Doctor Who 3.13: Last of the Time Lords review

Review

Last of the Time LordsLast of the Time Lords review

The Doctor: I have one thing to say to you.

Production Code: 3.13.
Doctor Who Season: S29 (Ep13).
Story Number: 187c.

It begins at the water’s edge…

“No need to ask who you are, the famous Martha Jones”.

It’s a curious welcome this season has for the new companion of Doctor Who. From the get-go she’s compared to the previous companion, Rose. Overshadowed.

Bold for RTD to do this, but it makes a certain amount of sense. When Doctor Who first shone brightly across the 21st Century Saturday nights of the land, Rose was THE companion for a new audience. Leaving after two years meant there were big shoes to fill.

“There’s a lot of people depending on you, you’re a bit of a legend.”

One love-story had already been told, the previous season. This season, try as she might, Martha never really got the Doctor to notice her the way she wanted to.

So what is this three-parter about then? The companion.

It’s also about the Doctor, and his ethos. With the Master as the Doctor’s warped mirror to illuminate what Doctor Who is about.

“Story goes, that you’re the only person on Earth that can kill him. That you and you alone can kill the Master stone dead.”

“Let’s just drive.”

Martha has become a legend yes, a story.

This three-parter is a story which contrasts the two Time Lords and how they treat their companions.

“I took Lucy to Utopia. A Time Lord and his human companion. I took her to see the stars. Isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

“Trillions of years into the future, to the end of the universe.”

“Tell him what you saw.”

“Dying. Everything dying. The whole of creation was falling apart and I thought there’s no point. No point to anything. Not ever.”

(The Master to the Doctor) “And it’s all your fault.”

Just as the Doctor was celebrating the “indomitable” humans of Utopia, impressing upon Martha that hope survives, the Master takes delight in showing his companion the opposite.

A world without hope, the Master has triumphed.

Just to underscore the scale of his triumph, the Doctor’s transformed into a doddery “Gandalf” figure, though there’s worse to come for the Doctor’s transformations.

Simm continues his energetic performance as the Master from The Sound of Drums, spinning the Doctor around the deck of the Valiant to pop music.

When it was broadcast, the “Gollum” Doctor was shocking. It didn’t seem to fit. It seemed absurd, wrong. Watching it now in 2012 though, it seems to fit more – a pitiable goblin is an archetype of myth and story, one that Gollum himself resonates with. The Doctor’s spirit is unchanged, it’s the imagery though that’s there. Meant to dishearten Martha.

She smiles. “The Doctor’s still alive”.

While she walks across the whole Earth for that year, spreading hope with her story of the Doctor, she allows a version of her own story and legend to become a folk tale: “They say you can kill the Master”, and she’s shown Professor Doherty the legendary four-chemical gun she’s almost completely assembled.

Once she’s on the Valiant though, the folk tale is a myth: “A gun in four parts scattered across the world? I mean, come on, did you really believe that?” That’s not what Doctor Who is about.

After the Doctor uses the Master’s own psychic network against him, there’s nods to the two previous Doctor Who stories which starred the Master (and which were the last chapters of Classic Doctor Who).

Survival – the Doctor trying to convince the Master they shouldn’t fight like animals across the wild landscape.

The TV Movie – a reversal of time except it actually has some sort of foreshadowing (the Paradox Machine purpose is to keep the timeline stable).

“No weapons, just words”. The Doctor apparently wins the day. He convinces Francine to put down the gun.

There’s an astonishing undercurrent of cruelty to this incarnation of the Master. Subtly shown, but shown it is, that he’s a wife beater. (The flinching from Lucy when the Doctor is hit, her black eye.)

The beaten spouse, companion, provides the Master with a way for him to triumph still, shooting him dead and with him refusing to regenerate, stone dead.

“REGENERATE!” The lonely god remains the Last of the Time Lords by the end.

“I’ll see you again mister!” Martha makes a decision to leave the TARDIS, having proven she’s stepped out of the shadows of other legends.

It’s a fantastic three-parter, the first (and so far only!) such super-long Doctor Who story broadcast in the 21st Century and a suitably epic way to bring the Master back to the programme.

Rating for this last episode of the three-parter: 5/5

Rating for the three-parter story overall: 5/5

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(Last of the Time Lords on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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