Sunday, July 22, 2007

Doctor Who - Last of the Time Lords

And so we come to the final episode ... the one that it's all been leading to. I'll add some final thoughts at the end of this piece, but for the moment, we pick up where we left things last week ... well almost.

It's one year later and the show opens with a graphic and a voice telling us that Sol 3 is 'closed' ... I wondered where this was coming from and why? From the last episode, it's obvious that first contact has yet to be established as the business with the Toclafane spheres was big news ... so who has decided that Earth has reached terminal extinction?

Cue Martha, who arrives in England in a boat. It's the first time she's been back for 365 days ... and I wonder how she got away from England so quickly anyway. It would take a few days to reach the coast from London, and who in their right mind would be sailing ships/flying planes while the Toclafane wiped out a tenth of the population! Maybe she is very resourceful indeed. We are told she walked across America ... is that even possible with limited supplies ... and how long would it take? And as if that wasn't enough she's been in Japan and all over ... this is stretching my credibility somewhat.

But she has returned to seek out Professor Docherty ... not sure why just yet ...

Meanwhile the Master hasn't really been busy at all. He's still on his skybase. His wife looks even more drugged up (and has a rather nice red dress on) and looks as though she has been beaten - she has a bruise on her cheek. The aged Doctor lives in a tent with some grass under it and a dog bowl and Martha's family all work on the skybase while Jack is chained up. The Master also enjoys music by The Scissor Sisters ...

It's 24 hours to launch date and the Doctor and Martha's family plot a coup at 3pm ... we learn about the rockets being built to fire into space ... to destroy what? Martha mentions it's to create an intergalactic war ... but they would take days, years even to reach anything worth destroying ... so what is the point of it? These was something about opening rifts to go through but it's all very confused. The Master is plainly insane so maybe it doesn't have to make any sense. Would be nice though.

The Doctor's coup predictably fails as the Master's laser screwdriver is isomorphic (and the fanboys sigh with pleasure). To rub this in we get the Axons and Sea Devils namechecked as well. The Master transmits a message for Martha ... and by an amazing coincidence she and Tom have just arrived at Docherty's, and Docherty has just managed to get a TV working ... to the second! While Martha watches the Master blasts the Doctor again with his laser and the Doctor is bizarrely changed into a Gollum or Dobby-like character with tiny shrunken body, big head and large puppydog eyes. By this point I was watching with mouth agape, having no idea what was going on and why Doctor Who seemed to have turned into some sort of collision between The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The CGI on the Dobby-Doc was amazing though. But why!!!!

Martha, Tom and Professor Docherty capture a Toclafane sphere using some information Martha has on a CD and discover that inside it is a face. It transpires that these creatures are actually the future of Mankind - they are the remains of the humans sent off to Utopia by the Doctor. This was a nice touch and neatly tied up that loose end - but why did they evolve into faces and change so much! How long did all this take? Especially as the Master could not travel in time - as stated a couple of times, all he could do was to go from the year 100 trillion to 2007 ... so how could he possibly have influenced humanity to become hi-tech flying balls so quickly? Incidentally, the BBC site points out that 'Toclafane' roughly translates to 'Fool the Fan' in French ... I wonder who was trying to fool who here?

Now we discover that the Master is trying to create a new Gallifrey. I'm not sure how or why, or why firing lots of missiles into space helps that, nor how releasing millions of Toclafane spheres onto the Earth helps as well ...

Martha tells Docherty about her secret gun to defeat the Master which needs a fourth chemical from North London ... while she and Tom head off to get it, Docherty reports them to the Master as he is holding her son hostage.

So the Master arrives as Martha is telling some humans in North London about the Doctor, and she gives herself up. Tom is predictably killed which is a shame as he was quite a nice character, as was Docherty. I like how the series has presented several great older characters - Doctor Constantine and Mrs Moore spring to mind as well as Docherty here.

So back on the Skybase and we're nearing endgame. As the Master's countdown to launch approaches zero, Martha explains that she told everyone about the Doctor and asked them to think his name when the countdown reached zero ... aside from the fact that the Master seems to be making his plan up as he goes along, there was no mention of a countdown and so how would the Doctor or Martha know there would be one, and how does everyone worldwide know when it will reach zero anyway? The idea is that the Archangel network of satellites will boost this thought power and allow the Doctor to restore himself as he has hooked himself into the Archangel network.

And lo it came to pass. The people of Earth prayed for their saviour to the Archangel and he rose again. Floating arms outstretched to forgive the Master ... In the chaos the Toclafane go to protect the paradox and Jack heads off to destroy the thing ... the Doctor and the Master transport to a clifftop for no reason where the Master wants to use more technobabble and black holes to wipe the world out, but the Doctor knows he won't succeed as he can't kill himself.

Jack manages to get past the whole three Toclafane defending the TARDIS (where were the rest?) and starts blasting away with a machine gun inside the TARDIS - didn't the Doctor say they couldn't do this in the last episode? He destroys the paradox machine and the Doctor and the Master are brought back on the skybase as a wind blows and time rolls back.



You do not write good science fiction by rolling time back at the end. What a total waste of time. It makes a mockery of everything Doctor Who has always stood for. Total and utter rubbish.

So the Doctor wants to keep the Master in his TARDIS but, after Francine cannot shoot him, Lucy Saxon does. The Master dies in the Doctor's arms as he refuses to regenerate. We get more mentions of Axons and Daleks (that's three mentions of the Axons in two episodes ... a clue there perhaps?).

As if we cared any more, the Doctor burns the Master's body on a pyre ... why? This seems to be the question of the episode. Why? Nothing is really explained and we don't really care anymore anyway. Martha also gives Docherty a bunch of flowers for something she never did and never will do ... why?

Finally (almost) Jack returns to Torchwood and the Doctor disables his teleport. The final shot across the bows is the intimation that Jack is, in fact, the Face of Boe. Shaking my head in disbelief and cries of 'What!' from my family ... this was the final nail in the coffin of silliness which was this final episode. And then Martha decides not to travel on with the Doctor proving the newspapers correct and the BBC barefaced liars.

As if all the preceeding nonsense wasn't bad enough, we then cut to the embers of the Master's pyre and a female hand (well I assume it's female ... could be Eddie Izzard for all I know, which would actually be far more likely given the way the series is going) picks up the Master's ring - an artifact previously unmentioned in the episodes. Evil cackling sounds and we all intone 'The world will hear from me again' in good old Fu Manchu as this cliched and useless Flash Gordon moment plays out.

But then ... the bow of a ship crashes through the TARDIS internal wall. The Doctor is quite right to cry, 'What!' as this should be impossible. Moreover the ship appears to be the Titanic ... and the 'Next Episode' caption announces that the Christmas Episode will be called Voyage of the Damned ... I may be going mad, but I remember a panel in Doctor Who Magazine of the prow of a ship crashing through the inner wall of the TARDIS ... any ideas?

And so ends one of the most confused, unexplained and basically dreadful episodes of recent Who. I have no idea whether anyone had a clue as to what was happening, and Russell T Davies seemed to be indulging himself in anything which came to mind in order to provide a climax to a series which had been rather good up to this point.

Overall I felt that the third season was stronger than the two previous ones by quite a long way. There were a few really dud stories: I disliked Gridlock (though others loved it) and 24, the second part of the Dalek adventure was a wasted opportunity, and this final episode was very disappointing indeed. But the duds were far made up for by the genius of Smith and Jones, Blink, Human Nature, The Family of Blood and the first part of the Dalek story. David Tennant was brilliant throughout and always watchable, and Freema Ageyeman was mostly very effective as well. It's such a shame that she's not continuing though, and I feel that this decision is, like most of the final episode, poorly thought out. The series needs a 'normal' person to act as an anchor, and the news that the dreadful Catherine Tate is returning as Donna for the whole of next season fills me with dread. Tate is not an actress, she's a comedienne with a one-trick piece of shtick which won't wash for the season. She was only bearable in The Runaway Bride as she was guesting and there was lots of other things to see ... but to be stuck with her for a whole 13 weeks!

It's not just me as well ... friends who are not fans think this is an awful idea as well ... it's the equivalent of Bonnie Langford all over again! For thoughts on that, head over to Lawrence Miles' Doctor Who blog at where he eloquently sums up my thoughts on the whole situation far better than I could.

So overall ... a great season but with a cop out and ill prescribed ending. Allowing the effects and ideas to get in the way of the plot ... fatal for what is after all a drama series, and which needs to make sense.


gary said...

Hiya David, you posted on my Voy board about....6 years ago now regarding Urban Gothic! And a good show it was too. Keep up the good work!

Dave M said...

Good solid review as always, I really enjoy reading these.

I was curious though as to what your overall impression of The Master was? Approve of the general style or think a more traditional line should be taken?

David said...

I thought John Simm was very good, but I would have preferred a more traditionsl approach - there was no scheming and planning, no plots or intelligence - just insanity. And it's hard to identify with someone who is just so barking!


Anonymous said...

RTD once said in an interview that the biggest problam with Dr Who is the would be writers that sit at home saying "I would love to write a story, but I dont have the time or inclination"

well following this total load of nonsence that was Last of the Timelords, I am going to take RTD's advice, and write a script of my own. lets face it. I can not do any worse!

well done with a "spot on" Review.

Anonymous said...

With all the Saxon build up, Last of the Timelords was a huge let down for me. After Human Nature, The Family of Blood, Blink & Utopia,I thought we were in for something special. I was also upset that the Simm Master died. Just like the eighties Master, I wanted to see more of the Simm Master. Anway good review & hopefully the Xmas episode will be better.

Frans said...

Hi David,

I totally agree with your analysis of the whole last season, though I liked 42. Looking at the quality of the rest of the season, the last 2 episodes were a let down, specially because Utopia was actually well done. I do hope that we see more of Simm's Master, because I have the feeling he did rather well.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about the finale. Too much "Deus Ex Machina", even though the ideas were interesting (using the master's neuro-network against himself). It would have been a better story if Martha was ONLY looking for the last part of the gun and not being diverted into finding out who the Toclafane were, as it has nothing to do with her story.

There's a lot of talk about how Doctor Who can't survive without RTD, but it can and it will. He's a good writer generally, but he does tend to write down to children (fart jokes being a prime example). I'm rewatching the Original Series from the beginning and what is striking is how good the Dalek Episodes are as they're written much more intelligently than, say, The Sensorites which is a trite story about prejudice. Here's to hoping Moffat takes over.

-Erik E.

Ben Adams said...

Hopefully we can ascribe Simms' characterization to some latent post-regeneration trauma? Perhaps...maybe....? Well, I hope they go back to a more cool calculating character like the Delgado Master. I rewatched his episodes and his utter calm at being utter evil was utterly fascinating to watch.