I didn't get (or haven't yet gotten) an overall thematic response to this episode. That's not, however, to say that I'm speechless about it. The short version? I liked it, was moved by it, and thought it was put together with the usual crazy quilt of intelligence, cheese and sporadic creative laziness.
Some of my immediate reactions follow, most of them are cribbed and edited comments I made over at Television Without Pity's episode thread.
(And speaking of TWoP, Jacob's recap of Waters of Mars is up. Damned good stuff, and far more filled with love than my meta-ramblings.)
As for EoT1, I've watched the episode twice thus far, and I liked it even more the second time.
My high points echo those of many other viewers, starting with the conversation between Wilf and the Doctor in the pub. It brought tears to my eyes both times I watched it, particularly after Wilf's painfully heartfelt and spontaneous cry of sympathy as he watched Ten break down. His inarticulate, but incredibly powerful plea for help for his granddaughter was heartbreaking; it was almost impossible to watch further when he told Ten she was "making do," and Ten replied "Aren't we all?"
(Some people have wondered why Wilf would ask for what the Doctor specifically said was impossible in the closing moments of "Journey's End." I stopped being bothered when I remembered that parents whose children are struck with some fatal illness will risk and heaven and hell to find a way to change that. They'll ignore the medical diagnosis of "terminal" and look to anyone - anyone, quack or self-proclaimed divine - who can promise a miracle. How much more tempting would it be for Wilf - who has seen a disappearing phonebox, and felt the Earth being pulled home by the being in that phone box - to tell himself, "Well, surely enough time's gone by that the Doctor's found a cure. Surely he'll have found a way to fix the problem, with some magical machine he forgot he had. He's saved the world, surely he can do something for the girl I love." That's what made it so painful to watch, and so dramatically true.)
I fear for Wilf. Some folks have predicted he will have a direct hand in Ten's end; if that's so, then it's necessary, and I won't be too disturbed. What I fear far more is the possible foreshadowing I think I saw when Wilf stood in the back of the church, framed by the plaque behind him, the one honoring those who had given their lives for their country. No, I did not like that, not at all.
Isn't it interesting how so many of us have come to love Wilfred Mott? Why do you suppose we do?
I also loved the interaction between the Doctor and the even-more-than-usually-broken Master. While Simm may chew the scenery, he's doing it in an intelligent fashion, if I can put it that way. I saw him thinking - not as Simm, but as the Master - in the few seconds between him holding the injured Doctor, and dropping the Doctor to the ground; you could see him deciding to mirror, then invert, the Doctor's actions with him aboard the Valiant.
In fact, the Master all through this, or Simm's interpretation, or both, fascinated me all through the episode. From the first few seconds he appeared in the creation matrix, almost as if he was brought back in full frightened "I can't die, don't let me die!" mid-thought, to the way he slipped in and out of energy burnout-induced mania, to the way he was (or at least he thought he was) improvising his way toward victory with some fortuitously-placed idiots - every second of the way, he was thinking. Completely mad, of course, but still thinking, always thinking.
I wasn't as bothered by his jumping and lightning and such as a lot of people. I automatically assumed it was the spillover of energy that's actually destroying him, but giving him fool's gold strength and power as it does so. And it's the Whoniverse, and I've seen less believable things in it. With the Whoniverse, I've believed as many as a million impossible things before breakfast. Besides, his descent into something hungry enough to gnaw the flesh off human bones in five minutes, and twisted enough to replace the skeletons, clothed, for his own amusement? It's the Master, stripped of all artifice and civilized seeming. Brilliant, and horrifying, because the Master was always that hungry. He just thought it was for other things.
Really, I can't help but love the progress of the Master from my first memories of suave and almost in control Delgado!Master through consecutively more chaotically-messed-up incarnations. Far from artistically or canonically devaluing earlier iterations, I think Rusty's decision to write the Master that way is a valid exploration of, and symbolic representation of, the question 'What lies at the heart of those who hunger for power?"
The imagery of the Doctor and the Master chasing madly after each other in a wasteland was gorgeous, and my mind keeps going back to it. Two ruined survivors of a race as dead and dangerous as you could hope to see in this universe, even if they weren't Daleks, trying to find each other, and neither really knowing why ... yeah, it stuck with me. Just the 30 seconds or so when the Master senses the Doctor, and deliberately goes, picks up a length of pipe, swings it as he moves toward an empty oil drum, then Beats. It. Four. Times. is worth the price of admittance.
I am a sucker for all things ceremonial and liturgical, and I loved the music for that reason, beginning with the music in the church to which Wilf was drawn - what was the song the children were singing? Could anyone discern what the chant was?
The music underscored every step of this dance to the end of Ten's time in the universe, and the way it's interbraided with the universe's timeline in a way that other Doctors' transitions and regenerations haven't been. (I've become more and more infatuated with the idea that we were all wrong when we thought that the last gasp of the Time War was a clean and relatively quickly wrapped up explosion of Nine into Ten. The instigator of that war's unthinkable end couldn't work off the repercussions that easily, but I digress.)
Other small thoughts: The lady in white reminded me of Harriet, who I miss to this day, but I immediately thought of the White Guardian, and will stick with that until and unless proven wrong.
Lucy Saxon redeemed herself with her sacrifice; I'm thinking she knew the liquid she'd had her co-conspirator bring her was basically a powerful explosive. I also figure the Saxon acolytes were some of Saxon's key people on the Valiant, where he could screw with their heads and make them "remember" a completely bogus religion, thinking of it as ancient prophecy when it was pre-fab hypnotically-induced archetypes instead. (Naismith and his people probably don't remember The Year That Wasn't, but gathered enough intelligence to figure something happened of which the human race is not generally aware, and that Saxon is some sort of alien.)
I suspect Donna's time lord matrix remnants are what saved her from a Masterful makeover. It's obviously a two-edged sword, however, and I am crossing my fingers that the machine will be confused enough by her matrix profile that it will simply, eventually, strip the Timelord from her, leaving her with memories, but without the compressed Timelord capabilities that were the real problem in the first place. (Although if she should somehow be fixed permanently as Metacrisis DoctorDonna, and tell the world, after it's saved, that she's off for parts unknown to See Egypt on her own, I wouldn't cry.) Whatever happens, I'm pretty sure we'll see her this Friday.
I'm not certain that the "Time Lords" really are Time Lords. I'm not sure what they are, and that's creepy enough as it is. But if they are, Time Lords, they're almost certainly nearly as insane as the Master, and are not good news for the universe. (And how do I figure this? Because EEvil People (tm) spit when they speak about destruction. Good people don't.) I think the figures with hands over their eyes are captives of whatever Timothy Dalton's crew really is, and are, perhaps, people the White Guardian wants to rescue. I'll undoubtedly be proven wrong next week, I know, but allow me my imaginings.
Enough babblings. Any thoughts from y'all? Anyone? Bueller?