The End of the World

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 162, starring Christopher Eccleston)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by Euros Lyn
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: The Doctor takes Rose to a party on a space station in the far future, where a variety of rich aliens have gathered to bid a fond farewell to the Earth before the sun expands and swallows it up. But when the station is sabotaged, the Doctor must act quickly to save everyone on board and find out who the true culprit is, and Rose begins to learn that the Doctor has his own dark secrets as well....

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by producer Phil Collinson and visual effects producer Will Cohen.
  • Doctor Who Confidential featurette: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (11 min.) with Cohen, Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor),
    Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), writer Russell T. Davies, director Euros Lyn, and CGI model maker Chris Petts.
  • "On Set with Billie Piper" video diary entry
  • "Designing Doctor Who" production design segment

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers Guide version instead.

I just love the exquisite setting for this story, along with the generous helping of eye-candy visual effects laid in to make it real. I've long wanted to see or read or write or create a story that dealt with the natural expansion or extinguishing of the sun, and its consequences to the Earth and the human race. Russell T. Davies delivered it, and that alone may push this story ahead of the rest of the season's offerings in my list of personal favourites. But the story still contains too many flaws to become truly great in the annals of Doctor Who.

The TARDIS gets a bit of a bad break in this story. The Doctor's farcical handling of the console during flight puts added emphasis on the ugly, run-down interior design we are sadly stuck with now, and makes the craft look more like a bad joke than anything believable. The new series is still too fresh to be leaving out important visual ideas like the materialization and dematerialization of the police box, synchronized with the sound effect, but this story passes up every opportunity it has. And the all-important juxtaposition of interior and exterior scenes, during Rose's wide-eyed exit of the vehicle, is painfully mis-matched from left-to-right, with the exterior shot not even showing the police box clearly either. Very disappointing.

Many of the story's better bits are the sombre character moments where the Doctor and Rose explore the setting literally and philosophically, as well as digging deeper into each other's characters. Intriguingly, the Doctor, in particular, seems to be harbouring a few more secrets than he did during the program's initial 26 year run.

But checking out the scenery will only stretch so far. Every story needs a plot, and this one seems to want to fall back on the whodunit bottle story formula, which usually produces great results. The Doctor and Rose quickly meet the rest of the cast of characters, whose extreme and varied alienness provides a nice sequence of initiating Rose to the kind of thing she needs to expect when traveling with the Doctor. Nice.

But the aliens are presented in a manner that's more arbitrary than real, paraded in and being announced to those already in the room (chiefly just the Doctor and Rose), but not to those still waiting to make their entrance. The Doctor's psychic paper is a nice touch, worthy of standing beside K9 and the sonic screwdriver as one of the show's staple devices.

Most of the aliens also remain more caricatures than characters though. For the whodunit plot to really kick in and become enjoyable, the story needs to be about twice as long, allowing for the character exploration, clues, details, and red herrings that make such tales compelling. This time, there just isn't time. Some added depth comes through with Jabe, the Steward, and the "plumber" in the corridor, mostly through the performances of the actors. More of this would have done the story credit.

Another bad point is the architecture of one of the story's key rooms. So you've got a huge wide shaft with several large rotating fans inside of it. Fair enough. Now what engineer in his right mind would put controls and a door on opposite sides of that shaft, connected only by a ramp that goes directly and dangerously under the fans, especially when there's plenty of safe space on either side? One look, and any member of the audience can correctly guess that someone's going to be making a dangerous crossing. The action here proceeds predictably and fails to become interesting.... until the very last seconds, as the Doctor gets one of the best final climactic acts of the season. It's just such a shame that it was set up in such a blatantly artificial way and over-dramatized during the build-up.

The story's biggest black mark is the ridiculous bombshell that the Doctor drops for fans of the original series - that his home planet of Gallifrey, upon which we've already witnessed many adventures, no longer exists. This is additionally confusing in a series about time travel, for he fails to elaborate on exactly when this destruction took place. Previous Doctors have traveled into the future, never doubting Gallifrey's continued existence. In fact, it is implied that the adventures on Gallifrey take place in the future. Now this Doctor travels into the past and mourns its loss, unable to sense any "telepathic" connection with members of his own race as he says he used to.

This only makes sense to me if he's chosen his way into a parallel universe with a different history, which is a perfectly cool story arc to be exploring this season. That would also mean that the Gallifrey that we've all seen and known and loved is still living and breathing through its natural life cycle as nicely as you please in the home universe. Sadly, I think the writers aren't as sophisticated in their understanding of time to really know what they're doing with this, and can't yet pass that understanding on to the Doctor or any of the other characters. If they were trying to dictate that no more stories on Gallifrey should be written, simply focusing on other places would be more effective. I suspect this method has most fans dreaming of ways to bring Gallifrey back instead. If it was simply meant to give the Doctor something to mourn and mope over, it's one of the worst ideas for character depth I've ever seen overused by Star Trek writers like Ronald D. Moore, and I certainly don't appreciate more of it on Doctor Who. Bad move.

Despite these flaws, "The End of the World" remains highly entertaining and enjoyable, and ends on a very emotional note. As with the previous episode, it's just too bad it wasn't a longer story.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Das Ende der Welt"

Magyar: "Amikor vége lett a világnak"

Français: "La Fin du monde"

Русский: "Конец света"

Italiano: "La fine del mondo"

This story has become available on DVD:
DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The 13-episode box sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The 3-episode volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Unquiet Dead"

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