Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 3x12: "The Sound Of Drums"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Colin Teague

The Master: “In fact, I’d go as far as to say what this country really needs right now is a Doctor.”

After his unforgettable reintroduction in “Utopia”, The Master has fecked off from the year One Trillion and left The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack without a way back. Well just because there’s no TARDIS to bail The Doctor and company doesn’t mean they’re screwed.

In fact to a great relief, Jack’s Vortex Manipulator which bailed him out of the Gamestation is the very thing used to get our gang back to earth, although once again, The Doctor has to make some advancements to Jack’s model to make sure they land in the correct time zone. Last thing they want to do is be stuck in the 1800’s with The Master on the loose.

Suffice to say once they’re back, the first thing Martha really wants to know and to be honest, you’d be hard pressed not to feel the same way, is who exactly The Master and what’s his connection with The Doctor.

After spending a good portion of the year travelling with a guy who claimed to be the last of his kind, Martha’s got a good point and while I can understand The Doctor not be overtly eager into explaining things, given the circumstances he has no choice but to spill as much information as possible.

Then again, it’s a probable relief that The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack don’t have to far to look for The Master as the malicious Time Lord has made himself wide open by winning the British election as new Prime Minister Harold Saxon. We all knew that Saxon was going to be The Master and by God, the writers deliver on this big time.

To the nation he’s adored left, right and centre so I’m guessing he didn’t really have to do much to sway the public into thinking and voting for him in spades but if The Master can murder an innocent insect creature moments before regenerating, then it’d safe to say that having complete power over Britain is a disaster in the making.

The Master also doesn’t mince his words either because when he isn’t giving Tish a cheeky flirt, he’s quick to round up the entire Cabinet, callously call them traitors to their other parties (which admittedly he has a point) and then takes complete and total pleasure into telling them that his reason for wearing a gas mask is because of the gas he then uses to kill them. Best of all is the cheeky thumbs up he gives as the poor Cabinet die instantly and his quipping on happy/sad faces too.

However not every single person is convinced of the mysterious Harold Saxon and snoopy reporter Vivien Rook is quick to collar, Saxon’s wife Lucy and tell her about her husband’s forged records and warn the poor woman that her spouse is a menace in the making.
So it probably comes as no big dramatic surprise that while Lucy Saxon may look gloriously naïve is actually pretty versed in her husband’s identity and her loyalty extends to the point where she idly does nothing as The Master then kills Vivien with the help of a little species called the Toclafane.

The Toclafane are also the very same species that Mr Saxon also plans to openly acquaint the inhabitants of earth and audaciously he openly revealed this to his adoring public. If The Doctor thought Harriet Jones was a liability, then he better start having some regrets in sabotaging her entire career over one bad judgement call.

As Saxon, The Master attempts his very best of honesty with the public as part of his schemes into getting them to co-operate and we’ve also seen his sheer joy in decimating the people who pose any sort of a threat to him but really his relationship with Lucy Saxon is very different.

Theories about this woman included her being some sort of a female robot but it turns out that The Master when forging everything else went the extra mile and had a relationship with a woman he eventually married and seems to publicly love. It’s a great incentive for people to vote for the loving husband/family man type but the question remains – what the hell does he really feel about her?

I don’t know if I’d go as far as love but he’s open enough to Lucy to reveal his entire identity and purpose as well as that truly vicious and assuming he’s gone for the old penchant of hypnosis, will Lucy be another casualty in the war this guy is setting up big time? It’s also hard to get a feel of what Lucy really thinks. Does she want to secretly stop The Master or does she relish his evil plans? This enquiring mind really wants to know.

Speaking of power and hypnosis, The Master has been using an Archangel Network to get people to subconsciously vote for him. It’s pretty effective and similar to the tactics of Lumic from “Rise Of The Cybermen”/“The Age Of Steel” but there’s something a lot cleverer in how The Master initiates it.

For instance you don’t have people randomly stopping in the streets like zombies out of nowhere so the alternative is the sounds of drums, a rhythm that is so wonderfully used that subconsciously you can’t deny. It’s basically then transmitted as tapping your very fingers something which both The Master, Martha and various civilians do at different points in the story.

In fact Martha doing it is probably the most important as it was her who instantly recognised Saxon as The Master but more importantly when her, The Doctor and Captain Jack camp out in her flat she’s telling them about how she was going to vote for Saxon because she shared the same beliefs as he did. It’s a telling moments between her and The Doctor as well before Saxon has her flat blown to pieces with her, The Doctor and Captain Jack being lucky to escape.

Of course the explosion only comes after Martha contacts Francine, who under the instructions of that bitch from “42” tries to trick her daughter into coming around the flat under the guise of her and Clive giving their long dead marriage a second chance.

Proving that Clive is actually better than his ex-wife, he gives Martha enough of an incentive to realise what is happening but not long enough for him and Francine to be bundled in a truck and Tish to taken by henchmen in Ten Downing Street. The Master is determined to get to The Doctor and using Martha’s family is one way of doing it.

When it comes to Martha, her family are important and she’s quick enough to drive towards her parents but its Jack who has to talk her into leaving them for the time being when Miss Dexter has her men try to shoot Martha down. Sadly Martha’s attempts of warning Leo are interrupted by The Master. This is definitely not the return to earth Martha was hoping for.

Switching over, one of the best moments in this entire episode is another barrier talk between The Doctor and The Master as the former informs his best enemy about the Time War and the latter is quick enough to reveal how he survived being executed by the Daleks and the whole Eye of Harmony debacle.

If I were a major faction in the Time Lord hierarchy, then resurrecting a loose cannon like The Master would be the last thing I would want to do but dramatically we needed a change of pace in big baddies for the season finale and we’re already had enough Dalek invasions for the time being.

Once again The Doctor attempts to appeal to a reasonable side to The Master and there’s a brief microsecond where it looks like it could possibly work but The Master’s unabashed love for destruction and the deal he’s already set in place with the Toclafane makes sure he doesn’t give into The Doctor’s pleas.

Then again not only has The Master raised in power and has nearly all of Britain under his thrall but he’s also made sure that police are to arrest The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack who have been labelled terrorists and with no TARDIS, Torchwood being too far away and Martha’s flat blown to smithereens, our trio are stuck on the streets and eating chips. You can tell it’s a Russell script with the mention of chips in it. If this was Steve Moffat, then bananas would’ve factored.

Another highlight from this episode is the images of Gallifrey and The Doctor explaining to Martha and Captain Jack about his and more importantly The Master’s past as well as offering some commentary on how the latter became as corrupted as he has been.

When Gallifrey was mentioned in “The Runaway Bride”, I knew we’d discover another Time Lord and by “Gridlock” I was more or less convinced that it would be The Master. What are the chances that Gallifrey has survived in some way? They could be high and if used would have a dramatic effect on this series just like the reappearance of The Master has already had. Shows at this point go through some major defining changes and these last two episodes have exemplified on that.

When The Doctor is then able to come up with necklaces for him, Martha and Captain Jack so they’re able to spy on The Master and Lucy rowing with the US President, I kind of knew that a downfall for them was inevitable. The necklaces alter the perception but it doesn’t make them invisible. Even at the airport, you got the impression that The Master could sense their presence.

So when everyone was on board the Valiant, I was kept wondering how and when The Master was gonna turn around and say – “I know you’re there”. Still biding that particular task, The Master had more fun winding up the US President to the extent that when his little pests the Toclafane popped up and killed Winters, The Master took great delight in revealing his identity and basically telling the earth just how screwed they were.

The Master however took even more pleasure in revealing his enemies and torturing them in his own special ways. Obviously knowing Jack’s inability to die, he enjoyed using his laser screwdriver and shooting at him with the promise of repeating the process and even went as far as to reveal to The Doctor that while Lazarus was able to reverse the ageing process, he was able to speed it up which the lovely David Tennant had to go old once again. So The Master laying traps once again and The Doctor fell for it. Still have to feel bad for him.

With Martha on the other hand, I think the sheer joy of having her parents in a terrified state and roasting her prowess as a medic was enough for him. For crying out loud, he didn’t even bother to stop her from teleporting herself out of the Valiant and let’s face it, Martha wasn’t exactly in a mad panic to leave.

I could praise everyone’s performance in this episode but Freema Agyeman’s was magnificent. Martha really went through the ringer and with both Jack and The Doctor as hostages and a cannibalised TARDIS along with six billion Toclafane eliminating everyone in sight; she’s got one fight on her hands to save her companions, family and the human race.

Also in “The Sound Of Drums”

Anyone find it weird how the BBC just launched the episode without announcing it? It was a bit distracting.

Captain Jack (regarding Vortex Manipulator/getting back to Earth): “Talk about lucky.”
The Doctor: “That wasn’t luck. That was me.”

With every 12th episode in the series, there are a string of celebrity appearances. This year we had Sharon Osborne, McFly and Ann Widdecombe publicly voting for Saxon.

The Master: “Albert, funny, no, little bit?”
Albert: “Very funny, Sir.”

Martha (regarding Mr Saxon): “I was gonna vote for him.”
The Doctor: “Really?”
Martha: “It was before I met you.”

We learnt that Mr Saxon has been in Cambridge, members of the athletics, has written a novel and was a former Minister Of Defence and that he’s been around for 18 months. Is that the same time as “Love And Monsters”?

The Master: “Tomorrow we will take our place in the universe with every man, every woman, every child, and every teacher, farmer, chemist and I don’t know, even every medical student.”

Martha (regarding her parents): “We’ve got to help them.”
The Doctor: “That’s exactly what they want, it’s a trap.”
Martha: “I don’t care.”

Torchwood update – Instead of killing them, The Master has sent Gwen, Owen, Toshiko and Ianto on a goose chase in the Himalayas. Perhaps The Doctor has a point in not trusting Jack’s running of Torchwood.

The Doctor: “All we’ve got is each other.”
The Master: “Are you asking me out on a date?”

Martha: “Doctor, what do we do?”
The Master: “Run Doctor. Run for you life. I said run!”

There’s a funny scene here with The Master and the Toclafane discovering the joy of the Teletubbies. How very 1997 of them!

Martha (regarding The Master): “I thought you were gonna say he was your secret brother or something.”
The Doctor: “You’ve been watching too much TV.”

The Doctor (explaining the necklaces): “It’s like when you fancy someone and they don’t know you’re there.”
Captain Jack (to Martha): “You too, huh?”

If The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack are such wanted terrorists you would think the police would make a better effort to ensnare them even if The Master’s plan and the Jones family as hostages were going to draw them out.

The Master: “So America’s completely in charge?”
President Winters: “Since Britain elected an ass? Yes!”

The Master (regarding President Winters): “Misery guts, what do you think?”
Lucy Saxon (regarding the Valiant): “It’s beautiful.”

Standout music: Probably Rogue Traders “Voodoo Child” and definitely Murray Gold’s score at the end. I wonder if Russell got this episode title from that particular ditty.

The Doctor: “The Toclafane, who are they, what are they?”
The Master: “Doctor, if I told you the truth, your hearts would break.”

Chronology: From what Martha has told us, it’s only been four earth days since she met The Doctor in “Smith And Jones”.

Despite the annoying lack of an announcement and moments of madness, “The Sound Of Drums” is not only a set piece but it’s also the very episode where the odds against The Doctor, Martha and Captain Jack are really stacked. John Simm is on menacing form and with The Master’s lunatic plan looking like a success, I’ll be amazed to see how wonder girl Martha Jones is able to save her family and friends and like every other finale, the wait is going to crucify me.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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