Oh, dear. What has Russell T Davies done to my precious Doctor Who? How can I even begin to cover my disappointment in this travesty? :(
Alright, here we go. I apologize if I’ve missed anything — this is just off the top of my head:
First of all, why was it necessary to jump forward in time a full year? It seems thrown in and slightly out of place, especially considering how all the main characters (save Martha) are acting at this point in time. Jack is still having a laugh, the Master is still extremely excitable, and the whole situation seems pretty new to everyone. I just think this particular plot device was pretty unnecessary, and that a month would easily have allowed the same type of development, except for possibly…
The whole “Martha Jones becoming a worldwide legend” thing. That struck me as ridiculous from the first time it was mentioned. I find it preposterous that in a world that now exists without television, without internet, without media of any kind, a person and story like Martha’s could achieve anywhere near the worldwide fame and reputation necessary to set any of the following events in motion.
The portrayal of the Master in this episode was considerably weaker than that of the previous two episodes, especially towards the beginning, right after the one year jump. The Master is so excited about this situation, which should be old news for him, so I have no idea why he’s jumping up and down dancing to music like he’s hearing about this for the first time. After a year, he should have come to terms with it pretty well by now. On this same note, seeing the Master jump around like a buffoon makes me miss the sort of cold, detached, controlled Master we used to have with Roger Delgado. Not to say Simm is bad (quite the contrary, I love him in the role), but you’d never see Delgado approaching anything close to this kind of behavior.
I also find it a bit cliche that Martha’s mother and father would fall in love again or get back together or whatever, even after these events. I know stuff like this tends to draw people together and I certainly understand that stuff like this could happen, but I don’t think it would happen with Martha’s family, especially after she just said in the previous episode “you’d never get back with him in a million years.” It just smacks of RTD’s overt sentimentalism, which bothers me.
The mini-Doctor. Oh dear. I don’t honestly know what that was supposed to be, or what the point was of doing that, but I can safely say that my initial reaction was not a positive one — in fact, it was somewhere between confusion and laughter. Everyone in the room didn’t know how to react to that, because it was just weird. I don’t see how aging the Doctor even extremely far into the future would cause him to degenerate into this freaky mutant baby thing. However, I don’t want this post to be entirely negative, so I will say that the CGI was good. But the mini-Doctor was ridiculous, and no level of awesome CGI will cover for that.
What the hell was up with Martha’s anti-Time Lord gun? We established that it wasn’t real, so then what the hell did she have with her that she was showing off? Did she walk over to her local shop and buy a water pistol and some food coloring just to throw off that professor? I mean really, what the hell? Where do you even get food coloring in a post-apocalyptic world?
Not sure where to throw this one in, so I’ll list it here — there were a ton of repeated and recycled lines from The Sound of Drums that were reused here in Last of the Time Lords, and there were also a whole lot of unnecessary flashbacks to the previous episode. Some of them went on for 20-30 seconds and I just sat there, thinking “okay, it hasn’t been that long since I saw Sound of Drums, can we keep moving please?”
The Toclafane, or whatever you want to call them — I was extremely unimpressed by the so-called dramatic reveal of what they were supposed to be… I mean, humans from the future? That really just sounds and feels like an attempt by RTD to write something dark and disparaging and it really comes off as more of a joke. I rolled my eyes when it was finally revealed that they were humans. Their motivation for destroying themselves in the past made little sense (why can’t you just start a new empire somewhere away from Earth rather than destroying yourselves in the 21st century? the whole paradox plot in general bothers me the more I think about it, as it seems totally unnecessary to bother creating a paradox machine when you could instead just move away from Earth and create a galactic empire five light years down the road), and I hated the way the Toclafane were portrayed. They seemed to force their own regression to a childlike mode of behavior, which is very strange, considering they seem intent to dominate the Earth and create a galactic empire. I wouldn’t trust a five-year-old to rule the cosmos and I’m surprised the Master and the future humans thought it was such a great idea.
The timeline for the Master’s time on Earth is very sketchy and somewhat confusing. We know for a fact that at the end of Utopia, the Master left the year 100 trillion and went back to Earth in the present day. But we also know that two major time-consuming processes had to take place just after that — the establishment of the Harold Saxon entity in the public consciousness on Earth, and the enlistment of the support of the future humans from Utopia. We also know that on at least one trip to Utopia, the Master took Lucy with him. I’ve been trying to piece it together and no matter which way you look at it, it doesn’t fit together nicely.
Here is perhaps one of the biggest plot flaws in the entire episode: how the hell did the Master meet up with the future humans from Utopia? Did he snap his fingers and say “you know, let me check up on those humans that went to Utopia, maybe they evolved into some kind of savage murderous race that I can enlist to help conquer and wipe out Earth in the present day!” It just seems way too convenient and I don’t see how he would have just met up with the future humans by pure chance, and there was no reason for him to be looking for them in the first place.
And another Utopia-related biggie: how did the Master get from the Futurekind world where the human colony was set up to Utopia? He couldn’t have used the TARDIS, because it was locked between only two locations: the Futurekind world in 100 trillion, and Earth in the present. So that leaves some kind of local space travel, but there was no rocket left on the world, and it was so difficult for Professor Yana to create his rocket in the first place that it’s not at all feasible that the Master would be able to set up something similar on his own, especially lacking any kind of motivation (see above — why go to Utopia?). Also, there was likely almost no technology left behind on that world from which to construct such a rocket. Additionally, there would have been no way for the Master to meet up with the future humans from Utopia except by going to Utopia, because the humans had absolutely no reason or motivation to return to the Futurekind world.
Perhaps the worst-written and worst-executed part of the entire episode was the Doctor’s return from being hyper-aged by the Master. First off, the entire concept is based on Martha Jones being able to get practically the entire human race on the entire planet Earth to think the word “Doctor” at exactly the right moment. Even before we get into the technical details, I already have a major problem believing that something like this could happen. This also brings up the detail of the countdown — how would the entire human race somehow know exactly when the Master initiated his countdown (or Martha or even the Doctor, for that matter)? It seemed to be entirely on the Master’s whim when to initiate the countdown. It would have made much more sense to have Martha tell everyone a specific date and time to think the word “Doctor” rather than telling them to wait for some vague nonspecific countdown that they couldn’t possibly actually know when it was running and it when it had hit zero. Now, to get into the reasoning behind such an action. Supposedly, the force of five billion people all thinking the word “Doctor” at the same time, was somehow going to psychically do something to the Master’s Archangel network, and then the Doctor was supposed to somehow be in tune with the Archangel network, from which he was able to restore himself to his previous un-aged form (including all of his clothes, by the way). The idea that a large group of people thinking a word, even at the exact same point in time (which, if you’ll notice, didn’t even happen — everyone said “Doctor” across nearly a 30-second span, which is still pretty good considering they should have had no idea when to say or think anything) could influence a network of satellites that were designed to subtly influence voting UK citizens to like and trust Harold Saxon to then transmit some kind of psychic energy to the Doctor which is powerful enough not only to restore him to his previous form but also to give him a few minutes worth of Superman-like powers is extremely preposterous. There is no sense anywhere in this, and I’m amazed Russell T Davies actually managed to create a script from these ideas that was apparently “good enough” for the production team to put out.
Also, how believable is it that people would even listen to Martha’s story of the Doctor, let alone follow her instructions? I don’t know about you, but if some psycho chick came into my house ranting about “saying ‘Doctor’ at the end of a countdown” I’d show her the door and get her the hell out of my house and away from my children. Stupid psycho woman. Yeah, right… I’m totally gonna tell all my friends to say Doctor at the end of the countdown! Psycho.
A minor niggle, perhaps, but I would like to point out that weapons of any kind are not supposed to work inside the TARDIS, including Jack’s assault rifle, which he used to destroy the paradox machine. I know this has never been rigidly stuck to in the old series, and one could explain it by referencing the state the TARDIS was in at the time, but it’s still a flaw, however minor, and it wasn’t explained.
In addition to the concept of the paradox machine seeming quite unnecessary, it also feels like a huge reset button has been pressed, which is a writing technique I can never identify with. Pete pointed out above that it had been building up to this for the entire two-parter, and he’s right — but that doesn’t make a bad solution good. A horrible idea can be built up for a long time and be tied well into the story, but that doesn’t make it a good idea. The fact of the matter is that it was still a substantial cop-out, and it essentially rendered the entire episode meaningless, even when you consider the memories built up by the main characters.
Lucy Saxon was also acting very weird and inconsistent throughout this episode. For the first two-thirds of the episode, I kid you not, she seemed like she was high or drunk or something, because she was really out of it, and I mean in a hugely noticeable way. She seriously looked like she was on some kind of tranquilizer or antidepressant or something. And then at the end, even though she seemed to have no regrets about supporting the Master throughout the entire episode and presumably for the year before, she suddenly switched sides at the end, and said “Doctor” right along with everyone else, and in fact fired the shot that killed the Master at the end. That seems like very inconsistent or possibly just lazy writing to me, like RTD needed a character to fill multiple roles, so he used the same one in two places with little regard to established characterization.
Russell T Davies also threw out pretty much my entire perception and understanding of a Time Lord’s regeneration process in this episode, seemingly ignoring previously established continuity. He has made regeneration not only a very minor issue (“it’s only a bullet, just regenerate”), but also seemingly a process of will rather than a fact of biology. It has never been stated or even implied in any previous situation involving regeneration in either the new series or the classic series, and it seemed to me that RTD changed the fundamental principle behind regeneration in this episode, which I strongly dislike.
I was also very surprised when the Master was actually killed off. I know it was made obvious that there was a return route established, as Tom said above, but I still just didn’t like how RTD just saw fit to simply kill the Master. Even if the Master does make his return later on, there was still a sense of finality to that final scene between the Doctor and the Master, which there shouldn’t have been, because the Master has supposedly died many times before, and there has never been any kind of reconciliation or anything like that between the Doctor and the Master at the end, and it also screws with the audience’s perceptions. Even though it was obvious that the Master survived in some way, the scene was definitely treated as an ending (especially the cremation scene), and it just shouldn’t have been written like that where it’s being so harped-on if he’s just going to come back. It somewhat cheapens the scene, the episode, and the Master’s eventual return.
The cremation scene itself seemed rather strange. My friend Steven noted that the Doctor was following Native American practices for disposing of the body, and I’m not really sure why. It just didn’t seem like a very Time Lord or Doctor-like practice and the scene felt rather strange. Also, I’m not sure what to make of the scene where the woman picks up the Master’s ring. When I saw that, I had to do a double-take, because it messed up my perception of what I thought was the end of the Master, and as a result, cheapened the beautiful acting and good writing of the Master’s actual death.
The sound of drums — this never panned out. I was thinking that this was going to be somehow relevant to something or at least explained better, but in the end, it meant nothing at all, and the only significance in the end was hearing it stop when he died. Also, it was said that the Master heard the sound of drums his entire life from childhood, which would imply that Roger Delgado and Anthony Ainley suffered from this same problem — so why would they have never said anything about it, whereas John Simm can barely keep quiet about it?
I also notice that the TARDIS interior was perfectly restored back to normal, with no reconstruction period, no hinted regrowth, and no explanation or even hint as to how exactly the Doctor just put it all back to normal. That was rather a letdown, partially because I was somewhat hoping for a new console room or at the very least a new console, but also partially because it seems again to be a symptom of RTD’s itchy trigger finger on that reset button.
Seeing Jack leave was also kind of sad — I knew it was coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Also, I must say, I have my concerns about RTD’s current writing of Jack. His behavior here seems to completely contradict essentially everything that had been established about Jack throughout Torchwood, about desperately seeking the Doctor for answers and just to be with him again, and also expressing a huge interest in dying. The Jack we saw at the end of this episode was perfectly happy to leave the Doctor after a relatively short time so he could hang out on 21st century Earth (poor taste), and seemingly no more interest in dying. It just seems like a radical change in direction for Jack, and I don’t like it, because I’d gotten used to the Jack we saw on Torchwood. I also think it would have been much better to keep him around in the TARDIS.
I also have to comment on Martha’s departure. This came as quite a radical shock to me, as I was definitely expecting (and hoping for) at least another year with Freema Agyeman, but now it seems she’s leaving, at least partially, already. I can understand Martha’s second reason for departing, in that she didn’t want to waste her life with the Doctor since he didn’t reciprocate her feelings for him. But I also think that’s rather shortsighted of her, because truthfully, nearly everyone on the planet has to live with some kind of close friend that they have feelings for but they simply don’t feel the same way. At least Martha has a good friendship with the Doctor, which she doesn’t need to sacrifice just because they can’t be a couple. In addition, she is not just giving up her friendly relationship with the Doctor, but also the ability to travel through time and space. Now that’s just dumb — I had pegged Martha to be smarter than to give something like that up for such a poor reason. As far as her first reason goes, I didn’t really understand it at all. I mean, wanting to stay with humans and care for her family is all well and good, but the Doctor does have a time machine, and there wasn’t even a real catastrophe to clean up after anyway. So I think her first reason was pretty poor, and acting on the second reason was pretty stupid. I’m also gravely disappointed that she won’t be back, or at least not full time. I really liked Martha and I would have welcomed more full season with her. I was looking forward to keeping the cast between seasons for the first time in the entire new series, but it seems I will be denied that now.
Finally, the ending — what the freaking hell? For one thing, that was just a random-ass ending. Seriously. Like The Runaway Bride, except ten times worse. Now, I must rant about RTD and his repeated use of “things getting into the TARDIS” as a major plot point (and not just as Christmas cliffhangers, which is common enough). Both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant have made points on numerous occasions that it should be damn near impossible for ordinary objects or energy beams or anything like that to breach the TARDIS in any way. So then what do we have? We have the transmat beam taking the Doctor and Rose and Jack out of the TARDIS in Bad Wolf, Donna being transported into the TARDIS in The Runaway Bride, and now the Titanic bursting through the TARDIS wall (which, by the way, seemed to be made of wood and plaster, rather than the super-advanced Time Lord metal that we all know it should be made of) here. For another thing, even if something somehow were able to get into the TARDIS, I would like to point out that there is a distinct difference between the interior and exterior dimensions. I can almost buy what happened in The Runaway Bride, but with the Titanic, it seems to be a collision of some kind, and I can’t imagine it being possible for the Titanic to collide with the TARDIS’s interior dimension, and if it hit the exterior dimension, then nothing would happen because the TARDIS is indestructible. Even if somehow it did manage to breach the TARDIS, it would simply break the police box, and not burst through the dimensional wall into the console room itself. And RTD is overusing the cliffhanger-before-Christmas format that he established last year. It shouldn’t need a format to begin with, but it certainly doesn’t warrant almost exactly the same event (something breaching the TARDIS) and the Doctor’s identical response (“what?”). I am so ready for Russell T Davies to move on from Doctor Who.
So, to sum up, I have a lot to say about this episode. I am deeply disappointed in Russell T Davies and am beginning to see that the man simply cannot throw together a rich, complicated, and thorough plot if his life depended on it. The more he tried to throw into this, the worse it fell apart. He ended what has been the best year of new Doctor Who yet with this clunker of a series finale, and I have never felt this way before, but all I want to do is erase these two episodes from continuity and start a blank slate to work from and redo it all. I gave this episode a 6/10 in the poll above, and after going through everything and writing this post, I am beginning to realize that it deserved a far lower score than that. RTD should consider himself lucky that I voted when I did, before I realized the true depth of this episode’s gaping plot holes.