|187c – "Last of the Time Lords"|
|Doctor Who episode|
|Directed by||Colin Teague|
|Written by||Russell T Davies|
|Script editor||Simon Winstone|
|Produced by||Phil Collinson|
|Executive producer(s)||Russell T Davies |
|Incidental music composer||Murray Gold|
|Running time||3rd of 3-part story, 52 minutes|
|First broadcast||30 June 2007|
"Last of the Time Lords" is the thirteenth and final episode of the third series of the revived British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It was broadcast on BBC One on 30 June 2007. It is the last of three episodes that form a linked narrative, following "Utopia" and "The Sound of Drums".
The episode is set on Earth one year after the events of "The Sound of Drums". In the episode, the alien time traveller the Master (John Simm) has conquered the Earth and enslaved its population to prepare warships for him to conquer the rest of the universe. The medical student Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman) has spent the previous year travelling the planet as part of a plan to stop the Master.
A year after the Toclafane attacked Earth and the Master took over the planet, humanity is on the verge of extinction. After her escape from the Valiant, Martha has been travelling around the world and avoiding detection. Arriving back in Great Britain, Martha meets up with medic Thomas Milligan and Professor Docherty, both part of the underground working against the Master. Martha tells them she's been looking for four components to a gun the Master is vulnerable to.
Martha, Docherty and Thomas capture a Toclafane. Upon examination they discover the Toclafane are descendants of the humans who took the rocket to Utopia in the future. They cannibalised their bodies into metal spheres and their minds regressed into those of children. The Master created the Paradox Machine to allow them to return to the past and kill their ancestors while avoiding the grandfather paradox. Martha and Thomas leave to find the last component of the gun, and Docherty provides the Master with Martha's location in exchange for information on her own son.
After cornering Martha, the Master destroys the gun and takes her back to the Valiant so he can kill her in front of the artificially aged Tenth Doctor. Martha reveals that her story of the four-component gun was a cover designed to have Professor Docherty lead her back to the Master. She actually has been preparing the surviving humans to concentrate their thoughts on the word "Doctor" at the moment of completion of the countdown to the launch of a fleet of rockets the Master is readying to wage war. The Doctor meanwhile has been spending the year psychically integrating himself into the Master's Archangel network of satellites.
The network channels the collective psychic energy of the world's people to the Doctor which rejuvenates him, allowing him to overcome his captivity and forcing the Master to cower in defeat. Jack sets off to destroy the Paradox Machine, which causes time to snap back to right before the Toclafane appeared. As the Doctor and his allies consider the Master's fate, the Master is shot by his wife Lucy. Despite the Doctor urging him to regenerate, the Master refuses and subsequently dies in the Doctor's arms. The Doctor, once more the last of his species, cremates the Master's body on a funeral pyre.
The Doctor returns Jack to Torchwood. Martha decides to leave the Doctor to care for her family, who can still remember their year of captivity on the Valiant. She gives him her mobile phone in case she needs to contact him. A female hand is seen picking up The Master's ring from the ashes of his funeral pyre and laughter is heard. The bow of a ship called the Titanic bursts through a wall of the TARDIS control room.
In the episode's commentary, writer Russell T Davies called the implication of Jack's nickname ("the Face of Boe") "a theory" as to the Face of Boe's origins, prompting Executive Producer Julie Gardner to urge him to "stop back-pedalling" about the two characters being the same. Davies then mentioned the addition of a line in "Gridlock" in which the Face of Boe calls the Doctor an "old friend", suggesting a strong connection between him and the Doctor. Davies also jokingly termed the hand seen removing the Master's ring from the ashes of his funeral pyre "the hand of the Rani". The hand seen picking up the Master's ring was included in order to leave open the possibility of reintroducing the character at a later date. In part one of "The End of Time" (2009), the hand is revealed to be that of Miss Trefusis, a disciple of Harold Saxon.
The Master makes reference to the Sea Devils (which the Third Doctor and the Master encountered together in the 1972 serial The Sea Devils) and the Axons (which they met in 1971's The Claws of Axos). Earth is referred to as Sol 3, the third planet from the star Sol, as it was in The Deadly Assassin (1976). The Master's laser screwdriver is said to have isomorphic controls, a property the Doctor attributed to the TARDIS controls in Pyramids of Mars (1975). Clips from "Smith and Jones", "Utopia" and "The Sound of Drums" are used in this episode.
Martha mentions that both UNIT and Torchwood have been studying Time Lords for several decades. Torchwood was set up in "Tooth and Claw" for the specific purpose of tracking the Doctor, while the Doctor worked for UNIT in the mid-20th century. During the Doctor's tenure with UNIT, a full season of stories revolved around the Master, ending in his capture by UNIT in The Dæmons (1971). The 2007 Children in Need mini-episode "Time Crash" takes place within the last few minutes of this episode. The Story of Martha, a new series novel, chronicles the journey and tales of Martha Jones during her year on Earth. In the series 4 episode "The Sontaran Stratagem", Martha is engaged to Thomas Milligan, the paediatrician she travels with during this episode. However, by "The End of Time", she has instead married Mickey Smith.
The Master refers to the aged version of the Doctor as "Gandalf" from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Whilst attempting to mend a television to pick up the broadcast from the Master, Professor Docherty remarks on a fondness for Countdown and states that "it's never been the same since Des took over. Both Deses", referring to Des Lynam and Des O'Connor's hosting of the show after the death of Richard Whiteley in 2005.
While working on a troublesome computer to access the data from the one Toclafane struck down by lightning, Professor Docherty says, "Who ever thought that we would miss Bill Gates?"
"Last of the Time Lords", along with "Utopia" and "The Sound of Drums", are treated in several sources as a three-part story, the first such story in the revived series of Doctor Who. However, Russell T Davies has said that he regards "Utopia" as a separate story, but notes that the determination is arbitrary. "Last of the Time Lords" was a subtitle proposed at one stage for a film version of Doctor Who that was in development from 1987 to 1994.
This episode was planned to be broadcast live to the crowds attending Pride London in Trafalgar Square via a giant screen. However, a local curfew after the nearby attempted terrorist bombing the previous day prevented the screening. Freema Agyeman and John Barrowman attended the event.
In order to keep the episode's details secret, access to preview copies of this episode was restricted. There was a similar moratorium on copies of "Doomsday" the previous year and on the series four finale "Journey's End" the following year. The episode was allocated a 50-minute timeslot for its initial broadcast, as with "Daleks in Manhattan" previously, and 55-minute timeslots for the BBC Three repeats. According to Russell T Davies in Doctor Who Magazine 384, this is because it ran over-length but they did not wish to lose the material. The final episode of The Trial of a Time Lord was also extended by five minutes in 1986. In the audio commentary, the producers reveal that Graeme Harper filled in to direct some scenes after director Colin Teague was injured.
At the start of this episode, The Master enters the bridge of the Valiant as "I Can't Decide" by the Scissor Sisters plays in the background. He refers to it as "track 3", its place on the Scissor Sisters' second album, Ta-Dah. Two sets of audio commentaries were recorded for the episode: one with producers Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, and Phil Collinson, which was intended for podcast broadcast to coincide with the episode's initial UK telecast, and the other featuring actors David Tennant, Freema Agyeman, and John Barrowman, which was included on the UK DVD release of the episode as part of the Series 3 box set. However, the Region 1 (North America) release of the DVD saw the actor commentary replaced by the earlier podcast version, although a production error resulted in the set's booklet not indicating this substitution (and the booklet also omits Tennant's name). This episode marked the last regular-episode use of the Doctor Who theme music arrangement by Murray Gold that had been introduced in 2005 and used (notwithstanding minor modifications and an extension of the closing theme in 2006) thereafter. The opening theme would be heard once more in its 2005 arrangement in the Time Crash short episode, before both opening and closing themes would be revised beginning with Voyage of the Damned and continuing into Series 4 in 2008.
Reggie Yates is credited as playing Leo Jones; however, the character Leo only appears in this episode as background. The audio commentary for the episode mentions that Leo was originally scheduled to appear in the sequence showing Martha's return to Britain, but Yates was double-booked. Zoe Thorne also voiced the Gelth in "The Unquiet Dead". Uncredited as the hand that picks up the Master's ring was production manager Tracie Simpson.
Overnight ratings showed that "Last of the Time Lords" was watched by 8 million viewers with a 39% audience share. When finale ratings were calculated, figures rose to 8.61 million viewers. It received an Audience Appreciation Index of 88, considered "excellent" for a drama.
Stephen Brook, writing on The Guardian's blog, said the episode was "certainly an epic conclusion... but not a satisfying one." He felt it was too epic and too rushed, and "the resurrection of the Doctor... left me cold." SFX reviewer Dave Golder gave the episode three and a half out of five stars, concluding that it was "Good solid fun, with some great performances and memorable visuals but possibly the least satisfying New Who finale so far". Though he thought there was "loads to enjoy" such as John Simm as the Master, Freema Agyeman's performance, and the effects, he wished to explore more of the dystopian world and said of the conclusion, "I liked the message it was trying to get across, but the shots of a ghostly Tennant floating down the steps did unfortunately look like something out of a panto."
IGN's Travis Fickett rated "Last of the Time Lords" 8.4 out of 10, believing it the "weakest entry" of the three-part finale, though it had some "fine stuff", especially the final confrontation between the Doctor and Master and Martha's departure. However, he thought the biggest "misstep" was sidelining the Doctor and the "logically muddy" conclusion. Mark Wright of The Stage called it the "weakest of the season finales for Doctor Who to date", with much of the plot being "lazy" or not making sense and "[played] out as silly and lacks substance". While he praised Martha and the emotional climax, he found Jack "criminally underused" and criticised the representation of the aged Doctor. Stephen James Walker, in his book Third Dimension: The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who 2007, summed up the episode as "bleak and depressing", and listed the ill treatment of the Doctor, the use of a reset button and the underuse of Captain Jack as among the problems he had with the story.
And I certainly feel the Series Three climax was two stories, no matter what the DWM season poll says. I'm sorry! I just do! I could rattle off the reasons, but we're into the mystical land of canon here, where the baseline of the argument simply comes down to "because I think so!"