The first few episodes of Doctor Who in the Spring of 2005 were all about the new series setting out its stall.
The opening trio of episodes featured a story with a contemporary setting, followed by one if the future (this one), followed by one set in the past. This is something which has been carried forward for most new series ever since.
The End of the World was also designed to showcase the quality of the costumes, make up, and visual effects which the new series was capable of.
Two of the legacies of the very first Star Wars film, copied (homaged?) by many of those who came after, were a shot of a spaceship thundering overhead at the top of the screen, and a Cantina style scene featuring assorted aliens. Doctor Who had homaged both - the spaceship overhead shot appearing in The Invasion of Time, and the Cantina style scene appearing in Dragonfire. Regarding the latter, it had been a case of a single puppet creature (nicknamed Eric, after Mr Saward) and background artists wearing a motley assembly of old costumes.
This new episode would feature a group of different aliens assembling to witness a big event (the titular end of the world). Most are people in costume, but we also have one character who is basically a gigantic head in a jar, and another who is entirely CGI. One of the things Russell T Davies tended to do with new aliens was to have humanoid, bipedal figures but with animal heads. Here we have people with bird-like heads. (Later on we'll get pig heads, fish heads, fly heads, rhino heads, cat heads etc.).
Another popular alien shortcut makes its debut here - painting people a funny colour. The Steward and the servitors on Platform One are blue. Other blue aliens will appear in future, as well as red and white ones. Why so many blue-skinned aliens in the new series? They use green screen for the CGI work these days, not blue as in the old CSO days.
As far as the story itself goes, we have a disaster movie plot, coupled with a 'whodunnit' plot.
The latter appears to be straightforward, as we see who the villains are right away - the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. A meme is simply an element of culture, like a symbol or idea, which is passed from person to person by imitation. The word was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. (Dawkins was, of course, once married to Romana II, Lalla Ward). However, the Adherents prove to be a red herring. The problem is, there really only is one other suspect - and that's Cassandra.
The disaster movie aspect of the plot is the disparate group of people trapped within a particular location (a place or, more often, a mode of transport) which faces imminent destruction. This is usually due to some human agency, even when the initial threat has come from an act of nature.
As far as the new series is concerned, The End of the World has more to do in setting up the Doctor as he is now - the last survivor of the Time War. There was a tiny bit of information in Rose, but things are spelled out more clearly here - either through what Jabe has to say, and what the Doctor then tells Rose.
He is the Last of the Time Lords.
Lastly, this is the latest in a long line of stories which dealt with endings of the world - final or otherwise.
First of all we had The Ark in 1966, which was supposed to be the final end. Then we had The Ark in Space / The Sontaran Experiment (1975), which dealt with a temporary abandonment of the Earth after its surface has been destroyed. Lastly we had Trial of a Time Lord (The Mysterious Planet) (1986), which was another survivable world ending.
Only this new story shows us the definite, categorical end of the world - as it's blown to smithereens.
Presumably, the "Manchester Suite" on Platform One derives its name from the fact that RTD had made that city his new home and based a lot of his work there.
Next time: A Christmas Special in March. It's the return of the celebrity historical...