want to regenerate into a new version of himself.
So, there you have it, we have made it to the end of the not just the conclusion of the story of the Tenth Doctor, but also to the end of the Davies era. Now, there is nothing left to do but to march onwards to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and the era of Steven Moffat, while still keeping these past few series fondly in our memories and hearts.
However, just like Tennant and Davies with the specials, we are also going to linger just a little bit more in this particular era as the next few posts will all be Character Guide posts for Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, and of course, the Tenth Doctor.
So, how did you like the four last specials that Tennant did as the Tenth Doctor? Was there anything you liked or disliked about the Russell T. Davies era? What were your favorite moments from Series 1 to 4? What do you think about how I ended up reconciling “The End of Time” and “The Day of the Doctor”? Feel free to comment and discuss below, just remember to be civil and respectful of everyone.