Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

07 July, 2007

Cry Havoc and Let Loose the Troclafane of War

"The Sound of Drums" was the penultimate Doctor Who episode of the 2007 season and picked up where "Utopia" left off – The Master had returned, regenerated, and absconded with The Doctor's TARDIS leaving our heroes stranded at the end of the universe fending off the cannibalistic Futurekind.

The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack suddenly materialize in London. We are given flashbacks wherein we see The Doctor repair Jack's vortex manipulator. On the streets, posters and t-shirts proclaim victory for Harold Saxon in his bid for Prime Minister. A huge video screen shows the new PM who proclaims the land is sick and in need of a doctor.

Back at 10 Downing Street, has a brief exchange with Tish, Martha's sister, who now works there, before heading into the cabinet room. With all his frantic mannerisms on full display he proceeds to call the cabinet ministers traitors and then dons a gas mask as poison gas fills the room killing everyone save The Master. As the ministers collapse around him, he taps out a rhythm on the table – an image we saw in the mid-season teaser.

Elsewhere, a journalist named Vivien Rook pesters The Master's wife, Lucy, into doing an interview. When alone, Rook begins to tell Lucy that her husband's life is a lie and that there is no record of his existence prior to 18 months previously. The camera shifts and we see that The Master has entered the room. Confirming Rook's suspicions, four metallic globes materialize from thin air and promptly set upon the reporter. Outside the door, the Saxons embrace and The Master promises Lucy that everything will end the next morning.

On the other end of town, The Doctor, Martha, and Jack are at Martha's apartment. Jack calls Torchwood but no one answers so they begin researching Harold Saxon via the Internet and discover that he was responsible for a satellite network which encircles the globe. The Doctor explains how he was able to lock the TARDIS into being able to travel only between the far future on Malcassairo, from where they came, and their current time in London. Suddenly the Saxon webpage gives an alert that the PM is to give a television speech. They turn on the TV which has The Master announcing contact with the spheres that killed Rook – the Toclafane – and that they and the inhabitants of Earth would officially meet the next day. The Master proclaims that humanity would take its place in the universe and begins listing job titles and includes medical student. The Doctor discovers a bomb on the back of the television and they trio flees.

Out on the street, Martha calls her mother who invites her back to her house saying she and Martha's father have reunited. There are others in the room and, when Clive is given the phone to convince Martha to pay a visit, he warns her to stay away. Our heroes grab a car and Martha speeds towards her mother's home wanting to save her parents. Along the way, she calls Tish who is hurriedly taken away by armed guards. They arrive at Francine's home only to find Martha's parents being hauled away by the police who open fire. Fortunately, the trio is able to escape.

They ditch the car and begin making their way on foot. Martha calls her brother whom, she finds out, is OK. Out of the blue, the call is interrupted by The Master. The Doctor grabs the phone and he and The Master have an extended conversation. The two bitter enemies proceed to catch up and The Doctor relates how the Time Lords' homeworld, Gallifrey, was destroyed in the Time War and that the rest of their race was dead. For his part, The Master explains that he was resurrected by the Time Lords to fight in the war but that he ran away in fear.

After their conversation, The Master is watching The Teletubbies when one of the Troclafane materializes and asks if "the machine" was ready. We discover that it will be so the following morning at 8:02.

That night, The Doctor, Martha, and Jack are hiding out in an abandoned warehouse. The Time Lord reminisces about his homeworld and explains that, as a boy, The Master was given an initiation which involved gazing into the Untempered Schism, a crack in the fabric of reality through which can be seen the whole of the Vortex. This, apparently, drove him mad. Jack then receives a message which prompts him to tell The Doctor that he works for Torchwood. The message is from Rook who ensured that it would get to Torchwood in the event of her death. She implores them to investigate the Archangel Network, a global cell phone network which was retooled to transmit a subliminal message which persuaded people to vote for him. The Doctor then rigs up the TARDIS keys with perception filters which allow the wearer to move about unnoticed.

With the keys active, they watch as Saxon meets with the President of the United States at an air field. Pres. Winters informs Saxon that UNIT will be in charge of the proceedings tomorrow which will now take place aboard the aircraft carrier Valiant. Using Jack's vortex manipulator, they teleport aboard the carrier which doesn't float on the seas but rather in the air. The Doctor finds the TARDIS and, upon walking in, he finds that the control room is aglow in crimson light. The Master has fitted it into a paradox machine.

Using their perception filters, the TARDIS crew make their way to the bridge of the carrier where President Winters is readying to act as ambassador for humanity. The Troclafane appear and complain that Winters is not The Master who eventually ends the charade and promptly has his friends kill Winters. Unable to restrain himself, The Doctor moves and is captured. Jack lunges for The Master who pulls out a laser screwdriver and shoots down the Captain. He explains that the technology developed by Lazarus Labs combined with The Doctor's severed hand means that the screwdriver can accelerate aging. Turning it on his archenemy, The Doctor writhes as he quickly gains a hundred years. It is now 8:02 and The Master activates the paradox machine which causes a massive rift to form in the sky above the Valiant allowing six billion Toclafane to roam the Earth.

After being ordered by The Master to kill one-tenth of the world's population, they descend and start decimating humanity. The aged Doctor pleads with The Master for the true identity of the Troclafane but he refuses. As everyone listens to reports of the devastation, The Doctor whispers in Martha's ear and she takes advantage of the distraction to use the vortex manipulator to teleport off the ship.

The Doctor looks up at The Master with a disgusted, angry look on his face while Martha materializes on the surface and vows to return. Back on the Valiant, The Master forces The Doctor to look down on his "new dominion" and the carnage below.

This episode made a country ton of references for long-time Doctor Who fans. We got a new incarnation of The Master, got some background on him as well as the Time Lords, who were donning their traditional garb, and UNIT was mentioned. Plus the aging of The Doctor has been seen before in "The Leisure Hive". And the torches from the scene of The Master's initiation are straight out of "The Five Doctors". If that weren't enough, The Master offers Lucy a jelly baby. In addition there were lots of references to previous episodes of the new series such as the mention of Harriet Jones who was introduced in "Aliens of London" and was Prime Minister in "The Christmas Invasion". So, aside from all the references to previous stories, how was this story?

Let me begin by saying that I've read a lot of reviews by long-time fans who absolutely hated it. Like me, they began watching the show as kids and loved it. Unlike me, however, they now expect the new series to pander strictly to them as adults and ignore the new generation of kids for whom Christopher Eccelston and David Tennant are the only Doctors they've ever known. Plus most of the gripes they have about "The Sound of Drums" apply equally to dozens and dozens, if not more, of the stories in the classic series. It's a wonder these people ever bother to view the program in either of its incarnations at all. Watching a couple episodes from last season with The Dulcinea's kids clinched it for me. When her youngest was almost petrified by the Cybermen, then I knew the show was doing it right. When kids want to jump behind the couch, then none of the criticisms from fat, graying white men make a difference. If an episode is ruined for you because some minor detail doesn't jive with quantum mechanics, then it's you that has the problem, not the show; if a bit of backstory doesn't conform to the preconceptions you dragged along from the classic series, then you need to get over it. And if you're a long-time fan who bitches about the CGI of Gallifrey in this story yet gives the cardboard sets and bubble wrap monsters of the classic series a pass, well, you must be having a serious case of cognitive dissonance.

Having gotten that out of my system, let me turn to John Simm's portrayal of The Master. I loved it. OK, I guess I haven't gotten it out of my system because I really need to say that I am tired of reading people bitch about how this Master isn't like Roger Delgado's or Anthony Ainley's. Well, duh! The original Master complimented The Doctor very well. They had this Holmes-Moriarity gentlemanly dichotomy going. But Tennant is a very different Doctor and Simm's Master complements it terrifically. Just as the 10th Doctor gives hugs constantly expresses his love for humans (verbally, not sexually you perv), this new Master gloats with a maniacal glee. The whole Edwardian gentleman element of the show is mostly, if not completely gone. I'll repeat myself – I loved John Simm here. His facial expressions were especially noteworthy. And there was even that out-of-character bit when he was talking to The Doctor on his cell phone and he got all serious when learning about the fate of his fellow Time Lords. There is less stoicism here than in the classic series. At first I thought that The Master would never get sentimental like that but The Master has never had to deal with the extermination of the Time Lords before so I accepted it.

Above all else, I just plain had fun watching "The Sound of Drums". I knew while watching that there was still one more episode to go thusly this was mostly about setting us up for the season finale. And so I was completely surprised when The Master cried havoc and let loose the laser screwdriver with its aging properties. It really tugged on my heart strings to see The Doctor whither away before my eyes despite knowing all the while that he'd recover next week. Watching John Simm do his thing was a real treat plus there was a chase scene and humanity was threatened plus I felt badly for the TARDIS which was being forced to power a paradox machine. As the story ended, I was genuinely puzzled as to the identity of the Toclafane. Let me back up and say that, when the sky was ripped open, I was breathless in anticipation. Would it be more Toclafane or were the four we saw just heralds of a more powerful species?

As the credits rolled, I moaned because it meant a week's wait for answers. But I'd been taken for a great ride and left wondering just how the hell The Doctor is going to get our of this one.
|| Palmer, 7:55 AM


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