The End of Time
The End of Time was a two-part Doctor Who special broadcast during the 2009–2010 Christmas season, concluding the “2009 interim season” and standing as both the revival’s fifth Christmas special and its first New Year’s special. It featured the final regular appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor and introduced Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. The story revealed details of the Last Great Time War, and gave important development to the character of the Master. It also featured the final appearance of Elisabeth Sladen in Doctor Who proper, although she would go on to star in several more episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
As of May 2015, the episode features the final appearance of John Simm as the Master, as the series 8 episode Dark Water later revealed Missy, played by Michelle Gomez, as the first known female incarnation of the Master. No regeneration has been depicted.
From a production standpoint, it marked a major change in the history of Doctor Who. Like only The War Games before it, The End of Time ushered in a complete change of regular cast. Unlike that 1960s story, however, it was the final story for its principal producers, Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, and was the last regular story for its head writer, Davies. It was also the first to include any part overseen by — if not credited to — incoming lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat. Though Tracie Simpson was the credited line producer, her elevation to regular line producer on the first Matt Smith series meant that Julie Gardner effectively became the line producer for the first and only time in her tenure on Doctor Who.
“It is said that in the final days of planet Earth, everyone had bad dreams…” They all forgot them, except one man. On Earth, Wilfred Mott, entering a church, has a vision of the Master laughing maniacally. Inside, he notices a stained-glass panel with the image of the TARDIS. A mysterious woman tells him the church was a monastery in the 13th century. It was attacked by a demon which was exorcised by a “sainted physician”. When the woman suggests that the physician is returning, Wilf says it would make his Christmas and turns to find she has vanished. He has another vision of the Master laughing, startling him.
In the 43rd century, the Tenth Doctor arrives on the Ood Sphere. He is greeted by Ood Sigma, whom he tries (unsuccessfully) to make laugh by locking his TARDIS like an Earth car. The Doctor is distracted by the marvelous city the Ood have built. When Sigma says it took a hundred years, the Doctor remarks that was still way too fast for them to have advanced in such a time. Sigma takes the Doctor to the Ood Elders, who show him visions of the Master returning. The Doctor says that that’s impossible; he saw his wife Lucy shoot him and he burned the corpse himself. The Ood show him an older woman taking the Master’s ring and warn the Doctor of a greater danger returning from the darkness; its return precedes “the End of Time itself”. Other visions are a frightened Wilfred and a “King in his Counting House”. The Doctor rushes to Earth in the TARDIS.
Lucy Saxon has been locked in Broadfell Prison ever since she murdered her husband. One of her warders is Miss Trefusis, the woman who retrieved the Master’s ring. On Christmas Eve, the prison governor brings Lucy to a chamber; most of the staff are fanatical disciples of the Master who have worked since his death to bring about his resurrection. With the ring, a biometric imprint taken from Lucy and the sacrifice of the cultists’ lives, the Master is reborn in a swirl of energy. However, Lucy informs her former husband that she knew he’d come back, and her family had prepared an antidote to the potion of life. After receiving the potion from her warden ally, she hurls the potion at the Master, creating a violent explosion that destroys Broadfell Prison.
The Doctor arrives the following day, too late. The prison is obliterated, but the Master survived. As a result of the interrupted resurrection process, he has supernatural speed, agility and can generate electrical bolts as weapons, but his life force is in a state of constant depletion. He is infinitely hungry for any food he can find — including homeless people on a desolate construction site.
The Doctor tracks the Master to a junkyard. The Master taunts him by beating a trashcan to a four-stroke beat, then leads him on a chase through the junkyard. Wilf scours London for the Doctor with other pensioners calling themselves the “Silver Cloak”, and finds him. After retreating to a specific café with him, the Doctor answers some personal questions and then tells him the prophecy of his death. He sees Donna Noble standing outside, arguing with a police officer over her ticketed car, and realizes why Wilf insisted on this particular café. Wilf tells him that she’s now engaged to Shaun Temple, and pleads with the Doctor to at least go up to her and say hello to her, but the Doctor sadly reminds him that if Donna remembers him for even a second, she will die.
The narrator, his face revealed, and his voice turning scornful toward humanity, speaks of the passage of Christmas Eve into Christmas Day; the players are moving into their final positions, with each human dreaming of the arrival of the final day.
Finding the Master again, the Doctor examines him to discover that the drumming in his head is not a symptom of insanity, but real. Later found to be a White Point Star from Gallifrey. Troops appear, however, sedating and kidnapping the Master and taking him to the mansion of billionaire Joshua Naismith. Back at Wilfred’s house, Donna’s fiancé, Shaun, arrives. As Wilf tries to watch the Queen’s Christmas speech, the mysterious woman appears to him only in place of the broadcast, ordering him to take arms; she also advises him not to tell the Doctor of what has happened, so that his life can be saved. Wilf takes his old service revolver from under his bed as the Doctor contacts him by throwing a stone at his window. Wilf shows the Doctor a book by Naismith, and the Doctor realizes Donna bought the book as a present because her Time Lord subconscious is reaching out. They immediately set a course for Naismith’s estate, despite Sylvia’s protests. In the TARDIS, Wilf asks the Doctor why he can’t go back to yesterday and catch the Master; the Doctor says he can’t go back in his own timeline.
At the mansion, Naismith and his daughter, Abigail, are in possession of the “Immortality Gate”, which can heal injuries and, Naismith hopes, offer life everlasting. He acquired the Gate after the fall of Torchwood. The gate came with two nuclear-powered control booths, which are set-up in a way that if a worker wishes to leave he must be replaced in the other booth. Wanting immortality for his daughter, Naismith enlists the assistance of the Master to mend the malfunctioning Gate.
The Doctor and Wilf arrive at the Naismith estate and hide the TARDIS one second out of sync, so the Master can’t get to it. In the basement, they discover two of Naismith’s staff, Addams and Rossiter, are undercover Vinvocci, disguised with shimmers as human; the Doctor can see through the shimmers and deactivates them with his sonic screwdriver. The Vinvocci explain the Immortality Gate is a medical device that heals lifeforms across entire planets, using a genetic template. The Doctor realizes what the Master is planning to do and rushes upstairs, but is too late to stop the Master from escaping his captors and jumping into the gate. Every single human on Earth sees the Master in their minds, and when Wilf also arrives seeing the Master the Doctor gets the current worker out of the nuclear booth, then has himself replaced with Wilf, and the shielding clears the old man’s mind. The Doctor asks the Master if he’s planning on transmitting mind-control or hypnotic instructions, but the Master has far grander plans than that. He has modified the Gate to transmit his own genetic template across the entire planet. The gate is activated, and a wave spreads across the entire transforming every human on Earth into a clone of himself.
Donna phones Wilf, herself immune due to the meta-crisis that made her part Time Lord, and tells him the same has happened to her mother and fiance. Seeing such a sight makes Donna start to remember her travels with the Doctor in flashes, and this causes her terrible pain as her brain cannot handle her Time Lord knowledge. Wilf, frightened for Donna’s life, warns the Doctor his granddaughter is starting to remember her adventures. Enraged, Wilf shouts grievances at the Master. He smugly asks if he was talking to him, while his clones inside the room chime in to ask the same question in succession, until a TV news reporter clone clearly makes his point for him: “Breaking news: I’m everyone.“
As the Master’s duplicates unveil themselves, the Doctor is horrified to find that everyone around him, as well as the people on TV, are now exact clones of the Master. He quickly abuses the President’s mind by blanking out a financial crisis solution just to spite the world, while a crowd of his own duplicates claps, roots, and hollers for the original Master’s triumph. As the Master steps out of the gateway he tells the Doctor that the human race was always the Doctor’s favorite, but it now exists no more, having been replaced with “the Master Race”. Every single Master on the planet laughs together with narcissistic glee and celebration, while the original laughs in the Doctor’s face. As a world full of Masters taunts and mocks him, the Doctor’s face twists with extreme fury.
The Narrator announces the Master and his removal of humanity is only a small part of an approaching conflict. Suddenly, he belittles humankind; this is not a narrator, but the Lord President of the High Council of Time Lords, addressing the Gallifrey Panopticon, which is packed with Time Lords. He announces that “This is the day the Time Lords return. For Gallifrey! For victory! For the end of time itself!”
On a devastated Gallifrey, on the last day of the Time War, the Time Lord Council reports that the Doctor still possesses “the Moment”. They have foreseen that he will use it to end the war by destroying the Daleks and Gallifrey. A Time Lady suggests that this might be for the best. At the heart of the Time War, billions are dying, being resurrected and dying repeatedly. The never-ending carnage is a travesty of life. Seeing this as having no faith in his power, the Lord President uses his gauntlet to vaporize her. Exploding with anger, he decrees he will not allow himself or his race to die. Finding that the Doctor and the Master both somehow survive the Time War and end up on Earth, the Council devises a plan. They retroactively implant a link to the Master during his early childhood: the four-beat drum rhythm that has tormented him all his life. They next send a Gallifreyan “White-Point Star” diamond to Earth as a more physical link. This will let the Time Lords escape from the time-lock and their impending destruction at the hands of the Doctor.
On Earth, the Master has the Tenth Doctor and Wilfred Mott tied up. He interrogates the Doctor as to the whereabouts of this TARDIS. Wilf’s mobile phone rings. The Master is surprised, as no one but the Master Race exists on Earth. He finds the phone, receiving a call from Donna Noble. The Master hears Donna, who is confused about everyone else changing. Suspicious, the Master demands to know why Donna didn’t change. Wilfred reluctantly admits the meta-crisis that made her part Time Lord. The Master sneers, “He does love playing with Earth girls!”, then orders his copies to take her down. As Donna is cornered by the Master Race, she starts to remember her adventures with the Doctor. Instead of burning up, she emits an energy pulse that knocks everyone unconscious, including herself. Hearing nothing and seeing the Doctor smile, the Master removes his mouth gag. The Doctor calmly points out that when he erased her memories of her time with him he also left Donna, his best friend, with a defense mechanism.
The Master realizes the four-drum beat sound is from across time itself. He demands to know where the TARDIS is, threatening to kill Wilfred. The Doctor notes, “You know the most amazing thing about you is that after all this time, you’re still bone-dead stupid.” Somehow, the Master has failed to notice that the guard next to the Master is one inch too tall. The “guard” hits him in the head with the rifle, knocking him down. The guard is Rossiter. Addams rushes in and urges her partner to get the two men out of the mansion. Rossiter, unable to free the Doctor from the chair he is strapped to, wheels the chair bumpily down several flights of stairs to the basement, prompting the Doctor to note this as the “worst… rescue… ever!”.
From the basement, the four teleport to the orbiting Vinvocci ship, narrowly escaping the Master and his guards. Wilfred is amazed at being in space; the Doctor is more concerned with the Master. As soon as he gets out of his restraints, he destroys the teleporter, preventing the Master Race from following them. He asks for directions to the bridge; the Master has every missile on the planet ready to fire. When they arrive, the Vinvocci prepare to leave, so the Doctor destroys the ship’s systems, leaving them dead in orbit. As the Doctor begins to mend the systems, Wilfred sees the mysterious woman again, who instructs him to give the Doctor his gun.
The White-Point Star sent to Earth has been found by the Master. On the ship, the Doctor is still repairing the systems. Wilf talks to him about many things and tries to have the Doctor take the gun to save himself by killing the Master. The Doctor refuses and Wilf begins to cry over his fruitless efforts, prompting the Doctor to hug him. A broadcast from the Master reaches the ship; he has found the diamond. It can only mean the Time Lords are returning. Wilfred considers this good but the Doctor’s reaction says quite differently… he grabs the gun and rushes for the control room. Wilf is confused as he thought the Time Lords were wise and peaceful. The Doctor tells him that’s how he chooses to remember them; in reality the horrors of the Time War had changed the Time Lords, making them far more dangerous than any of his enemies.
The Doctor has repaired the ship, but Addams will not have them going to Earth. The Doctor seizes control of the ship and speeds towards Earth. Rossiter and Wilf take charge of the asteroid lasers and blast away the missiles the Master launches at them. Addams plots a course for Naismith’s mansion and the Doctor jumps from the ship, crashing through the skylight and into the Immortality Gate room. He is too late. The Master has brought the Time Lords back.
Not only is the Master in the room, but so is the Time Lord Council. The President defames the Master by noting they have been saved by Gallifrey’s most infamous child. The Master, fast to retort, quickly belittles the Lord President’s authority and reveals that he did not call the Time Lords to Earth to save them. He intends to implant himself in them and assert control of the entire race. However, the Lord President is not amused at the Master’s assertion over his power, and demonstrates how fast he can unravel his scheme. He raises his gauntlet forward. It radiates with a blue light and the Master Race begins to revert back to their unaltered human identities, causing the Master great panic as he loses his trump card.
The Time Lord President tells the humans present in the Naismith Mansion to kneel. Left powerless, the Master tries to bargain with the Time Lords by reminding them that he was their salvation. However, the whole planet shakes intensely. The President announces that “the approach begins”. The Master is confused by his cryptic words; the Doctor angrily tells him that not only the whole species of Time Lords are coming back, but so is the planet. Gallifrey begins to materialize near Earth, fulfilling the prophecy that “it” is returning. Standing twice as big as Earth, it shadows over the other planet with an air of doom.
Panic erupts in the streets of London as the planet rumbles as the giant red world of Gallifrey manifests above the atmosphere. Shaun Temple goes searching for his fiancée Donna, while Sylvia Noble looks up at the ominous sky and prays for the Doctor to save them. Wilf, having left the Vinvocci shuttle, makes his way through the crumbling Naismith Mansion to find the Doctor. Refusing to stay on Earth as Gallifrey threatens to knock it out of orbit, Addams immediately readies the shuttle for takeoff. Rossiter is concerned about the Doctor’s fate, but Addams shrugs and reminds him that he already said he was dying. All the residents of Naithsmith Mansion, including Joshua and his daughter, flee from the residence. Joshua spots Gallifrey’s descent and is affixed with terror.
Wilf returns to help the Doctor, freeing a trapped man in the control booth and trapping himself in the process. The Master thinks that the Time Lords’ restoration to the universe is fantastic, but the Doctor tells him that the broken time-lock means that all of the other horrors born in the last days of the Time War, which he had sealed away in the Time Lock as well, would also be released. The Daleks would not be the only additional escapees; they would be joined by the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, and the Could’ve Been King with his Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres, seeing the war turning to Hell, which is exactly what the Master has unleashed above Earth. The Master delights at the thought of such chaos, but the Doctor tells him that not even the Time Lords can survive such an onslaught.
The Lord President then reveals that he had planned to deal with these horrors by initiating the Ultimate Sanction; a plan for the Time Lords to survive the collapse of all creation and all time, as the paradox of Gallifrey’s return to the universe rips the Time Vortex apart, by ascending their conscious minds beyond the need for bodies. The Master asks to join them, but the President refuses, contemptuously dismissing the Master as “diseased… albeit a disease of the Time Lords’ own making,” and moves to kill him.
Then the Doctor aims Wilf’s gun at the President, who cautions the Doctor to “choose his enemies wisely.” Even the Master goads him on, urging him to kill the President and claim Gallifrey himself. At this, the Doctor spins and aims at the Master, who realizes that the link that brought the Time Lords to Earth is inside his head, and if he dies, the link is broken and reforms the Time Lock. He points out that killing the President would have the same effect.
Finally, in this dark hour of the Doctor’s life, one of the “disgraced” Time Lords covering her eyes behind the Lord President reveals herself to the Doctor; she is the mysterious woman that Wilfred had seen on a number of occasions. As she casts her gaze to a spot behind the Doctor, he not only seems to recognize her, but now knows what to do: he whirls and aims toward the Master once again.
As the Master’s face falls, the Doctor orders him to get out of the way. Suddenly understanding, the Master jumps away from the White-Point Star just as the Doctor shoots it, and its destruction severs the link and reinforces the Time Lock, pulling the Time Lords back into the Time War and to their inevitable doom. The Doctor sends them “back into Hell”, and identifies the Lord President as Rassilon.
As Gallifrey vanishes back into the Time Lock, Rassilon refuses to die alone and prepares to kill the Doctor. The Doctor is ready for the prophecy to be fulfilled… but the Master orders the Doctor out of the way and attacks Rassilon with his life force energy powers, shouting that Rassilon was responsible for everything that had happened to him.
As the Master counts the drums one last time, his blasts occupy Rassilon long enough for a bright flash of light to send the all of them — the Time Lords, Rassilon, Gallifrey, and the Master, back into the last day of the Last Great Time War. The Doctor struggles to his feet, weary, but happy, almost in disbelief that he has survived the prophecy.
“Knock, knock, knock, knock”
The Doctor’s face turns from relief to horror as he hears the four hesitant knocks portending his death. The knocks persist, condemning him further. As he slowly turns, he sees where they are coming from — Wilfred is still trapped in the nuclear booth and wants to be let out. The Doctor, leery to approach the booth, looks at him with dread. As he suspects, Wilfred’s life is in dire straits.
Upon inspection of the booth, the Doctor tells Wilf that the Master left the nuclear bolt running. The machine has gone past critical and is about to overload, which will release a lethal dose of radiation into the booth and doing anything to it, even using the sonic screwdriver, will set it off. The only way to get Wilf out alive is for the Doctor to walk into the open side of the booth and push a button to release the one-way lock, but this means the Doctor will be trapped inside in place of Wilf to endure the radiation blast. At 500,000 rads, it would inflict catastrophic damage to his body.
Wilf tells the Doctor to leave him. Since he’s lived a full life, it doesn’t seem worth it for his friend to give up his own just for Wilf’s sake. The Doctor pretends to callously accept Wilf’s offer, but knows he cannot allow the sacrifice. His spirit finally shattered, the Doctor cuts loose with a rant of anger, grief, and frustration. He rages and chokes back tears about how despite everything he’s done he’s still going to die just because Wilf had to climb into the booth and he’s just an old man, “not remotely important”; he could just be left and the Doctor could live so much longer and “do so much more”. Then he snaps out of this self-absorption and realizes what he’s just said. He knows he can’t leave Wilf to die and concludes that a Time Lord sometimes lives too long.
Despite Wilf’s protests, the Doctor enters the opposite booth and frees him, releasing the radiation into his booth. The Doctor writhes in intense pain until he finally collapses and the booth itself goes dead from the loss of power. After a few seconds, the Doctor gets up. At first, it looks like the Doctor has survived; however, the wounds he had sustained earlier from crashing through the skylight into the mansion suddenly heal themselves. The Doctor is dying and his body is preparing to regenerate.
The Doctor takes Wilf home and tells his friend, “I’ll see you again, one more time.” When Wilfred asks where he’s going, the Doctor simply states, “To get my reward.”
The Doctor travels to various places where he has brief, mostly distant encounters with recent friends. He saves Martha and Mickey (now married) from a Sontaran sniper. He pushes Luke Smith out of the path of a car, and exchanges a meaningful look with Sarah Jane. He goes to an alien bar where he connects Captain Jack with midshipman Alonso Frame. He visits a book signing for A Journal of Impossible Things by Verity Newman, Joan Redfern’s great-granddaughter, to find out if Joan was happy in the end (she was). He appears after Donna’s wedding, where he gives Wilfred and Sylvia the gift of a winning lottery ticket (purchased with a pound given to him by Sylvia’s late husband) to pass on to her. He returns to the Powell Estate early on New Year’s Day 2005, where he sees Jackie and Rose heading home after the New Year’s celebrations.
After Jackie departs, he talks to Rose, keeping himself partly hidden in the shadows. When the Doctor asks her the year, she responds, “January 1, 2005”. The Doctor tells that she’ll “have a really great year.” She smiles and leaves. The Doctor staggers away, the pain of the radiation poisoning finally setting in. A few feet away from the TARDIS, he collapses. He looks up to see Ood Sigma, standing calmly. As the Doctor struggles to his feet, Sigma tells him that the universe will sing him to his sleep and “this song is ending, but the story never ends.” On the Ood home world, the Ood sing “Vale Decem” (Goodbye Ten) in chorus.
The Doctor enters the TARDIS, tossing his coat on one of the coral structures, and notices regeneration energy coming out of his right hand. He sets the TARDIS in flight as he circles the console. Tearfully, he utters: “I don’t want to go…”
As the words leave him, golden energy radiates from both his hands and face as he breathes heavily. Taking a deep breath, the Doctor stretches his arms out as golden energy bursts from his hands and head and his body regenerates.
The regenerative energy shatters the TARDIS windows and set the console room ablaze, destroying columns, blowing out the lights of the console room, and raining debris down from above. The Doctor’s face is consumed by the regeneration energy. The Doctor’s facial features fade and morph into those of a young man with a swirl of brown hair whose eyes are closed. The young man is screaming in pain.
As the strain of the regeneration wears off, the Eleventh Doctor opens his eyes and stumbles back with a look of surprise. He quickly examines himself to make sure all his body parts are still in the same place, and his long hair causes him to think he’d become a girl for a moment (a quick feel of his Adam’s apple confirms he’s not). Also, much to his annoyance, he is still not ginger, but has dark hair again.
Remembering there was something important he forgot, the Doctor tries recalling what it was until another explosion forces him to his knees. Realizing that what he was trying to remember was that the TARDIS is now crashing, the Doctor oddly seems happy as he jumps over to the monitor — it shows the ship spinning wildly towards Earth. Delighting in the chaos, the Doctor clings to the console and gleefully shouts, “Geronimo!”