A year after the Master’s takeover of Earth, the aged Doctor remains his prisoner aboard the Valiant. After an escape attempt with the help of Martha’s family and Captain Jack, the Doctor is subjected to the Master’s aging process again, this time winding up as an emaciated, tiny figure unable to regenerate. Still, he promises that he has only one thing to say to his fellow Time Lord – one thing which the Master is not interested in hearing. As for Martha herself, she has spent a year walking the Earth, spreading the word of the Doctor’s heroics and planting instructions for an eventual uprising against the Master’s rule. With the help of other resistance fighters, Martha discovers the horrifying true nature of the Toclafane, but is eventually captured by the Master and sentenced to death. Even in the face of execution, Martha remains defiant, because she holds the secret to restoring the Doctor to his full power – and then some. But just how far will the Master go to torment his nemesis?
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Colin Teague
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), John Simm (The Master), Adjoa Andoh (Francine Jones), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Tish Jones), Travor Laird (Clive Jones), Reggie Yates (Leo Jones), Alexandra Moen (Lucy Saxon), Tom Ellis (Thomas Milligan), Ellie Haddington (Professor Docherty), Tom Golding (Lad), Natasha Alexander (Woman), Zoe Thorne, Gerard Logan, Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis (Sphere voices)
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: Oh good grief. That’s it!? Since it miraculously came back to the airwaves, I’ve been a staunch supporter in the new Doctor Who, finding something to enjoy about nearly every episode. Even those that have fallen a bit flat have had some entertaining facet to them. But after seeing Last Of The Time Lords – actually, no, not just seeing it, but watching it two or three times, trying to find (indeed, hoping to find) some layer that I hadn’t found yet – I felt, for the first time, pretty embarrassed about all that cheerleading I’ve been doing on the Doctor’s behalf.
Remember when “One Year Later” was such a new, shocking thing back when Battlestar Galactica did it? In this case, it just seems cheap – and truth be told, it’s not a new device to Doctor Who. The novels have done it (“Seeing I”) and the audio plays have done it (Return Of The Daleks) with varying degrees of success; “Seeing I” made it an incredibly effective and truly shocking thing, while the aforementioned Big Finish audio story got through that year in mere seconds, making it a whiz-past-your-head, what-the-hell? kind of thing that wasted any opportunity that might potentially have existed there. Last Of The Time Lords, unfortunately, is more akin to the latter.
It’s interesting to see Martha come to the forefront, but ultimately, despite Freema Agyeman’s wonderful performance throughout the third season, the character’s potential has been wasted by a whole season of episodes in which the Doctor either wished Rose was there, pined away for Rose, or was more than a little condescending to Martha because she wasn’t Rose. I can see the narrative sense in having the Doctor mourn Rose’s loss for one, maybe two stories following her departure. But the way the third season was structured, he was agonizing about it in nearly every episode. And Martha lost out on valuable character development time because of it. Even after she literally saves everyone’s bacon in this episode, her missing year of heroically walking the Earth and mounting a resistance against the Master’s domination is glossed over. It’s almost heartening in the end when she leaves – not because I dislike the character or the actress. I think the character and the actress were great. It’s just that for her to stay, having endured what she’s endured between saving the world and putting up with being the Doctor’s “rebound girl”, would make Martha into a doormat; that she finally worked up the self-respect and dignity to get the hell out of the TARDIS at least is consistent with the character’s intelligence and poise from her introduction…moreso than some of the stuff that she’s said and done before now.
If there’s a saving grace here, it’s John Simm’s Master, who continues to go right off the rails into insanity, but also shows more cold, calculating moments here. We’re treated to a virtual reprise of the Doctor and the Master’s last confrontation in the final original series story Survival, though the real treat is when the Master somehow manages to stave off his own regeneration just to spite the Doctor. The Master reborn is also the Master so far off his rocker that his own survival doesn’t even matter – though somehow hinting at this earlier in the episode might have ratcheted the tension up considerably. All in all, it’s a logical extension of how completely unhinged the Master had become by the time of the 1996 TV movie.
Last Of The Time Lords borrows so many iconic scenes from other media entities that it’s just mind-boggling. From the Master’s Viking funeral (shot almost identically to that of Darth Vader from Return Of The Jedi) to the Superman: The Movie-esque reversal of time to the too-obvious Flash Gordon “The End…?” gag in which someone takes the Master’s ring, to say nothing of the deus ex machina that restores the Doctor to full health (and then some, with powers that we’ve never seen the character display before), this episode almost makes me wonder if Russell T. Davies is out of ideas…or if perhaps he had written himself into such a tightly apocalyptic corner with his cliffhanger that he had to pull a “Sleep, Data, sleep!” on an epic scale.