Doctor Who – The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords

The Sound of Drums

At the end of Utopia, the Doctor, Jack and Martha were trapped on a planet in the distant future, with the Tardis having been stolen by the newly regenerated Master. They manage to get back to 21st century Earth when the Doctor adjusts that bracelet Jack always wears. They arrive just as the election results are announced. Harold Saxon, that chap we’ve been hearing about all series, has been elected Prime Minister. When he appears on a TV screen, the awful[1] truth is revealed. Harold Saxon is the Master. Now that’s going to lead to trouble, isn’t it?

The Master was always, well, differently sane, but his latest regeneration seems to be more extravagantly bonkers than we’ve seen before. Quite apart from being homicidal in the extreme, he’s also developed the annoying habit of drumming his fingers. After killing his Cabinet he gets to work on his latest Evil Plan.

Meanwhile, a journalist goes to see Lucy Saxon – yes, like all the best psycho politicians, “Saxon” has an adoring wife. She tells Lucy that Saxon’s entire biography and back story is a clumsy fake – so fake that anyone could spot it. The Master arrives with some floating spherical robot thingies….

The Master then appears on TV and introduces the robots as his friends – aliens he calls the Toclafane. After a bit of fun in which Martha’s family are rounded up and her flat blown up, the Master cuts in on a call she tries to make to her brother Leo. He and the Doctor have a little catch up chat.

The Master says that the Time Lords resurrected him to use as a weapon in the Time War[2], but that he ran away rather than fight. The Doctor tries to persuade him to stop what he’s doing

Doctor: We have each other
Master: Are you asking me out on a date?

He asks the Doctor if he can hear the drumming. People everywhere are drumming their fingers in the same rhythm. The TV announces that the Doctor and his friends are terrorist suspects. Torchwood have been sent off on a fake mission, so they can’t help. Darkness is coming.

The Doctor tells his friends about life on Gallifrey. How when they were children, his people were taken to look into the vortex, and how it drove some of them mad. Like the Master for instance. Jack tells the Doctor about his work with Torchwood, how it’s changed from the organisation that caused all that bother with Cybermen and Daleks. And they work out that the Master has been using the global Archangel phone network to program humanity to follow him.

Well, we can’t have that, can we? The Doctor rigs three Tardis keys with perception filters which will make them not actually invisible, but people won’t see them.

It’s like when you fancy someone, and they don’t know you exist

Jack and Martha exchange glances

You too, huh?

Meanwhile, the US President has arrived. He’s a bit upset that the new UK Prime Minister hasn’t followed proper first contact procedures, and tries to take over. The Master mocks him, but agrees that official first contact will take place on an aircraft carrier – a UNIT ship, no less.

While that’s going on, the Doctor and his friends follow the Master to the ship. The Valliant. Which anyone who recalls the original Captain Scarlet will have greeted by shouting

It’s Bloody[3] Cloudbase!

Yup, it’s a genuine floating in the air, great big technologically unlikely platform. Designed by Harold Saxon, naturally…

The Doctor finds his Tardis, which is not at all well. The Master has changed it. Turned it into a Paradox Machine, which is apparently a Very Bad Thing indeed. And then we get the traditional confrontation between the Doctor and the Master. Martha has reluctantly followed the Doctor’s order to flee…

The Master explains that when he arrived on Earth, he started planning and setting traps for the Doctor. Then, just for laughs, he uses a Lazarus laser (you might recall his involvement in the Lazarus Experiment) to age the Doctor by one hundred years. Then the sky literally opens and millions, no, billions of Toclafane begin to descend over the Earth. The Master tells them to decimate humanity – and he really means kill one tenth of the population. Death and destruction begin…

Last of the Time Lords

After the dramatic end of the previous episode, it might be considered a bit of a let-down when the final one begins with a “one year later” caption, but let’s go with it for now…

Earth is closed. Cities have been destroyed, and the survivors huddle together where they can. Martha has been travelling around the world, meeting resistance groups, and now she returns to the UK. It seems her fame has spread – everyone has heard that “Martha Jones will save the world”.

But the Master is still having fun. He’s ready to build his new Time Lord Empire, and has used the enslaved population of Earth to build rockets for a war against the rest of the universe[4]. He’s got Martha’s family working as servants, Jack’s in chains and the aged Doctor can’t get around much. But that doesn’t stop the Master using his toys to add the whole of the Doctor’s long life to his apparent age. This is a bit odd, as it results in the Doctor changing into a small, wrinkled creature somewhere between Gollum and Dobby the House Elf.

Martha has managed to bring down one of the murderous Toclafane spheres and manages to open it. Inside is a human face. And we learn the dreadful truth. The “Toclafane” are the last desperate remnants of humanity – the people sent to “Utopia”. The Paradox Machine that the Master has built from the Doctor’s Tardis is allowing them to come back in time and kill their ancestors without the expected result of them disappearing and therefore not being able to kill anyone as they would never have existed. Martha confides in Professor Docherty – her trip around the world has enabled her to gather the four components of a weapon that will permanently kill a Time Lord. Four chemicals injected together will kill the Master deader than a very dead thing. While Martha talks to the local people about the Doctor, the Professor contacts the Master and tells him where to find Martha, who is promptly rounded up and taken to Cloudbase the Valiant.

The Master does the triumphant crowing thing, only to be brought down a bit when Gollum Dobby the Doctor says

..as if I would ask her to kill

And then it all goes a bit wrong for the Master. Martha has been spreading a message around the world. Getting everyone to concentrate on one word: DOCTOR. And through some weird psychic energy thingy, this enables the Doctor to regenerate into his more usual size, shape, and apparent age. And he has a bit of extra power, which enables him to undo all the Master’s damage and wind back time, so that for the people of Earth, the Bad Stuff didn’t happen at all.

This does leave a few loose ends, of course. Lucy Saxon, now freed from the Master’s control, is horrified at what she has been made to do, and shoots the Master. The Doctor is horrified. He cradles the dying Master in his arms, and begs him to save himself by regenerating, but out of spite, or more madness than usual, he refuses and dies. The Doctor burns his body on a pyre. As the flames die down, the Master’s ring, an intricate thing with a Gallifreyan design not altogether unlike the one on the watch we all know and love, falls to the ground, only to be picked up by a hand with long red fingernails. Was it Lucy? Was it someone else? Can the Master really be dead forever this time? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later…

Jack, having sorted things out, decides that his place is with Torchwood – defending the Earth. But only after mentioning that he was a child model in his younger days. Apparently he was known as “the face of Boe”, which would explain a lot…

Martha has two problems. One is helping her family come to terms with the horrors they have lived through. As they were on the Valiant when time was reversed, their experiences are still with them, and there is nobody other than Martha who knows about it. And the other is the little matter of her unrequited feelings for the Doctor. She decides to back away from him, for a while, at least. But she promises to be back.

Which leaves the Doctor on his own again. He’s just set off when something goes a bit wrong. Well, it seems something else went wrong, but that only became clear later. Somehow, the Tardis has managed to collide with what would appear to be an ocean liner. A lifebelt falls from the ship, bearing the name “Titanic”, which leaves the Doctor where he was at the end of the last series. Saying

What? What? What?

All will be revealed on Christmas Day.

So there it is. The end of the third series of the revived Doctor Who, and what a lot of fun it was. David Tennant has taken the role and made it his own (so much so that when I see Christopher Eccleston’s episodes, they look slightly odd). He also appears to be having the time of his life. Whether he’ll still feel that way after doing another full year and three specials in 2009 is another matter, of course. That would give us four years of the same Doctor (even though one of those years is a bit short on screen time), which would be a good run. Personally, I’d like him to keep doing it so long as he’s enjoying it, and not a moment longer. There were some great stories (Blink and Human Nature/The Family of Blood stand out in particular), some great monsters (the Lazarus creature and the Weeping Angels were nice), a superb new companion in Martha Jones, and some great guest stars, particularly John Simm’s delightfully loopy and evil take on the Master.

Coming up, we have a Christmas special and thirteen new episodes, which will include some old adversaries and lots more fun. Woo Who!

[1] and not at all predictable
[2] Which kind of vaguely accounts for him being alive, but since he’s been destroyed many times, we won’t make a fuss about that
[3] OK, that wasn’t quite the word I used…
[4] I believe I may have mentioned his slight sanity defect…

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