13. The Last of the Timelords
Oh, what wacky fun the apocalypse is, eh?
The episode opens with a One Year Later text that assures us the much anticipated ‘reset button’ resolution is coming our way.
By establishing an Earth where the Master has taken over completely and erected sculptures that look hauntingly similar to Dave Lister‘s statue from the Red Dwarf episode ‘Time Slides,’ you know that old Russel T Davies is going for the ‘it never happened cop-out.’
So… that leaves my best hope being that something interesting or at least partway entertaining will happen along the way. Oh dear.
While Martha walks the planet with her magic key, the Master is apparently living in a musical where he carts the old man Doctor around to the Scissor Sisters with so little dignity that somewhere in the world, obnoxious TV show host Graham Norton is standing a little taller since he is no longer the most flamboyant person on TV.
The Master prances about like his pants are on fire, past the Jones family who for some reason are his exclusive slaves, and his wife who is nursing a black eye (I missed that detail actually and only caught on thanks to this pic).
Subtle producer and director Russel T Davies felt that I might get distracted by the Master‘s dancing skills and forget that he is an evil man. This is such poor thinking that not even the darkest of the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures books ever delved into the idea.
The Master is evil in the way that he wants to hypnotize people into following his will, he shrinks people, he pits empires against each other… that doesn’t mean he beats women. It’s a misunderstanding of not only sci-fi villainy, but also domestic violence.
The next scene features what becomes a pattern of inexplicable moments for the episode. For some reason, Martha and a brand new character that is terribly interesting and therefore cast aside almost immediately, cannot see the Master‘s public address.
This is very odd because as a ‘big brother’ type with super powerful spheres floating about, you’d think he’d want everyone to see and hear him. Especially Martha, since the address is specifically for her.
The Master then removes David Tennant from the episode entirely, by shrinking the Doctor into a wee little Gollum-like creature that he keeps in a bird cage.
I was sure my eyes were playing tricks, but no.
The remainder of the episode is filled with thrown together logic (a gun that can kill a Timelord… as if they are vampires, the spheres are full of the travelers from the Utopia episode’s heads… the Master can only travel to the end of the universe and today… it goes on and on), and the same flashback of the Doctor whispering to Martha played no less than three times.
Anytime I spot a flashback in a story, I know I’m in trouble. If the program cannot figure out how to convey something without physically taking me back in time… it is in real dire trouble.
Let me stress again that the scene was played back over three times.
Martha is played up as the only person capable of saving the planet (because… why?) and instead of using the Timelord-killing gun, she somehow convinces everyone on the planet (remember she had a magical Europass that allowed her to travel the entire globe in a year) to clap their hands together and say they DO believe in the Doctor.
As if the fairy theme wasn’t made painfully evident enough by this plot, the Doctor then floats in a ball of blue light and possesses God-like mystical abilities.
After the Doctor transcends his fairy prince role, he becomes Jesus and ‘forgives’ the Master for all of his crimes, saying that he’ll keep the prancing ninny in the TARDIS like a kind of wacky flatmate. The Master‘s wife shoots him and David Tennant delivers his best performance in ages… in a horrible scene.
The Doctor tries to ‘lighten the mood’ by reminding the Master of all their crazy times as they dueled over the fate of the universe and the Master somehow wills himself to not regenerate… which looks like it feels a lot like having painful gas.
The finale also reveals that Jack is the Face of Boe… umm… okay.
Actually, no. How is Jack the Face of Boe?
Wasn’t the Face of Boe the last of his kind, a giant head in a jar possessing strange powers and a mystical insight to the universe?
Isn’t Jack a butt-slapping cheeky con man?
How do these characters relate?
Answer: They don’t.
Actually, none of the ideas strug together in this finale relate to each other.
- The Jones family are important to Martha therefore the Master keeps them around as his slaves waiting for them to plot against him. Uh… huh.
- Martha‘s folks get back together after pretending they are in jail on Skybase… which is why they insist on kissing through a chain link fence rather than kissing each other directly… since they are not in jail at all.
- Martha travels the world for a Timelord killing gun, but ends up not using it, but her entire plan was to get on the Skybase at a key moment… to do… what?
- The Master sends the remainder of the human race to a made-up legendary location then travels back in time to become Prime Minister and travel forward in time where he places them all in lil spheres.
The logic of that last one is so convoluted it’s the equivalent of traveling to another country to buy jam to put on a slice of toast that you’ve mailed to yourself.
It’s also idiotic.
Added to this slap-dash episode are the straight-up steals from other films;
- Superman-the planet rotates backwards to convey time travel
- Return of the Jedi-the Doctor burns the Masters body in a bonfire
- Flash Gordon- a long-nailed hand picks up the Master’s ring from among the ashes as we hear evil laughter
Martha Jones then departs in one of the worst break-up scenes ever. She tells the Doctor of a friend of hers who was stuck pining after some guy who didn’t even notice her, then says that she has to get out of this dead end relationship… and then says she’ll be seeing the Doctor again.
Which is it, love? Are you out or not? I certainly don’t think she’s going to phone her friend from the dead end relationship story about it, do you?
For a season that had such promise (Martha-an excellent new companion, Blink-an excellent off-beat episode, Human Nature-the most well written story since Empty Child), the finale was a slap in the face.
Russel T Davies clearly has no idea what he’s doing.
He started the entire revived program with a kind of message about improving the universe one person at a time (series 1), which turned into an obnoxious fun-loving romp (series 2) and now in series 3 we have a program that is straight ahead sci-fi so much so that it’s almost Doctor Who.
However, in this finale, he topped it all off with the most idiotic story that he could, filled with characters spouting dialog so poor it would look embarrassing in a 80′s video game (You’re Martha Jones! The Doctor will save us!).
I’m at a loss for words.
Russel T Davies has another entire year as producer and will no doubt continue his system of writing much of the season’s stories including the finale which will somehow top the magnitude of this Doctor as God who unwrites disasters that we got this year.
The classic Doctor Who program has done stories with a large sense of magnitude in the past and done them quite well. The new series has yet to achieve this goal.
For instance, in the Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Daleks have completely taken over the planet and the Doctor and his companions join the tightly knit resistance to strike back. The story has flaws, but it doesn’t speak down to its audience by saying that the Doctor is a mystical being that can undo wrongs with the wave of his hand. Nor does it portray the Doctor‘s companions as the only characters capable of doing anything. Quite the opposite occurs when the Doctor‘s granddaughter Susan describes her special skill as ‘I eat.’
The story features numerous great ideas the likes of which the new series has passed over in order to present us with flashbacks to last week, the Jones family on their break on Skybase, the Doctor jittering around on a wheel chair… again… and the Master dancing around… again.
In the Genesis of the Daleks we see an entire alien planet at the peak of war. On a mission from the Timelords,The Doctor attempts to stop the creation of the Daleks but in the end, we see history play out as the dreaded creatures emerge as the galactic killing machines we know them to be.
Featuring mutated survivors from an atomic war living in a wasteland, the introduction of the creator of the Daleks, Davros, and some very well written dialog that digs into Davros‘ mind (still quoted in nearly every documentary of the program), there’s a reason this is one of the most loved stories.
Inferno presents not one but two planets in peril from humanity’s greed to find an untapped power source in the center of the Earth. Before the Doctor can stop the experiment he is catapulted to a parallel world which he watches explode around him despite his best efforts.
After the Doctor escapes the parallel Earth’s demise, he has to find some way to use the knowledge he gained from one disaster to avert another.
All three stories present tales on grand scales with little to no budget.
They have their flaws, but are still miles better than the silliness that is being passed off as entertainment with this finale. No musical numbers, no thrown together self-referential logic such as ‘paradox machines,’ no depictions of the entire planet chanting for a savior… just solid good sci-fi.
And none of them were ‘undone’ by some magical push of a button.
Creating a good Doctor Who story is not brain surgery but it’s clearly beyond the abilities of the current regime.