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Doctor Who: The Last of the Time Lords (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

The Last of the Time Lords originally aired in 2007.

I just need you to listen.

No, it’s my turn. Revenge!

– the Doctor and the Master

I like quite a lot of The Last of the Time Lords. I think, for example, that Russell T. Davies does an exceptional job creating a version of the Master that manages to remain true to the character’s pantomime roots, while also seeming a credible threat and dark mirror to the Doctor. I also think that Martha’s character arc has a fairly logic and fluid conclusion. On the other hand, there’s a great deal about the resolution to The Last of the Time Lords that feels a bit rushed, a bit convenient, a bit tidy.

I’m quite fond of Davies’ writing style, but I’ll concede that he tends to favour theme and character over plot and structure. The Last of the Time Lords does an excellent job illustrating this, providing a bunch of fascinating thematic and character-based moments, but positioning them in a plot that doesn’t really work.

You know, for once I actually feel sorry for the Master...

You know, for once I actually feel sorry for the Master…

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Doctor Who: Utopia (Review)

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the longest-running science-fiction show in the world, I’ll be taking weekly looks at some of my own personal favourite stories and arcs, from the old and new series, with a view to encapsulating the sublime, the clever and the fiendishly odd of the BBC’s Doctor Who.

Utopia originally aired in 2007.

Ooo, new voice. Hello, hello. Hello. Anyway, why don’t we stop and have a nice little chat while I tell you all my plans and you can work out a way to stop me, I don’t think.

Hold on. I know that voice.

I’m asking you really properly. Just stop. Just think!

Use my name.

Master. I’m sorry.

Tough!

– the Master, Martha and the Doctor welcome a new old face back

It’s very hard to talk about Utopia without seguing into talking about The Sound of Drums or The Last of the Time Lords. Certainly the third season finalé is the most ambitious of Russell T. Davies’ end-of-season adventures. It’s a three-part adventure, the equivalent to one of those classic gigantic six-part serials. If you accept that logic, it breaks down neatly into the old two-parter-and-four-parter format that the writers used to use to prevent an extended story from dragging too much.

Utopia, of course, serves the function of the two-parter in this classic structure – the smaller chunk of the episode with its own plot points and characters and settings, but with very definite connections to the rest of the adventure. However, I’d argue that Utopia is a lot more successful than either of the two episodes following, and a lot of that stems from the fact that it devotes a considerable amount of time to quietly setting up plot points and characters that will pay off down the line.

It’s also a powerful subversion of the fundamental ethos of Doctor Who, which makes it particularly effective as we head into two episodes where the Master hijacks not only the TARDIS but the show itself.

No time like the end of the universe...

No time like the end of the universe…

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Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part II

That was much better. I mean, there’s still a whole host of half-baked ideas clogging up the narrative (the Naismiths, the Master’s superpowers), but it works a lot more fluidly mainly because it manages to both embrace the sheer ridiculousness of what it’s doing (featuring a Star Wars homage in a flight across the Channel and a cantina scene which seems to exist solely to demonstrate all the aliens created during the run) with some fantastic performances. It would be hard to tell if Tennant has ever been better than he is here, but he nails his final episode as everyone’s favourite Timelord. That Russell T. Davies keeps his hand mostly away from that giant reset button installed in his office helps no end.

The Doctor feels the worst New Years hangover ever

Note: This review will be discussing the episode in depth (including spoilers). If you are looking for a quick recommendation, it’s a yes – as if you weren’t interested anyway. It might not represent the best regeneration story ever written for the show (give me The Caves of Androzani) but it is an emotional farewell to the Davies/Tennant era.

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Doctor Who: The End of Time, Part I

That was… an episode of Doctor Who. I don’t know. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I know that wasn’t quite it. And there are enough cringe-worthy moments here to prevent the episode from becoming a classic (or even just a great episode) there are more than a few diamonds in the rough hidden amidst the mess of an episode. It is very much a Russell T. Davies episode, with all that involves – the ridiculously over-the-top moments paired with a fantastic grasp of character. Is it a fitting end to perhaps the most iconic version of the Timelord (I’m an Eccleston man myself, but only Tom Baker could be said to challenge Tennant as the most recognised face of the Doctor)? I don’t know – I should probably wait for the second part, to be honest. On the otherhand, it certainly doesn’t feel like a crowning moment for the first five years (or even Tennant’s last four) of the revival.

The Master in a hoody... and the establishment did tremble...

Note: This review will be discussing the episode in depth (including spoilers). If you are looking for a quick recommendation, it’s a decided ‘meh’. It isn’t a highpoint in the new series, but some good ideas and some nice character moments (as well as three fantastic lead performances) make something out of the mess that is the rest of the episode. I’m not sure what exactly, I’ll let you know next week. Continue reading