The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords

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    Craig @craig

    The Doctor, Martha and Jack manage to return to present day London and are horrified to discover that the Prime Minister, a certain Harold Saxon, is actually the Master. And he’s now married!

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    Sound of Drums is pretty good, but Last of the Time Lords is one of the worst episodes of all time. It is appalling. The scene where everyone in the whole world says “doctor” at the same time in order to free him is cringe worthy, and am I the only one who finds it odd that an outspoken atheist like RTD2 uses so many Christ metaphors in his stories? John Simm is the worst Master. At least Eric Roberts was entertaining, Simm is just irritating. This was also the episode that spawned the “Doctor and Master are gay” thing. How immature are you to see two male friends who deeply care for each other and think to yourself “those two are totally gay”? I see this sort of thing all over the internet. Go to the IMDB board for any film/TV series, I guarantee there will be a topic titled “is [insert name of character here] gay?” I should point out that I don’t have a problem with a character being gay, I just hate it when people see things that aren’t there.

    Sorry I went off topic there I really just wanted to get that out of my system.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @thekrynoidman – feeling better now? 😀

    This was also the episode that spawned the “Doctor and Master are gay” thing.

    No. Really, really no. The idea that the Doctor and the Master may have been in a relationship that went a bit beyond ‘just good friends’ long predates this episode. I can recall the possibility being mooted during the Peter Davison era. It might have been floating around since the Pertwee era’s introduction of the Master, for all I know, but I was probably a touch young to get those vibes. Both RTD and Steven Moffat are riffing off a well known fan theory that’s been around much longer than they’ve been professional writers.

    You know that ex-boyfriend who turns out to be a psycho stalker? That’s the Master.

    Incidentally, for every person who finds Simm’s mad-as-a-box-of-frogs interpretation irritating, there’s another who likes it (::waves::). He may well have not wanted to be this OTT (there’s a lot of stories that the OTT-ness is RTD’s doing rather than Simm’s), but having got the remit he didn’t so much chew the scenery as bite huge chunks off and spit them out defiantly.

    In the direction of the Doctor, of course. 😉

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    @thekrynoidman @bluesqueakpip

    I think the way the Master is presented here is probably not my preference. I think you could say that the Third Doctor (summoning Holmes) had his Moriarty, the Tenth Doctor (summoning Batman) had his Joker. An over-the-top homicidal prankster. It seems a very post-millennial thing, but its roots are firmly in those 80s comics, like Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

    RTDs Master, Ledger’s Joker, Moffs Moriarty, etc. Some people really like the approach, and it can work, but I think it needs to be balanced with cold menace and occasional bouts of reflection. I think those moments are in this two parter, but tend to be overshadowed. They were really absent in his return and that was when I thought the damage was really done.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    OK – I enjoyed much of Sound of Drums. The idea of the Master doing a timey wimey in the background of series 2 was an interesting thought. Again in a finale we have the idea of the Doctors past actions (often flippant) can come back to bite him on the ass. In 2, he and Rose inadvertantly inspired the formation of Torchwood, which separated them. Here his deposing of Harriet Jones allows a charismatic Time Lord to become elected.

    There are some nice pokes at political life in general – authoritarianism, surveillance culture and the facile salesman personae of the modern political elite. For Harold Saxon, read Tony Blair, David Cameron, amd many others. Politicians who don’t seem to actually believe in much. Would you buy a used policy from those gentlemen? Like Martha says “he sounded nice”.

    There are a lot of jokes and references to fan lore about The Master in here. @thekrynoidman, @bluesqueakpip is quite right about the fact that the love angle was very popular in certain fan circles. There are slash fictions about the Third Doctor and The Master which are probably older than you! 😀 I think that was the purpose of lines like:

    Doctor: I’ve been alone ever since. But not anymore. Don’t you see? All we’ve got is each other.
    Master: Are you asking me out on a date?

    Another popular one was that the Doctor and the Master were brothers. So you have:

    Martha: I thought you were going to say he was your secret brother or something.
    The Doctor: You’ve been watching too much TV.

    There are a few parallels with official Master lore and “might-have-beens” as well. The Doctor locking the TARDIS controls to only allow limited travel is summed up as:

    Martha: The only place he can go is Planet Earth. Great!

    Which mirrors the Third Doctor stranding The Master on Earth (and taking a great deal of joy in that fact). Delgado watching The Clangers becomes Simm watching the Teletubbies.

    I think the plot about Marthas family in jeopardy lacks some power. Frankly they were a big disparate group, we hadn’t got to know them that well, and none of them were particularly engaging (in a Rose’s mum kind of way).

    I still get a thrill from the “This is Gallifrey” sequence. A great soaring piece of music and the modern audience gets its first look at Gallifrey and the “noble” race of Time Lords (no chortling, you older fans). More comic book references by lifting the untempered schism from Alan Moore’s 4D War from Doctor Who weekly.

    Nice jokes about the Special relationship with the glory seeking President Winters pulling “rank”. And we’re all on the Valiant, with the Doctor discovering a Paradox machine built from the TARDIS.

    Goodbye President Winters and hello Toclofane. I find the child voices for the Toclofane a bit tiring actually. Not a fan. And then we have the sight of The Master and Missus freaking out to the Rogue Traders “Voodoo Child”. He’s determined to prove, like Christopher Eccleston before him, that Time Lords “dance”.

    Excellent use of the word decimate. I doff my fez.

    I shall be back later, once I’ve watched the second part.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Not been feeling too great this week – what a lovely way to recuperate – double dose of Who… and Tennant. I do miss him sometimes. (There again I also miss Troughton.. and Hartnell… and Matt (already!) 😉 )

    I think these final 2 episodes have a bit of trouble living up to the promise of Utopia which I thought was really strong throughout. As others have said, it would have been interesting to see these episodes written for Jacobi, but I can see why they would think the younger Master was a better balance. That said, I agree with @bluesqueakpip that Simms has a great stab at it given how it’s scripted and he has some great scenes with Tennant who’s pretty amazing throughout.

    I like a lot of the ideas and imagery in both the episodes a lot, enough to get over the “elephant in the room” Christ like resurrection and shiny, floaty, forgivey Doctor business.

    What I did like was Martha growing up. You can see she’s tougher as she gets off the boat after a year of travelling the world. And I was glad she got a proper farewell, although it did go on a little bit! But she leaves for her family and to do her job as a doctor, with a possibility of a love interest. She’s ready to grow up and move on.

    Not a complete fan of the Toclofane, they’re fairly undefined until the shock reveal that they are the remains of the humans in Utopia – I wondered what happened to them. Maybe you can want to survive just a little too much. Beyond the point where you are still human. I also liked Martha’s mum (tho the family are mostly just plot-conveniences), especially the scene when the Doctor talks her out of killing the Master. Only for him to be gunned down by Lucy who was looking progressively more bullied throughout End of the World compared with her confidence in the Sound of Drums.

    The scene of the Master’s funeral pyre – the Doctor burns the last Time Lord (other than himself) as he watched the others burn on Gallifrey. (And as in all the best vampire movies, the apparently insignificant ring drops and is scooped up by unseen hands)

    Last word to @phaseshift
    Delgado watching The Clangers becomes Simm watching the Teletubbies.
    Excellent spot sir!

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    So Last of the Time Lords I don’t enjoy as much as the first part.

    I mentioned might-have-beens and if people followed the Day of the Daleks retrospective I mentioned that plot about a “false future” based on a Paradox was originally pitched as a story in which the Master had conquered the Earth. I think this was RTD going back in time and using elements of that scenario for The Master finally.

    Largely, that plays out as expected. As soon as you see the dark future Martha has walked through you know the resolution is going to involve undoing that damage in some way. Some people don’t like that, but its not unique in Who history.

    Little egomaniac that he is, he’s carved his image everywhere while he floats above torturing his aged Doctor by making him listen to the Scissor Sisters (only joking – I quite like the quirky “I can’t decide”). He’s “dancing” with the Doctor. Won’t someone think of the Children. And the Aged Doctors Hip?!

    The revelation about the nature of the Toclafane is well done. Its one of those ones where it makes absolute sense from how the story is set out. With a limited set of destinations, they must be from the end of the universe. Having the future humans cannibalise themselves is nicely gruesome.

    It all starts going a bit pear shaped with the arrival of Doctor Dobby. Sorry Doctor Dobby fans, but it gets my goat. Marthas apparent betrayal by a double agent in the now expected “plucky resistance” is a nice touch, as is the double-double cross as its revealed Martha wanted that all along. The secret weapon turns out not to be a fanciful gun, but the power of the story.

    And lo – the meek of the Earth raise their eyes to heaven and pray to the good lord Doctor, who rises in a Christ like pose to swat the Master like the filthy bounder he is. At this point the red mist descends in front of me, I’ll cheerfully admit. I’ll join @scaryb and anyone else who condemns it.

    And so the Paradox machine is broken, and then timelines revert.. don’t worry children it never happened, and possibly won’t if you avoid voting for politicians who are vague about policy with an easy charm. A lesson for us all there.

    I can remember when I first watched this I actually thought Marthas mum was going to kill The Master, and then its poor Lucy. Have to say in the guest cast stakes Alexandra Moen was quietly impressive as Lucy, driven mad through seeing a little too much.

    A funeral pyre and a farewell for Martha. I think this sequence is well written and performed and gives Martha some dignity after some of the indignities thrown at her throughout the series. She’s grown up – she makes a decision that’s good for her.

    It’s funny, but I think watching just the RTD episodes in this retrospective helps to put Martha into context. I think RTD knew exactly what he wanted to do with the character, and wrote her well.

    I think some of the briefing to other writers may have been not that good. The repetition of longing and rejection undermined what is a very good character. What’s peculiar about Martha is that she’s just so unselfish. The Master calls her the “Blessed Saint Martha” and there is something very unselfish about her (whereas Rose could be very selfish). Martha wants to do good (as a Doctor), is centred, reliable, dependable. When she comes against something she wants for herself, she’s rejected, and that sense of rejection seems to define her in some minds. It’s a shame really that her better qualities tend to be overshadowed and selfless actions can become perceived weaknesses. Very Odd.

    I think the longing/rejection in some earlier stories outght to have been removed. Although only on screen briefly in Blink, the dialogue is jocular an playful. That ought to have been more the norm, leaving the standout moments in the RTD stories and the Family of Blood two-parter, which would not have laboured the point.

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord


    Sorry to hear you’r feeling under the weather. Get well soon, and if you need cheering up theres also City of Death and Hitch Hikers! 😀

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    @scaryb – sorry to hear that you haven’t been feeling too well.

    I’d also say that Last of the Time Lords didn’t live up to The Sound of Drums – which only got beaten in the ‘downer ending’ stakes by The Pandorica Opens.

    Yes, I will join you and @phaseshift in condemning the shiny floaty forgivey Doctor. At the time, I did wonder if young Lucy had been somehow told to kill the Master – death was so obviously preferable to having to listen to another of the Doctor’s ‘forgiveness’ speeches. A Time Lord lifespan having to listen to that sanctimonious twaddle? Shoot me now. 😈

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    @bluesqueakpip Hey, I complained about it first.

    ScaryB @scaryb

    Apologies to @thekrynoidman You did indeed 😉

    And thanks to @bluesqueakpip and @phaseshift for your get well wishes. Back to my annoyingly bouncey yeti self 😉 (these retrospectives have been just what the Doctor ordered!)

    I agree with Phaseshift re Martha’s arc. I’ve enjoyed her story much more on this viewing, having initially found her a bit annoying, and as you say, it becomes much clearer when we’re only looking at the RTD episodes. She really has found her own 2 feet by the end of Last of the Time Lords; she may or may not go for the hunky paediatrician (who, after all, was prepared to stop a bullet for her), but she’s not going to build her life around him. Or the Doctor. Incidentally I thought the Doctor’s reaction in her final scene was interesting. As a viewer you want him to say something, yet he seems to be very intent on not giving her anything to build her hopes on, or influence her decision; while contemplating his own solitary travels and the knowledge that 1 more Time Lord light has gone out and he couldn’t prevent it.

    Anonymous @

    I’m only really dipping in and out of the RTD retrospective, I’m afraid. I’ve found that his stories have a minimal rewatch value for me. I remember enjoying them at the time but that a lot of the time that they’re a case of style over substance and have the vibe of being described a potentially better story by a breathless 8-year-old who’s working from memory. And the music is a bit too rumpty-tumpty ominipresent too. And I’m strangely finding Doc 10 a lot less likable than I did at the time too. A lot of the time he just seems to have two settings — ‘Amaaaaaazshiiing!!” and ‘I’m so sooorry’. For me, I’m not sure he’s standing up to the nuance that Matt’s brought to the role.

    But Utopia is one of the exceptions that disprove the rule. I still think it’s a pretty good story and has a killer climax. But all that good work is undone here. And I think it’s Dobby the Doctor and the godawful Lonely God resolution that gets me. It’s RTD at his most indulgent.

    But I have to defend Simm’s Master. I really quite like what he did but didn’t really get into his stride until the following year. I’d even like to see him again, at least once more for a regeneration to a new one. (I’ve long harboured a fanboy wish for there to be a multi-Master story in the vein of the Three Doctors.) I think you have to go for that unhinged aspect these days because much as I love Delgado’s Master, he was very much of his time and I don’t think that Nehru-collar, moustache-twirling villainy approach really has a hope in hell of working anymore.

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