Rose (Billie Piper) has accepted the Doctor’s (Christopher Eccleston) invitation to go for a spin and see the sights. In a bid to impress his friend, he takes her 5 billion years in the future where the sun expands and it is to all intents and purposes literally the end of the world.
The Doctor and Rose are on an observation deck viewing the end of the earth. The Doctor uses ‘psychic paper’ to get permission to witness such an illustrious event for the rich. Among the guests are a delegation of tree-people lead by Jabe (Yasmin Bannerman) and the last human being a flat piece of skin called Cassandra (Zoe Wannamaker). The threat is caused by what appears to be an invasion of the deck by electronic beings controlled by Cassandra who is looking for one last big pay day, until the Doctor interferes.
The spectre of death and the Doctor that was indirectly introduced in the first episode is comes more to the fore in this episode. Its impact on the Doctor gives a good indication of what he has to deal with.
This episode is good as a way to further introduce us to the world of life with the Doctor from the companion’s perspective. In this case the viewer like the companion has never travelled with the doctor and doesn’t know what it’s like to be with him in what is an alien experience.
In the earlier parts of the episode we see the Doctor’s more whimsical and friendly side, but aspects of the performance come across as rather contrived. When it comes to the identity of the Doctor and he becomes defensive because of his past, Eccleston is more on form and more comfortable.
The story is at its most touching when it explores aspects of the Doctor’s character and where he’s coming from. That gives us ground to feel more for the character and have more interest in the story. In that aspect the episode acts more as a set up to know more about what the Doctor does and who he is, than actually the threat of the plot itself. It serves the purpose, without making it that memorable an episode.
The budding chemistry between him and Piper is at a good place here – lots of sympathy for her, and lots of intrigue into wanting to learn more about him.
Rose’s display of getting used to the culture shock of time travel and engaging with aliens is very good. Especially earlier on as she works out that she’s just gone off with a complete stranger to the middle of nowhere.
What is important about episodes of Doctor Who is that the threat is real, and that was accomplished the good old fashioned way with a countdown. That still worked a treat.
Of the other characters, Bannerman as Jabe did a sterling job giving us more of who the Doctor is and what he gets people to do when they come alongside him. Cassandra was rather unconvincing as a villain of the piece, despite Zoe Wannamaker’s best efforts.
Once again I’m not that big a fan of the incidental music used in this episode. It’s rather like the music hasn’t moved on that much from the Casio keyboard bland muzak that afflicted the Colin Baker/Sylvester McCoy dying years of the initial series. Also some of the humorous efforts come off well, and others don’t work as well.
That sums up this episode rather well. Some aspects work, some not so well. At least we get to know a bit more about the Doctor and we are invested in discovering more about him through the adventures with his companion. (DMCD Rating – 61% = 6/10)