A First-Timer Watches Doctor Who: “Last Of The Time Lords”
The world may be saved, but Martha’s relationship with the Doctor is unsalvageable. For those who need a refresher, here’s what went down in the season three finale: the Master took over the world and made the Doctor a tiny old baby Benjamin Button man; Martha wandered the globe telling the Doctor’s story; the Master was killed and the world was rescued!; then Martha and the Doctor parted ways. On mostly amicable terms.
I’ve mentioned a few times already that I liked how this season explored the Doctor’s weaknesses, and that theme came to a head with his total incapacitation for the first half of this episode. Although I didn’t much care for the design of the 900-year-old infant alien Doctor, seeing him transformed from David Tennant to old man David Tennant to shriveled, bug-eyed fetus David Tennant was definitely disturbing. The regression also made visible just how long the Doctor has been living: it’s easy to think of him as a spritely young thing, but seeing the true weight of his age was a reminder of how much he’s been through. No wonder he’s got some baggage.
The issue of age is also important to the Troclafane, regressed cyborg humans who have adopted the voice and personality of little children. First of all, it’s always unsettling when little kids are killers (see: every horror movie featuring a creepy little girl). But in this case, the Troclafane’s childlike personas also reflected the general motif of vulnerability that pervaded the episode. The Troclafane are children who need guidance from their Master. The Doctor becomes a helpless old man. And in the end, even the Master is stripped of his power. (And killed.) There’s a sense that while any individual or species can try to seize control of earth, they can equally be rendered feeble.
The Doctor’s brush with physical vulnerability also seems to have awakened his emotional vulnerability—though, unfortunately for Martha, his newfound openness isn’t directed her way. Instead, he mourns for the Master, the last of his kind, begging him to regenerate then wailing when he dies. I get it—it’s his final opportunity to have a Time Lord buddy—but there are equally (if not better) relationships to be had with people who aren’t total megalomaniacs.
Like Martha. Although she was only around for one season, I dug her vibe, and am sad to see her go. I know the Doctor’s romances are a touchy subject—even Peter Capaldi doesn’t want the Doctor to flirt—but I like a bit of that tension. Although Martha’s parting speech about her college friend was a bit tacked-on, I was proud of her for getting out of an emotionally unfulfilling situation. Just further proof that she’s cool enough to have been kept around for more than one season! In any case, on to the next one…