Saturday, November 21, 2015

Martha Jones: Action Hero - "Last Of The Time Lords!"

The Good: Character moments, Performances, Plot development
The Bad: Special effects, The Master's generic character, Plot reset
The Basics: "Last Of The Time Lords" completes the initial arc of Martha Jones with a more average than extraordinary way.

I recognize that I am in the minority of Doctor Who fans (though, I think that might be the first time I've identified as a Doctor Who fan myself!) in that I like Martha Jones best of the Companions since the reboot. More than any of the other Companions so far, Martha Jones has her own life outside the TARDIS, her own ambitions, and a metaconscious nature that allows her to recognize that she is becoming overly attached to The Doctor and that he does not reciprocate her feelings. Her strength of character is finally, entirely, actualized in the third season finale "Last Of The Time Lords."

"Last Of The Time Lords" is a direct follow up to "Utopia" (reviewed here!) and "The Sound Of Drums" (reviewed here!) and it has something of an epic quality to it. The feeling of scope for "Last Of The Time Lords" comes from the fact that time has passed since "The Sound Of Drums" and it dares to present the world as a very different, much darker, place. Earth under the subjugation of The Master and his Toclafane has left humanity decimated, scared, and as an enslaved minority on the planet. With The Doctor out of the picture, it falls to Martha Jones to step up to stop Harold Saxon (The Master).

With the TARDIS cannibalized as a Paradox Machine and the human race enslaved under The Master, who is ruling over Earth from the aircraft carrier Valiant, Martha Jones clandestinely returns to Great Britain. After a year on the run, Jones returns to meet with Professor Docherty, while The Master torments The Doctor. A virtual invalid thanks to the Master's use of Lazarus technology on him, the Doctor has figured out what the Toclafane are. Jones meets with Thomas Milligan, having walked the world, while aboard the Valiant, The Doctor and Harkness make their move.

Failing to liberate the Valiant, The Master ages The Doctor to his full 900 year-old appearance. Martha Jones is convinced that The Master is prepared to launch thousands of missiles around the galaxy to create war with all the alien races there. The Master wants to create a new Gallifrey as an Empire that rules for one hundred trillion years. With Martha managing to capture a Toclafane and reveal it for what it is, she uses Dochertry to bait a trap that gets her taken to the Valiant.

"Last Of The Time Lords" is reminiscent of the final part of V: The Final Battle (reviewed here!) in that it features an Earth entirely subjugated, fighting for survival. But the solution to the conflict which seems entirely military in solution turns into a philosophical battle. The high-minded, cerebral solution to "Last Of The Time Lords" might have been more satisfying were it not for the ridiculous special effect, which transformed The Doctor into an aged, birdlike creature that made no real sense.

Martha baits her trap well and the idea of a weapon specifically designed to kill Time Lords is a clever bait. Martha is characterized as ridiculously smart, so the idea that she has been duped never quite feels right. So, when it turns out she is on top of things, the episode takes a turn for the triumphant and wonderful. That "Last Of The Time Lords" turns into a more philosophical battle between Martha and The Master is less of a surprise given how highminded Doctor Who strives to be.

The somewhat psychic solution that combines with the technicalk Archangel Network is a neat concept. It feels pretty fresh and original, certainly more so than the helicarrier (which could be straight out of The Avengers.

Unfortunately, The Master is characterized in "Last Of The Time Lords" as a generic madman. John Simm isn't given much room to do anything with The Master here and that is somewhat disappointing. In a similar fashion, The Doctor becoming godlike with a psychic regeneration isn't a bad idea . . . but him tuning into the psychic network of the Archangel Network would not have gotten rid of the cage around him.

For a finale, "Last Of The Time Lords" does not use The Doctor as a hero. Instead, The Doctor is essentially a distraction while Martha Jones and Harkness save humanity n a physical way. While the BBC usually goes for high-minded and much of "Last Of The Time Lords" is philosophical, that the real solution in the episode is Harkness and an automatic weapon seems silly. But "Last Of The Time Lords" does what it needs to to continue Doctor Who. Apparently, Russell T. Davies could not justify wiping out humanity and believing the audience would keep tuning in for the show, so "Last Of The Time Lords" is (predictably) a reset button on the climactic events of the past few episodes.

That is not to say that the episode is not enjoyable; it is. The final scene with Martha Jones might not be heartbreaking the way Rose's departure was, but it makes for an interesting resolution to her character arc. And Harkness's exit assures viewers that his character truly must be immortal and leaves viewers with a sense of delight over the character. Those things, alone, are well worth the price of admission.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the second season of the Tenth Doctor here!

For other significant season finales, please check out my reviews of:
"Valediction" - Agent Carter
"Becoming" - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
"Gethsemane" - The X-Files


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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