Along with well over a hundred other fans, I watched David Tennant’s final Doctor Who in a bar in central London which had been booked especially for the ocasssion. Having seen the location filming for Tennant’s first Christmas special back in 2005 it seemed appropriate to be part of a gathering marking his departure.
It was in places, as anyone who watches the show regularly could have predicted, very loud, very camp, very silly and exceptionally good. An hour of roaring adventure which once again showed how much love and attention the production team lavish on the show.
This was a celebration of the Davies/Tennant era, unashamedly checking off all its motifs; large action sequence, easily-resolved cliffhanger from previous episode, lashings of emotion and (cue cries of “it’s a soap opera”) companions with families and lives beyond the Tardis.
Fittingly Tennant turned in one of his best performances in role, peppering his final scenes with depths of sadness and longing the character has never shown before, but even that couldn’t stop him having every scene stolen by Bernard Cribbins. The man almost reduced a pub full of grown adults to a blubbering mass.
It’s now impossible to imagine what the show would have been like without Wilf yet it was only a (very sad) turn of fate which promoted Cribbins from cameo in the Christmas story Voyage of the Damned to full cast member as Donna’s granddad.
The genius of Russell T Davies is in being able to weave a character who hadn’t existed when he first created Donna (Catherine Tate) not only into her family but the very fabric of the show. Davies has often been accused by his critics of relying too much on ‘reset buttons’ to undo past events but in The End of Time he defied expectations that Donna would regain her memory.
For me John Simm’s apparently final turn as the Master was much better than his earlier appearance, less over the top face pulling, marginally less shouting and a lot more acting. If I have a grumble it’s that the Master saving the Doctor wasn’t entirely unexpected and was blatantly little more than a convenient way to avoid any of the bad guys being the one who killed off Tennant’s Doctor.
The regeneration was a long time coming, even after it started the Doctor managed to find time for a quick trip round his companions for one last ‘goodbye’.
This was a choker of a scene and when even Lis Sladen’s braver-than-brave Sarah Jane Smith looks devastated you know it’s OK to cry. Mercifully there was time for some very welcome and traditional Russell T Davies high-campery in the shape of Captain Jack and Midshipman Frame.
One of the best moments came just before the end when, as the Doctor’s strength leaves him, the Ood appears and tells him “The universe will sing you to your sleep”. Gloriously clever writing which not only provided the Doctor with a great ‘hero’ moment as he struggled to his feet and into the Tardis but also cemented the importance music has had in the revived series.
Sometimes too loud but always emotive, Murray Gold’s scores for the Davies era of the show have been integral to telling the story and it’s hard to imagine the series without gems such as ‘A Song for Ten’ of the Songs of Captivity and Freedom.
So the series moves on towards a new era but even as it does, in some of the darker corners of the web the knives are already sharpening for new Doctor Matt Smith and Exec Producer Steven Moffat based on nothing more than a few unimportant lines of dialogue and a short post-regenation scene.
Some ‘fans’ are already announcing their boycott of the series and condemning the ‘Moffat era’ of the show. Of course, the same thing happened after Tennant’s first brief appearance and, whatever they say, it’s safe to predict the knockers will still watch – after all, many of them are the same people who’ve just spent five years rubbishing everything Davies did while tuning in to see more each week.
The outgoing team can be proud of all they’ve achieved, the cabinets of awards they’ve won stand testament to their success in taking a tired, niche brand and turning it into a global success. Smith and Moffat have big shoes to fill but the trailer for the new series suggests they’re more than up to the task.
Meanwhile I’m eagerly awaiting delivery of the specials on Blu-ray so I can enjoy them in glorious HD