“The End of Time”: a Quintessential Davies Story

Rassilon, the Doctor and the Master

“The End of Time” was sure to be the biggest DOCTOR WHO story of the year, and for the occasion show-runner Russell T Davies crafted what might be considered the quintessential “Davies” story, one that showcased his strengths and weaknesses.

Perhaps Davies’ greatest attribute as a storyteller is that he’s an idea man. He comes up with big concepts, interesting concepts, fun concepts, and concepts that are perfectly suited to his cast. But the execution does not always live up to a story’s potential. Which is what I thought happened here: Davies set up a grand threat from two Gallifreyan foes: Rassilon (Timothy Dalton), the founder of Time Lord society, and the Master (John Simm), that society’s greatest villain. However, the story did not quite follow through.

I think Davies’ greatest weakness is that he falls into familiar patterns or, to be blunt, ruts. Think about how many season finales featured large-scale invasions/attacks on Earth. Yeah, all of them. (And how many times was the alien threat Daleks?). In EoT, the Master tried to take over the world by transforming every human on the planet into a double of himself. The last time the Master tried to take over the world, he wanted to replace the human population with the Toclafane – who were actually transmogrified humans from the distant future. Rassilon wanted to replace the humans with Time Lords, and the planet Earth itself with Gallifrey. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are BIG ideas, the kind of things that scream “season finale.” However, even though we technically had not seen this particular story, we definitely have already seen the plot…

And, if you think about it, the Time Lord threat was really rather vaguely outlined. How, exactly, were they going to end time itself? The Ood implied that simply mucking with the flow of time severely enough would “end” time. Rassilon also seemed to share this view, and he knows more about temporal mechanics than most people. He was instrumental in establishing the Laws of Time, which governed the Time Lords’ travel and set up the prohibitions against crossing one’s own time stream, interfering in the natural course of events, etc. These were the rules that the Doctor said handcuffed him during “The Waters of Mars.” Rassilon and the Doctor said that Gallifrey is time-locked – which means it was essentially sealed inside a bubble that kept it from being visited by any time traveler who might try to tamper with events. We are led to believe the act of violating a time lock would have shredded the fabric of time itself. But the Doctor made sure that didn’t happen. Which begs a question about Rassilon’s role in the story: Exactly when and how was he narrating this story? He spoke about events in the past-tense, as if he was looking back on history. So does that mean he was relating this tale from exile back on Gallifrey?

So what did actually happen to the Master, Rassilon, the Time Lords and Gallifrey? It was implied that with the connection to the Master severed, Rassilon and co. were sent back to Gallifrey, which was itself sent back to its own solar system (in the constellation of Kasterborous, in case you’re wondering). Which means Rassilon is waiting there, his hatred festering for next time. By the way, Rassilon was reputed to be immortal, so his stated determination not to die in the Time War suggests that either the immortality thing was myth, or perhaps he traded his immortality for regaining a physical body and becoming lord president of the High Council of Time Lords. Or, more simply, since we know the Time Lords resurrected the Master to fight in the Time War, perhaps they also restored Rassilon in hopes that their greatest hero could lead them to victory. As for the Master, we are meant to believe he was drawn to Gallifrey along with the Time Lords and thus trapped there, but this is by no means a sure thing. Anything could have happened during the explosion that knocked out the Doctor. And the Master has survived far, far worse, so don’t believe for a second that he is out of the picture. I have a feeling we have not seen the last of the Time War or the Time Lords…

Having said all this, I don’t want to leave the impression that I did not enjoy this story. I did, and I will detail the delights of this story in a future post. Davies has a talent for making his stories go down easy; it’s only later that the problems dawn on you. And, as I noted here, all that really mattered about “The End of Time” was the passing of the torch to the 11th Doctor, and Davies handled that perfectly.

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