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New Series Episodes 61 & 62:
The End Of Time
Schemes set in motion long ago lead to the resurrection of the Master, albeit in a form that hovers between life and death. He sets his sights on the Immortality Gate, an alien device which has fallen into the hands of the unscrupulous Joshua Naismith. Warned of the Master's return by the Ood, the Doctor travels to modern-day Earth to confront his archnemesis, only to find himself unexpectedly assisted by Wilfred Mott as the threads of prophecy pull tighter. But neither the Doctor nor the Master is aware that, beyond the Immortality Gate, an even greater threat to all of time and space lies waiting...
Since 2006, Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies had known that his time on the programme would end with a series of specials bridging the 2008 and 2010 seasons. For much of that time, it was uncertain precisely when the last of these specials would air, although Christmas 2009 and Easter 2010 were the most likely candidates. It was also assumed that this final special would see the regeneration of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, and Davies had been vaguely planning with this mind. Indeed, he had devised the Tenth Doctor's final words not long after Tennant joined the show.
In April 2008, however, this assumption was thrown into doubt when Tennant learned of incoming showrunner Steven Moffat's plans for Doctor Who. Tennant, Moffat and Piers Wenger -- who would be replacing Julie Gardner as Head of Drama for BBC Wales and as Moffat's fellow executive producer on Doctor Who -- met for an in-depth discussion about Season Thirty-One on April 16th. If Tennant decided to remain on the programme for one further season, it was likely that Davies' final special would be abandoned. In the end, however, Tennant concluded that although he was deeply impressed by Moffat's ideas, he wanted to enjoy them as a viewer rather than as the series star.
Nonetheless, Tennant's enthusiasm gave Davies, Gardner and BBC Controller of Fiction Jane Tranter cause to reevaluate their plans for Tennant's final story. Davies and Gardner now suggested that the special could be replaced by a mini-series to air in the spring of 2010, with Moffat's season moving to the autumn. Tranter countered with the offer of an epic two-part story, to lead directly into Season Thirty-One. Davies and Gardner felt that space was needed between the Tenth Doctor's regeneration and the Eleventh Doctor's debut adventure, in order to deprive neither of the event status that they deserved. Tranter agreed, and instead suggested that the two installments could air in January, three months before Season Thirty-One was scheduled to begin around Easter.
The expansion of Tennant's finale to two episodes meant that Davies had to abandon an idea he had already been considering. This would have seen the TARDIS materialise on board a spacecraft carrying a family of aliens; the Doctor would sacrifice his life to prevent a radiation leak and save these ordinary, unimportant beings. Although Davies liked the notion of the Doctor's regeneration taking place in such unremarkable circumstances -- as opposed to the blockbuster events that had characterised each of his season finales -- he was already concerned that viewers would consider this to be too great an anticlimax. With twice the amount of screen time now available to him, however, there was no debate: such a simple idea could not support two episodes. Davies decided to salvage only the beginning and end of his story. The prologue would see the Doctor summoned to the Ood-Sphere, to be warned that the end of his life is imminent; this would tie into the prophecy of Season Thirty's Planet Of The Ood which warned that the Doctor's “song must end soon”. The epilogue, meanwhile, would involve the Doctor staving off his regeneration long enough to visit each of his companions one last time.
Realising that he needed a much more spectacular storyline for the two-part regeneration tale, Davies decided that the time had come to resurrect the Master. Although he had killed off the character in Season Twenty-Nine's Last Of The Time Lords, Davies had included a scene in which the Master's ring is retrieved by an unknown woman, intending this to be a potential means by which a future writer could resurrect the evil Time Lord. Now he would make use of the device himself.
On May 1st, John Simm agreed to reprise the role of the Master. Davies then set about developing his idea. His first instinct was to have the Doctor and the Master swap bodies. However, Davies wasn't keen to spend time during Tennant's final story with the actor playing anybody other than the Doctor, and was also mindful that he had used a similar notion in New Earth at the start of Tennant's first full season. Instead, by mid-June he had inverted this idea, with the Master using an alien device to take over every being on Earth besides the Doctor -- possessing them not just mentally but physically as well, so that the Earth would wind up being populated with literally billions of copies of the Master. He considered calling the episode “The Immortality Gate”, after the alien device.
With Catherine Tate, who had played Donna Noble, leaving Doctor Who at the end of Season Thirty, each of the subsequent specials was being designed to introduce a one-off companion for the Doctor. In early July, Davies struck upon the idea that the Doctor's companion in his final story should be Donna's grandfather, Wilfred Mott, who had been portrayed by Bernard Cribbins since Voyage Of The Damned, the 2007 Christmas special. Tate had already agreed to return for a cameo appearance in Tennant's final story, and although Davies had originally intended this to form part of the epilogue (giving him a chance to show that Donna was enjoying a good life despite losing all memory of her time with the Doctor in Journey's End, the Season Thirty finale), he now saw a way to write a more substantial part for Tate. Nonetheless, he was keen not to undermine the events of Journey's End, and so Donna would be kept separate from the Doctor, with Wilf taking on a renewed importance. This would give Cribbins a chance to travel in the TARDIS -- something he regretted not having the opportunity to do during Season Thirty. It would also allow Davies to resurrect an idea he had developed for 2008's Partners In Crime, with Wilf now revealed as leading a team of “alien watching” pensioners.
Davies had hoped to broaden the scale of the finale by taking the action out of the United Kingdom; in particular, he envisaged location filming in a desert locale to provide a very different backdrop for the Doctor's conflict with the Master. In late July, however, Davies decided that such a setting would better suit Planet Of The Dead, the Easter 2009 special. Towards the end of September, Davies met with Simm to discuss the storyline. Simm indicated that he wanted to draw on Heath Ledger's portrayal of the insane Joker in the recently-released Batman movie The Dark Knight; he also suggested that his hair be dyed white for his return. This suited Davies' notion that the Master would somehow be caught between life and death because his resurrection had gone awry -- a scenario inspired by Voldemort in JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels -- and would occasionally transform into a living skeleton.
In early October, Moffat accepted Davies' invitation to write the final moments of the second special, in order to introduce the Eleventh Doctor. Around this time, Davies was also considering the sequence of events that would lead to the regeneration. He had decided that it would involve two linked chambers, one of which must always be occupied. The Doctor would enter one of the chambers to save a technician trapped in the other, just before both were flooded with radiation -- a variation on the one-part story idea Davies had originally had for the Tenth Doctor's final adventure. On October 17th, while corresponding with journalist Benjamin Cook for what would become Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale -- The Final Chapter, Davies realised that the man the Doctor saves should in fact be Wilf. This would be the ultimate explanation for the string of coincidences which had always surrounded the Doctor, Donna and Wilf.
Meanwhile, discussions were also ongoing about the scheduling for the two-part adventure. Some consideration was given to airing both episodes on Christmas Day 2009 -- as had been done with EastEnders at various times over the years -- but this met with resistance from the BBC schedulers. Instead, it was suggested that “The Immortality Gate” would air on Christmas Day, followed by the final installment on New Year's Day 2010. Davies was concerned that the Christmas setting he wanted for the story would seem dated by the time the adventure concluded, but eventually decided that he could simply limit references to the date in the second episode.
During November, the global financial crisis raised the spectre that the BBC might have to trim the budget allocated to the Doctor Who specials. At first, it appeared that the final story might have to consist of two 45-minute episodes rather than hour-long installments. Subsequently, consideration was given to dropping the preceding special, The Waters Of Mars, altogether. By the end of the month, however, sufficient funding had been arranged to avert any of these concessions. Around the same time, Davies and Gardner had independently decided that Gallifrey should figure prominently in the final adventure, bringing full circle the Time War arc that Davies had introduced when he resurrected Doctor Who in 2005. However, Davies was unhappy with his initial idea -- that the Master's ultimate goal would be to trap Earth in the Time War in place of Gallifrey -- and considered dropping the plot strand.
Nonetheless, Gardner encouraged Davies to find a way to make Gallifrey work, and as 2009 dawned, Davies began formulating a new set of ideas. Around the same time that Matt Smith was announced as the Eleventh Doctor on January 3rd, Davies had developed the idea that the Time Lords would actually be villainous -- that they had been corrupted by the aeons-long Time War, and the Doctor had destroyed both them and the Daleks because they had become equally monstrous. As formal scripting got underway later that month, Davies also decided to introduce a mysterious female Time Lord whose identity would not be made explicit onscreen, but whom he intended to be the Doctor's mother -- brought back to life during the Time War in the same way that the Master had been.
At the same time, inquiries were also being made to ensure that all of the actors who had played the Tenth Doctor's companions would be available to film cameo appearances for the final episode. Davies indicated that if any of them proved unavailable, then only those scenes involving Donna (and her mother and Wilf), and Rose and Jackie, would be retained. (The latter would be set before the events of Rose, and represented a way of including the characters without visiting them in the parallel universe to which they had returned in Journey's End, something Gardner wanted to avoid.) The only exception to this rule was a sequence in which the Doctor visits the granddaughter of Joan Redfern, the woman he had almost married in Season Twenty-Nine's Human Nature / The Family Of Blood. Davies hoped that the granddaughter could be played by Jessica Hynes (who had portrayed Joan), but agreed that this scene should simply be dropped if Hynes' involvement could not be procured.
Davies finished the script for the first episode on February 13th. For a time, this included a scene in which the Doctor actually met Trinity Wells, the American news anchor who had appeared intermittently ever since Aliens Of London in 2005. Davies was eager to give actress Lachele Carl a proper appearance in the series, but ultimately dismissed the sequence as too self-indulgent. Initially, Naismith's daughter was called Alice; this was soon changed to Abigail. For the benevolent aliens whose race created the Immortality Gate, Davies was reminded of his fondness for Bannakaffalatta, the cyborg in Voyage Of The Damned. Although never given onscreen, Davies had intended the red-skinned Bannakaffalatta to be a Zocci, and now introduced the green-skinned Vinvocci, whom he imagined to be a related species. Around this time, the notion of the two episodes both being broadcast on Christmas Day was briefly resurrected.
As he prepared to begin work on his final Doctor Who script, Davies came up with the idea of making the Time Lords' corruption explicit by showing them to have entered into an allegiance with the Daleks they had fought for millennia. However, Moffat was also planning to bring back the Daleks (in Season Thirty-One's Victory Of The Daleks) and expressed his preference for this to be the first Dalek story in a while. Keen not to undermine his successor's first season, Davies abandoned the notion.
Davies completed the Tenth Doctor's final episode early on the morning of March 5th. Some of the climactic Time Lord material was inspired by Chris Rea's 1989 album The Road To Hell, while the Vinvocci ship was called the Hesperus after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1842 poem The Wreck Of The Hesperus. Wilf's description of his military service in Palestine was drawn from Cribbins' own experiences, the only difference being that the actual blizzard that the actor endured became a metaphorical blizzard of bullets for Wilf. Joan Redfern's granddaughter was named Verity Newman -- an homage to Verity Lambert, Doctor Who's first producer, and Sydney Newman, who instigated the programme's creation in 1963.
One prominent element dropped from the script was a subplot in which the Doctor tries to convince the “Danes-Master” (that is, the copy of the Master who had been Danes, the Naismiths' butler) to rebel against the evil Time Lord. Also eliminated was the revelation that the two Vinvocci are actually called Shanshay and Shanshay -- the pronunciation of the two names being so subtly different that Wilf is unable to discern it (although the Doctor can).
The episode also gave Davies the opportunity to finally include some ideas that he had intended to use in earlier stories. The dogfight in space drew from some of Davies' original plans for Planet Of The Dead, while the Captain Jack scene reinstated two abandoned notions for The Stolen Earth / Journey's End: a scene featuring a cavalcade of Doctor Who monsters reminiscent of the Star Wars Cantina sequence, and the return of Midshipman Frame, originally played by Russell Tovey in Voyage Of The Damned. Davies also decided to reveal Mickey Smith as Martha Jones' husband (rather than Tom Milligan, the doctor to whom she had been engaged) as a nod to Smith And Jones, Martha's debut adventure. The Doctor's reference to Donna's late father, Geoff, was included as a tribute to actor Howard Attfield. Attfield was intended to be a semi-regular in the role during Season Thirty, but had sadly succumbed to cancer soon after the start of production.
Later on March 5th, Moffat sent Davies his initial draft of the Eleventh Doctor's first moments, the material which would conclude the last of the specials. Davies had expected the new Doctor to utter just a single line, but Moffat had taken the opportunity to write a short monologue. This led directly into The Eleventh Hour, the first story of Season Thirty-One.
Directing David Tennant's final adventure was Euros Lyn. Lyn had last worked on Season Thirty's Silence In The Library / Forest Of The Dead, and in the interim had helmed the five-part third season of Torchwood, Children Of Earth. In early March, it was learned that Jessica Hynes would shortly be leaving for America to appear on Broadway for several weeks. Davies was prepared to drop her cameo, but it was decided instead to bring forward the recording of this single scene. As a result, production of the story began earlier than intended, on March 21st, at the Cardiff University branch of Blackwells Bookshop.
The main body of the shoot got under way on March 30th, the first of five days at Tredegar House in Newport, which posed as the Naismith estate. On April 4th, the exterior of Corus Strip Products in Newport was the site where Martha and Mickey tracked the Sontaran, while inside, the scene of Wilf encountering the Woman aboard the Hesperus was recorded. From April 6th to 8th, a house on Nant Fawr Road in Cardiff once again posed as Donna's home, as it had done throughout Season Thirty. Material aboard the Silver Cloak's minibus was also taped on adjacent roadways on the 8th. On the 9th, Donna's wedding was filmed at St Mary's Church in Marshfield, while the “Guard-Master” found the Whitepoint Star diamond in a nearby field. Another location familiar to the Doctor Who franchise was Clinton Road in Penarth; on April 10th, this served as Bannerman Road for the sequence with Sarah Jane and Luke Smith, while Donna's confrontation with the “Chiswick-Masters” took place in alleyways in the vicinity.
The cafe where the Doctor and Wilf converse was actually the Kardomah Cafe in Swansea; this material was recorded on April 13th. The next day, scenes in the wasteland where the Doctor pursues the Master were filmed on the Cardiff Docks. Scenes outside the old warehouse were captured at Mir Steel in Newport on the 15th.
The same day, the production team that would take the reins of Doctor Who for the dawn of the Matt Smith era was introduced. In addition to Steven Moffat and Piers Wenger, Beth Willis would also be serving as an executive producer. Having started her career as a script editor on programmes such as Where The Heart Is, William And Mary and Agatha Christie's Poirot, Willis had risen to prominence as the producer of Ashes To Ashes.
Meanwhile, Tracie Simpson would continue producing Doctor Who but -- in recognition of the extraordinary demands that the show made -- she would be joined by Peter Bennett. Bennett's career in film and television stretched back more than three decades. Most of his credits were as an assistant director, including the feature films Young Sherlock Holmes, The Princess Bride and The Mummy, as well as TV series such as Agatha Christie's Poirot and Sea Of Souls. It was in this capacity that he began working on Doctor Who -- starting with Season Twenty-Seven's Bad Wolf / The Parting Of The Ways -- as well as on the Torchwood episodes Everything Changes and Day One. More recently, Bennett was named the producer of Torchwood for Children Of Earth. At the time of the announcement, he was working on the final two Doctor Who specials as a first assistant director.
Scenes on the Ood-Sphere were taped next, with Taffs Well Quarry in Taffs Well posing as the surface of the planet on April 16th and Wookey Hole, near Wells in Somerset, serving as the Ood Elder's cave on the 17th. With Simpson's attention now required for the forthcoming Season Thirty-One, Julie Gardner agreed to take on some of her responsibilities to the two final specials. Indeed, this was a somewhat fortuitous turn of events, because Gardner had long harboured a desire to shift roles from executive producer to producer of Doctor Who, and had even considered producing all of the specials prior to the appointment of Simpson and Nikki Wilson.
On April 18th, several different sequences were completed at the Traffic Management Wales Centre in Cardiff, including the newsreader scene with Trinity Wells, and those set in UNIT HQ and Chinese Military Command. On the 20th, the corner of Royal Close and Paget Road was the site of the ruins of HMP Broadfell, St Augustine's Church in Penarth was the venue for Wilf's first encounter with the Woman, and Wilf went Christmas shopping on Wharton Street in Cardiff (with Howell's department store once again dressed as the fictional Henrik's). Lyn and his team then returned to Mir Steel for two days, for additional scenes in and around the abandoned warehouse and the wasteland; the flashback of Miss Trefusis collecting the Master's ring was also taped there on the 22nd.
On April 23rd and 24th, production moved to Upper Boat Studios for the first time, for scenes in the Hesperus teleport room. Wilf's revolver was the same one previously used by Captain Jack Harkness. Studio work paused on the 27th, when material in HMP Broadfell was recorded at Caerphilly Castle in Caerphilly. Upper Boat was the venue again on April 28th, with work including the prison cell at HMP Broadfell, the Master's nightmare laughter, and various effects and pick-up shots. Recording on the 29th began with sequences in the White House at Cardiff City Hall, then moved onto the alien bar scene with Captain Jack and Alonso Frame at Tiger Tiger in Cardiff.
Then it was back to Upper Boat from April 30th through May 13th, omitting only the 3rd and the 10th. The 30th to the 2nd concentrated on material on the Hesperus flight deck, with the TARDIS set also in use on the 1st and the gun turret on the 2nd. A change was made to the Vinvocci make-up at this point. Originally, the aliens' faces retained much of their natural human skin tones, but it was now decided that they should be completely green; sequences featuring the aliens which had already been recorded would be computer-tinted to match the revised look.
From May 4th to 11th, work primarily dealt with material in the Gate Room. The 11th also included Wilf's TARDIS scene, as well as effects shots and inserts. May 12th was a pivotal day, as it was largely given over to recording the Doctor's regeneration. This was the first shot that Matt Smith filmed for Doctor Who and before he did so, Tennant, Davies and Gardner all exited the studio and gave way to Moffat and Wenger, symbolically passing the torch to the new team. The Gate Room set was once again in use on the 13th, this time expanded to include the White Void which formed the link between Gallifrey and Earth.
Lyn's team headed back out on location on May 14th, with the first of two days in London. The apartment complex from which various ordinary people could be seen turning into the Master was actually Jesson House in the Rodney Estate. The next day, the Brandon Estate posed as the Powell Estate, Rose and Jackie Tyler's home, for the first time in three and a half years. Three more days at Upper Boat followed from May 18th to 20th. Again the Gate Room and White Void sets were the focus, with effects and pick-up shots also carried out on the 20th. This was David Tennant's final day on Doctor Who, with his last performance being some wire work for the Doctor's jump from the Hesperus. However, Tennant would shortly return to play the Doctor again, first for a series of Christmas BBC1 idents, and then in The Wedding Of Sarah Jane Smith for The Sarah Jane Adventures.
May 21st and 22nd saw scenes in the Time Lord Citadel and the Black Void taped at HTV Studios in Cardiff. Finally, the production wrapped with various inserts completed on June 3rd at Upper Boat. By late October, the title of the first installment had become known as “The Final Days Of Planet Earth” while the concluding special was christened The End Of Time. During November, however, Davies grew to dislike the name he had chosen for the opening episode, and decided that the story would be transmitted as The End Of Time parts one and two -- the only time since the programme's revival that two installments had not been given individual titles.
The enormous wave of popularity that Doctor Who had been riding since the latter stages of Season Thirty continued unabated through the broadcast of The End Of Time on Christmas Day 2009 and New Year's Day 2010. The first episode was the third-most watched programme of its week, while Tennant's swansong placed second, beaten only by the same night's installment of Eastenders. And with tremendous curiosity now revolving around the brand-new Eleventh Doctor, all signs augured well for the start of the Matt Smith era that spring.
Despite having left Doctor Who, David Tennant did not fully relinquish his ties to the programme he adored. Most notably, Tennant would soon be presenting a documentary about the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison, for the range of Doctor Who DVDs. He also became engaged to Davison's daughter, Georgia Moffett, who had been his co-star in 2008's The Doctor's Daughter. Tennant's career grew to span both sides of the Atlantic, with appearances in feature films such as the remake of Fright Night and starring roles on television including Single Father and United.
Meanwhile, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner had both relocated to America, with Davies seeking new challenges abroad and Gardner joining BBC Worldwide America alongside Jane Tranter. They would soon find themselves collaborating again on the fourth season of Torchwood, now a British-American coproduction with a vastly enhanced profile. Although Tennant, Davies and Gardner's time on Doctor Who had come to a close, their unprecedented success was still bringing new audiences to the Doctor Who franchise, and would not soon be forgotten.
|Updated 11th August 2013|
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