The End of the World (Doctor Who)

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158 – "The End of the World"
Doctor Who episode
End of the World.jpg
The Guests approach Platform One
Directed by Euros Lyn
Written by Russell T Davies
Script editor Helen Raynor
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Mal Young
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 1.2
Series Series 1
Length 44 minutes
Originally broadcast 2 April 2005
← Preceded by Followed by →
"Rose" "The Unquiet Dead"
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The End of the World" is the second episode of the first series of the British science-fiction television programme Doctor Who. Written by show runner Russell T Davies and directed by Euros Lyn, the episode was first broadcast on 2 April 2005.

In the episode, Time Lord the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) takes his new companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) on her first trip through time and space in the TARDIS to the year five billion where many rich alien delegates have gathered on a space station called Platform One to watch the Sun expand and destroy the Earth, but one of these guests is plotting to profit from the event by killing them all.

The episode marked the first appearance of Cassandra and the Face of Boe. The episode was seen by approximately 7.97 million viewers in the United Kingdom.


The Doctor takes Rose to the year 5.5/apple/26, five billion years into her future. They land on Platform One, a space station in orbit around Earth. They have arrived in time for a party celebrating the final destruction of Earth by the expansion of the Sun. The Earth has long since been abandoned, but has been kept up by a historical trust. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to pass as their invitation to the party, and he and Rose find many elite alien beings there. The guests include Lady Cassandra O'Brien, billed as "the last human" but actually a face on a large piece of skin that must be continually moisturised. Also present are the Face of Boe, the Moxx of Balhoon, the Adherents of the Repeated Meme, and sentient and mobile trees from the Forest of Cheem. Rose is overwhelmed by the strange beings and customs as well as how distant she is from home, and leaves to an observation room to collect her thoughts. The Doctor follows her, and tries to cheer her up by allowing her to call her mum Jackie by altering her mobile phone to be able to work over the distance in time.

A tree from the Forest of Cheem, as shown at the Doctor Who Experience.

Meanwhile, the gifts brought by the Adherents of the Repeated Meme are revealed to contain robotic spiders that immediately work at disabling functions on Platform One. The Steward of Platform One recognises something is wrong, but is killed when the spiders cause the solar filter of his room to lower and expose him directly to the powerful solar radiation. The Doctor goes to investigate with the help of Jabe, of the Forest of Cheem, and discover the Steward's death and the spiders. Rose attempts to learn more from Lady Cassandra but only gets more upset over Cassandra's arrogance and insults her before storming off. The Meme follows her and knocks her unconscious. She regains consciousness in an observation room where the solar filter is about to drop. She tries to escape but is locked in, but the Doctor learns of the lowering sun filter and manages to get the filter back up but cannot get her out.

Using a captured spider, the Doctor determines that the Meme are responsible. The Meme turn out to be empty shells, and the real controller is revealed to be Lady Cassandra. Cassandra admits to being the saboteur, her original plan was to hold the assembled elite for ransom, but now intends to use their deaths to generate profit from their companies to finance her operations. Cassandra teleports to her ship as the spiders bring down the shielding on the entire station and the gravity satellites are turned off. The direct radiation causes the solar filters to strain and crack, killing several of the guests from the intense radiation exposure and once again threatening Rose. The Doctor and Jabe travel to the bowels of Platform One to restore the automated shields, but it requires one of them to travel through several spinning fans. Jabe recognises the Doctor as the last Time Lord and sacrifices herself to hold down a switch to slow down the fan blades. This allows the Doctor to reactivate the system just before the expanding Sun hits the station and destroys Earth.

The Doctor returns to the remaining guests and Rose, who is now free of the observation room. Using a device he finds in the room, the Doctor reverses Cassandra's teleport and brings her back onto the station. In the elevated temperature and without moisturising, Cassandra begins to dry out and crack. She begs for mercy from the Doctor, but he refuses to listen and Cassandra ruptures. Rose notes that with all the events that occurred no one had witnessed the actual destruction of Earth. The Doctor returns Rose to her present time, and explains to her that he is the last of the Time Lords, and that his planet of Gallifrey was destroyed in the wake of a great war. The episode closes with Rose and the Doctor going off to get chips on a sunny London afternoon.


The Doctor explains that the TARDIS's telepathic field is what gives Rose the ability to understand and be understood by the aliens. This concept was first introduced in the Fourth Doctor serial The Masque of Mandragora, described by the Doctor as a "Time Lord gift" he shares with his companions. In "The Fires of Pompeii", the Doctor tells Donna that translation is a "gift of the TARDIS". In "The Christmas Invasion", it is shown that the translation field is connected to the Doctor and stops working when he is unconscious, recovering from regeneration. Rose says this is because he is "part of the circuit and he is broken". In "A Good Man Goes To War", River Song implies this translation ability lingers in the mind even when people have left the TARDIS and are no longer near it. The concept of a Doctor-supercharged communications device first appeared in The Three Doctors (1972–73),[1] where the Second Doctor modifies the Brigadier's radio telephone to allow him to contact his men through interference generated by antimatter.[2]

In conversation with the Face of Boe, the Moxx of Balhoon mentions the "Bad Wolf scenario." On the BBC's Bad Wolf website, it was listed as "the classic bad wolf scenario".[3]


The inactive robotic spider, on display at Doctor Who Experience

"The End of the World" was conceived as a deliberately expensive spectacle to show off how much the new Doctor Who could do.[4] Platform One was designed to be like a "hotel for the most poshest, richest, and influential aliens in the universe".[4] Davies stated that the character of Cassandra was inspired by drastic beauty treatments that had been taken by female celebrities.[1] One function of the episode is to reveal that the Doctor is the last of his people.[4]

Many of the Platform One interiors were filmed at the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, Wales in October 2004.[5] Sets were also built and painted to match the Temple's marble interiors.[citation needed] Due to complexities in animating Cassandra, some of her lines were dropped and the episode underran. To compensate, Davies came up with the character of maintenance worker Raffalo, and scenes between Raffalo and Rose were filmed at the Temple of Peace on 19 February 2005.[5] Russell T Davies joked that there would never be such an expensive episode again (because of the large amount of CGI special effects). Both Cassandra and the robotic spiders — other than an inactive one — are completely CGI creatures. The episode contains 203 visual effects shots that were completed over eight weeks, compared to "about 100" in the film Gladiator.[4] As of "The Wedding of River Song" (2011), no Doctor Who episode contains as many special effects shots.[6]

The Moxx of Balhoon was originally going to be animated, but this changed to a "glove puppet" and then a full rubber suit when it was desired he be "chunkier".[4] Actor Jimmy Vee had done similar parts before,[4] although the actor said it was hard filming in the costume, which took three hours to put on.[7] Jabe was originally more tree bark-like in the face, but it was decided that she be a Silver Birch instead.[4]

The "iPod" (a Wurlitzer jukebox) that Cassandra unveils plays "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell and later "Toxic" by Britney Spears.[8] "Toxic" was not actually released as a 7" 45 rpm vinyl single. The production team mocked up a 7" single for use in the episode.[6]

The episode featured many different creatures and props, shown here at various Doctor Who exhibitions.

Cast notes[edit]

Cassandra is a CGI creation voiced by actress Zoë Wanamaker. Writer Russell T Davies revealed that Cassandra was inspired by the appearance of various female celebrities at the Oscars. He said, "It was horrific seeing those beautiful women reduced to sticks. Nicole Kidman struck me in particular."[citation needed] Wanamaker reprised the role of Cassandra in the 2006 series' first episode, "New Earth."[9]

Yasmin Bannerman later played Kathy Swanson in the Torchwood episode "They Keep Killing Suzie." She has also appeared in several Doctor Who and Blake's 7 audio plays for Big Finish Productions, playing the Seventh Doctor's companion Roz Forrester among others.

Broadcast and reception[edit]

This episode begins with a cold open, which from here on became a standard feature. This is a first for the series, which previously used pre-credits teaser sequences sparingly in special episodes such as the post-regeneration Castrovalva (1982); the 20th anniversary special, The Five Doctors (1983); and the 25th anniversary story, Remembrance of the Daleks (1988). According to a March 2006 interview with Russell T Davies, he requested for this episode to be broadcast back-to-back with "Rose", but the request was given to the BBC too close to transmission.[10] In the United States the Sci-Fi Channel did run the two episodes consecutively on 17 March 2006.[10] The broadcast of "The End of the World" in the US was watched by 1.61 million viewers.[11]

Overnight figures showed that "The End of the World" was watched by 7.3 million viewers in the UK, down 2.6 million viewers from the premiere.[12] When final ratings were calculated, figures rose to 7.97 million.[13]

Arnold T Blumburg of the magazine Now Playing gave "The End of the World" a grade of "A-", praising the spectacle as well as the performances of Eccleston and Piper and their developing characters. However, he felt that the climax suffered from pacing issues.[14] SFX called it a "brave episode to air so early, but it works", praising the way the alien concepts were reminiscent to the classic series. However, the reviewer wrote that "the full drama of the event is never quite captured" and "the murder plot...never quite takes flight, but it provides the framework for some brilliant scenes".[15] In Who Is the Doctor, a guide to the revived series, Graeme Burk described "The End of the World" as "sheer, unadulterated fun", particularly praising the emotional connection that was built between the Doctor and Rose.[16] Burk felt that there could have been more of a build-up to the Cassandra revelation, but commented that "a lot of the success of the story" was due to her.[16] Burk's co-author Robert Smith added that the episode allowed Eccleston to shine by offering the Doctor a wide range of emotions.[17] Despite their positive reviews, Burk and Smith noted that the switch at the end of the hallway with giant fans was "contrived" and "silly".[18] In 2013, Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times felt that the episode had everything to be expected from Davies' Doctor Who: boldness, camp, and emotional and character drama.[19] The A.V. Club reviewer Alasdair Wilkins gave the episode a grade of B+, noting that the episode was not concerned with plot, but it succeeded in character moments and reintroducing Doctor Who.[20]


  1. ^ a b "The End of the World - Fact File". BBC. Retrieved 27 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Bob Baker, Dave Martin (writers), Lennie Mayne (director), Barry Letts (producer) (30 December 1972 – 20 January 1973). The Three Doctors. Doctor Who. BBC. BBC1. 
  3. ^ "Bad Wolf Sightings — who is bad wolf? what is bad wolf?". BBC. Retrieved 1 December 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 1. Episode 2. 2 April 2005. BBC. BBC Three. 
  5. ^ a b "Walesarts, Temple of Peace, Cathays Park, Cardiff". BBC. Retrieved 30 May 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Burk and Smith? p. 11
  7. ^ Lyons, Beverley (10 March 2005). "See Who Jimmy; Ugly alien is one of the Doc's good gyes". Daily Record. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  8. ^ Burk and Smith? p. 9
  9. ^ Russell T Davies (writer), James Hawes (director), Phil Collinson (producer) (15 April 2006). "New Earth". Doctor Who. Series 2. Episode 1. BBC. BBC One. 
  10. ^ a b Nazzaro, Joe (14 March 2006). "Who Timing Was Right". Sci Fi Wire. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006. 
  11. ^ "US Debut Ratings". Outpost Gallifrey. 22 March 2006. Archived from the original on 24 March 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  12. ^ Plunkett, John (4 April 2005). "Doctor Who loses 2.5 million viewers in timewarp". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 March 2012. 
  13. ^ Russell, Gary (2006). Doctor Who: The Inside Story. London: BBC Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-563-48649-7. 
  14. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (6 April 2005). "Doctor Who - "The End of the World"". Now Playing. Archived from the original on 1 September 2005. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "Doctor Who: The End of the World". SFX. 2 April 2005. Archived from the original on 17 April 2006. Retrieved 15 April 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Burk and Smith? p. 11-12
  17. ^ Burk and Smith? p. 12-13
  18. ^ Burk and Smith? p. 10
  19. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (5 February 2013). "Doctor Who: The End of the World". Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  20. ^ Wilkins, Alasdair (24 November 2013). "Doctor Who: "The End of the World"/"The Unquiet Dead"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 


  • Burk, Graeme; Smith?, Robert (6 March 2012). "Series 1". Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who-The New Series (1st ed.). ECW Press. pp. 3–62. ISBN 1-55022-984-2. 

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