The Sound Of Drums

Doctor WhoThe Doctor, Martha and Jack are barely able to escape their fate in the year 100,000,000,000, returning to present-day Earth only when the Doctor is able to modify Jack’s teleportation device. But the England they return to is in the thrall of its new Prime Minister, the charismatic Harold Saxon – a man that the time travelers now realize is the Master’s new incarnation. The three are declared high-risk enemies of the state, and Martha’s family is rounded up and placed under arrest to bait her – and the Doctor – out into the open. Once in office, “Saxon” quietly kills off his entire Cabinet and then announces to the public that he will conduct first contact with an alien race in full public view. The newly elected American President flies to London to demand that Saxon’s alien encounter take place with a more international presence, to which Saxon only reluctantly agrees. The Doctor, Martha and Jack teleport aboard the airborne UNIT aircraft carrier Valiant, where first contact will take place with the Toclafane – a name that the Doctor remembers from Gallifreyan children’s stories, but not a name that he’s ever heard connected to an actual alien species. When the Toclafane appear, they assassinate the President on Saxon’s orders, and he then has the Doctor brought before him. Using a laser screwdriver modified with the anti-aging technology pioneered by Dr. Lazarus, the Master ages the Doctor by decades, and kills Jack (with the full knowledge that Jack will recover). Using Jack’s teleport, Martha teleports away from the Valiant as millions of Toclafane burst into the Earth’s atmosphere, murdering countless people on the ground. The reign of the Master has begun – and now Martha can count only on herself to bring it to an end.

Download this episodewritten 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), Colin Stinton (President), Nichola McAuliffe (Vivien Rook), Nicholas Gecks (Albert Dumfries), Sharon Osbourne (herself), McFly (themselves), Ann Widdecombe (herself), Olivia Hill (BBC Newsreader), Lachele Carl (US Newsreader), Daniel Ming (Chinese Newsreader), Elize Du Toit (Sinister Woman), Zoe Thorne, Gerard Logan, Johnnie Lyne-Pirkis (Sphere voices)

Notes: For the first time in the new series, the Time Lords and their world are seen as the Doctor reminisces about Gallifrey. The description of Gallifrey having orange skies and silver leaves dates back to a verbal description given by the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan of her home planet in the first season of the original series – the 1964 six-parter The Sensorites – though this is really the first time that the show’s incumbent production team has gone out of its way to stick to that description. The flowing Time Lord ceremonial costume, first seen in 1976’s The Deadly Assassin, was originally created by then-costume designer James Acheson, and the design is largely adhered to here. Also seen is a black-and-white garment which was seen on the Time Lords in their first screen appearance, 1969’s The War Games. Here, there seems to be an implication that the black and white robes signify that the wearer is a novitiate or a Time Lord in training, which does not seem to have been the case in The War Games. The Master’s “origin story” here has never before been recounted in the television series; different versions of the Master’s origins – though perhaps not necessarily conflicting – can be found in the novel “The Dark Path” and the Big Finish audio story Master. The mention of Time Lord children being “taken from their families” may or may not conflict with the New Adventures novels’ continuity, which states that Gallifrey is a sterile planet whose children are “woven” on looms of genetic material; the families from which the children are taken could just as easily be the novels’ families comprised entirely of cousins. On the other hand, the novels’ Gallifrey-as-sterile backstory may already have been invalidated by the eighth Doctor’s memories of being on Gallifrey with his father (again, seen in the 1996 TV movie). The Time Lord practice of taking families from their children for training may or may not be an homage to a similar practice among the Psi Corps in Babylon 5, when humans with telepathic ability are detected at a young age.

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: The most cohesive story of the new series’ “Master Trilogy”, The
Sound Of Drums
is a taut thriller with plenty of action and suspense, but again, no clear resolution. Everything is a setup for The Last Of The Time Lords, even when that setup makes little sense: why wouldn’t the Doctor simply regenerate when enfeebled to such a degree? It’s not that I’m eager to see the back of David Tennant – quite the contrary, in fact – but it doesn’t add up. (Although there is a precedent for the Doctor being hyper-aged within a single regeneration, in the Tom Baker story The Leisure Hive.) Another element that isn’t paid off is Lucy Saxon. A lot of time is devoted to setting up that she’s been hoodwinked, that her husband isn’t who she thinks he is, and yet when it comes down to it – the Toclafane disposing of Lucy’s interviewer, the assassination of the President, and the Master ruthlessly unleashing the Toclafane on a helpless world – she seems to be all but getting off on it. She seems to be a thoroughly amoral person, at best, and yet by the time we’re done with the trilogy, we know no more about her and her character takes further strange turns (though these may also be the result of scenes left on the cutting room floor).

The performances do more to hold things together than the script does in many places. Tennant, Agyeman and Barrowman are a dynamite combination, and John Simm gives the Master an unnerving ability to switch from maniacal glee to something much more deeply disturbed (and disturbing) on a dime. This is the Master at the absolute end of his rope. Even in the 1996 movie, as unhinged as the Master was, there was more restraint. Here, there’s something disturbingly childlike about him. The Gallifrey flashback that explains this state of mind is fascinating, visually engrossing, and it’s the visual interpretation of Gallifrey that longtime fans have waited over 40 years to see…and yet, what that flashback really seems to be giving us is an excuse for the Master’s behavior, a rationale for it. Bull! In this adventure, more than any other, the Master has more blood on his hands than we have ever seen him to have before. It’s a sign that he’s not just misguided, he’s thoroughly evil. And yet he’s a strangely fey evil – he’s a diabolical foil for David Tennant’s Doctor, but I can’t help but think that Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor would’ve wiped the floor with Simm’s Master.

But I’ll be damned if my breath didn’t catch for several seconds seeing a proper Time Lord, in proper Time Lord robes right out of the original show, in the new series. Wow.