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Recap / Doctor Who S27 E2 "The End of the World"

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"You lot, you spend all your time thinking about dying, like you're gonna get killed by eggs, or beef, or global warming, or asteroids. But you never take time to imagine the impossible. That perhaps you make it. Maybe you survive. This is the year 5.5/apple/26, five billion years in your future, and this is the day... Hold on... [the Sun starts to become a red giant] This is the day the Sun expands. Welcome to the end of the world."
The Doctor
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The one with the bitchy trampoline and an elegy courtesy of Britney Spears.

Written by Russell T. Davies.


Rose expresses a wish to visit the future, and the Doctor cheerfully obliges... but scorns her idea of a mere hundred years in the future in favour of five billion years. Nothing succeeds like excess!

It's the year 5.5/Apple/26 when the Doctor and Rose materialise aboard Platform One, a cruciform space station orbiting a dying star, specifically, the Earth, which is about to be enveloped by the expanding sun.

Earth has long been empty of any kind of life. The humans left it long ago and the planet was taken over by the National Trust. They have used gravity satellites to hold back the effects of the Sun, but the money has run out. Earth will be swallowed up by the Sun at last. The rich and powerful of the universe will gather here to 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.

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On encountering the Steward, who manages Platform One, the Doctor persuades him that he and Rose are invited guests by using his psychic paper. As the Doctor and Rose wait, the other guests arrive and are announced, including the diminutive Moxx of Balhoon, the Face of Boe, living humanoid trees from the Forest of Cheem (whose ancestors originated on Earth), the brothers Hop Pyleen (inventors of hypo-slip travel systems), Cal Spark Plug, Mr. and Mrs. Pakoo, the Ambassadors from the City State of Binding Light, and, from Financial Family Seven, the hooded Adherents of the Repeated Meme. Rose watches in horrified fascination as the guest of honour arrives: Earth's last human, the Lady Cassandra O'Brien.Δ17, 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 salivas, and the Adherents of the Repeated Meme hand out gifts of "peace" in the form of metal spheres, even to the Steward.

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Cassandra gives her own gifts: the last ostrich egg, and an "iPod" (a jukebox) from ancient Earth. Rose is a bit overwhelmed when the jukebox plays "classical" music — "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 realises 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 that wasn't 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 708 cosmetic operations and considers herself the last "pure" human — the others who left "intermingled" with other species and she considers them all mongrels. Her 709th 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, and the leader hits her in the head, knocking her unconscious.

In the corridors, Jabe quietly tells the Doctor that she scanned him earlier, and was astonished to discover he exists. She sympathises 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 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 the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. The Doctor finds this to be a clever attempt at misdirection, since a meme is just an idea, and rips off one of the Adherents' arms, revealing they are robots, which all 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 moisturiser guns can also shoot acid. Her operations cost a fortune and she was hoping to create a hostage situation while pretending to be one of the victims herself and later seek compensation. Now she will just let everyone burn while the shares in the guests' rival companies Cassandra holds will triple in price. 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 moisturising 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.

The Doctor: You think it'll last forever, people and cars and concrete, but it won't. One day it's all gone. Even the sky. My planet's gone. It's dead. It burned like the Earth. It's just rocks and dust. Before its time.
Rose: What happened?
The Doctor: There was a war, and we lost.

Faced with the utter strangeness of the universe and the tragic briefness of life, Rose decides... that they had better go get some chips. After all, they've only got five billion years until the shops close.

(Unfortunately, it'll take another four years before we find out exactly what happened to the Doctor's planet, and another eight to find out the circumstances that led to what happened.)


Tropes:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: Lady Cassandra, who declares herself the last pure human, and considers anyone who's made modifications as half-breeds and freaks.
    "Oh, they call themselves new humans and proto-humans and digi-humans, even humanish, but you know what I call them? Mongrels."
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Big enough for a plumber to fit in.
  • All There in the Manual: Supplemental material written by RTD for a guidebook in 2005 expands on Cassandra, the Trees, and the Face of Boe.
    • Cassandra's claim about having grown up as a boy are expanded upon. She repeatedly had sex changes throughout her life, usually to avoid getting into trouble when her lovers died "mysterious" deaths (like falling on a rake five times). Her birth name was Brian Cobb, and her title of "lady" was bought at auction.
    • The Trees were the result of mankind selling off Brazil to pay off debt. The rainforest was acquired by the Brotherhood of Hame, and its evolution was accelerated. Within two hundred years, the Forests of Cheem demanded autonomy, and the Brotherhood (having dealt with this situation before) acquiesced. Shortly thereafter, the Trees disappeared as one, for five thousand years, during which time they learnt of or witnessed the Time War.
    • The Face of Boe's entry is largely filled with Foreshadowing. Mention is made of his having children during the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, of him being impossibly old, with no one knowing how he's still alive, and that when he dies, the sky will "crack asunder".
  • All There in the Script: The original script describes Cassandra as having cabinets containing the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and the Magna Carta. The former would have been funny, considering that Zoë Wanamaker played Madam Hooch in the film version.
  • Alone in a Crowd: After Earth is destroyed, the Doctor takes Rose right back to her home time. The two of them stand on a busy street, surrounded by dozens of people, none of whom can even imagine what they just witnessed. They don't join the flow of the crowd until Rose suggests they get chips.
  • Alternative Calendar: Set in the far-future year "5.5/Apple/26". A year with a number so large that it has been abbreviated through various forms of semantics. The Doctor helpfully translates that this means it's around the year five billion.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: You've got humanoids colored shades of blue, tree blue, and pink.
  • Arc Words: The Moxx of Balhoon discusses "the Bad Wolf scenario" with the Face of Boe.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: This brief announcement at the beginning.
    Announcement: Guests are reminded that Platform 1 forbids the use of weapons, teleportation, and religion.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: This is the first episode in the new series that shows the Doctor is not a man you want to be on the bad side of.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: See What the Hell, Hero?.
  • Brain in a Jar: Cassandra is a skin trampoline with two eyes and a mouth controlled by her enjarred brain.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: One of the (CGI-animated) spiders "accidentally" collides with the camera.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: The Doctor explains that both his planet and species have been wiped out. "There was a war, and we lost."
  • Combat Tentacles: Jabe retrieves one of the "peace" drones by extending a vine, then apologises — "I'm not supposed to show them in public."
  • Compartment Shot: From inside the washing machine onto Rose's mother as she is sorting out the laundry.
  • Continuity Nod: The Doctor makes reference to being on the Titanic, which was established last episode.
  • Dark Lord on Life Support: Lady Cassandra, who exists as a sheet of skin on a rack with her Brain in a Jar underneath, and has to be moisturised frequently.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: The Doctor must navigate a series of these in order to reach an otherwise inaccessible switch.
  • Delicious Distraction: Rather than make a decision on whether to continue as the Doctor's companion, Rose suggests they go and eat chips. The Doctor agrees.
  • Department of Redundancy Department/Shaped Like Itself: "They're just so alien. The aliens are so alien. You look at them... and they're alien."
  • Disappointed by the Motive: Cassandra's original plan was to manufacture a hostage situation, then use the compensation money to fund more operations.
    The Doctor: [disgusted] Five billion years, and it still comes down to money.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Subversion: Earth is destroyed on-screen, but nobody in that era makes a big deal out of it... because it's five billion years from now, Earth's destruction was long overdue anyway, and humanity has abandoned it long before.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: In the year 5-billion-or-so Planet Earth, long since abandoned, is engulfed by the Sun.
  • Fantastic Racism: Cassandra towards "impure" humans, a very large category of life which she includes Rose in. Interestingly, Rose's reaction to Cassandra isn't much different in turn.
  • Fate Worse than Death: When Cassandra suggests Rose could be "flatter", Rose immediately says she'd rather die, a line influenced by Billie Piper's own struggles with anorexia.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The big reveal is set up early, first when Jabe tries analysing the Doctor's species, and refuses to believe it, and second when they're alone and she tells him it's a miracle he even exists.
    • The Doctor doesn't answer when Rose asks him who the Time Lords fought a war with.
  • Future Music: "Toxic" is apparently a traditional Earth ballad.
  • Future Imperfect:
    • A jukebox is called an iPod, and an ostrich is described like a dragon.
    • As well as Britney Spears' "Toxic" being referred to as "a traditional ballad". Also a Continuity Nod to "The Chase", when Vicki called the Beatles' performance "classical music".
    • invokedNot to mention the fact that "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell is listed as the original in the "iPod"'s record changer. Their rendition is, in fact, a cover; the original was written by Ed Cobb and recorded by Gloria Jones in 1965.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Rose refers to Cassandra as a "bitchy trampoline".
  • Heinz Hybrid: Humans have spread out so far and interbred with so many other species that the concept of a singular "human race" no longer exists.
    Cassandra: I am the last pure human. The others... mingled. Oh, they call themselves new humans and proto-humans and digi-humans — even humanish. But you know what I call them? Mongrels.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Jabe, who allows the station temperature on her side of the fans to incinerate her, while allowing the Doctor to override the fans on his side without getting immolated.
    Jabe: Then stop wasting time, Time Lord.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: "Whatever I am, it must be invisible."
  • Internal Homage: The destruction of Gallifrey, which the Doctor mentions here for the first time, was also a massive Story Arc in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels. Except this is referring to a different destruction of Gallifrey.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • As the Doctor and Rose talk about the people coming to visit Satellite One, Rose asks if he means people or aliens, to which he responds "depends how you mean people". Later, when Cassandra is caught by the Doctor, he angrily states people have died. Cassandra just blithely shoots back "that depends how you define people".
    • When Rose tries to make sense of her culture shock by talking about how everyone on the platform is so alien, the Doctor makes a slightly snide and insensitive crack about how they're "lucky I didn't take you to the Deep South". After the conversation has progressed to the TARDIS's Translation Convention, Rose reacts poorly to learning that the Doctor's machine gets inside her head and changes how it works, and that the Doctor didn't mention this. When the Doctor admits that he hadn't really considered it, Rose angrily fires back that he was "too busy making cheap shots about the Deep South".
  • J'accuse!: "The Adherents of the Repeated Meme: J'accuse!"
  • Ladies and Germs: "Ladies and gentlemen and trees and multiforms..."
  • Last of His Kind:
    • Cassandra is titled as the Last Human, though it's later revealed that she is the last full-blooded human and that humans merely mixed into other species. It's also revealed humans were not the only Earth species to do this.
    • The Doctor reveals he is the last of the Time Lords.
  • Legacy Implosion: The Doctor goes from being a renegade on the run to the last of his species, his entire planet having been wiped out in a catastrophic war. The Time Lords, by extension, go from being pompous academics to a mythic lost race.
  • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll": Britney Spears' "Toxic" is referred to as a traditional ballad, and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" as classical music in the year 5 billion.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: When the Doctor corrects Jabe that Rose isn't his wife, she assumes Rose is a prostitute.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After playing it up around the bizarre guests and conventions of the Platform, the Doctor clearly realises he might have been a bit hasty in bringing Rose five billion years to the future when he sees her stagger out of the room on the verge of a culture shock breakdown.
  • Nerds Are Virgins: Cassandra snidely references this when the Doctor rumbles her Evil Plan.
    Cassandra: I'll bet you were the school swot who never got kissed.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Rose is kind enough to give a drudge permission to speak(!).
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • There are giant spinning fans blocking the way to the reset-the-computer button. There is a switch to slow the fans down but it will cause all the heat to move past the person holding the switch.
    • Also, why does Platform One even have a manual "lower sun filter" option for its occupied chambers?note 
  • The Not-So-Harmless Punishment: There's a variant, where the Doctor assumes what his Unishment will be, and is corrected.
    The Doctor: What are you gonna do? Moisturise me?
    Lady Cassandra: With acid.
  • Obviously Evil: Lady Cassandra, especially when she displays Fantastic Racism during her conversation with Rose.
  • Oh, Crap!: Twice by Lady Cassandra. The first time is when she finds out the Doctor caught her, while she was in the middle of insulting the people she tried to kill behind their backs, before she was teleported. The second time is when she realizes she is without her moisturising crew and is drying up.
  • Ominous Crack: The observation deck's viewing window starts cracking when the station's heat shields fail and the Sun's expansion is imminent.
  • Plant Aliens: "Representing the Forest of Cheem, we have... trees." Jabe is a direct descendant of the tropical rainforest.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Surprisingly, Rose. When confronting Cassandra, she calls her a "bitchy trampoline".
    • While a mild version by most standards, this is also the first time that the Doctor has used profanity on screen. "What the hell's that?"
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: It's strongly implied here, and shown in "New Earth", that humanity and its descendants still resemble humans, and that Cassandra only looks how she does through plastic surgery. The episode does imply that humanity has cross-bred with other species and drastically altered in other ways, however, and later episodes do nod to this by suggesting that humanity develops the ability to "experiment" with different forms, but tends to return to the "classic" template.
  • Shout-Out: Before becoming a major part of the show's mythology, the Face of Boe was originally just a throwaway reference to an obscure narrative poem by Rudyard Kipling.note 
  • Single Tear: Right after Jabe comforts the Doctor over the losses he suffered in the war and he clutches her hand, a teardrop can be briefly seen falling from his right eye. To put this into perspective, this is the one and only time the Ninth Doctor cries... War Is Hell, indeed.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Toxic".
  • Space Romans: The Doctor mentions that a "New Roman Empire" exists on Earth in the year 12,005. Given all the countless stories showing humans in space in the future, this New Roman Empire is almost certainly a space-faring civilisation.
  • Stock Episode Titles: 31 uses.
  • Sudden Lack of Signal: Rose's phone initially does not work after travelling billions of years into the future. The Doctor mods her phone so she can still call her mother, who's still in the present day.
  • Supernatural Phone: The Doctor upgrades Rose's phone, but only after she notices it doesn't work in the future.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: Rose is handling her first trip into space and the future quite well — until they fire up the "iPod" and it starts playing a song from her own time, and she suddenly gets a massive case of culture shock and runs out of the room. The song is "Tainted Love". Also serves as Foreshadowing for Cassandra's plan once the mastermind of the plot is revealed.
    Sometimes I feel I've got to
    Run away
    I've got to
    Get away
  • Take That!: Rose says she's going to have a word with Michael Jackson, while pointing at Lady Cassandra.
  • Tempting Fate: While the Doctor and Jabe are discussing Platform 1, he comments that she makes it sound "unsinkable". Jabe calls this appropriate, only for the Doctor to note he was once on a ship declared unsinkable, and wound up "clinging to an iceberg".
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: A group of aliens from across the galaxy gather on a space station to witness the death of Earth, but somebody starts to kill those on board.
  • This Banana is Armed: Cassandra's "moisturisers" are packing acid in their spritzers, which she reveals after the Doctor fingers her for the murders.
  • Time Master: The Doctor shows that he has a perfect sense of timing, and that he can slow down his perception of time to the point he can walk safely through a spinning fan.
  • Title Drop: As quoted at the top of the page, when the Doctor explains to Rose what they're looking at out the window, he ends with "Welcome to the end of the world."
  • Tranquil Fury: The Doctor does this after Jabe dies and he saves the Platform, coldly transporting Cassandra back to the Platform and refusing to save her as she dries out.
    Rose: [as Cassandra dries out] Help her.
    The Doctor: [glaring] Everything has its time and everything dies.
  • Translator Microbes: Rose is confused by Aliens Speaking English until the Doctor explains the "gift of the TARDIS". Funnily enough, she's not happy to hear how his time machine gets in her brain and changes what she hears.
  • Trojan Horse: The metal "peace" gifts and the ostrich egg.
  • Troll: The aforementioned line stating religion is not allowed on Platform One is one of those controversial moments where Russell T. Davies, the showrunner at the time, professed his own beliefs in the narratives (or lack thereof). Two episodes later, he would add another controversial line that used the word "gay" in a derogatory manner. And he would later pull a similar stunt in Torchwood: Children of Earth involving a religious woman's suicide after she thought "science had won".
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Cassandra reveals in a chat with Rose that she was born a boy on Earth; although, considering what Cassandra was, you have to wonder if all concept of gender has long since disappeared.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Cassandra attempts to exit in a leftward direction via teleportation, only for the Doctor to teleport her back moments later — while she's bragging to her henchmen.
  • We Will Not Have Appendixes in the Future: By the looks of Lady Cassandra, we won't have much of a body left in the future.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Plumbers, anyway.
  • Wham Episode: An otherwise ordinary episode comes with the now well-known reveal that the Doctor is actually the last of his race, and all the Time Lords (for now) were killed in the Time War.
  • Wham Line:
    • Courtesy of Jabe: "I scanned you earlier. The metal machine had trouble identifying your species. It refused to admit your existence. And even when it named you, I wouldn't believe it. But it was right. I know where you're from. Forgive me for intruding, but it's remarkable that you even exist. I just wanted to say... how sorry I am." Cue Single Tear from Nine.
    • "My planet's gone. It burned, like the Earth. I'm not just a Time Lord. I'm the last of the Time Lords."
  • What's an X Like You Doing in a Y Like This?:
    "What's a tree like you doing on a platform like this?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The Doctor isn't impressed by Rose's slightly xenophobic reactions to the aliens on the Platform ("Good thing I didn't take you to the Deep South."). Rose, in turn, isn't particularly pleased to learn that the TARDIS's Translation Convention circuits rearrange how her mind works without her knowledge or consent — particularly since the Doctor chose to make snide remarks about her culture shock instead of telling her this ("No, you were too busy making cheap shots about the Deep South!").
  • Who Needs Their Whole Body?: Certainly not Cassandra.
  • The X of Y: "The End of the World".


Alternative Title(s): Doctor Who NSS 1 E 2 The End Of The World

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