Doctor Who: The End of Time Part Two

Last week, when writing about the first part of the Tennant/Davies swansong, I talked about not making any predictions, as well as the possibility of expectations not being met. On the predictions front, I’m glad I didn’t bother (although one of the few that I did make may actually be true – more on that in a bit), because there’s really no way I could have predicted the bizarre manner in which this tale concluded. The narrative meat of this episode – the stuff involving the Time Lords, Gallifrey and the Master – was quite frankly difficult to wade through on the first viewing; a second viewing alleviated some of that, and yet I’m still not convinced it all makes perfect sense. Perhaps I’m looking at it too deeply, and wanting more than there is?

I’d also be lying if I said I went into this episode without any expectations – I mean, how can you not? Many, if not most of them weren’t met, although there were plenty of other treats on display that made up for that. Indeed, this episode was hell bent on subverting expectations. “The End of Time” as a whole, which is how it should be judged, is a landmark slice of “Doctor Who,” even though the writing isn’t as tight as the intricate standard set by “The Waters of Mars.” Oh well – based on previous finales, I didn’t really expect it to be, and on that level it can’t be called a letdown. It’s so steeped in the mythology of Davies’ vision of “Who,” that it’s difficult to imagine it could possibly work as a piece of standalone drama for anyone unfamiliar with the past five years of the series. But that also can’t be a criticism, since what it really is is a jagged love letter to everyone who’s been paying attention during that time. Davies really backed himself into a corner with this one, because “Journey’s End” very much felt like the end of the era, only it wasn’t. So this proper ending, which feels more like a coda or an afterward, had to be a horse of a different color, and it most certainly was.

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Doctor Who: The End of Time Part One

Before moving on to the actual write-up, let’s take a moment to offer some high praise to BBC America for showing this episode a day after it first screened in the U.K. A day! For the first time on American TV, we aren’t seeing the premiere of a “Doctor Who” Christmas special when it’s warm outside, and the Christmas-themed portions of the story don’t seem hopelessly out of place. Back when I wrote up “Journey’s End,” I pleaded with Syfy to show the various David Tennant specials in a timely manner, so that audiences wouldn’t be forced to go elsewhere to get their “Who” fix or, even worse, get bored and forget about the show altogether. Good thing Syfy no longer has first-run rights here in the States, because I highly doubt they would’ve made the same programming move that BBC America made. Further, BBC America is committed (at least for the time being) to showing the episodes uncut, which is just as if not more important. Keep it up BBCA, and you’ll keep building a devoted audience. Heck, even a week or two after the U.K. premieres would be more than acceptable in my book.

It’s always difficult to write about the first half of a two-part finale, and never more so than in this case. This episode is all over the place in tone, and yet hangs together quite nicely, although it took me two viewings to realize the latter. Yet whatever one might think about “The End of Time Part One,” there’s no denying that the bigger picture has yet to be seen, and what Russell T. Davies unveiled in this hour is only a setup for the real finale. About the first 15 minutes of this thing just zoom by, setting up one aspect of the story after another. In fact, there are so many elements that are set up throughout the hour that one wonders how they can all be addressed in the finale proper.

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Musical redemption or Escape from 1978

Albert Walker over at Den of Geek has a fun article of “Top 10 worst musical moments.” I can’t argue with the abject metaphysical badness of any of Mr. Walker’s choices, but I’m a guy who prefers to emphasize the positive. Below are a couple of great performers who essentially disgraced themselves in Walker’s selections, redeeming themselves musically on film.

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First, though decades later I’m still healing from the scars inflicted by the legendarily god-awful 1978 juke-box film musical, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band,” I had forgotten how bad Steve Martin’s performance of Paul McCartney’s black-humored romp, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” really was. On his only musical, director Michael Schultz clearly had not clue what do do with Martin. His performance is painful to watch and entirely unfunny.

Now contrast this with Martin’s performance in 1986’s “Little Shop of Horrors,” which Albert Walker and I agree is about a million times better. Director Frank Oz also only made one musical, but it wasn’t a problem. I’m sure Martin was probably eager to redeem himself after the atrocity eight years prior, and Oz matched his spot-on interpretation of the song with a pretty huge degree of wit and imagination. I speak, of course, of the “Dentist” song.

Also, there’s no getting over the embarrassment of future James Bond Timothy Dalton crooning the Captain & Tenille to early screen comedy superstar Mae West from another film from 1978, “Sextette.” A definite contender for most brazenly ill-advised movie of all time, the musical comedy featured an 80-somethng West playing sexpot one last time to costars like Dalton, Dom DeLuise, and Ringo Starr.

Now, even at the height of her fame 35 years previously, by today’s standards the generously proportioned Mae West might strike most people as an odd choice for a sexpot, and many of her jokes have become cliches over the decade. (“Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”, etc.) Even at the time, I’m sure male filmgoers would lean pretty strongly towards such thirties sirens as Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, or Bette Davis whose sexiness seems more usual to us today. Mae West, however, was unique in that she played a woman aggressively and openly obsessed with sex at a time when only males were allowed that role, and people were barely allowed to even allude to it in public. It seems clear that men found the idea intriguing and West also was blessed with a great deal of wit and confidence and…something.

Just watch her sing “I Wonder Where My Easy Rider’s Gone” in 1933, and know that she’s not really singing about horse racing. And, yes, that really is a young Cary Grant romancing her.

  

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