Prior to last night, the last part of Doctor Who I'd seen was the Planet of the Dead (Bus in another dimension) special, so I caught up with it last night with Waters of Mars and End of Time.
Waters of Mars.
This one was... okay. While I don't mind Whonobabble for particular things, and there's certainly SF precedent for intelligent things that appear to be water (I seem to recall one story with a "virus" that became intelligent and looked like moving viscous water; the poor thing eventually mutated to a nonintelligent form), their ability to manufacture water (on MARS!) from nothing in ton-lots was annoying. They could have been extremely threatening without that level of stupidity.
More interesting was seeing the Doctor conflicted on acting versus not acting because of the significance of the event involved, and deciding to act after a LOT of conflict. That part was good -- and one of the nice subtleties about the scene was that though it was shot in the same heroic style, with the same dramatics, as his Poseidon Adventure speech in Voyage of the Damned, but the THEME was not the Doctor's, but the Master's, specifically YANA (You Are Not Alone), which generally presages a catastrophe.
The part that BOTHERED me was that the catastrophe was entirely avoidable. He could have saved those he wanted to save and then violated the laws of time in a way that would have preserved the expansion of the human race without ending up looking like either an idiot or a monster. All he had to do was bring them to some point in the FUTURE to where the process had already been started, and leave them in a place they could build new lives. Forward-looking types like the Mars colony people would have been fascinated by the future, and that action wouldn't have resulted in the one character -- the most interesting character in the show aside from the Doctor -- being explicitly trapped in a no-way-out scenario.
The End of Time.
First, here I found John Simm's Master less difficult to accept. He's still far from my choice for the role, but he did get to be a complete loon while also being able to to some real acting, on subtle as well as scenery-chewing levels.
Poor Lucy, though; totally screwed in every way, and even her triumphant last moments led to total disaster. Pity, that.
Wilfred's a damn good Companion, and I'm glad he got his chance, given that they weren't bringing back the Doctor-Donna (Donna Noble being the best Companion ever, IMCGO).
Timothy Dalton as Rassilon; inspired casting, and especially so since he got to chew so much scenery in his limited appearances that cardboard was flying everywhere. I'm rather disappointed he was disposed of at the end -- it would've been nice to see him as a continuing adversary.
The overall plotline and series of events... interesting. Kathleen had anticipated some of the basic elements (that the Master was basically somehow a conduit for the rebirth of the Timelords) and that basic part of the plot made sense. It was good to get yet another bit of information about the way the TIme War ended-- in Hell, essentially.
Most amusing for me were all the other media references. Dragonball is perhaps the most obvious, with the Master having gone spiky-hair SSJ blond, throwing energy blasts, flying (and diving down at people in a precise duplication of some DBZ scenes), eating like Goku (or, more accurately, Vegita), and eating up people he encounters like Cell (in this case not leaving empty suits of clothes, thought). The alien ship was clearly a riff on Piccolo's vessel, with exterior remodeling based on other Toriyama ships.
Then the World of Master sequence, which was obviously The Matrix (Agent Smith: "It's about me. Me, me, me, me, me." Other person, now transformed into Smith: "... me too."). The aerial combat sequence, which was Star Wars, without any subtlety at all.
The best parts were at the end, I think. The Doctor trying to pull the trigger, kill one of those who was key to this plot (and thus save the world) and finally finding a third option. The Master, returning the favor AND getting a much-deserved revenge on those who had MADE him what he was, all those centuries ago. The Doctor, thinking he was saved... and then hearing the four knocks, in a literal sense, that spelled his doom. The Doctor again, holding onto this current incarnation for JUST a little longer, to say goodbye to those he had come to know and love in this form, in this personality, knowing that the next one might not even care enough to see them, making sure that Donna herself would always be taken care of, even dropping in on Captain Jack to kick him out of his current depression. And the final regeneration, giving us a quick glimpse of the next incarnation.
So, in summary, not bad, some neat stuff (some of which will undoubtedly be driving fans to frothing rants), and sad, as it's an exit of one of the best Doctors, and one that I'd hoped would continue for years. Doesn't come near the epic coolness of a couple of the other seasons, especially The Stolen Earth and Journey's End, but it's a good, serviceable Doctor Who story. Alas, I was severely disappointed by this season in that it wasn't a season -- just a few specials. Hopefully this will not be the case with the new Doctor's first appearances. I wish that RTD didn't have what appears to be an impulse to do Bizarre Sh*t for no reason other than that he can; it makes some of his stuff less than it might otherwise be.