Saturday, July 04, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 3x13: "Last Of The Time Lords"

Written by Russell T. Davies
Directed by Colin Teague

The Master: “Time Lords and humans combined. Haven’t you always dreamed about that, Doctor?”

It’s the grand finale and after having the Jones clan, Captain Jack and The Doctor held as hostages, The Master has a fair amount of reasons to be smug. Except for the fact, that there’s still a certain someone who could cause damage to his very well thought out plans.

Having travelled several countries to avoid detection, an SAS dressed Martha Jones is soon met by a charming medic named Thomas Milligan who soon notes Martha’s notoriety as apparently she’s been cited as the very woman who could bring The Master’s tyrannical hold on earth to its knees.

Not that The Master’s isn’t totally unfazed by this but for the first two scenes he seems to enjoy wheeling the much aged Doctor around the place when he isn’t enjoying world destruction and the reducing of the Jones’ family as servants.

Then again Jack isn’t enjoying himself too much what with being tied up and fed some pretty horrific food by Tish but one thing that seems to be a constant with all of The Master’s hostages on the Valiant is their determination to beat. Out of the lot of them, it’s noteworthy that The Doctor is determined not to kill him. If it were me, I definitely would.

Anyways one other thing about The Master is his love of showing off and soon enough it’s discovered that his little band of Toclafane are there to help build a new Time Lord empire and with nearly everyone being either decimated or enslaved, I have to admit he’s off to a pretty good start in the matter.

Crushing The Doctor’s confidence has done a lot for The Master because when the Jones’, Captain Jack and The Doctor cause enough of a ruckus to distract him long enough for The Doctor to get that laser screwdriver, The Master takes utter glee in punishing this action by putting out a live broadcast in which he ages The Doctor even further.

Now the aged Doctor at the end of “The Sound Of Drums” was bad enough but this troll like version that looks a bit like Gollum and can be stored in a cage is pretty revolting but it shows just how callous The Master really has become.

I don’t think The Master in the old series was ever this seriously unbalanced but this version is even more deranged and hateful than the Daleks themselves. Even his treatment of Martha’s family is more savage than previous incarnations and his contempt for Martha herself speaks volumes.

Speaking of which, when she hasn’t been regaling small tales to Thomas about her travels, Martha’s purpose for returning to the UK entails the search for a Professor Allison Docherty who seems to be a vital player in helping her take down The Master.

Now Tom Ellis proves a good casting piece with Milligan but former Bad Girls actress Ellie Haddington is suitably perfect for the role of Docherty. She’s a no-nonsense professor who Martha shows some readings that could help override the Archangel Network but also she’s determined to figure out what exactly the Toclafane are, which makes more than enough sense.

The theory of them being some form of remnants of Time Lords was one of my guesses of what those destruction little balls could be, another also included the very notion of them being the Gelth. That one was mainly due to the same actress voicing the Toclafane/Gelth and some continuity on the rift.

So it’s pretty disturbing then to learn that when Martha gets Thomas to act as bait and is successful in ensnaring one of the Toclafane and the three of them are able to open it up, that inside a Toclafane contains a human head. Hands up if you thought the head looked a bit like Davros. Okay just me then!

Nope, not only are the Toclafane human but they are the same humans who were determined to get to utopia in the year One Hundred Trillion. Martha’s guilt is nicely played as she realises that her help accidentally led to thousands of people being slaughtered but of course they are more pressing matters at hand and one of them includes having to explain herself.

Aside from looking fetching enough in SAS gear, what else has Martha been doing all this time? Her perception filter has managed to keep her from harm’s way and despite various flashbacks to her last exchange with The Doctor before being forced to flee the Valiant, we still know very little of what she in mind.

There are tonnes of ways of stopping The Master. The question is, which one will work and not have the fallout of destroying more lives? To blast The Master you would think he would’ve concocted a better search party into snatching Martha before she could travel half of the world. By letting her loose, he’s more or less signed his own death warrant.

It seems however that Martha has been gathering technology from both UNIT and Torchwood and has come up with a device that will actually kill a Time Lord without them being able to cheat death. Unlike the last two episodes, everyone seems to be onboard as to what a Time Lord is and there’s an interesting moment between Martha and Docherty when the latter tells Martha she can’t buy her as a killer.

A couple of months ago the only death you could possibly associate Martha with would’ve been at her job if she lost a patient but since meeting The Doctor, Martha has become a bit more hardened and has seen plenty of people and creatures dying in all manners.

I could see Martha killing The Master and I would definitely defend her for it too. He’s done enough to her to make it more than justified but once again, it isn’t something The Doctor would allow her to do. He made it clear last week that The Master was his responsibility and it’s something even when reduced to a caged troll he sticks with.

Anyways Martha’s hopes of an advantage against The Master are ruined soon enough when Docherty accesses Archangel Network and tells The Master about her little gismo. As betrayals go, this could be seen a mile away. The Master must have known that Martha would’ve gotten in contact with Docherty and instead of killing the woman he used her son’s safety as a means for her to co-operate.

Soon enough The Master is trawling the streets looking for Martha and after she gives a motivating speech to a group of strangers she decides to surrender herself, which means Milligan’s attempts of protecting her end with him being killed by the psychotic Time Lord.

Entering the last quarter of the episode, the chips are down and Martha’s Time Lord gun is destroyed and the people she cares about have been rounded up to witness her execution when The Master brings her back to the Valiant. I thought The Master’s set on The Doctor was bad, his hatred towards Martha however is much more vocalised.

With The Doctor, it’s Time Lord history and rivalry that fuels their feud, whereas with Martha, it’s just her being a powerful obstacle that needs destroying. The Master does a lot of talking instead of just nuking her straight on but it’s enough for Martha to really reveal her agenda.

The Time Lord killer gun was ultimately a ploy, whereas what Martha had been really doing was going around telling everyone her story about The Doctor, inspiring them with confidence along and having that story be every bit as hypnotic as The Master’s thrall over civilisation for the past 30 months.

While this might sound a bit naff, it proves effective enough that not only every single person is shouting Doctor, including Lucy Saxon, this is also the very thing that gets our more attractive Doctor back to his normal self and while I was expecting The Master to get a punishment more severe than The Family Of Blood, it turns out that the idea of being forgiven by his enemy is more than The Master is willing to take.

We do however get the closest thing to a physical fight with The Doctor as he battles The Master into stopping the earth from getting nuked but at the end of the day, The Master’s great big plan has gone up in smoke. A warning for next time oh big Master – under no circumstance do you let The Doctor’s assistants go when you have them ensnared. You really brought your downfall on yourself.

Then again with earth not being completely decimated by the Toclafane, something even weirder happened. In favour of the reset button, Russell T Davies has actions shifting back to an entire year which means while the US president may still be dead, the Toclafane don’t get to invade. Personally I hate resets and I found it deeply annoying in Torchwood’s “End Of Days” but seeing how screwed the time line on this show is, I guess the less confusion is the best option.

However, there’s still the thorny issue of what to actually do with The Master and while Jack and the Jones’ clan are in favour of executing him, even to the point where earlier Francine, Clive and Tish all discussed their desire to kill The Master, it’s only Francine who actually comes close to doing it.

There’s a really good heartbreaking moment where Francine’s guilt takes over her judgement and it’s The Doctor who has to comfort her, while Lucy pulls off the deed and soon The Master is dead. Even The Doctor’s demands on him to regenerate fall on deaf and after much crying, The Doctor ends up burning The Master’s body.

With an apt episode title it would seem that The Doctor is once again the last of his kind but as soon as Lucy is spotted ring in hand at the burning of The Master you can’t help but hope he’s not dead. It would make sense if The Master and Lucy had concocted a back up if The Doctor thwarted him again.

Having Lucy shoot him and him pretending to die rather than straight regenerate long enough for The Doctor to dispatch of a supposed corpse makes sense. On the flipside it means someone else would have to cast in the role when he regenerates, which is a shame given how brilliant John Simm has been in the role but it’s also a bit anticlimactic to bring back The Master and then kill him off.

I’d like to think he could still find ways of causing hell for The Doctor. Why should Daleks or Cybermen be the only serious baddies to constantly reappear? It’s also not like we’ve seen The Master take over other people’s bodies either and he has seemingly died in grislier manners than this too.

Then there’s the end with Captain Jack. I loved him and The Doctor bonding and Jack getting respect and even the backstory but is he The Face Of Boe really? I hope not! I also hope the phrase was coined rather than it being a general foreshadow. I also hope we get him back next season.

Jack works better with The Doctor and Martha than his own team. Maybe his experiences in the last three episodes will a positive effect on how he runs Torchwood and interacts with his staff upon his return. I can only hope so. Standoffish Jack has more than run his course for me.

Now the Martha debate, for weeks the papers have seemed to be telling us that Freema Agyeman’s time is up and yesterday we got hit with the whammy of her role being reduced next year. Now all season this girl has been doing a brilliant job and in the second half of the season, Freema has come leaps and bounds so I personally think it’s foolish to get rid of the girl after one season. The show needs stability but maybe someone else travelling with The Doctor and Martha could help the dynamic.

Here Martha opts out of travelling with The Doctor to be with her family and help others while going into enough detail how she has trouble being around a man who doesn’t notice her half the time. Martha raises a fairly strong point but even she has to acknowledge that while The Doctor may never love her that doesn’t exactly indicate that he doesn’t care for her or that he won’t become more attentive to her.

Now I love Martha and I get why she might want to spend more time with Francine, Clive, Tish and Leo but I still want her back and Russell better write her into the Christmas special because given how downbeat her decision to stay is, the chances of us not encountering her again seem slim. Basically Martha rules and I want her back on board with The Doctor and some random male companion. I don’t think I’m asking for much do I?

Also every finale ends with something peculiar to set the mood for the Christmas special. With “The Parting Of The Ways” we got a regeneration, “Doomsday” it was an annoying bride whereas with “Last Of The Time Lords” it’s the TARDIS crashing into the Titanic. This means history time again and the usual bout of trepidation and excitement.

Also in “Last Of The Time Lords”

Unlike the last episode, this one gave us the “Previously On” with that thumping music yet again. There was also no teaser.

Thomas: “You’ve been in space?”
Martha: “Problem with that?”
Thomas: “No, no, anything else you wanna tell me?”
Martha: “I’ve met Shakespeare.”

Keeping with some old stuff, The Master was quick to mention to an aged Doctor about his battles with the Sea Devils and Axons. These were during Jon Pertwee’s reign when The Master first appeared in the show.

Francine (re The Master): “One day he’s gonna let his guard down.”
Clive: “That’s my job.”

Toclafane: “Tomorrow the war, tomorrow we rise and never fall.”

Francine and Tish were both maids for The Master while Clive seemed to be some kind of janitor. It’s still amazing how we didn’t get Leo during the one year later period.

Prof Docherty (re The Master): “Could you do it, could you actually kill him?”
Martha: “I’ve got no choice.”
Prof Docherty: “You might be many things but you don’t look like a killer to me.”

Martha (re The Doctor): “He’s never stopped; he never stays and never asks to be thanked. I know him, I love him.”

Martha’s speech only further cements her feelings for The Doctor. Fingers crossed when she returns, he crush will subside a bit.

The Master (to The Doctor): “If I can’t have this world, then neither can you. We shall stand together on this Earth as it burns.”

Captain Jack (re The Master): “So what do we do with this one?”
Clive: “We kill him.”
Tish: “We execute him.”

We learned this week that Jack was born on the Boeshane Peninsula. This is the first time anything about his family life has been addressed.

The Doctor: “We’re the only two left. Regenerate.”
The Master: “How about that? I win.”

Martha: “Time was everyone on this planet knew your name. Now they’ve all forgotten you.”
The Doctor: “Good.”

Standout music: Scissors Sisters’ “I Can’t Decide”. It’s one of the stronger tracks of their album.

The Doctor: “You’re an impossible thing, Jack.”
Captain Jack: “I’ve been called that before.”

The Doctor: “Martha Jones you saved the world.”
Martha: “Yes I did. I spent a lot of the time thinking I was second best to you but you know what? I am good.”

Chronology: Leading into Christmas 2007/2008, though Titanic sank in April. Martha and her family better factor in the episode.

“Last Of The Time Lords” had the advantages of being fifty minutes long and mostly unspoiled compared to other pivotal moments in the series but compared to the previous finales while this was mind blowing, dangerous and poignant and easily another memorable episode from the consistently brilliant third season, I have to admit to preferring last season’s finale. Rose’s actual exit was more heartfelt than Martha’s temporary leave (I hope). Still though only another 25 weeks until we find out what the hell is going on in “Voyage Of The Damned”.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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