David Dechert is sorry. So sorry.
Doctor Who returned in 2005 after a sixteen year absence. It started out a little bumpy but on the whole Series One was an admirable shot at bringing the show into the 21st Century. I was never a fan of the soap opera elements that Russell T Davies felt was needed to connect with the audience but they didn't feel as prominent in that first year as they became in Series Two.
Ugh. Series Two. A year featuring some of the very worst Doctor Who stories ever broadcast in the show's long history. The sickening New Earth, the dreadful redesign of the Cybermen and the snorefest of the two-part story that introduced them, the Idiot's Lantern, that finale and Love & Monsters. How the series survived for a third year is a miracle. How it continued to go on after Series Three is even more of a conundrum as that year's finale, Last of the Time Lords, is surely Doctor Who's lowest ever point.
Even the nadir of the John Nathan Turner years doesn't compare to Last of the Time Lords.
You may ask what's wrong with it.
Answer: practically everything.
Taking place exactly a year after the previous episode, The Sound of Drums, Last of The Time Lords starts out as pretty standard thriller with psychotic villainy, oppressed people, and turncoat resistance agents. Martha has returned to Britain after taking a trip around the now near-apocalyptic Earth, supposedly to find a special gun created by Torchwood and UNIT that can kill the Master. Eventually, the Master's forces capture Martha, destroy the weapon and take her to the Master's base where she is made to kneel before him. Just as the countdown to the Master launching a fleet of war rockets against the rest of the universe starts. How convenient.
There now follows a moment of unbearably smugness as Martha starts monologuing about what she's really been doing over the last 12 months. It's a shameless piece of exposition and the most ridiculous story concept RTD ever dreamed up. It turns out that on her gap year from hell around the doomed Earth, Martha had been telling everyone and anyone she could find all about the Doctor. She'd told the surviving humans to concentrate their thoughts on the Doctor upon the completion of the launch countdown. In one of many moments of poor scripting, we get to hear the words said at the end of The Sound of Drums where the Doctor says to Martha "use the countdown", but there is no way that the Doctor could
have known about the countdown a year before it happened, and just the three
words "use the countdown" could not have triggered Martha's entire plan. But don't let a coherent plot get in your way RTD.
Meanwhile, the Doctor has spent the past year psychically integrating himself into the Master's Archangel network which channels the collective psychic energy of the people to the Doctor. And why would the Doctor need to do this? Because the Master used his Laser Screwdriver to suspend the Doctor's capacity to
regenerate. Because it can do that, alright? (Tell me RTD, can it also
instantly cure cancer too? Or only if it's convenient to your plot?). And then, and I don't really know why, the Master turns the Doctor into something resembling Dobby from Harry Potter, and keeps him in a bird cage.
The Dobby-Doctor proves himself very much the Tenth incarnation of the Time Lord by acting as smug as we'd come to expect from the Tennant years. And then, as the ridiculous plan starts to work, the Doctor is restored to normal appearing like some kind of Messiah. Magically (or maybe because it served no purpose anymore so why bother spending time on continuity) the bird cage vanishes into thin air. Even more magically, the psychic energy of the people enables the Doctor to fly.
Because it just does, alright?
Oh yes, and the Doctor also now appears to be immune to laser fire. Like he's God.
The Tenth Doctor was clearly RTD's vision of how he would be as the character. If one episode highlights just how much he thought of himself as the saviour of Doctor Who then this would be it.
The characterisation of the Master also brings the Series Three finale down. After having someone of the caliber of Derek Jacobi portray the character in the prequel, Utopia, we are given the OTT John Simm for the main event. The Master has always been shown as psychotic but sophisticated at the same time. He is Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes. RTD threw all that out of the window and gave us a Master who was as camp and pantomime as can be. A Master who kept the Doctor in a tent, danced to the Scissor Sisters and was basically an extraterrestrial version of the worst kind of James Bond villain.
Then there's the year that never was cop-out, followed by the ending monologue with the whole Captain Jack is the Face of Boe nonsense. This really is the sour cherry on top of the shit sundae. RTD just can't help himself, can he?
Last of the Time Lords may well be the lowest point in Doctor Who history, but Series Four began to turn things around. The reintroduction of Catherine Tate as Donna Noble brought out the best in the Tenth Doctor, and possibly as she wasn't a young girl besotted with the Time Lord it also helped curtail RTD's sexual fantasy storylines, in the most part. I say in the most part as he couldn't help himself but bring back Rose! (Don't get me started on her) Yet even then her storyline made a lot more coherent sense than Last of the Time Lords. The Series Three finale was full of inconsistencies, it was poorly written, and worst of all, it featured the Doctor portrayed as a God. Resurrected through belief into a flying, immortal, forgiver of sins.
Although had he watched Last of the Time Lords I doubt he'd forgive this cardinal sin of an episode.