Last of the Time Lords Reviewed

John Simm as The Master.

Opening without a suitable resolution to the previous week’s cliffhanger, Last of the Time Lords starts as it means to go on – insulting the regular viewer’s intelligence while dressed as fanboy frivolity.

Martha has wandered the Earth for a year, ostensibly to find a special gun that can kill Time Lords. With this, she apparently intends to kill Mr Saxon, who has now revealed himself to the people of Earth to be the Master. As Martha evades the Master’s forces, she eventually returns back to England, where the story picks up.

The Doctor meanwhile is kept as an animal by the Master, his dignity erased. Martha’s family too are enslaved (except for her brother) and Captain Jack is left to do nothing for the entire 51 minutes by spending most of it tied up. A breakout attempt in the first 15 minutes of the episode leads to nothing, and only serves to further demean the lead character.

Aging the Doctor wasn’t something I was happy with in The Sound of Drums, but I got over it, expecting a resounding resolution to the series with the last episode. What I got however was the second Doctor-lite episode of Series 3, as the action focussed around the Master, Martha, Jack and Clive Jones – basically anyone who wasn’t the Doctor. I guess the idea was to allow the Doctor to make a Christmas Invasion-style comeback in the nick of time, but things were far too gone for that. Russell T Davies stacked the odds heavily in favour of the Master in such a way that the Doctor had to be even further aged until his body, unable to regenerate, withered into a Gollum-esque parody of his former self.

It was at this point that I realised the thrilling Judoon, the meeting with Shakespeare, the meeting with the Face of Bo, the sentient sun, the Daleks, the Family of Blood, the Weeping Angels and even the previous incarnation of the Master were by far and away the highlights of Series 3, a series of unrivalled quality in the annals of Doctor Who, and one which I would agree is the best ever if it were not for this one episode.

Hokey elements abound in Russell T Davies scripts, and this one continued the trend, with Martha gaining entry back on to the cloudbase by tricking a known informant. Once there, she revealed that the gun, now destroyed by the Master, was in fact a dupe; her real mission had been a Christ-like tour of the masses, to “spread the word”.

It’s nonsense, isn’t it? It doesn’t make sense. Where had Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman was the one true highlight of this episode) got this plan from, I hear you ask? Well, apparently the wizened Doctor had ample chance to spell out his plan in full in the closing moments of The Sound of Drums. Rewatched it yet? Well I have, and no he didn’t, Russell.

Last of the Time Lords was – it anguishes me to say – a terrible catastrophe when viewed alongside the rest of the otherwise triumphant 2007 series. It made The Runaway Bride look like Hamlet. It made New Earth look like Father’s Day, and I’d rather watch Love & Monsters than sit through it again. It bastardised a perfectly good previous 12 episodes. Words failed me for the next two days, until I discovered that 9.4 million viewers tuned in, and the non-fans enjoyed it thoroughly.

Which left me in a quandary for a couple of days; review it as I saw it, or how it was received? I suspect that were it not for the Gollum and Captain Jack’s absence, I would have gone with the public. Both were woeful, but together it just wasn’t on. John Barrowman’s name was in the opening titles, yet he did nothing. I love Captain Jack Harkness, particularly the Doctor Who version of the character, but this was unforgiveable and a waste of Barrowman’s undoubted talents.

While well realised, meanwhile, the CGI Doctor was without context.

Gripes aside, the cast put in the required performances, with Freema Agyeman and John Simm in particular doing well. The special FX were excellent, and use of music – both popular and in house – was effective. The Toclafane in particular were well-realised.

Bringing us nicely to the Master’s plan – which just didn’t work for me. I didn’t understand the point of his wife (other than to shoot/save him, why was she there?), the point of a new Time Lord empire, the dislike the Toclafane had for humans or the Master’s apparent to-ing and fro-ing to Utopia.

Reset switches are pretty hokey, although in this case it was forgivable to turn back time (in a manner that made less sense than in the TVM…) in order to give the companion and her family experiences that they cannot share. I cannot, however, forgive the Doctor’s resurrection.

It makes sense, don’t get me wrong, but it is attached to an elaborate plan that the Doctor couldn’t possibly have had time to divulge to Martha in the previous episode. It’s grounded in spirituality, faith, and group emotion – the sensation that we feel at football matches or sad state occasions – and there is no reason why it shouldn’t work.

However, the subsequent flying by the Doctor was reminiscent of the TV version of the Arthur Smith play An Evening with Gary Lineker. Short-lived Force-powers and a vanishing cage can also go down as Bad Ideas.

It was then a surprise to see such a good ending, with Jack revealing that his nickname was once “The Face of Bo”, although whether or not Jack is The Face of Bo is another matter entirely. Martha’s departure from the TARDIS, too, was a surprise and a nice one, a suitable development for a character who spent a year on her own. I won’t miss her too much, thankfully, as she is set to return partway through Series 4

So that was Series 3. On the one hand genius, on the other utter nonsense. A definite step up from Series 2, an improvement on Series 1, but a thoroughly unsatisfactory closing episode for hardcore, longtime fans – but then that’s the Russell T Davies era.


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