“The Last of the Time Lords” – Review: Redux

Captain Jack Harkness “Used to be a poster boy when I was a kid, living in the Bo-shang peninsula… tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency, they were so proud of me. The Face of Bo they called me”

Last of the Time Lords

And so this marathon reaches another milestone with the end of Series Three and “The Last of the Time Lords”. Even though it seemed loved and loathed in equal measure within the picky world of fandom, the broadcast secured some very positive viewing figures that we all now seem to take for granted from these finales and fairly widespread acclaim to boot.  Even the BBC invested a little extra in this televisual treat by commissioning an extra 8 minutes of the show in order to save some scenes from the cutting room floor. Whether this was a wise decision remains open to question.

Preconceptions, ones that I definitely had held myself, that this episode would follow on directly from the preceding one, were dismissed in the opening seconds as the words “One Year Later” were plastered over the screen and this succeeded in putting my expectations on the back foot from the get-go. “The Last of the Time Lords” marked the end of the first chapter in Martha’s story, so it was fitting that we began with our new, favourite heroine as she came ashore in Britain for the first time in 365 days with a new swagger and confidence that betrayed her newly revealed ‘legendary’ status. She was on a mission for the Doctor and nothing was going to get in her way. Despite the missing year, the tone and pace of the story didn’t miss a beat. Quite how she managed to walk around the world in a year is anybody’s guess though.

Back aboard the Valliant we soon caught up with the other protagonists and the Master was still in full control. Cue the first ‘Scene of Some Controversy’ as the Master selects track three from the ship’s iTunes playlist (or something like that), which results in the manic tones of the Scissor Sister’s “I Can’t Decide” being pumped around the vessel. Even though some people found the song and dance routine that followed a little camp/ distracting/ misplaced/ downright ridiculous* (* = delete as applicable), I found it to be disturbingly macabre scene that cleverly reflected the Master’s mania that had become so all-consuming in this latest power trip. John Simm played this to a tee. The scene also gave an opportunity to see what had become of the good guys: The terribly aged Doctor had been given a rather grimy little tent to live in, Jack was chained up in the lower reaches of the ship, Martha’s family were reduced to menial domestic helpers and, perhaps most tellingly of all, Lucy Saxon, was apparently (albeit subtlety), on the receiving end of an abusive relationship. It only became apparent much later in the episode why it took them all so long to begin their rebellion but at the time I found it more than a little annoying that they had spent a year just hanging around doing nothing as the Earth was ‘decimated’ below. However, after the first attempt at an uprising took place, at least the first one that we as viewers had seen, the Master’s quashing of it came with a heavy price and the also the second ‘Scene of Some Controversy’.

The arrival of Dobby the House Elf took us all by surprise. The first question I had was as old Doctor Who itself: “How is he going to get out of that one?”, Although I was guessing he would simply reverse the settings on laser screwdriver before the episode closed. I guessed wrong. Second, was “What on earth were they thinking by taking David Tennant out of the action?”. Surely the face-off between the last two Time Lords in existence should have been something more than John Simm talking to empty cage and another bar-raising, SFX challenge for The Mill, especially given that the first face-off  between the two in this story had been over a mobile phone. Thirdly and finally I asked “Whatever happened to the concept of the suspension of disbelief?” and before you answer that, I know that anything is possible in the world of sci-fi and that perhaps I should be more open to more fantastical elements but it just seemed like they were all trying too hard.

Despite all that, I approached the denouement to the trilogy of episodes and indeed the whole series, with an eager anticipation and I have to confess that RTD really delivered with talking point after talking point. The psychic power of the Archangel network was reversed as Martha’s mission improbable to get the whole of humanity to synchronize their thoughts came to fruition and managed to resurrect the Doctor and give him the power to float across the room… erm… it just sounds weird when you say it out loud, doesn’t it? Of course, this was the ‘Scene of Some Controversy -Part Three’. However, just when we thought we had seen everything we needed to see, Lucy finally got to fight back by shooting her husband. The Master’s refusal to regenerate and die in arms of a distraught Doctor was a beautiful and moving scene that was brilliantly realised by the actors and did prove to be something of a pay-off for the previous decision(s) to avoid having Tennant and Simm in the same room.

After the Master’s funeral pyre was ablaze, the Doctor, Jack and Martha arrive back on Earth (although not before a mysterious female hand pulls the Master’s Galifreyan ring from the dying embers of the fire), with the year from hell wiped from the memories of all but the people aboard the Valliant. So, Jack goes back to Torchwood but not before questioning what could happen if he lived for a million years. The reveal that he was, in fact, going to become The Face of Boe was a great touch and, in spite of the fact that this was verified in the episode commentary, it didn’t stop it from becoming the final “SOSC” for the disbelievers. Martha then shocked everyone other than those who believe what they read in The Sun, by leaving the Doctor. Well, for the time being at least. And just to wrap things up nicely and end the series in a similar vein to Catherine Tate’s appearance last time around, the R.M.S. Titanic crashed into the console room of the TARDIS.

I have to confess that it wasn’t quite the ending that I had hoped for, but there was still so very much to enjoy.

Highlight: Martha’s departure is such a perfect scene

Lowlight: The ancient CGI Doctor

Talking Point: Which was the best series… Ecclestone/ Piper or Tennant/Piper or Tennant/Agyeman?

Demon’s Run Rating: 16 out of 20

Original BBC1 Broadcast: 30th June 2007

Marathon Status: 3 series of 7 completed

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