But at least there's enough positive stuff to fill a paragraph or two this time around. Obviously Cribbins being one of the highlights must go without saying, Wilf continues to be awesome. Although I'd rather they hadn't done the extended goodbye scene there were some nice touches in there (do your own joke about "nice touches" and Russell Tovey.) In the Jack/Alonso scene (aka the Star Wars cantina scene) I liked the soundtrack of "Bad Bad Angel" from "Daleks in Manhattan" as well as all the various creatures from the recent series. And it's probably just as well I don't fancy the Face of Boetox because the looks between Barrowman and Tovey made the scene border on pornographic, I might have got overly excited if I fancied both of them. I'm sure there are people out there who fancy both, I can almost hear the distant sound of keys typing slash right now. Especially good was the callback to "Human Nature" and Jessica Hynes' appearance as her own granddaughter; plus the "Verity Newman" reference which works as both a tribute to the show's creators and a reference to a similar tribute in Hynes' episodes. Donna's wedding scene was also well done, especially the reference to the Doctor visiting her father to borrow £1; Jacqueline King's reaction is wonderful.
But the best thing about the episode is the moment when we find out that it was Wilf all along who will "knock four times." Understated, beautifully played by Tennant and a genuine jolt to the audience rather than a contrived one. Another thing I liked, but I suspect a lot of people won't have, was how after the restatement of how anti-guns the Doctor is, the second he realises the Time Lords are back he grabs Wilf's pistol. It's a powerful shorthand for conveying the seriousness of the moment.
But oh dear, there's so much to annoy me in the episode as well: Like the 3 (THREE) cliff-hangers from last week that all get resolved offhand. If Donna EVER remembers her travels in the TARDIS she will DIE! DEFINITELY! And now she's REMEMBERING! But it's OK, the Doctor left a knock-out whatsit in her brain that would take effect if her memories came back, he just didn't think to mention it any of the other six hundred times he warned us that Donna must never remember. Meanwhile the Master is EVERYONE on Earth and that can't be changed unless he dies, or unless Timothy Dalton (who it turns out is RASSILON for no reason) uses his magic glove of magic to change them all back. Plus the Time Lords and Gallifrey are back for good and only if the Doctor commits MURDER will they be defeated, oh wait or unless he shoots some McGuffin bit of machinery in the corner that'll reverse it all. Actually the fact that RTD used the Time Lords when he really needn't have, made me feel a bit like The Cafe Scene last week with regard to what he's leaving Moffat with: The lost Time Lords and what really happened in the Last Time War were a potentially huge avenue for future stories to go down in the future, but no, at the last minute let's explain exactly what really happpened, bring them back then get rid of them again instantly, closing off dozens of possibilities. It's a bit "I don't want to play with this but I don't want you to play with it either."
But the biggie is of course how the regeneration was handled. Yes, some of the vignettes were nice, and it's probably just as well to have a quick reminder of Tovey because I've not seen much of him in recent months and 8 consecutive weeks of him on TV for an hour every Sunday night might have been too exciting to bear without a quick inoculation. But were the good scenes worth it? Not for me I'm afraid. The second time I watched it, I glanced at the counter on my DVD recorder. At 55 minutes, having been poisoned by radiation, the Doctor's scars heal and he says "it's starting." At 1hr 11 minutes he finally explodes in gold light. That's a 16-minute regeneration scene! And that's just from the audience's point of view, considering he has to do a lot of time-travelling that's probably hours if not days he's moping around saying goodbye to everyone. Including Martha and Mickey, who are married, because RTD's either forgotten that Martha was engaged to Tom Ellis' character or doesn't care. I'm sensing a "this was where their characters were going to end up if they'd moved to Torchwood like they were supposed to: The actors' schedules interfered with that but fuck it, I'm going with it anyway." The scene also has a nasty feeling of the two companions not being important enough to each get a scene of their own so getting lumped together; and a slightly uncomfortable undercurrent, despite all the mixed-race relationships in the series' recent history, of the two black companions being paired off 'cause that'll do.
Finally the Doctor has to go to Rose because she's the most important one in case this hadn't been apparent enough until now, and then Ood Sigma turns up to remind him that he's supposed to be dead and could he hurry it up please, the choir of Ood has been rehearsing all week to sing him to his rest and if they don't do the main performance soon they'll lose their voices. So after 16 self-indulgent minutes Ten finally says "I don't wanna go" and then goes, taking much of the TARDIS with him (I don't mind that so much because I'm aware of the practical reasons; the set needs to be redesigned because of HD and putting a reason for that into the story is fair enough.) It's been the longest regeneration with the possible exception of Seven into Eight, and I don't see many people saying that's the model for how to do a great regeneration.
I know I'll never be Ten's biggest fan but I have nothing personal against David Tennant, I think he's a good actor and a lot of my issues with his portrayal have been more about RTD's arrogance increasingly being reflected by the character. So I kinda feel bad for Tennant because of this incredibly self-indulgent regeneration, I think the writing's done him a disservice. When the same writer turned Nine into Ten he did it much more in keeping with most earlier versions, with the Doctor sacrificing himelf then having a few minutes to prepare for the inevitable. It is, for me, a much sadder thing to have the actor who's been starring in the role for X amount of time have to make a hasty retreat - it's the old "leave us wanting more" adage, and I found Eccleston's departure much more moving precisely because it was assumed it stood on its own terms and didn't need a quarter of an hour's moping to tell us we're supposed to be sad. And I'm not saying RTD can't write a great final line for a Doctor because look at "Before I go I just want to say you were fantastic... absolutely fantastic. And you know what? So was I!" Then Tennant gets "I don't wanna go!" which is meant to be him raging against the dying of the light but ends up sounding petulant.
Aaaaand breathe... Finally, we get introduced to Eleven. I know due to Steven Moffat's involvement I was always going to be hoping he does well, but I didn't expect him to win me over within a second of taking over the role. But then his agonised scream turns instantly into a look of "guh?" and I laugh every time, and am fairly confident we're in safe hands. He has legs, a "blimey!" chin, lots of fingers and a "Geronimo!" catchphrase I'm hoping will be used sparingly, and he starts in hyper mode which is probably just as well after the long farewell we've just had, we need to keep the kids excited for Spring. I won't say much else 'cause it's way too soon, although I will say the trailer looks promising and suggests a Doctor who's rather gangly and clumsy, in keeping with the not-quite-comfortable-in-his-own-skin feeling suggested by Moffat calling him "Patrick Moore trapped in the body of an underwear model."
Oh one last thing apropos the teaser trailer: Gilbert from Being Human as a baddie. Yay! Considering this two-parter had, as well as the Tovey's return of course, Sinead Keenan as a cactus with her own spaceship (basically Red Dwarf's Starbug given a new lick of paint,) can we please have Aiden Turner and Jason Watkins in Who at some point? Then we'll pretty much have a full set of crossovers. Ta.