I had planned to do a sort of Doctor Who Season 3 retrospective sometime last week, but decided to wait until after the finale to order my thoughts. There was every chance that after “The Last of the Time Lords” I would have lost all faith in Russel T. Davies, David Tennant, Freema Agyeman and the whole francise. It would have taken an utter stinker of an episode to make me anti-Who, but it could have happened. I am therefore heartened to report that I can keep the Tennant avatar to the left of this with undimmed pride.
“The Last of the Time Lords” had a lot to accomplish in it’s slim 40 minutes. (EDIT - okay, so it was 51 minutes. Still, that's half the length of a short feature film.) Not only did it have to live up to the heartbreaking Season 2 finale “Doomsday”, but it also had to resolve the multitude of threads left dangling all the way through the series. With the Doctor aged to the point of uselessness, Jack captured, the entire world in the Master’s hands, it was up to Martha Jones, a character who I personally liked but who I knew rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, to save the day and the gal delivered (getting by with a little help from her friends, obviously!). Below, there be spoilers, btw.
This episode shocked me over and over again. It also made me cry, twice. Which, as anybody who has ever sat through a fim with me wil testify, isn’t exactly the hardest thing to achieve, but two times in 40 minutes is pretty good. Nothing akin to Rose-type bawling, but still, mission accomplished on that front. The Toclafane being the future humans got a huge thumbs up from me, - I had guessed that they were humans as the Master kept dropping them “You love them so much” hint at the Doctor - but tying it all in to the start of Utopia was very satisfying. I had kinda thought they writers had just forgotten them, so I was very pleased by that turn of events. Ann Marie made the point that having those murdering robotic spheres be human sort of undermined the whole “Humans, aren’t they great” schtick the Doctor does, but I disagree. The future people were duped into following the Master; a foolish, life-threatening mistake but a mistake nonetheless. Humans are wonderful and wise and amazing, but we also make mistakes which sometimes cause a lot of people to get hurt. This episode highlighted this fact beautifully and was incredibly life-affirming. Having the entire universe collectively think one word in order to grant the Doctor a sort of life-restoring shield just restored the goodwill and and faith-in-people that has been a continuous thread all the way through the series. By having as the ultimate savior not physical power or science or (thank God) the sonic screwdriver but the power of storytelling, community and hope just made me go all squishy inside. It was teetering on the edge of cheesy, even I’ll admit, but I loved it.
I’m not sure how I feel about Jack as the Face of Boe. The quick shoe-horning of that in at the end seemed a bit throwaway and there has to be some major time-line issues to be resolved there (not the least of which involves Martha mentioning the Face of Boe in front of Jack in Utopia). I’d say the die-hard fans are either wetting themselves with excitement or horror. It was a brave move for Davies though, you have to give the man props. Another did-he-really-just-go-there moment came when the Master apparently died, this is a legendary character that has been around as long as the Doctor himself and killing him off just seems akin to shooting yourself in the foot. BUT there was a tantaslising hint dropped quietly in at the end when we are very briefly shown a hand picking up the Master’s ring as his body burn. The red-painted fingernails indicate it is either his wife or a female regeneration -I’m betting on the former - so this opens up possible avenues for Master-y type plots in the future.
Finally, Martha’s departure. I had kinda predicted this, but I was still on tenderhooks at the very end, especially when she re-enterd the Tardis to deliver her unrequited love speech. I thought it was a good move by the writers, I really liked her character but she didn’t click the same way the Doctor did with Rose. She finally made good on her initial introduction, it was always hinted that she was a match for the Doctor (being one in training herself) and this was finally resolved. She did what it was set out for her to do. The buzz is that Freema will return in the next series, although probably not as the companion. Which only begs the question…who will it be next season? I’m hoping for a male companion, just so we can resolve the sexual tension once and for all. If we could choose from characters we’ve aready met, how about the boy from The Family of Blood or even Sally Sparrow from Blink? Both seem like capable, intelligent, cool people. Who knows, RTD will probably pull something insane out of his hat and give us Ann Robinson or something.
I can totally understand where people are coming from when they say they were disappointed by this episode. There were a lot of dodgy moments, and if I was just that teeny weeny bit more cynical than I am, I can see myself disliking it. As it is though, I was very satisfied by the whole thing. I loved John Simm as the Master dancing around with manic abandon to the Scissor Sisters and although his ageing the Doctor further was a wee bit pointless, it just showed his gleefully sadistic side. Sadly, this also meant the whole episode was a bit Tennant-lite which is never a good thing (unless Moffat is writing, of course). I loved the fact they were confident enough to put the whole thing one year into the future. I loved that David Tennat was able to show off his acting chops again, when he was pleading with the Master to regenerate. It added a sense of depth and history to both men and was really touching. I loved the Lost in Translation-esque whisper, but I do kind of wished what the Doctor said to Martha was left ambiguous, "Use the countdown" doesn't really have the type of mystique that scene required.
I don’t know what I’m going to do until Christmas day, though. That’s months of Tardis-free timey wimey stuff with a big Doctor-shaped void in the middle. Yikes.
It’s getting late and I want to post this before heading up to bed, but I plan to do a whole series review sometime in the future. Maybe. Watch this space, but not too closely.