It is now a year after the events of "The Sound of Drums"
and The Doctor's revenant companion, Martha Jones, is once again on English shores. A boat is dropping her off on a beach in the company of Thomas Milligan. Once a doctor, he now resists the tyranny of The Master. Martha has been traveling the world and gained the reputation as being the only person who can kill The Master. She has returned home to find another member of the resistance, one Professor Docherty. Milligan takes her to Docherty's hideout.
Aboard the Valiant
, The Master enters the bridge to the tune of "I Can't Decide" by the Scissor Sisters. He kisses his wife Lucy who seems less than thrilled to see him. The Doctor is housed in a small tent while Captain Jack is chained below deck. Saxon is tended to by Martha's family who are now maids and a janitor. Like some twisted Fred Astaire, The Master dances about and sings before shoving the frail, aged Doctor into a wheelchair for a whirligig ride to a portal where the pair look out at the sky littered with Troclafane. The Master teases our hero by saying that the Toclafane broke his heart after he figured out what they were. In addition, The Master has heard that Martha has returned. The Doctor can only muster "one thing to say" but he never gets a chance to say it. Meanwhile, Martha's family prepares to execute a plot.
Back on the surface, Tom shows Martha miles and miles of rockets being readied to launch and wage war on the rest of the universe.
The Jones get things moving by causing a distraction and allowing Jack to be freed. The subterfuge is executed well and The Master's laser screwdriver is purloined. However, when The Doctor tries to use it, he finds that it has been programmed only to respond to its owner.
In Docherty's lab, Martha watches a TV transmission in which The Master again turns his aging device on The Doctor who is shrunken into a small creature that appears to be half Doctor and half Gollum. With the broadcast over, Martha relates to the professor that one of the Toclafane was immobilized when it was struck by lightning. They jury rig a device to deliver an equivalent shock and lure one of the Troclafane to it. The sphere is zapped and promptly falls to the ground. Upon examination the professor and Martha discover that inside each of the globes is a head – a human head – and it's from 100 trillion years ago. The Troclafane are the people from Malcassairo who went to Utopia and found nothing. And so they cannibalized themselves and regressed back to being these child-like creatures. When asked why it wants to kill its ancestors, the Troclafane replies, "Because it's fun". With that, Tom shoots the creature.
Professor Docherty asks Martha for the truth – can she really kill The Master? She pulls out a gun supposedly developed by Torchwood and/or UNIT that injects a mixture of four chemicals which can permanently kill a Time Lord. But she only has three of them and so she tells Docherty that she must go to London to get the fourth. After Martha and Tom take their leave, Docherty activates a hidden videoscreen and reveals herself to be a traitor by contacting the authorities with information for The Master about Martha's whereabouts.
Tom and Martha find shelter on their journey at a house in Bexley only to have The Master and a squadron of troops come looking for her. With Martha's life being threatened, Tom steps forward and is killed by The Master who takes our brave companion to the Valiant
. On the bridge, he has Martha genuflect before him and prepares to execute her as the countdown of the launch of his fleet counts down. As The Master gives his standard pompous victory speech, Martha begins to chuckle to herself. When asked what was so funny, she reveals that she knew Docherty was a traitor and that she has spent the last year traveling the world telling people about The Doctor and to think of him at the moment of lift-off. Over the past year, The Doctor was able to somehow integrate himself with the telepathic matrices of the Archangel network. Just as the fleet is to launch, The Doctor begins changing back to his youthful self and overcomes The Master who curls into a corner. The Doctor holds him and says, "I forgive you".
The Master pulls out Jack's vortex converter which had Martha give him but The Doctor grabs hold of him and they both materialize on the surface. Threats to cause the fleet to self-destruct don't phase The Doctor who knows his archenemy too well – he won't kill himself. They struggle and are both teleported back aboard the Valiant
. There the Joneses see the Troclafane returning to protect the paradox machine inside the TARDIS where Jack has made his way. He opens fire on it with a machine gun. With it destroyed, the Troclafane disappear and time reverses itself.
With things having returned to normal, The Master is captured and handcuffed. Francine pulls a gun on The Master but is unable to pull the trigger. Instead The Doctor takes responsibility since the villain is also a Time Lord and says that he will imprison him aboard the TARDIS. Then a shit rings out and we see that Lucy Saxon has shot The Master. The Doctor urges him to just regenerate but The Master refuses – he'd rather die than be locked in a cage by his sworn enemy – and he does so in The Doctor's arms which causes our hero tremendous grief. The Master's body is burned on a large pyre.
In Cardiff, The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack ponder recent events. Despite being invited to travel in the TARDIS, Jack opts to return to Torchwood which prompts The Doctor to disable his vortex manipulator. Before leaving, Jacks asks about his immortality and is told that there's nothing that can be done but The Doctor isn't sure about aging. Jack replies by reminiscing about joining the Time Agency and remarks that he was given the nickname of "the Face of Boe". Martha and The Doctor look on in stunned disbelief.
Outside the Jones' house, the TARDIS sits with The Doctor leaning against it. Martha comes running out and follows her companion inside. She tells him that she is going to stay with her family. They embrace and Martha walks out only to turn around and go back in. She explains her unrequited love for him and says that she has to get out of their relationship as it was. Returning the cell phone, Martha says they'll be in touch and walks out for the final time.
The Doctor then dematerializes the TARDIS and we cut to The Master's funeral pyre which is getting down to just ashes. His ring lies on the ground and a female hand with red nail polish picks it up. Back inside the TARDIS, The Doctor prepares himself for being alone again when the Console Room shudders throwing him to the floor. He looks up only to see the bow of a ship protruding into the TARDIS. He looks up in disbelief and then notices a life preserver labeled "Titanic"…
OK, I admit it – I cried. I cried when I first watched it and tears welled in my eyes again just now getting screenscrapes. Nothing gets the waterworks going for me like two Timelords embracing as one of them dies. I haven't shed a tear watching Doctor Who since, well, I was going to say since Adric died but it was really only last season when Rose ended up in the alternate universe. I'm just a sensitive 80s kind of guy. Don't get me wrong, Martha's leaving made me very sad too but that whole male bonding thing was sort of the culmination of 25 years of fandom so it really got to me. Is The Master really gone? Probably not. We did see that woman's hand grab the ring so I suspect he'll be back though not in the form of John Simm, I'd imagine. I've read that The Master will not be featured next season so we'll have to wait until 2009, at the earliest. I got as excited as a kid in a candy store when I heard the initial rumors about the return of The Master and I think it all paid off exceptionally well. Not to tread familiar ground too much but I want to say again how much I loved Simm's Master. In this episode, we see him dancing a bit and then throwing the crusty, aged Doctor into a wheelchair singing all the while. I'm sorry to see him go.
I'm also sorry to see Martha go. However, she will be returning in the middle of next season after a stint with Torchwood. This is great news as I love Martha. Least importantly, she has the best bum of any companion – ever. More importantly, she's just so full of spunk and strong. And she always stands up for what's right. I felt so bad for her having to let go of the man/alien she loved. Martha ended up being perhaps the most resilient and headstrong companion so far with her year-long trek around the globe preparing humanity for just one brief moment. At the beginning of the series, she was a bit hesitant, she was still taking it all in but, by the end, she took the burden of saving the world onto her shoulders and delivered.
As for the story, it was pretty much standard Doctor Who with the villain having (almost) total control and things looking really, really bad for our heroes. But they still manage to save the day. I found the bit with The Doctor's aging being reversed a bit on the ghost in the machine side which left me wishing they'd done a bit more to emphasize what he'd done over the previous year to integrate himself with the Archangel network.
My biggest criticism here is about the lack of quality screen time given to Captain Jack. I think that his role decreased throughout this three episode finale. He had a major role in "Utopia" but receded into the background a bit in "The Sound of Drums". Here, he is reduced to the now hackneyed "here we go again" joke when confronted by men with guns and to the role of a cop from a 1960s TV show with some of the worst dialogue ever that mostly consists of three word sentences. I personally love the Captain Jack character. He is smart, funny, and eminently likeable yet very complex with his immortality and omnisexuality. Thusly it's disappointing to see him being all brawn and simply mopping up after The Doctor has done all the hard work. Regardless of any feelings Jack has for The Doctor, I just don't care for portraying Jack as an underling, of sorts, of The Doctor. To the show's credit, Martha is way more than that and so too should Jack. I understand that the emphasis was on Martha but did they really have to turn Jack into a bad cliché?
This is the second season in a row which ended with the emphasis on The Doctor's loneliness or loss off something who is dear to him. Last season he lost Rose; this season Martha leaves him and the only other surviving Time Lord in the universe extinguished himself. Hopefully this will change for next season because it's getting bloody depressing. We saw The Master's ring being picked up from the ashes of the pyre so he'll likely return. I'd wager that that hand was Lucy Saxon's as we see her aboard the Valiant
with red nail polish just like that on the nails of the hand that grabs the ring. Personally, I'd love to see her become The Master. This reminds me of The Rani, another renegade Time Lord. "The Mark of the Rani", despite its flaws, is one of my favorite episodes. Having a female Time Lord villain was great. Perhaps as the show continues and we learn more about the Time War, we'll find out that the Rani or The Time Meddler is still around. Or another renegade Time Lord we have not yet met.
But rather than prognosticating, I want to briefly look back. After "The Last of the Time Lords" ended, a feeling that has been brewing since early in the season was really solidified. Namely that the new series has finally stepped out from the very long shadow cast by the classic series. The show's latest incarnation has been on the air for three years now and we've been reacquainted with Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master – the unholy trifecta of Doctor Who baddies. The novelty of the show's return has worn off and older fans like myself are no longer wondering how the new series will handle old bad guys. This third series, as with all that preceded it, had its peaks and its valleys. But we're now at the point where the show has its own legs. It is mindful of days past, but not totally beholden to them. We've got the pattern set – a "new" format, a Doctor-lite story, and an arc that plays out over the whole of the season – and this third series showed just how great these new patterns can be. Well, mostly. I am still not completely enamored of the single 45-minute story but so it goes. However, it can work marvelously. "Blink", this year's Doctor-lite story was fantastic and the whole Saxon/return of The Master arc was handled really well. Not too obvious or intrusive yet still a mystery lurking in the background. The new series also makes judicious use of audio dramas and novels to expand on the Doctor Who formula.
Next up is "Voyage of the Damned" on Christmas Day. Pop singer Kylie Minogue stars
as a waitress on the Titanic. And then next season Katherine Tate will reprise her role
as Donna Noble from last year's Xmas special and become The Doctor's new full-time companion. How Martha will react to her mid-season when she rejoins the TARDIS crew should be interesting.