Archive for July 14th, 2007

(Caution: never in the history of mankind have there been so many spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the episode and intend to, it might be best if you just didn’t read this at all.)

I could never have been prepared for just how much of a microcosm of the entire season this episode was going to be. Mostly a shoddy mess, with the occasional piece of extreme irritation and the even more occasional piece of historical reference, but with a positively dizzying high point… The high point was even in the same place as the rest of the season – near, but not quite at, the end. It’s absurd how perfect of a conclusion this was to the season. (Not ‘perfect’ as in ‘great episode’; ‘perfect’ as in ‘exactly in tune with the rest of the season.’)

The bad: The ‘Master’ is still a shallow, meaningless, nonsensical character who has nothing whatsoever to do with the Master as he was originally created. Martha Jones is still absolutely impossible to like or dislike – she’s just there. Jack is still a shadow of his former self. The plot is just as absurd and tends towards violence in ways that would never have been included in the original series. And yet, when they try to bring back the pacifism of Doctor Who, they go over the top with some crazy Jesus reference that is 70% good writing and 30% ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space.’

The good: Though it was a little absurd to have the ‘Master’ die twice in such a brief span, his second death was pitch perfect; though I had originally stated that David Tennant’s best acting had been at the end of part two of ‘Human Nature,’ he topped it here; it was utterly accurate that the absolute despair of a man who is losing the last of his kin in the universe would override any comfort to be found in the ending of the life of the most evil villain of all time. Bravo. And, Captain Jack as the Face of Boe? Absurd, but in that wonderful way that this series is capable of; I liked it (though I’m not sure I liked the way the scene itself was written). I also liked that, after 900 years without regenerating, a Time Lord supposedly looks something like the shrunken Guardian of the Doomsday Machine from ‘Colony in Space’ (a 3rd Doctor episode from 1971). And, thank god Martha left before really wearing out her welcome and the ‘Master’ went away before he could be a source of permanent irritation.

All things considered, the episode was a pretty sloppy mess. I mean, since when does the Doctor take a full year worth of suffering and death before he hatches his plan; it seems to me that this Doctor is way more interested in symbolism than saving lives. That was just absurd.

And how exactly did the Master, even using slave labor, make hundreds of thousands of interstellar warships in the space of a year?

And how exactly did the Master bring back these strange, severed-head, psychotic humans from the end of the universe? His time machine supposedly could only go to a single point in the future, so he couldn’t really have helped their technology along and then brought them back after they’d all converted to spheres… I suppose he could’ve just told them what to do, but that would’ve meant giving them the secret of time travel and telling them how to put their heads into spheres. And, I thought they were at the end of the universe? So how did they have the time to do this to themselves? That whole plot point is problematic. Though the heads worked as a plot device in and of themselves.

While we’re complaining, why was the acting so very very bad when the Doctor was trying to keep Martha’s mother from shooting the ‘Master’? “You’re better than him” is a perfectly fine line, but god that was a terrible read from David Tennant.

And crowbarring in that “I don’t blame you” thing with the flowers? Silly. And bad writing as well. There were far more elegant ways to do that.

All in all, the episode was fine. It was a fitting conclusion to a truly terrible season of a great show. It’s too bad this season was such a dismal pile of crap, but the death of the annoying ‘Master’ keeps hope alive for next season. As does the loss of the most pointless companion since Mel. Hooray for those two things.

Here’s hoping the future is bright.


As promised, an episode by episode rating, though rating things usually runs contrary to my nature:

  1. Smith and Jones = 3/10.  Nothing egregious.  Nothing worth watching either.
  2. The Shakespeare Code = 5/10.  Ok.  A bit dull, and the ending is poor, but it was at least promising.
  3. Gridlock = 7/10.  Too much screaming in odd places, and the set design was a bit weird, but intellectually this was a stellar episode.
  4. Daleks in Manhattan = 5/10.  Way to go, Russell.  You actually made the Daleks boring.
  5. Evolution of the Daleks = 4/10.  Way to go Russell.  You made the Daleks irritating as well as boring.
  6. The Lazarus Experiment = 4/10.  Largely just a lot of running around; pointless really.
  7. 42 = 4/10.  A joint rip-off of “24” (the title refers to the 42 minute running time of the program) and last season’s “The Impossible Planet.”
  8. Human Nature = 10/10.  Flawless in every conceivable way.  Tied with “The Empty Child” for best episode of the last three seasons.
  9. The Family of Blood = 9/10.  The ending is slightly weak.  The Doctor wouldn’t toy with his enemies in that way.
  10. Blink = 9/10.  Only really loses points for being practically not a Doctor who episode.
  11. Utopia = 4/10.  A little dull and ‘run-around-y.’  What’s with all the brainlessness this season?
  12. The Sound of Drums = 2/10.  A dull episode in its own right, that comes crashing to the ground due to the awful portrayal of the Master.
  13. Last of the Time Lords = 6/10.  Worth it for the Master’s death.  The rest is problematic.


One last observation, just because it merits attention…

Russell T. Davies is absolutely completely and utterly incapable of writing (or sanctioning) an episode in which the villain is anything other than an embodiment of evil that deserves to die.  Daleks, the Master, the Christmas star spider, the Slitheen, the Cybermen, the murdering statues from Blink, Cassandra, and – to top it all off – Satan!  Virtually every single episode in this reborn series has centered, essentially, on ‘Doctor Who saves the world by killing fascists.’  (The only epsides I can think of which don’t follow that rule were written by Steven Moffat – The Empty Child and, in an ‘accidental fascism’ sort of way, The Girl in the Fireplace.)  Does anyone else find that troubling?  It’s awfully easy to allow pacifism to slip when ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ is still the rule of the day…  When all else fails, one can still kill evil without regret…

A big part of what made this show different is that the villains frequently had some humanity to them.  The Silurians were potentially capable of coexistence, they just had a bad leader.  Omega was a wronged genius.  Sharaz Jek was simply the ‘bad guy’ in a political drug running scheme.  Etc.

I miss the days when the emphasis was not always on unredeemable evil…

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