Is This Death? (The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords)

(152 comments)

Oh well.
It’s June 23rd, 2007. “Umbrella” remains at number one for the last portion of Season Three, while Enrique Iglesias, Kelly Rowland and Clarkson, and the White Stripes also chart. In news, heavy rains and flooding continue across the UK, with thirteen people dying in total. A burning car crashes into Glasgow Airport, with, reportedly, one of the people responsible being arrested while on fire. And Tony Blair resigns from Parliament to divide his time between being a special envoy to the Middle East and tending to some lovely hills in the the southeast of England, finally clearing the way for Gordon Brown.

While on television we have Downing Street hijinks of a different sort. The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords is generally seen as the failed Davies-era season finale. This isn’t quite unfair, but the actual grounds on which it fails are, on the whole, narrow. There are in effect two scenes that doom it - both cases where what looked sensible on the page turned ridiculous in practice. The first is when the already strained decision to have David Tennant slathered in latex to look old is replaced with the absolutely appalling Dobby the House Doctor CGI effect, leading to what was previously a quite well done sequence to collapse in a crumpled pile of bathos. The second is the reversal of that scene, in which Flying Magic Jesus Doctor descends upon the Master in a beam of badly misjudged light. Unfortunately, these are two major turning points in the episode, and instead of carrying the dramatic weight they’re meant to do they’re bathetic train wrecks.

But look, neither one fails to communicate the show’s intent - they just do so in a way that is difficult to take seriously because of the intense desire to burst out laughing. The errors stuck out like sore thumbs on broadcast, and this harmed the episodes’ reception, but broadcast was already a while ago. Already the story’s reputation seems to be shifting. So let’s say no more of two misjudged effects shots beyond that Davies is neither the first nor the last person on Doctor Who who has misjudged what the BBC could manage in the way of effects. Everybody believes their bubble wrap, at least.

Let’s start by observing the size of the task. Of all the things Davies tried to revamp within Doctor Who, this is perhaps the hardest. The Cybermen may be the rubbish second rate villains, but for the most part Davies had the good sense to use them that way. They were the villains you went for when the Daleks were the wrong choice but you still needed an “oh no it’s the” villain. But the Master… there’s not even a consensus list of what the best Master stories are. Say what you want about the Cybermen, but at least there’s a general consensus that Tomb of the Cybermen and Earthshock were both really good. (Never mind that I have little patience for either.) But what are the classic Master stories? Sure, there are some scattered Pertwee ones that are quite good, but your vision of the character swings dramatically based on whether you pick Terror of the Autons, The Daemons, or The Sea Devils. The Ainley Master arguably never works, and there’s a strong case to be made that the character is at his best when he’s a pizza. It’s not hard to understand why Moffat hasn’t touched the character in three seasons, and has suggested in interviews that the only real reason to do it is if you have Roger Delgado to play the part.

Because the Master falls into a general category of villain that just doesn’t work: the evil duplicate of the hero. The problem is that the evil duplicate has to be just like the hero only rubbish and prone to failing constantly. So instead of being terrifying because he’s all the skill and brilliance of the Doctor only working for evil, the Master is a punchline whose appearance mostly signifies a story that’s well and truly gone off the rails. “You’re the camp one,” as Moffat put it in The Curse of Fatal Death. And finding ways out of this is tricky.

Almost everything about The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords can be explained in these terms. The audacious scope of the Master’s scheme is notable largely because it finally unleashes the character and has him achieving things as scary as “the Doctor gone irredeemably evil” should be. So much of Last of the Time Lords in particular is achieved in the little gestures where it’s suggested just how awful the year that’s been skipped was. The Master has outright ruined the Earth, slaughtering the entire population of Japan. Phrases like “the radiation pits of Europe” speak volumes. More volumes, really, than the episode can muster - what the Master has done isn’t just too expensive to show on television, it’s too horrific. (This is the same reason the Doctor is aged - because the real story is the Doctor being tortured, but for understandable reasons they’re not going to do David Tenant in Abu Ghraib on BBC One.) Nothing - not even the Dalek/Cybermen war - has ever taken things this far.

Similarly important is the way in which it escalates. In The Sound of Drums the Master’s plan is already miles beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. The Master is Prime Minister. And that’s not even his plan. That’s just a casual thing he’s done on the way to his plan, much like building a satellite system to hypnotize the entire planet. From the get-go the Master has already accomplished a baroque and insane plan for world domination of the sort that the Doctor, in the classic series, usually stops him from. This isn’t even “the Doctor wasn’t here.” He was, repeatedly, throughout the Master’s rise to power, and he missed it. Even when he is there and knows what’s going on, he can’t stop it. Even to survive he has to knock up a perception filter and essentially hide within the narrative.

It’s necessary to pause here and look at the specifics of this. Each of Davies’s first three seasons contains an explicit engagement with contemporary British politics, from killing Tony Blair off in The Aliens of London to the fall of Harriet Jones and Torchwood’s neo-imperialist vision in Army of Ghosts/Doomsday. Now we have a charismatic politician from, it seems, outside the existing party structure who has managed to assemble a coalition of ministers from existing parties in order to become Prime Minister. Just a bit of a Tony Blair analogue, then. It’s worth contemplating, especially as these episodes are going out as the Tony Blair era comes to a close.

The degree to which Blair is a villain of the left is an interesting one. He is, after all, a Labour politician. An extremely centrist Labour politician, yes, but a Labour politician nevertheless. And yet there is a substantial portion of the political left that despises him with a passion normally reserved for milk-snatchers. Much of this centers on the Iraq War, and more broadly on the bewildering spectacle of Tony Blair’s apparent desire to become George W. Bush’s lapdog. But even before the Iraq War there was a sense of backlash that manifested in things like Warren Ellis’s savage Transmetropolitan, which transplanted a blatant Tony Blair analogue to a futuristic United States and proceeded to have him become a despotic psychopath.

What was disturbing about Tony Blair was always the sheer level of polish he brought to things. By 1997 Labour was in such a strong position that even Michael Foot could probably have won the election. But Blair did win it, and won it with a jaw-droppingly slick and well-heeled political campaign that took copious notes from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. The result, though, was that Blair always seemed disingenuous - as though his public imaeg was a facade masking, at best, raw opportunism. And so the idea that the Master, established last episode as the serpent in the garden, would become a glittering Tony Blair figure is perfectly sensible, bordering on obvious.

But the decay that the Master represents is so fundamental that the result goes well beyond “what if Tony Blair really were evil” and into the suggestion that the entire social order - the world itself - is going to crumble. This is still the basic horror of the Master. It’s not just that he’s as clever and brilliant as the Doctor. It’s that he has his own narrative logic. Where the Doctor suggests that we can endlessly change and evolve and come up with new things to do, the Master’s narrative is one of rot. We will all eventually fall. Darkness will come. Nothing has any point. The Master seeks, Torchwood like, a new empire spanning the cosmos, but the only purpose of his empire seems to be its eventual collapse in the end of all things. The purpose of his New Gallifrey is to inevitably perish. He desires the lens of history only so he can have the certainty of decay and oblivion.

There is, however, another key aspect to Davies’s revamp of the Master. This new version of the character is charismatic in the same way that the Doctor is. Instead of being a leering, cackling menace, the Master leans into the accusation of camp wholeheartedly. In many ways this makes him more terrifying - it’s the same reason the Slitheen’s fart jokes are unsettling, and, for that matter, why the Toclafane giggling about how much fun it is to kill people is scary. A homicidal maniac is one thing, but one who sashays around singing along with the Scissor Sisters is somehow another.

This aspect of the revamp also works its way around to addressing another issue. Doctor Who, as we’ve noted, has been reworked in a post-Buffy televisual landscape. Tat Wood frames this, with more than a hint of condescension, as the series being written “for teenage girls,” but it’s more complex than that. The series has inherited a huge number of textual practices from feminist genre fandom. And one of those is slash fiction. Slash fiction, if you’ve been living under a rock, is a subgenre of fanfiction, typically written by heterosexual women, focusing on sexual and romantic pairings between male characters who are not explicitly paired on the show. (The name derives from the punctuation mark used to designate these stories, as in “Kirk/Spock.”)

Slash fiction and Doctor Who have not been terribly prevalent, simply because there’s not been a lot of stretches on the show where there’s been multiple male characters to pair up. The small cast and tendency towards the single female companion has always made slash difficult. Few people make any effort to sexualize One (we may as well use the new fandom’s nomenclature for this conversation, as it’s firmly their game). There’s some Two/Jamie, less Three/Brigadier or Four/Harry than you’d expect (though a fair amount of Benton/Yates), and then your one real motherlode of slash in the classic series: Five. There were several reasons for this - the move towards a much younger actor meant that Five was a conventionally sexy Doctor in a way previous ones hadn’t been. You also had a sudden profusion of male characters. Five/Adric may be a bit ageplayish for tastes, but Five/Turlough practically begs for it.

And then there’s Five/Master. The archnemesis slash pairing is already a goldmine. Slash is largely, in at least one mainstream reading, about forcibly adding emotional content to a hypermasculine narrative and about aggressively reappropriating it for female audiences. And so the hero/archnemesis romantic pairing, where the reason they hate each other is that their passionate love affair went bad. Add to that the way in which the archnemesis is typically obsessed with the hero in some fashion, constantly coming back to haunt him despite the obviously self-defeating nature of this and you have a slash goldmine. And the Master played into this perfectly. The fact that he’s obsessed with the Doctor is established way back in The Mind of Evil, and lines like his “a universe without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about” line are just gold for slashers.

So there was never any way that the Doctor, for whom same sex attraction has been a thing since The Doctor Dances, can be paired with a young and dashing archnemesis and not have it be slashed. And Davies leans into it. The decision to make the Master overtly camp (entertainingly, Simm supposedly modeled his performance in part on Davies) was in many ways consciously giving into it. Simm and Tennant are absolutely made for slashing. The ending plays into this with such ferocity that it borders on making it canon. The Doctor defeating the Master and embracing him to say “I forgive you” is… well, look, I may not be the right person to judge this, actually, as a straight guy. But as I’m married to a card-carrying member of the “John Simm’s Master is the sexiest thing ever on television” brigade, I have a good resource. So, let’s get a description of the “I forgive you” moment from her. “It is all of the slashy. All of it.” (Actually, she thinks the slashiest moment is the phone call in The Sound of Drums. Specifically the exchange “Master.” “I like it when you use my name.” It should stop using my wife as an example before this gets too revealing.) Indeed, it’s difficult to come up with a more cliched premise for a seventy-nine chapter slash epic than the Doctor’s proposal to travel with the Master for all eternity and take care of him.

An appalling excess of words have been spilled on the supposed “gay agenda” of the Russell T Davies era - an agenda that basically amounted to “having gay people on the show sometimes.” For the most part far, far too much is made of the impact of Davies’s sexuality on Doctor Who. It impacts his Doctor Who almost exactly as much as his being a Doctor Who fan impacts Queer as Folk. Which is to say, there are certainly aspects of his Doctor Who that are easily linked to the specific gay male culture he depicts in Queer as Folk, but it’s in no way what the show is about.

(It’s worth making a brief set of comments here. Gay male culture is a specific cultural phenomenon tied to specific historical circumstances. Much of it is a culture of oppression - that is, a culture that exists specifically as a practical response to appallingly homophobic social and legal conditions. It was, in short, a survival mechanism cobbled together out of historical accident. For instance, the theater was long a profession in which it was reasonably safe to be a gay man, which explains a lot about how camp theatricality became a mode of protest and defiance for gay male culture, and, in turn, a stereotype. However “gay male culture” is not even remotely coextensive with “gay men,” and, due to the number of significant civil rights victories the gay community has won, grows less so by the year, since gay men have vastly more safe options for where and how to look for sexual partners. Davies, however, is steeped in gay male culture - much more so, in fact, than the bulk of prominent gay Doctor Who fans and writers, for whom Doctor Who fandom often provided an alternative safe space quite distinct from normative gay male culture.)

All of which said, if there is a moment in Davies’s Doctor Who that demonstrates how fertile the collision of gay male culture and Doctor Who is, it is his Master/Doctor interaction. On the one hand the Master, under Davies, is played as a camp stereotype that set the idiots who blathered on about the “gay agenda” to maximum stupidity. But what’s key is that quietly, and without drawing attention to it, Davies turns the traditional slash relationship on its head. In the normal Doctor/Master slash pairing, it is the Master who is obsessed with the Doctor. His villainy is ultimately just a reaction to the Doctor spurning him. And for almost the entire run of Utopia through Last of the Time Lords, Davies is content to let it appear that this is the case: the Master is crazy and obsessed with the Doctor. Whereas the Doctor’s apparent obsession with the Master is entirely down to the whole “last of the Time Lords” thing - the Master means he doesn’t have to be alone.

But at the end of the story this is aggressively reversed. The Doctor begs the Master to stay with him and regenerate, not just because he doesn’t want to be alone, but on the strength of their past relationship. He appeals to their long, epic struggle, and even to the Axons, while the Master mocks him, suggesting that dying in his arms was always the Doctor’s fantasy. And suddenly the entire slash pairing turns on its head. The Master was never in love with the Doctor. How could he be - he’s the most fundamental moral rot and depravity that it is possible to imagine. As a character, he only makes sense if he’s outright incapable of love. It has always been the Doctor who is in love with the Master, while the Master is a murderous and depraved psychopath who never once reciprocated. It’s absolutely brilliant - as brilliant as it being Lucy, who’s suffering only ever plays out quietly in the background, who kills him. (The tiny detail of her nursing a black eye at the start of Last of the Time Lords is chilling and oh so good.) It’s a gloriously bitter pill.

There is, however, one problem with it, which is that it does absolutely awful things to Martha. And this is a pity; so much of Last of the Time Lords is a glorious triumph for Martha. The entire point of the episode is that for most of it everybody but Martha is completely sidelined and she has to single-handedly save the world. And she does, in the most staggeringly impressive feat that a companion has ever mustered. There is no companion who has ever managed as thorough and astonishing an act of solo heroism as Martha Jones. Given that the nature of her heroism requires the narrative collapse of the show becoming Master Who, such that his narrative logic applies and the world is completely ruined, it’s likely that this is an all-time high water mark for the companion. Martha Jones is, on the evidence of Last of the Time Lords, the single most competent Doctor Who companion there ever has or will be.

Which makes the end of the episode, in which she becomes self-actualized because she’s learned to walk away from an emotionally destructive bit of unrequited love so frustrating. Not for the self-actualization - that’s quite nice, actually. No, the issue here is that this coincides with the episode that goes the furthest in linking the Doctor to being a gay man. No, of course the Doctor is not gay. The entire Rose plot kills that right off. But there are easy analogies to draw between the “lonely god” image and the isolation of the closet. And we’ve just had an episode in which the Doctor is set up for a slash pairing in which he’s the one who’s in love. And for that to coincide with Martha learning that she has to not be obsessed with him and live her own life… well, the result is that Martha ends up being the straight woman who falls for her gay best friend, who then fixes her up and sends her off to be independent.

I’m not going to suggest that Davies is misogynistic - at least, not in an ideological way. On the other hand, there is a history of misogyny in gay male culture - one Davies puts on display in Queer as Folk. No, putting it on display doesn’t mean endorsing it, but it does mean that it’s a cultural attitude he’s aware of. And while it’s a different sort of misogyny than the standard issue and tedious rape culture misogyny, it’s still a form of misogyny. And this falls squarely in a common stereotype within it: frustration at how straight women want “gay best friends,” and the “gay men fixing up straight women” meme. No, it’s not some conscious insult to women. But it’s a visible and genuinely offensive blind spot that casts a nasty pall over the episode.

But there’s a larger issue as well. Martha’s heroism is crucial to saving the day, but it is not actually what averts the narrative collapse represented by the Master. The actual aversion comes from the entire population of the world chanting Doctor at the same moment and thus restoring him through the power of belief channeled through the Archangel Network. Which is to say, Martha saves the day by spending a year being an evangelical Doctor Who fan, and then the popular desire to have more Doctor Who dethrones the Master’s narrative authority and reestablishes the Doctor as the most fundamental force in the narrative.

But there’s something problematic here. The threat posed by the Master isn’t one that’s adequately solved by the popularity of Doctor Who. The Master, by this point in the narrative, is a staggeringly large, existential threat concerning the idea that there is a fundamental force of evil in the universe to which all things eventually fall. Beyond that, this existential threat has been tied to contemporary politics, suggesting that the elected leadership of the United Kingdom is infected with this fundamental decay. “Doctor Who is a really neat television show” is not actually a sufficient response to this. Doubly so because of the degree to which the Master’s rise to power stems from the Tenth Doctor’s “original sin” of overthrowing Harriet Jones, and the degree to which he, Martha, and Jack, and, more to the point, the audience’s desire for the return of Doctor Who’s underlying mythology in the first place all bear direct responsibility for the Master’s rise. And, for that matter, because the Master’s insane drumming is, as we’ve noted, just the Doctor Who theme in the first place. At the time, without looking at future episodes at all, the resolution felt wrong and inadequate. The balance of the narrative collapse wasn’t quite right - it was too pat and self-congratulatory.

Hindsight and knowing where the story goes helps with this. Davies’s next two season finales return to the issues here, but separate them and give them individual solutions so that the idea of the inevitability of evil and the idea of Doctor Who’s arrogance can be treated as two phenomenon instead of as one, as they are here. And the Doctor’s failure to adequately address the issue in this story has consequences just as much as his arrogant overthrowing of Harriet Jones did. Indeed, many (though not all) of the ways in which this episode is unsettling and unsatisfying look deliberate or, if not deliberate, at least like things the series recognized and responded to.

But for now, at the end of the third season, there’s a strange sense of unease. Between a particularly wobbly patch early on and the strange nature of the finale, there is something not quite right. It is as though perhaps the Master, between his explicitly telegraphed survival and the fact that his nature is to serve as the kernel of darkness that brings down all things in the end, has won. The aversion of a narrative collapse always has a price that is paid. In this case, it seems, the price is a festering wound and the knowledge that, inevitably, the narrative will collapse again.

But first there’s a rather large boat that’s crashed into the TARDIS.

Comments

Scott 3 years, 8 months ago

"The Ainley Master arguably never works"

I beg to differ and raise you "Survival". Granted, it's quite different from Ainley's previous performances, but freed from having to limit himself to a one-dimensional sniggering Delgado impersonation, taken out of the ridiculous penguin suit and being made a vicious Thatcherite social darwinist, I personally think Ainley's Master really comes together.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 8 months ago

I also want to raise you Logopolis. It's the story where the swath of destruction that the Master causes is in the same category as the year of hell disaster here, and the best part is that his plotting isn't obsessively focussed on the Doctor, as it was too many times during the Ainley era. He's out for the literal power to control the universe — he goes to Logopolis to steal the secret to Block Transfer Computation, the mathematics that can control reality, and badly underestimates his ability to control that power himself, and the danger of his usual methods of threat and coercion.

What's more, the Master's link to the heat death period of the universe in this season finale parallels his actions in Logopolis as well. He doesn't purposely set out to destroy the universe in Logopolis: it's collateral damage of the fact that the Master doesn't know how precarious the entropy of the universe is without constant Logopolitan monitoring. Logopolis is a brilliant way to show how dangerous the Master is, in a way that links him with the set of vices developed in environmental ethics: he hungers for power and total control of reality, but doesn't have the intelligence to use that power wisely, causing huge amounts of destruction thanks to his ignorance.

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Kit Power 3 years, 8 months ago

One thing I remember some commentators being very upset about at the time was the Doctor's apparent lack of sympathy for the human victims of the Masters plan. The same Doctor that conjured up fairy tale nightmare punishments for The Family is crying over a butcher unparalleled in human history. The acting in the scene knocked me so far out of my socks that this point never occurred to me independently, but I did think it was quite a striking observation on reflection. I can't quite hand wave it away with 'alien morally', either. It's a bloody odd moment.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

The Master was never in love with the Doctor. How could he be - he’s the most fundamental moral rot and depravity that it is possible to imagine. As a character, he only makes sense if he’s outright incapable of love. It has always been the Doctor who is in love with the Master, while the Master is a murderous and depraved psychopath who never once reciprocated.



I hold on some level that the tenth Doctor is very firmly "The man who is head-over-heels in love with the universe." A big, scary, obsessive love that isn't always healthy. So of course the Master would be the man who can't love anything ever.

A lot of people objected to the Master, who had in the past gone to such lengths to cling to life, dying willingly, but for me it was the only thing that made sense. The Doctor in general, and when RTD is showrunning in particular, always chooses life. Even when it's the life of the lonely god, even when it's life as a bit of pavement. So of course when it comes right down to it, the Master must choose death, even when it's his own. (The fact that it later turns out to be a complex gambit cheapens it a bit for me).

(The tiny detail of her nursing a black eye at the start of Last of the Time Lords is chilling and oh so good.)

Yeah. Dude kills a tenth of the population to make a grammar pedantry joke, meh. Dude hits his wife? Monster.

You know, I didn't mind Dobby the House Doctor, and I didn't mind Jesus Doctor, but you know what bugged me? The Master ages the Doctor by incorporating Lazarus technology into his Laser Screwdriver (Laser Screwdriver. He's even got an Evil Mirror Sonic. Fantastic.), after making a big point about how his screwdriver is based on Laser because "Who'd have sonic?"

But the Lazarus Device was explicitly based on Sonic-ness. They made a big deal about that! One of these things is not like the others!

The fact that he’s obsessed with the Doctor is established way back in The Mind of Evil, and lines like his “a universe without the Doctor scarcely bears thinking about” line are just gold for slashers.

"Does he still have that rubbish beard?"
"No, no beard. Well... A wife..."

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I always liked the "clap your hands if you believe in The Doctor" scene. Yes, it's gloriously cheesy - beyond many people's personal cheese level, and I understand that. But one of the things I love about Doctor Who is the ability to have your cheese and eat it too.

(Dobby!Doctor is a bit less loved, but I at least get what they were going for.)

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prandeamus 3 years, 8 months ago

Obviously an anachronism, but when it comes to coalitions, I can't help seeing that Downing Street gassing incident as a UKIP-led coalition of the reactionary and the opportunistic.

Which means I now keep seeing Nigel Farage as the Master.

It has been a long day...

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

And I raise you Castrovalva, because Bondage!Adric.

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

My problem with "The Gay Agenda" (and it was a fairly minor problem that resulted in occasional head shaking rather than passionate fury) wasn't that RTD put gay characters on the show. Rather, it was the way that RTD made sure we knew that gay characters were gay through improbable clumsy dialogue rather than any organic relationship developments, which gave the appearance at times that he was just checking off a box. Oliver Barnes in "The End of Time" didn't annoy me because he was gay but because he was presented as "The Gay One" within the Silver Cloak, to go along with "The Black One" and "The Randy Old Female One." To say nothing of Alonzo Frame's homosexuality being introduced out of the blue because the Doctor wanted to give Jack a "happy ending" (no pun intended) and RTD couldn't think of another memorable character from his run for Jack to hook up with.

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Adam Riggio 3 years, 8 months ago

A brilliant analysis as usual, Phil. The forecast you made back in the Logopolis post about the importance of slash fiction tropes to how the character of the Master develops into fruition here. I have to say, though, that I think the story's denouement works better than you describe. Of course, you have your larger arc of analysis to worry about, and when I wrote on this in the collection Doctor Who and Philosophy (Open Court Press 2010, available from fine online booksellers everywhere), I took the story basically on its own. I focussed on the nature of the Toclafane, and worked out the philosophical implications of the Master's focus on the inevitability of rot and decay.

The short version of my 3500-word Chapter 22. The three-part story is a fairly traditional existentialist meditation on what makes life worthwhile in the light of the inevitability of death. Like you said in the Utopia post, Davies depicts the end of the universe as a place literally without hope. The Toclafane confirm that even once they got to their Utopia, they discovered it was just another dying world, the same as the one they left. They and the Master have concluded that because the world ends, then their lives amount to nothing. Since we're all heading toward inevitable destruction anyway, they embrace destruction as a way of life, the natural path of being. And there's no better way to embrace destruction than to have lots of fun doing it. That's why the Toclafane Martha captures laughs so much about how much fun mass murder is. You embrace a principle by heavily enjoying its enactment. Their vision of the future defines their actions and personality in the present.

The Doctor offers a different existential vision by shifting his temporal focus. Even though he talks about forgiveness, in my own essay I didn't interpret it in the Christian sense, but a secular one. (Indeed, I take seriously Davies' atheism when he combines the Doctor with Christian imagery; he does so not to make the Doctor a god in the religious sense, but to make religious images bathetic and remove the religious implications from the conception of a god.)

Your reading of Martha's task makes perfect sense with regard to Doctor Who's self-consciousness as the biggest thing on television. But it can also be read as a counterpoint to the Master's nihilism-by-death's-inevitability. The people who believe in the Doctor and Doctor Who embrace their present lives with the hope that their existence can still be made better (you might call it a faith in their ability to craft material social progress). Despite the overall story ending with death, they accept that life in the present, no matter where or when that present is, can still be valuable if they choose to understand it that way. Their faith isn't in Magic Jesus David Tennant, but in the value of their own existence. Instead of determining the value of the present by the nature of the future, they determine the value of all time by the potential of the present.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

Stories where in the end the hero inexplicably wins just by the power of wanting it really, really hard without actually doing anything always bring up warm nostalgic childhood feelings for me.

(As it turns out, of all the beloved childhood memories, the only one in which this actually happened was The Care Bears Movie. It turns out that when you are a small child, the difference between "They actually prevailed by doing things, but thematically it was about the power of love and caring and sharing" and "They actually did not do anything, just loved and cared and wanted and this magically made them win by authorial fiat" is easily lost.)

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

Also, I don't read the final scene as the Master as never having reciprocated and being incapable of love. Indeed, it feels like he has a deep empathy for the Doctor that lets him know exactly how much this is going to hurt him.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

(The fact that it later turns out to be a complex gambit cheapens it a bit for me).

Yeah, that messed up the emotional resonance here - the sheer spite of it. Honestly, the plot of The End of Time would've worked just as well - really, better - if the Master had been brought back against his wishes.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 8 months ago

Beautiful post! I was so looking forward to this. I was always a big booster of this 3 part finale (yes it IS) and I have to say I am gobsmacked that I never quite made the connection between the Doctor's unrequited love for the Master and Martha's feelings about the Doctor. I saw both, but I never saw their connection, quite a failure on my part. I still say that was a misguided character/arc choice on RTD's part, but now that I can see what the point of it was I like it better.

Not to look too much into the future, but I love that RTD's concept of the Doctor/Master relationship is that they basically feel the same way about one another, but in the inverse. They are attracted to one another in the sense of being somewhat kindred spirits, but the Doctor simply can't comprehend the coldness in the Master's heart or why such a brilliant and, let's face it, charming person can't achieve his full potential by embracing the universe instead of wanting to destroy it. The Master feels the same way but he can't understand why the Doctor's soft-hearted "goodness" stands in the way of him being the all-conquering bastard the Master knows he's capable of being. They each infuriate and tantalize one another because of their respective moral failings (as seen by the other).

What's more I want to highlight the use of the Scissor Sisters' song as being VERY well chosen to illustrate his character and his relationship with the Doctor. "I'm just a loner, baby / And now you've gotten in my way" ... "I can't decide whether you should live or die" ... "I must admit I'm going to miss you when you're gone" ... "I don't know why my heart feels dead inside / Cold and hard and petrified / Lock the doors and close the blinds / We're going for a ride!"

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

It is possible that commentator was me, as I have previously said that the end of this season marked the point at which Ten's arrogance boiled over into outright contempt for humanity. While most of the Master's most recent butchery was undone by the Reset Button, he still murdered a sitting U.S. President, the entire British cabinet, and who knows how many "little people," and the Doctor never once even considered the possibility that humans were entitled to have a say in his punishment. No, it was to be house arrest, mainly so the Doctor wouldn't feel quite so lonely.

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Seeing_I 3 years, 8 months ago

The gassing scene is also a reference to a very similar scene in "Goldfinger."

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Seb Patrick 3 years, 8 months ago

On the subject of the slashy phone call, while I don't generally go in for that sort of thing, this remains an utterly exquisite piece of work.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

"Of all the things Davies tried to revamp within Doctor Who, this is perhaps the hardest. The Cybermen may be the rubbish second rate villains, but for the most part Davies had the good sense to use them that way. They were the villains you went for when the Daleks were the wrong choice but you still needed an “oh no it’s the” villain. But the Master…"

So the faults of the story are conceptual and down to revisiting a misconcieved aspect of the show that doesn't really work. And yet you seem far more forgiving of this than you were of The Twin Dilemma.

"But even before the Iraq War there was a sense of backlash that manifested in things like Warren Ellis’s savage Transmetropolitan, which transplanted a blatant Tony Blair analogue to a futuristic United States and proceeded to have him become a despotic psychopath."

What seems often forgotten is that the Iraq War wasn't the first time Blair had ordered the bombing of Iraq. There was an instance of his doing so back in late 1998 I recall, but this has since been overshadowed by the big campaign.

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Daibhid C 3 years, 8 months ago

Now we have a charismatic politician from, it seems, outside the existing party structure who has managed to assemble a coalition of ministers from existing parties in order to become Prime Minister. Just a bit of a Tony Blair analogue, then.

He might well be - in fact, he almost certainly is - but I don't see how that description is evidence of it. Blair rose through the Labour party structure and, as you say, became PM due to a huge Labour majority. A "coalition of ministers from existing parties" seems more like a remarkably prescient critique on Cameron, if anything.

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

My recollection of The Care Bears Movie was that they defeated the villain through the power of love and caring and sharing... which manifested as deadly love beams that shot out of their chests.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

It sounds a bit like you are simultaneously complaining that RTD goes out of his way to make sure the audience knows a character is gay, and also that he doesn't always make a point of letting the audience know that a character is gay (cf. Alonzo).

Consider whether you'd think he was "making sure we knew the straight characters were straight through improbable clumsy dialogue" if those characters had been straight -- we live in a culture where being gay is "other" enough that a lot of people react to any way of revealing that a character is gay as being "clumsy", "improbable", or, as some put it, "rubbing it in our faces"

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

Personally, I hated the ending because it was the second RTD finale in which a completely impossible situation is resolved because one of the characters improbably gets godlike powers in the last 15 minutes. The only RTD finale to not have this resolution was Doomsday, where the impossible resolution turned on the fact that the Cybermen and Daleks were all secretly coated in a heretofore invisible particle (observable only with 3D glasses) that made it possible to send them away with magic.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

That is most of how they deal with things, but the climax of the movie is one of the human characters "dying", at which point everyone (including the antagonist) stands around and cares real hard, which causes her to come back to life.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Incidentally I've always felt that the rightest note to have left the Master on was either The Deadly Assassin (the show was never going to top that kind of climactic would-be final fight, and in a way having him escape with his prize was the right ending for him), or on Castrovalva (have himk be destroyed by his own creations and thus the show can move on from the impact of Logopolis without the companions seeming sociopathic about it in the process).

I always felt New Who was too much a different beast for him to fit into it and assumed Russell would wisely rather leave him in the past too and let the TV Movie stand as burning that bridge. After all a show with the message of 'have a good life' is hard to square with one where the Doctor has a begrudging admiration for a cold blooded murderer. Likewise if the Farrel family of Terror of the Autons were given the same emotional treatment the Tylers got in Father's Day, then the Doctor's final word of how he was 'looking forward' to the next fight with the Master was come off as far more revolting.

As for the finale, it was the end of my patience with New Who (although I did tune into Voyage of the Damned to at least try to part with the show on less bitter terms), and really the rules had been broken almost beyond repair to the point I couldn't feel a stake in the show's drama anymore. It took Time of Angels to finally make a successful repair job.

Also with the brilliant premise of Utopia, of humanity facing its end, and Yana being the only one who has the knowledge to save them, except he's gone evil and the Doctor has to somehow restore him to the good scientist he was.... it seemed such a waste to scrap that concept entirely and relocate to modern Earth.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

"so much of Last of the Time Lords is a glorious triumph for Martha. The entire point of the episode is that for most of it everybody but Martha is completely sidelined and she has to single-handedly save the world. And she does, in the most staggeringly impressive feat that a companion has ever mustered."

It was also a shameless rip-off of the climax of Dalek Empire.

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

Not really a complaint so much as an observation. It would not have been particularly unusual to learn that Russell Tovey's character was gay. It was, however, slightly annoying for said character to be revealed as gay just in time for the Doctor to partner him off with Jack as part of the "reward montage." That said, it was no more annoying than Martha and Mickey getting paired off because, hey, they're the only black companions so who else are they going to marry.

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David Thiel 3 years, 8 months ago

Yes to all three of these, though my appreciation for "Castrovalva" comes down to two things: the relentlessness of the Master's pursuit of the ailing Doctor, and that I first saw it at the very first "Who" convention I ever attended, with a roomful of excitable fans.

And honestly, I think he's a lot of fun in "The Five Doctors."

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Alan 3 years, 8 months ago

So the faults of the story are conceptual and down to revisiting a misconcieved aspect of the show that doesn't really work. And yet you seem far more forgiving of this than you were of The Twin Dilemma.

Saying the problems of The Twin Dilemma came down to conceptual faults and the revisiting of a misconceived aspect of the show is an understatement of epic proportions. If nothing else, SoD/LotTL was not hamstrung by terrible actors cast in important roles for arbitrary reasons (i.e. the twins).

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Seeing_I 3 years, 8 months ago

This IS television after all. Most of these characters you mention don't have season-long arcs to explore who they are - they are, by necessity, quicky-drawn sketches of characters.

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John Binns 3 years, 8 months ago

Interestingly the show that Doctor Who becomes in this narrative collapse is not only Master Who, but also the remade Battlestar Galactica: apocalyptic, cynical, political/satirical, unsettling, violent, and with a 'One year later' caption that Davies explicitly lifted from one of BG's season finales. It's an interesting angle on how this finale failed to be good Doctor Who, particularly when you consider the religious elements that eventually triumphed in both this and the remade BG...

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dm 3 years, 8 months ago

But first there’s a rather large boat that’s crashed into the TARDIS.

I don't think I could ever rewatch that one, and might even have to sit out your essay lest you redeem it. And this is coming from a Kylie (and RTD) fan...

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Bennett 3 years, 8 months ago

I have only come across the term "Gay Agenda" being used ironically - i.e. fans mocking how other fans would complain every time a gay reference showed up. It's depressing to think that it was ever meant as a legitimate accusation.

For my money, if Davies had an "agenda" it was a broad sexualisation agenda (that is to take sexualisation in Who from being implicit to explicit), and I reckon if a count was made there'd be just as many characters who blatantly flag themselves as straight during his time.

(Also for my money, the "Cantina" scene in The End of Time is one of the worst in the history of Doctor Who, but the sexual orientation presented is irrelevant to why I think it's awful.)

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David Thiel 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't have much to say about the slash component, as it's not something I generally look for. But in "The End of Time," it became so obvious that even I couldn't miss picking up on it.

So let’s say no more of two misjudged effects shots beyond that Davies is neither the first nor the last person on Doctor Who who has misjudged what the BBC could manage in the way of effects.

Nah, can't let this go. My problem with those two scenes isn't that the effects are poorly realized, it's that they're misconceived from the start.

I can buy that the Doctor, aged well beyond the threshold at which regeneration would kick in, would become a skeletal CGI creature; what I can't deal with (and I have tried, dammit) is that he also shrinks to approximately two feet tall. You could have WETA Digital doing the effects and it would still look silly.

Same goes for Magic Floaty Glowing Jesus Doctor. If I was conceiving the scene, I would've left the actual transformation off-screen and just have a restored Tennant confidently striding out of the cage, with perhaps a bit of crackle about him to sell the notion of residual psychic energy.

What I did like about "Last of the Time Lords" is that the plan to overthrow the Master depended on subverting two tropes of the series: the quest to collect and assemble a multi-part device; and the inevitable dramatic countdown.

I also want to say how much I liked Lucy Saxon. I would've loved to found out more of her story, and was disappointed that she was so quickly dispatched in "The End of Time."

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

As others have pointed out, the Doctors casual willingness to forgive all the Masters mass killings seemed a bit.. off. And the Jesus!Doc is particularly cringeworthy given that at this time Davies could have done anything - anything! - he wanted, he wasn't limited by budgets or suchlike that call for a toy tank to be rolled into the frame.

I did have a certain technical query though - when the Master killed the President and summoned the Toclafane the Valiant was full of politicians, press people, a far larger onscreen crew than EvilValiant carried. But when the Reset gets done, the only people on the Valiant are the ones who were there when the button was pressed. So what happened to everyone else? Do they get sucked into limbo or something?

And what about the Toclafane? The Master has already turned whatever was left of humanity in the far future into giggling sociopaths, and the Doctor .. can't do anything to avert that? That's rather depressing.

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

That's a bit rough on Ainley.. While his plans were overly complicated, they didn't seem that much worse conceived than the Doctors plan in HN/FOB..! And his performance was pretty urbane.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

Please please cover "Time Crash". The new series' only proper-multi Doctor story, written by Moff. It may only be 7 minutes long but it's rich in character and meta nods and fanwank. It's a wonderful scene with so many winks to the audience and, arguably, one of the first things to combine "old and new" visually (the first being the Journal of Impossible Things).

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David Ainsworth 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd argue that the big flaw in the climax to this story is that this triumph is really and genuinely Martha's, and thematically, it's a triumph of human hope over the murderous embrace of nihilism and evil. But the shift to an emphasis on the Doctor/Master relationship (with slash and all) completely overwrites that triumph and turns the whole story into a two-Time-Lords deal where the Master escapes the Doctor through dying and then gets a Ming-like postscript, while Martha leaves the Doctor, the show, AND US behind. (If the Doctor weren't in the next episode and the show focused on Martha, I think that ending would be appropriately redemptive for her character. But of course that can't happen.)

The direction, the effects, the music, everything shouts at us that the Doctor's triumphant (and then, that the Doctor's hurt). It's one thing to suggest that Ten's Timelord Triumphant reflects a dangerous arrogance, but it's another to authorize that arrogance. Maybe the scene could have been redeemed by an effective rebuke of the Doctor (and that would also set up the reset in a slightly more satisfying way, the Doctor saving the TARDIS and all those people). And Martha abandoning him at this moment, in a way that seems entirely justified, would have been much more powerful than the actual circumstances of her departure. Heck, it would even have accomplished the minor miracle of making me feel pity for the Doctor at this moment without any accompanying nausea.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

he only RTD finale to not have this resolution was Doomsday, where the impossible resolution turned on the fact that the Cybermen and Daleks were all secretly coated in a heretofore invisible particle (observable only with 3D glasses) that made it possible to send them away with magic.

Indeed. Voidstuff. What?! How can a void have stuff? (But then this is nothing, since later on we find out Cybermen steal Dalek tech from inside the void, treating the void as if it's just a large playground where people chill out and wander about.)

Personally, I hated the ending because it was the second RTD finale in which a completely impossible situation is resolved because one of the characters improbably gets godlike powers in the last 15 minutes.

Maybe the "Archangel Network" should've been highlighted more, but at least it's there right from "The Sound of Drums" to set up the resolution. It's only the effects/graphics that makes it look bad and just plain weird.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

Also with the brilliant premise of Utopia, of humanity facing its end, and Yana being the only one who has the knowledge to save them, except he's gone evil and the Doctor has to somehow restore him to the good scientist he was.... it seemed such a waste to scrap that concept entirely and relocate to modern Earth.

Definitely agreed here. And then much of the second episode, from memory, is set on the Valiant. Yawn.

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John Binns 3 years, 8 months ago

I was similarly bothered by The Parting of the Ways, which didn't really make clear whether Rose had brought back to life the exterminated portion of Earth's population as well as Jack. Presumably not, in which case that's quite a thing for the Doctor not to have avoided or remedied, indeed to have indirectly caused.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

It may be that my experience was a bit unusual, but for me, the resolution was a double-subversion: once they introduced the concept of the gun, I expected one subversion and got a different one. I had assumed that the gun was a misdirect, but I thought it was one of a different kind. I was expecting the Master to seize the gun, then demonstrate his power and love of irony by using it on The Doctor, only to have it turn out to not be a kills-timelords gun after all, but a heal-the-Doctor gun.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

(But then this is nothing, since later on we find out Cybermen steal Dalek tech from inside the void, treating the void as if it's just a large playground where people chill out and wander about.)

The Doctor does describe the Void as "hell". Apparently, a classical Greek sort of hell.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 8 months ago

I also think the nice thing (if that's the right way to put it) about the destruction in Logopolis is that it is, as far as we know, never undone. While the Master's crimes here are horrific, they are undone, handwaved away so only a handful of people remember them - in other words, despite the effort that goes in to stopping him, there are actually very few consequences. But in Logopolis, he has a genuine, far reaching impact on the Universe in a way that he never has before or since. Logopolis the story might falter in places (though I still adore it), but the actions and consequences are clearly written, and I love the fact that, from that point onwards in the classic series, the Doctor never feels sympathy, understanding of kinship with the Master - after that he's irredeemable, and lest we forget, the Doctor not only lets the Master burn in Planet Of Fire, but actively forces himself to watch it, even though he clearly finds it repellant, and in a way I think it's a shame the New Series doesn't continue that (though, as with the drumming being thing thing that sends the Master mad, this works in the context of the New Series, even if it doesn't line up with the old, which is fair enough I suppose).

I am also completely in agreement that Ainley's Master works perfectly in Survival - a good performance, a meaningful motivation, an allegory and all delivered in a genuinely strong story in its own right - what more could you ask for from a Master story?

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

Another Doctor Who "impossible" - wherein said thing turns out not to be impossible, maybe just highly improbable.

The Void isn't void, but the term is a neat shorthand for a slightly incomprehensible nowhere-space.

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Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

even if it doesn't line up with the old

I don't really agree with "doesn't line up with the old". I rather like the element of the maddening drums as a reframing of the old: all this time, the Master has plotted and schemed, and there have been various attempts to explain him or for him to explain himself. The sound of the drums is like a Moonbase moment* for me: the new series basically looks back at the Master and says "Yeah, it's actually obvious, isn't it? All these things he's done? It's not because he thinks he's superior, or because of his will to power or his drive to survive or because the Doctor traded his soul to Death, or because he's secretly the Doctor's brother or because the Doctor never let him win at chess. It's because he's nuts. That's why he keeps coming up with these ludicrous schemes, and that's why they never work out for him. Because he's nuts."

(* "Moonbase Moment": the bit in 'The Moonbase' where the Second Doctor finally answers the moral challenge that the first doctor could not: No, the fact that you have freedom from disease and protection from heat and cold does not mean that you have a valid moral point about the superiority of your cold rationality. You're the ones in the rubber suits, so you're the bad guys." )

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

Of course, the Doctor also entertained the notion of letting the Daleks live and commit all their atrocities, when he had a chance of nipping them in the bud. All to assuage his own culpability.

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Chadwick 3 years, 8 months ago

In Western fiction, close male friendships aren't allowed to happen without sniggers, nudges and whispers of "gay". Slash fiction goes one way and "comes out" about it but equally there's a heterosexual reading into things which is as valid. You either go into the Kirk and Spock, Holmes and Watson the Doctor and the Master as straight reading or else treat it as closeted homoerotica. Doctor Who has always followed this parallel path. So both the gay and straight reading of these episodes work. I'd much rather that than the slash-proofing that New BSG tried where all opportunities for gay readings of friendships tried to be squashed by swapping genders of certain characters from the original show just to make sure squadron buddies were boy-girl-boy-girl.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

OH MY GOD, TOMMY'S BACK!!! :-D

Good christ, man, I was afraid you were dead... :-S

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

Well, if this a Genesis reference, then at least he does clearly lay out why he is hesitating - because of the inadvertent good that the Daleks cause in other races who forget their differences in the face of the greater danger. And then he thinks that Davros has been foiled. Here it's like... 'Hey, we had a jolly good time with the Axons, didn't we? Sure, a few dozen squaddies got killed and a nuclear plant blew up, but what's that between Time Lord BFFs?'

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

As usual, I disagree with most of what you say - but I agree about the need to "move on from the impact of Logopolis without the companions seeming sociopathic about it in the process". You can't go back to the naff Master after that, but they did, and it hurt.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure I'd say he works in Castrovolva. That was my next experience with the Master after this series, and my thoughts at the time were "God, what a rubbush villain. Thank God Davies made him a real threat."

He mostly cackles, tortures Adric a little bit, and builds an impossible city. He's less of a villain so much as an obligatory antagonist.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

Honestly, I think both of the concepts made sense. I would have done the psychic powered-up Doctor differently, though - less of a glowing Peter Pan, more of a whirlwind of crackling energy. (But then, that's basically how the Bad Wolf was shot, and I can understand why you wouldn't want it to look like a copy of that.)

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Ununnilium 3 years, 8 months ago

He already did once, back in the Davison era. Not sure if there's anything else to say on it.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

"Day of the Doctor" isn't going to count?

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Philip Sandifer 3 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I don't have a second set of things to say about it, I'm afraid.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

Martha's rebuke lacks teeth. After being basically a rebound for the Doctor and going far and above what any other televised companion does for him (We will not mention the late and lamented Lucie Miller). It boils down to "Well are you interested in me? No? Well I'm off to take care of the people that your boyfriend psycologically scared and destroyed. Tally Ho!". The Martha of this three parter deserved better. She deserved to give him a thorough and completely brutal dressing down. What right had he to forgive the Master? Seriously.

On the other hand, after this Martha becomes the living incarnation of Davros' future ranting. We can save analysis of what she becomes for those episodes but suffice it to say that is Martha's story ended here, she would be one of my all time favorite companions.

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Matter-Eater Lad 3 years, 8 months ago

I, too, love the scene where everyone wishes the Doctor back to full strength and then some. If we're looking at this in terms of the politics of 2007, it's not saying Doctor Who is neat and that will save everyone. Rather, I'd argue it's saying that even when there's a madman in charge, even when everything looks like it's turning to shit, you can still imagine something better. "One thing you can't do, is stop them thinking," the Doctor says. Damn right.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. He knows that there is no more brutal an attack he can launch at the Doctor than taking away any chance he has to have a peer.

Of course, he doesn't know about River...

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't get why that was funny.

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Lewis Christian 3 years, 8 months ago

Oooh, I missed that! Maybe I decided I'd stick to reading "in order". I'll go back to it now, though I still think an updated revision would be good to fit between the writing of this and "Voyage".

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

There were a series of failures on the "Twin Dilemma" that went far past a mis-use of CG Elves and Christian Imagery. Fundamental failures in basic scripting, costuming, casting....take your pick. There were mistakes made here, but the scale is important.

Also was there any major backlash from that sort of thing in the 90's? I'm pretty sure everyone was just riding high.

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Jesse 3 years, 8 months ago

extremely centrist

A phrase after my own heart.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

But... but... but what about what you did with "The Two Doctors"? Surely precedence takes... well, precedence! :-(

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inkdestroyedmybrush 3 years, 8 months ago

I can't believe that Phil didn't work this back to the belief system of the Earth bringing back the series/bringing back the Doctor from the Land of Fiction. Trapped into pages of virgin novels, it takes the will of thousands of people, including many in the BBC building, to move heaven and earth and undo the damage that hath been wrought since 1989. The historical antecedent here with Patrick's Doctor would be amazing. And would have more thematic sense. Doctor Who, an essentially British property has moved in to world wide pop culture in a way that those of us in the states who followed from the early '80's on would never, ever have thought. Cancel the show tomorrow and you'll see how quickly the fan fiction would show up from every corner of the globe.

I'm mean, yes, you could use this post to examine the implications of slash fiction, which is all well and good, but given that we've already gone over the territory of why the Master is rubbish, it does seem like we're just adding on a bit.

Less humorously, I can't let go of the Jesus!Doctor nor the Dobby Doctor, not because of the effects, but because both of them from a fundamental conception point, show that Davies' of the character and the show itself have moved on from what I want the show to be. I don't want to follow this character, I could care less about him, and I actively dislike this version of the Doctor. It seems such a betrayal of the series that I really hated this story. Which is completely different from hating the resolution (Rings of Akhaten I'm looking at you) or a rubbish "talking to a sun" thing. As a fan, I suffered through Time Flight because i liked character, and for every Horns of Nimon out there, you figured that you'd accidentally get a City of Death as well.

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

1. I never thought about how tough it is to find a representative, quintessential Master story. I might agree with Logopolis and Castrovalva (maybe Survival, but it comes pretty late in the game and always felt abrupt to me), but in general I think the Master's a lot like the New Series in that what appeal he has doesn't consist so much of awesome stories but awesome moments. For example, there are stretches of tedium that hold "The Sea Devils" back for me, but all the prison scenes are pure gold.

2. In some respects this is my favorite of the finales, if only because the other three are "just Daleks again." Granted, they're among the better Dalek stories we've ever had, but still. I just rewatched the season 4 finale and I thought it would have aged better for me, but there were a LOT of eyeroll moments that were almost worse, in sum, than Dobby and Jesus Doctor.

3. Your mileage obviously varies, but while I get what you're saying about how in theory Slitheen farts, Toclafane giggles, and Master "camp" should make those monsters more chilling, in practice I find that they simply don't, and generally have the opposite effect. Maybe it's a gap between idea and execution, or maybe I'm just more of the mind that finds that evil things seem evil, and evil things with "cute" qualities to be...evil diluted with "cute."

4. Martha as a gay man's "fixer-upper": you're free to find whatever you want offensive, and I see how you got there, but I feel as though it rests more on your chosen interpretation of disparate elements taken together than on something that's unambiguously there. For one thing, the "fixer-upper" stereotype would apply much more to Donna than to Martha, who seems extremely self-actualized from day one and really doesn't seem all that changed by the end. If anything, I'd consider the idea that unrequited love is a character flaw that needs improvement to be more offensive. It's just a thing that happens, even to strong, stylish, smart, beautiful, independent men and women. If there's a flaw, it's in the Doctor, because Martha is a catch and there's far more circumstantial evidence that he's straight than that he's even bisexual.

5. Adam expressed the last point I want to raise much better than I could: the finale's response to the problems raised by the Master and the Toclafane. If you read the climax as "everyone writes into the BBC and demands that the show not be cancelled," yes, it seems shockingly inadequate. If you read it more as a collective protest in favor of principles the Doctor presumably represents, goodness and life and well-prepared meals and so on, it serves as a counterpoint to the Toclafane (inherent eventual evil) and the Master (amoral/psychopathic dictatorship) and, short of having them physically storm the Valiant or attack the Toclafane locally somehow, is one of very few ways of feasibly portraying the population of the Earth fighting back and not having the Doctor personally solve everything. Of course, I happen to think it's kind of a cheesy way, and it's far too close to praying for my taste, but it does make the ending work better than reducing the reading to "viewer writing in." Even though that's a clever reading, I don't think it's necessarily the best one. :)

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd agree with you about pretty much all of this, actually. As much as I like Freema Agyeman, I find that all of her appearances after this story diminish Martha for me and really don't show the actor at her best.

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Jesse 3 years, 8 months ago

I don't get the hatred for the Dobby Doctor. But the victory-via-chanting thing left me with little patience for "Last of the Time Lords," even though I love the Scissor Sisters scene and even though I think Simm is one of the best things about the revived series. A weak episode with some great moments.

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

I laughed out loud at "we call babys 'the' after me".

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Monicker 3 years, 8 months ago

That's why the sound of drums concept isn't really a rationalisation though. It's an externalised representation of a particular value judgment made upon a character. A statement like "he's mad", for an instance like this, is little more than a declaration that someone is behaving in a way that the observer considers disordered by their norms.

What are the agreed boundaries in Doctor Who for what constitutes sane or insane behaviour? How sane are the Doctor's actions? Goth's? Davros's? Omega's? Tobias Vaughan's? Helen A's? Taren Capel's? Morgaine's? Sutekh's? Yartek's? One could go on with all kinds of examples. The series takes place in a fantasy universe where what qualifies as believable or credible doesn't always fit how it would in a naturalistic drama. And the means by which something is attempted may be extremely far-fetched by our standards, but, and in the case of the Master, there's rarely any great mystery about what he wants on a story by story basis. Usually it involves either conquering somewhere, gaining a power source, killing or humiliating the Doctor or both, or extending his own lifespan.

Moreover, a diagnosis of insanity in a character followed by an assumption that that's enough and that it need go no further isn't really an explanation so much as an attempt to duck out of one. If one wishes to analyse the motives or beliefs or ambitions of someone, simply saying that they're insane doesn't in itself simply make the trail grow cold or cut off inquiry.

Because the Master being insane would not disprove any of the possible ideas advanced forward for what his goals or reasons are - it is quite possible for both that and any of the latter to co-exist in the same person. Someone being insane doesn't necessarily mean that their ideals, motives, ambitions, nature, ideology and so on, have suddenly ceased to exist and are no longer relevant or meaningful to the subject.

For that matter, having an irritating noise in one's ears is a physical impediment, not a mental one, and while it might affect one's mood or emotions, it doesn't particularly follow that it would hinder one's judgement or capacity for reasoning.

Presumably the issue with the Cybermen is that they are acting as imperialists, seeking to conquer others and enforce their own prescriptions on them regardless of whether anyone agrees to it. It's not solely because they're in rubber suits but because they no sense of individuality, no apparent capacity for pleasure or joy, or, it would seem, anything other than an ambition to part of an increasing unity.

That's one thing which has never, for me, quite been satisfactorily resolved about the Cybermen, which is, waht exactly is their ultimate goal? Do they just want to convert humanity, or everyone they encounter, at least everyone humanoid? Are they intent on becoming the only existing intelligent life anywhere, like the Daleks, or is just people from Earth and Mondas that count? Either way, what's supposed to happen once they achieve that? What's the purpose of their existence going to be? If they get that far, why even bother with bodies at all? Why not just have their collective consciousness transferred into a computer and be a gestalt artificial intelligence? Is it gathering information that matters to them? Acquisition of wisdom until they know everything? And then what? Perhaps that might be a stage of perfection for them, when no further improvement or development is possible or anyway desirable. Maybe even a kind of silicon heaven.

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Steve O'Sullivan 3 years, 8 months ago

Here is a novice question. What do you mean when you talk about narrative collapse ? Are there any good examples of narrative collapse you can point me at ?

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

A primer for your use...
http://www.philipsandifer.com/2011/03/anybody-remotely-interesting-is-mad.html

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

Ooooo, been a long time since I saw that... still made me lolz!

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

I think the part where she turns into an omnicidal fanatic is really the part where it goes off the deep end. She's not the worst thing on Torchwood by a long mile.

As an Aside: The fact that you agree with me gives me more than a little squee. Big fan of your blog.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

Slavish adherence to a formula gave us the JNT era. Do we really want that attitude here?

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

No... but I'd still be interested in hearing two times the Eruditorum take on it.

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

The JNT era brought us Full Circle, Warrior's Gate, Logopolis, Kinda, Snakedance, Enlightenment, The Caves of Androzani, and (if you like this sort of thing) the last two seasons of McCoy. That's plenty of gems for me.

I'd say "slavish adherence to a formula" applies more to the Letts era than the wildly uneven JNT era, although since I happen to like the Letts era far more than is fashionable, I can't knock it too hard.

That said, I'm gonna throw my pebble in for "once was enough" on this one.

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David Thiel 3 years, 8 months ago

The Slitheen farts worked for me, not because it made them scarier, but because it was playing with the trope of aliens who look just like us except for one "tell." But the Toclafane? Yeah, the giggling was unsettling.

I like the idea of the "Doctor" chant better than the execution, but I will say that I'm sucker for a "villain hoist by his own petard" scene. The moment when Martha mentions the satellites gives me goose-bumps. I also love that Lucy Saxon joins in the chant. Really, if it wasn't for Dobby Doctor and Floaty Jesus Doctor, I'm absolutely fine with the rest of it.

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

I would credit the Last Two Seasons of McCoy to Cartmel rather than JNT. JNT gave us Attack of the Cybermen, Twin Dilemma, Sea Devils, Time Flight...I could go on. A tick-box style of creating Doctor Who.

I'd gladly sit down and watch some Letts. The Third Doctor is easily one of my favorite.

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David Thiel 3 years, 8 months ago

This is one of those times when I invoke--much to the chagrin of some--that the Incredible Shrinking Doctor exceeds my suspension of disbelief. People do shrink as they age, but that's due to cartilage loss and osteoporosis. And it's a couple of inches. (Yes,Time Lord physiognomy and all, but still, the Doctor's structurally human in all but a few details.)

And again, the main problem is that it just looks silly.

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Prole Hole 3 years, 8 months ago

Well that's kind of where the Cybermen fall down, isn't it? What's the point of them? Oh right, second-rate Daleks. But if we put that to one side their point is...

[open mouth flap] We. Survive. [close mouth flap]

The whole point of the Cybermen is that they've lost what is is to be human (at least in their original, Modasian form - I'll pass on the Cybusmen for now). They've replaced everything that was worth having, so now, essentially, they're a sort of robotic virus, replicating to survive but without any function, reason or purpose beyond that. All their conquering, killing, planet-destroying - it's all basically for nothing, because even as they do succeed in surviving it's a hollow, empty, futile life, and nothing can relieve them from that (not even a well prepared meal).

My problem with the Master being mad isn't that the drums have driven him mad, it's that "oh, he's mad" is the laziest cliché imaginable, and (other than maybe that scene with the Doctor and the Master on the phone to each other), there's no real attempt to engage with the fact that he really could be genuinely insane (a properly terrifying prospect), its just used as a bit of a fig leaf to explain away any amount of ridiculous "baroque schemes". If there was a character-based attempt to engage with it I could buy it, but what we have instead is a over the top (but fun) performance in an over the top (but fun) story (let down only by the Dob-tor and Floaty Jesus Doctor because, sorry, but they do deserve to be mentioned). How that differs from, say, Ainley in The Five Doctors or Delgado in Frontier In Space I don't really understand but they got to do it without the drumming fig leaf, And also, the "he's mad" line kind of lets the characer off the hook in a way I can't say I'm completely comfortable with because it relieves him of the burden of responsibility - oh it's not his fault he helped the Autons invade/tried to destroy Gallifrey/destroyed great swathes of the Universe/tried to found New Gallifrey on the ashes of Eath/insert silly plan here because oh look! He's insane! Ah well, that explains it then! If that's Ok for you, then well fair enough, but I'm not buying it. YMMV

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

Do you mean the Osterhagen business? Because yeah, that was ridiculous on all sorts of levels. Or is there something on Torchwood I don't know about?

And are you joking? You mean someone reads that besides me and like three of my friends? Well, thank you!

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Theonlyspiral 3 years, 8 months ago

Yeah. The Osterhagen thing was just...just so much worse than we could expect from any other companion in the Doctor's history. It mirrors the choice he couldn't make in "Bad Wolf"/"Parting of the Ways"...but that's a discussion for another time. Torchwood has other problems than Martha.

And I am not Joking.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

"failures on the "Twin Dilemma" that went far past a mis-use of CG Elves and Christian Imagery. Fundamental failures in basic scripting, costuming, casting....take your pick. There were mistakes made here, but the scale is important."

I'm no fan of The Twin Dilemma, and certainly I think it was the kind of misjudged idea that points to the chemically run producership of JNT. On first viewing I couldn't get past the first cliffhanger it was so awful, but having said that, to echo another commentator on Sandifer's entry on the story, it's hard to justify calling it the 'worst story ever' when it's not even the worst story of its season

I don't think it was quite the death knell for the show's popularity either (and I say that as someone who thinks the show had well run its course by Season 19 and might as well have ended there). Certainly I don't think the ratings for Season 22 were any worse than the previous year. Infact for me the only real moment of suicide for the show's public credibility and vitality was in Time and the Rani. In a way that even the Trial season wasn't. Even the worst of Colin's era can be occasionally strangely compelling in its sourness in a way that at least provokes curiosity, but the empty, tediously pat Season 24 offered nothing that the viewer wasn't already pages ahead of.

Although I do think that like its Season 21 bookend, what's particularly depressing about both Twin Dilemma and Warriors is just how utterly expendable they both are. And infact had they never made it to screen, then everything of Season 21 would have been enhanced and improved, particularly the Fifth Doctor's self sacrifice in Caves.

Sadly the presence of Warriors and Twin Dilemma render their respective Doctor so unlikeable and dishonourable that it almost undercuts everything noble that Caves strives to visualise about him (he may be surrounded by cut-throat scum in that story but in the context of Warriors of the Deep perhaps they're right to not give him a chance to sell them down the river for his own twisted loyalties first). And really it wouldn't be any skin off the show's nose if Attack of the Cybermen had been Colin's debut instead, which for all its faults did at least give the impression of a show returning to its rightful place on Saturday nights.......

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

....This is particularly damning since seasons prior would feel like they were missing something if even their worst stories had never made it to screen, as indeed Seasons 17 and 20 both did for losing their planned finale to strike action (though a part of me oft wishes we could have lost The King's Demons too)- even though Resurrection of the Daleks did make it to screen eventually in all its messy glory, its presence at the end of Season 20 would have been far more appropriate. Given the silly black-hatted pantomime villainy elsewhere in that season it would have been a far greater spike in the stakes to have the Daleks at their nastiest finally turn up after all the light warm up acts. The spurious Dalek plan to assassinate the High Council might feel more fitting as a bookend to Arc of Infinity (likewise the' presence of Dalek armies would make it a nice semi-detached neighbour to the Five Doctors' parade of Cybermen), and it would also compliment Terminus' concept of space plagues and lonely penal outposts in the wilderness of space. Plus you've also got something of a darker echo of Snakedance in the Doctor's mind-scanning sequence. Much like in Snakedance the Fifth Doctor -the humble, uncertain, vulnerable juvenile courier of the more formiddable, decisive, Doctor's buried essence and all its ruthless nature- has to be driven to find his buried centre in order to regain his old strength and enlightenment (which presumably had gone into retreat after the events of Keeper of Traken/Logopolis once the Doctor realised he was susceptible to being telepathically hunted by the Master, which resulted in his predecessor's death). He comes away from the mind analysis pushed back to his past and in the process regaining something of his First incarnation's caveman-bludgeoning ruthlessness, and a pragmatic sense of direct action asserts itself leading him to be briefly prepared to destroy Davros and next the Master once and for all. Twin Dilemma therefore marks the ultimate violent eruption of all that buried essence (though having said that, I somehow doubt the creators themselves understood this).

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Phil's Eruditorum post on Twin Dilemma certainly broke down just how contradictory the justifications for every idea behind the story's concept, production and scheduling were, and it certainly made me ponder what anyone was seriously thinking, and I realised that what they were gambling on was - on paper - an audaciously thrilling idea of closing the season with the familiar, warm, compassionate and reassuring Fifth Doctor suddenly repalced with this rather unsettling, unsympathetic cold void where he used to be.

Which should on paper be a testament to not just the alien-ness of the Doctor, but also how Doctor Who really is unlike any other show and can do things no other series can. And I suspect JNT believed that a more spiky, belligerent Doctor would be a more immediately resonant and iconic one (again not exactly faulty thinking considering it worked with Eccleston's Doctor). In the most altruistic reading, Twin Dilemma should have emphasised the beauty of the Doctor's noble nature through it's very absence, in the same way as Mindwarp and the Unbound story Deadline kind of did more successfully. What went wrong of course was the childish character excesses and the narratively illiterate journey the story took.

Nothing sums this up more than the Sixth Doctor rubbishing his predecessor's 'feckless charm'. A moment that poignantly reaffirms that the Fifth Doctor is gone and that this new guy is someone else entirely. Logically the character journey from here should involve the Doctor in the end winning Peri and the viewer over by showing a more compassionate side, or him realising the folly of his own coldness. Neither happens and instead we just get more obnoxious unpleasantries.

Judged on those terms of course the more emotional, character focus of the New Series can only be seen as an improvement (although personally I've always felt even on that score the New Series was just a poor man's Big Finish and much of the character work in the audios, particularly the likes of Davros, Chimes of Midnight, Circular Time, Dalek Empire puts the new series to shame). However even then I see at least a basic respect for plot mechanics and narrative resolution in Twin Dilemma, and even in Time and the Rani that just isn't there at all in Last of the Time Lords' 'oh it was all a dream' ending.

And on that score the upping of the scale only makes its effect more far reaching and disastrous. I never came away from Twin Dilemma thinking that now any crisis or drama in the show could just be magicked away without any real effort (perhaps it doesn't help that the lavish budgets of New Who further convey a sense of it being too easy and no sweat and nothing being particularly fraught or strived for anymore). Twin Dilemma was offensive, but even in that it was a sign that I still cared. After Last of the Time Lords, even that became impossible. Basically if anything can happen, then nothing is interesting.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Good thing it was only for the one story then. For me they pretty much killed BSG in its third series which was too depressing and too mean-spirited for too long to the point I couldn't care anymore (I remember one sci-fi geek girl saying how she stopped watching early on that season after her boyfriend advised her if she found the first few episodes too depressing, it only gets worse from here).

Not sure why but I've never found the similar apocalyptic approach of Threads too depressing. Infact there's something almost reassuringly cautionary about it- almost a message of appreciating the intact world that still does exist in the real world, and be grateful this apocalypse hasn't happened.

Bugt something happened in Series 3. Each episode began with the listed figures of surviving humans and the stake in preserving as many lives as possible, but after watching the crew pummel each other near to death in the boxing ring and the lynchings (or rather 'spacings') of suspected collaborators who had the audacity to decline to take the bullet from their Cylon rulers when given the choice... I began to stop caring and say- go ahead, commit self-genocide if you want to.

I've always appreciated how with a few unfortunate Sawardian exceptions such as Warriors of the Deep, and Dalek Empire IV- The Fearless, Doctor Who is usually about defying the inevitable and pulling hope from the jaws of defeat with a bit of improvisation.

Thank Frak....

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Am I the only one who liked The Rings of Akhaten?

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David Thiel 3 years, 8 months ago

JNT was one who hired Cartmel, and continued overseeing the show during his tenure. It's not fair that he gets the blame for Saward, but not the praise for Cartmel. He made some huge mistakes, but he kept the show on the air well past its sell-by date and was there for a fair number of agreed-upon classics.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

I'd sum up the JNT era as a period of the most eccentric decline of a TV show. Like encyclops I'm occasionally impressed by what a strange and compelling daring cliche-crusher 80's Who could often be, such as in the acidic Revelation of the Daleks. And yet there's a strange blurring of the line where somehow the gold gradually became less prominent and more an occasional freak anomaly before normal transmission resumed with something uninspiring like The King's Demons. Add to that the kind of stories that even as standalones seemed to achieve a critical mass of show-wrecking awfulness like Warriors of the Deep, Twin Dilemma, Time and the Rani (whilst usually even the worst written or produced story is redeemed by the presence and charm of the Doctor as a character, all three stories commit the cardinal and impressive sin of making the portrayal of the Doctor by far the worst, most repulsive thing about them) and it began to seem like if even the strength of Caves of Androzani couldn't turn the show around for the better then nothing could.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

"JNT was one who hired Cartmel, and continued overseeing the show during his tenure. It's not fair that he gets the blame for Saward, but not the praise for Cartmel. He made some huge mistakes, but he kept the show on the air well past its sell-by date and was there for a fair number of agreed-upon classics."

I'd argue that in a sane world, JNT would have replaced Eric with Barbara Clegg back in 1983 who had a far better understanding of the show than either Saward or Cartmel. Hell listening to her Lost Stories audios it makes me weep for how The Elite could have been the Classic Series' very own Jubilee, and Point of Entry could have been Classic Who's very own Vincent and the Doctor, 20 years ahead of their time.

Also Saward can be blamed for a lot, but he also had JNT making his job of finding better writers near impossible. He had to fight to get Holmes back on board, and indeed lost the fight when trying to get PJ Hammond to write something for the Trial season. So instead we ended up with Pip and Jane Baker.

The bits of gold we got in the Saward era (Earthshock, Enlightenment, Caves, Varos), I'd argue was *because* of Saward, and in *spite* of JNT. I can only weep for how many potential classics there could have been under a less obstinate producer.

Cartmel may seem to have had a more impressive track record, but then he was (a) afforded more creative freedom, and (b) only had half as many stories to assemble per season. It's like when Season 26 gets lauded as the most consistent season when the same effect could be achieved by dividing any other prior mixed bag season into halves (i.e. Full Circle to Keeper of Traken or Kinda to Earthshock).

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

I enjoyed it.. Not perfect but certainly not deserving of the negativity thrown against it. But then, I really enjoyed the Clara half of season 7 more than most people..

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Assad K 3 years, 8 months ago

I do have to say, the murder of the journalist was pretty nasty. I mean, she is clearly in agony for several minutes, but the door-opening-door-closing seems played for laughs. Seemed a bit poorly calculated. (and again, makes the Doctors sorrow at the Masters death a bit..odd.)

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Well I’ve often gone along with the view that they should have just ended the show on Logopolis. At that point the Master was still enough of a mythic foe and the story felt titanic enough that it could have ended the show on a note of how the Fourth Doctor has fallen, but his successor rises, and that whilst the Master escapes, the fight still goes on and therefore the story/legend goes on.

And the thing is, I probably wouldn’t feel that way if it were possible to have –with an exception made for Castrovalva- simply jettisoned and erased the undesirable bookends of Seasons 19-21. Just a bit of nip and tuck could have redeemed and enhanced the 80’s, and indeed have redeemed the Ainley Master.

I might not even have minded if they’d revisited the Master occasionally after Castrovalva. In and of itself there’s little wrong with having him be part of the celebrations in The Five Doctors (even if I do niggle about why the Time Lords would recruit someone who nearly destroyed their whole world back in The Deadly Assassin), and indeed he was fairly in his element amidst Gallifreyan politics so he would be nearly as welcome in the denouement of Trial (especially since his creator, Holmes was finally writing him again one last time).

To me that actually was the closest they came to really utilising ‘the Master as dark Doctor’ (bearing in mind I’ve long felt Davros was far more of a dark Doctor, to the point of even having bits of the crankiness of Hartnel). Infact the final episode where the Doctor and Master form an alliance to fight against the Valeyard always struck me as taking the Doctor into very morally dodgy territory, since I’d imagine the Doctor would want the Valeyard alive, for the sake of unanswered questions if nothing else, yet surely he knows the Master would likely kill the Valeyard in cold blood and by agreeing to help him, he’d be culpable in that.

Speaking of the Time Lord connection I wouldn’t even mind him being in Mark of the Rani, just to give Colin an early ease in (the scene where he pulls a gun on the Master would also be a good way to demonstrate how different this Doctor is to Davison), and to retain the Rani’s character.

I do think Survival is very overrated. I mean I think it starts very promisingly but by episode 3 it turns into an utterly random mess, and the way the Doctor lands back on Earth mid-fight without explanation leaves you wondering ‘what on Earth was all that about?’… hell it might have been better to end the story with the Doctor and Master still fighting to the death on the burning cheetah world and thus finish the show on a big cliffhanger. But it gets oft lauded enough and I can’t argue with the assertion that it uses the Master better than most 80’s stories.

If it was done this way, the TV Movie I’d still keep, since it does put the biggest stake through the character once and for all (or so I hoped at the time).

What’s really frustrating is that keeping him limited to just those few stories, they could work as a neat little arc. After the Master’s trapped in Castrovalva, it’s the Time Lords who time-scoop him out, and then it’s either Rassilon or the Inquisitor who exiles him to the Cheetah planet. All the other Davison episodes he was in just get in the way of that and make his recurrences far less welcome/foreboding and more tedious and tiresome (infact retaining only The Five Doctors and Survival and the Master retains a far deadlier dangerous streak such as in the Cybermassacre on the chessboard and his grooming of Midge’s gang into killers).

But then the 80’s has that way of throwing neatness to the wind for the sake of excess.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

“And what about the Toclafane? The Master has already turned whatever was left of humanity in the far future into giggling sociopaths, and the Doctor .. can't do anything to avert that? That's rather depressing.”

This is why I much preferred the similar take on the future of humanity in the audio Singularity. There is no hope in the end, but the story doesn’t sweep the concept under the carpet in the cavalier way that RTD did. It ends with the Doctor basically visiting the very last human as they die, which in its own way is comforting in that the Doctor makes sure that even being the last of their kind they don’t die alone.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the Toclafane’s more natural habitat being Series One when they were originally conceived and designed as Dalek substitutes. In a lot of ways their inclusion in Parting of the Ways would have made far more sense than the story that was screened. It’d make more sense for them to keep humanity sedate on hedonistic trash TV than for the Daleks to. It’d make more sense for them to develop an insane God complex than for the Daleks to, given that Daleks are the ultimate materialists. The harvesting idea could still work, and the Doctor’s misanthropy towards humanity or ‘stupid apes’ that season would make more sense too if it turned out it was us who destroyed Gallifrey rather than the Time Lords (and thus Rose really would be redeeming him). So too would the Doctor’s moral dilemma (which makes even less sense than his supposed ‘dilemma’ in Warriors of the Deep). There’s no reason the Doctor should hesitate to wipe out the Daleks if it saves humanity, so I never ‘got’ his refusal to press the switch, to the point where I vividly remember thinking he was going to come to his senses any moment and press the button after all, and that the Daleks would destroy the switch just to make sure he couldn’t (I still really don’t get why they didn’t either).

However, put the Toclafane in that position and suddenly it all makes sense. The Doctor is pressed with the task of destroying humanity in order to save humanity, and to effectively cut off the last of futurekind’s only viable escape route. And I did pick up on some hint in the scene that maybe the Doctor’s supposed to hope that if allowed to live, and even if allowed to conquer the galaxy, the Daleks made from human flesh just might in the future begin to demonstrate other redeeming human attributes of compassion, and this vain hope would be more lucid if it was the Toclafane he was dealing with (therefore Rose destroying them would be more morally tenable to him, since they’re ‘her’ species and therefore she has more right to make the choice and end them).

In terms of the question of our future, maybe the answer, or at least the moment of catharsis would be in Rose’s scene of saying ‘that fight’s happening now’ and ‘you say no!’. Where maybe she’s not just declaring an intent to stop the Toclafane but hoping by saying so, and coaxing her family to do likewise, she can outright refuse to let her species become the Toclafane, so that future doesn’t have to happen.

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Iain Coleman 3 years, 8 months ago

I never saw the shrunken, aged Doctor as Dobby the House Elf. To me, he was the Cumaean Sybil.

One of the famous stories about the Sybil of Cumae is that Apollo granted her one wish. She held up a hand full of sand and wished to live for as many years as there were grains of sand in her hand. Unfortunately, she neglected to ask for eternal youth, and ended up wizened and shrunken by age, living in a jar.

The account given by Petronius includes the famous passage quoted in The Waste Land:

I saw myself, with my own eyes, the Sibyl of Cumae hanging in a bottle; and when the boys asked her: "Sibyl, what do you want?" she responded: "I want to die."

It might seem a less obvious connection than Dobby, but Davies did read English literature at Oxford, and I'd be surprised if he hadn't read The Waste Land.

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Henry R. Kujawa 3 years, 8 months ago

Interesting commentary on the "slash" thing.

My own favorite Master stories are TERROR OF THE AUTONS, THE MIND OF EVIL, THE CLAWS OF AXOS, THE DAEMONS, THE TIME MONSTER (yes, that's what I said), and later, THE FIVE DOCTORS and SURVIVAL.

Tommy, I've read your commentary on RESSURECTION OF THE DALEKS as the season 20 finale before, but it remains brilliant. MY GOD, it really should have been the finale. After that, THE FIVE DOCTORS would have been such a wonderful breath of fresh air, even more so than it was.

Funny thing... I recently watched a rather long marathon of just the WHO stories I liked... I watched DESTINY, and REVELATION and REMEMBRANCE, but skipped both GENESIS and RESSURECTION, because I really just don't like either of them. But later, I found myself watching a specifically "Daleks" marathon, and that time, I did watch RESSURECTION. I've gotten so used to watching "the entire series" (thanks to my enormous videotape collection) that's it's actually quite fun to just pick and choose, or even jump about and watch some stories deliberately out of sequence. (There was a few weeks where I was actually alternating between Davison, Colin & Sylvester between every story!)

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 8 months ago

I loved "Rings of Akhaten", too, Tommy; it was truly one of those "life-afirming" stories that you love to champion so much. :-)

Even if the resolution was a bit bungled, it was all magical and wondrous... in a way that didn't make me feel like the story was betraying itself (as many of RTD's "life-affirming" attempts often did).

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Scott 3 years, 8 months ago

This is one of the things that kind of gets to me about Ten: he'll bend over backwards to try and rescue / redeem psychopathic genocidal world-killers who've repeatedly shown that they're beyond redemption, but come the (relatively) less monstrous monster-of-the-week, suddenly it's all "no second chances" and over-the-top grim-faced ruthlessness.

I mean, yes, there are valid plot motivations for this (or some of them, at least), but it does kind of make Ten out to be a bit of a hypocrite at times.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 8 months ago

"Yeah. Dude kills a tenth of the population to make a grammar pedantry joke, meh. Dude hits his wife? Monster."

It was also a hell of a stealth-pun.

Not only does the Master decimate the world's population, he decimates the cast...he reduces it by one Tenth.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 8 months ago

Okay...My take on the Master's scheme.

It's all a sick practical joke.

There is no "reset button"...the paradox was already stretched to the breaking point, and when Jack damaged its control mechanism, the rubber-band effect came into play. It's like the Chameleon Arch: everything resets back to normal because the "proper" or "natural" timeline is so eager to reassert itself. Also, the transition from TARDIS to Paradox Machine was extremely painful, just as the transition from Doctor to John Smith was.

The Master's...modification...of the Doctor's timeship is almost like rape in a way.

And the Toclafane...the Master has taken the Doctor's favorite species and utterly ruined them.


Still, there's something very interesting going on here: the Master is using the Toclafane to create a new species of Time Lords. This carries over into "End of Time," when the Master Race successfully brings the Time Lords back.

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

Another Akhaten fan here, absolutely!

It's especially good when read metaphorically -- any bungles at the literal level make a lot more sense when considered in a different light. Mostly, though, it's a story begging us to go back and read it closely, a lot of overt symbolism and some keen shots, from the opening montage (especially that gate swinging shut) to the juxtaposition of accepting death (the decaying leaf) and how it confers eternity (the return of the ring.)

Also, there's a certain repeated word that evidences the source of the overall conceit. No wonder the episode took so much flak.

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jane 3 years, 8 months ago

The only reason to do Dobby Doctor is to squeeze in a Birdcage reference. Only adds to Phil's queer reading.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

Mind of Evil was a rare case of the Doctor trying to kill the Master, but in Time Monster he pleads for his release. Then it's repeated in King's Demons, despite the atrocities of Logopolis.

In Genesis he doesn't refuse to kill the Daleks, he hesitates. it's a moment of doubt, not a mission statement, and perhaps the Doctor believes he's got enough time to consider the consequences first. They're embryos in no position to commit these future atrocities, and the Doctor questions if killing them now in this helpless state is the only answer. But in later Dalek stories it's a choice the Doctor regrets.

I've always argued Warriors of the Deepwas an abberation. Ostensibly a Space 1999 story padded out beyond a 45 minute format, thus forcing the artificial stretching of its moral dilemma till the Doctor degenerated into anti-humanity hissy fits and sycophancy towards genocidal lizards, suffering confused message from Eric's rewrites. Typical of Levine's influence too. Past Doctor's motivations were based on recent events so even casual viewers late to the story could be on the same page as him, which had a side effect of painting the Doctor as someone who doesn't hold grudges, but that's turned on its head to have the Doctor blinkeredly ignore the ongiong massacre of humans because he's suddenly still vindictive over misremembered events from a 12 year old story (considering only a story before he was perfectly chummy with the Brigadier).

But one could make a case that the Doctor was preserving a desperate, endangered minority who feared mankind's global nuclear power, and saw no hope of peaceful co-existence with a race that evidently cant even co-exist with itself without near nuking the planet.

RTD wanted Tennant to be some return to Davison's Doctor, and in that he made that Levine error of valuing precedent over all else.

Also when RTD revived the show he seemed worried the old Doctors would be untennable to modern viewers by being too brainy, snooty or geeky or behind the times (perhaps fearing that these days Tom Baker on a council estate preaching about anti-violence would likely get beat up), so he reinvented the Doctor into rough macho Eccleston (with a Time War-trauma backstory that RTD made up as he went along) and initially continued the tough talk with Tennant ('no second chances' seemed to be the answer to Eccleston's failure in Parting of the Ways). It made sense too. 45 minute stories require a more belligerent Doctor to force the enemy's hand.

But gradually Doctor Who is in a secure position (and perhaps RTD personally felt burned by Eccleston's jumping ship the way he did). From hereon there's a conscious effort to erase the Ninth Doctor. Cassandra's death is undone, 'stupid apes' becomes 'you amazing humans!'. Journey's End goes further and has our hero banish an Eccleston proxy, and End of Time retcons Rose's first meeting with the Doctor to be Tennant.

As the show becomes more comfortably Doctor Who (I found Series 4 so refreshingly old school and truer to the old series that if RTD's era had started there I'd have been very happy with it), and the Doctor becomes more like Warriors of the Deep's sanctimonious, sycophantic Doctor.

There's pragmatic, altruistic reasons the Doctor should save the Master. Namely to transform him back into Yana so he can save futurekind. Instead we got meaningless emotional histrionics. If anything that the evil Master lives while Susan and Romana died should make him sick.

RTD said he was avoiding Human Nature's darkness and that fans can 'complain if you want to'. Perhaps 'I forgive you' was to spite Cornell's work and childishly declare 'no, this is what my Doctor does because it's my show'.

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

Your association is far more literary than mine, but he always reminds me of the wizened little Guardian from "The Doomsday Weapon"...er, "Colony In Space." That same...special effect? costume? appears in an early Blake's 7 episode which my girlfriend happened to watch and now she can't hear me mention Blake's 7 without referring to him. She calls him "Fetusman."

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encyclops 3 years, 8 months ago

I forgot to mention it earlier, but my favorite part of this essay is your wife's contribution to it and your reaction to the same. Priceless.

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liminalD 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm not saying you're wrong about Martha and Mickey, Alan September, but I really didn't see it that way when I watched The End of Time. I personally thought Martha and Mickey made a sort of sense, as both were unfairly rejected to some extent, Martha by the Doctor and Mickey by Rose. By leaving her Doctor-substitute Tom Milligan and marrying someone quite different, I feel that Martha finally left the Doctor for good - sure, in name Mickey's a replacement Smith to her Jones, but he's a very different man, one who will be utterly committed to her, who knows how it feels to be overlooked and left behind. Same for Mickey - Martha has shown us that she's absolutely devoted to the man she loves, in a way Rose never was toward him. I see them as being potentially a pretty complementary pair. Ultimately, I think the racial reading is a rather shallow one, that both Mickey and Martha are black is just a superficiality that RTD unfortunately never considered might come across that way - he was, I think, pretty good overall with ethnic and racial representation (always room for improvement though).

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

I think it’s more than the fact that the Goblin Doctor looks silly, but that, well ageing the Doctor to a wheelchair-bound geriatric is problematic (we know at the back of our mind that he’s going to be restored to health, so it’s hard to invest) but just about works as showing Tennant being vulnerable in a way he too rarely was seen (at that point, before Midnight anyway). Like Lawrence Miles said in The Leisure Hive, making the Doctor seem violable and like he might snuff it any moment. But come the Goblin Doctor the stakes are raised far too high to the point where briefly it looks like the Doctor’s been dusted, but come the moment he emerges shrunken from his jacket it’s immediately clear that if this didn’t kill the Doctor then nothing will, so suddenly the high stakes become no stakes at all.

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Tommy 3 years, 8 months ago

“No wonder the episode took so much flak.”

I must say I still don’t for the life of me understand the fan hatred of Rings of Akhaten which really took me by surprise at the time (Matthew might remember MaverickAl from the IMDB boards particularly hated it), and personally I’d been dismayed by Series 7 up to that point (partly because of the predictable Chibnall drag factor) before Rings really turned me around and got me back onboard. It was beautiful and could really emotionally invest in it in a way I hadn’t been able to do with most episodes after LKH.

I guess for many fans it commits the cardinal sin of being a children’s musical, but by God it’s a good one. Indeed it looks and sounds almost like a children’s musical as produced by an alien/future culture might conceivably look and sound like. And performed with the kind of unfaltering courage and conviction that I didn’t think British TV was capable of after Judi Bowker disappeared from our screens in the mid-80’s.

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Matthew Celestis 3 years, 8 months ago

The Big Finish 'Season 27' Lost Stories are a good indication that a Cartmel produced show might not have been all that impressive.

JNT probably does deserve credit for at least some of the sparkle of the McCoy era.

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Matthew Celestis 3 years, 8 months ago

I like Rings of Akhaten. It's the closest thing to a decent story under Moffat.

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Henry R. Kujawa 3 years, 8 months ago

Steve Sullivan:
"Here is a novice question. What do you mean when you talk about narrative collapse ? Are there any good examples of narrative collapse you can point me at ?"

THANK you so much for asking this question.

Many times reading this blog, I've been reminded of an old book I once read on horror movies. The author, for the entire length of the book, kept repeatedly referring to "GRAND GUIGNOL". And NOT ONCE in the entire book did the guy ever once explain what the hell he was referring to.

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Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

I will note here that the bit in the TVM where The Master is getting sucked into the Eye of Harmony, and the Doctor reaches out to save him is one of the few moments in the whole thing where it felt genuinely like it might turn into actual Doctor Who.

(Of course, I've had fans tell me that no, that was the worst moment, because it contradicted the bit at the end of The Deadly Assassin where the Doctor makes a special point of saying that he hopes the Master is dead.)

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Ross 3 years, 7 months ago

I liked bits of Akhaten. I didn't think it held together well as a whole. Something like someone tried to do a Hartnell serial and edit it down to 45 minutes, but did it purely by making cuts rather than by restructuring the story in accordance with how you pace a 45 minute story.

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Tommy 3 years, 7 months ago

I'd happily rate it as the best story of Season 7, but for my money Moffat's era has given us at least two stories I'd rate above it as New Who's best. Namely Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (though I acknowledge River's smuggitude can be a bit much for some) and The Girl Who Waited.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

The only Season 7 stories that didn't really engage me were the Gatiss pair. Certainly many were flawed or didn't entirely work, but I don't think anything was a turkey other than Power of Three. (And that could have been brilliant if Chibnall had thought of a strong ending for it to serve as build up to.)

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BerserkRL 3 years, 7 months ago

Dude kills a tenth of the population to make a grammar pedantry joke

Technically it was vocabulary pedantry, not grammar pedantry. As is this.

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BerserkRL 3 years, 7 months ago

I wish Martha had had Earth's population sing "Doctor in Distress."

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BerserkRL 3 years, 7 months ago

See also the myth of Tithonus.

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 7 months ago

Really? I thought "A Town Called Mercy" and "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" were the big turkeys for Series 7, myself... :-S

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mengu 3 years, 7 months ago

She´s willing to risk her life, her family, her planet, her entire speices to stop the Daleks and save the universe... I don´t see why you'd find that unacceptable.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm with you, Matthew. I didn't love "Akhaten" but I didn't hate it. "A Town Called Mercy" made me furious.

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encyclops 3 years, 7 months ago

My problem with the Osterhagen sequence was mostly about what it was, why they would have it, and the clumsy way it was talked about ("No! Not the Osterhagen key!"), and, I'm afraid, Agyeman's performance in those scenes (though perhaps it's the script's fault; I'm loath to blame sainted Graeme Harper). It wasn't about the choice to use it, though Theonlyspiral may have had other issues with it than I did.

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Assad K 3 years, 7 months ago

The ending of 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.. whereas 'Power Of Three's ending made me feel as if someone had lost a few IQ points somewhere.. shame, really, as the rest of each episode was for the most part marvelous. And, Bryan! 'Mercy's' major flaw is the one that has been expressed here.. that really? The Doctor gets mad enough to threaten this villain of the week who is pretty small potatoes compared to many of his foes - like THE MASTER? And who then conveniently removes himself from the narrative.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years, 7 months ago

@ Kit Power: and what's even more screwed up is that this comes after his "let's leave Earth and spread our collateral damage throughout a universe full of innocent people because humans are the most specialest ever". It turns the "on-screen, individual people are what counts" method of storytelling into really appalling solipsism about the uber-important Lord of Time and his friends.

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liminal fruitbat 3 years, 7 months ago

Another Akhaten fan here; it brought back the strange wonder of falling out of the world that we hadn't seen properly since The End of the World.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 7 months ago

...Although, David, remember that the Doctor isn't aging naturally. The Laser Screwdriver is force-aging him.

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David Anderson 3 years, 7 months ago

I think Journey to the Centre was my favourite episode of the series not written by Moffat, though Hide is close. Possibly my favourite episode of the second half absolutely.
I've seen just about every episode of the series described as a turkey by someone; and just about every episode defended. Though I've maybe not seen any enthusiastic defence for Town Called Mercy.

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Triturus 3 years, 7 months ago

I thought Journey to the Centre was great too. I just found it incredibly intense. The idea of being chased through a maze by a burned zombie version of your future self; I found that such a chilling idea. Some real horror touches, like the crispy Doctor with his arm welded permanently to his head. That was an episode that would have scared the pants off me as a child.

Akhtaten in my opinion tries to do wonderful things but falls short of being wonderful. There are lots of lovely images and scenes; like the fleeting glimpses of aliens such as the 'hoody' ones with starfield faces, and the whole exotic marketplace vibe is great early in the episode. But I found the 'talking to the angry planet scene' just a bit much. And the whole setup is just a bit wrong IMO. An obviously intelligent spacefaring race (or races) have been sacrificing citizens to their "god" for millions of years, but in all that time, they've never thought "hang on, this is a bit off", until the Doctor comes along and points it out to them? This is a little bit like the colonial Doctor Who of old, warning the Aztecs to change their ways or else. (Given that this is an episode that consciously calls back to the Hartnell area, this could well be deliberate).

But I can't complain too much. Overall, season 7 is probably my favourite season of Dr Who ever.

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Triturus 3 years, 7 months ago

Each screaming girl just hoped
A Toclafane wouldn't slice her into little pieces

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 7 months ago

Tommy, while you were, um... on sabbatical, I guess... another fellow on here, Froborr, hypothesized on the "Bad Wolf"/"Parting of the Ways" entry how the Toclafane might have been utilized in RTD's original conception of Series 1... and it is BRILLIANT: :-D

"Ever since learning that the Toclafane were the original planned Big Bads of the season, I've been pondering what this episode would have looked like.

My theory (which also assumes that Eccleston wasn't originally supposed to leave at the end of the season):

This episode would reveal the Toclafane are the future of humanity, and their attack on Earth would not be with the intent of slaughtering the humans but of converting them into Toclafane, closing a time loop. (Which is why the Time Lords never figured out where they came from; they are an ontological paradox that has no origin.)

The Doctor sends Rose back in the TARDIS as in the episode we saw, and her conversations with Jackie and Mickey about "a better way" are the same, as is the battle on the station.

But then Lynda unlocks the Archive, which has been sealed since the station was built. Inside? The TARDIS. As a holographic, elderly Rose appears and narrates/flashes back, we learn Rose played the REAL Long Game, founding the Bad Wolf Corporation to quietly prepare for and avert the future she saw, to give humanity that better way represented by the Doctor--learning to use the TARDIS in a limited way, to record this message and to scatter Bad Wolf as a message to herself, an ontological paradox to fight the ontological paradox of the Toclafane.

The rebellion to which Suki (and, it's now revealed, Lynda) belonged? Part of the plan. The Bad Wolf Corporation even put itself in a position to win the contract to build the station, just so they could hide the TARDIS on it.

Why? Because there's one last gift from Rose inside--a Delta Wave refiner. Toclafane go boom, timeloop that created them in the first place is (apparently?) broken, and the Doctor and his new companion Lynda set off again, though not without some sadness at the loss of Jack and Rose.

Dunno if this would have actually been as good as what we got. Probably not, but still better than the actual use of the Toclafane."

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Matthew Blanchette 3 years, 7 months ago

The characters of "Journey" were just incredibly stupid... and the burning zombie thing just came out of nowhere for me, to start with. A better writer probably would have come up with a much better TARDIS story; methinks Stephen Thompson should've swapped briefs with Gatiss or perhaps Cross...

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jane 3 years, 7 months ago

@Tommy: "I must say I still don’t for the life of me understand the fan hatred of Rings of Akhaten"

I understand the hatred just fine, even though I completely disagree with it. Akhaten is overtly sentimental. It's going for the heartstrings, it's not playing up the fear factor, it's playing in the sandbox of religion, it's exploring an alien culture with an eye towards accessibility rather than estrangement, it's the "children's" episode of the season, it's musical, it's symbolic, and it's almost entirely character driven.

It is, in short, completely anathema to everything that an anorak stands for. Oh, and it harkens to one of the most reviled or at least polarizing series finales ever to come out of Hollywood.

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Ununnilium 3 years, 7 months ago

Nicolas: ...oh, man, I never thought of it that way. XD

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 7 months ago

I just had another "My God, it's brilliant!" moment.

The Archangel Network (which just so happens to make the Doctor look like the Archangel when he uses its effects) is an amplification of the TARDIS' telepathic circuits. The satellites carry the effect all over the world, but it all comes from the TARDIS.

It's a variation on the effect the Doctor has on people--they "just so" happen to take him at his word. It's also a corruption of the psychic paper, which displays whatever the user wants to show.

It's also also a commentary on "truthiness," to quote Stephen Colbert. The people of Britain elect Harold Saxon not on the strengths of his campaign, but on a subconscious gut feeling (post-hypnotic suggestion) that he's "an OK guy." In "The Christmas Invasion," the Doctor says "you can hypnotize people...but you can't hypnotize them to death." The Master does just that, but in a much more roundabout way.

Furthermore, I get the feeling that the Master went to all that trouble just for the sake of a few particularly cruel puns: "What this country needs is a Doctor," and "...reduced by one Tenth."

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

Speaking of poor Midge, right up until his death, I was convinced that the Master was grooming Midge to take over his body in the event of the Master's own death. Ainley would have a good finish and be replaced a young, sexy, predatory Master wearing a stylish hip suit instead of a stage magician's costume. Pity it never happened.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

I mentioned my own fanwanky explanation of the Toclafane in the comments for Utopia. My idea is that the Doctor, at some point in the future, will provide the last humans with the technology the Time Lords would have used to ascend into an energy being state in End of Time. The last humans would have used it to ascend and survive the Big Crunch in that state. The Toclafane were so evil and deranged because they were the utterly material dross left behind when the best characteristics of Humanity were removed as part of the ascension process.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

I found the Osterhagen subplot to be almost uplifting. Thanks to the Doctor and the Master, humanity has learned just how bad interactions with aliens can be, since they can apparently invade from beyond time and will sometimes hunt humans to extinction "because it's fun." And Martha was not omnicidal in Journey's End, just willing to kill off the human race (of just one universe) if that's what it took to stop the real omnicidal fanatics. Remember, had Donna not entered God Mode in the most absurd deus ex machina to date, the Osterhagen key really was the only way to derail the Dalek plan for multiversal genocide. In fact, given the fact that Martha knew what the Osterhagen Key did when even all-knowing Jack had never heard of it, I'm assuming the scheme was devised by UNIT people to whom Martha told everything about the Year of Hell. In the face of the Master and the Toclafane possibly returning to transform the whole planet back into an abattoir, the Osterhagen Key seems like a rational response to me.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

Personally, I hated Akhaten because the entire plot depended on an adorable moppet who eventually defeats the Big Bad by singing to it. And when her own singing wasn't enough, everyone else joined in her song, just like Cindy Lou Who and all the Whos down in Whoville.

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David Thiel 3 years, 7 months ago

I hated Akhaten for none of those reasons. I hated it because it ended with the Doctor shouting at a planet with a face.

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Nicholas Tosoni 3 years, 7 months ago

So, Alan, you mean they're like a chrysalis after the butterfly inside has already spread its wings...and also Qlippothic.



("Bingo!" someone in the back said.)

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

The problem is that there was a fairly good explanation of the term, but it was from The Chase, a 1st season Hartnell story. Many of the blog's recurring concepts (narrative collapse, alchemy and material social progress, the symbolism of mercury, the Qlippoth) presume that the reader has read the blog all the way from An Unearthly Child through the current update.:)

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

HAH! Not twenty seconds ago, I posted to another entry and referenced Qlippoth as one of the recurring words/phrases that is often completely baffling to new readers! Literally not twenty seconds ago! I love this blog.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

Can we compromise and call the planet "The Giant Space Grinch"?

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

@BerserkRL: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for putting that song back in my head for the last ten minutes. My eye is twitching now.

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Alan 3 years, 7 months ago

Personally, I've always preferred the fan theory that Mickey had become a priest and had officiated over the wedding of Martha and Tom.

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Bennett 3 years, 7 months ago

@Alan
Oh my. That actually fits the dialogue, doesn't it? I mean...it's not the author's intention, and it makes the flirtiness between them a little odd, but still...I like that idea. If I gave any credence to the notion of 'canon', then that would certainly be in mine.

Now I'm waiting for someone to tell me that the Doctor is just setting Captain Jack up with a ride home.

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landru 3 years, 7 months ago

The Doctor is Tinkerbell ...

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ferret 3 years, 7 months ago

Mickey should have ended up with Sarah-Jane - "We Smiths have gotta stick together!"

On a serious note, I'd rather have liked to see Martha saving lives as a doctor instead of descending further into a world of violence: she goes from travelling with the Doctor and all that entails to working for the very military UNIT, then working for the more morally ambiguous Torchwood, and finally ends up as a mercenary... she can't get much lower.

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jkorvin 3 years, 7 months ago

I can accept 'alien morality' on this one. Indeed I would suggest that the story lingers over it here, contrasting the Dr's grief with (can't recall Martha's mom's name) and the Master's wife's very human attacks on the Master's life.
The Doctor's grief we can fit it into a Time War narrative as we have that bit of context available, but there's no denying the the moment does jar, but I feel that's a strength and the point of it. As surprising, even alienating, to us as it is to the other characters.

The Doctor's sympathy for humanity meanwhile was highlighted in the SOD cliffhanger, in which the Master's torture of humanity en masse became itself partly just a means to torture the Doctor emotionally.

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analoguehole 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes I was going to comment on this myself, it's an oddly counter-factual suggestion Philip makes, that Saxon resembles Blair because he's a politician "outside the existing party structure who has managed to assemble a coalition of ministers from existing parties".

Blair was only outside the 'existing party structure' in the sense that he had no family or community roots with the party - he joined it in the early 80s I think, presumably as a bet that it's next period in government would coincide with his eligible age to be a minister.
And no he didn't assemble a coalition of ministers from outside the party, because he didn't need to given the Labour landslide. There's every probability however that even a small Labour majority might have resulted in a Cabinet position for Paddy Ashdown - the concept of a 'progressive coalition' 'in the air' back in 97.

So half right. And I've no doubt Saxon resembles a satiric Blair, particularly in the scene where he does that whole 'why am I so cool' routine for the cameras. I think his method of election - hypnotism - has a satiric function too. I always love the scene in which the Master's nefarious plan to become Prime Minister is revealed to have infected even the Doctor's companions! Both Martha and Captain Jack say they were going to vote for him; when asked why, they just say 'I dunno, it was nothing about any policies he had, he just seemed...trustworthy'. The joke being THIS IS EXACTLY HOW TONY BLAIR GOT ELECTED.

Same goes for Cameron of course.
By the way, did you know David Cameron and George Osborne revere Blair as a political operator, so much so that do indeed refer to him as 'the Master'?

But actually I do feel Saxon as Cameron has legs. just as Thatcher as Prime Minister was referenced twice in the series when she's on oly just become party leader: in Robot (this is the case for Hilda Winters as a pre-emptive timey-wimey parody of Thatcher) and in Terror of the Zygons (though intended to refer to Shirley Williams according to some sources).

This element of coalition (promptly gassed) does though put us in mind of Cameron, who after all is the second Prime Minister after Blair in the Dr Who universe.

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analoguehole 3 years, 7 months ago

Of course, that means the next prime minister might sell us out to the 456! And kill Peter Capaldi!

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aka ETHER 3 years, 5 months ago

Your wife is a Homestuck, isn't she?

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Katherine Sas 2 years, 9 months ago

Funny - I'd say a great episode w/ some weak moments. But it's all a question of balance.

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