The End of the World
The End of the World was the second story in the first series of Doctor Who. It was the first instance of traveling into the viewers’ relative future in the revived series. The story also introduced recurring characters Lady Cassandra and the Face of Boe, and featured the first mention of the ubiquitous phrase “Bad Wolf”. Though of relatively minor impact here, it soon exploded into a persistent story arc that continued to thrive across multiple series beyond the first in the revived continuity.
This episode is also notable for introducing the Last Great Time War and the impact it had on the Doctor, as the Doctor reveals that Gallifrey was destroyed because of the war, making him the last surviving member of the Time Lords. The survivor’s guilt caused by the war would stick with the Doctor in his Tenth and Eleventh incarnations.
It was director Euros Lyn’s first work on the series. At the time of broadcast, it featured the most extensive use of CGI yet seen on Doctor Who.
The Doctor asks Rose where she would like to go on her first trip in the TARDIS. She asks to go one hundred years into the future, but when they arrive, the Doctor says the 22nd century is boring. They travel again, this time to 12005, the time of the New Roman Empire. Again, they move on without leaving the TARDIS as Rose cannot believe his explanation. Finally, to impress his new companion, the Doctor takes Rose to a space station orbiting Earth in the year 5.5/Apple/26. As they watch in amazement, the Sun expands partially — “Welcome to the end of the world”.
The Doctor tells Rose that Earth has long been empty of any kind of life. Mankind left it long ago and the planet was taken over by the National Trust. They have used gravity satellites to hold the effects of the Sun back, but the money has run out. Earth will be swallowed up by the Sun at last. The rich and powerful of the universe will witness the end of the world, which will occur in about half an hour. The station has automated systems and is staffed by blue-skinned humanoids.
On encountering the blue-skinned Steward, who manages Platform One, the Doctor persuades him that he and Rose are invited guests by using a piece of psychic paper that makes people see what the Doctor wants. The other guests arrive, including the diminutive Moxx of Balhoon, the Face of Boe, living humanoid trees from the Forest of Cheem (whose ancestors originated on Earth) and, from Financial Family Seven, a group of hooded aliens known as the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. Rose watches in horrified fascination as the last living human arrives — the Lady Cassandra O’Brien Dot Delta Seventeen, a piece of stretched-out skin with eyes and a mouth, mounted on a frame and connected to a brain jar. The skin needs to be constantly moisturized by her attendants. The guests exchange gifts. Jabe of the Forest of Cheem gives the Doctor a cutting taken from her grandfather. The Doctor gives her the gift of air from his lungs. The Moxx gives the gift of bodily saliva, and the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hand out gifts of “peace” in the form of metal spheres, even to the Steward.
Cassandra gives her own gifts: the last ostrich egg, and an “iPod” (actually a jukebox) from ancient Earth. Rose is a bit overwhelmed when the jukebox plays “classical” music — the song “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell — and leaves the hall. The Doctor receives a call about the TARDIS’ parking place and is given a ticket telling him where it is being moved. Elsewhere, Rose has a brief conversation with a station plumber, Raffalo, who is investigating a blockage. At first she is comforted by the familiarity of Raffalo’s matter-of-fact, working-class manner, but when Raffalo explains that she is from Crespallion, which is part of the Jaggit Brocade, affiliated to the Scarlet Junction in Complex 56, Rose realizes just how far she is from home, with a man she does not know. She leaves, and does not see Raffalo spot small, spider-like robots in the ducts, which rapidly grab her and pull her inside. The spiders are being disgorged from the metal spheres gifted by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme to guests. They soon infiltrate the entire station, sabotaging its systems.
The Doctor finds Rose. When she asks where he is from, he brushes off her questions. When the Doctor alters Rose’s mobile phone so she can talk to her mother in the past, another fact sinks in — her mother is long dead. The Doctor jokes that if Rose thought the telephone call was amazing, she should see the bill. Suddenly, a tremor shakes the station, and the Doctor gleefully observes that was not supposed to happen. The Steward, investigating the cause of the tremor, is killed when a spider lowers the sun filter in his room, exposing him to the direct heat of the Sun’s rays.
The Doctor starts to look into the tremor and Jabe offers to show him where the maintenance corridors are, while Rose goes to speak to Cassandra. Rose finds Cassandra has had seven hundred and eight cosmetic operations, and considers herself the last “pure” human — the others who left “intermingled” with other species and she considers them all mongrels. Her next operation, to bleach her blood, is next week. Disgusted that humanity has come to this, Rose insults Cassandra and storms off, only to be met by the Adherents, who knock her out.
In the corridors, Jabe quietly tells the Doctor that she scanned him earlier, and was astonished to discover he exists. She sympathizes with him and the Doctor is briefly moved to tears. They continue to the bowels of the station, where they find one of the spiders. Jabe captures it with a long, vine-like appendage.
As the station’s systems continue to fail and, as a “traditional ballad” —Britney Spears singing “Toxic” — plays on the jukebox, Rose is lying unconscious on the floor. She wakes up and is trapped in a room with a lowering sun filter. The Doctor hears her cries for help and raises the filter, but Rose is still locked in. Returning to the main hall, he releases the spider to seek out its master. It first scurries over to Cassandra and then veers towards Adherents of the Repeated Meme. The Doctor says that a “meme” is just an idea and reveals that the Adherents are robots as they collapse to the floor. He then sends the spider out to find who was controlling them and it goes directly to Cassandra.
Cassandra has her attendants hold the others at bay, saying the moisturizer guns can also shoot acid. Her operations cost a fortune and she was hoping to create a hostage situation and later seek compensation. Now she will just let everyone burn and take over their corporate holdings. Cassandra orders the spiders to shut off the force field protecting the station, then uses a teleportation device to transport herself and her attendants away.
With only minutes until the Sun incinerates Earth and the station, the Doctor and Jabe rush back to the air-conditioning chamber. The restore switch for the computer systems is at the other end of a platform blocked by giant rotating fans. The Doctor protests the rising heat will burn the wooden Jabe, but she insists on staying to hold down the switch that slows the fans. The Doctor makes it nearly to the end before Jabe catches fire and burns. He closes his eyes and concentrates, making it past the last fan and throwing the reset switch. The force fields come up around the station just as the Earth explodes into cinders. The station’s systems start to self-repair.
Several of the guests are now dead, incinerated as the Sun’s rays burst through cracks in the windows. The Doctor finds Cassandra’s teleportation feed inside the ostrich egg and reverses it to bring her back. She starts taunting the Doctor, saying that he cannot do anything about her. However, the Doctor calmly notes he has transported Cassandra back without her moisturizing attendants. In the heat, she begins to dry out. Cassandra begs for mercy and Rose asks the Doctor to help her, but the Doctor coldly says that everything has its time and everything dies. Cassandra’s skin stretches and tears, her innards exploding, leaving only her brain tank and empty frame.
Rose is sad that in all the danger, Earth’s passing was not actually seen by anyone. The Doctor takes her back to the present in the TARDIS, telling her that people think things will last forever, but they don’t. He admits his home planet was burned like Earth, but in a war. He is the last survivor of the Time Lords. Rose says he still has her, and he smiles as she offers to buy him some chips. They have only five billion years before the shops close.