The third season (“series” for those in England) of the All-New, All-Now Doctor Who series wrapped up this past weekend. I haven’t talked much about this season in detail, but now that it’s over, you can’t shut me up! Try it! You can’t!
I’ll be going into spoilery detail after the break and trust me, if you haven’t seen this season yet there are things you do NOT want spoiled, such as the surprise return of Norman Henry as Senta, originally seen in the Hartnell episode “The Savages”!
Let’s start with the big news, the season finale, Last of the Time Lords.
I love this new series. Love it. I think they’ve done a great job all around.
I have to say, I really, really, really disliked this episode. For all the obvious reasons and perhaps one or two non-obvious ones. Don’t get me wrong, I was loving this storyline so far. I loved the new Master. I totally pegged who the Toclafane were, which is good — it showed that things were playing fair and making sense. Mrs. Master was a hoot as well. I thought the entire season was coming together very well. And then the following happened.
To which the only sane response is: “what”
We destroyed huge chunks of Earth’s population, flashed ahead one year, and then destroyed more of Earth’s population. We found out that huge portions of the world had been carved up, statues of the Master were everywhere, and so forth. About the only thing the Master hadn’t done during that year was carve his name into the moon with a giant laser. He was insane and out of control, more than ever before. The stakes were extremely high. How was Russell Davies going to write himself out of this?
Simple. Press the reset button.
Let me say once and for all that any “resolution” that involves a character becoming glowy and omnipotent is a bad resolution. It’s a cheat. I didn’t like it when Buffy did it, I didn’t like it when Doctor Who did it at the end of Season One, and I don’t like it happening again at the end of Season Three. I especially don’t like it when it comes out of the blue, in a totally nonsensical and ridiculous fashion. I accept that the show is a fantasy show, not well-grounded in actual science. That’s fine. But “clap for Tinkerbell” is your secret weapon? You have GOT to be kidding me.
But what will Magic Doctor do about all the destruction and havoc wreaked by the Master? Why, we’ll just rewind everything to just before it all went kablooey! Again, just like we did at the end of Season One. Hooray, everything’s solved!
It was an insulting cop-out, only slightly better than finding out it was all a dream.
The great writer Anton Chekov once said, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” He did not go one to say “If, when it’s fired, it hits someone important, just find some way to rewind all the action at the end and make it not have happened.” And he certainly didn’t say to use that trick at the end of a season twice.
Why not commit to the changes? Why not let Doctor Who Earth get decimated by the Master and “aliens”? Why not let this serve as the precursor to why humans don’t really get along with aliens so well in the future? Why not grab a pair and make events have consequences? Because then in season four we couldn’t have pretty much every episode take place on modern day Earth-as-we-know-it? It’s not like it’s “our” Earth anyway, unless there’s a (still-assassinated) President Winters I’m unaware of.
And then the Doctor forgives the Master, weeps for him, and gives him a nice Viking funeral (even though we all know he’s not really most sincerely dead. “So. You escaped from the burning pyre.” “Of course! Don’t you know I’m invincible?”) Oddly, he doesn’t turn him into a living scarecrow, trap him in all the world’s mirrors, or any of the things he did to the far more minor league villains in Family of Blood. I guess razing Earth isn’t a problem unless you bust up the Doctor’s impending marriage. Only then do you get to be tortured.
And then there’s Martha. Who I agree, should leave the Doctor, because she doesn’t deserve to be treated the way she was. By anyone, especially the writers this season, who took a character who showed all kinds of promise in Smith and Jones and immediately set about squandering her completely by throwing everything out except her family and a schoolgirl crush on the Doctor. She was never allowed to have any kind of personality once it was declared that she was in love with the Doctor.
I was certainly expecting the fans to reject Martha for simply not being Rose. I wasn’t expecting the producers to do that. It was as though they thought, “Well we did so well with Rose that anyone who comes next is going to have a rough time of it, so let’s just throw one to the dogs.”
So we will start season four differently from season three how? The Doctor will still be alone in the TARDIS, pining after Rose, still the last of the Time Lords, still visiting Earth, which lost only the American President in the Toclafane invasion. And, I guess, the British Prime Minister, who suddenly everyone felt weird about having voted for. That’s it. About as status quo as you can get. Well, I guess he now knows that the Face of Boh is mortal, just long-lived, and possibly where he came from. Oh, and he also now knows about the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier.
Which is not to say that I disliked this season. On the contrary, I thought there were some strong episodes. Here’s a few comments and goofy pictures to recap:
Smith and Jones – Nice, strong start. Good intro to Martha. Whatever happened to her?
The Shakespeare Code – Eh, pretty weak, but not too bad.
Gridlock – WOO MACRA! A fun, goofy episode. I had no problems with it.
The Macra Take Manhattan – Wait, that’s not right.
Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks – This should have been my first warning. As in the finale, some interesting developments are all jettisoned so we can return to one Doctor, one Dalek.
The Lazarus Experiment – Probably the weakest story of the season. Mostly it existed merely to introduce various things that would pay off later, sort of. The actual story itself, with its “Oh no, Professor Crazyman’s ‘Screwing-With-Human-DNA’ project has somehow gone awry!” plot was unremarkable.
42 – I liked this one okay, if only for the fact that it wasn’t on Earth. I do think it’s unnecessary for all monster to have a catch phrase.
Human Nature/The Family of Blood – There are gaping logic holes a-plenty and I’m still not crazy about the torture montage (call it what you will: making people suffer until they say what you want to hear because it’s okay, they’re not like us anyway is torture), but I can’t deny that all in all it was a very gripping, very interesting story. Also nice that, for a moment, Martha is given stuff to do!
Blink – Probably the standout of the season, and a nice way to handle the lack of the stars’ availability. Genuinely creepy and effective, and honestly, a nice reminder of how good this show can be when it’s not worried about a big, overarching plot.
Utopia – How awesome is it to see Captain Jack again? And by Captain Jack I mean Captain Jack, not his broody, morose doppleganger over on Torchwood (which I think we’re going to try again to muddle through season one of). And Clau-Clau-Claudius makes it to Doctor Who at last! I admit they had me — I thought he was going to turn out to be a future incarnation of the Doctor, since the hints were already dropping that “Mister Saxon” may be the Master. So kudos all around for the nice fooling job! I especially liked the absolute parody of a Doctor’s companion that Suzie Beetleface turned out to be. It’s great to see a show featuring (sometimes) time travel finally use the concept of the non-linear timeline!
The Sound of Drums – BABY BABY BABY YOU ARE MY VOODOO CHILD MY VOODOO CHILD. UNTIL I PRESS THIS BUTTON! AND THEN IT’S JUST LIKE WE NEVER MET BECAUSE EVERYTHING WILL JUST RETURN TO THE WAY IT WAS BEFORE! HANDY, EH?
So really, I enjoyed this season a lot. It’s a shame that the final episode left such a bad taste in my mouth.
And coming in December: David Tennant goes where Christopher Eccleston said he already was!